For the Love of Shelter Dogs*

Lorenzo, Bella, Bella, Oliver, and Adoptions!
February 25, 2009, 1:44 pm
Filed under: Adoptions, General, Photo Day

Yesterday I brought my camera again, but the battery died within the first few minutes, so I was only able to take pictures of one of the Bellas.

I worked with Lorenzo again. He did pretty well. I was trying to get him out of the cage and one of the employees walked by and said “It’s like trying to leash a bear!” which is so true! Lorenzo is great once he’s outside, but in his cage he jumps and bites at the leash and pushes against you because he’s so impatient and just needs to go outside and relieve himself. He did really well once outside, though. I gave him a refresher course in “Sit, Shake, Lay Down” and he picked up on that quickly. The only quirk is that he’ll only shake if I offer the hand that has the kibble in it. Strange, but cute.

Bella was the next dog I took out. She’s relatively new and very cute. She’s a little bigger than the other Bella, so they’re easy to tell apart. She’s so sweet! All she wanted to do was get attention and belly rubs. She kept rolling over! Even when I tried to just pet her head she figured out a way to roll over and prop her body up on my legs. It was so cute,¬† but very strange looking.

I took out the other Bella next. She’s also very sweet and very submissive. She’s a little more playful though. She loves to get belly rubs, but she wants to play too! I took a couple pictures of her (and then my camera yelled at me to change the battery pack). Hopefully one of them will get accepted to iStock! I’m going to submit a few, and if they get rejected I’ll post them here. I have a folder for all of my images that have been rejected on Flickr. (

I also took out Prince (now renamed Ravi!). Ravi is Sanskrit for Sun. He’s kind of yellowey-sun colored, so I decided it fit. He’s doing a lot better. He’s come out of his shell and will come up to the door when I open it. He still cowers and shakes when I go up to him outside, but he’s getting better!

I took out Oliver (Ollie) right before I left. He’s one of my Damaged Dogs I’m trying to rehabilitate/train. He was doing really well a few weeks ago, then he had a breakdown and reverted. He’s a sweet sweet boy, but he gets himself so worked up and so frustrated he starts nipping or trying to grab my arm in his mouth. He doesn’t do it aggressively. I’ve also reported it to the staff and they know about it. They also know I’m working with him. We got him on the Neuter list for Friday, so hopefully “he’ll” be an “it” by the weekend! I think that’s a big part of his problem. Since he’s never had the opportunity to mate (he had just turned a year old when he came to the shelter as a stray) he’s got pent up frustration and urges that he can’t fulfill (as weird as it sounds, it’s true). It’s driving him crazy. So hopefully when he gets neutered, his frustration levels won’t build up any higher and I’ll be able to rehabilitate him.

Anyway, so I took Ollie out yesterday. I was kind of nervous (I usually leave bleeding from scratches after I take him out – not too much blood, but it’s still not pleasant), but I decided that it wasn’t fair for him to be stuck in the cage just because I was a little afraid. I’m not actually afraid of him. I’m afraid that if they see him go nuts, they’ll be forced to make the decision to euthanize him. He’s a good dog and deserves a chance, but if he gets used to the nipping, they may decide that his time’s up (and with good reason; the shelter can’t worry about a customer getting injured and suing).

I went into his cage with my back to him. I see other people try to leash him, and he gets worked up and starts nipping (they go at him face-first). He didn’t jump up at all on me because I didn’t acknowledge him until he was calmer (not calm-submissive, but it’s extremely difficult to achieve calm-submission inside the shelter). I slipped the leash over his head and tightened it up agaisnt his ears without looking at him. I opened the cage door and stood there facing the cage until he was calmer again. He tends to jerk my arm and drag me out of the kennel (he’ll walk pretty well on the leash after that initial jolt). Not this time! We walked side by side out to the door, where I made him sit, and then through the door and through the lobby and then outside to the pen. I had to let him stop to pee (he tries his best to hold it) and then we went (calmly!) into the cage. I let him off and we went about his business.

