Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Would You Wish For?

If you had a fairy dogmother, as someone passionate about animal welfare issues, what would you wish for? Would it be for pet owners to spay and neuter all their animals? For low-cost vet care for those who need financial assistance? For the end of back-yard-breeding? Or puppy mills? Or dog auctions? Or kill shelters? Or something else?

If I could ask my fairy dogmother for one wish, it would be for people to realize that a dog is not a toy, a fashion accessory, a movie tie-in, a fad item, or a d├ęcor item that will improve your image.

If people to put more thought into their decision to get a dog, many problems would diminish or even entirely disappear. Your dog can be many things, but disposable shouldn’t be one of them.

Puppies are wonderful, but they grow up. And adult dogs are great, but you can’t put them on a shelf or park them in a garage after a year or two. As your dog ages, it’s not fair to your senior dog to hand it off just because you don’t have the commitment to take on the needs of an older animal.

In the volunteer group I work with, we don’t all agree on what makes an ideal adoption candidate. My foundation in dog rescue began with a private group, with the motto, “A Pet Is Not a Toy; It Is For Life.” We were picky about placing animals. Of course, we didn’t always make good judgments, but we took our time. At the Shelter, there are so many animals, it’s tempting to let a lot of things slide and settle for a “good-enough” home rather than the ideal “forever home.”

I know that not every home can be the forever home, but I don’t believe a dog is a good impulse acquisition. Our adoption process at the Shelter makes me feel rushed. It's hard to focus on what's best for the animal when there is continued pressure to keep the adoption numbers moving up. However, just because someone says they want a dog when they see a cute puppy doesn’t mean they need to take a dog home right that moment.

I like for my adopters to consider these questions:

1. Do you realize that a Shelter dog often needs to be re-introduced to the skills needed to be a good pet--such as housebreaking and walking nicely on a leash?
2. Does everyone in the family want a dog, and have you decided who will be the primary caregiver?
3. What will it be like for the dog while you are at work? While you travel?
4. Are you willing to put some time and effort into training a dog?
5. What will you do with the dog when you evacuate for a hurricane?
6. The adoption fee is minimal compared to the yearly costs of maintaining an animal. Are you prepared to spend the money on preventive health care (e.g. heartworm), decent quality food, secure fencing, etc.?

These questions are not on our adoption questionnaire. The answers given indicate, to a large extent, whether the person has done some basic research. This won't guarantee a forever home, but I think it makes for a better starting point.

What wish would you ask your fairy dogmother to grant you or your rescue group? Leave a comment and let me know.

Photo: My dog Cross patiently awaits your command.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fun and Games

On the blog “One Bark at A Time” by “Fred” (see my Blogroll for the link), the April 23rd post was about a dog with a toothy “smile.” My dog Taco has a grin, too, which is quite distinct from his “ugly face.” It started spontaneously when Taco would greet my husband, and now he’ll do it whenever any of us returns home, if we encourage him with the command, “Hey.” Offering a biscuit helps, too. It was hard to capture this “happy face” smile on film, so we put the best shot we could get through the “I Can Has Cheezeburger” LOL-maker, and here’s what we got!

All Clear for Cross

My little dog Cross has recovered from her scrap with the foster Jack Russell Terrier (who has been adopted). I took her in for a final recheck today. The puncture wounds in her neck have healed very well—the deepest, most dangerous one (by her jaw) has developed a clean scab and has only a bit of swelling. No more drainage, so no need (thank God) for surgery. Cross is still on antibiotics, and needs to stay “naked” (no collar!) for a couple more days, but her attitude is great and she seems back to her old self. We owe our deepest thanks to Dr. Jessica Colborn at the Animal Emergency Clinic of Conroe and Dr. Beth Williams at VCA Woodlands Animal Hospital for their compassion and expertise.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Go to Your Happy Place

I am a firm believer in crate-training dogs. The crate is your dog’s “Happy Place.”

