Sunday, July 31, 2011

Afternoon dog bath and delivery, evening float

Pictured here is the new long haired shepherd I sprung from the Nelson County Animal Control on Friday.  Apparently he was rather neurotic in the shelter and he ended up with a good amount of fecal matter caked into his very thick and long coat.  Once he got to my place he added some mud to the coat pacing in the kennel the first day. On day two I let him into the larger kennel space with Schatze and the two labs and he settled down.  He is filthy, but you can see that he's really a pretty fine looking dog.  I'm not particularly partial the long hairs, but some people really love them.  They do look impressive when they are in full coat and are well groomed.  This guy is a mess.
He was moving to another foster home today so I gave him a bath to get some of the mess off of him.  He's going to need more work, but at least I was able to drive with the windows closed and the air conditioning on today.  He was the most cooperative dog I have ever bathed, bar none.  He didn't react to the cold water, didn't try to get away, and he even let me wash out his ears.

When I got him wet his backbone and ribs were very prominent and it was apparent that this guy is actually quite underweight.  His new foster got him to a vet already today and sure enough, he had hookworms, but thankfully not heartworms.  I guess I need to get another bottle of panacure and re-worm Schatze and the labs since he was sharing their space the last couple days. 

I drove up to Culpeper with him to meet his new foster.  When I got back home, I loaded up the canoe and headed off to the river.  It was probably 5:00 p.m. before I started and the water level was low so I knew it would be a slow float.  And it was, but it was a nice one.  I saw several deer, including three walking slowly across the river together. You can see two in the pic below if you look very closely, center right. 

There was a group of what appeared to be juvenile ducks, not really small, but they must have been this year's hatchlings.

I usually chase a few Great Blue Herons up the river.  I saw none today but played the same game with a bald eagle instead.  He would wait until I was very close and then swoop down out of a tree above me and fly ahead around the next bend.  I had a lot of good views of him but was never fast enough with the camera.  I finally spotted him in a tree and just drifted towards him with my camera at the ready.  He was way up in a tree and didn't fly off until I was past him.  I did manage to get this one shot of him sitting in the tree.  When I get my new computer and photoshop program installed I will rework the picture so he shows up better, but look closely, there is no mistaking that bald head.

The most unusual creatures I encountered on the river today were Karin Straley and three of her river rats.  My cell phone rang as I was floating down the river, which always surprises me.  It was Karin returning a call from me earlier in the day.  She was heading down to the Sandy Beach with her dogs.  That is an area along the river at the beginning of the Fluvanna Heritage Trail.  It is also near the end of my float trip and sure enough, when I passed by she was there.  I stopped to chat a bit and then called Clay who picked me up at the bridge just a couple hundred yards on downstream. It was a good way to end the weekend. 
I got in just before dark.  This last pic was an attempt to photograph a mass of waterbugs shimmering on the surface of the water.  The Rivanna River is not the wildest or most scenic river in the country, or even in the state, but it never disappoints.  It makes me realize that you don't always have to go someplace spectacular to have a great outdoor experience, you just need to get out there. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Making accommodations

Sitting with Bo on the front porch
I think that the most common reason for failed adoptions is people's failure or refusal to make even minimal changes in their own homes or lifestyles to accommodate a new family member.  The most ridiculous example is the woman who returned Biscuit because he got into her trash.  I don't know if it never occurred to her to put the trash in a closet, or if she was just unwilling to do so, but it told me that the woman wasn't smart enough to own a dog.  That's the type of person who liked the idea of having a dog, but not the reality. 

This week has been about doing what I can to keep the dogs around here as happy and comfortable as possible. 

I can't do anything about the heat, but all the kennels have good shade and fans and plenty of water.  Today I bought two more water tanks that are big enough for dogs to get into.  They went into the triple kennel complex, one in center section with the two labs and Schatze (the female lab loved it!) and one in the new L-shaped kennel on the end with a new long haired shepherd I picked up today.  I also hung some shade cloth to make more of that kennel hospitable during the day.