Ollie loves to play fetch. It’s the only way I can (safely) drain his energy at the shelter. I picked up a tennis ball (two, actually) and made him sit. I held it for a while until he wasn’t completely focused and obsessed, then I threw it. It’s taking him less and less time to unfocus himself from the ball. He raced after it, picked it up, and brought it halfway back. He never brings it all the way back. Usually I end up chasing him around, but I decided to just let him do what he wanted this time. He brought it back eventually, and I made him sit and relax before I’d throw the next one. We did this for a while, then he laid down and started chewing on the ball. Usually I don’t let him rest (he has SO much extra energy I need to drain, and I never have enough time to drain it), but I thought it would be good to just let him be. I went over to the lawn chair and sat down. I never sit down with Ollie in the cage. That makes him nervous, or something, and he gets himself worked up into his nipping phase.

He was still chewing the ball when I sat down. He looked up at me like I was a target. I sat up straight (and tried¬† to project calm-assertive energy) and he got up and played with the ball a while. Then he ran over and looked like he was about to jump up. I held up my hand and said “Shhht.” He sniffed my finger, then backed away.

He played a while longer, then I walked him calmly back inside. There were other dogs following us in, and while he was nuts about them, I could tug his leash and he’d turn around and not nip at me. He wasn’t socialized right as a pup, I think, and any kind of touch (petting, correction) usually makes him nervous and nippy. He did really well, and didn’t nip! I’m so proud of him.

So that’s my inspiring story for the week! I’m taking the rest of the week off (I’ve been really stressed out with my classes, so I need a break from everything and I need to sleep), but I’m hopefully going to be at the shelter Saturday and Sunday.

One last little bit of happiness: There were many good adoptions over the weekend! Nickel (a lab mix who’d been at the shelter since June) finally found a home. LadyBird (a sweet, calm hound mix) who’d been at the shelter since May got adopted. There were other great adoptions, but I’ve already made this blog too long!


Lorenzo, Bunker, Charo, and Prince
February 18, 2009, 6:01 pm
Filed under: General, Photo Day

Yesterday was another Photo Day. I didn’t take as many photos, but I love most of what I took. I only photographed Lorenzo, Charo, and Prince, and none of Charo’s pictures turned out! She was a little afraid of the camera.

I took Lorenzo out first. He’s one of my “project dogs.” I tend to fall for the untrained, crazy dogs who need training and lots of help. Lorenzo was one of these. The first time we took him out (his first day up in the adoption room), he spent most of the timing jumping up on us and biting our arms and hands. It was strange, and we said we’d never take him out again. Well, I just can’t let a project go. So I took him out a couple weeks ago and tried the Dog Whisperer technique (“biting” the neck with my hand) and it worked wonders. He learned very quickly that I didn’t want him to jump up. He also learned “sit” quickly, and now he’ll sit for a treat or a toy. He’s really a sweetie, now that he knows I don’t want him jumping up. I can pet him and love on him and he doesn’t try anything. It’s nice. He’s also very photogenic!



I took Bunker out next. He’s another project dog. I didn’t photograph him (he’s still a project in the works). He does the same thing Lorenzo used to do – jump, nibble, gnaw, and be kind of crazy. We had a huge breakthrough with him a couple weekends ago (used Dog Whisperer techniques, and we taught him to sit), and he was great last week – no jumping or nibbling or gnawing, but yesterday he had a bit of a set back. I had him out and he was doing very well. Then these people drove up in a big rumbling pickup truck and he kind of freaked out. He was friendly and wanted to say hi to them, and then when they left he “reverted” and started jumping and gnawing again. He doesn’t gnaw to hurt me, actually I’m not sure why he does it, but it’s really annoying. I corrected him and he was a little better before we went back inside.

They brought up new dogs yesterday. Charo was one of them. She’s a little terrier mix. I walked by her cage and she stood up on her back feet, folded her front legs to her belly, smiled, and wiggled. It was so adorable I just couldn’t resist taking her out! So I did, and I tried to take her picture, but the camera scared her. The best one I got of her:

Charo is a little lap dog!