I have a “Happy Place” --my office—to retreat to whenever I get stressed or need a break, and my dogs have their “Happy Place” too. When we travel, the Happy Place is a plastic kennel. At home, Taco has his favorite bed in my husband’s bedroom closet. Cross has a bed in my office, which has French doors that I can close. Taco even goes to his Happy Place on command—if I lead off with a dog treat. Because he can be nippy and noisy, he goes to his Happy Place when we have company, when we’re using power tools or the sweeper and when the neighbor’s pool guy comes. Cross retires to my office when she feels skittish, or I put her in my bedroom closet when I need to limit her stimulation so she won’t bark.

When I was growing up, we never crated our dogs. We didn’t even lock them in the laundry room. They pretty much had the run of the house, which meant they could chew things up or get into the trash. It never occurred to us to crate.

When I adopted my miniature pinscher, Taco, the woman handling my adoption said I needed to buy him a crate, so I bought a plastic kennel. We kept it by the front door, near my office. Whenever we left, or went to bed, Taco went in the kennel. I didn't work, so Taco was crated four or five hours tops.

In the winter, we draped blankets over the top to keep in the warmth. We used the kennel for two years, then gradually, let him have the run of the house. The kennel’s door was always open so he could go inside voluntarily, or we could order him in with the command, “Kennel up.” A small treat was his reward.

When I bring foster dogs home from the Shelter, The first thing I do is establish a calm routine: I bathe the dog, and put on a nice collar or harness. I introduce the dog to my yard (which is securely fenced) and my dogs. Then I make up a crate—with a comfy bed and some blankets. If the dog isn’t a big barker in the crate, I put the crate in the living room, on the fireplace tiles (we never use the fireplace anyway). That way, the dog is part of the family, but not infringing on my dog’s places.

I feed the foster dog in the crate (I have two large wire crates) and provide a water dish. The dog is in the crate whenever I am not able to watch them—or it is on a leash beside me until housebreaking abilities are established. The dog stays in the crate when I gone. I don't have a day-job, so the dog is restrained for only a few hours at a time.

At night, I drape a light flannel blanket over the crate to make a safe, snug enclosure. Sometimes I leave the TV on low until the animal settles. If the dog is a barker, I move the crate into the dining room and turn on our bathroom fan so our dogs won’t bark in response. For barkers, I’ve found most dogs will quiet down with the “sssttt!” command repeated at the first signs of barking or whining. Generally, dogs calm down after a few minutes with verbal correction. Even Darla, the JRT, settled down, although she took longer than most of my fosters. She hated the crate, though, which is why I left her out with my dogs—and it cost me.

When I do adoptions, I strongly advise people to get a crate for their dog. I couldn’t imagine raising a puppy without a crate. Every dog, especially a puppy, deserves a Happy Place.

Photo: My daughter, circa 2002, on a dare from her older brother. No children were harmed in the process!

Monday, April 20, 2009

April Adoption Update

Time to check in about the dogs on my advocacy list. Moving clockwise from the top left of the photo, here are some updates.

First up, “Dancer,” a sweet, sweet, but skittish little miniature pinscher girl who lived at my house as a foster for a whole month. She was a snuggle-bug Velcro-dog. I so wanted to keep her, but she found her home on March 26th. I saw her when her people came to the Shelter on April 11th to finalize the adoption. She looked great—she recognized me and gave me kisses, but didn’t try to scramble out of her owner’s arms. That’s what I like to see!

Next, “Sweetheart,” a hound mix who came into the Shelter after having puppies. She was so skinny and pathetic-looking. Her photo is from her time at my house where I fed her rich meals (she loved the scrambled eggs!) and brushed out her coat. She loved to run the perimeter of my yard, nose down, tail up. I had to take her back to the Shelter after a week, but I took with me to a dozen off-sites. She’s a friendly, happy dog—and even in the Shelter, she continued to put on weight, and actually was becoming a little stout! I’m pleased to report that she went to a foster home about 10 days ago along with a second dog. That dog came back, but Sweetheart is still with her foster family. I need to find out if they plan on keeping her. I’m happy she’s with them because she was passed up so many times by people simply because she is a non-descript black dog.

