Friday, November 19, 2010

Puppy Perils

This is "Dezi", who is harder to "dress" than a Barbie doll. The red sweater is held on with the pink harness. The jingle bell helps me find her. The Cone of Shame keeps her from chewing on her cast. She can still move at the speed of light. Thanks to Allie, of "Hyperbole and a Half" for giving me the courage to post one of my pencil sketches, tweaked in Photoshop Elements 6.

Question: What goes "Tick, tick, jingle,, yip, yip, yip."?

Answwer: A Miniature Pinscher with a cast on her front leg.

I do not normally foster puppies. I admit this. I prefer adult dogs. I don't have a puppy-proof house or yard, although my yard is escape-proof.

So when I came home with this 5.2 pound black-and-tan puppy with a broken leg, I assumed that I'd be able to keep up with her. I mean, how fast can a tiny dog with a huge plaster splint around her front leg move?

The puppy, cast and all, fell in my pool, right off the bat. I had to take her back to the Vet to have a new cast put on because she got completely soaked. I paid for it of course.

I swear, I was watching her, but she darted around or behind me (or transported herself through space) in a couple seconds while we were walking around the pool back to the house.

When I figured out that she wasn't next to me, I saw my own oversize MinPin, Chopper, staring intently at the pool, ears cocked, and the puppy was paddling--quite well, actually--to keep her head above water.

Which makes me wonder how on Earth puppies ever make it to adulthood at all.

Dezi, as she is named, is almost impossible to keep up with. Her cast doesn't slow her down at all--without it I'm sure she would move at warp speed.

Things I have removed from her tiny puppy mouth: computer cords, lamp cords, a bit of celery that dropped on the floor, twist ties, sparkly purple stuff from something that must belong to my daughter.

She can climb up stairs, but not down--the Cone of Shame that she must wear to keep her from chewing on her bandages limits her vision.

She can get on the couch (she couldn't do this last week when I brought her home but she has grown, as puppies tend to do). She annoys Cross, my fluffy dog. She gets run over by Chopper because he zooms around snorking up things from the floors like a Dustbuster with legs.

She thinks my husband is the most wonderful man in the world and when he walks in the door, she hops up and down like she's just pounded three Red Bulls. Then, she falls asleep in my arms and snuggles her head into my shirtsleeve and sighs a happy, happy puppy sigh. She is absolutely adorable.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just for Fun

Allie's adopted dog really wants to please, if only she knew how!

My daughter had me read a post on "Hyperbole and a Half", a zippy, irreverent blog by "Allie" last night, while I was in the middle of struggling over how to summarize my current volunteer situation. I haven't laughed so hard all week!

Allie's adventures with her adopted dog and her amazing drawings done with MS Paint (the simplest drawing program for a computer) are spot-on, to work a well-worn pun! Read through her "Dog" post and enjoy!

Drawing courtesy of "Hyperbole and a Half"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back on Track

I have been away from my blog for three reasons:
1. My 16-year-old daughter had Marching Band Competitions from early October through the first week of November.
2. My Off-Site Coordinator and dear friend, Ms. M. stepped down from volunteer Team Lead for the Montgomery County Animal Shelter at the end of September.
3. The Shelter has undergone many shifts and changes, and I've been completely out of the loop.

On November 9th, I found a home for the wonderful Mrs. Puff. A fellow Band Mom adopted her, and Mrs. Puff has already been Vet-checked and had treatment for her teeth. Mrs. Puff had 7 teeth pulled and is on a KD Diet and has trimmed down almost a pound since her arrival at the Shelter in late July. My friend is going to start PetsMart training with Mrs. Puff at the end of the month. Like many Chihuahuas, Mrs. Puff didn't know anything about leashes and had no real obedience skills. So this spry, 10-year-old girl will soon learn how to sit and heel! And since it is an "open adoption", Mrs. Puff may visit our house for dog-sitting when my friend is traveling.

I have a new foster--a very bouncy, cute-as-can-be black-and-tan Miniature Pinscher puppy. "Desiree" came to my house the day after Mrs. Puff left. She is about 4.5 months old and weighs 5.2 pounds with the cast on her broken right front leg. She arrived at the Shelter with the injury, along with dark blue paint on her toenails. She was someone's pet but wasn't claimed. Our Shelter has a less-than-stellar return-to-owner rate. Desiree has to wear the cast (and the Cone of Shame) for about 8 weeks. She'll visit the Vet who did the surgery, which included a pin to hold the bones in her leg in place, next week for a check-up.

My own dogs are doing well--Chopper had his two heartworm shots and is at the end of his one-month of rest. And Cross is still a sweetie, although she needs an appointment at the groomer's to trim off her shaggies.

I have removed this blog from my Facebook account via Networked Blogs. I made the decision after receiving a message from the acting Shelter Director regarding some numbers I quoted about the euthanizations of cats over the summer. I made it clear in the post (see September 16th) where I got the information: "Meanwhile, the Shelter is overrun with kittens and cats. I heard, unofficially, that approximately 1,000 cats and kittens have made the trip to the EU room in the past few weeks."

The response from the Shelter Director was first posted on my Facebook wall, then later removed and sent to me via a Facebook message:

"Your 'unofficial' information about 1000 dogs/cats going to the EU room was very, very inaccurate. Since I know you care about the dogs who may not realize when people who don't know us read those things and may think we're a high kill shelter and we are NOT..and may choose not the help us. As you know, community support is vital to saving animals."

The number of EUs per month is listed on the County's website under Archives. I checked the numbers here: Unless the County's own numbers are inaccurate, my qualified statement (regarding cats only, since that is what I was writing about in the two sentences I devoted to the subject) was not overstated. According to the County, 600 cats were euthanized in July 2010, while in August, 233 cats were euthanized due to space/behavior issues (the County is instituting new, more specific labeling criteria). An additional 207 cats were euthanized in August due to sickness or injury. These numbers match closely with the numbers from my "unofficial" sources.

At the time Shelter Director's response arrived in my email, things were up in the air at the Shelter and rumors were flying loose and fast. Two months later, things have settled down and Constable Tim Holifield, the public official in charge of the Shelter (in theory, the buck stops with him), has made some changes and put some positive spin on things. I'm not criticizing, just stating my opinion, based on the communications sent out to volunteers.

Meanwhile, my friend, Ms. M., has been on an information-gathering safari, rounding up no-kill sheltering models, including the benchmarks used by Austin Pets Alive. It is Ms. M's opinion that actual progress toward becoming a "No-Kill" Shelter is minimal at best.

The Constable wrote in a volunteer newsletter circulated in mid-October:
  • As we progress to the status of 'No Kill', we must first successfully pass a multitude of milestones, each having their important place in every 'No Kill' Shelter. To my knowledge, in the State of Texas there are none that are government owned. The difficulty with a government owned facility is the lack of ability to decide which animals will be accepted or refused.
  • It is the position of staff, volunteers and animal lovers alike of moving Montgomery County Animal Shelter closer and closer until we reach the ultimate goal of a 'No Kill Shelter'. We believe there are several components to reaching this goal and simply overcrowding a kennels with 3+ animals and watching them get sick, while claiming to be 'No Kill' except for sick animals is not the answer."
I'm clueless as to whether these statements represent true commitment or the usual political blather. We'll have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, I'm fostering the Miniature Pinscher for the Friends of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter (FMCTAS), a fund-raising non-profit group that provides money for medical expenses and other needs that fall through the cracks at the Shelter. Although Desiree is an adorable dog, I'm not sure why she wasn't placed with a rescue, in particular, with the Texas Chapter of Internet Miniature Pinscher Service (IMPS) which does fabulous work foster, re-habbing and placing Min-Pins. The FMCTAS has spent a lot on this sweet girl (and we can only keep praying she doesn't get distemper) but if she is placed as an MCAS pet, she'll be adopted out for $75.00 at best.