Charo is a little lap dog!

I took Prince out next. He’s a new dog too. He’s a pretty big dog – not huge, but about the height of a tall Lab. I expected him to try to bust out of the kennel when I opened the door, but he didn’t. He didn’t move at all. He just looked up at me like “Please, don’t hurt me?” I closed the door and read his kennel card. Stray, about 2, a Yellow Lab mix. I opened the door again and bent down. He didn’t move that time either. I went into his cage and he shied away. I bent down with my side to him and held the leash out. He sniffed it and pulled away. I slid it over his head and led the way out to the front pens. He walked pretty well (most of the scared dogs cower and we end up having to carry them or take them back to their cages). I wanted to photograph him (sad scared doggy eyes make wonderful pictures) but he was afraid of the camera. I took a couple anyways.

Sweet Prince

Sweet Prince

I spent a little time with him out front, but he wouldn’t come anywhere near me and he cowered every time I walked up to him. I put the leash on him and took him to the small pens in the back so I could just sit with him in a small enclosed space. The poor boy was shaking the entire time he was outside. Whenever I put my hand on him he’d shake worse – and I mean real shaking, like he was vibrating or something. Eventually he laid down next to me and I petted him for a while. I hugged his head and that calmed the shaking a bit. Every human that passed by us (either right by our door, or through a few different fences) he would perk his head up as if he was thinking “Are you mine?” He looked so pathetic. He’s another project dog, because most people don’t want the shy dogs. I love the shy dogs.

I took out a few other dogs – Ringo (a pit/shepherd mix with scars from an embedded collar/leash around his neck and leg), Max (a little submissive terrier mix), and Peabody (a Collie mix who inherited the impulse to herd everything – even my feet). No one got adopted (that I know of) except for a sweet puppy.

I’m hoping to get to the shelter again either tomorrow or Friday, and if not one of those days, definitely over the weekend! More updates then!

Sir Corey & Sir David, Zed, and Starlight
February 9, 2009, 3:22 pm
Filed under: Adoptions, Photo Day

I took my fancy camera (Canon Rebel) to the shelter on Sunday to take more pictures for iStock. I had a model this time! I took wonderful pictures, but unfortunately I can’t upload them here because I’m waiting to hear if they’ve been accepted to the iStock database.

The first dog I photographed was Zed. He’s a sweet lab/pit mix (I’m pretty sure he’s got a little pit in him because of the way his head is shaped). He’s afraid of cameras and phones and any sort of shiny metal thing. Poor Zed. I still got a few good pictures of him. He’s such a sweetie! He loves to play and get attention, as long as the person petting him doesn’t have a camera. I wonder why he’s so afraid of them…

Sweet Zed

Sweet Zed

My next subjects were a pair of dogs – Sir Corey and Sir David. They’re really sweet. Sir Corey is a flat coated retriever mix. Sir David is a yellow lab mix. They get along pretty well, but Sir Corey tries to be dominant and Sir David doesn’t stand for it, so we can’t really let them play. Poor babies..

Sir Corey

Sir Corey

Sir David

Sir David

The next dog I photographed was Starlight. She’s a sweet shepherd mix (maybe mixed with hound?). Her paws are cracked and sore, so we had to carry her outside and lay her in the grass. We petted her and loved her (and I took her picture) and then we carried her back inside. We wrote her up for her paws and the vet techs looked at her. They’re going to fix her up.



Titus got adopted on Saturday! I was so excited. I gave his adopters my email address, so hopefully they’ll update me and let me know how he’s doing. They seemed really nice. And Titus is such a sweetie!

McLovin got adopted on Sunday. The people also seemed nice (I handed out my email and asked them for updates, too).

Kitty (shepherd mix), Bently (hound), Betty (border collie mix), and Colby (lab mix) also went home. Kitty, Betty, and Colby had been at the shelter for quite a while, so their adoptions were exciting. Bently is a loud (loud!) hound, and he’s really strong, so we didn’t think he’d find a home as quickly as he did (after a stay of about 2 months).

Overall it was a really good weekend.

