For the Love of Shelter Dogs*


Construction, Puppy Countdown, and Adoptions
May 11, 2009, 1:46 am
Filed under: Adoptions, Foster Pups, General

The shelter is under construction! Well, not the whole shelter, just a little bit. They’ve been wanting to add a separate building where adopters can go to fill out the adoption paperwork. The lobby gets so crowded on the weekends that there is hardly ever room to move around, let alone walk dogs without risking fights, so the new building will be wonderful to have. The only problem? In order to build this building they had to tear down two of the front gravel exercise pens. Now we only have one exercise pen out in front of the shelter, and with all these dogs to walk it’s going to be difficult to juggle which dog gets to run when. But we’ve been told that they’re going to find a different place for the pens they tore down, and that we will eventually have more pens. So, we’ll have an empty lobby, a new paperwork area, and different pens. It won’t be that bad, and I’m sure all of us volunteers will be able to share that one pen nicely until they can put up the new ones.

Puppy Countdown: 14 days! Exactly two weeks until we can pick up our foster pups. I’m excited. Puppies!

The shelter is having a half-price weekend, where all pets over 1 year old are half off! We had quite a few adoptions yesterday and today, including Tonka and Tom-Tom. Tonka has been featured on my blog before (remember him?) and Tom-Tom has been one of my favorite dogs at the shelter for a couple months.

Tonka

Tonka

Tom-Tom, not too sure about the camera

Tom-Tom, not too sure about the camera

Hooray for new homes!

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Wolverine
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!



Two Hours of Doggie-Fun!
April 7, 2009, 1:38 pm
Filed under: General, Photo Day

I spent two hours at the shelter yesterday. I wasn’t planning on going at all because I woke up to pouring rain and a bit of thunder, but it all cleared up before 11:00. It was sunny and warm and lovely weather by the time class let out.

I brought my Canon Rebel again, but the clouds kept rolling in so I only got to photograph one set of dogs, Tess and Tonka. They’re cagemates, and they love to run and play so they made for some pretty cool pictures.

Tonka! He hates the camera..

Tonka! He hates the camera..

Playing Chase. Tess is gaining on him!

Playing Chase. Tess is gaining on him!

Now Tonka is gaining on Tess!

Now Tonka is gaining on Tess!

Sweet Tess!

Sweet Tess!

Tess and Tonka are so adorable and friendly and sweet, but they’ve both been at the shelter for a while, awaiting adoption.

I’m constantly amazed at which dogs end up staying at the shelter for a long time. Tess is unusual looking with the tan body and black face and that sweet black ridge of fur running up her nose. She loves to play and she loves her cagemate, and she also loves attention. But why does no one seem to want to adopt her? Tonka is adorable with his droopy hound ears and the colorful markings on his face. He’s calmer than Tess, but he’s still able to hold his own when they play. Yet he’s still at the shelter.

And then there’s Max, who’s been at the shelter since November (or thereabouts). He’s still a puppy – between 8 and 10 months old. He absolutely loves to play and he loves other dogs, but because he’s so jumpy with puppy energy no one takes him out. He’s learned some bad manners at the shelter, but he learns quickly. He also loves to be a lap dog. He spent a 3 hour adoption fair in my lap. (He got heavy after a while, thus the funny face).

Me and Max!

Me and Max!

Then there’s Celia. She’s a huge lab mix. She looks like she’s mixed with a little Dobie, and maybe a little German Shepherd because of the way she stands. She’s playful and beautiful and relatively young (a little over a year old), but still she stays at the shelter. A lot of people don’t want big dogs or black dogs, but every once in a while we get a person who comes in specifically looking for a big dog or a black dog. But not even they seem to want Celia.

Celia!

Celia!

I caught a stray Chihuahua/Terrier mix outside the shelter last week, and I saw him up in adoptions yesterday with an “Adopted!” Tag on his cage. I’m very happy for him. He was very sweet.

