Saturday, January 29, 2011

A different day, well, sort of

This is Layla, pulled from CASPCA this morning
I spent the day at a dog adoption event.  Not exactly a different day for me, but it was a different location (Tractor Supply in Staunton), and a different group (Southeast German Shepherd Rescue).  The group is based in North Carolina but operates throughout the southeastern states wherever they can find volunteers and foster homes.  Some current and former VGSR volunteers are now working with this group as well, which I think is wonderful. 
A volunteer's personal dog, beautiful and very well trained

There was recently an email exchange among some VGSR volunteers about other shepherd rescue groups operating in the same area--(SGSR was not the subject of the discussion.)  Some people questioned the need for "other" organizations and suggested that everyone should just join VGSR.  Uncharacteristically, I withheld comment and resisted the urge to join the discussion because mostly it just generates more emails and irritates people on the email list who have no interest in the topic.  But what I was sorely tempted to say was that the suggestion that everyone should just join VGSR is both rather naive and arrogant.
A foster dog, I don't know her name, sweet, but she's a bitch on wheels
Rescue groups splinter and proliferate often because of personality conflicts or different ideas.  Dog people do not all think alike.  Most of us like dogs better than people and have better dog-handling skills than people-handling skills.  VGSR has people who will not adopt to people who have doggie doors that allow a dog access to a securely fenced yard during the day, but will adopt to people who will crate a dog for their entire work and commuting day.  This and other differences just reflect different philosophies on the appropriate way to keep and care for a dog.  Some people and some groups won't adopt to anyone who has an unaltered dog or cat in their home, period.  To say that everyone should join one organization, meaning their own, is to say that only that organization is doing it right (which ignores the fact that there is great difference of opinion even within any given organization).  That's the arrogance.

My Max, what a face
The naivete comes from the misconception that one organization, VGSR for instance, can do it all.  In spite of the name, Virginia German Shepherd Rescue, VGSR does not even begin to cover the entire state.  It would more appropriately be called Northern Virginia German Shepherd Rescue.  Most of the group's foster homes are in Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties.  It's a suburban area and that also defines the type of dogs that the group is able to take in.  A dog who has never lived indoors, has a strong prey drive, or a very defensive or protective nature, may not work in a community of townhouses.  Any dog considered for intake has to display a temperament that indicates that it would fit it or adapt to that sort of life.  There's nothing wrong with that, but it leaves a lot of dogs behind.  The truth of the matter is that VGSR does not save every German Shepherd Dog from every shelter in the state.  Some dogs we can't get to in time, either because of transportation problems, or because there is no one who can assess the dog, or because there is no one who will take a dog with too many unknowns. 

Max got bored

More people in the organization would alleviate some of those problems, sure, but it also creates others.  It may be that small rescue groups are more effective, more efficient.  Large volunteer organizations develop organizational problems, some of which VGSR is now experiencing.  Small, localized groups of like-minded people don't waste time or energy arguing about how things should be done, they just do them.  Many rural shelters will not or can not wait for a rescue group to locate a volunteer who is willing to come out to assess a dog, report back, and then wait for a foster home to come forward.  Dogs may be euthanized before all that can happen.  Rescue groups are volunteer organizations, and volunteers have a life outside the organization.  Some group may be unable to respond to a particular dog's need in a timely manner because someone may be out of town, sick, or busy with their other life. 

They had a good turnout of dogs and volunteers and the store was busy all day

All of this is a long way of saying that I think more rescue groups is a good thing.  SGSR pulled a dog, Layla, from the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA just today.  That's a dog that I might otherwise have taken, or felt that I should take.  She seems like a great dog, but I'm quite happy to have someone else step forward and take her.  We all long for the day that we would need to compete for dogs, but unfortunately there are still more than enough to go around and rescue groups still represent only a drop in the bucket of dogs needing help in shelters. 

I should edit this down to three brief paragraphs, but I'm tired so you are getting the raw stuff tonight.  I have filled in with lots of pictures to make up for it.  I took a non-shepherd, Max, to the event today.  He's a sweetheart but we didn't have any luck.  One couple was interested in him, but they live in a trailer park and already have 2 or 3 small dogs indoors.  That's just not going to happen.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Close encounters of the canine kind

These are two unrelated events that happened yesterday.  They are related thematically at least because both involve encounters with or between my former foster dogs. 

