Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Maya Project, phase I

Maya, on the wrong side of the dog yard fence.
She jumps out, does her walkabout, and then comes back.
The fence jumping seems only work in one direction.
Phase I of the Maya Project is all about containment.  She knows this is home now and she usually doesn't go far or for long, but I have too much anxiety to have a dog around that I can't locate when I want to. 

I've joined the kennel panels with clamps
and secured them to the dog yard fence
with bungee cords so she can't get behind
them or pull them down.
I've been taking down most of the kennels and using the panels to ring the dog yard with a 6' barrier.  Today I added a few more and I secured those that were in place so she can't push between them to get access to the 4' fence behind.  I'm still two panels short, and I have them, but they are embedded in the ground and overgrown with vines and brush after being in situ for many years.  Getting them out is a major project.  There's Virginia Creeper and even some poison ivy, so I'd like to do some spraying and wait a bit before I go digging around in there.

I used part of a wire crate to extend the
height of the gate after seeing her jump over that.
I've been working on some other projects in conjunction with Project Maya, painting the shed, rebuilding one kennel, and of course, mowing, but I really want to get Phase I completed this weekend.  I have some 6' chain link fence that I think I can use to fill the remaining gaps.

Maya, Trooper, and Gigi lounging on the porch of the shed.
Maya doesn't always jump out, just when the mood hits her.

Phase II is training, I think I actually need to put some work into this girl on basic obedience stuff.  Phase III is the new dog yard fence, but that won't happen until this fall. 

Maya is still officially a foster but she's been eating our food and living indoors ever since we trapped her and got her back home.  The last "foster" that ate our food and lived indoors was Gigi. 

The dog yard is taking on the look of a prison compound.  There's no razor wire, yet,
but I will install a hot wire if needed.  The fencing dudes will come up with something that
is secure but more attractive.  This will work in the meantime, and it will prevent me from
taking in more fosters than I can keep indoors.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Flowers for Jackson

I had ran into Jackson and his dad at the vet's office a couple months back.  Jackson had been one of my foster dogs about 10 years ago.  The years were showing on him and he was slowing down like they do.  I had a message the other day letting me know that the time had come.  They were having the vet come to their home to perform the euthanasia and I was invited to attend.  Having cared for my first partner in his final days, and having done the same for a number of dogs since then, I have come to see that as a great honor.  It's a deeply personal moment and to be included in sharing that experience shows a great degree of trust and respect. 

Yellow Lantana
Jackson wasn't a puppy when we pulled him from the Louisa shelter, he was a young adult, maybe about three?  Rescue dogs with no known past are often assigned an arbitrary birthday based on our best guestimate of their age and the date that we get them out of a shelter and into a home.  In a sense they really are born again at that point, because very often their life before that time is best forgotten anyway.  In that sense then, I was with Jackson as he came full circle in life.

A younger Jackson
Jackson was a good looking dog, beautiful markings on his feet and lower legs, and a long, thick coat that enabled him to enjoy the snow.  He loved and was very protective of his family, but he wasn't always the easiest dog.  His adopter said of him, "He was hard to love sometimes, but aren't we all?"  That made me think of my late Gypsy, of course, and a number of other pain-in-the-ass dogs I've had and loved.
A pot of salvia
Three different sweet potato vines
It's easy to love the perfect dog, or the perfect person.  But having a dog that's sometimes hard to love teaches us about what it means to love.  To love unconditionally doesn't mean that you love everything about them or everything they do, but you love them in spite of those things.  When an adopter returns a dog after a few days or a few weeks or after a problem develops (because it's "not living up to their expectations") that says a lot more about the person than it does about the dog.

Problems are always going to develop, with a dog, with kids, with friends, family, people in general.  Making the commitment to love and care for another in spite of problems that develop is what makes us grow as human beings.  People who return a dog without trying to work through problems are missing out on much of the richness of life.  The difficult dogs are often the ones we hold most dear, just because we've been through so much together. 

I love all our dogs, of course, but among the many hundreds foster dogs we've had, it's the more difficult ones that I remember most.  Whether the difficulty was a health, age, or behavior issue that made placement difficult, I found I often developed a greater affinity for those dogs and held out higher standards for their placement, in part because I knew they would require someone who was capable of making a real commitment. 

Jackson was lucky and I was happy that he had led a good, long, full life where he had been truly loved and cared for.  Occasions such as today's are always sad, they are moments of loss for those that remain, but it was also a moment to celebrate a good life in a good home with good family.  I know that Jackson contributed to that home as much as he got from it, in spite of, and maybe even because of the fact that he wasn't always "easy to love." 

