Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My wild, weird day

My personal trainer had been making me feel guilty because I had been hiking with Nero lately instead of him.  So today I took Sparky out for a good long hike.  It was a beautiful day, perfect weather, so we put in two hours on the trails but at a slightly slower pace.  We probably covered five miles, or I did anyway, Sparky must have done at least six with all the jumping around that he did.  We had a good time.

Sparky's kennel mate is Gypsy Jr.  She's been one of my back burner dogs that I need to get moving.  But she has been losing weight even after I wormed her a couple weeks back and her poop is soft and smelly.  I collected a sample from their kennel and drove into town to the vet.  She had a tape worm, which explains her weight loss, so I brought home some meds and gave them to her this evening.

While waiting on the test results, the vet who had seen Nero the other day called me in to discuss the results of the lab work they had done last week.  The cultures showed at least three different forms of bacteria.  Two are susceptible to the Cipro, which explains why he improved when he was on it.  The third however, was not, which explains why the Cipro never completely cleared it up.  Nero has MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

This was first for me.  I didn't even know dogs could get MRSA.  Of course, if any dog was likely to get it, it would naturally be a shepherd.  Nero was not in good health when he came, so he may have had a suppressed immune system that allowed the MRSA to thrive. 

One of the drugs used to treat it was ruled out because it causes liver damage.  The other causes bone marrow suppression, but only in humans.  That's the one we went with, but because of the risk to humans I have to wear rubber gloves when handling the pills.  That's not so bad, but he's supposed to get it three times a day for the next six weeks, along with the Cipro once a day.  I've been feeding him three times a day most days anyway to put weight on him.  Of course, the real test will be to see what happens when we go off the drug at the end of six weeks.  At least we now know what we are fighting. 

The brighter point of my vet visit was seeing Laila and her adopter.  Laila looks great.  She's up to 20 pounds.  She showed off her tricks once she calmed down a bit.  She was very happy to see me but even happier to see her adopter when she came to pick her up.  

They shared with me the results of a DNA breed analysis that was done on Laila.  It showed that one parent was a purebred lab.  That is consistent with what I had been told, although I had thought it possible that Laila had had a different father from the yellow littermates like Woody.  The other parent was the mother, of course, that we knew to be Ginger.  The test showed that Ginger was not a purebred shepherd, which was not totally surprising.  She may have been mixed with some collie, and bits of this and that.  Interesting.

I then headed north of Charlottesville to Willy's new home to finish up his adoption.  I called just before I got there, but soon realized that although I had gone to Willy's new home, I had called Buddy's new home by mistake.  I felt like an idiot, but I got to touch base with both homes anyway, and both are doing well. 

I had put venison chili in the crockpot this morning and I'm glad that I did because I still had work to do after I got home and got the dogs fed for the evening.  Later on, Clay and I dropped off the van for its annual inspection.  I worry about that van.  It has a lot of years and a lot of miles on it, but I need it.  There's a shepherd up in Orange that I need to pick up on Thursday. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Adopting, hiking, etc.

Saturday I placed Willy and Zora in new homes.  I had an email about Willy this morning.  They love him and he's doing well.  Zora's new home also wrote.  After I completed the adoption and left on Saturday, Zora pretty much stayed attached to her new mom, more than a bit intimidated by the senior male dog in the home.  But on Sunday the two girl dogs began to play, and the old grumpy guy even tried to join in.  When Zora realizes he's just all talk and has come around to accept her, she will relax around him.  I think that the two girls playing together is the key that will make the whole thing work. 

On Sunday I did a local home visit for a shepherd applicant.  I took Buddy along and ended up leaving him there.  An email this morning sounded like they had a good first night.  They have two very small dogs, one very obnoxious one, but Buddy had lived with a cat before so I had some reason to believe that he wouldn't see them as tasty treats or chew toys.  He was fine with the small dogs when we met yesterday and he seemed to settle down in the new home as if it was his own. 

I'm very happy about the placements and hope that everyone settles in.

Nero and I hit the trails on Sunday morning for a solid, fast-paced, two hour hike.  I'm feeling it today but mostly in a good way.  I need to stretch more.  His face started improving as soon as we got him back on the Cipro.  I'm expecting a call from the vet sometime this week with the results of the culture and then possibly a new antibiotic will be added to the treatment regimen.  His weight is coming along very nicely.  He's gained enough weight that I had to enlarge the harness that I use on him for our hikes. 

