Friday, September 28, 2012

Summer skin struggles

Every summer poor Lamar suffers from crusty, scabby skin irritations. No vet has been able to offer a satisfying diagnosis, and the last one thought it was probably a flea allergy. I am inclined to agree, although there are no fleas on Lamar that I can detect and he is not as itchy as you might expect from a flea infestation. Hard to believe that one flea bite at some point in the summer could lead to extensive crusty scabs, but maybe it can.

I originally noticed the rash on the backs of Lamar's legs, at which point I shaved them and applied tea tree oi. When I checked those areas recently, they looked much better--skin still a bit red, but no scabs. But his tail was a mess. Scabs, red skin, and lost fur. 

Though I don't relish the idea of my dog looking like a mangy squirrel, it does seem to help to air out the affected area and not have it covered over with thick undercoat. So I shaved down the icky part of his tail and this time I applied a liberal splash of chlorhexidine flush

This is the same stuff I put on Sandy's mangy eyebrow, with excellent results. It is also what I used--at the recommendation of the shelter's vet tech--when Pagent had a staph infection that made her belly red and itchy. The itchy parts cleared up in a day, like magic. 

If you're around lots of different animals--if you train, foster, groom, volunteer at a shelter--or just have your own pets and lots of friends who have them, its great to have a medicine chest with some basic veterinary remedies. This flush is one I'm going to keep around.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Large bundle of cheer

Fozzie's been hard at work lately to prove what a loving, cuddly, delicious big lover-man he is. 

When my sister had no power for three days and was in need of a bit of cheering up, Fozzie was ready to oblige. 

His signature move seems to be to put his arms around a person's neck and just hold on, while attempting to maneuver his tongue into said person's mouth. 

Kind of like a really awkward first date, but cuter. 

When my old boss and one of my oldest friends, Executive Director of the kickass conservation group WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe came for a visit, he got the same treatment. 


Fozzie doesn't care who you are, how you're dressed, or your gender, he just wants to be as close to you as possible and to put his tongue in your mouth. 

Fozzie's an equal opportunity molester.   

All these two and a half years, I've had Fozzie still up on Petfinder, thinking that maybe his ideal adopter would come along and offer him a place to live in the country with no feral cats to torment him, no senior dog to growl at him, and more space to run around. 

Every couple of months, I'd hear from someone who definitely wanted to adopt him. My heart would sink, but I'd talk to them just in case, and explain how it was to walk him or have guests over, and I'd never hear from them again. 

After speaking to the most recent prospect, I decided I was done. Its not the first time I've had one of these realizations about Fozzie, but this time I'm pretty sure its really for real. 

It's exciting, joyful, and liberating to have made this decision! I feel like a newlywed or a new mom, with a brand new being to love and nurture. 

I know, weird. I've had him for two and a half years! But its different when you're committed.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekend walkabout

Every year, when Florian asks me what I want for my birthday, my answer is the same: to spend time with you and the dogs and do something outside and fun. This year, my birthday fell on a Friday and both of us had open schedules all weekend--setting the stage for a weekend wonderland of good stuff.

Friday's celebrations began with a vegan raw food lunch at Kephra's Raw Food Juice Bar in Washington DC. We ordered the pistachio hempburgers and a variety of sides--delicious! 

Then off to the Potomac for a new hike. This was a wide, flat part of the river that turned out to be where we went kayaking with Pager that one time. 

The river looks calm and shallow, but that look is deceptive.  I'd just been talking to someone the day before about how people drown in the Potomac, on a regular basis. 

It doesn't get very deep, but the current is strong. You're not supposed to swim in the Potomac, and when the water's as deep as it was this weekend, I can understand why.  

I get chills every time I look at the rushing falls and think of how easily you could get overpowered. 

I worry a bit about Fozzie and Lamar, but fortunately they seem pretty sensible.
Fozzie started to swim out when he saw an intriguing duckie, but turned around as soon as he felt the pull of the undertow.  

Good thinkin Fozzie! 

A hike on the Potomac with my boys--you can't do much better than that by way of celebration.

The weekend was just getting started though, with more than enough time for another hike.  

Sunday, Florian taught a master ballet class in Burke, Virginia. A place that, as it turns out, is absolutely covered with lakes. We took a chance and stopped at the first one we came to, which we'd never heard of--Lake Mercer.

Looked like just a nice reservoir at first, with a paved trail over the dam we thought we'd just wander over.

Turned out there was a network of trails you could wander on forever. 