This is Tevya on the left (f/k/a Diego).  He's a young male shepherd and generally a big goof.  He was at vet yesterday and encountered two other former VGSR dogs.  One of them was Ellie (right), who was also one of my fosters about 2 years ago. If I have my dogs right, Ellie was one of a pair of shepherds given up by a breeder who was finally getting out of the business.  Ellie came in first and may have gone through one or more adopters before landing in her current and forever home.  The male of the breeder's pair was Buddy, who never really went up for adoption.  I got him one day and drove him up to Steve's house the next and that was all it took.   

Anyway, Tevya and Ellie crossed paths at a northern Virginia vet yesterday and Tevya's mom wrote me about it.  Apparently the two dogs hit it off and they may have been catching up on what had happened to them since their time in foster care.  I've gotten pictures from both dogs since their adoption and I know they both went to great homes.

The second former foster encounter from yesterday was one I had myself, closer to home.  Following Flirt's vet visit in the morning, I had an afternoon visit with Jeremy (left) with another vet to reassess his skin and coat condition and discuss what to do next.  (To make a long story short:  allergic condition and skin infection are improved but still not great, we are trying a new food.) 

As I was loading Jeremy back in the van, a huge vehicle pulled up next to us and out came Buck the wonder dog.  Buck is now Robin the Boy Wonder.  Actually, it's just Robin, but he is aspiring to "the Wonder" title.  Robin is now in training with Service Dogs of Virginia with the aim of making him a companion to an autistic child. His main job requirement is to be "bomb proof", possessing a rock solid temperament, unphased by anything.  He's doing very well. 

I've posted this picture previously, but it's a beautiful one.  It is Ellie, post-adoption, at Dewey Beach. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flirt's day

I've reverted Panini's name back to Flirt.  It's how I still think of her and she doesn't seem to mind, or know, or listen, whatever.  Besides, it fits her pretty well. 

She loved the snow we got last night.  When it started snowing yesterday evening, I brought Buddy, Sunny, and Max over to share the shed with Flirt and Jeremy.  I crated Sunny because she gets into stuff when left loose and crated Buddy because he hadn't yet met Flirt and he needs to retain his crate-ability (sorry about the Palin-esque term).   Max and Jeremy grabbed one of the straw-filled cubby holes and Flirt was cozy on her bed of straw (with a wool blanket).  This morning when I let her out to the snow covered dog yard with Max, Trooper, and Molly, she started playfully bouncing around on her long, spindly legs, looking more like a newborn filly than a senior dog.

She had a big breakfast (about 2.5 cups of dry food, 1 cup of raw food, and a chicken back) and later we headed into Charlottesville to the vet.  I realized once again the value of the van.  The van is low enough that she can get into easily on her own, but also tall enough that she can stand up in the back.  I'll have to keep Flirt in mind when it becomes necessary to replace the van some day.  Flirt had a great time at the vet's office.  She was inquisitive, friendly, and easy to handle.  She was fine with the entire exam, including the blood draw, aspiration of the lump, and a nail trim that was somewhat reminiscent of my days as a horse owner when we'd have a visit from the farrier.  Good news too.  The lump is just a fatty tumor, she was heartworm negative, and the basic blood work we did was all normal.  She had put on almost 10 pounds since she had a rabies vaccine in early January, which is scary when you think about how thin she still is.  She's eating like a horse and pooping like a champ, so we are working on the assumption that this was malnourishment that we can turn around. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

News and updates

Rambo was adopted out over a week ago.  I haven't heard anything and am assuming that "no news is good news."  Biscuit went to a potential new home Saturday morning and seems to have found himself a permanent home there.   This pic is of him after a bath on the first day.  He enjoyed the bath and even the blow dry.  Mostly, I suspect, Biscuit enjoyed the hands-on attention.

What sealed the deal was the fact that Biscuit has been so great with the two small (3 and 5 years old) children in the home.  We are going to complete the adoption via mail so I may not get to see him again, but that's ok, he doesn't need me anymore. 

Because it now appears that Biscuit's spot in the bedroom is vacant, Trooper came to bed last night for the first time.  He is really a snuggle shepherd!  I've posted pics of him riding in the car with his head on my shoulder and that is his preferred sleeping position too.  The dog who won't let most people look at his face can't get his face close enough to mine to suit him.  If I were a romantic I might speculate that he doesn't like people looking him in the eye because his eyes are a direct pathway to his soul, which he isn't prepared to open up and share with just anyone. 

With a little encouragement he eventually took a spot on one of the 4 dog beds in the bedroom.  Molly and Zachary were a little concerned about his new bedroom access status, but everyone will adjust. 