Monday afternoon I hitched up Nero and Thora and went for my first tandem dog hike in ages, probably since Emmylou died.  The first 5 minutes were awkward until everyone learned the ropes, literally.  I changed the rigging so that my leash connection could float between the two dogs.  That worked better as it allowed either of them to take the lead or to walk side by side.  Once we all had it figured out, it was Thora out front most of the time. 

She's been a little stir crazy herself lately, so I know the walk did her good and she pulled a lot so I know she got a good amount of exercise even though we only did an hour on the trails.  The two of them should be a good walking pair and I'm going to have them living together again as well.

We occasionally meet a guy on the trail who rides a mountain bike.  I always step off the trail with my dog so he can pass and I can control the dog.  We stopped and talked one day and he met Nero.  We saw him again today and he remembered Nero's name and met Thora in passing.  Tomorrow I'm taking Sparky.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Three dog day

Saturday morning I loaded up Willy, Zora, and the newest shepherd, Buddy for a trip to northern Virginia.  Actually, Willy only went as far as Charlottesville, which was our first stop.  I've had several emails and applications on Willy, but not many that sounded both serious and very good.  This one did.  I liked the folks, Willy liked them, and they loved Willy.  I knew he'd be an easy placement once all those things came together. 

Our next stop was up in Springfield, inside the Beltway, to meet a nice young couple who were interested in Zora.  They have a smaller version of Zora who is about the same age.  I think the two girls will become fast friends.  Zora was trying her best to get the other girl to play when I was there, and from what I heard about their girl, I expect they will be playing fast and furious soon enough.  They have another dog, a 9 year old grumpy male lab mix, who was not thrilled to have yet another young female invading his home.  I think he will get over it, he was just making his position known.  I was impressed with Zora's reaction to him.  He growled and she just licked his face, trying to make friends and even tried to get him to play.  It may take a couple days on the girl, maybe a week or more for the old man, but I think Zora will win them over.

Next I headed to Arlington to visit some former fosters.  Sable is the rottie.  She's a sweet old girl who has cancer now in one of her legs.  She has had a life long problem with perianal fisulas as well.  I've seen Sable a few times over the years since her adoption and she always seems a little concerned that I've come to take her back.  For that reason, I was probably happier to see  her than she was to see me, but I'm glad I had the chance to see her again.

Sable's folks also have Bernie (formerly Rowdy) and Zoe (boxer) that they adopted from me, and one other dog as well.  We completed Zoe's formal adoption today although everyone has considered her to be adopted for quite some time. 

Bernie really surprised me.  When he lived here he was always shy, scared, and wouldn't come near me.  I always had to spend some time chasing him around the kennel whenever I needed to take him anyplace.  In his new home he is much more confident and came up to see me on his own.  I touched and handled him more today than I had in all the time that I had him here.  He's still not what you would call out-going, but it was good to see that he had come so far from where he was. 

Zoe, on the other hand, is very outgoing, very affectionate, very loving.  She is the female version of Willy.  Their other dog, Murphy, is a lab mix and he wanted nothing to do with me.

I put over 250 miles on the van today but came home with three adoption contracts and two less dogs.  Buddy just went along for the ride because I didn't want to leave him crated at home all day and I don't have a kennel that will hold him.  I need to work on that tomorrow, and do a home visit, and get up to Orange to pick up another shepherd that someone dumped at the shelter.  But, tomorrow morning I'm getting out for a good long hike before anything else.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Back at the vet

The newest guy, Buddy, came in already neutered but without any vaccination history.  I wanted to get that done asap in the hope of moving him to another foster or adopter, possibly this weekend.  So we went to town Thursday morning. 

He is still a bit shy but does let me approach him to get a leash on.  Once the leash is on he goes willingly and happily and doesn't even pull.  The only bad thing about him that I've found is that he doesn't respect the fence.  He's young, light, and agile and he can get over the 4' dog yard fence when he wants to, although he's not looking to run off.

The vet visit was fine, he was fine, the fecal sample was clear of parasites and he passed the heartworm/lyme/erlichia test, all negative.  That's all good news, now I just need to find a home for him.

I brought Nero along to piggyback onto Buddy's appointment for a recheck and further consult on his skin.  The good news is that his weight was up, about 5 pounds, the bad news is that the gunk on his face has returned, as bad as ever, after improving significantly while on the Cipro. 

The vet pulled off one of the scabs and took a sample of what was inside.  It was loaded with bacteria, as expected, but since two long rounds of antibiotics haven't cleared it up, they are sending off a sample to be cultured.  That should tell us what it is, specifically, and what antibiotic will work on it.  Results are expected next week.