Jackson enjoying the snow

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sleeping arrangements

Gigi likes stuffed toys.  Who knew?
We have five dog beds in the bedroom and sometimes they are all occupied.  Gigi doesn't need one, her blanket is draped over the footboard of our bed and that's where she usually settles down, sometimes more to one side than the other. 

Trooper grooming Maya on the big
dog bed in the office.
Given the chance, Trooper will lay up on the pillows during the day but he gets down at night and sleeps on the floor, usually with his back along the side of the bed.  He prefers that position even if there's no dog bed there.  He always joins me in the morning if I lay in bed for a bit to watch the news before getting up.

Like Trooper, Maya will climb into bed just to lounge around, and she's the first to get up in my face in the mornings, but she usually grabs a dog bed on the floor at night.  She's the only one it seems that will use the bed on my side of the room, everyone else is on Clay's side of the room, making for quite a treacherous doggie minefield in the morning.

Maya and Trooper
Zachary likes the big bolster bed and we usually try to make sure that he gets it.  If Clay's out of town Zach will stay downstairs with Bremo.

Cabell usually comes upstairs to the bedroom at night, but hearing him climbing the stairs makes me realize that it's becoming increasingly difficult for him to do so. 

Gigi and Maya
Maya is respectful of Gigi's toys.
Maya prefers to chew on Clay's shoes.
Bremo has never done the stairs in our house and he certainly couldn't do so now.  He stays on one of the three big down beds down in the kitchen area, sometimes joined by Cabell, or Zachary if Clay is out of town. 

Vince will follow me into the bedroom if I happen to lay down during the day, but at night he's content on his bed under my desk in the corner of the office.  If we have indoor fosters or boarders, they usually stay in crates in the office, it's just easier that way. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The new normal

All these pics are Sparky, taken today.
Daphne's mother returns today and I'll be sending her back home.  With my boarders gone, and with Herc moved to another foster home, and Augie, Rocky, and Riley being adopted, we will be down to a mere eight dogs, seven of whom are in the house most of the time.  Of those that remain, only Sparky and Maya are arguably still foster dogs.  "Single digits" has been Clay's mantra for many years, and we have finally achieved it, mostly because I've been declining any new fosters.

I only have one intact kennel at the moment, fully shaded, and I installed a fan in there yesterday for Sparky.  I will have be making some extra time and effort to get out with him either hiking or running in the pasture now that he lacks a kennel mate.  And I should consider looking for a real home for him.

I'm going to rebuild one kennel to be attached to the building we call the puppy shed (it's where our Bremo was born 12 years ago), but only after I get that shed painted.  Most of the kennel panels from the other kennels are being used in Project Maya, enclosing the dog yard in order to contain her.  When I do get a new fence built, I may rebuild a new bank of three kennels maybe, but in a new area.  The deconstruction/moving/repair/improvement undertaking is proving to be a good outdoor summer work project.  I'm hoping the outdoor work and mowing will help me drop another 20 pounds.

I may still take in one, maybe two, fosters at a time from the local area and nearby shelters, but the days of 6 to 10, (sometimes even more) fosters are over.  Mostly I'm burned out on dealing with people.  For some time now I've been hard pressed to place a dog because I'm too cynical to think that anyone can or will make a real commitment to an adopted dog.  I'm also burned out from dealing with a lot of people in the rescue world, ranging from those who think that everyone must be just like them in order to adopt a dog, to those that troll Petfinder and Craigslist looking for dogs for other people to take in, while their own contribution is limited to "sharing" them on Facebook.  There are still good people out there, both committed adopters and committed people in rescue, but I've been dealing with too many of the other kind for too long. 

It's nice having my weekends available for household projects and the occasional float trip too.  It's time for some new things in my life, and I'm finally going to volunteer with the Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle, something I've been wanting to do for a long time.  The blog will continue, but it will be featuring more of our own dogs.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Riley went to her new home this afternoon.  It's a great home, she was happy to go, and I'm happy for her.  She will have a place in the woods with a big fenced yard and several canine sisters, including one who really liked to run and play with her.  She will be indoors finally and out of the heat that seems to be settling in for the summer.  She's a great girl.  There's just nothing quite like a lovable, huggable, kissable rottie.  They are everything you ever wanted in a teddy bear, plus a whole lot more. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Augie's rainbow

Augie's adopter met me near Williamsburg late this afternoon and took him home.  I was kind of sad about this one, he's such a great little guy.  I hope everything will work out well for him.  There was some intermittent rain on the drive and at one point I spotted this rainbow.  It's actually a double rainbow, the second is very faint in the picture, off to the right. 

I had most of the day at home to work outdoors and I got a lot done, although my list of things to do never seems to get any shorter. 

