Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Some Things End

On September 16, 2009, JoJo, a three-year-old fawn American Pit Bull Terrier was euthanized, thus ending a dog’s life. He lived long enough to touch the hearts of several people in the Shelter, entering the system on January 30, 2009 as a stray. JoJo’s dog-on-dog aggressiveness was his undoing. His Pit Bull bloodlines were a liability. His unknown background and experiences were a hindrance. But the spirit in his dog heart remains, burning pure and bright, flickering as a reminder that as human we pay for our hubris in the deaths of dogs deemed unsafe.

I drew the portrait on myWacom tablet. I’m still a beginner with this tool, so don’t know how to blend the colors yet. JoJo’s spirit rests easier now, even if mine doesn’t.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Pit Bull Blues

I've got the Pit Bull Blues, oh yeah.

For those of you who have been following this blog, you may recall previous posts about a Shelter dog named JoJo, an American Pit Bull Terrier (pictured as he looked on Saturday). JoJo is a fawn-colored 3-year-old male dog who I placed in an APBT-savvy foster home in mid-April. Late last week, Ms. A., the foster, called me to regretfully report that JoJo has become increasingly dog-on-dog aggressive.

Ms. A. explained that JoJo had instigated four separate attacks, including one that injured her own female pit bull (puncture bites on the dog’s neck, and half an ear tip torn off). In the first attack, JoJo charged an (alleged) Gotti line pit bull belonging to a neighbor, pinning the dog to the ground. Ms. A. did not witness this attack as it occurred while her high school age son had JoJo in the front yard. No one was hurt. The third attack came when JoJo harassed a mastiff by biting down on the dog’s snout. Both dogs suffered minor face punctures.

The forth attack came while Ms. A. was walking JoJo on leash on a path. Another dog of a similar size (but not a pit bull) approached (on leash with its owner), so Ms. A. pulled JoJo onto the grass median, and worked to keep his attention off of the approaching dog. Ms. A. isn’t sure if she tripped or if JoJo tripped her, but she lost hold of the leash and charged the a mix-breed dog on the walking path, pinning and clamping down on this dog by one hind leg. Ms. A. was able to pull JoJo off and neither animal was injured, but the other dog’s owner was badly frightened by the swiftness of the attack.

As JoJo has regained weight and strength (he was in bad shape when he left the Shelter in April), Ms. A. said he became increasingly dog-focused—straining toward and staring down dogs his size or bigger. When he launches an attack, JoJo does not growl, bark, or raise his hackles. He just fixes a hard stare, whines deeply in his throat, lowers his head and prepares to launch. Another dog need not even act in an agressive way to prompt this.

I witnessed this personally on Saturday morning, when I met JoJo and Ms. A. at the Shelter. We were waiting for the staff person to locate JoJo’s records, and were seated in two chairs, with JoJo sitting calmly beside us. Ms. A. had JoJo’s leash tight and I had one hand on JoJo’s collar. Someone walked another dog by, and I felt JoJo’s body tighten. His head dropped, neck extended and I felt the intensity building in his body. I’ve seen this intensituy before in a dog--in my 17-pound Miniature Pinscher, when he’s got a freshly killed rat. It’s a whole different thing to see it in a 70-pound, muscular, young dog. Ms. A. shook JoJo out of and got his attention to focus on her. I suddenly realized that JoJo is what the dog-fighters call “game.”

We went with the Shelter Director, Dr. Ryan, into one of the offices and Ms. A. outlined the nature of the attacks. Ms. A. did not feel that JoJo could be safely adopted. We were both in front of Dr. Ryan because we knew that the reality is that JoJo needed to be euthanized.

The Shelter does not have the time or resources to retrain one dog, especially a Pit Bull. I’m not knocking the breed, but it is challenging enough to find homes for the Pit Bulls and Pit mixes already in the Adoption Room. And JoJo had a bad track record.

Dr. Ryan explained that every dog deserves a fair evaluation and she wanted JoJo to be seen by Mr. G., our Shelter’s dog trainer. However, Mr. G. and I had already spoken about JoJo, and Mr. G. was already familiar with the dog from his time in the Shelter. Mr. G. has rehabbed several Pit Bulls in his private business, but the rehabilitation (regardless of what Cesar Milan might say) often means life at Spindletop, one the few APBT/Bully breed Sanctuaries in our part of Texas. And Spindletop is expensive and has a waiting list.