We also xrayed the tail.  The bone all seems intact and undamaged.  We will just have to see if clearing up the infection on his face also addresses the tail. 

Saturday is shaping up to be another marathon drive day.  I'm taking Willy and Zora to meet interested people and if I can find a prospect for Buddy, he'll go along too. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I was sitting here in my office working Wednesday evening as usual.  Spartan was in one of the big crates behind me.  I finally couldn't stand the smell any longer.

It has now been over a week since he was neutered, so I'm assuming and hoping that his incision is sufficiently healed up to withstand some water.  His scrotum had gotten swollen too, but that has begun to shrink up already.  He's on doxy for the Lyme disease and I also started him on cephalexin because it sure smelled like he's got some skin infection going on and I know his ears were infected anyway.

I had a spray nozel attached to a hose in the shower and I irrigated those ears thoroughly.  Spartan was really pretty good about the bath, he just hunkered down and let me do it.  The water ran brown and I won't pretend that I got him entirely clean, but he's 85% better anyway and smells better now even as a wet dog.  He had very little loose hair, which is unusual for a shepherd and I suspect just reflects the fact that he doesn't have a full coat of hair right now.  

I took him outside afterwards to shake it off and I put medicine in his ears and Advantix on his back.  He's now snuggled into a crate behind me on clean bedding and the funky bedding and towels are in the wash.

p.s. Thursday afternoon:  He still kind of stinks, but it's a lot better.  I suspect he had a yeast infection going on and it may take another bath or two at least to clear it up.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Of meth and madness

Buddy was the result of my afternoon meeting with my doggie dealer at Natural Bridge.  She got him back before christmas from a young woman.  The dog is about 3 years old, neutered, pure bred shepherd, housetrained (said to be a real snuggler in bed), good with kids and cats (the home had both).  The home also had a meth problem and what was probably an abusive boyfriend.  The latter two tend to walk hand in hand. 

Apparently the young woman already looks like an old woman who has had a hard life.  As Lois Griffin (Family Guy) said when she was at a loss to explain the appearance a new tattoo:  "Meth is a helluva drug."  Meth is the current drug of choice among rural white trash.  It can be made at home and apparently it packs a very strong punch. Needless to say, Buddy is the luckiest one from that household simply because he got out of it.

Buddy rode home silently in a crate in the van.  I put him in the kennel adjacent to the dog yard and he soon climbed over the 4' fence to join Zora and Willy in the dog yard.  They were fine together and Buddy and Zora really hit it off.  Buddy climbed out of the dog yard while I was on my walk with Nero.  Fortunately Clay was around and he got him back into the shed.  He will need to be inside or in a 6' fence.  I'm thinking that the folks who had been interested in Nero might like to meet him, particularly because he has a history of living with cats. 

He's a good looking dog, a bi-color, but he has very little of the tan leggings that are typical of bi-colors. Buddy is fairly small, I would guess 60-65 pounds, but he's a well put-together dog.  I think his profile is particularly nice, especially the alert and forward tilt to his ears.  We have a vet appointment tomorrow for vaccines, but like I said, he's already neutered, so he will be good to go tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Finally some sun

I can't really complain, much, about the winter weather we've had so far this year.  But the last four days have been cold, damp, and either precipitating something or trying to most of the time.  More than two cloudy days together gets very old for me so I was very happy to see the sun shine again today. 

Instead of going out to hike the muddy trails, I started up our walk-behind mower and took a couple fosters out to the pasture for exercise.  Nero is the solid black one of course, and he was very happy to get out of the kennel and follow me up and down the rows as I mowed.

The other one is the new guy, Spartan.  He had developed a nasty cough so I had started him on doxycycline for that and brought him indoors.  He stinks really bad, but I didn't want to bathe him right away after his neuter surgery so we've just been dealing with that.  He also has an ear infection and it finally occurred to me that the smell may be from the ears as much or more than the rest of the dog.  I've been treating the ear infection pretty aggressively, cleaning them as best I can and medicating them a couple times a day.  That seems to be helping the smell and it's now been a week since his surgery so I'll give him a bath sometime in the next couple of days. 

I'm going to try to move Spartan to another foster home this next weekend, I hope.   He's not coughing any more, except sometimes he exerts himself pulling on the leash.  He's really good with being crated indoors. 

He didn't seem to know what to do out in the pasture or what to do with Nero.  I'm not sure if Nero was trying to play or trying to bully him, but I think it was just play.  Spartan wanted none of it and he mostly just followed me as I mowed, but from a distance. 

