Monday, May 31, 2010

Singing shepherd

This is Ernie. He's a sweet, shepherd/hound mix that I adopted to a very nice family just over two years ago. The hound/shepherd mix is a good one. The hound part will likely take the edge off of what otherwise might be a high-strung, somewhat neurotic, German Shepherd Dog. Hounds make great family dogs; they always seem to love children and tolerate them well.

I once fostered two Black and Tan Coonhounds. They were really nothing but trumpets on four legs. Although hounds are wonderful dogs, I avoid fostering them because so many of them are so very vocal. We have too many dogs around to have them making that kind of noise. Some dogs, however, vocalize or sing only in reaction to certain stimuli.

Sirens always initiate a group howl at our place, led by Cabell. Most of the dogs join in, and those that are outside gather in a group to do it. It really does seem to be a social event for those involved and any dog stuck in the house when a group howl is happening usually wants to go outside to join in. We once had a foster rottie mix, Charlie (shown here), who would howl when the coffee maker started up in the morning. That was considerate of him perhaps, although we did have the coffee maker set to start before we really wanted to wake up. Our late rottie, Jack, would sing in response to any high-pitched, "tinny" sound like a harmonica.

Here is a link to a YouTube video that Ernie's adopters sent to me about a year ago,, with Ernie singing along as one of their children plays the violin.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rowdy meets Momma Sable

Sable is a rottie that I adopted to Chad and Mary some time ago, one year? two? more? (I'm very bad with time frames.) Sable is a sweetheart. She has a problem with recurring perianal fistulas, a rather unpleasant and painful problem that her new owners have worked hard to control. In spite of being a sweet dog, she was not adoptable with that problem, but they are great people, great dog people, and (my highest compliment), great rottie people. They saw the dog's need and her potential, and they took her on and worked through the problem.

Mary contacted me about fostering little Rowdy. He's come quite a way from the scared and snarling little pup I first brought home from the SPCA, but he's still scared of people. He will come up for treats now and I can eventually get him to stop running around the yard so I can approach him, but he's still not what he should be. Rotties typically crave human attention, petting, or any form of contact. He needs to move into a home where he will have more individual human attention as well as a good canine role model. Sable will hopefully teach him the ways of the rottweiler. There is also a younger lab (mix?) in the home who will make a great play buddy.

So Rowdy and I drove up to my meeting spot in Culpeper and he met Chad, Mary, and Sable. He was scared but not trembling, and he loved Sable. It will be a good experience for him. If anyone can socialize this dog, these people and their dogs can do so.

I'm left with just Sparky, Teddy, and Trooper for foster dogs right now, but I'm going out of town next week for about 5 days, so this is a good time to be low on foster dogs. With just 5 dogs of our own now, we have only 8 dogs around here. I can't remember a time when there's been so few since we first started fostering. There are a few waiting in the wings, however, so it won't be this way for long.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Homeward bound

Precious met her new owner today and they should be back home in Virginia Beach by now. A lot of rescue work is evaluating both people and dogs. It's more art than science and it becomes a gut instinct. I've made mistakes on both people and dogs in the past, but my best instinct tells me that this was a good match.

She is calm and sedate and seems to be accustomed to a one-on-one relationship. He is a self-described homebody, whose last dog passed a few weeks ago and now finds himself lonely at home and in need of a faithful companion.
She is well-mannered, young and active enough for anything, but mature enough to enjoy quiet evenings at home as well. I kissed her on the head, wished them both luck, and sent them on their way. It's a new life for both of them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy days are here again!

I finally got a real job again. I was laid off at the beginning of 2009 when the economy tanked (thank you very much George MF Bush) and was mostly unemployed for about 9 months of that year. I was hired back on as a full time temp in September, which meant salary but no benefits. I was laid off again for a couple months at the beginning of the year and then started back, but still as a temp. The group I've been working for has work to do and needs people, and they finally got the corporate funding and approval to add staff. I put in my application this past weekend and got a call this morning. Same job that I've been doing, at pretty much the same pay, but at least I'll have health insurance again. I haven't seen a dentist in over a year and am wearing drug store reading glasses over my regular prescription glasses in order to read or work on the computer. I had dropped one of my cholesterol drugs to save money. While we have been fine financially, like many people faced with uncertain employment, we had cut back on everything. That's not all bad, but it will be nice to breathe a little easier now.

I never did file for unemployment, so I was among the uncounted unemployed. I should have, I know, but [***************deleted thought**************].

Meanwhile, in dog news: I've picked out an adopter for Precious. He's coming Friday and I expect them to live happily ever after.