I helped a woman with a stray a couple Sundays ago. She found the big yellow lab mix running down the road in the rain, so she took him home and kept him for a day, but realized she couldn’t handle him. So she brought him to us, where he lept out of the car and took off running. Another volunteer and I were able to corner him and leash him. Looking back, that could’ve been a really stupid thing to do; we didn’t know the dog and he could’ve been sick or aggressive or something. But he wasn’t. I think my subconscious “evaluated” him while we were trying to catch him and deduced that he was friendly, albeit a little shy. I know it sounds strange, but assessing dogs has become second nature to me, so I do it without realizing it. Anyway, the woman said his name was Mator (like Tomator) and it was on the inside of a dingy leather collar. The shelter renamed him (Lucas, I think) and put him up in adoptions last weekend. He’s “head shy” but other than that he’s pretty friendly and healthy.

I’m hoping to get to the shelter again today and I’m hoping to bring my camera again, so tomorrow I should have more updates and pictures for you!



A Rainy Saturday & A Nice Sunday
March 30, 2009, 12:42 pm
Filed under: Adoptions, General

It rained all day Saturday, so I only made it to the shelter for two hours. It was a pretty good two hours though; I helped some people take out dogs and I helped them adopt a couple dogs.

I was helping one couple out in the back exercise pens when a little terrier came running up outside the shelter fence. He was very cute, and very friendly. He had on a dirty yellow collar and a tie-out cable that looked like it had snapped. He hung around long enough for me to feed my extra leash through the chain-link fence and lasso him. I asked the woman to go get a guy with a Staff shirt on, so she did. The employee came out and gave me the weirdest look, like “How in the world…?” but he went out through the locked back gate and retrieved the terrier. The dog seemed very happy to see a person coming up to him. The employee brought the dog back down to intake, where I hope he’ll be processed and either returned to his owner or put up in adoptions. Someone will definitely want him. He looks like a Chihuahua mixed with some sort of wire-haired terrier. Very cute, and very sweet.

I went on Sunday with Caroline and her mom. We only stayed for 2 1/2 hours, but it was fun. We pulled up just in time to see Oliver, one of my long-time-favorite dogs, getting adopted. He was in one of the front pens with his adopters, and he was doing great. He wasn’t getting worked up and he was playing and sitting and following their commands. It was beautiful. He was one of my project dogs because of his tendencies to nip when he got excited, but he learned pretty fast that humans don’t like to be nipped, whether it’s excited-nipping or not. He’d been at the shelter since August because he was so big and strong and playful. People interpreted his playfulness and craziness, so no one wanted to take him out. I actually renamed him when he came in. They’d given him the name Costello, but it was such a mouthful that I wanted to give him a new name. I chose Oliver because one of the first times I had him out he picked up a water bowl and carried it over to me and reminded me of Oliver Twist, begging for more. He was such a sweetie. I’m so thrilled he finally found a home.

I helped a woman introduce her two little Chihuahua/Pomeranian mixes to a Boxer/Pit mix. Sandy, the Boxer mix, is aggressive toward bigger dogs, but she seemed to love the little ones. The little male wasn’t too sure about her though. The woman and her husband ended up adopting Sandy anyway, and I hope everything works out and the little ChiPom doesn’t try to boss her around too much!

Caroline and I didnt’ get much time to take out the dogs we wanted to. There were so many people at the shelter because it was finally warm and nice and sunny, so we spent quite a bit of time helping people. That was good, though, because we helped many dogs get adopted. It was a pretty good weekend.

And Congratulations to Ollie for finally finding a home! If his new owner emails me an update, I’ll post it here!

Oliver Posing

Oliver Posing



6 Hours, and an Adoption Fair!
March 23, 2009, 12:44 pm
Filed under: Adoption Fair, Adoptions, General

Well, it was a very packed weekend! On Saturday, Caroline, her mom, and I were at the shelter volunteering for 6 hours straight – the max we could possibly get in one day! It’s been almost a year since we’ve been able to pull off being there 6 hours; usually one or more of us has a prior commitment and we can’t stay longer than 4 hours. But this time everything worked out and we were able to be there to walk dogs and help people.