While there have been days I've stood in the Adoption Rooms and wished we had some purebred dogs instead of 80 pit-lab mixes and hyper Cattle Dogs, I know we probably need to focus on moving as many animals out of the Shelter as possible. Getting dogs (and cats) into rescue is vital.


So, faithful readers, I'm back on track, even if I don't know where I will be serving as a volunteer. For now, fostering is fine. Ms M. is working on some new directions and I plan to be involved with that, too, even if I'm not able to help with the ground-floor planning due to some other personal commitments. Please bear with me and stay tuned!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October Multi-Tasking

This is an iPhone photo of a Street Dog in Peru.
You can tell he's got severe mange. I'm not sure why he's wearing the shirt.
I can't wait to hear the story from my friend when our Church group returns from Peru.

I have had a whirlwind of October activities that have kept me away from doing Off-Site adoptions, thus the paucity of posts. I feel a bit like I've got a dog like the one in the photo below chasing after me!

Goofy dog trailer hitch cover seen at the Texas Renaissance Festival.

I had to take off my "Dog Lady" cowboy hat and don my "Band Mom" hat. My 16-year-old daughter plays mellophone (a marching-style French Horn) in The Woodlands High School Marching Band, and October is the busiest Band month.

This is my "Band Mom" Hat. My "Dog Lady" Hat is a brown Stetson cowboy hat.

There are football games, practices, competitions, auditions and fundraisers. We spend a lot of time on yellow school buses. We stand in lines, sit on stadium seats and cheer our Band kids on. They are super kids--dedicated, funny, and unfailing polite. They just earned a first place in their UIL Area Division, competing against 30 Bands to earn the privilege to go to the Texas State UIL Marching competition to be held next week in San Antonio. I will load up my three dogs (Chopper, Cross and my sweet foster, Mrs. Puff) to head to my Mom's house in Spring Branch (close to New Braunsfels). We'll leave the dogs with my Dad to babysit the pack--a total of seven dogs, including four Chihuahuas--and go watch the Bands participate in two separate competitions.

Chopper in a quiet pose. Soon his Heartworms will be history!

We've had a lot of transitions and changes at the Shelter lately, but there's one great bit of news--the Shelter has begun offering the Heartworm treatment to the adopters and fosters on the six-page waiting list. The treatments were halted in early summer for a number of reasons (cost, vaccine availability, staffing issues, etc.) but are now being offered.

I had a part in this--my newly adopted dog, Chopper, was heartworm positive, so I have been asking, and asking again, when the treatments would begin again. I got the call this week to bring him in for a two-day, two-shot protocol. Now the issue will be keeping a bouncy, squirrel-chasing 18-pound Miniature Pinscher quiet for a month!

I'm still fostering the amazing Mrs. Puff, the elderly but very spunky owner-surrender Chihuahua. My daughter wants to keep her. I love her dearly and she's a very easy dog. My dogs love her, too. But a fellow Band Mom has met her and wants to adopt her after the hub-bub of our competitive season is done in about two weeks. My friend recently lost her own elderly dog and has taken quite a shine to Mrs. Puff. I told my daughter we can go visit Mrs. Puff and even take her a Christmas present later this year!

I'm looking forward to getting back into my Dog Lady volunteer work. I'm excited about some new volunteer opportunities that are on the horizon, and look forward to helping new foster dogs find homes. I received an email from the Shelter noting that we'll be participating in the Home for the Holidays program again this year--it's one of my favorite national tie-in programs.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

No-Kill Austin & More

It's been busy around here--last week I spent a whole day in Austin, TX (a three-hour hike from my house) attending the "No-Kill Austin" conference, which promised appearances by Nathan Winograd and other big names in the "No-Kill Community".  Winograd couldn't attend, but the roster of speakers offered several hands-on topics by folks from various Shelters, including The Animal Ark, of Hastings, MN.  I had to find pet-sitting for my two dogs and one foster (thanks so much, Ms. Anne, a wonderful animal advocate!) and arrange for my 16-year-old daughter to pick my dogs up in the evening.  I rode up with two volunteers from the Shelter, including my dear friend, Ms. M., who has been the Off-Site Team Coordinator for the Shelter volunteers.

Ms. M. has, after a great deal of thought and with sadness, decided to step down as Coordinator, a volunteer position she's held (actually, more like has "lived") for two years.  Ms. M. has spent more than four years dedicated to the animals of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.  It's better to let her explain things herself, as written in her formal resignation letter to the volunteers:

For four years, I have been working to lower the killing at this facility by volunteering.  For the last two years, I have been supporting the shelter’s stated goal of becoming a no-kill* facility by leading a team of volunteers working to establish a key component, a Comprehensive Adoption Program.   Let me stop here and say thank you to all of you that have worked along side toward this goal.  We would not have been successful without you.

September ended my second year in this team lead role.  The team has accomplished much in the last two years

-- We have built a team of 300+ adoption volunteers and 53 trained off-site adoption coordinators.
-- Over 2700 animals are now “out-of-shelter” from off-site venues due to our efforts.
-- More than $20,000 in donations and merchandise has been raised for MCAS animals. 
-- We have held over 1000 adoption events throughout Montgomery County. 
-- Our adoption coordinators have contributed over 2 man-years of service to the County (just physically sitting at adoption events).
-- We have worked with over 80 businesses and agencies in Montgomery County. 
-- Our second year we have increased performance in each of the above categories over first year results. 
--We have planned events, arranged animal transport, solicited donations of all equipment, tracked our results, participated in marketing, and maintained websites to communicate event schedules to fosters and volunteers
-- We have, as a team, made a concerted effort to help MCAS staff with adoption support functions like help with kennel cards, animal inventories, tracking long-term animals, heartworm and FeLuk testing, on-line inquiries and data input for off-site adoptions.

However, I cannot support the current change in direction to a “low-kill” goal.  We can do better and the animals depend on us to do so.   A no-kill goal is non-negotiable.  Our resources are too valuable to expend on a lesser goal. 

We need: 
--Leadership that believes it is possible to save all savable animals while maintaining quality of life for each and is dedicated to achieving this goal. 
--Full implementation all of the programs as identified in the No-Kill Equation ( 
--A means by which volunteers can participate in the development of policies and programs for their shelter. 
--An adoption program that is a primary shelter program with substantive shelter support. 
Animal inventories that are accurate (including fail-proof identification of animals) and used as the basis for formulating needed programs & marketing strategies. 
--Kennel cards that are complete, informative (including owner turn-in information) and accurate.
--Promised adoption services provided in an efficient manner so that animals can be competitively marketed to the public. 
--A fail-proof system to assure Spay/Neuter compliance. 
-- Appropriate goals set and progress toward them measured and communicated publicly.

It is time to get serious about implementing the only programs shown to be effective in saving all savable animals while maintaining quality of life.  Shelters that have accomplished this say that it does not take four years or five years nor does it does require privatization.  It does require the right goals, a determined, accountable management & staff and an engaged public, working diligently, and with integrity, to organize this shelter to support all necessary programs.  I’m sure that this is possible for MCAS.

                  The selfish part of me wants her to continue.  But Ms. M. is adamant that the management of the MC Animal Shelter has reneged on promises to dedicate resources toward making the Shelter no-kill.  I understand her concerns, and hope that I'll be able to work with her in her next endeavor.  For the moment, she plans to take a well-deserved sabbatical and spend time with her family.

                  I have had the honor of working with Ms. M. for almost two years, and her dedication and energy has always amazed me.  I will miss doing Off-Sites with her.  It won't be the same.