Trooper's prospect came to meet him Wednesday morning. It would be easier to convince people of how sweet he is if he didn't do that ferocious bark at strangers. But he also took treats from her, followed her around, sat on command, and let her pet him all over. She came back Thursday for another visit and spent some more time with him. Next will be a visit with her current dog. Taking it slow is probably a good approach. He really will be fine. The biggest hurdle will be her current dog. Starr is one of my former fosters; she's a nice girl but also a real bitch.

Bruno is ok in his new home, but he's living under the deck and still won't come to the new owners. He spent the first night in the bedroom and was fine. But he spooked at something the next day, got away from them, and has been hiding out under the deck ever since. He comes out for treats, will even come onto their screened in porch to eat, but hasn't made direct contact yet. He is sticking around, however, and seems to know where his home is. He just isn't quite ready to accept the new people. I have to hand it to this woman, though. She is taking it slow and easy, isn't giving up. I offered to drive over there this weekend to get him out from under the deck and onto a leash again, but she's working on a couple plans of her own to get him to come around.

Axel is a young male shepherd who may be coming my way soon, but if he's everything I've been told he is, I'll have a home for him right away. A female boxer will be coming along with him, no relation, just sharing the ride out of the same shelter and out of similar circumstances.

A young woman called me, trying to find a place for two labs, a 7 year old yellow female and a 9 year old black male. They lost their home to foreclosure due to unemployment, moved into a townhouse, had the dogs with a friend for a while, the yellow is now at a shelter. . . it goes on and on. It's possible the yellow will be adopted or get a ride on a rescue transport up north somewhere. I told her I'd take them when I return after June 7th. Given my own employment situation, I couldn't very well say no. (I'm thinking how lucky I am that in spite of the lack of a job, our home was never really in jeopardy. Many people were not so fortunate.) Besides, I might have a home for a sweet senior male dog and it sounds like the yellow female is still quite active and probably adoptable.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bribes and breakthroughs

When Shayna drove out here from Utah to adopt Rocky she brought with her several boxes of dog treats that someone had given to her. I don't normally use a lot of treats at home for my own dogs, but they are useful at adoption events and for training. They are great "bribes" to encourage shy dogs to interact with new people and they are helping Rowdy make breakthroughs as we work on his fear and trust issues.

The best thing Rowdy has going for him, however, is his pack. Trooper and Precious are all over me when I go out there, clearly trying to get as much attention and contact with me as possible. Rowdy is noticing and he's beginning to come up for some of that on his own. Last night when I put them to bed, Rowdy got himself in a place where he felt safe and then let me approach him, touch him, and even pick him up. Today I've gone out to the dogyard a few times with a bag of treats and made myself very popular. Even Teddy comes up for treats, although he is still keeping a bit more distance and would prefer that I toss them to him. Rowdy, however, comes right up front with Trooper and Precious to get his fair share.

I expect Precious to get adopted next week and possibly, hopefully, Trooper as well. Until then, I'm going to use them as much as possible to help Rowdy overcome his fears and shyness. Since Teddy suffers from the same problem, he and Rowdy alone won't make a lot of progress.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Rowdy is the little rottie mix pup I'm fostering from the SPCA in order to get him better socialized. He's painfully shy around people. Although he's gotten quite a bit better with me, he will still run from me, partly from fear and partly in play. He's a lot like Teddy, unfortunately.

He doesn't have any fear or shyness with other dogs, however, and currently I've got him sharing the dogyard and shed (at night), with Trooper, Precious, and Teddy. He has also met our Molly and Zachary. He loves them all, but Teddy is one most likely to play with him. Trooper will sometimes, but when Trooper tires of puppy play, he retreats to the top of the 6' platform in the dogyard to get away from the relentless Rowdy.

This is a good (easy) group of fosters. They entertain each other, they eat together, they sleep together, and they seem to be teaching Rowdy some manners. Trooper and Precious come up to me for loving and that is having a salutary effect on Rowdy. He comes up to check it out and I'm hoping he will soon become interested in getting some of the same.

I have a good lead on a placement for Precious (the collie), that may happen next week. She got vetted yesterday and is good to go. I've contacted a former adopter who would be perfect for Trooper, IF her alpha female happens to agree. Starr had a male companion dog at one time, but I'm not sure she's interested in sharing, anything. Trooper is very sweet and submissive, however, so if it's going to work with any dog, I think he's a good candidate. They will meet next week as well.

Until then, Rowdy has 2 good role models and 1 good playmate.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A "small world" encounter

One of the effects of having been in rescue for almost 10 years now is that we've got foster dogs all over. We've got former fosters in Louisianna, Utah, Delaware, and two that I know of in New York. There's many more closer to home, of course, and many that I've lost track of, and quite a few that have slipped from memory.

As I drive around Charlottesville, I pass streets and neighborhoods that I remember based on dogs that I've placed. If I'm not careful, I'll turn into one of those old men who give directions based on landmarks that mean nothing to anyone else.