Spartan shows every sign of being abused--he cowers, he does the submissive urination, he tries to hide his head when you reach for him.  It's sad and it's not a problem that I'm particularly good with.  He is beginning to trust me and he's definitely devoted to me now, but it has taken some time and we aren't all the way there yet. 

Since he seems to be feeling better now, I thought that getting out to the pasture, getting some exercise and socializing with another dog might be good for him.  It probably was, but he was ready to come back inside. 

Our Bremo spent the day at the vet's office today having a dental cleaning under anesthesia.  He's 11 years old this spring and we've never done any dental work on him so I guess it was time.  Cabell has had a cleaning and Molly did too, so it was Bremo's turn this year.  It was nothing serious, but since he was under anesthesia they also removed a small growth from his forehead.  I don't like to see those things and this one was right in the petting zone on his head so it had to go. 

On Wednesday I'm driving down to Natural Bridge to meet my doggie dealer again. She has another German Shepherd for me, just what I need.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Laying on of hands

I have said before that rottweilers are the most tactile of creatures.  Most dogs enjoy some petting, at least some time.  Rotties like it always.  The power of touch is a very real thing.   I think it's the most comforting and reassuring thing that one can do for another, and it works between species as well, or at least between certain species.  I think it's the best thing that you can do for someone who is sick, scared, or alone, be they human or canine. 

Breezy came to us just one day last week.  I think she had been with her former owner most all of her six years of life, so the change must have been unsettling for her.  She took it very well, however, and was quickly beginning to bond with me, thanks to regular feeding and petting.  She has been a very easy foster.  She's housetrained, crate trained, good with other dogs, mellow.  All she wants and needs is someone to pet her, touch her, love on her.  Today she got that. 

Her adopter has adopted a rottie from me before, so she's a known commodity.  Her last dog died several months ago and she's been wanting, needing, another.  I've been on the lookout and when I heard about Breezy last week, I knew I had a match.


I had to go to northern Virginia today for VGSR's quarterly meeting, (a big bore) but it afforded an opportunity to meet with Breezy's adopter. 

This woman has had rotties all her life and she knows what to do.  She has good rottie instincts, a lot of experience, and I think she's a perfect match for Breezy.  She needs a dog to love on and Breezy needs the love. 

She called this evening and everything is going well.  This is one that I'm not worried about. 

Breezy heading to her new home.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hope, not expectations

This is the face of Hope.  She was one of the hoarder shepherds from the white trash Fluvanna County bitch.  (See multiple posts starting at the beginning of March, 2011, for the sordid backstory.)

Her original name, I believe, was Lilly.  She was painfully shy, fearful, and totally withdrawn, shunning all human contact.  I think she was the one that I had to drag out of a dog house when I needed to get her for anything. 

Her adopters took her home, got her healthy, and let her be herself.  She is still quite shy, but she is very much a part of household, keeping an eye on everything and everyone, and occasionally seeking out some human contact.  They took her home with a lot of hope, but not any specific expectations.  They didn't know for sure what she would become, when or to what extent she would recover.  They also didn't hold her to any expectations.

We have had people adopt and return dogs saying (I kid you not), "this dog didn't live up to my expectations."  Those are invariably people who weren't willing to put any effort of their own into the dog.  It is refreshing, and reassuring, to meet folks like Hope's adopters, who gave her a home with hope and love, without requiring her to fulfill their canine fantasy.  In most cases, the rescue effort doesn't end with the foster home; we are really just the beginning.  The person who adopts a dog "as is" and builds a life for that dog, working through whatever comes along is the real rescurer.

And speaking of expectations, I never expected to see Woody (now Krypto), with even one erect, shepherd-like ear.  Apparently his ears are in the up and down stage, one seems to be mostly up at this point and the other is mostly down.  Which way they will go, or if they will both go the same way, is anyone's guess. 

His adopter reports that he is doing well with walking on a leash and some basic commands and is almost there with the house training.  He spent a couple weeks longer at my house than Laila did, and learned nothing except how cute he is, so he's doing well after only a couple weeks in his new home. 

He clearly adores and idolizes his big brother, Rommel.

Having hope but no particular expectations is probably a good philosophy for rescue work generally. 

The folks who met Nero and were interested in trying him out this weekend decided against it, citing concerns about his still unresolved health issues.  I think it's just as well because they have a cat. 

