Monday, October 31, 2011

A horror story with a happy ending

This was Romeo (left) when he first came to us as one of the hoarder shepherds.  They called him Romeo because he was such a lover.  He was a fecal encrusted, stinky mess, but I'll never forget seeing one of the Fluvanna SPCA shelter staff get down on her knees and give this dog a big bear hug as I was taking him out of there.

This is Romeo (right) after his first bath.  He wasn't clean yet, but he was probably cleaner than he had been since he was born.  (I didn't hug him until after the bath.)

He was a young dog and seemed like a great fit for two former adopters who were looking to add a second dog.  Their first dog is a white female shepherd named Anna.  Female shepherds aren't always eager to share their home and humans with other females, so a male seemed like a better choice. 

The result is that both dogs now life a great life in the country, that mostly mythical life that dog dumpers say they are seeking for their dogs. 

Bear and Anna

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Feeding a sensitive shepherd

This is our Zachary (left).  Actually, he's Clay's Zachary.  Clay let him lay on the sofa with him when we got him and they bonded immediately. 

We got him as a pup and he should have been adopted right away.  However, he looked like this (right) when we got him and no one wanted him.  In addition to being nothing but skin and bones, he had black splotches all over, some sort of fungal infection due to poor nutrition and unsanitary living conditions. 

The black spots cleared up quickly with a dip but it soon became apparent that both he and his father (we took in 3 from the same source), had some sort of digestive problem.  The prior owners had split and the husband ended up with the dogs but he didn't feed them much or take care of them.  Even when we increased their food, the pup and his father, Riker, had trouble gaining weight. 

We tested them for worms, of course, and did blood tests and other veterinary work up.  We tried the pancreatic enzyme supplement, because that is a typical shepherd problem, but still had two skinny dogs. 

I began to investigate and experiment with raw food diets.  Their stools firmed up and they began to put on weight.  Zachary grew, but we kept him because he was Clay's dog by that time.  Riker was adopted to a wonderful home who found a dry food (Life's Abundance) that worked well for him.  We used it for a while too, but it was about $60 a bag and had to be shipped via UPS.  I think the key factor about that dog food is that it is grain-free, no corn, wheat, rice, barley, etc.  Other grain-free foods came on the market and we found that a mixture of that, with some raw food, did the trick for Zachary. 

I'm writing about all this now because this weekend we re-stocked the raw food elements of Zach's diet.  Clay was conveniently out of town for this rather messy and unpleasant procedure.  We order chicken backs from a local store, 25 pounds at a time, and they need to be re-packaged to about 6 in a bag because he eats just one a day and I don't want to keep them in the refridgerator for more than 6 days.  They are fed raw. 

The other raw food part of Zach's diet is a prepared raw food made by Bravo.  It is basically ground up chicken frames, all the bones and other parts that remain after the useable parts of the chicken have been removed.  It comes frozen in 10 lb. rolls.  We thaw it out and re-package it.  It sort of looks like hamburger (no recognizable chicken parts), but it's wetter and more sloppy.  Yum. 

He gets about a cup of the dry food, a half cup or more of the raw food, and one chicken back each day.  He has to eat this concoction someplace private because he's a shy eater, he eats slowly, and our other dogs would steal the tasty bits from him.  The raw chicken back inevitably gets drug out of the bowl, so he eats outside.  It's all very carnivorous and disgusting to see, but it does the trick for his digestive system.  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hallelujah Hobby

Today was supposed to be VGSR's quarterly meeting (and election) in northern Virginia.  I awoke to the same cold rain that was falling last night and I was not inclined to drive 2.5 hours each way to a meeting I didn't want to attend in the first place, particularly because they were predicting that the rain would change to snow in some places.  I decided against making the trip and the meeting was postponed anyway. It was one of those muddy mornings, not fun for dealing with 16 dogs who still needed to get out, eat, poop, etc.  But when that was over, I had some local errands to run, and I returned a call from a VGSR applicant in Charlottesville who was interested in Hobby. 

I had a couple errands in Charlottesville too, so Hobby came along and we met the young man who will hopefully become his new human and home provider. 

I like a shepherd with a big head and I love the red and black markings and Hobby has both.  He's a well put together dog.  I liked the adopter too.  He's a grad student at UVA, and like me, he's from Kansas where he went to KU as an undergrad (I went to K-State), after which we both got out of Kansas for personal, professional, and political reasons.  Now, that's about where our similarities end but it seemed for a moment like I was looking at myself some 20 years (or more) back in time. 