                  At any rate, I'm not exactly sure what my future with the Shelter will be--right now I am in a "hold" pattern due to High School Band commitments through the end of October.

                  I have one foster dog, the awesome Chihuahua senior, Mrs. Puff.  I'm working to find her a home.  She is a great dog who deserves her own home.  Of course, she thinks she already has a home.  Here she is scratching a food dish to let me know that a treat might be appropriate.

                  My other Chihuahua foster, the incorrigible but cute "L'il Dude" is now with Dakota Rescue.  He'll get neutered then he'll be put up for adoption.  I delivered him to his new foster mom in late September.  I'll post an update when I have one.

                  Meanwhile, my own dog, Chopper, recently adopted from the Shelter, came inside one day with a severe squint in his left eye.  I figured he'd poked himself on the shrubbery while trying to get at the neighbor's Labradoodle on the other side of the fence.  When the squint didn't ease up, I decided to take him to my Vet.  Dr. Williams did a stain and we saw a 2mm "hole" in the cornea.  I had to administered antibiotic eye drops and tablets, but the hole has healed quickly and Chopper is back to his normal self.

                  Thursday, September 16, 2010

                  No Kill vs Train-Wreck Dogs

                   This dog is probably a great dog.
                  Photo and caption by Angela Palance,a tireless advocate for the dogs at the Montgomery County Texas Animal Shelter.

                  I'll be honest:  I'm not a total convert to Nathan Winograd's vision of a No-Kill Nation.  It's not that I don't want all Shelters to be "no-kill", but it's that I'm not convinced it is an achievable goal.  Or even the right goal.  But Winograd and his supporters brand folks like me as "part of the problem."  We're the "nay-sayers,"  blocking the path to a swoony no-kill paradise where puppies and kittens are loved forever and ever in homes that make PetsMart managers giddy with joy.

                  Just because I have some reservations, doubts or unanswered questions shouldn't make me the enemy.  I've put a lot of sweat and tears in animal rescue work.  I look at what flows through the doors of the Shelter and wonder what compels us to insist that dogs like the ones below are "adoptable."

                  Here is a sample of what you'll find in the Adoption Rooms this week:
                  • Pit Bull mixes with heavy heartworm.
                  • Untrained, barely socialized young Lab mixes who will yank your arms from the sockets.
                  • Elderly Labs who aren't housebroken.
                  • Anxiety-riddled Rat Terriers.
                  • Chihuahuas that look like genetic mish-mashes.
                  Checkers  is falling apart in the Shelter. I can't foster him until my husband leaves for his next business trip because this poor little guy is so anxious he just can't stop barking.  It's Shelter stress.

                  Most of our dogs have at least one and often more health conditions, including (but not limited to) mange, flea dermatitis, giardia, worms, or bad teeth.  And almost all of our dogs come with unknown (and unknowable) health and behavioral histories.

                  Who in their right mind wants these dogs?  Who on earth can afford to treat and care for these dogs?

                  And don't think I'm just a heartless cynic.  I know what these dogs cost because I just adopted one, my Miniature Pinscher, Chopper, who joined our pack this summer.  Chopper was an ideal adoptable candidate from our Shelter.  He was already neutered when he arrived, and he received a rabies booster, a heartworm test, microchip, and the Parvo-Distemper shot, plus Strongid for worms.

                  Chopper, my own personal (and much-loved) train-wreck dog.

                  However, Chopper is heartworm positive--so I need $400 to $600 to treat that.  He's got one rotten tooth that needs to be pulled at some point (say, $300 or so if I get the tartar scraped while he's under), plus he was positive for giardia.  Once my adoption was final, I spent $300 getting Chopper Vet-checked, including a leptospirosis vaccine, fecal smear, urine culture and a blood work panel to make sure he can handle the heartworm treatment and the tooth-removal.  I bought two antibiotics, heartworm prevention tabs, flea meds and a round of de-wormer.  These were not out-of-the-ordinary expenses.

                  Nathan Winograd can talk all he wants about "no-kill" policies, but the one hitch in his giddy-up, the thing that he doesn't address in his best-seller "Redemption," is whether all those wonderful Americans who would love to add a pet to their household are actually willing to put in the financial and physical work it takes to bring a Shelter dog around.  At the rate people keep bringing dogs in for owner-surrender, I don't think the American public is near as dog-friendly as Winograd paints it to be.

                  Li'l Dude, an un-altered Chihuahua boy is my latest foster.  He weighs all of six pounds.  He is anxious and very needy.  While crated for four hours, he managed to bend the wires on this crate with his teeth, and he chewed up the bed into 2-inch pieces of foam, plus, he got the plastic tray scooted part-way out so he could "push" the crate across the room.  He got hold of a cord to a foot control to the sewing machine (after "pushing" the crate) and chewed that up ($89--and I can't tell my husband), then he somehow finagled the door open and left poop surprises upstairs.  He was a very naughty boy.
                  To top it all off, he's not yet housebroken.  And he's a pushy little guy 'cause he's hung like a Clydesdale and has enough testosterone to equip a baseball team.  Since Li'l Dude needs to gain weight before he can be neutered, it's going to be awhile before he loses his family jewels.  I'm in conversation with a rescue group who might be able to take him.

                   Shelter dogs are no bargain.  In fact, they are a gamble. And the Shelter doesn't offer guarantees.

                  Consider the heartworm issue.  Our Shelter was offering the heartworm treatment vaccine for heartworm positive dogs, but that program has been tabled due to the expense to the County. Most likely, I'll be paying for the treatment at retail prices.  Meanwhile, at the Shelter, our current dog population is running about 40 percent heartworm positive.  So step right up and get yourself a dog, but be prepared to spend some serious money--and shoulder the risks that come with heartworm treatment. At least the dog will love you back.

                  And just so you don't think I'm totally against the good news as preached by Winograd, I'm signed up to go to the No-Kill Austin conference at the end of September. I'm willing to listen and be convinced.

                  Thursday, September 9, 2010

                  Shelter Update

                  We're working hard at the Shelter to get dogs and cats into fur-ever homes.  However, sometimes it feels like an uphill  battle.

                  Little Pic-a-Pepper

                  On Labor Day, I adopted "Pepper", my spunky little tri-color Chihuahua foster boy.  He's going to a home with a puppy mill-Papillon for a friend, and at-home owner who wanted a Chihuahua best friend.  Pepper hardly gave me a second glance as he left!

                  Then, yesterday, I was waiting to see the Shelter Vet, Dr. D.  He was conferring with a new adopter who had brought in a sweet Lab-mix puppy named Maya.  The dog was lethargic, shut down, feverish and wouldn't do much more than sleep, plus was suffering from loose stools and poor appetite.  When the pup's eyes began oozing green goop, the owner brought the dog in to try and figure out the problem.  The prognosis wasn't good--most likely distemper (Even I could tell--the dog's nose was runnning, and the pup had that stunned, woozy-eyed "Big D" look).  Dr. D. recommended euthanization, which at that point, was wise.  The owner agreed, on the condition (of course) that he could come back in a week or so to choose another dog.

                  Meanwhile, the Shelter is overrun with kittens and cats.  I heard, unofficially, that approximately 1,000 cats and kittens have made the trip to the EU room in the past few weeks.

                  We're running a big Off-Site push at four different PetsMart locations this week, as part of PetsMart's "Second Chance at Love" promotion.  The PetsMart Charities are giving larger donations to the Shelter for each pet adopted from September 6th through the 12th.  We're struggling with getting volunteers to work the weekday Off-sites--most have day jobs.  I've been hauling dogs and working Off-sites all week and am exhausted. My house is a wreck, and my husband is ready to throw a big ol' hissy fit.  Rain from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Hermione has slowed everything down.  Today, the storms have departed Houston, but the humidity and mosquitoes are back.