Bo in his outdoor spot

Bo, the rottie with heartworms, is mostly staying in a crate in my office, but he still needs some outdoor time and space for short periods.  I knew if I put him into one of the regular kennels adjacent to other dogs he would get too excited.  The goal for post-treatment heartworm dogs is to keep their blood pressure low, which means calm and quiet.  A convenient solution was to drag over the puppy kennel that we don't normally use.  It's about 6' x 12', smaller than any of my regular kennels but that was perfect for Bo because we don't want him really active.  It fit into the space right in front of the porch, just outside the front door, which is handy because it lets me get him downstairs and outside without encountering Gypsy.  It is out of sight from all the other fosters so he doesn't get all worked up and anxious to see them.  The more frequent handling is also helping him get over his fear of people.  He's doing fine, no ill effects from the heartworm treatment so far at least. 

Four crates in my office
 Luke and Jeremy are both old guys and I worry about them in the heat, so I've taken to bringing them (and Ryland) indoors during the afternoons.  That's the hottest part of the day, obviously, and it's also the time when there is the least amount of shade in the dog yard.  I had been bringing them in at night too, but that's a lot of dog to move in and out twice a day, and it's ok outside at night, so I think we'll just bring them in for afternoon nap time.  Luke, Jeremy, Ryland, and Bo fill my four office crates, so Trooper gives up his crate for a spot under the desk or (annoyingly) right behind my chair.  Molly has the big bolster bed staked out as her territory.  That's six in the office in the afternoons, Zach in the bedroom, and of course our other three downstairs. 
Molly looks innocent but looks are deceiving

Speaking of trash dogs, our Molly is one, and I had to give up keeping waste paper baskets in the office.  I keep a small one on the desk and a larger covered one elsewhere in the room because she loved to stick her head in and pull out whatever she could find, even though there was nothing edible in them.  I could have just returned her to the shelter she came from, but I'm more attached to her than I am to my trash cans.  The other accommodation I've had to make for Molly is keeping her company.  For a long time it was her, me, and Emmylou here in the office during the days.  After Emmylou died I realized that Molly didn't like to be left alone even if I just went outside.  Trooper still spends time in the dog yard with the fosters, so sometimes Zachary is pressed into service as a companion or babysitter for Molly if I'm away or doing something other than sitting here with her.  It doesn't have to be me, and it seems that any dog will do, but she doesn't like to be alone.

I still don't have my new computer.  Today I hate FedEx and I hate Dell for using them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My evening with Tessa (and theirs) [updated]

I will be so glad when my new computer arrives. My work computer has nothing on it that will allow me to crop a picture and I really hate posting pics with cut off body parts, too much grass, etc.  The new computer should be here tomorrow.
Anyway, Tessa and I left home about 5:00 p.m. this afternoon to make the drive up to Gainesville.  We had met a nice young couple at last Sunday's adoption event and they were interested in Tessa.  We went to meet them again this evening along with their current dog, also a German Shepherd. 

The dogs were fine together and Tessa was fine with both of them, right from the start, no fear, no shyness.  We did the adoption paperwork and she went home with them.  They have friends and relatives who live nearby who are also dog people and I encouraged them to make a point of getting her out and keeping her socialized with other people.

I was getting a LOT of inquiries about Tessa from interested people, but this one seemed like a good fit. 

It was 10:00 p.m. by the time I got back home.  We got the dogs settled for the night and I sat down to finish my work and unwind with a cocktail to counteract the iced coffee I was drinking all evening. 

Friday morning, I received this email and photo:
Things went VERY well last night. We kinda forgot there were dogs in the car, they were silent the entire ride home. We got home and even though it was very hot and humid we took them for a long walk together. They walk really well in their little pack. We thought that if she got ahead of him, Logan would cry and whimper but that did not seem to be the case, they stayed very close to each other in fact, kinda glued to one anothers side.

At home we kept her on the leash and walked her through each of the rooms and she did really well, took her off and the dogs immediately just began playing chase. She jumped on the couch and licked Tim's face to death, it was pretty cute if I do say so myself.

She scarfed some food, and drank a ton of water but was pretty riled up so we let them run for about 2 hours then put em to bed.