Most importantly, he seems like a good fit for Hobby.  He needs a fairly laid back dog, which Hobby is.  Hobby needs someone he can trust and he expects that trust to be earned.  He staked out a spot in the living room and just laid down and watched us both as we talked.  They checked each other out and both seemed willing to give it a go.  I think it will be next weekend, giving me time to get Hobby's swollen scrotum under control.  Hobby has been easy in the house and he's becoming more trusting of me.  He's been fine with other dogs.  His prior owners are losers; he's a great dog, hopefully with a new home, Hallelujah

Friday, October 28, 2011

Busy kennel

My big kennel complex is divided such that it can be three separate kennels or one big one, if everyone is compatible.  The kennel currently holds Thora (female GSD), Radley (American Bulldog), Mercedes (new young female GSD), and D Dog (the rottie mix).  They are all fine together so the gates are open and everyone is together.  That makes for a more stimulating environment for all of them, and of course, more space.  Here are some pics I snapped late Thursday afternoon while cleaning and feeding.

Some part of Thora managed to be in most of my pictures.  She is clearly in charge in that kennel, but she's a mostly benevolent ruler.  She sorted out D Dog right away and even the wild child female shepherd, Mercedes.

Thora, again, with Radley
Radley is a nice boy, plays well with others, wants no trouble.

This is D Dog the rottie mix.  He's in a nice submissive posture here, sitting with ears back, but he has a distrustful look in his eyes and he's clearly scared when someone grabs his collar or tries make him do something.  The jury is still out on this one. 

Mercedes is often too busy to be bothered with eating. 

Mercedes in a rare still moment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Good news and updates

The dog behind the cat here is Odie.  I had an email from his new home recently just to say that all is going well.  One of the cats is still scared of Odie, but obviously this one isn't and has no reason to be. 

This is Beau.  He went to a new foster home last Sunday and he's already been adopted, by someone who met him at Gainesville last Sunday.  There are people who do that part of the process better than I do and I am happy to let them handle it.  The other really great thing about this adoption is that it opens a spot in this foster home and I'm hoping they will take in Hobby next weekend.   
The light colored shepherd is my recent foster, Timber.  He was adopted by other VGSR volunteers.  The other shepherd is their old girl, Jewelle.  Apparently Timber and Jewelle have become fast friends and having the young guy around has given her a spark.  He scales his play down to her level and he has given her some renewed energy.  It's always a little tough bringing in a young dog with an old one in the house, and Timber is both big and rambunctious, but it has been good. 

This is a beautiful picture and it's particularly beautiful because this dog is Anthony.  He is one of the hoarder shepherds who had lived in a shit filled house or pen his whole life with a shit filled owner and her lowlife convict boyfriend.  He's 10 years old, so he may not have too many years left, but they are going to be good ones.    

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Sunday I brought home Hobby (right).  Clay knew about that one.  We had a rough first night but now he's strictly an indoor dog and he's nice and quiet.  He's a good dog, very handsome, still a little freaked by the new people in his life (somewhat scared of me still), but he's fine with the dogs and good in a crate. 

He's had a lot of changes for an 8 year old dog to handle, particularly being dumped by the only people he had known.  He's doing better with it than I would.  I'm taking him in to be neutered Wednesday morning. 

I had sent an email to the group looking for a foster for him but got no response, so he's here until I can get him adopted.

Sunday evening I got an email about another VGSR dog that the foster was wanting to move out to another home.  This one is part rottie.   His name is "D" (left), which is a terrible and ridiculous name, but the prior owner had named him "Undertaker", which is even worse.  It may have been prescient on his part, however, because the old man who owned him (and failed to train him), moved into a nursing home and is probably on his way out. 

Anyway, this dog seems to possess typical rottie stubborness and he's gotten away with not doing anything he doesn't want to do for several years. 

He was proving to be unmanageable in his foster home so he came here Monday afternoon.  Clay wasn't home until after dark that night so they didn't meet and I didn't mention him. 

The dog and I had a little "come to Jesus" meeting last night and he's already come around quite a bit today.  He's friendly, fine with other dogs, and he was quiet last night.