Charlottesville is a pretty small town and the dog community is a subset of that, so it's not too surprising that my adopters occasionally encounter one another. Huck (formerly Nemo) is one of two shepherds saved from their owner by a former adopter who transferrred them to me. He lives north of Charlottesville with a couple who have become volunteers with VGSR. Huck has an older brother, Tucker, who is a tripod (three-legged) Golden Retriever.

Cooper (formerly Copper), is the American Bulldog brought to me by my SW Va doggie dealer. Cooper lives not far from me, east of Charlottesville in Fluvanna County.

Both dogs live in rural areas and there is no reason their paths should have crossed, but they both happen to be taking obedience lessons from the same trainer. They are both in private lessons, not a group, but their schedules are back to back so they met as one's class was ending and the other's was about to begin.

I heard about the meeting from both adopters. Huck's mom has been reading this blog for a while now and she said that she recognized Cooper right away. He does have a very distinctive, and striking, appearance. Cooper is doing great with the training, by the way. He's smart and most importantly, he's willing and even eager to do what is expected of him.

I'm sure it's helping Huck as well, but he's a young male shepherd, and it's just hard for them to learn much until they are a little older. They learn, but they are not always interested in giving the behavior we ask for. I expect they learn very quickly, but then their brain moves on to 10 or 20 different and unrelated things, probably wondering why we are still stuck so far back on something mundane like "sit."

Monday, May 17, 2010

A blast from the past

This was Ruthie just over two years ago (at right). A nice, young, female black lab. She was delivered to my house by a redneck woman, tied in the back of her pickup. The best thing the woman ever did for the dog was to give her up, and to give her some credit, she did make an effort to give the dog to someone who would find it a home, rather than dump it at an already overcrowded shelter.

I found Ruthie a great home, with two daddies and a pitbull brother, and this is Ruthie today, now called Zoey. I received an email and pics from her new home just today. I can't get over how beautifully shiny her coat is now. It just goes to show what a good home can do for a dog. Her prior owner's only wish was that we find her a home where she could run free. While that's a nice fantasy, it often results in a prematurely dead dog. I'd rather adopt a dog where it will have a real home and will be valued member of the family, instead of being an outdoor yard accessory.

Zoey has it made. She has a great home and she gets 3 hours a day of walking and outdoor play. And it really shows. She looks great--happy, well-adjusted, and content. You can see the love.

Rocky's new life

Email from Shayna, Rocky's new mom:

I met another woman with a GSD in a hiking group. We went out this weekend together. So the kids have a new friend.

Rocky is doing great and weighed in at 90lbs at the vets. He's doing great on the Taste of the Wild dog food. It's about the cheapest grain free I've been able to find.* He still has a little tender foot problem on rough surfaces so Shika is the lone backpack carrier but he's doing much better.

Ever try to get 3 dogs to look at a camera at the same time? Virtually impossible!

*[Taste of the Wild is what I feed our Zachary too. ]

Sunday, May 16, 2010

No news is good news? I hope.

I haven't told anyone yet, but Bruno went home with someone on Saturday. A woman who had been in touch with me via email was very interested in him. Their application had been processed and approved and a home visit had been done. I usually do a personal visit with the dog as well, but these folks live across the bay on the Eastern Shore. This woman really wanted Bruno though, and they drove over 4 hours to get here Saturday afternoon shortly after I had returned from Natural Bridge with Princess.

Bruno was Bruno, which is to say he was shy and not terribly interested in anyone but me. This lady was not put off by that, however, and she even said that she liked his personality. She particularly liked the fact that he had bonded so closely with me so quickly. He is very much a one person dog, and that is what she wanted.

When I first met Bruno he was still looking for his former owner, whoever that was and wherever he was. Bruno didn't have any interest in strangers. He wasn't aggressive, he would simply do what he could to avoid them. After just a couple days here, however, he decided that I would be his person and he never again let me out of his sight if he could help it. That's the kind of dog he is and that's the kind of dog she wanted.

I encouraged them the take it slow, let him come around on his own time, and these are sensible folks so I expect everything is progressing. Bruno's brain is wired to require a human companion, so I have no doubt that he will adopt this couple as his own.

Isn't he a beauty?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lassie comes home

I met my doggie dealer again today down at Natural Bridge. Linda brings me such nice dogs that I rarely, if ever, turn her down. This one is a collie, which I have never had, and it's every bit as nice as she said.

"Precious" is her rather unfortunate name. I'd change it, but I don't think I'll have her for very long. She was given up by a woman who fell on bad times and had to move in with a relative where her dog was not welcome.

She's small for a collie perhaps, but definitely bigger than a sheltie. She's very pretty, even without having had any grooming, and seems very sweet. I moved her right in with Teddy and Trooper.

