For the Love of Shelter Dogs*

Bambi, Moo, & Sam
August 19, 2009, 2:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve been working with a hound mix recently named Bambi. I’m not sure why they named her Bambi – she’s got a greyish-brown patch on her back and head with little polka-dots over her neck and legs. They say she’s a hound mix, but I think she’s more of a Dalmatian-hound mix, if she has any hound in her at all. She’s been at the shelter too long – since last December (2008) and I think it’s starting to take its toll on her.

She’s starting to act frantic when I walk her out to the pen. She jumps up on me and tries to grab my arm or the leash, like she’s trying to find a lifeline. I’m trying to teach her to walk on the leash politely, so I always push her down and she jumps right back up. If we don’t get outside fast enough she starts to whine and claw at the door, and people look at me like I’m torturing her. Once we’re outside, though, she’s perfectly fine. She loves to run and play and she chases after the tennis balls (and then I chase after her). She knows how to sit and she’s learning how to lay down on command. She’s so sweet and loves to be with people, but people don’t ever look at her. She’s the kind of dog that gets overlooked, either because she’s medium sized, “hound” mix (a lot of people look down on hounds for one reason or another – stupid, loud, headstrong, hard to teach), or because she’s energetic.

Anyway, I spent some time walking her in circles around the parking lot and her leash-manners improved greatly. It seems like once she gets some of her energy out she’s perfectly fine. Hopefully someone will see her and fall in love with her like I did!

Sweet Bambi

Sweet Bambi

I took out a few more dogs, then as I was heading back in one of the shelter’s head vet-techs said “Good, I’m glad you’re still here!” My first thought was “Oh no, what did I do!?” She said “Are you putting the dog back?” I nodded. She said “Great, I have a job for you.” I put the dog back and she led me to a cage. I looked down and this little black and white splotched puppy was staring back up at me. The vet tech said “This is Moo. He was adopted and returned because he’s very mouthy – he actually broke his owner’s skin. If you could work with him – teach him to sit or something, or just teach him not to mouth as much – I’d really appreciate it.” Now, usually the shelter handles the training or evaluation by themselves, or they put the dog in question into foster care so a foster family can devote time to it. And us volunteers aren’t allowed to touch puppies under 7 months so we don’t spread diseases from dogs to puppies. So I was very honored to be assigned a puppy to work with! It’s nice that they notice all the training work I put into these dogs.

I took out little Moo and spent an hour with him in one of the puppy pens. He didn’t really get mouthy with me, but I found another potential problem. He doesn’t like to be hugged, and people love to hug puppies. It reminded me of David – the foster pup from last year with all the behavioral problems. David had fear-aggression and he hated for me to pick him up and hug him. Moo isn’t fear-aggressive, thank goodness. He just panics. So I spent the hour playing ball with him, trying to get him to sit, and scooping him into my arms and hugging him through his panic-stages. He did calm down after a while and he started letting me hug him without thrashing.

Towards the end of my hour with Moo, a mother and her daughter came outside walking a fuzzy collie mix named Sam. Sam is dark brindle with one brown eye and one blue eye. I watched them play with him for a while – they seemed pretty competent and were telling him to sit instead of jumping up (and he listened!) so I asked them what they were looking for in a dog. The mom responded “Well, I really want a female because females just seem cleaner, you know? But Sam…Well, my childrens’ father passed away last year, and he had one blue eye and one brown eye, just like Sam.” They both were silent for a second – Sam responded to this by sitting at the girl’s feet – and then the mom said “Do you know if he’s good with cats?” I told her I wasn’t sure and I wasn’t allowed to test it out.

I don’t think they adopted him because of the cat question, but the story was very touching.

The shelter had a half-priced adoption weekend this weekend, so we had many dogs and cats (and bunnies!) find homes. So many of the long-time dogs got adopted to hopefully forever homes, including Grover (an older lab/hound mix), Aiden (a shepherd mix), Ginger (a terrier mix), Salvatore (a terrier mix), and Rodaca (a German Shepherd mix). Hopefully the adoptions will keep up!