We took out a shepherd mix named Tammy as soon as we got there. I’d met her Thursday and worked with her Friday, and was anxious for Caroline to meet her too. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. She just came up to adoptions and she was so cute I couldn’t resist walking her, but when I took her out she started screeching and screaming like something was wrong with her. I did a once-over on her to see if she hurt something or had a cut or injury or something, but nothing was wrong. I tried to comfort her, thinking maybe she was just panicky from being at the shelter, but that didn’t work. I tried correcting her to tell her that screeching was bad (no one is likely to adopt a screeching dog) but that made her worse. Caroline couldn’t figure anything out either. We asked one of the shelter’s managers and a vet tech, and they watched her for a little bit and then tried petting her and calming her. Apparently she didn’t act so panicked back in intake, but she was very vocal about everything. They decided to take her out of the adoption rooms and try to find out if something is wrong with her. Hopefully they’ll find something that they can fix, and then she can come back! She’s a really sweet little girl, if she stays still long enough!

After Tammy went back to intake, we helped take pictures for the shelter’s website. The photographer always needs people to hold the dogs still for her. We helped her take pictures for half an hour, then she had to leave and we went back to helping people and walking dogs.

We had out one dog (I don’t remember exactly who!) when a woman came up to the gate and looked at us like she needed to ask us something. We went over and asked if she needed help.
“Well, my daughter told me not to come here,” she said. “I have a depression problem, and she told me I wouldn’t be able to handle it, but I just lost my pound puppy and I want to give another one a home.”
“Well, if you tell us what you’re looking for,” I said, “We can find a dog that fits your description and bring it out here to you.”
“Okay, I’m looking for a big dog, because I hear that big dogs don’t get adopted as quickly or as often as little dogs. I also really love boxers.” Caroline and I thought for a minute, then remembered the Akita mix named Zeus. He’s 7 months old and already the size of a German Shepherd.We suggested him, and she wanted us to go get him. We didn’t know he was only 7 months old, though, and the 7 month old pups aren’t allowed on the grass, so we couldn’t bring him out. We went  out and told her, and she said she’d just come in. Caroline and I waited while she signed into the visitor book in the lobby, and we could tell she was nervous. She told us (jokingly, of course) to drag her outside and call her daughter if she started crying or she fainted, and this put Caroline and I on edge. We’d never had to help someone who wasn’t sure they’d make it out and still be conscious.

We walked her back to the middle row of Dog Adoption 2 to see Sandy, a little Boxer mix. We took Sandy out and she completely ignored the woman, for the most part. We put Sandy back in and walked the woman all throughout both Adoption rooms. We watched her closely to make sure she wasn’t breaking down. She stopped quite a few cages and talked to the dogs inside, but she didn’t want to take anyone else out. She thanked us and left. Helping her was surprisingly nerve-racking, but I’m glad we were able to walk her through the rooms and help her be able to handle it.

Towards the end of the day, around 5:30, Caroline and I took Zeus the huge Akita mix puppy out back. No one was out there, so we closed one of the back gates and let him loose. He had more room to run, but he still made his way back to the smaller exercise pen. We called him out and grabbed a tennis ball and played monkey-in-the-middle with him. It was really cute, and he got a lot of exercise!

On Sunday, Caroline’s mom led the adoption fair at PetSmart. We helped, of course. There was another volunteer there too, to give us a total of four people to hold dogs. We brought three dogs so one person would be free to clean up messes and hand out donation slips. We brought Max, an Australian Cattle Dog/Boxer mix who is still 8 months old and has been at the shelter since November; Pup-Pup, a sweet Corgi mix with bright blue eyes, 4 years old, and was surrendered to the shelter because her owners were allergic to he; and Spud, a Border Collie mix, a little over 1 year old, and has been at the shelter since August. No one got adopted, but we got a bunch of donations.