Tasha seems to be fitting in and getting along well in her current home.  That seems to have developed into a long term placement for her at this point. She gets walks every day and has put on some good, solid weight with the exercise.  Like Tasha, Bubba went to another foster home when we went away for Thanksgiving.  Bubba was adopted a few weeks ago.  The news from the adopters' home so far is good. It seems that they have a basket where everyone's shoes go.  When left alone, Bubba pulled the shoes out of the basket.  He didn't chew them up, but instead delivered them to the bedrooms of each family member that they belonged to.  That's a nice way for a dog to stay busy when left alone. 

This pic is Samson, a GSD adopted to a couple in Richmond.  They've since had a human baby as well.  Samson has a boxer friend who visits daily for play and he goes on a weekly adventure hike.  She writes: 

"Anyway, human motherhood and animal motherhood have merged well around here. Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to share all that we can with Samson. He is gentle, loving, protective and everything the perfect family dog should be and we love him so much."

I wish all my email was like that.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Second half dogs

Maybe this should be entitled "Second half home" because what I'm really talking about is adopters who take in middle aged dogs.  Dogs who come to us between 5 and 7 years of age are often the best of the lot, but are down on their luck through no fault of their own.  Invariably it is the human who has broken the human/canine contract, by moving without regard for their dog, by marrying poorly, or for a host of other reasons.  It's not always the case that the person is to blame.  Sometimes shit happens:  someone gets sick, dies, loses their home.  Bad things happen to good people and sometimes to people who never imagined they would or could give up their dog.  Sometimes it's the best thing for the dog.
Boomer was such a dog.  His owner lost is business and his home, and was in the depths of despair.  He was a decent guy and hated giving up his dog but he didn't know what else to do.  Boomer was a great dog, good with others, and an easy foster.  He had lived in a household so he knew the ways of humans and how to fit in.

He found himself a new home for the second half of his life and it is a good one.  He did his part.  He's always been well behaved indoors and he greets his new person eagerly at the door every time she comes home. He removes the noise makers from all the toys for her.  He makes her happy and he makes her feel safe.  She sent me these pictures today.  The top two pics are of Boomer, now Hans, when I first got him.  He is a classically handsome German Shepherd Dog.  He was painfully thin, however, which apparently had been a chronic condition that had never been successfully resolved.
Since then, Hans has seen a vet and is on a very specific diet that is working very well for him.  He has filled out, gaining enough weight that his ribs can not be felt but not seen, which is ideal.  He is also getting acupuncture treatments that are helping his rear end.  Although he was always crazy about a ball here at my house, and was with his former owner, he has now given that up. 

He's a great dog and she's a great dog owner.  There is mutual love and need between the owner and the dog.  She is exactly what he needed for the second half of his life.

Have van, will rescue

Well, the van rolls again.   A new pump for the power steering system and few more minor things got me an inspection sticker that is good for another year.  We picked it up pre-dawn on Saturday morning, for the start of a long and high mileage day. 
Before leaving home, however, Biscuit was picked up by a potential adopter for a weekend home visit.  He was happy, ran straight to the vehicles, and willingly, eagerly even, hopped into an open crate.  Biscuit is a good dog.  I've probably never had a foster so well behaved indoors or one who was already so well adapted to living with humans.  He attached himself to me and has been making himself at home here, but he will be happier in a home where he's the only dog. 

He needs a strong pack leader but he's more than willing to accept a human in that role.  I hope this will be the home for him, but if not, his home is out there. 

I loaded up Jeremy and Max in the two crates in the van and we drove to Gainesville for a VGSR adoption event.  The dogs were fine, but the store was not.  The current store manager is a bitch.  I don't know if she doesn't like dogs, doesn't like big dogs, or what, but she's been giving us crap about taking too much space in the store at adoption events.  They limited us to bringing 8 dogs.  Ok, I can sort of see that.  We are indoors for the winter and it can be rather crowded at times between our fosters, our volunteers, and potential adopters visiting with their dogs.  We actually had only 7 dogs there yesterday and they were never all there at the same time.  But they also moved us to an aisle in the front of the store where there is no space at all.  It was obviously her way of saying "going away, I don't want you here."  Petsmart's corporate policy is to be friendly to and to encourage rescue (knowing that adopters often drop a few hundred dollars in their store if they adopt a dog).  However, individual store managers vary considerably.  It's a good location for us, and we'll go back in the spring as soon as it's decent to be outside, but we will be trying some new locations up there for the rest of the winter.

Needless to say, the trip was for nought, except that I did meet a potential adopter that I liked very much.  I'll be looking for a dog for her. 