                  I brought home a tiny, russet-red boy Chihuahua last night. I took him to Off-site, then realized too late that he was ill.  He is very underweight, has upper respitory and God knows what else.  Plus he's un-altered.  He did eat last night, and has eaten this morning.  I don't know whether he'll make it or not.

                  Here is a video that was made, using footage shot in our Shelter a few weeks ago.

                  Since the beginning of summer, we have seen an increase in owner-surrenders and adoption-returns on dogs.  The owner-surrender dogs tend to fall apart in the Shelter encvironment.  I have been taking Checkers, a five or six year old Rat Terrier to Off-sites.  He thinks I'm his savior and he shrieks in his kennel if I walk out of sight, which annoys the PetsMart manager.  The store manager is not happy to have us there, but we help increase sales--one of my adopters yesterday spent $96 buying supplies, including a dog crate.  I spent $40 both this week and last week buying supplies for my dogs and fosters.  It irks me when we can't have what should be a win-win relationship with PetsMart.

                  Once this PetsMart deal is done this weekend, we'll be back to our regular schedule--primarily weekend events.  I just wish the stream of dogs and cats arriving at the Shelter would ease up.

                  Tuesday, August 31, 2010

                  Dogs vs Men

                  This is a video from Pawsitively Texas, a local web hub serving the Houston Metro area. It's short and cute. Watch it!

                  Saturday, August 28, 2010

                  Bow Wow Bash & The Pet Psychic

                  First, the caveat:  I am not a true believer in pet psychics, but there is that "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!" part of me that absolutely wishes, really, really that it could be true.  If someone asked me to clap my hands so a dog could talk to a pet psychic, I'd do it.

                  Thus said, this afternoon, I had the honor of meeting Sonya Fitzgerald, the famous animal communicator who dominated the cable station "Animal Planet" a few years back.

                  Ms. Sonya was the guest at our shelter's super sponsors, the awesome Barker Street Bakery in The Woodlands, TX.  The good folks at Barker hosted the "Bow Wow Bash," complete with a dog-themed jump house for the kids, a pet-food donation drive, and a raffle that included goodies such as a flat-screen TV and a big leopard-print dog bed filled with treats and toys.  More than $2,600 was raised for the Friends of the Montgomery Animal Shelter, one of the non-profits who help our Shelter dogs by providing funds for Veterinary care and other needs. What a phenomenal fundraiser!

                  I took my bouncy little foster Chihuahua, Pepper, to the event, hoping to find him a home.  Ms. Sonya was inside the store, talking to folks and their pets.  I joined the line of devoted pet owners and their well-loved dogs, including a Catahoula mix wearing a devil costume, extra-fluffy Pomeranians, and Shelter rescues that included a distemper-survivor Spaniel mix who had severe tremors in her back legs.

                  Doggy cookies spell out the event name.

                  Ms. Sonya Fitzpatrick was a huge hit with all the dogs and their people, graciously greeting more than two dozen pets and their owners.  Ms. Sonya wasn’t doing full readings, but she did convey things that were on the various dogs’ minds.
                   We meet Sonya Fitzgerald.
                   Pepper was a very good boy, considering the crowded store, antsy dogs and delicious treats and toys on display.  When our turn came, I put him on the table.  I had on my MCAS apron and I told Ms. Sonya he was my foster Shelter dog. I had written “ADOPT ME” on a shipping tag and attached it, a lá Alice in Wonderland’s famous “DRINK ME” order, and he’d already gotten many compliments and had his photo taken.
                  Ms Sonya said Pepper wanted me to know these things:  “He wants to stay at your house.  He loves it there.  He likes everybody and he feels so loved.  He doesn’t want to go with anyone else because he loves you best and most and you will cry if someone else takes him.” (Pepper is right, of course, but anyone could have told me that!)
                  Ms. Sonya promised to “tell” him that I will find him the best home for him and that I’ll always love him.
                  Pepper asked what happened to the other dog who was visiting.
                  That had to be Tucker, I said, completely, totally captivated, in spite of myself.  I asked Ms. Sonya to tell Pepper that Tucker was now home with his Mommy and that we were only babysitting.  Then I asked if Pepper had anything to say about an older female dog.
                  “He says she’s rude,” Ms. Sonya said before I even finished.  “Rude, rude, rude.  Quite the rudest dog he’s ever met and he doesn’t like her, not at all.”  I’m not sure if Pepper meant Mrs. Puff my senior Chi or Cross my little Rat Terrier mix, who had been very bossy toward him at first, but now is willing to wrestle.
                  Then I asked if Pepper liked the name we had given him.  Ms. Sonya said that he likes all the names I call him. (I pick out a name, but call most of my fosters by sweetie-names like "Snickers", "Pup-Pup" and "Little Dude" or the like.  Pepper told Ms. Sonya that likes it that I talk to him and the other dogs all the time. (I do).  But most of all he liked it when he got to sleep with me (I let him snuggle with me on the couch and once in bed).  That was the best thing.
                  Pepper also told her that he is a good barker, a very good barker.  (I have to agree with that).  Pepper also said he is a very good guard dog and that I need him to do that job for me.  He didn’t want to go home with anyone else today. 
                  There were many personalities at the Bash, including this Rottie Mix named "Hooker." I have never seen a dog willingly wear real shoes.  She could walk with them on, too.  Compared to this sweet girl, my own dogs lead very dull lives!
                  I know it’s silly, but I just got emotional about the whole thing.  Ms. Sony thanked me for the work I do for these dogs and we made our exit.  It's no matter whether her talent is real or not.  The hard-working volunteers and generous donors pulled off a great event--Pepper got his photo taken for the newspaper, which may help him find the home he deserves, and I got to meet a celebrity who made me feel just a bit special. What's not to like?
                  "Sign" photo courtesy of TVindy.  Photo of Pepper with Ms. Sonya and me--taken on my camera by a girlfriend.

                  Friday, August 27, 2010

                  Interesting Changes in the Breed

                  I bookmarked this video some time ago, but it's well-worth watching, even though the video quality is not the best.  What you will see is the transformation of a sturdy, big-headed, straight-backed working dog into a sloped or roached-back dog with a much light structure and a much weaker hindquarters.

                  Put together by a breeder of German Shepherds, this video compares photos of champions over time--from the 1940s to the early 2000s.  It's mind-boggling to see how drastically the breed has changed in both the "American" and "German" lines.  No wonder modern show-quality GSDs wobble so much as they walk.

                  Friday, August 20, 2010

                  This is a Bait Dog

                  While there is no blood or raw flesh, these photos may be upsetting for some people.

                  The only natural white fur on this dog is the white on his throat.

                  Meet "Scrappy" (not his 'real' name, as his foster plans to find a better one).  He is a silver-blue, full blood American Pit  Bull Terrier.  He is young, crate-trained, eager-to-please, good with cats, house-trained and just a tad protective of his people.  Oh, and he doesn't fight.

                  That is, he doesn't fight or assert himself with other dogs.  Hence, his scars. Scrappy is a "bait dog"--he was used to give fighting Pit Bulls more confidence.  Turned in as a stray (what did you expect?) Scrappy arrived with raw wounds, badly infected cropped ears and a swollen leg due to a severe wound.
                  The worst scars are on his neck and hindquarters.

                  At first it was assumed  Scrappy would  be euthanized, but somehow he made it to a foster home.  His wounds are healing, although many of the scars will never regain hair, and others are coming in with white fur instead of silver.  He is gaining weight and will soon be neutered.