Caroline and I spent the entire adoption fair with a dog in our laps. And I mean the entire dog. Pup-Pup really liked sitting in Caroline’s lap, and Max enjoyed mine. Max is pretty big for a lap dog, so it wasn’t the most comfortable situation, but he was just too cute to move! One family seemed really interested in Pup-Pup, but they couldn’t adopt her that day. They took her I.D. number, so hopefully they’ll come back to get her!

A few dogs were adopted over the weekend, including little Lulla Belle. She’s a sweet shepherd mix who had Heartworms when she came to the shelter. She was treated, and that increased her adoption fee from $95 to over $100. It’s not too big of an increase, but it’s enough to put people off. She finally found a home with a nice family, where she’ll be loved!



Lil Bear, TomTom, & Dallas
March 16, 2009, 12:41 pm
Filed under: General

It rained here all weekend, so I only got to the shelter for two hours on Saturday. It was enough to meet some new dogs though! As we walked the aisles, we noticed some new faces, some old faces, and some long-timer faces.

We took out Lil Bear first. He’s a black, white, and brown Aussie mix. He’s a sweet sweet boy, but whoever owned him before over-fed him a bit. He’s not terribly overweight if you feel his sides (you can still feel the ribs, you just can’t see them), but if you just look at him he really does look like a little bear! He’s a chunky little boy. We had him out for a while and spent some time loving on him, and he’s a real sweet boy. It was raining pretty hard, or I would’ve brought my camera and taken pictures. I’m hoping to get to the shelter tomorrow (Tuesday) with my camera (it’s supposed to stop raining later today!) so I’ll try to post pictures on Wednesday.

After Lil Bear we took out Tom-Tom. As we walked by his cage and noticed his name, both of us stopped and looked at each other and said “Not another Tom!” There was a Tom at the shelter over a year ago (a shepherd mix), and we were remembering him. We absolutely loved the first Tom (I called him TomTom). He was energetic, kind of crazy, and loved us (in a not-so-polite way). We always tend to adopt the crazy cases, so we decided to try to teach Tom to not jump and not “love” us or other customers. We succeeded in teaching him to ‘sit’ but he was a stubborn boy and kept trying to jump. He was also a lap dog! If we sat down in a chair, he’d come over and jump into our laps and relax. It was really sweet. After a few months at the shelter, he became kennel-stressed, and started acting aggressive toward other dogs. He’d go nuts if they walked by his cage, and he’d spin around and bark and whine and yelp like he was hurt. All of us volunteer tried to get him out as often as possible, but we were only there so often, and he spent most of his time in the cage. I had a breakthrough with him about a week before he was euthanized. We were out in the front pen and another volunteer walked a dog up to say hi. Tom ran over to the fence, and I followed him. I’d started watching the Dog Whisperer recently, so I tried to be calm-assertive and own the fence. I didn’t know if it was working or not. Tom started getting worked up, and I tapped between his ribs and his back leg with my foot. He jumped and looked at me, then looked calmly back to the other dog. I was amazed. It worked! The other volunteer and I spent a few minutes talking while Tom sniffed his new friend, then I took him back inside. I was so excited. Unfortunately, the shelter just couldn’t keep him any longer (it had been almost a year since he’d come to the shelter) and the next weekend he was euthanized. I could feel it coming. Every time I saw an employee walking the aisles that I didn’t usually see, I’d follow behind him/her quietly, pretending to look at the kennel cards. I saw her go up to Tom’s cage, jot something down, and walk away. I knew that was it. I’d had him out already, so I walked by and slipped him a treat. When I went by an hour later, his kennel card, the colorful signs that adorned his cage, and Tom himself were all missing.

