Thursday, April 29, 2010

Social skills

I'm not sure what to say about Trooper. I took him to meet two willing (and potentially tasty) friends to see how he would react. On the drive into Charlottesville he was close to me the entire time, either laying with his front legs and head between the front seats, or standing there with head and front feet too far forward, trying to move in on me. He's clearly fine with me and he is with Clay as well, even though they've had limited time together.

He took the opportunity to bark at any pedestrian he saw as we were driving through town and he did the same when I took him out of the car in the parking lot. When we met the two test-bait subjects, he tried his best ferocious shepherd act, hackles up, using his big in-your-face bark.

But these two ladies were not intimidated by him and that confused his little shepherd brain. If his tough guy act fails, he doesn't have anything to fall back on so he figures he might as well be friendly. He sniffed them, walked around, and then came back to sit down next to me when we blocked his attempts to open the door and leave. It's as if he realized that his attempt to handle the situation failed, so he would have to rely on me. That's not really a bad thing, we just need to get him to rely on me in the first instance rather than trying his own, self-taught, approach.

We left, made a couple stops on the way home, and he continued to bark at people from the car, but not at every opportunity. He probably just needs to get out more. The problem is, he's going to make a bad impression when meeting potential adopters and particularly at adoption events. We will have to stand off at a distance and just meet volunteers until he's ready for the public. That's fine, I've done that before, and I think he will come around fairly quickly once realizes that everyone else is having fun. But, looking at the calendar of events and my own schedule in May, I don't know when we are going to be able to make that happen.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Email pics and news

I don't have much to say myself, but here are some pics from recent and not-so-recent emails of former foster dogs.

This Tevya, formerly Diego, from back in September when he had his one year anniversary at his new home. They've moved to a larger space and he has a rottie-mix girlfriend who lives nearby. He's a very lucky, and very spoiled dog.

This is Sampson (from Richmond), whose mom is having a baby. They installed a nice tall and secure fence in their very large backyard, which should help facilitate the dog's co-existence with a new baby.
Also enjoying a new, huge, fenced yard is Tippy (my former foster) and her big brother, Mo. They have anytime access to their new back yard in New York via a doggie door.

Around the same time that I had Tippy, I had another girl named Filly. I recall them being about the same size, a little smallish, but Filly (now called Duchess) has filled out and developed into quite a regal looking shepherd, although the owners report that she's still actually quite goofy.

And finally, for now, here is a picture of Jasper with a 10 week old Shih Tsu puppy. Jasper has the biggest bark of any German Shepherd Dog I have ever heard. He is big, his bark is even bigger, and it's quite intimidating. It's a defense mechanism, but the dog is quite protective of his home. Happily, he landed the absolute perfect home for him and he has learned to live with other dogs, small dogs, and even several cats. He is still wary of strangers but apparently he has quite good paternal instincts in dealing with puppies.
The really great thing about having so many adopted foster dogs is that their owners often refer their friends and family, not just to the resuce, but to me, when they are looking for a dog. That creates sort of a pre-screened pool of applicants. Consequently, I have a couple possible prospects for Trooper. I have to get him out in public and see if he will trust me enough to be comfortable around strangers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Super Trooper

I got a mower started finally on Monday and got my nose and lungs full of dust and pollen. I think it started out as a severe allergic reaction, but may have developed into a cold or sinus infection. I lost a half day's work on Wednesday because I couldn't get out of bed for much of the day and then had to make up the work on Thursday. So, it has not been a great week for blogging. But on Saturday I went to the VGSR meeting in northern VA and then brought home a new foster called Trooper.

He's about 18 months old, and is scared. He tries the ferocious shepherd act and he's got a big bark, but you can take one look at him and see that he's just a scared little boy. He was a West Virginia country dog and has never met many strangers. As soon as I got his leash and he sniffed me, we were ok.

He hopped in the car on his own and rode home without a crate with his head near me pretty much all the way. That explains how he was able to drop a tick down my back. By the time we got home, I was already his best friend. It doesn't take too much to win him over.

He met Clay with only the least little bark, but obviously we will need to work on exposing him to new people and new situations so he's not so scared.