We took the trail around the lake, which meandered through the woods, 


past hikers and mountain bikers going in the other direction, past town houses with little back yards and balconies that looked out on this magical meandering trail, 

across wooden bridges and past a swampy boggy part of the lake with spooky tree trunks sticking out of the water, 

and with the dogs starting to sag a bit from exertion, despite many opportunities to refresh and regenerate in the cool water, 

back up to the trail above the dam, and back to our car.

Now after all that you'd think we'd have to just kick back with a cool bevvie and lay in the sun somewhere, but oh no, Florian had a ballet class to teach. The really great thing was that the studio was right next to another trail head, so I parked there and entertained myself for a few minutes watching him demonstrate pirouettes and port de bras. Then I went for another walkabout with my little men. 

Just a short walkie this time, but enough for everyone to really enjoy what being a dog is all about. 

Lamar has always loved just being in the water, standing there and drinking in the coolness. Lamar is 13 years old, and I can't believe the spring that is still in his step. I want him to have every opportunity to do what he most enjoys. 

What a great weekend! I am so grateful to my joyful, ridiculous boys. No matter how many years I have behind me, all the amazing times we spend together are like a fountain of youth.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wet Tongue Wednesday

Big wet kisses everyone! We are taking advantage of our foster-free status the next few days to do some serious camping, hiking, dancing, and dining! 

It's my birthday on Friday and I can't wait to see what Florian, Lamar, and Fozzie have in store.

Meanwhile, my friend Jodi asked for an update on Blue. 

Still at the shelter, but having a  great time there!

She is part of the shelter's weekly P.A.C.K. (People and Animals Cardio Klub) runs, where volunteers come and run with the shelter dogs in the park on Saturday mornings.

She had a fab run over the weekend! Hard to imagine it, but it seems that WHS is a shelter where some dogs are even better off there than in a foster home.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A New Record: Brownie Goes Home

I try to fill my time with foster pets with activities and training that help make them more confident, more calm, more easygoing, and overall more adoptable. But when it comes right down to it, what gets them adopted fast is their cute pictures and descriptions online--and in Brownie's case, his big ears were what made his time with me very short.

I had only had him a day before I got an email from a dog-loving family with two dogs, two dog-savvy little girls, a fenced in acre, and grandparents who are pretty much around all the time to keep the dogs company. They were in love with Brownie's picture and especially with his big, ridiculous ears.

After this discussion, the meeting and the official interview at the shelter felt pretty much like a formality. 

The folks at the shelter were so happy and amazed that this dog who was so stressed out at the shelter, barking and going nuts with his pupils dilated like crazy, became such a happy, relaxed goof once in the presence of people who love dogs and build their lives around them, who adore their two 6-year-old dogs and sleep with them, who lost two more 13-year-old dogs last year and are ready to add to their family.

The family brought their 6-year-old queen bee Lily, who growled at Brownie a bit but nothing like the grumpiness he'd successfully navigated with Lamar.

So after meeting Brownie in my yard, going for a walk together, going to the farmer's market while we waited for the shelter to open, having their interview and testing how Brownie did with cats (he showed no intense interest, except in the cats' food), we loaded Brownie up and off they drove!

If his interactions with this family while we filled out papers at the shelter are any indication, Brownie is going to have a blast in his new home. 

Rolling on his back while the girls petted him, giving mom big wet kisses and blissing out for dad's hearty scratches...this was supposed to be a shy dog?

Congratulations Brownie! It was great to have you, though any longer and I would have been hopelessly attached.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Brownie's big weekend

I was going to devote the entire weekend to fun activities to help Brownie build confidence and become more adoptable. As it turned out, I only had a day to do it...but more on that tomorrow!

We did have a chance to go by my sister's house Friday night and see how he does with two important demographics: new, big dogs and wacky little girls. 

My sister loves it when I get a new foster dog because she loves for her big boy Genghis to get a new buddy to play with.

Genghis is a great dog, 100% reliable and goofy with kids and other humans.
For some reason both Fozzie and Lamar hate him, so he has no regular playmate nearby.

But he sure has fun with my foster dogs! 


What a great socialization opportunity and energy outlet for all. Brownie's aerial leaps over Genghis' body were a sight to behold. 

And when they were done romping, they just plotzed out in different spots on the floor and snoozed companionably.

The next day, we wanted to give those two a little more space to enjoy each others' company so my sister and I decided we would descend on my loving, long-suffering Aunt and Uncle.

They don't really seem to suffer when we come over; I only say that because I think that in their position, with a beautiful house and pool and a relaxing, sunny afternoon to look forward to, the Stade family and its associated poorly-socialized canines would be the last thing I'd want to see.

But they are always welcoming, and they seem to actually enjoy it, God help them. 