That spunky Jack Russell Terrier is “Darla,” my own little dog’s nemesis. Darla had to go back to the Shelter on April 11th, but on April 17th, she was adopted by two men who had a German Shepherd mix. I had left a detailed description about Darla, and the staff person who handled the adoption said the guys brought their dog in and they read over my notes. So far, so good. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

The somber dog in the bottom left is “Henna,” an American Staffordshire mix. She is a big, gorgeous red-coatedndog, and her name suits her. She is older, perhaps four or five, and has probably had a rough life. She regards most people with reserve, and it proved to be a liability when she was adopted out two weeks ago. The people returned her (we have a 10-day adoption trial period at the Shelter) saying that she did well with men, but was cool and aloof toward the woman, who was responsible for her care. We need to find her a home where she can warm up at her own rate.

I’m working with several other dogs, including “JoJo,” the pit bull, who is settling into his foster home, and have made some other placements. But my fosters and the long-timers like “Henna” and “Sweetheart” hold a special place in my heart.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Guarding Against Burnout

Observation: The Shelter receives an endless parade of abandoned, unwanted, surrendered, forgotten, left-over dogs.

I place one in foster here, adopt-to-foster another, see the finalization of the adoption of a third dog, and take another foster home. Four, eight, 10, 25, 32 dogs—maybe a few more—so far this year have come into my advocacy as a volunteer for my county Animal Shelter. I have lost one foster dog to distemper (Queeny, a heeler mix who I nursed for more than a week), returned one foster back to the Shelter (Darla, who bit my own dog) and have seen at least three of my “adoptions” return to the Shelter.

What am I doing wrong? That’s the question that arises—and it is one of the first symptoms of burnout.

For the past two weekends, I’ve not done Off-Site Adoptions, and my team leader coordinator is frustrated with me. Last week, I wanted to celebrate my daughter’s 15th birthday on April 11th, and I had church obligations Friday and Sunday. Plus I had an emergency vet visit.

Yesterday, we had our second day of extremely wet weather—we recorded more than five inches of rain at our house between Friday and Saturday. Many of our Off-Sites were cancelled due to the weather. I could have helped or led one, but didn’t.

This morning, I declined to run an Off-Site because of church obligations. My church services let out at 12:15 p.m. By the time I come home, change and get to the Shelter it is after 1:00 p.m. Getting animals and getting to the local PetsMart can take up to an hour. If I don’t pack up and leave the PetsMart by 3:00 p.m., the Shelter staff leaves before I arrive back at the Shelter. Unloading animals and finishing paperwork takes at least 30 to 45 minutes, and generally consumes an hour. By now it is 4:45 p.m. I’m exhausted, the dogs have missed the feeding time, and in the brief time I was at the PetsMart, I may not have completed any adoptions.

Frustration builds. This is another symptom of burnout.

It was not easy to tell my Team Leader I will not be volunteering Off-Site today. She is frustrated, too. She sees PetsMart locations without our presence. She sees dogs that languish in the Adoption Room. She tries to be five places at once. I don’t want to see her burnout. But the danger is there.

I want to volunteer. I will continue to volunteer. However, I can’t do it around the clock, every weekend. I don’t like to haul six dogs to a PetsMart and do all the set-up and take-down by myself. And on the days there are no adoptions, it is depressing. No matter how many hours we invest, the dogs keep coming into the Shelter.

Our volunteers are awesome and dedicated beyond belief. However, when we crash in burnout, it hurts us and our families. And it hurts the dogs. Succumbing to guilt when we can’t staff every event does nothing to help to the dogs. There will always be more dogs. We have to focus our energy, and pace ourselves for the long haul.

How do you guard against burnout? What works with your group? Please leave me your thoughts.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gonna Getcha

Taco, my nine-year-old miniature pinscher, still has plenty spring in his bounce as he tries to get at this grumpy possum on Easter Sunday.

Taco can jump even higher than this, but he'd been harassing the possum for several minutes. Taco has a strong prey instinct--he kills rats,frogs and has even cornered a copperhead (we moved the snake out of our backyard before it bit him). Taco is oversize for the American breed standard, 12 inches at the shoulder, and 17 pounds of muscle. He embodies the old-school characteristics of the German Pinscher, which was bred to kill vermin in the kitchen pantries and stables. He is headstrong and assertive, so we have to employ "Nothing in Life is Free" type training techniques to keep his bossiness in check.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grass. Is. Good.