While working around the kennels I lifted a board and found a baby snake.  There's nothing in these pics to give a sense of his size, but it was definitely a young one, probably not more than 12" long if he was fully stretched out.  I've seen so many posts on Facebook about encounters with "copperheads" accompanied by pictures of plain old blacksnakes.  This little guy is the first thing I've seen that I thought could be a copperhead.  The color is right but the markings aren't exactly, but he's a juvenile so the pattern wasn't fully developed yet.  I was a bit more careful when lifting anything off the ground after that. 

A less startling find was this little nest, woven mostly out of dog hair, probably Cabell's.  I think it's a hummingbird nest and I have seen juvenile hummers around lately.  They are even smaller than the adults, thinner bodies, and are mostly grey, lacking the adult plumage.  They have been going through my hummingbird feeder food fast.  I refilled them all today. 

I got the rotties out to the pasture for a good romp today.  Riley will be going to her new home probably Monday or Tuesday. 

Herc and Garth laying together
Herc is doing well in his new foster home!  Both dogs are settling down and Herc is even following Garth around.  They are dealing with his ball obsession by taking it away from him except at times they play fetch.  That forces him to do something else (hopefully something more normal) when the ball isn't around.  I think it's a great idea.

A bloom on our magnolia

Friday, June 21, 2013

Solstice, spleen, and staples

Today marks two weeks since Zachary's surgery to remove his swollen spleen.  We went back today to have the staples removed.  The incision was healed nicely and he was already growing hair back where it had been shaved.   He never licked or messed with the incision so we had never used a cone on him.  Some of them were a little tough to remove, but they are all out now.  He squirmed a bit but not as much as I would have done.  He gave everyone kisses when it was over.  I didn't give kisses but did take in a big bag of chocolate as a thank you.

Zachary may have more than his share of medical problems, but thankfully he's about the most cooperative one we've got when it comes to veterinary treatment.  If this had been Trooper laying on his back getting staples plucked from his belly, today would have been very different.

Today is the high holy day, Summer Solstice.  I should be working outdoors until dark to celebrate, but I did that yesterday and I'm sore today.  I did just enough today to work out the soreness and I'm going to a movie this evening.   I'll hit the outdoor work again tomorrow morning. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

On the eve of Summer Solstice

Hercules and Augie
Thursday started out like most days.  I started work about 6:30 a.m. and then did the food and medicine routine about mid-morning.  I did a little more work and then loaded up Hercules and Riley.  They were going to meet prospective fosters and adopters, respectively.

Hercules on the deck at his new foster home
Chris, who has been bringing Garth over to meet Herc, is interested in fostering him.  Garth has EPI like Herc and they have a very similar look as well.  It will be good for Herc to get back to living indoors so we can tell prospective adopters that he's housetrained and that his EPI is stabilized.  Garth started barking at Herc again as he had done here, but I think he's just frustrated because Herc ignores him and won't play.  They will work out a relationship of some sort and I do hope that Herc learns to play.  He's over there for a trial run this weekend to see how it goes.


Riley's prospect came from the internet posting I had done for her a few weeks ago.  They are former rottie owners and have four dogs now, but no Rottweiler.  It is a great home, great people, and Riley got along with all the resident canines, and the humans too, of course.  They are going out of town for a few days but we hope to meet and do the adoption one day next week. 

This year's family of swallows on our front porch.
The babies got too big for the nest in the corner
so they all perch together on the next column.
So Riley came back home with me today but Herc did not.  I am moving Augie to an adopter on Saturday so we are finally making a little progress around here.  Toquima's folks got back home today in time to come out to get him this evening.  He has a good time here, I think, but he was very happy to see them and to be going home.  Daphne is with us until next Tuesday, but she and Toquima both are just like one of the family around here.

Trooper and Maya
She's back to trailing the long line again
so I can catch her if necessary.
I got home in time to put in about four hours of work outdoors before dark and I spent it dismantling kennels.  I haven't taken in any new fosters lately and that is the plan.  Several of the kennel spaces really weren't looking good.  I had thought about relocating them and I think I will, eventually.  For right now, however, I'm going to use the 10' x 6' kennel panels to completely enclose my dog yard in an effort to keep Maya from jumping out.  The fencing company called me back and I still plan to have them rebuild the dog yard fence and do some other fencing on the property, but that's a couple months off so I'm using the kennel panels as a temporary solution.

We've got several senior dogs right now and they need and deserve more time and attention.  I'm burned out from being on the VGSR board, and burned out on a lot of the foster and adoption process.  I doubt that I'll quit fostering entirely, but I am going to get off the board at the end of the year (if I last until then) and I'm pulling way back on the number of dogs that I take in.  One, maybe two, at a time.  That's what most people who foster do. 

Hercules, Toquima, and Maya