Jeremy is looking better these days, growing a bit more coat finally, but his skin still appears red and inflamed.  I'm taking him back to the vet next week and we'll try one of their limited ingredient diets to get his allergy under control. This is an old pic of him, the shaved spots from the heartworm treatment have filled in and his coat is a bit thicker, but still not where it needs to be.  If Biscuit gets adopted, I'd like to move Jeremy indoors where I can bathe him more regularly and work on his housetraining and other manners.  He's a bit of a nuisance barker outside, so it would be more peaceful with him inside.

I only stayed in Gainesville for 2 hours and then came home because I wanted to be back in time to pick up Panini when there was still some daylight. She is a former foster, we had called her Flirt.  Her adopters were not able to care for her anymore.  She has some problems and we'll be seeing a vet this week.  She's a Great Dane but weighs only 84 pounds.  She was always very thin but now she's rather emaciated.  She's also got a growth on her belly that needs to be looked at.  Sweet girl though.  We put the long sleeved tshirt on her to keep her warmer.  I'm feeding her Zachary's raw food, mixed with dry, along with some digestive enzymes because she doesn't seem to be absorbing any nutrients from her food. I'll also be introducing her to Zach's raw chicken backs. 

I haven't been to a vet's office in a couple weeks, but we'll be making up for it this week.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good news on a lousy day

I hate cold, rainy days--totally demotivational.  I haven't even fed dogs yet and I've barely started work.  But I got up the nerve to call the autoshop, and the van lives!   

It needs a few things to pass inspection, but the most major of them is a power steering pump, so hopefully we will be rolling again soon.  I drove the Santa Fe on yesterday's transport, which was fine for one dog, but it holds only one crate and that leaves very little room for anything, or anyone else. 

Hopefully the van will outlast the Santa Fe so I can replace the latter with a used Jeep, which I've always wanted.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Progress comes in fits and starts, often with a little back-sliding.  It is true in rescue, social change, and politics. 

Saturday was Rambo's sailing day. I drove him up to Warrenton and adopted him to some folks from Purcellville who had met him two weeks ago in Sterling.  Rambo is a nice guy.  His only problem is lack of training; he has never lived indoors.  I haven't heard from the adopters yet, but they had a three day weekend and I hope they've made the most of it in terms of getting him acclimated in his new home. 

Saturday was not a step forward overall, however, because Buddy was returned.  His adopter from last week met me in Warrenton also and I brought him back home.  Buddy repeated his bad behavior, aggression towards strangers, in yet another home.  The thing with Buddy, however, is that he's not consistent.  He was fine when the adopter's brother came to visit, but went after his children when they came for the weekend, after first taking treats from them nicely.  Buddy is off the website and I'm not going to try to place him again.  The rescue will try to find someone to work with him or we'll have to euthanize him.  He's a young dog and generally a nice one, but he will need someone to work on this problem and I'm not the one to do it. 

So the weekend was one step forward and one step back, sort of like the last election.  I just received a robocall from Mike Huckabee asking for donations to fund a campaign to destroy health insurance reform.  I waited on the line until I had the opportunity to speak to a live person who was expecting to take my credit card number.  Instead, I delivered the most vile string of invective I could conjure up to Mike Huckabee's representative (some unfortunate right wing bimbo named "Tiffany" working in an RNC call center). I don't know how our phone number got on their call list, but I believe it has now been removed. 

Time marches on, and so do I, in the firm belief that the inexorable tide of history in progressive in nature and direction.  Although race relations are not where we need them to be, they are far ahead of where they were when MLK began his work.  Environmental causes, once on the left fringe of the political debate, are now so mainstream that even the first Bush proclaimed that he wanted to be "the environmental president."  Although he earned that title only in his own mind, he was still a step in the right direction as opposed to Reagan and his Interior Secretary, James Watt, who believed it wasn't necessary to protect the environment because the second coming was at hand.  Even in the progressive cause of gay rights, we've moved in the right direction.  Although republicans are pledging to reinstate "don't ask, don't tell" and are still running anti-gay campaigns to pander to their base of right wing crazies, their right wing former VP has a somewhat openly lesbian daughter; their anti-christ, Ann Coulter, spoke to a group of gay republicans; and even the right wing standard bearer, Mother Palin, claims to have a gay friend (yeah, sure). 