Update on JoJo the Pit Bull
My favorite pit bull now has a foster home! JoJo, a fawn-colored, male pit bull with a lover-boy heart met his new foster mom last night at a local PetCo. I have been searching for a foster or rescue for JoJo for some time—pit bulls languish in Shelter’s Adoption Room for months because of the challenges of finding them the right home. And for a sensitive dog like JoJo, the Shelter is a horrible place, no matter how many times he got to go to off-site events.

Yesterday, I picked him up at the Shelter, let the staff bid him farewell, and collected his paperwork. I brought him to my house for a couple hours—I fed him, then we sat outside in the backyard. He seemed to be simply awestruck by the idea of fresh, green grass that hadn’t been marked by hundreds of dogs. He flopped down on his side, heaved a sigh and dozed in woozy joy.

JoJo knows my van, so he hopped right in when it was time to go meet the foster. Amy and her 9th grade son came to pick JoJo up. He got a new black collar and went home to meet their pit bull female.

I spoke with Amy today, who reported that JoJo’s first evening went well—he spent the night sleeping in an armchair in her bedroom! Oh he must have felt like he was in heaven after all the months on the concrete kennel floor. Amy will crate him during the day. Her goal for now is to assess his behavior and put some weight back on him—he’s about 20 pounds underweight. I’m so glad that JoJo has a chance to be in a foster home. I’ll be adding updates about his progress as time goes on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Update on My Rat Terrier

My 9-pound Rat Terrier Mix, “Cross” went to her vet on Monday, April 13th. After putting $497 on the debit card, we’re in a wait-and-see mode. The most challenging wound is the puncture bite just below Cross’s right jaw. The worry is that Darla’s tooth punctured the salivary gland, which is a very tricky thing to correct as a punctured gland rarely self-heals.

However, as of Monday, we’re 48 hours out from the incident, and the good news is that there is no pus and the hematoma-type swelling that appeared after the fight (and which was drained by the ER Vet) has not returned. In fact, other than a little poochiness along the side of her neck, there is no major swelling. There is still seepage, but it is clear, minimal, and completely free of blood or pus. So for now, we are holding off on risky, dangerous, difficult (and costly) surgery.

The xrays showed no broken bones or teeth, and no visible tears in the salivary glands and no ranula (a pocket of fluid building under the tongue and no major mucolcele (swelling due to the leakage of saliva from a ruptured gland). The lymph nodes have been damaged, so there is some adenitis (swelling of the nodes due to retention of fluid). However, overall, Cross is a very lucky dog. Dr. Beth Williams, my vet, called a colleague to discuss treatment and the consensus is to watch and wait. I have to apply warm compresses to the neck to reduce any swelling, and swab the area with a surgical-prep cleanser to ward off yeast infection. I’m still administering pain medications and antibiotics. And on Friday, April 17th, we’ll do a recheck. I just hope we don’t have to do a surgery in the area of the salivary glands. Evidently, it is a rare and difficult surgery with many risks.

As of today, Cross has regained much of her spunk, and lets me swab her neck and apply the compress. She is eating well and is back to going on walkies (in a breast collar). She was perky around JoJo, a pit bull male dog who came home with me before heading out to a new foster home this evening.

Darla is back at the Shelter, and I plan to take her to off-sites this weekend if she doesn’t find a home or a foster set-up sooner. She was excited to see me and jumped up and down like a wind-up toy: “Why. Aren’t. You. Taking. Me???” she seemed to say. She is now on the top of my Shelter dog list, since my other Shelter favorite, the pit bull, JoJo, went to a foster home tonight! More on that later.

Thanks to all who have left comments and asked for updates!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Easter Blessings to You and Your Family.

Vintage Greeting card from my personal collection.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lesson Learned

I made a terrible mistake in judgment last night.

I’ve had dozens of foster dogs over the years, including various Jack Russell Terriers and mixes. But last night, I made an unwise choice. I allowed a foster dog, a JRT, Darla, to remain uncrated with my dogs while we went to Good Friday services. All the dogs had eaten, and been exercised, and we were only gone an hour and a half. Everyone had a bed to retire to, and I figured we would be okay.

I was wrong.