                  Scrappy is living, breathing testimony to the horrors of dog-fighting.  To know that this big, sweet, lug of a dog had no other purpose than to serve as a target for training other dogs is to see the proof in how a superbly people-oriented, eager-to-please breed can be manipulated into performing as a fighting machine.  Scrappy wasn't "game" but dogs like him suffer just as much as the game "champions" in the ring.  The scars are testimony to the courage of Pit Bulls, but it is the breed's courage that has been a burden.  It's a shameful thing that a dog like Scrappy has had to endure so much.

                  Thursday, August 19, 2010

                  The Chihuahua Whisperer

                  She's short, pudgy and middle-aged.  Tiny dogs adore her.  Their teeth and barking are only temporary obstacles.  She takes these little critters with huge Napoleon complexes and teaches them how to be loving lap dogs.  She is...The Chihuahua Whisperer.

                  BTW, these are the Chi's I've fostered since I started working with The Montgomery County, Texas, Animal Shelter (MCTAS).  I've also adopted out other Chihuahuas and Chi-mixes at Off-Site events.  I admit it:  I am addicted to tiny dogs. :)

                  Monday, August 16, 2010

                  Don't Pity the Shelter Dog

                  Okay, it's an advertising line for Pedigree Dog Food, but it's true--don't pity the Shelter dog.
                  Pity never helped anyone, dog or person.  Pity is easy, cheap and pointless.  The key is to do something.  I always have to tamp down the inclination to get hacked off when people come up to our Off-Site animals and say, "Oh, I could never do you what you are doing."

                  It's not rocket science, folks.  It's not a 26-mile foot race.  It's not a solo piano concert at Carnegie hall.  It's just taking some sort of action.  I know there are many reasons why some animal lovers can't do some aspects of the sort of volunteer work I do--allergies, parental responsibilities, incompatible work schedules, a reluctant spouse.  You know, life stuff.

                  But don't give me lame excuses and expect me to absolve you of your pity.  I don't have the time.  It's hot out right now.  The dogs are arriving in greater numbers at the Shelter.  Those in charge of the County coffers are having second thoughts about taking the Shelter to a No-Kill position.  Fosters are in short supply.  Things are tough all over, and pity doesn't help.

                  So, here's what you can do next time you see me at an Off-Site event:  Put some money in the damn donation jar.  Or offer to walk a dog.  Buy a box of dog biscuits or a leash or a collar, and donate them to the cause so I don't have to buy these things each week.  If I'm by myself at the Off-site,  offer to sit and just watch the animals so I can go take a bathroom break.  These are the easy things, things you can do anytime you see animal rescue volunteers with adoptable dogs and cats at PetsMart, Petco, or other public places.  These things are helpful.

                  Of course, you could volunteer your time to foster an animal.  "Oh, I'd never be able to give them up if I fostered one," I hear people say.  Nonsense.  You're not taking the animal to keep.  You are providing a crate, a bed, good food, a bath, a routine, some basic training, and some love.  It's not that complicated. Okay, it's a lot more complicated if you take a sick, injured animal, or a litter of puppies, or a clutch of tiny kittens that need to be bottle-fed, but we have so many animals in need that you have your pick.  You don't have to take on the worst case right out the chutes.

                  Foster homes improve a dog's chances of being adopted.  A clean, exercised, well-fed dog is much more likely to find a home.  A dog with any kind of a "history"--information a foster learns about the dog's temperament and needs--is much more adoptable.  Sure, you take the risk of having a "foster fail" (when you end up keeping the foster animal), but there are folks who can help you avoid that if you feel so tempted.  Besides, we all have foster fails.

                  If you can't do any the things I've suggested, at least do these things:

                  1.)  Spay or neuter all your pets.  The world does not need another litter of puppies or kittens.
                  2.)  Don't buy from roadside breeders or "puppy stores."
                  3.)  Make sure your dog is taking monthly heartworm prevention.
                  4.)  Microchip your pet and register the number.
                  5.)  Don't let your dog run loose.  Don't keep your dog all day long in a backyard unless you have a properly constructed kennel with shade, shelter and fresh water and food.
                  6.)  Don't chain your dog.
                  7.)  Train your dog so he or she can be a good member of your family.

                  Above all, don't ever pity the Shelter dog.  Adopt one.  Foster one.  Or donate your time and money.  It's not hard to help.

                  Thursday, August 12, 2010

                  Doing it for the Dogs, Not for the Rush

                  Today’s post on Dogs Deserve Freedom made me want to commit to print a theory I’ve long held about the nature of animal-rescue volunteers.  People who are attracted to animal rescue are passionate, committed, prone to seeking justice and, above all, they are addicted to the rush.  Yes, the rush.  The high.   We’re in for the dogs, but the rush is exhilarating.  It’s really what drives us.

                  Animal rescue is as exciting and unpredictable as car racing (Yes, I’m reading “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”). When I get a dog out of the kill room, or pull a sick animal through a deadly illness, or place a dog with a good family, I feel the rush.  The adrenaline kicks in when we walk into the Shelter, and it ratchets upward when we are confronted with the evidence of a throw-away society.  I feel like a superhero—although it pains me to admit it—when I pull a dog from a kennel.  And the dogs worship me.  I bask in their neediness.  In some ways, I can’t help it—I’m a long-time volunteer, a parent and a recovering co-dependent.

                  Working a good 12-step program and maturity have helped me to identify my danger zones—the times when I’m too close, too enmeshed, and too focused.  That’s when I have learned to draw back and take deep breath and remember why I am doing animal rescue:  I’m doing it for the dog.  One dog at a time.  Okay, maybe two or three at a time.  I have done it for Queenie, JoJo, Aribella (those are the ones who died).  I have done it for Dancer, Snowy, Rusty, Riley, Chloe, and countless others.  But if I’m honest, it always comes back to the rush.  That rush just feels so good.  It makes me feel so alive.

                  The urge to seek the rush is why I think that animal rescue groups have such difficulty working together.  Each person firmly, passionately believes that his or her way of doing animal rescue is the best way to “save” dogs.  I call it the “Most-est Right-est” Syndrome.  In short, MY way is the RIGHT way to save the animal.  The rush is calling us.

                  Because it is so difficult for the animal rescue volunteer to compromise, or even to entertain the idea that there may be more than one “right” way to do things, groups view each other as the “enemy.”  Shelter staff people are “evil”—callous, uncaring, curt and harsh.  Breed Rescue groups are “greedy”, cherry-picking the “best” dogs and leaving the train wrecks in the Shelter.  Shelter volunteers are “lone wolf” types, preferring to run their own Off-Sites their own ways.  The fund-raising group feels that the Off-site volunteers are “cheating” them of donations.  The person who is “Most-est Right-est” generally sets the agenda, and sometimes that agenda isn’t all that good for the animals.  However, the moment an agenda is set, the in-fighting begins again.  It’s all about the rush.

                  People bristle if any sort of structure or cooperation is suggested.  I have watched volunteers accuse other volunteers of “animal cruelty”.  In the Shelter or at an Off-site, you can come home feeling like you’ve run a marathon.  You feel vindicated, victorious.  The rush is so addictive.

                  I watch as our groups, splinter and re-splinter, fracturing like cracks in ice floes, cleaving off and creating new groups that will crack, fracture and cleave yet again.  What is my defense?  Well, I try to keep to the focus on the animal, the individual dog.  I remind myself by keeping a collar filled with tags and bells from animals I’ve helped.  I take photos, most of which are never posted on-line, to help me remember the dogs.

                  My goal is to keep my focus where it should be, which is on what's best for each dog.  By doing animal rescue volunteer work, I can make  life better, even if just for a brief moment, for one dog.