So, undaunted by setbacks, I spent today transporting another dog to a better life.  Her name is Gracie, she came from Lexington, VA, and went to a new foster home today (not mine).  I picked her up down I-81 at White's Truck Stop and drove her as far north as Harrisonburg, VA.  I then hit the Harrisonburg Costco before returning home and Gracie continued on her way.  She is now in her new foster home, a step in the right direction towards a new and better life. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Power couples

This is Trooper (ours) and Rambo.  They have a well-matched play style.  Rambo got a little full of himself the other day and Trooper kicked his butt, but they get along fine, Rambo just needed a reminder that he's a punk.  We adopted Trooper but I haven't really told him yet.  He does a great job of supervising Rambo, Max, and Jeremy during the day although he comes inside at night.  He's been staying in a crate in the office at night keeping other fosters company.  Molly used to be the best Foster Manager we ever had, until we adopted her.  Then she retired from that job fast.  I'm hoping Trooper will keep the job for a while and earn his keep around here.  He's been content to stay in the dog yard with them during the day and he mixes well with the household dogs as well.  He's also a great watch dog, but he's still far to aggressive towards strangers.  We need to go to the vet next week, which should be interesting. 

This couple is sort of an odd couple.  The big guy is Biscuit and the little mutt is Sunny.  They have the big kennel during the day because they both can and will jump the dog yard fence.  They get along well and they play together.  Sunny and Belle used to fight a lot over food, but Sunny doesn't take on Biscuit.  I think she tried once, but now she lets him eat slowly and unmolested. 

I hope to split both of these couples up this weekend.  I have leads on possible homes for both Biscuit and Rambo and I'd like to move them both out of here tomorrow.  There are plenty more waiting to take their places.

Monday, January 10, 2011

News almost too good to share

Well, I've waited since August to say this, but Belle is finally belle of the ball in a new home.  This is sort of backasswards way of getting into yesterday's events, because it actually began a week ago.  After I got home from a VGSR adoption event in Front Royal last Sunday and unloaded the shepherds from the van, I popped Miss Belle into the car and headed over the Ferncliff.  It's the next exit off the interstate to the east, not far across the line into Louisa County.  I met the family and they met, and loved, Belle, with the possible exception of their small, very white, female Spitz.  They have had a shar pei in the past and said that her behavior was typical.  They were not put out by it so I left Belle there that night. 
I didn't speak of it out loud for a week, due to a superstitious fear of jinxing the whole sitation.  An email after a day or two referred to Belle as "a keeper" but I still didn't dare report it here.  Another email at the end of the week reported that the two girls were getting along great. When I got home from yesterday's adoption event in Gainesville, I again unloaded the shepherds and went over to see for myself.  Sure enough, the two girls were playing and having a great time.  They are a salt and pepper combo:  Belle's coat is like black velvet, thick and soft to the touch; the spitz has a silky white coat, as pure as snow.  They both seem to have boundless energy and they love to chase each other around the house. 

This adoption is due to the efforts of one of my blog followers and Facebook friends.  She's been working on finding this girl a home for a while now.  Belle and I are eternally grateful. 

I also sent Buddy to a new home yesterday as a result of the adoption event in Gainesville.  I have great hopes for this one working out.  It's a single man who works from home and has the time and space to devote to Buddy.  Hopefully Buddy won't repeat the mistakes of his past, but this guy knows his whole history and should be prepared to handle whatever Buddy throws at him. 

Rambo, Max, and Biscuit also made the trip to Gainesville yesterday and I have good potential leads on Rambo and Biscuit as a result.  Biscuit hated being there and was growly with the other dogs in close quarters so he happily sat out the second half of the adoption event in the van.  I could have stopped at a potential Biscuit adopter's home on the way home yesterday, but I didn't have time and they just turned in their application yesterday anyway.  Max was a big lovebug.  He really enjoyed the event, gave lots of hugs and kisses.  I've decided his mix seems more like boxer and Saint Bernard.  Our Cabell is a Saint mix and Max looks and acts so much like him in many ways.  He made some friends yesterday and will find an adopter soon enough.

Yesterday's surprise was a visit from the previously adopted Thor, shown here.  He has grown up, filled out, and looked really good.  He's a country dog and wasn't thrilled about being back at a shopping mall adoption event yesterday, but it was good to see him.  He was obviously attached to and devoted to his new owners and seemed very happy. 

The check engine light on the van came on yesterday evening after I finished Belle's adoption paperwork so Clay and I dropped it off at a repair shop, had a late dinner, came home, took care of the dogs, and collapsed in bed at 9:30 p.m.

I fear for the van.  It has 210,000 miles on it.  Several dashboard warning lights are lit up, the power steering sounds arthritic, and it needs a new state inspection.  I feel like I'm waiting on news from a doctor and dreading the test results.  It's too old to put much money into, but there's no other way I can carry 4 or more dogs to an adoption event.  I'm just glad it held together long enough to get me back home yesterday.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Afternoon yard time

 It was a nice sunny day, so we all had some good yard time this afternoon.






Trooper and Molly

Molly, Trooper, and Cabell


Max and Rambo