Brownie fell in love with Uncle Bob. 

And he really loved having all that space to run around with his bud Genghis. 

When he runs he's like a little antelope, zooming around and so happy to be free. 

He loves to romp around with the slightly more dignified Genghis, 

and see if he can taunt him to abandon that dignified demeanor. 

Not too hard when Genghis's default behavior is to flail around on his back with his paws in the air. 
Lamar looks on reproachfully, but at least there's something in it for him too. 

Lamar, sit back and have a glass of wine while the kids run around, why dontcha? 

That sounds like a plan.

Brownie, I'm glad you got to enjoy the fun with my aunt and uncle before the pool closes for the season. It's a ritual we try to put all our foster pups through, for their benefit and for ours.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Blue update

Here's the message I just got from the Washington Humane Society Foster Coordinator about Blue:
Kirsten, be sure to check out our Facebook Page to see Blue cuddling and being serenaded by a former American Idol contestant and Youtube sensation! He was smitten with her :-) The GAA staff all love her as well and she's already getting a good amount of interest from potential adopters. I'm sure she will be adopted soon!
Apparently American Idol finalist Todrick Hall went by the shelter to sing and spend some time with the shelter animals.  

WHS posted this on their Facebook page 
A very special volunteer came by the Georgia Ave Adoption Center today. American Idol finalist Todrick Hall spent time walking and singing to our cats and dogs. Here he is with "Blue" singing "you are beautiful" Be on the look out for the WHS edition of his YouTube show Toddy's World soon.
 See Blue, I knew you were destined for great things!

And another joyful update on an itty bitty pocket pittie: 

I just heard from Sandy's adopter, Chris, who wanted to remind me that it was a year ago today that I pulled Sandy from the shelter! 

Those two are totally in love and meant to be together...if I do nothing else right in this lifetime I'll be glad that I united Chris and Sandy.

Congrats to my scrappy pittie piglets!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Foster dog switcheroo

I've done something I've never done before, never thought I could do or would do. I brought Blue back to the shelter.

Lamar was growling and shrinking back every time he saw her, she was going after him every chance she got, and the shelter staff told me that they thought she could do well at the smaller of the two shelter facilities in DC, where things are quieter and dogs have a nice routine including 5 walks a day. I made them promise about 6 times that they would stay in touch with me about her, that they would keep her alive and work with her and keep trying to find another foster for her, and we made the arrangements for me to come on Wednesday and drop her off.

Then just after I got out of bed Wednesday morning, I must not have closed the baby gate to my room and Lamar's lair well enough, because another fight erupted. This time poor Lamar's ear has a nice cut in it and my hand is good and swollen from a puncture wound --I'm pretty sure inflicted by Lamar as he snapped wildly to try to defend himself.

If there was any doubt in my mind before, it was now dispelled. 

It was still incredibly hard to leave Blue in that shelter, surrounded by barking dogs. The only thing that made me able to do it at all is that in exchange I took away a dog who quite possibly needs a foster home even more than Blue.

This is Brownie.

My emotions were all over the place when I was at the shelter meeting him so I didn't think to find out anything about his past, but I do know that he's not been doing well at the shelter because every time a human comes by, he barks and yodels and yells so loud to get attention that he turns people off. 

The important thing is that we took him for a walk with Lamar, then Fozzie, and he had polite, shy mannerisms in response to their eccentricities. 

When Lamar growled, he looked away and backed up. When Fozzie lunged and barked and went all over the place, he play bowed a bit but mostly backed up.

The shelter staff warned me that he's a high-energy, rowdy young boy, so I was prepared for another one of those--

you know, one of those destructive, demanding, typical puppies who makes you wonder what it is about dogs that made you ever agree to live in a house with one, until you look at his face and see that big puppy head and those loving eyes and that wiggly wagging butt and fall in love.

When I got him home, he just wandered around sniffing gently. He seemed so happy to be wandering free in a quiet place! 

He likes Fozzie, and Fozzie seems tolerant of him. He continues his good, polite behavior around Lamar. 

He discovered immediately how great an orthopedic dog bed feels on gangly, bony adolescent joints. 

It's terrible to think of Blue in the shelter after having a taste of living in a home, but I am hoping that being there will be her fastest ticket to finding a permanent home. 

Brownie, who is currently stretched out to his full scrawny lanky length on the floor, is certainly a better fit here....even Lamar, while not thrilled to have another foster dog, is far less tense than he was when his little nemesis was here. I'm hoping that Brownie will let us get back in our foster groove and that Blue will find her perfect human quickly! 

Fozzie and Lamar--and Florian--thank you for your patience!