So when we saw this new TomTom, we were astonished. Of course, he looked almost nothing like the first Tom. He was a smaller, lab mix who looked like he may have a little pit in him, but not much. He also seemed a lot calmer than the original TomTom. We took him out (just couldn’t resist) and realized that he had pretty much the same attitude as the first Tom, minus the awkward “loviness” and kennel-stressed attitude. This TomTom is playful without being crazy and sweet without being awkward. He’s everything we wanted the first Tom to be, and everything we tried to teach him to be. So, needless to say, TomTom is a new baby (a dog that we fall in love with and take out whenever we’re at the shelter). He’s also shedding, so we spent most of our time with him brushing and scratching him. He enjoyed the attention, and I’m sure it felt good to get all that itchy hair off!

It was almost time to go and we were trying to pick who our second to last dog would be when we saw Dallas. H’s a purebred Akita, and he’s huge! We couldn’t resist taking him out. The purebred dogs we get are usually small-breed dogs, so a large-breed purebred is an opportunity we can’t pass up! We took him out back under the covered area because it was raining. The shelter recently took down a few dividers in the small kennels out back to make them bigger for customers, so we took him in one of those. It was great. We played with him for a while. He’s a mouthy boy! He doesn’t bite or nip or anything, but he likes to put his mouth around your hand or arm and just stay there. It’s strange. He tried to jump, and since he’s so huge I lifted my knee to block him. He could’ve easily knocked me over! When he ran into my knee he backed up, play bowed, and started to hop around. It was so cute! I’m pretty sure he won’t be at the shelter for long.

I’m hoping to get to the shelter tomorrow, and blog again Wednesday!



Walker, Peabody, and Lorenzo
March 4, 2009, 1:54 pm
Filed under: Adoptions, General

I only made it to the shelter for two hours yesterday after not having gone in a week. It rained and iced all weekend and finally turned into snow on Sunday. The shelter was closed Monday (so was school) and it reopened Tuesday. I went with a friend.

The dogs loved the snow! Every dog we had out romped around like it was just the best thing ever. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera so I couldn’t take any pictures. Just know, it was so cute.

We took out Walker first. He’s a hound mix (looks like a pointer, but he’s got hound in him too). Apparently, according to his card, he was found by some people and they brought him in because they couldn’t keep him. He has “CHC 00” on his side. We can’t tell if it’s been tattooed there, hair-dyed there, or just drawn there, and we don’t know what it means. He’s a sweet dog; loves to jump on your lap and get attention, likes to half-roll-over, and really likes to just be near people. He’s afraid to walk through the adoption rooms, though. I think the barking dogs freak him out. We’re doing searches on Google and Yahoo to see if we can figure out what CHC is. All I’ve found is the “Marshall Telemetry Foxhunt held at the CHC meet in Bakersfield” (the link on the page is broken, but here’s the link to the page where the link can be found). I’m not even sure what that is.

We took out Peabody next. He’s an Australian Shepherd/Smooth Collie mix. He’s so sweet, but he’s kind of nuts! He loves to play and he just loves to chase and herd things. It’s in his genes. We were playing with him (and managed to teach him to sit instead of jump when he wants attention) and we noticed his foot was bleeding. It wasn’t anything major, just a little blood, but we got a vet tech to look at it and make sure. She said he was fine. The bleeding stopped and we put him back in his cage.

We worked with Lorenzo next. Remember how he’d been improving recently? Well, that’s when I worked with him alone! He wasn’t used to having another person in the cage with us, and he got all worked up and reverted back to his jumping and nipping behavior. We leashed him and worked with him a while (tugging the leash when he’d do something wrong, relaxing tension when he’d relax, and so on) and in only a few minutes he was laying by my  side, relaxing. It was great. Of course, he got worked up while we walked back inside, but with all those barking dogs, who can blame him?

Oliver was neutered last Friday! I’m so happy. I really hope this helps ease his frustration. Hopefully now someone will want him.

I’m not sure if I’ll get to the shelter before next week. I hope I will, but between school and work, who knows? I’ll write an update if I do!

Edit: Ravi (formerly Prince) has been adopted!