He's a good looking boy, even with his tipped ears. He has his own music video, by Abba.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

And the grass grows taller

Today instead of getting right to work on the mowers and cutting the grass, or cleaning the house, I took a canoe trip down the Rivanna river. The trail I hike goes along the river so I've been watching it and it's just about perfect right now. The high water and muddiness is down from the last rain we had, but it still has enough water to be flowing nicely. This same stretch of river would be a 2-3 hour trip in the summer, but today it was just under two. I had found the canoe on Craigslist last summer or fall. It's a small one, probably 12 feet, so I can handle it by myself both in and out of the water.

In my canoe fantasy, it's me and a dog, with the dog sitting up front, enjoying the scenery with me as I casually paddle along. Fortunately, I'm a stone cold realist when it comes to dogs and I just could not envision any dog of mine actually doing that. What I could imagine is a dog standing unsteadily in the canoe, falling or jumping in, dumping me and everything out.

So I went alone. It was immediately apparent that I made the right choice. Even if there had been room for a dog in front (there wasn't), it would have been in danger of being whacked with the paddle or at least splattered with water because in order to paddle a canoe solo, you have to frequently switch the paddle from the left to the right side of the canoe.

I saw some ducks, and a pair of geese that let me get surprisingly close probably because I wasn't making any sound that they themselves didn't make on the water.

I saw this bush or tree, in bloom, which I can't identify. I had seen one of them along the trail when hiking as well. It has flowers like some variety of viburnum. There was one beautiful dogwood but my picture came out blurry. There were many places along the shore that were covered in violets.

I used to do a lot of canoeing when I was younger, and I finally did so today because I was needing some upper body exercise and a break from the hiking. With time to kill floating down the river, my mind went off as it does, this time writing a few lines of verse about aging:

You can't swim, you can't hike
you can't fuck, you can't fight.

You can't drink, you can't smoke,
you can't dance and do coke.

Now, I'm certain there must be things I can do at 51 that I couldn't do at 21. I'm not sure what they are, but I'm sure they aren't any fun.

Just kidding folks. Today was a gorgeous day, the kind that makes you glad to be alive and able to do anything, even if it's not everything.

Now I'd better see if I can get a mower started and begin to reclaim this yard.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How to make your dog happy

If you ask Sparky, he will tell you, and his answer will be similar to that of most other dogs. 1. Be with me; 2. Do something with me; 3. Feed me. Dogs are more dependent on us than we are on them. Especially for companionship and entertainment. Sparky is now my #1 hiking buddy. No one since Emmylou has shown that level of enthusiasm for the trail. And being a young, goofy, boy dog, he shows his enthusiasm even more.

We did another 2 hour hike today. That's enough to tire him out, and more than enough for me. Of course he covers more ground than I do, although he's getting a lot better on the leash.

Sparky has developed a beautiful, sleek, shiny coat this spring. Black on top, some brown underneath.

We didn't encounter anyone on the trail today, and we usually don't, so we haven't really had much opportunity to work on social skills. I'm not sure Sparky has any. I need to try him with some other dogs again and other people too. He will let me do anything to him, but I don't think he extends that privilege to everyone.

The weather was beautiful today, just perfect. The air is full of pollen and the woods are full to ticks, but even that couldn't detract from a picture pefect day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quite a week

It's been quite a week.

Last Saturday: Bruno got adopted, before I ever got him out in public. That was good. He subsequently tested positive for Lyme disease, but at least he was heartworm negative and Lyme is easier to treat.

Monday: A woman and her daughter drove down here and adopted Samson. He moved in with 2 girls and 2 other shepherds. I might have the Bruno/Samson adoptions confused in my head already. But they both went to good homes, I was very happy.

Wednesday: I went to CASPCA and brought home a new shepherd, also named Bruno, and a feral rottie mix pup. (He will appear in a later post.) This Bruno had been found as a stray and had been caught in a humane trap. I met him when he first came in and at least once after that before I took him. He worried me. He looked lost, was obviously looking for someone and not finding him. He had no interest in anyone and seemed hell bent on getting out. He actually did escape once from the shelter but he didn't take off. He hung around and actually went back into the trap. I've been scared to leave him in a kennel unless I'm outside with him because I think he could jump or climb. He's terrible on a leash and constantly wraps himself, and the leash, around you when you try to walk. But he actually started to come around fairly quickly at home. I had him in a crate in my office and he would lay there and watch me, apparently deciding if I could qualify as the center of his attention.