My husband came home to find the cabinet where the dog food bins and leashes are kept was nosed open. The leashes were spread all over and a box of dog biscuits (the only unbinned item) was on the floor. As best as he could figure, the Jack Russell had nosed the cabinet open—I had caught her nosing a different cabinet open earlier in the day (she's a smarty-pants) and had corrected her. He picked stuff up, chalking it up to the things dogs do.

He leashed all three dogs up for a final quick walk, which was shortened, when our 9-pound Rat Terrier mix, Cross began yiking and squealing. My husband hadn’t noticed, but Cross had been bitten in the scuffling over the biscuits. It turned out that she had been bitten quite badly—at least half-a-dozen punctures and the same amount of scrapes. The worst bites were on her neck, with the deepest puncture below the jaw on her right neck. She also had puncture wounds on the top of her back and inside of her legs. The JRT was unharmed and my other dog ended up in a room with the door closed, so he wasn’t involved.

It turns out, once I took her to the Emergency Vet, that she may have a punctured salivary gland (number one cause, according to the vet: dog-on-dog biting; number two cause: lunging too hard against a pinch collar or other rigid collar.). Unfortunately, this sort of injury doesn’t generally self-heal, so we’re probably looking at a pricey surgical correction due to a near-fatal mis-judgement of pack-order and a foster dog’s readiness.

So…$265 later (so far), 2 injections (pain control and antibiotics) plus Clavomox, and two other pain meds, we came home.

The dogs had gotten along well all week. They had been fed in the same room. There were no scuffles at all--just butt-sniffing and body-pushing. And Darla has a charming personality. I was already falling in love with her. But she hates the crate. I thought we'd be fine.

But the temptations of the biscuits proved too tempting to Darla, who came to me as an owner-throw-away. I don’t blame her—I’m the one at fault. I should have crated her, which is my normal (and now mandatory) rule. Since we had no toys or chew bones out (all those were put up) I figured the dogs would get along. But they didn’t.

I spent today getting Darla into a different foster home. I love JRTs (see my previous post) and know she was just doing what her breed often does. She wasn’t happy to be back at the Shelter, and let me know it with her barking. I feel bad that I had to put Darla into a different foster home after she’d just settled in, but I had no other option. My husband and daughter were adamant.

My little dog is doing okay—eating well, and a lot calmer now that she doesn’t have to cut a wide berth around the JRT. I’ll take her to her regular vet on Monday to find out what we need to do next. My husband dotes on our little dog, but thankfully, he hasn’t bawled me out for making an unwise choice in letting the dogs remain unattended. I’m doing an excellent job kicking myself. This is the first time I’ve had anything other than yowly scuffles and damp fur or maybe a small nick between my dogs and a foster.

I’ve learned a hard lesson about dealing with my fosters.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hooray for JRTs!

I love Jack Russell Terriers, and my 5th foster dog for this year is a wonderful JRT named Darla. She is an owner-throwaway--she was left in her yard when her owners moved away. By the time she came to me, she had an intestinal infection, so now she's on medication and is eating a bland diet. She was very mopey due to her illness--and there's nothing sadder than a lethargic Jack Russell Terrier.

Happily, Darla is regaining her vigor and spunk.

I made this digital stamp in honor of Darla and her breed! If you go to my Flickr page, you can download a set of these stamps and send your messages by Busy Dog Express!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Checklist for the Chief Poop Inspector

"My Dog's Poop List"

Check any or all that apply.

O Is the poop firm, normal in texture, color & smell?
O Is there any shiny slickness or mucus covering part or all of the poop?
O Any blood? Fresh or dried? Faint or copious?
O Does the poop contain anything that looks like grains of rice?
O Anything like small pearls?
O Anything like cooked pasta?
O Any foreign objects (e.g., crayon bits, string, paper, plastic, etc.)?
O Is the poop soft and without form?
O Is the poop hard and stringy?
O Does the dog strain or peer toward his rump in confusion?
O Does the poop look like instant pudding?
O Does it have a strong, gag-inducing odor?
O Is it oddly colored—greenish, yellowish (like mustard) or purplish?
O Is the poop loose and watery?
O Does the poop come out in a squirt?
O Does the dog try to poop without success?
O Does the dog poop in its own bedding?
O Does the dog poop before you can get it outside to its normal place?
O Does the dog poop more than 2 times in one hour?
O Does the dog hide and poop in corners or other places it normally doesn’t poop?
O Does the dog immediately try to eat its own poop?