Adoption Fair, January 31
February 2, 2009, 1:54 pm
Filed under: Adoption Fair

Saturday (January 31) was an adoption fair day! We volunteered to lead it and brought 6 dogs up to PetSmart to show off. We had trouble deciding who to bring, but we ended up deciding on Jordan (border collie/terrier mix), Titus (shepherd mix), Gilbert (Shih-Tzu mix), Gregors (lab mix), Chun Lee (Papillon mix) and Queen Latifah (lab mix). It was a pretty decent mix of mutts.

Usually adoption fair days are slow and relatively boring. The people who shop at PetSmart already have a dog, or many, and aren’t in the market for more. We usually spend the whole 4 hours sitting in chairs, petting dogs, and begging the public for donations.

This adoption fair started much the same. We picked up the dogs from the shelter and drove them across the street and through a shopping center to PetSmart. Gilbert yapped and whined the whole way over – apparently he’s afraid of being crated in the car (but we had no choice: shelter policy). We arrived, set up, and unloaded. All of our volunteers were waiting for us. This almost never happens! Usually we wait on them to show up, and they’re usually pretty late.

The dogs all seemed to get along with each other. There were no immediate snarling-growling-lunging outbursts, and this is always encouraging! I held Titus (my baby!) and we divvied up the remaining dogs among the other volunteers: the younger volunteers get the smaller dogs, and the older, stronger, or more competent get the bigger, stronger, more temperamental dogs.

We all got settled in and started greeting the public. “Please donate to the animal shelter!” “These dogs are all up for adoption from the animal shelter!” These friendly greetings turn into desperate pleas: “Please, donate to the animal shelter!” or “These dogs all need to be adopted to good homes!” And the desperate pleas eventually turn into silence.

A couple of little old ladies that were headed inside stopped to talk to us. We talked for a while, then they went in and came out half an hour later with two carts full of dog food. They picked up two small bags and left the rest with us. We weren’t sure at first that it was all donations, but when one of them turned around, held up a small bag, and said “I only have little dogs at home, that’s all for you!” we all called out “Thank you!” simultaneously.

At that point it seemed like this was going to be an all-donation-no-adoption day. We’ve noticed that we either get tons of donations and no adoptions, or a couple adoptions and no donations (or no adoptions or donations but that’s rare and usually on holidays).

So we were extremely surprised when a family with a little kid came by and seemed interested in Queen (we started calling Queen Latifah just “Queen” – shorter and less of a mouthfull). They looked at her for a while, then said they’d go talk about it over lunch and walked away. Usually people never come back. But about three minutes later I looked up and they’re headed back to Queen. The father said “I couldn’t even make it out of the parkinglot with these two. So we’re adopting her.”

The adoption went through and we were able to return to the shelter with one less dog. It’s always nice going back with one less dog than you left with. When none get adopted and we have to bring all of them back we feel like we failed. It’s disheartening.

The dogs were doing really well until someone left his German Shepherd in the car with the windows cracked. Once he realized there were dogs, the German Shepherd started barking and barking and just wouldn’t quit until his owner came back. This stirred up the Gilbert, Gregors (we started calling him Marley because of his resemlence to the famous dog – in both appearance and personality), and Chun Lee. After the German Shepherd incident, Chun Lee and Gilbert were eager to bark and growl and start fights with any dog that passed.

Titus spent the entire adoption fair curled up in my lap, or next to my lap, or sitting patiently by my side while I talked to people. He’s such a wonderful dog. A couple people seemed interested in him, but no one wanted to adopt him. Maybe next time.

On Sunday we volunteered at the shelter. No adoption fairs or events. Just plain old dog walking and training. Most of the dogs we took out were good – Titus and Priss, Missy Lou and Jordan, Max and Betty, Bunker, and Adam. The rest had behavioral issues – one dog, Lorenzo, likes to gnaw on hands and arms (not aggressively, but it sure is annoying). Another, Jazzmine, doesn’t like other dogs. None of our favorites or old-timers were adopted, but a bunch of puppies found new homes.