                  I wish our groups could cooperate more.  I try to keep an open mind.  I try to work for the greater good, even when inside, I feel my own way is “Most-est Right-est.”  I try to remember that isn’t about me.  It isn’t about the rush, it’s about the dogs.

                  Wednesday, August 11, 2010

                  Old Dogs

                  I feel the worst for the old dogs who come into the Shelter. The ones like Mrs. Puff, the old Chihuahua surrendered two weeks ago.

                  No one noted any remarks beyond "owner surrender" on her intake paperwork. She is heartworm negative, so someone was caring for her, at least that much. But not enough to keep her to the end of her days.

                  She is so self-contained, so fully aware--she watches me and I can hear her thoughts:

                  You are nice, but...
                  The couch is comfy, but...
                  I like your grass, but...
                  The food is good, but...

                  Sometimes it is difficult to meet her gaze, which is intensely direct and unflinching. Her ears stand up like bat wings, and she follows my movements with her gaze, clouded though it is due to beginnings of cataracts.

                  I wonder if her owner thinks about her. I know Mrs. Puff has thought hard about her person. I know the first day I met Mrs. Puff, she was looking for her person. We were at an Off-Site at the local cinema-complex, a place I'm sure Mrs. Puff had never been. But she had a purpose--she was, like the Blues Brothers, on a mission from God.

                  All day, in spite of the heat, she padded forward, first one direction, then the next, walking as far as the leash would permit, her gaze direct and unflinching, her bat-wing ears perked forward, listening. Her confidence was palpable. Her person would come.

                  I took her home. I've fed her, gotten her on a potty schedule, fixed a bed by the dresser in my bedroom since she complains if she's crated. I've given her meds for kennel cough, cleaned out her ears, and dosed her with benadryl when her itchies become too bothersome. I've placed an ad extolling her virtues, but no one has responded. I am not her person. I am her foster.

                  Two days ago, I sensed a shift in Mrs. Puff. A flicker of depression. An awareness that her person is not coming. Now she is focused fully on me, on my daughter, and my son. She wants her bed in a certain spot. She wants help onto the couch. She wants her food. She has surrendered her heart to me. And it makes my heart ache to know this.

                  Saturday, August 7, 2010

                  More Chihuahua Mayhem

                  This elegant old lady Chi is one of my foster dogs--and I've named her "Mrs. Puff". 

                  I don't know why we've had so many Chihuahuas and Chi-mixes come through the Shelter as of late--but these tiny dogs seem to be everywhere.  Mrs. Puff is the most even-tempered Chi I've ever seen--she doesn't quake, shake, nip, snarl, cringe or growl.  Instead, she sits as serene as a queen, and steps right up to be petted by men, women and courteous children.  An owner surrender, Mrs. Puff was one of our "Red Carpet" dogs who attended a publicity event held at our local cineplex to coincide with the opening of the movie "Cats and Dogs 2:  The Revenge of Kitty Galore."  Mrs. Puff strolled down the carpet with the grace of a true diva.

                  Mrs. Puff was dignified and calm during our "Red Carpet" Event.
                  So what if her teeth are not so great, and she's got the beginnings of cataracts, and she's got the luxating patella thing so common with small dogs. Mrs. Puff is but is chipper and alert.  Her hearing is excellent and what she likes best is to sit under the computer desk in a cozy bed (she's there right now) or camp out on the couch.  She's not the prettiest or smallest Chihuahua, but she's got some good years left.  As one of the Shelter workers quipped, "She could spend the next five years walking toward the white light."  I thought I'd found a family for her, but they decided she was too old.  She's probably about 10.  Mrs. Puff would make a great couch companion for a retired person or couple and she'd be happy to let the grandkids (under direction) love on her.
                  This cute little "Chuggle" got adopted during our "Red Carpet" Event.

                  We're seeing a lot of Chi-mixes--the craze for "designer dogs" seems to have no end.  We've had Chuggles (Chihuahua-Pug) and "Chi-weenies" (Chihuahua-Dachshund) and plenty of BYB stock.
                  A typical "oversize" Chihuahua at our Fourth of July event.  This guy has a new home.

                  A cute little Chi-Weenie struts her Red Carpet style.

                  Little Teencie, now "Bella" (which happens to be the most popular dog name EVER, thanks, no doubt, to the Twilight enterprise!) has found her home, and according to reports, she had to be "disciplined" (i.e., removed from her new owner's lap and put on the floor for a stern scolding) when she started getting too bossy.

                   "Teencie" with her new owner at the FM 1488, PetsMart, Magnolia, TX.

                  And she's only four pounds of Chihuahua fierceness.  Teencie was the one the Shelter staff nick-named "Piranha" for her nippy ways.
                  And we get the sad cases like this poor, toothless old Chihuahua, photographed by a Shelter worker.

                   This kind of surrender is the sort that infuriates the Shelter staff and volunteers--tossing away a dog at the end of its days. I believe this dog went to rescue.

                  As for the rumor that all we have at our Shelter are big Lab-mixes and Pit Bulls, I'm here to say, if you want a small dog--including Rat Terriers, Dachshunds, small terriers or other "toy" breeds, you can find them at the Montgomery County Texas Animal Shelter.

                  Thursday, August 5, 2010

                  Meet Our New Dog

                   Tony Tony Chopper
                  I finalized the adoption today of a stag red Miniature Pinscher from the Montgomery County Texas Animal Shelter.  Meet our newest dog, "Tony Tony Chopper".  I didn't name him, my 16-year-old daughter did, after a character in the Japanese pirate-themed anime "One Piece."  If you aren't familiar with the show, don't feel bad!
                   At the Red, Hot and Blue Parade. Chopper has slimmed down since this photo.

                  I first saw Chopper in late June, and I thought at first he was "Rusty," a stag red MinPin I fostered last summer (detailed in an earlier post).  I took Chopper with me for the July 3rd Parade (also in an earlier post), where my husband decided to walk him. He liked the dog, and so I took Chopper home, gave him a bath, wormed him and put flea meds on him. My little rat terrier mix "Cross" seemed to like Chopper, too.  My son was away at college when Taco died, so he had been pestering me (even though he's almost 21) to get a MinPin puppy.  I don't do puppies.  Never have, never will.

                  I didn't want to force a decision about Chopper right away--we had a trip to New York City and Washington, D.C. planned for a week in early July--so I arranged for Chopper to go to another volunteer's house for four days, until my son could come get him (my son went with us to New York but came home because of his job).  By the time we got back home, Chopper was a part of the family.

                  My husband was calling him "Brown Dog" and we were waffling between "Sam" (no one liked it except for my husband), "Rusty" and even "Tucker" (the name of our other foster).  While we were in Washington, D.C., my daughter decided there would be no more discussion.  His name was "Tony Tony Chopper."  And that was that.
                  We love his velvety ears and big brown eyes.

                  I put off finishing the adoption on Chopper because I had to decide if we were ready to take him on--he's probably about four, and he's heartworm positive.  He's going to our Vet tomorrow (I've decided to stick with Dr. Williams at VCA, but that's a topic for another post).  I'm going to have them check his blood under a microscope for filaria and probably do a general workup.  He's on the Shelter list for the 2-shot treatment, but that program is on hold (again) until the Constable (who is the County official in charge) decides how to pay for it.

                  Chopper isn't going to "replace" Taco, but we like MinPins, and he's the first one to come in at the Shelter. He's affectionate without being clingy and gets on well with other dogs, which is great for my fosters.  We can take him to pet events or the dog park--things that were hard to do with Taco.  He's small enough to sleep with my son or daughter.  He is a little barkier than he was at first, but that's okay.  He loves to play with chew toys, but doesn't get ugly or bitey when you take them from him.
                   Cross likes Chopper, too.
                  And Cross once again is enjoying her walkies.  She had become pokey about walking alone--she and Taco were deeply bonded, even though they didn't sleep with each other or play together.  Everyone, including Chopper, is happy.