Use this handy checklist to help you evaluate your dog’s poop. Observing the dog’s freshly made poop on a regular basis is the easiest way to assess a dog’s overall health. Changes in what is normal for your dog’s poop may require you to check for other symptoms or call your vet.

Limitations & Exclusions: This non-medical, but helpful information is not meant to substitute for a professional veterinary examination. It is provided as a public service message so that you, too, can proudly earn the title of “Chief Poop Inspector.” Note: Not all items are applicable to all pets, and not all items apply to cats. I don’t have a cross-discipline degree in Cat Poop Inspection.

-*- Photo Credits: Ribbon by C. Bruhn via Picnik; photo courtesy of

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

50 Ways to Get Rid of Your Dog

This is the first in an on-going series of ways to surrender your dog at the Shelter. Following are actual explanations for surrendering a dog that I have witnessed. These situations are presented in no particular order, but I'll add to them 5 items at a time. Names are omitted to protect the ignorant, foolish, unfortunate and desperate.

1. Move out of your house and leave your Jack Russell Terrier in the back yard. Neighbors will care for the dog for three weeks, then bring her to the Shelter.

2. Go to a bar with a cardboard box of three 7-week-old Chihuahua puppies. Someone will bring one of the “free” puppies to the Shelter. She is adorable but has an umbilical hernia and a skin condition. We don’t know what happened to the other two pups.

3. Tie your Golden Retriever mix to the chain link fence at the Shelter sometime during the night. The staff will find the dog in the morning.

4. Bring your elderly Cocker Spaniel inside the Shelter on a busy weekend afternoon. Ask someone to hold the leash while you go get something from your car. Never come back inside the Shelter.

5. Take your 1.5-year-old intact male Weimaraner to the Shelter. Explain that he keeps getting out and you can’t deal with it anymore.

Dog image scanned from my personal collection of graphics. From a vintage children's reader.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Post-Exchange--Dogs Deserve Freedom

I am finding my way slowly into the blog world of animal rescue. The first blog I came upon is Dogs Deserve Freedom (DDF), at I had been reading as a "lurker" for some time. Her passion for justice and love of animals fills DDF's posts!

I owe DDF a thank-you for providing me with the nudge I needed to start my own blog. Back in early March, I was reading the DDF blog and realized I wanted to write about the same things. That same day, I designed a banner and uploaded my own blog. I added DDF to my "Blogs I Follow" list and I check it often to see what is posted and who is reading. I'm still learning how to use the blogging tools, so please forgive me that I don't yet know how to highlight the link. Drop by if you haven't already sampled "Dogs Deserve Freedom."

Vintage dog graphic, scanned from my personal collection.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Dangerous Rainbow

We have color system on the doors at the Shelter—Green, Yellow, Blue, Red, and Purple. It is a dangerous rainbow.

The Green Room is the best room for the dogs—it’s the Adoption Room, and thus it provides the primary ticket out of the Shelter. The Yellow Room has cats (for adoption) and animals still being kept under the stray-hold. The Blue Room houses more of the same, but officially is meant be for the puppies—although this is not a hard-and-fast. The Red Room is for bite cases and other critical issues—the door is locked and you can’t go in without an Animal Control officer. I haven’t been in the Red Room yet. The Purple Room is for incoming animals and worse, it’s where the animals slated for euthanizing are put—at least for now. Our Shelter is expanding, and the door colors have changed several times.

The Shelter staff will be euthanizing animals this week. No one is happy about this. The month of February was an experiment in No-Kill, and the euthanasia rates were held in check through March. But the parade of animals into the shelter is up-ticking with the litters of puppies and kittens, so the killing will resume.