Tim trimmed out the mats from her fur and some of the dirt that was caked on her stomach, she is AMAZING with grooming, rolls right over and lays there, that giant fan of a tail does not stop wagging it was funny b/c tim had to try and make it stop b/c it made her butt move which made trimming her stomach hilarious.

The only hiccup we have had was she seems to be a bit more rough with toys. Logan is a huge baby with them and is ultra gentle and you can tell Tessa is more of a rough houser. Nothing that cant be handled we just got to teach her the "drop it" command when she gets too rough.  They got into a bit of a neck biting fight but we were able to break it up and 5 seconds later they were back to playing.  I really think this is going to work out beautifully, we could not be happier.

Thank you so much for choosing us to adopt her! We could not be more in love!

I'm happy that they are happy and that she's happy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ranger adopted, finally

I adopted Starr to this lady several years ago.  She had another shepherd at the time, a very large male named Champ.  Champ died and she contacted me about adopting another friend for Starr.  Starr can be a bit of a bitch so we didn't even consider another female.  The female shepherd spot in the household was already filled.  We tried Trooper who didn't work and we tried Buddy who didn't work. 

Then I got in Ranger and Koa.  I contacted the woman, she and Starr met him and liked him, but she had an elderly mother coming to visit in a small house so we put it off for a few weeks.  When the time finally came that she was ready, Ranger got sick, possibly with lepto.  I had him here giving him fluids for a few days and antibiotics for much longer.  He got better, returned to eating, but blood work still showed some kidney malfunction so we put off the adoption. 

Ranger moved in with Starr and the adopter, but he remained a VGSR dog pending resolution of his medical problems.  Two more rounds of blood work showed improvement but still not entirely normal kidney function.  He may have some permanent kidney damage as a result of the lepto.  However, he made himself at home in his new home and she had decided sometime ago to adopt him regardless.  She's putting him on a lower protein food which should be easier on him.  Today I went by and we made it official by completing the adoption paperwork.
He was happy to see me as he is happy to see everyone who comes to visit.  He's not an entirely perfect fit (not good with cats), but they are working on that.  He and Starr are very good together and I noticed that Starr had dropped off a few pounds since the last time I saw her.  She had gotten a little plump and lazy with no other dog around.  Ranger is young and active and is keeping Starr that way as well.  They have a huge, fenced, wooded yard to play in and lots of squirrels to chase. 

Ranger and Koa were two beautiful young male dogs that I should have been able to adopt immediately.  It took longer than that, but they both ended up in great homes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Things that matter, things that don't

Last Saturday was VGSR's quarterly meeting up in northern VA.  This was supposed to be the meeting where the new by-laws were finally to be voted upon.  They had been talked to death by a few naysayers at every meeting where they had been brought up over the past couple of years.  I didn't attend because I was planning to drive up there to the Gainesville adoption event on Sunday and I didn't want to make the trip twice in one weekend.  Between a quarterly meeting dealing with by-laws and an adoption event, my choice was clear. 

And it was a good choice.  The by-laws got adopted without me, finally, and I got two dogs adopted.  I received this picture of Odie in his new home.  He looks happy and things are going well, initially at least.  Odie is a gentleman, I think he will certainly do his part to make it work. 

Bo, at the vet's office today
 I have also received a couple emails already from the woman who adopted Star.  She lives in Pennsylvania.  Her son had been in Virginia for the past week or so, staying at his aunt's house.  He had also spent some time on the internet looking at VGSR dogs.  They had lost a shepherd just a couple months ago and he was particularly anxious to adopt a new dog.  His mother had driven down to Virginia to pick him up to go back home and he convinced them all to come to VGSR's adoption event.  They did and they met Star.  They were nice folks and were genuinely interested in the dog, but when I learned that they were not local, hadn't yet put in an application, etc., I had to explain the process to them and why we couldn't do it that day.

Disappointed but undaunted, the woman sat down and filled out an application on the spot.  She didn't just answer the questions with a "yes", "no" or by checking the box, she filled up the application form writing about her experience with her last shepherd, the nature of their  home, etc.  We talked, extensively.  Their last shepherd had been a rescue with some pretty typical but severe problems that they had worked through and dealt with.  The end result was that I sent the dog home with them that day. 

