For the Love of Shelter Dogs*

May 1, 2009, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Foster Pups, General

No, not the movie, the dog! There’s a little shepherd mix at the shelter right now named Wolverine. He’s about 8 or 9 months old, and he’s scared out of his mind. He came to my attention through Jan, another volunteer who’d met him and was trying to find a foster home for him. I told her I’d work with him.

Now, I easily fall in love with the Damaged Dogs, as I call them. The dogs who don’t have any manners because no one ever bothered to teach them. The dogs with separation anxiety because they’ve been left so often by their owners. The dogs who are so scared to trust people because their trust has never been rewarded in the past. These are my favorite dogs to work with, and Wolverine fits perfectly into this category.

I took him out a week ago and spent a little time with him to gauge how shy and afraid he really was. I took him out front to a gravel pen, and he wandered around and cowered from me whenever I moved. I brought him back to the smaller pens in the back (they’re a little smaller than the dogs’ kennels inside the shelter) and sat with him there. There’s not enough room in the little cage for him get far away from me and cower, so this is the perfect place to work with him. I sat there and every once in a while I’d reach out to stroke him or touch his paw. I noticed that he left little wet paw prints on the concrete, even though it was completely dry outside. I’d heard somewhere that dogs’ paws sweat when they’re really nervous, so I stopped messing with him. He put up with everything I did to him, but he shook and looked at me sideways, like he was pleading with me to stop. I did, and I put him back in his cage.

I took him out last Monday again, and just sat with him in the back. I didn’t touch him this time. I just let him work it out himself. I sat in the middle of the cage so he’d have to brush my shoulder when he moved. I’d had a song stuck in my head all day, so when no one was outside I sang it softly. Whenever I stopped Wolverine looked over at me like “Why’d you stop?” I guess it made him feel more comfortable. After about 10 minutes in the cage with me, he went up to my back, sniffed, and licked the back of my neck. Then he went on shaking and pacing, then he came up to my side and licked my arm once. He slowly got accustomed to me being there, and started accepting my presence. After a little over half an hour, I picked my hand up and reached toward him, talking softly. I murmured comforting things and stroked his head and down his back, over and over. He was nervous the first few times, but got to the point where he realized it felt good and I wasn’t hurting him. He loosened up and I could see his face relax. After 45 minutes with him, I leashed him up and put him back. Unfortunately, due to the end-of-semester rush, I haven’t been able to get back to the shelter since Monday. Hopefully I’ll get back over the weekend.

Well, my countdown to puppy-fostering has begun! We have a little under a month until we pick up pups who may not even be born yet. I absolutely love fostering. We’ve had three sets of pups so far, and they’ve all been adorable.

Ani and Aida (or Ada) were two little shepherd/lab mixes we fostered back in June 2007. They were so adorable. Ani liked to flop over our arms in her sleep, and she looked dead quite often. Aida was my little baby.

Ani (darker brown) and Aida/Ada (lighter brown)

Ani (darker brown) and Aida/Ada (lighter brown)

Our second set of pups were spaniel mixes. We’d originally planned to get fosters as soon as school let out, so early June. But when we called, we were told that they didn’t have many pups in need of foster homes. We got a call a couple days later that they had 3 shepherd mixes that needed parents. So we packed up and went to the shelter to pick them up. We got there, and were told that they couldn’t let us foster them because the pups were starting to look kind of pit-ish, and the shelter can’t adopt out pits, so they’d have to wait and see if the pups started looking like pure pits (they didn’t, and were eventually adopted out). They said that the only other litter they had was a litter of 6 spaniel mix pups. Caroline and I were all for having 6 pups, but her mom and Mariamme weren’t quite as sold on the idea. Eventually they gave in, and we brought home the 3 boys and 3 girls. We each picked a boy and a girl to call “our pups” and we named them. Caroline chose the smallest girl and one of the boys, and named the girl Serenity and the boy Sirius. I chose the two problem-eaters that we’d had to hand feed during their first feeding. I didn’t think Mariamme would want to deal with the hand-feeding (I was right) so I took them on. I named the girl Marcy (after an old exercise machine we had in our house..I liked the name) and the boy McCoy (after one of my favorite PBR riders, Cord McCoy). We gave Mariamme (who wasn’t there at the time) the remaining pups, who she later named Jeremy (after Jeremy Irons) and Jaida (because she liked the name). We raised them, and they all ended up getting adopted!

The girls on the left (from far left, clockwise: Marcy, Serenity, Jaida) and the boys on the right (from top left, clockwise: Sirius, McCoy, Jeremy)

The girls on the left (from far left, clockwise: Marcy, Serenity, Jaida) and the boys on the right (from top left, clockwise: Sirius, McCoy, Jeremy)

Later that summer Mariamme and I fostered two needy shepherd mixes. I won’t go into  too much detail because I’m writing their story in a collection of other shelter dog stories (that I’m hoping to eventually get published!) and I don’t want to give it all away. But the two boys, David and Gabriel, contracted Parvovirus and had to be humanely euthanized in July. We miss the little boys.

My David

My David

Sweet Gabriel

Sweet Gabriel

So, that’s it for now. I’m hoping to get to the shelter this weekend, and I’ll update after that! Then, when we get our foster pups, I’ll blog about them!


1 Comment so far
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Hi, interesting post. I have been thinking about this issue,so thanks for writing. I’ll certainly be coming back to your posts.

Comment by How I Lost Thirty Pounds in Thirty Days

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