Later in the day on Monday I got another email from the director of the Orange County shelter about another GSD that had come in just that day.  Her name is Mercedes (right).  She was a "field surrender."  Apparently her owners got evicted that day and they had no place to take the dog.  Someone called Animal Control who went out and they surrendered the dog on the spot.  I didn't even bother sending an email out looking for a foster home, I just went and got her today. 

She's just a year old and is quite the wild child, no manners, no training apparently, but she's sweet, friendly, and very pretty. 

She needs to be spayed and checked for heartworm, but the shelter gave her vaccines before we left today.

My plan was to get her home and settled in the big kennel with Thora, Radley, and D.  But Clay came home early today, before I got back and before dark, so I was caught.  He also noticed D for the first time.

I filled the doghouses with straw this evening because it's getting chilly at night.  Doggie introductions went well and I think Thora, Mercedes, and D will form a nice play group, tiring each other out and keeping themselves quiet. 

If Clay contacts you about wanting to do an intervention, tell him you can't make it.  This does bring us up to 11 fosters, but we've had more and our kennel license allows up to 20 dogs.  I think this is a pretty manageable arrangement in the groupings that we've got and I'm hopeful about adopting someone this weekend.  Still, the gate is closed.  No more for now or someone will have to go to a boarding kennel.  Probably me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ball crazy

I have two ball crazy dogs right now.  Actually, "ball obsessed" would be more descriptive, particularly because they are shepherds. 

Luke brought home his Jolly Ball from his temporary home while we were away in England.  His toy is a ball within a ball, it has big holes on the sides that make it easy to grab.  He will bring it and put it down in front of me and look up at me, clearly expecting me to throw or kick the ball.  He looks rather perturbed with me if I don't respond.  We have faster dogs, but no one beats Luke to the ball when I kick it.  No one else cares nearly as much about it and they seem to understand Luke's obsession.  The best thing about the ball is that he has pretty much given up digging, chewing, and carrying rocks now that he has the ball.  If he ever tires of playing with it, I haven't seen it yet. 

Trace has the heavier, solid version of the Jolly Ball.  I think this one is actually made as a toy for horses to play with.  Our Jack had one, it's indestructible so it's still around here, but Trace came with his own.  We called Jack's game "rottweiler ball," which involved him playing with it by himself, but he only did it for an audience.  Trace entertains himself with the ball for hours, no audience required.  The only time he needs me is when the ball rolls under the platform in the middle of the yard.  I have to get a rake and pull it out for him. 

Both of these boys play with their balls so much that they are actually losing a little too much weight. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011


This is Hobby, the dog dumped by his white trash Orange County owners after 8 years.   I picked him up from shelter in Orange on my way back from Gainesville today.  They had grown tired of him, "didn't have time for him" and put him outside in a small pen.  Unhappy with being separated and isolated from his people, he became a barker.  Big surprise.  OMG, people are stupid.

He's not neutered, of course.  The level of ignorance in rural Virginia is just astounding.

Today's adoption event in Gainesville was uneventful, except that I moved Beau to a new foster home.  It was Beau's first outing and I was very happy.  He was well behaved and got a lot of looks.  I think he will get adopted fairly quickly, which will be good for him and will open a spot in the foster home he went to, maybe for Hobby after I get him neutered. 

I had Thora and Luke along today as well.  I've sent off a new write up and pics of Thora for the website, I hope that will help. 

I don't know what happened to Trace (right) in his last home, but he is seriously not fond of children now.  He's gorgeous, but he may prove difficult to place.

Radio silence

I  haven't said anything this week, but it hasn't been entirely uneventful. 

I think it was Monday or Tuesday I drove over to Staunton to meet someone who brought me Beau.  He's a nice boy, a bit of a wide load, no German Shepherd hunger strike for this guy, he moved in and never even considered skipping a meal. 

I did the standard 1-2 days by himself and then put him in with other dogs and now he's with the dog yard gang.  He's a nice dog, too fat to jump and he hasn't made any serious attempt to get out of the kennel or the dog yard.  He wants to come inside, but going into the shed at night with Luke and Trace has pacified him for now.  He should be moving to another foster home tomorrow.  He's really a good looking dog. 

I guess it was Wednesday or Thursday I drove over to Richmond to meet folks from Annapolis who adopted Babe.  At least I hope they have adopted Babe.  She was shy, sweet, and submissive to everyone here, but apparently she turned into little blonde Cujo when they got her home, even attacking the resident rottie. 

I think she was just scared.  I guess I had her crated the first few days here so she could learn the lay of the land and the personalities of the other residents from a position of safety. 