Bo, when I picked him up this afternoon
 It violated all the rules and probably many of the by-laws and operating procedures that the group had voted on the day before.  It's not something I would normally do, but I can't say that I've never done it before.  I also can't say that I'll never do it again.  Rules are made to be broken. 

Today I took Bo to the vet for the first heartworm treatment.  The poor guy was scared.  He had become a rather happy, confident dog with the other dogs at home.  But taken out of his element, and forced to interact with people rather than dogs, he tries to just hide his head and wish it all away. 

When I got back home with Bo today (he's now in a crate in my office, along with Luke, Ryland, and Jeremy for the night), there was a slew of email from the shepherd group about the by-laws, someone suggesting that they hadn't been properly adopted or some such bullshit.  I deleted them all.  I just don't give a damn and I don't have time to waste on something so meaningless. 

Buried among the myriad emails concerning the by-laws were two pleas looking for foster homes for dogs in need.  They generated no responses, in stark contrast to the crap about the by-laws.  If everyone who felt compelled to add their two-cents to the by-laws discussion had a foster dog in their home, there would have been no discussion about the by-laws, we would be talking about dogs instead.  As it is, there are shepherds that we don't have room for because we have people who care more about by-laws than the actual mission of the organization.  I don't get it.  I understand the need for rules, procedures, and even by-laws, but none of that matters one whit compared to getting a dog a home. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Downs and ups

Saturday sucked.  I suffered the ultimate computer tragedy, a crashed hard drive.  The computer was 3-4 years old so I certainly didn't mind replacing it, but I hate like hell losing all the dog pictures that resided on that hard drive. 

I'm using my work computer, approximately 5 feet away from my personal computer, but still, it's not the same.  A new one was ordered from Dell and is due to arrive on the 28th.  I salvaged the hard drive from the old machine and am taking it to someone tomorrow in the hope that they will be able to read it and recover my files.  The day was hot, humid, and pretty much miserable, but after a late day thunderstorm it was enough better that I was able to sit outside in the evening and enjoy the hummingbirds.
On Sunday I loaded up Schatze, Odie, Jeremy, Star, and Tessa and we headed up to Gainesville.  I didn't have great expectations for the day.  The forecast was for another hot and humid day, but mostly I didn't have much hope in finding suitable adopters.  I'm getting rather jaded, I'm afraid, but it seems that so many people are only willing to adopt a dog if it won't be any trouble, if it will magically and instantly conform to their lifestyle without requiring any effort or accomodation on their part.  That sounds more than a little cynical, I know, but with three returns lately, that's the way I've been feeling.  Self-pity isn't attractive, nor is it conducive to adoptions, so I was trying to keep it in check. 

With an attitude so bad and expectations so low, things could only get better, and they did.  The sun stayed behind clouds and there was a decent breeze such that the weather was tolerable.  Tessa was well behaved, good with people, no problems.  Better still, both Odie and Star went to new homes, both of which seem to be very good ones.  On top of that, I now have a prospective adopter for Tessa.  We plan to meet again next weekend so she can meet their current dog.

All things considered, not a bad weekend, except for the Tragedy of the Great Crash.  I'm going to get an external hard drive to use as a back up for my next computer. 

Monday is Bo's first heartworm treatment.  He had a bath this afternoon so he will be nice and clean for his day at the hospital.  He will become my officemate after the treatment, freeing up some kennel space outside. It's time to start working on a placement for those labs. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Not much to say

Sable at the beach, very ladylike in her pink harness

This is Teddy, now called Trace, which I think is a great name.
Out for a walk with his new sister and new humans.