“If I had six or eight months to devote just to him, maybe I could change the behavior,” Mr. G. said, “but no matter what we could never fully trust him.”

Ms. A. and I had already taken JoJo on a good long walk. I had hugged him and let him kiss me—he seemed to remember me—and took a dozen photos. We turned the leash over to the Quarantine Room staff person, a man who also remembers when JoJo was in the Shelter. He led the dog away. I hate losing a dog this way.

I stopped by the Shelter today, but JoJo’s fate remains up in the air. He is being held in a Quarantine Kennel, awaiting an evaluation from Mr. G. But Mr. G. feels that the Shelter Director is trying to forestall the inevitable. He had a good life, as his foster said, for several months.

We don’t have the resources for a dog like JoJo. And now, he’s in limbo. I realize the Shelter Director has a veterinarian’s viewpoint—save the dog if it’s at all humanly possible. But I can’t hardly bear to think of JoJo in the Quarantine room. It is also the E.U. (Euthanization) Room, and it must reek of Death.

I will post an update on JoJo as soon as possible.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What's Not to Love?

Here's a sampling of the dogs available now at the Montgomery County, Texas, Animal Selter. From left to right: 1) "Dudley" #A112614: A spunky senior red Dachshund mix male with soft curly fur and a pudgy body that makes you think, "There's a Milk Dud!" Obviously well-fed, he is an owner surrender. 2)"Riley: #A114398. That typical Heeler quirkiness is evident on "Riley's" face. This young Blue Heeler boy is wicked smart and needs a day-job. 3) "Willis" #A11835 has the "Benji" look on a taller, lean body. He needs some groceries to fill him out, but he's still a smallish dog, about the size of a foxhound, with wheat-colored wiry, terrier hair and stylishly pricked ears. What's not to love about these dogs? Check them out at The MCAS website.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Saving Atticus

I don’t normally do rescue transport—I spend more time doing commuter hauling of Shelter dogs to and from Off-sites. But on Wednesday, I stepped in to help an older Black Labrador get out of the Shelter and into a safe house. His Shelter name was “Lassoe” but now he bears the more dignified moniker of “Atticus,” short for Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird renown.

I’d already had a long day--working an Off-site at PetsMart for the company’s “Second Chance at Love” promotion, although none of my five Shelter dogs got a second chance that day due to rain and other unknown factors. After turning over my shift at 3:15 p.m., I went to the High School to pick up my daughter, who ended up shanghaied for the ride to the Shelter and beyond. She was cranky about this disruption in her schedule, but if Atticus didn’t get to the kennel by 6:00 p.m. (It was now 4:30 p.m.) he would miss his appointment at the Vet’s, scheduled or the next day. Lab-to-Rescue, a local group, had agreed to take him into their program, but we had to do the transport.

Atticus was in the Blue room, with the word “DESPERATE” scrawled across his kennel card. He had worms and mange, and was severely underweight. But his tail never stopped wagging as I snapped on a leash and led him out to my van.

Riding loose in the rear seat didn’t work—Atticus is a shot-gun riding dog—so we had to stop and swap my 15-year-old (who was rather sulky about all this) to the back seat. I drove for 40 minutes in rain and rush-hour traffic to get to a kennel that works with rescue groups, stopping once at a gas station to let my daughter get a Snapple (bribery—yes). I walked Atticus, and this old dog still has some hunt left in him—a flock of grackles streaked across the cloudy sky and Atticus snapped to attention, his head raised, eyes gleaming. Even sick and emaciated, the old dog still has that Lab joie de vivre! What a trouper!

Back on the road, we made it to Strawberry Dog, the kennel, in time to settle Atticus in a crate. And we made it home safe, which is a miracle in itself—Houston area roads are horrible during rainy weather. I learned today that Atticus has received his first round of meds from the vet. When he is fully healthy, this senior Lab, who is clearly a retired hunting dog, will be taken up north to New England, where he’ll be placed in a carefully selected home to live out the rest of his days. I hope whoever ends up with Atticus appreciates this true Southern gentleman.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rusty Found a Home

Rusty, my little stag red miniature pinscher foster, with me since May 23rd, found a home on Labor Day, Monday, September 5th. He was with me all summer because he came to me heartworm positive, and it was awhile before we could start the treatment, followed by a month of crate rest. I didn't take to many events in August because we were busy getting my kids back to school.