                  Tuesday, August 3, 2010

                  I Have a Dilemma

                  Tucker, a little butterscotch-colored terrier mix, has been in foster care since May 3rd, but he has some major issues.  On the plus side, he's a little guy, under 20 pounds.  He is loving, playful and lives to chase squirrels (he has a huge beagle-like bark for such a small dog). We treated Tucker for heartworms with the 2-shot protocol, and he's well-recovered from that experience, but he has proven to be unreliable as far as housebreaking.

                  He stayed at my house from May through the middle of June.  I had a lot of trouble with him at my house, in spite of crating, in spite of walking him on leash, in spite of taking him out on a sensible schedule and watching to make sure he did his business.  I'm not a beginner in the housebreaking department, but this was a dog who was a poop-making machine and a two-to-three time pee-er with each outside visit.  And he would still mark or poop inside.  And sometimes, he would poop in his crate.  While there could be some underlying health issue, we're stuck--the Shelter doesn't run labs for routine things and there hasn't been money for comprehensive workups on an otherwise apparently healthy dog.  But Tucker's potty habits aren't the only problem.

                  Tucker is also a chewer.  He loves rawhides, and Nylabones, although I eliminated those right off while trying to solve the poop problems.  But in the two months he was at my house, he could slip away, just for a few minutes, and find stuff to chew up--earbuds, earphones, underpants--the usual stuff dogs love.  However, he also chewed up a vintage stuffed toy animal that was from my childhood.  He did this while I let him nap with me on top of my bed one rainy afternoon.  He somehow did this while snuggled in my arms without me realizing it--and I'm not that hard of a sleeper!  Okay, so that was my bad, and I learned that he can't sleep on or in the bed.

                  In addition to these tough but normally manageable bad habits, Tucker has some odd anxieties.

                  He seemed to "forget" every single day that my husband lived in the house.  He would charge, barking and lunging (all 15-pounds of him) at my husband each evening when he came home. Or each time he came in door on the weekend.

                  The normal approaches to this fearfulness didn't work.  Leashing and correcting didn't seem to make a difference.  We'd do the calm correction routine (like the successful parts on "The Dog Whisperer") at the door, and during the repetitions, and gradual movement to my husband walking in the door, Tucker would do fine.  Then he'd lapse again the next day.  Like a memory slip.

                  He was fine in the crate and okay on the leash with my husband--although my husband noted several times that Tucker seemed like an unusually clumsy and uncoordinated dog.  I, too,  noticed that Tucker could not keep to a heel without getting tangled in the leash, no matter how I held it.

                  When my son arrived home from college, Tucker treated him like he was the biggest, baddest, scariest guy on the planet.  And my son, who loves dogs and is a big soft-hearted lug of a kid, was crushed.  He took it personally, and got upset.  In fact, he practically cried over it one point, wailing, "Why doesn't this dog like me, Mom?"
                   My son likes to hold a dog and surf the web or play video games.

                  Tucker's inability to adjust to my husband and son made it impossible to keep him in my house as a foster, especially when combined with the housebreaking and chewing.  I figured that I was the one at fault and hoped that Ms. N., Tucker's "sub-foster" since June 17th, could help Tucker with his issues.  She has a very anxious Aussie mix girl and  a deaf Aussie boy, and has brought both of these dogs around.  She is an experienced dog person.

                  I gave Ms. N. pretty much full disclosure (I left out the vintage toy animal bit) and she was confident she could work with him.  She got his stools firmed up (not only was the quantity amazing, his stools remained soft even after the heartworm treatment was finished) with cottage cheese and pumpkin.  She got him to keep his crate clean.  He was having fewer accidents.  He loved playing with Ms. N.'s dogs

                  However, Ms. N., brought home another foster.  This guy was newly fixed and marked a few times, so Tucker began marking again.  Or so Ms. N. thought.  Now Tucker has completely backslid.  He's peeing and pooping in the house again.  He's torn up blinds and cushions, and is falling apart if he is crated.  We have to decide what we are going to do next.

                  The problem is that he is still a Shelter dog.  The Shelter doesn't do exploratory lab work, or behavior-rehab or place dogs in sanctuaries.  The Shelter dogs get basic vetting and a rough behavioral review (not a real evaluation by an expert). As it stands, Tucker is not readily adoptable at this point unless he is consigned to living outside (which is probably all he had done before in his short life--he's less than two years old).

                  We have to select an option that doesn't involve a lot of money.  I'm going to to go over Tucker's case in full detail with Ms. N. One nagging fear that I've had ever since I brought Tucker home is that he is a distemper survivor.  He has always seemed just a little off in a neurological sense.  I don't know what it takes (besides more money than I have to spend on him) to determine what is behind his behavior, but we have to do something.

                  If you have had experience with a dog like Tucker and can offer any suggestions, please leave me a comment.

                  Sunday, July 25, 2010

                  Saturday Shelter Snapshots

                  Time for another round-up of Shelter snapshots:
                  1.      Hawt Dogs & Hot Dogs.  Dedicated volunteers donated money, PR and time to help mount the “Hawt Dogs & Hot Dogs” mega-adoption event on July 24th.  Sleek, pointy-topped white catering tents sprang up in front of the Shelter, while café umbrellas sprouted in the fenced-in play area. Balloons and banners announced the event and a full complement of volunteers and Shelter employees flung up the Shelter to highlight the dogs and cats needing new homes. 

                  Long-term dogs, our “Diamonds in the Ruff” were available at special adoption rates, and hot dogs donated by our local James Coney Island franchise were available (donations encouraged) as snacks.  Sixty-nine animals left the Shelter on Saturday, including 14 foster animal placements and three animals transferred to rescues.  About 10 of our long-term animals found new homes.
                  2.      Overheard at the Shelter.  A college-age girl, with her parents in tow, was looking for a dog—preferably a Chihuahua.  The dog had to be under 5 pounds.  When I asked about the severe weight restriction (a necessity since our average Chihuahua weighs in around 8 pounds), the girl said that her Sorority in Austin didn’t allow any dog over 5 pounds. 

                  A vision of Paris Hilton and her little Chi flashed through my head, and I couldn’t stop myself from asking if the girl realized how challenging it would be to care for a dog while she’s in college.  “We’ve got four dogs!” the girl replied.  When I asked if she realized that Chihuahuas are prone to house-breaking difficulties, her mother snapped, “We’ve got a 21-year-old Chihuahua and he never has accidents.”  In my experience, it’s the rare Chi that is truly, fully housebroken.  We didn’t have anything that small (fortunately) and so I turned the family over to a different volunteer before I really said something snarky.  The last thing a college-age kid in a Sorority house needs is a dog.  As I passed by the girl’s father, he said, “Thank you,” in a low, grateful voice that let me know he and I were in agreement.
                  3.      Pyrenees-Anatolian Shepherd Mixes.  Both the Great Pyrenees and the Antolian Shepherd are common big dog breeds in our part of Texas, used primarily to guard goats and sheep.  Our local Craigslist generally has at least one listing for “Great Pyrenees-Anatolian Shepherd mixes".  Recently, a young Anatolian mix came in as a stray at the Shelter.  You could tell from the dome of his head and the fluffy coat that Rufus (his kennel name) was a Pyrenees mix. 