I hope it will work, they have other dogs and fosters coming and going, so they need a dog who will be good with others.  Anyway, I met the adopters, Beth and Hank, many years ago.  They were volunteers with VGSR at that time and it was probably not long after I started with that organization that we met.  I remember being at an adoption event at the Sterling Petsmart with a difficult shepherd.  I'm not entirely sure which one it was, but it was a female and she was being a complete bitch with all the other dogs.  I must have looked very stressed out or discouraged, probably both.  Beth pulled me aside and said that she had a dog for my girl to meet.  She went out and came back into the store with a chocolate lab named Charlie Brown.  We went down an aisle in the store by ourselves away from the crowd.  Charlie Brown was all smiles and wags, clearly inviting anyone and everyone to play with him.  And my girl (I think maybe it was a Lexie), played with him like they were long lost friends.
I needed that because I needed to know that Lexie wasn't a complete bitch who would never be able to get along with any other dog.  Beth sized up the situation at a glance, it seemed, and knew that Charlie Brown was the answer.  Charlie Brown is still around and they still have him.  I suspect he has done the same for many other dogs, and foster parents like me, since that time.

Today I got this email from one of the local shelters that I try to help:

Please meet “Hobby” surrendered this morning by his owners for barking too much. They no longer have time for him so they put him in a pen outside and he wants attention so…—husband was going to shoot him today.

He came with all of his pedigree papers. They bought him 6 years ago for $1,500.

Hobby is an intact male, 8 years of age. He is housebroken but will mark his territory if there is another dog or if guests come in the home (urinated on someone’s luggage). ...  He sits on command and loves hot dogs as treats. He likes to play tug.

We are very full right now (hunting season brings the Hounds!) so if there is any way we could get some assistance with this dog, we would greatly appreciate it.

I'm going to stop on my way home from Gainesville tomorrow and bring him here.
That is obviously one of those "I-hate-people" moments, but fortunately it was balanced out by an email from a woman who adopted Dusty from me several years ago.  This is just an excerpt, but she writes:

She is a terrific dog, loyal, loving and oh so happy. She has helped to socialize numerous fear-aggressive (and spoiled) pocket pets in the neighborhood. She has been petted and hugged by swarms of school kids on field trips at our local park and taught them that German Shepherds are not devil dogs just itching to bite small children. She freed me from the tyranny of alarm clocks by reliably rousing me five days a week at 4:32 a.m. if I failed to get up at 4:25 when the coffee maker started. She only missed one day in four and a half years. There are so many other ways in which she has enriched my life.

The timing of this email couldn't have been better.  I always say that we don't do this for the people, we do it for the dogs, and that's true, but the fact is that it's not good for the dog unless it's also good for the person.  When it's good for both, it's great.

And then there's this picture of Max, swiped from the Facebook page of his new home.  Max is the lab we thought we were going to do major surgery on.  He's still doing fine, and as you can see, he seems quite content. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reunion Sunday

Today was VGSR's annual reunion held at Lake Fairfax park in northern Virginia.   All VGSR alumni dogs and their owners were invited.  It was a perfect day for it--clear blue sky and less windy than yesterday.    Radley was quiet last night so I got a solid 8 hours sleep (which is nearly unprecedented for me) and I'm glad I did because it's a long drive, but it was well worth the trip.  Quite a few of my former foster dogs were there and here are their pictures.

Brita with her family
Anthony (left) is still in foster care
but may be getting adopted soon.
(The dog on the right is Echo,
not one of mine, but a great dog.)


Jeff--He has a bum leg but he is all smiles, kisses, and love.
He is the returning champion in the bobbing for hotdogs event.



Rambo--I adopted him out, he got returned and is in
another foster home for now.  Great dog, sweet and playful.
Fritz, the long haired shepherd from Nelson County.
He was shaved down but the hair is growing back nicely.

Dusty, so very pretty and
very devoted to her mom.
Colby and her family

Rikku was insane when I had her as a foster.
She is now a certified therapy dog.
Max was adopted by Risa, who had fostered my Gypsy
many years ago.

Mixing business with pleasure, this is Trace, who was returned to me today. 
The former adopter brought him to the reunion to drop him off.
He's a great dog and will re-adopt readily--to a home without children.

This is Bob, who organized the reunion again this year.
The dog is Timber, who was adopted by Bob and Pam at the reunion today.