I went outside this morning to feed and organize space in my food locker.  I was drenched within minutes.  I took Bo for a walk to mark some trees and managed to collect what I hope is enough of a urine sample for the vet to test.  It's too damn hot and miserable to be out there and my presense stirs up the dogs who should be sacked out in the shade.  Sparky and Gypsy Jr. are together now and she has him playing in the water and digging in the dirt with her.  I fed them together this morning and sure enough, she made a rush on his food dish, but he came back at her and chased her off.  No one was hurt, but she didn't try it again.  I'm going to take the urine to the vet, maybe stop and see if I can score some dog food (the food locker is running low), and then get back home.  I think I'll do some dog baths and then bring a few of the older fosters (Luke, Jeremy, and Ryland) up to crates in my office.
Samson, on one of his adventure hikes.  A dirty dog is a happy dog.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good dog, good people, bad match

Last Sunday was a long drive to Front Royal and back, and when I got home I had a message about another dog being returned.  That never makes me happy.  The dog is another young female, named Star.  Very pretty girl, very nice girl, and she was adopted to some very nice people.  The problem?  Too much of a good thing.  The two humans in the home both work, but different shifts.  We tend to think of that as a good thing, very little alone time for the dog, right?  But if the dog won't let one of the humans sleep after the other one leaves for work, that's not so good for anyone.
I dread putting Star back on the web.  She will generate plenty of interest, but we have so many applicants who are attracted to shepherds by their look and their reputation but they have no idea what actually owning one requires.  They think it would be nice to have one around.  The problem is, German Shepherds are not just "around."  They are in your face and up your butt, constantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  They are that kid who whines about being bored and needing something to do.  That "something" is their human.  They can't entertain themselves very well, and when they do, it's generally bad news. 

They are high maintenance.  I'd be willing to bet that the average shepherd requires more time and attention than the average dog, even aside from the grooming, although I'm sure there are breeds out there that are even worse. 

Star is not a particularly problematic dog.  She's good with people and good with dogs and good indoors.  She just needs a safe and secure place to be when her owner leaves where she won't disturb others until she settles down. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Latrophobia in rottweilers

Latrophobia is the fear of doctors.  (I just looked it up.)  Bo seems to have it bad.  We went to the vet today for an exam and blood work in advance of the heartworm treatment, which should begin next Monday. 

Bo is sweet, but he was really scared. It may be more of a fear of the outside world or unknown things in general.  He crouched, crawled, tried to disappear into the floor.  We had trouble getting him to stand up enough so that the vet could listen to his heart.  

Fortunately, although Bo is scared, he shows no signs of fear aggression.  He was just all about avoidance.  Bo would drop to the floor and become dead weight.  He tried to hide his head.  His weight was up to 81 pounds once we finally got all four of his feet and legs onto the scale.  The bloodwork was mostly ok, but they want me to collect a urine sample and bring it in as well.  Bo isn't pee shy at home but they won't pee in a bottle and trying to catch it in a pan is a little tricky.

Bo is a great guy and he's really settled in nicely here at home.  He is happy and confident at home with the other fosters, but he is shy with people and shows signs of an abusive past.  His confidence disappears out in public apparently, or at least at the vet's office.  I have a prospective adopter in mind for him once we get him through the treatment and healthy again.  He is going to be on a strict activity limitation for two months up in my office, so I expect he will get pretty attached to me.  It will be nice to have a rottweiler shadow again.   

Monday, July 18, 2011

A second dog, or more

Someone asked me to comment on what it was like going from one dog to two.  The truth is, I don't remember.  I'm not even sure which dog was the "second" one.  This was all before Clay, I already had multiple dogs when we met, but just two.
As near as I can remember and reconstruct it, Sasha came first.  She was a solid black shepherd, absolutely beautiful.  She belonged to Bert's aunt Linda, who was going through a divorce, personal upheaval, etc.  I told Linda that we would take the dog but once we did, I'd never be able to give her back.  She transitioned to us with no problem.  I would go outside and throw a stick for her and she loved to run after it.  We bonded.  I think she decided the stick was important to me because she took it up as her job and she never went outside without picking up the first one she could find, which was usually the one that she dropped outside the door on her way in.  The sticks graduated to pieces of firewood and she developed incredible neck muscles.  She was a very smart dog and already had all the training she would ever need, except one kick from one of our horses taught her to keep a safe distance from them. 