                  Great Pyrs and Anatolians are just too damn smart, and they do poorly in the Shelter, quickly becoming despondent.  This big, young guy had closed down with depression.  He had lost weight and was suffering from abscessed areas near his dewclaws.  Two volunteers gave him a much-needed bath and spent an hour combing out his tangles.  Although Rufus perked up, he wouldn’t eat any canned food.  I was transporting for an Off-Site, so the Coordinator decided to take Rufus with us.  Our goal was to find him a foster home.  We had to drag him into PetsMart and I was concerned the managers would think we were bringing a sick dog to an Off-Site.  The dog flopped down into his crate, and stared dimly out into space. 

                  However, a couple came by and were immediately smitten.  They offered to foster him, and after filling out the paperwork , the husband had to pick up the dog and carry him to the parking lot.  He spread his army fatigues across the back cargo area of his SUV, explaining he was a former Green Beret.  Then he hefted the dog into the rear cargo space, patted him softly and said, “Now we we’re off to Best Friends [a local Veternarian’s office] before they close.  Thank goodness for those who step up to help dogs like Rufus.

                  Photos courtesy of the MCAS Facebook page, located here

                  Monday, July 12, 2010

                  D.C. with Dogs

                  We are on vacation, and my little dog and all my fosters are at their get-away digs, too!  In fact, the MinPin, "Sam" is now back at my house with my college-age son, who had to head home to work. Sam's foster mom said he was well-behaved at her house (she has seven dogs, including fosters and rescue transients).

                  We spent four days in New York City and are now in Washington, D.C., staying with my sister-in-law, who works high up in the FBI.  This cute little Chihuahua was on tour with his owner at the Lincoln Memorial.  His owner says he goes out to see the D.C. sights almost every weekend, riding along in her backpack.

                  My daughter said I just had to have a "dog fix".  She was right--I felt better after seeing this cute little guy. re We' heading out to visit Arlington Cemetery today to pay our respect to those who have died for our freedom, then we're off to Mount Vernon.  Did George Washington have a favorite dog?  I plan to find out.

                  Tuesday, July 6, 2010

                  On The Hunt

                  Sometimes in the course of events it becomes necessary to take an excursion with members of the family.  As this is one of those times, I'll be away from my off-sites.  My own dog, Cross (AKA The Cutest Dog in the World) has gone to my Mom's house, to join the Chihuahua Pack.  Teencie and Tucker are still vacationing with their BFFs the Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mixes.  "Sam," the Miniature Pinscher who was my Rusty-look-alike is going to visit another MinPin named "Jake."  So, we'll BRB.

                  Monday, July 5, 2010

                  Fourth of July Off-Site Fail

                  I spent Fourth of July not grilling hot dogs, but dealing with hot dogs. 
                  First, let me say that I adore my Off-Site Team Coordinator.  She is energetic, enthusiastic, patient, persistent, and has the stamina of an Amazon warrior-priestess.  Like those hapless dudes from "Wayne's World", "I am not worthy!"  So, because I adore her, I agreed to help out this afternoon at an Adoption event held at the Unity Park in Magnolia, TX.

                  The park is so new it doesn't show up on Google Maps.  It was 25 miles from my house (not including a return trip to the Shelter).  On a Sunday afternoon. On the Fourth of July.  In 95 degree F, humid weather.  In the mud, since the park was just finished (and is located in the piney woods).  With two small tents for shade.  And about 14 dogs, three young kittens, a gaggle of teen-aged girl volunteers and a total of three volunteers (spread throughout the day, not all at once) plus my dauntless Team Coordinator.

                  As adoption events go, it was a FAIL.  Set-up began at 12:30 p.m.  I arrived at 3:00 p.m., bringing more water, four bags of ice and a storage bin of fleece blankets.  Magnolia is a small farm town in a rural area surrounded by a mix of low- and high-end subdivisions.  The primary attendees of this event were families who live in either Waller, Grimes or Montgomery County.  They are already dog owners.  They have cats.  And horses.  And goats.  And probably chickens, too, although I didn't ask.  They were very, very nice, and we had lots of help walking dogs.  But no adopters.  Not even nibbles.  Everyone appeared to have their quota of animals.
                  The little Chi-Mix in the middle was our only adoption today. 
                  The red Miniature Pinscher is my "Rusty" look-alike.  He is now my foster dog. 

                  Toward late afternoon, we did place a Chihuahua mix with a woman who lived nearby.  The little dog was worn out from a weekend whirl of off-sites.  I hope she won't throw up later tonight from the heat.  It was bloody hot.  We laid plastic ziplock bags filled with ice under the fleece blankets to keep the dogs cool.  We gave everybody (including ourselves) a lot of water.

                  The action picked up closer to evening--the park planned to host a fireworks show.  I saw people coming in with their dogs.  The dogs were oblivious to the fact that in an hour and a half, they would be barraged by fireworks noise.  *sigh* Some people don't think.

                  Take-down was hampered by a sudden, intense rain shower (thank you, Hurricane Alex).  Wet dogs, wet blankets, wet crates, wet tents.  And mud.
                   What it looks like to the kitteh under the van.

                  Then a young cat got loose (a tween girl helper lost her grip) and darted under my car to cower in the spare tire.  Three teenaged girls, the sorrowful tween helper, and a five-year-old boy who actually corralled the cat when it darted away from the teen-aged girls.  They were filming the whole scene with their phones.  It will probably be on YouTube.  It was very funny, really.  The young cat was unharmed.

                  Finally we were packed--dogs in a Volunteer's horse trailer, my van, and my Team Coordinator's van.  Plus the three young cats, the crates, the bins, the folding tables, two tents, and a bunch of very wet and stinky fleece blankets.  We pulled out of the muddy venue. We didn't get stuck.

                  We drove back to the Shelter on what in Texas are called "FM" (Farm-to-Market) Roads.  They are two-lane highways that are rapidly being widened to four lanes because of suburban growth. The are no streetlights and few stoplights.  In Texas, we like to drive fast.  My Team Coordinator drove fast.  The volunteer with the horse trailer drove fast, too.  I drove over the limit but was last in line.  I'm a coward.

                  A few miles from the Shelter, a State Trooper was parked in a dirt drive, hidden by pines.  In Texas, the State patrol cars are black, with a few white markings, and it was nearly dark--the gloaming.  The blue and red lights blazed.  The officer pulled over my Team Coordinator.  She was doing 65 in a 50 or 55 mph zone (the limits bounce around on this stretch of highway). The volunteer towing the horse trailer slowed down.  I was trailing and only had to lift my foot from the gas.  We didn't stop.  We continued to the Shelter.

                  The Shelter has a Twilight Zone air at night.  I hate going to the Shelter at night but, as I said, I adore my Team Coordinator.  At the Shelter, the Foster Coordinator, who is a paid employee of the county but who is has a Volunteer's never-quit attitude, was still there. It was almost 9:00 p.m.  I asked if she lived there. She just laughed.

                  Outside, there was popping and banging.  The big fireworks display put on by The Woodlands Township was underway.  From the Shelter, we could see bits of the sparkles.  The noise carried loudly on the humid air, and was augmented by the noise of the fireworks blown off by all the freedom-loving Texans in the loosely-governed subdivisions around the Shelter.  The dogs in the outside runs were barking non-stop.  But they were safely penned.
                   This is the "Dog Lady" van.  Tonight it smells like wet dog.

                  My Team Coordinator arrived a few minutes later.  She said the officer gave her a warning.  Her van was full of wet dogs.  She was soaking wet, head to toe.  She was grateful for the warning, but thought we would be laughing at her.  Not at all. We were just glad she got a warning. The officer must have felt sorry for the "dog lady."  That's what we are, you know.  We don't mind.  We're doin' it for the dogs, anyway.  And those ungrateful young cats, too.

                  Photo Credits:  Ribbon--scan from my own magnet; Kitteh--I Can Has Cheezeburger Hall of Fame; Police Lights:  The Interwebs.  Thank you Google Images.