Beginning Saturday, I took Rusty to three different Off-Site events over the long weekend, and was willing to hang onto him as long as it took to find the right match. I definitely wanted him to go with people who understand (and adore) min-pins. He attracted a lot of attention, but nothing seemed to click. Then a woman who had been looking for a min-pin to replace one she had owned years back saw him. She has an 11-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy, plus her husband. Rusty appears to be good with kids, and he’s not nippy, so I hope it works out.

I had a good feeling about this adoption, but that doesn’t mean anything. I’m going to call tomorrow to see how Rusty’s doing. I told the woman if she changes her mind, even after the 7-day-return policy (our Shelter has revised the policy, reducing the time from 10 days) to call me first. Rusty will not ever go back to the Shelter if I can prevent it.

I miss him so much. I had another foster over the holiday weekend,too, a needy little whippet mix girl who found a home on Tuesday. My dogs are very happy to have the house to themselves for awhile. My husband is happier too—he’s not that big on having fosters, although I know he really did like Rusty.

I can’t keep every dog, so that’s how it goes.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Full Moon From a Backyard Breeder

I have been away from Off-Site Adoptions and the Shelter for about two weeks—thus the absence of posts since I don’t like to depend on filler posts—but I went to an Off-Site today and came home with a heckuva story!

We had a Foster-only event at Natural Pawz, a locally owned pet boutique located in a small shopping center fronting a busy highway in Tomball. I was there with my min-pin foster dog, Rusty. The shop’s manager, Ms. C., noticed a guy selling lab mix puppies out of the back of his pickup truck on a driveway next to the center. Natural Pawz had displayed a big, professional sign promoting “Dog Adoptions on Saturday,” and passing traffic wouldn’t know that the Backyard Breeder wasn’t part of our event. Ms. C. went out to tell the man that he should move, but he insisted he was parked on his property. Ms. C. called her landlord, who doubted this claim.

The store clerk asked me to accompany her outside because the landlord wanted her to take a photo of the man’s truck and license plate. I walked over to the truck with her, and at our approach, a potential client (a woman with two kids) hurriedly got into her car. Ms. C. had a small digital camera, and confidently snapped photos of the guy’s truck, the big magnetic sign advertising his Gutter business and then she walked around to get a shot of the back end (with a crate full of what appeared to be lab puppies) to take a shot of the license plate. The guy, a ruddy, salt-and-pepper grey haired fellow wearing a tee-shirt and baggy plaid shorts got irritated (naturally) and insisted he was on his property and could do what he wanted.

Ms. C. aimed her digital camera at the license plate on the rear end of the truck. Mr. Backyard Breeder smirked, hitched his belt with his hands, then swiveled, yanking down his shorts to expose a very white rear. Ms. C. calmly took the photo—but alas, the license plate, as you can see, is obscured by a full moon.

Still smirking the guy repeated that he owned the property. Ms. C. pivoted and we both walked away. “That photo will be just great when the county sheriff sees it,” I said to the man. He didn’t bother with a reply nor did he make any move to pack up. Shaken by the brazenness, not to mention the affront of being treated to a guy’s bare butt, we hurried back into the shop. I suggested that now would be a good time to call the police.

By the time the Tomball, TX, police officer arrived, Mr. Backyard Breeder had decided it would be in his best interest to pack up his puppy operation for the day. I gave the officer the information, including the guy’s business name and phone (captured clearly on the digital camera) and showed her the evidence of the full moon. The officer laughed and said, “I saw your call on my list and figured I needed to hear about this one.” Of course, she could do nothing since the guy had left, but she assured us that if he showed up elsewhere, this information—including his act of public exposure—could be retrieved.

As a public service, then, I present the full moon in progress (pixelated in the appropriate areas for decency's sake), complete with puppies in the background. Ms. C. said she posted the guy’s business name and phone number on a local dog rescue site with the note to avoid giving the man business.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What I Do When I'm Not With My Dogs

Band Mom 2009
Originally uploaded by Calsidyrose
I'm a "Band Mom" with a Sophmore French Horn player in the TWHS Highlander Marching Band. I chaperone the students on the school buses to their games and take lots of photos.

I'm still doing my "Dog Lady" work, but have had to scale back a bit to get my high-maintenance 15-year-old daughter started back in school.

Our Shelter will be participating in the "Second Chance at Love" event, hosted by PetsMart (it's a Nation-wide event) beginning Labor Day.

I still have "Rusty," my min-pin foster boy. He wants everyone to know he's looking for his own home!