Thursday: Cooper and Cassie went back home after several weeks here while their owners delivered a pair of twins of their own. I'm sure they were glad to be back home even if home will never been quite the same again with two new babies in the house.

Friday: Bruno had to go back to the vet at CASCPA because his scrotum was badly infected and swollen. He had surgery again today to remove it and I'll get him back home again tomorrow. Also today, Austin (not pictured) came again for the weekend, which is nice because it gives Teddy some company. I also picked up Stoney this morning because his mom went to the hospital in the early morning. He will stay until she is feeling better.

I actually got my work done for the week and managed to get in at least three hikes with Sparky. I don't have any commitments for the weekend so I have to work on getting mowers running and grass cut, and do something about the mess in the house.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Happy days, happy dog

His name was Copper, but I was always calling him Cooper. His adopter had the same problem so now he is just called Cooper. We met at the Fluvanna dog park this morning and finalized his adoption. He is doing very well, very willing to please, very fast learner. He loves the dog park, and has made many friends, both human and canine. He smiles at everyone and comes to anyone who calls, regardless of who they were calling. He was very happy to see me when I arrived this morning, and that is always very gratifying, but mostly it's just nice to see him so happy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Samson's outing

Today we drove to Harrisonburg to a VGSR adoption event. It was a beautiful day and I should have been home mowing the grass, which will soon exceed the mower's ability to cut it.

Instead, I drove half way up the Shenandoah Valley, ate too much fast food, and came home with a sore back and a bad attitude.

But I did get to see a few rescue friends, and we got some great new pictures of Samson, shown here.

He was a bit anxious about the whole affair, including the travel. I started out with him in the open area in the back of the van behind the crates. That only lasted as far as the McDonalds at Zion Crossroads. He was too vocal and too jumpy back there so I moved him into one of the crates. The space restriction has the happy side effect of calming and quieting an axious dog.

I don't think this dog has been out much in his life, but he handled the store, the strangers, and the other dogs very well. He was good with children. He wasn't terribly attentive to anyone except me, but I think that's just a function of it being his first outing and him being a German Shepherd.

I can't say that we saw any good prospects for him, but that's not really my goal or expectation for a first outing anyway. The crowd was the usual mix of decent folks and a few alien mutants. He didn't work the crowd well, and I certainly don't, so it was pretty much just a get acquainted experience for both of us. It was actually the most one-on-one time I've spent with him since I got him. I need to start doing some walks with him this week.

I do have someone interested in him, however, so he may find a new home soon. That would be best for him, of course, and for the two other shepherds I have waiting in the wings at the SPCA.

Teddy came along too, against his will. I'm going to need a different approach with that dog. Someone suggested T-Touch, which could help. I may have to try an animal communicator, exorcism, or voodoo.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's not nice to fool your rottweiler

Saturday was an adoption event at a Best Western motel just up the road at Zion Crossroads. I had said that I'd go, so I loaded up Teddy and Sparky and off we went. Teddy hates going anywhere. He's scared of people, even me, and he prefers to stay at home, always. Sparky is always willing to go anywhere, so he bounded into the van assuming that we were going for a morning hike.

Imagine his disappointment then when I took him out of the van in the motel parking lot instead of at the trailhead. He was a good sport about it and went inside, but the crowd of strange people and strange dogs made us both nervous.

I'm never sure how Sparky is going to react to strangers. Sometimes he's friendly, but sometimes he gives a growl.

We didn't stay long. Later in the afternoon we went for a good long hike on the trails. He forgave me.

Springtime in the woods

I haven't had much to say this week. Clay's been out of town and I've been busy with work.

I've been hiking most days, with various combinations of dogs. I tried Molly and Zachary but that pair lacked a leader. I tried Molly and Sparky, but she was a bit annoyed with him bouncing around. Molly is not as keen on the walks as she was when she would go out with Emmylou. She really prefers her pasture romps with the boys at home.

Sparky is shaping up to be my best hiking partner. He loves it. The exercise is good for both of us.

The unseasonably warm weather last week really has accelerated spring around here. The redbuds are out and are beautiful. There are small wildflowers and ferns sprouting from the forest floor. The dogwoods are just beginning to come out now too.