On a positive note, he is putting on some weight now and is generally looking better.  The new food seems to be agreeing with him.  He still has a few crusty things on his face that haven't healed entirely.  I think we will go back to the vet next week to look at those and talk about what to do about his tail.  He's coming along and when he is ready, he will be an awesome dog for the right home.

We've been out hiking the past two days and we are both really enjoying it.  The final pic below is the Rivanna river from the high bluffs along the trail. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Two more short timers?

Yesterday I had a call from a man who was referred to me by the folks at the Almost Home Adoption Center in Nelson County, VA.  He had lost his home, his job, and was about to leave the state.  The placement he had found for his 6 year old rottie had backed out at the last minute.  He was pretty desperate.  He lived down in Amherst County, south of Nelson, and had called Almost Home who referred him to me.  We agreed to meet today and I suggested Almost Home as our meeting point.  I left at noon and he pulled into the parking lot right behind me. 

Breezy is a great dog, a little overweight at 113 pounds, but a great dog nonetheless.  He guy gave me a couple bags of food, which I kept, and two large crates, which I donated to Almost Home because I currently have a good supply.  That is a great little shelter, thanks largely to the efforts of Bette Graham and the Nelson County Humane Society.  I went inside and said hello, and thanks for the referral, before I left.  Bette had just arrived with half a dozen hounds and probably as many cats that she had just pulled from the county's shelter to avoid euthanasia.  I saw her unloading a poor, sweet, emaciated hound who had no idea how lucky he was to be walking in that door.

I stopped at Old Dominion Animal Hospital back in Charlottesville and made an appointment to bring the big girl back a little later for vaccines and a heartworm test. 
Breezy meeting Spartan in the dog yard this afternoon.

My next stop was the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA where I picked up a shepherd, Spartan.  He's probably 6 years old as well, also very sweet.  I had met him in there earlier in the week.  He has an ear infection and was just neutered, and he smells bad. 

Spartan, good looking dog, will be better after a bath

Trooper and Spartan, doing the boy dog dance

Then it was back to Old Dominion with the new rottie girl.  She checked out well, except for testing positive for Lyme disease.  At least she was heartworm negative.  I got a 30-day supply of Doxycycline for her and headed home with two spayed/neutered, vaccinated dogs and all their paperwork. 

I put the two new arrivals in the dog yard together for a while and they were fine together.  Spartan was still enjoying the yard when Breezy was ready to come in, so Trooper came out to meet Spartan while I got Breezy settled in a crate in my office.  Both dogs seem to be good with others.  I have a foster home lined up for Spartan on Sunday and I have a prospective adopter in mind for Breezy.  If things go as I have planned (have they ever?) these two may join the ranks of the short timers.  That would be good because there's two others, both shepherds, that I've also agreed to take. 

Breezy and Spartan, nose to nose

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cold but sunny

Zora and Willy

I went to a VGSR adoption event in Front Royal today.  It's a long drive but it often attracts a good crowd.  Not today, unfortunately, but it's always possible that we planted a few seeds that may grow even in the dead of winter. 

It was a cold day so we were set up inside, but I was dressed for the cold and was too hot inside.  The front of the store was in the sun and out of the wind, so several of us hung out mostly outdoors, or at least circulated between inside and out.
Willy and Thora

No real prospects today.  Someone who is interested in Thora was there and was glad to see that she was still available, but that person won't be ready to adopt for a couple months.  A couple other folks were interested in her today as well, but they all have cats, and I don't think Thora is apt to tolerate a cat.

Willy made lots of friends and fans, including one who is going to send his pic around to some friends. 

Willy and Zora
I did not take Nero, for a couple reasons.  1.  Someone is interested in meeting him next weekend, although they also have a cat.  2.  I think his tail is going to require some medical attention, probably amputation.  The last time I took him hiking I noticed the tip of his already shortened tail was raw and a little bloody looking again.  That may have been due to banging it on the bars of a crate, but it doesn't seem like it's going to heal up.  I've had this situation before, the tail may have been damaged in some pre-existing injury that didn't heal, the dog chews on it making it worse, the tail produces phantom pain from the old injury even if it's healed, ultimately it may need to amputed, making him a bob-tailed shepherd.  We may be making another vet visit this next week to talk about it.  Nero is doing a lot less shrieking now, mostly due to our hiking.  I got the bark collar but haven't used it on him.  Still, I'm glad to have it.  Mostly he just needs a home.

Zora was cute and sweet as always.  I've got to get her on the web; she will find a home. 

Today was Radley's first outing so I held him myself.  He was good, very friendly with people and with other dogs.