I've never had a foster collie and we don't see that breed very much. I suspect she will go quickly, but you never know. I have one or two people I'm going to contact who might be interested in her. Linda has another dog lined for me too, a female boxer.

I am an animal rescuer

Here's one of those emails that circulate around the rescue world, make us cry, and help us keep going on rough days. It's a self-stroke to the ego, but we need that sometimes. It also pretty much sums up my life. It is attributed to Annette Kincker, and I've edited portions of it for brevity.

I am an animal rescuer.

I will never bring about world peace.

I will not save the rain forest.

I'm not a brain surgeon and I'll never transplant an organ to save a life.

I don't have the ear of a powerful politician or world power.

I can't end world hunger.

I'm not a celebrity, and God knows I'm not glamorous!

I'm not looked up to by millions around the world. Very few people even recognize my name.

There are a lot of things that I'll never do or become, but today I placed a dog! It was a small, scared, bundle of flesh and bones that was dropped off in a shelter by unfeeling people that didn't care what happened to it, but yet who were responsible for it even having existence in the first place. I found it a home. It now has contentment and an abundance of love. A warm place to sleep and plenty to eat. A child has a warm fuzzy new friend who will give them unquestioning devotion and teach them about responsibility and love. A wife and mother has a new spirit to nurture and care for. A husband and a father has a companion to sit at his feet at the end of a hard day of work and help him relax and enjoy life.

I am an animal rescuer. I have bought dog food with my last dime. I have patted a mangy head with a bare hand. I have hugged someone vicious and afraid. I have fallen in love a thousand times and I have cried into the fur of a lifeless body.

I am an Animal Rescuer. My work is never done. My home is never quiet. My wallet is always empty, but my heart is always full.

[For those playing along at home, the pictures from the top down are: Teddy and Brady; the new rottie mix pup, named Rowdy by my mother; and Emmylou and Rocky sharing the bed.]

Duke time

Duke is a good sized GSD that I adopted out back in February or March to a young couple with two children, including a newborn. (See posts "Overcoming obstacles", March 5, and "A good weekend", February 28). Duke went to a great home. He is almost finished with his first obedience class and may be starting an agility class soon.

He relaxes by laying on his back when the kids are around as shown here, but he has learned that when the children go to bed, "Duke Time" begins--his chance to be the center of attention and engage in adult level play. If mom and dad overlook the official start of Duke Time, he comes and reminds them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bolt's buddy

I'm too busy these days to write much, but here's a pic of Bolt and his new buddy, a Newfoundland named Jack. They make a great looking pair.

I couldn't have asked for a better home for him and it happened so quickly, I love that. He's a very lucky dog.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Are you my mother?

"Are You My Mother?" is a children's book by P.D. Eastman. I remember having it as a child and probably remember it more recently from my sister's children. It's the story of a bird that hatches when the mother is away from the nest. The hatchling is confused and goes off in search of his mother, posing his maternity question to everything he encounters: a chicken, dog, cow, kitten, and even a boat and an airplane. Ultimately he is delivered back to his nest and is reunited with his mother, a happy ending and a nice Mother's Day story.

This little guy is a rottie mix pup. He is very scared and has had a rough start in life. He was found with a litter of pups, none of whom look at all like him. I suspect that his early memories, if he has any, would be the stuff of puppy nightmares. Although they say that dogs live in the moment, they do often carry baggage from their past. In the case of puppies, it is often less about the bad stuff that happened to them and more about missed development opportunities. This little guy missed out on bonding with humans.

In the beginning he would run, hide, squeal, and then urinate when I'd pick him up. He has mostly stopped the urination and most of the squealing, and there is generally less effort put into running and avoiding me now, but he still has a way to go.

Once I pick him up, he's relatively calm and lets me cradle him on his back even. Well socialized rotties really crave contact. This little guy just doesn't know what he's missing. He's going to become my constant companion this next week until he learns to love me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bolt bolts (to a new home)

When I had Bolt at the vet on Thursday for vaccines, the vet said that she would contact someone she knew who might be interested. They were interested. We exchanged phone messages Friday night and finally talked early Saturday morning. The woman came right out, met Bolt, and took him home.

It doesn't usually happen that fast. But, she came with an excellent recommendation from someone I trust; they are big dog people (there is a Newfoundland in the home already); and I liked the woman (she had the right bumperstickers on a very dog-friendly SUV).

She was prepared to take on the task of dealing with his ear infection and his matted coat, so she was realistic enough to realize that rescue dogs are not always perfect straight off the shelf. They have a large fenced yard and the kitchen is gated off to be one big dog kennel.

All the signals were good. I haven't heard from them yet, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Newfi liked Bolt and that Bolt will show at least some house manners.