I did a walk-through of the Purple Room this afternoon. It was depressing and horrifying—three skinny mamma dogs with baggy teats and mange, a grey, scarred, crop-eared pit bull, an older lab with cherry eye, several terrified LBDs (Little Brown Dogs) of indeterminate breeding who lie curled up and unresponsive. Some kennel cards have the word “SAVE” scrawled across the intake information in yellow highlighter. Other cards have messages of hope—“Show to Dr. M.” or “Rescue Called.”

But most of the cards have no notes. Most of these dogs have no names. For these animals, death is near. We know. They know too. The rainbow is dangerous.

Photo credit: Flickr; Creative Commons; Thank you-heureux- Vienna, Austria

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Yet One More Pit Bull Story

I live in Texas, and at my county's Animal Shelter, pit bulls (and other bully breeds) often make it into the Adoption Room. This is a good thing, I think.

Right now, I am an advocate for JoJo, a fawn male pit bull. Jojo has been in the A.R. since January 30, 2009. This is a long time for a dog to endure the chaos of a county-run facility.

JoJo eats his kibble one bit at a time (a bad trait in the chaos of the Shelter). He is a climber, so he has to be in a kennel with chain link fencing over the top so he can’t escape. He is quick and determined. I didn’t realize he did this until tonight. Twice I found him calmly standing, at the door to the Adoption Room with the same expectant, hopeful look on his face that I see with my dogs: “We can go now?”

I take JoJo to off-sites adoption events. JoJo’s an eye-catching dog, but people either tell me pit bull horror stories about pit bulls or say, "What a beautiful dog," and move on to get all lovey-dovey with the lab-mix puppies. Soft, floppy puppies always win out over an adult dog with heart and brains.

So I keep JoJo on leash next to me, while I talk to potential adopters. I feed him canned food and treats, and clean him with moist wipes until he shudders with pleasure. I let him do what I never let the big dogs do—I let him put his forequarters in my lap so he can push his head under my chin and lick my neck. I want him to know that he deserves better.

The Shelter staff workers are rooting for JoJo, too—the kennel cleaner told me this morning, “Find this dog a home!” and the vet tech said, “We’ve got to get him out of here before he wears himself to death climbing out of the kennel.” I’m doing my best.

I've taken JoJo out so many times that he knows me. He whines as he lashes his long, lean tail and shakes his whole butt when he sees me. He mopes, head pinned against my knees and stalls, planting his paws when I have to put him back in the kennel in the evening.

At this time, I can’t foster JoJo, so I’m scrambling to find someone who can—I’ve gotten names, and handed out his kennel number, but so far, I’ve not made the right connection. He deserves a home, but I’m not sure he deserves the three months he’s spent in the Shelter.

This is just another pit bull story, but JoJo deserves better.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pit Bulls and Miniature Pinschers

We get all kinds of dogs in the Shelter’s Adoption Room—from handsome pit bulls like “JoJo,” a fawn male with a loving heart, to non-typey miniature pinschers like “Dancer”, a foster I had for over a month at my house.

JoJo has been at the Shelter since January 30th, and has been passed up time and again because of his breed. He is sweet-natured, and good around the other off-site dogs, and wants nothing more than to lean hard against me and lick my face. I’m working to find a foster or rescue group for him because I can’t take him to my house. My own miniature pinscher male dog, Taco, is dominant-aggressive toward other males (see “Meet My Mutts” below) and he would harass JoJo until the bigger dog had no other choice but to bite Taco’s head off, which Taco would fully deserve. I hope to have JoJo in a foster home soon.

Dancer was passed up time after time because she didn’t “show well” at off-site events—cowering in her cage because the ruckus frightened her, or shrinking back (but not snapping) when people tried to pet her. At my house, she was skittish in new situations (a rather typical min-pin behavior) but otherwise was quite the snuggle-bug. All she wanted to do was follow me around. Her dream: to sleep in my bed. Of course, I fell head over heels in love with her, but my job is to bring one dog at a time home as a foster. Dancer went to a new home yesterday, and I hope it works. I don’t trust most of my adopters until some time passes—and Dancer will need a little time to adjust. She’s very needy and she tends to piddle when she’s excited. I miss her a lot and am praying this placement works out like it should.

So there you go—two great dogs, both with quirks, some of which can’t be helped, passed up by adopters who would rather lug home a big mixed-lab puppy.