For the Love of Shelter Dogs*


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!

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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. (http://flickr.com/photos/unegawaya/sets/72157608544332610/)

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!

Lorenzo

Lorenzo

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.

Starlight

Starlight

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.



Princess, Titus & Priss, Hayden, Shih-Tzu
January 30, 2009, 1:50 am
Filed under: Photo Day

I brought my Canon Rebel to the shelter today to take high-quality pictures. I (try to) sell pictures on www.istockphoto.com. I’ve only gotten three accepted into the database, but I’m working on improving my lighting (their main complaint about my photos).  I like to take dog pictures because most dogs are so photogenic.

I started with Princess. She’s a German Shepherd mix, a little over a year old. She’s really affectionate and kept trying to kiss me when I got near her with the camera! It was really sweet, even though I try to keep shelter-dog-kisses to a minimum. She was difficult to get a good picture of; she didn’t want to sit still and staying in the sunlight was out of the question! Still, I got a couple decent shots of her. And her nose.

She wanted to give kisses.

She wanted to give kisses.

More of Princess than her nose.

More of Princess than her nose.

I wanted to take Titus and Priss out next, but just as I was walking them down the hall I got stopped by a woman who wanted help. I put them back in their cage and helped the woman. She was nice, but she wanted me to introduce two dogs from different cages to each other. I told her I could only let them meet through the fence, which was just as well, since the female (Saundra) wasn’t too keen on the male (Eric). Eric wanted to play; Saundra didn’t want anything to do with him! The woman decided to come back Saturday and adopt only Eric. Hopefully she will! I love helping people with the dogs, but I find it somewhat annoying when I spend a good chunk of time with them, only to have them say something like “Well, thank you. I’m leaving now.” It’s like, “Wait, what? Didn’t you want to adopt?” Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often. Most people explain why they took up my time. I appreciate when they do!

After that I got Titus and Priss. I’ve been trying to teach them to walk politely while on the leash, and they’re kind of catching on. They’ll stay at my side (if I keep the leash short, that is) until we’re in sight of the front door. Then they bolt. But they’re getting there!

Titus is a  German Shepherd mix. He’s about 2 or 3 years old. He just recently came back to the shelter; he was there a couple years ago and got adopted, but he’s back as a stray. He’s surprisingly photogenic. He does that adorable head-cocking thing that’s so hard to make dogs do, unless you’re making funny noises. But I was by myself and it was pretty crowded, so that rules out the funny noises. He sits so perfectly and he stays sitting longer than most. I love Titus. Priss is a little over a year old. She’s a hound mix – probably a Coonhound mix. She’s a sweetie, but she doesn’t really like to stay still. She prefers to run and play. That’s why the picture of her is a picture of her running. Well, leaping, actually. She spends most of her time playing with Titus. And poor Titus doesn’t always want to play. I end up separating them quite often – Priss just wants to keep playing and playing, but Titus tries to hide. Poor Priss has pent up energy!

Titus (he wanted the kibble), and Priss's head.

Titus (he wanted the kibble), and Priss's head.

Priss, intent on Titus. Play time, anyone?

Priss, intent on Titus. Play time, anyone?

I got Hayden out next. I’d never met Hayden before, but he looked so sad. He was just standing in his cage, slightly wagging, eyes lowered like he was saying “I don’t know why I’m here, and I don’t want to be here.” I just couldn’t resist. He looked like he was older, but his card said 11 months! He’s such a sweetie, though. He wanted love. That’s it. Just love. So I spent most of the time I wasn’t taking pictures scratching behind his ears and rubbing all down his back. He was quite content, especially after I put the camera away. He didn’t like the clicky-beeping noise.

Sweet Hayden. He wasn't too fond of the camera, though.

Sweet Hayden. He wasn't too fond of the camera, though.

I put Hayden back and was just on my last “inventory” (I like to walk each aisle of the adoption rooms at least twice a day to see who’s there, who’s adopted, who’s missing, and who’s new) when I walked by a pitiful looking little thing. My initial reaction was “Ick” followed by a shudder (I’m not fond of little-dogs). I knelt down and talked to him a bit, then moved on to the next couple cages. I was looking at a Dachshund when I heard a pathetic (and somewhat frantic) barking and whining. I looked back at the Shih-Tzu’s cage and he was staring at me through the little space next to the door. With a sigh I reached for my leash and opened his door. We got outside to the front pen and the little Shih-Tzu took off. Turns out he tries to hold it. He was busy for a few minutes, sniffing, relieveing himself, and sniffing some more. I grabbed my camera when I was sure he was all done. I took a few pictures of him before I got a close look at his face. I could only see one of his eyes (he has long fur) and the eye I could see was bug-eyed, like a pug. He had an underbite and really crooked teeth. And he was pretty dirty. He wasn’t matted, but he’s definitely in need of a good bath..or two. All in all, he’s one of the ugliest dogs little dogs I’ve ever seen. But he’s pretty sweet. I called him and he  came over and wanted attention. I was a bit surprised by this; most little dogs don’t like me, especially if they’re Shih-Tzus or Pekingeses. Ick. Haha..

Shih-Tzu (I forgot his name).

Shih-Tzu (I forgot his name).

After I put him back I signed out and was ready to go when another volunteer grabbed me and told me she couldn’t catch Craig. Craig is a little terrier mix – he’s small and full of energy, and somewhat slippery when you reach for him. She said she’d been trying to get him for a few minutes and decided to give up and come in for help. I went out into the cage and made the neck loop in the leash as big as possible and called him over. He came running and started to run circles around me. I put the neck loop in front of where his head would end up and tightened when it was around his neck. This took me all of 30 seconds. I was pretty excited. I’ve been perfecting my “lassoing” ability over the years, and it seems I’m getting the hang of it!

In other miscellaneous news:
-One of our favorites, Chrissy, was adopted on Monday. She was an extremely energetic girl. She got adopted a while ago but was returned because she was the “wrong sex.” That’s one of the stupidest reasons I’ve ever heard. How could the people not notice she was a she before they brought her home? Really? Ugh.
-Another of our favorites, McLovin, was adopted last week, but was returned and is back up in the adoption rooms now. I asked about it and was told that the person who adopted him took him home, was diagnosed with something, and couldn’t take care of herself/himself and McLovin, so she returned McLovin. At least she had an acceptable reason. I hate it when dogs get returned because it’s the “wrong sex” or something stupid. There was a Mastiff mix that was surrendered once because it was “too big.” Really? “Mastiff” even sounds like “massive” – how could they not know it would get big?