Bert and I were living on 5 acres in Prince William County in a community called Catharpin.  It was the two of us, a cat named Shooz, and then Sasha.  I loved her, she was the first shepherd I had ever known and I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to the breed.  Then Vito came into our lives.  Vito was found as a stray wondering the street of Philadelphia.  He was picked up by the brother of a friend of a friend and ended up with the friend looking for a home, which he found with us.  I actually tried placing him with someone else (my first adoption attempt), but that didn't work out and Vito was back with us for the duration. 

Whereas Sasha was completely trained, human-oriented, and bonded to us and the property, Vito was a wild man.  He had no respect for property lines (Sasha had learned them almost immediately, even without a fence and she never left).  Vito would take off and run, coming back only when he felt like it, so we put in a big fenced yard, but still had to reclaim Vito from the pound one time when he escaped. 

An old Vito and a young Gypsy, picture from 1999
A second dog certainly livened things up, because Vito livened up everything around him, every place he went.  He was just a lively dog, even when he became an old man.  He and Sasha got along well and enjoyed each other's company, but they were different dogs and did different things.  They didn't really "play" together as such.  Sasha had her job outside with me and the horses.  Vito guarded the food supply and had his spot staked out on the couch or a comfy chair right from the start.  Since I've been doing dog rescue, I've known of people to return a dog if they didn't bond with the dog right from the start or if the new dog and the existing dog didn't instantly hit it off and act like best friends from the first meeting.  Sometimes it happens like that, sometimes it takes longer, sometimes the dogs just develop parallel paths, co-existing but not interacting all that much. 

Clay and I both came from single dog families, but we now have six of our own.  Basically we have dog everywhere we go.  Yes, sometimes you have to step over them, around them, or yell at them to move out of the way.  They are all different, with distinct personalities, likes and dislikes, and we do different things with different dogs.  They are the same species, but they are individuals, not clones.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bio before blog

 I drove to Front Royal today with Odie, Jeremy, Schatze, and Tessa.  Cheyenne also came along so she could go home with her new foster.  It was a full load but 3 dogs shared the back end of the van so I had no one in the seat next to me. 

We had a good group of volunteers and plenty of people to hold my dogs, but not a big crowd of shoppers or potential adopters.  While we were sitting around talking I mentioned that I still didn't have Odie on the web and so he hadn't attracted any potential adopters.  I was told to do a "bio before blog" when I got home this evening and I actually did!  I already had some good pics of Odie, I just wrote up a little info and submitted it for posting on the VGSR website.  He's a great dog, and I think will be a pretty easy dog, which you can't say about a lot of shepherds. 

Schatze was good, as she always is.  She is just very attached to me.  She will be the same with anyone who adopts her too, and that's both good and bad.  She wants to be with me constantly and although she's fine outdoors, she shrieks when she sees me unless I'm with her.  She's like that at adoption events too, but it does seem to be an "out of sight, out of mind" thing.  When I'm out of her line of sight, she quiets down. 

Jeremy was along also, of course.  I think he's going to be with me always at this point, but you never know, there may be a home out there for him.  After all, even Teddy finally found a home. 

Tessa was a bit of a surprise today.  I handed her off to Helene, whom I would trust with any dog, and she was perfect for Tessa today.  I told her about my concerns about Tessa, how she was fear aggressive, didn't like men, and was scared of strangers.  Well, apparently Tessa wanted to make me look like a fool and she did. 

Steve gave Tessa a good opportunity to prove that she was male aggressive, stranger aggressive, or fear aggressive.
She just kissed him.
The man behind did the same, with the same result.

We had lots of volunteers there today so we tested her with everyone.  She just refused to bite, bark, lunge, or make any aggressive move.  She gave kisses instead.  I'm pleased, of course, but it makes her a bit of a mystery and I'm not sure what to tell people about her.  She needs a strong and confident leader, obviously, who isn't scared of her.  She needs someone that she will have confidence in. 

I think my criteria for her have to be: 1. previous shepherd experience; 2. no kids (because they and their friends have no previous experience); 3. a committment to doing something with the dog, running, agility, training, something to build the dog's confidence; and 4. common sense.

I'll probably have her forever too.