Monday, April 29, 2013

Haunted Springtime

Despite the blossoming of flowers, the warming of the air, and the proliferation of fun springtime outdoor events, these past few weeks I've had a bit of darkness hanging over me. 

I don't like to talk about things like this too much, as there is enough darkness out there in the world and I see this blog as a place to propagate positivity about dogs, the love they inspire, and their potential for greatness when properly trained, managed, and socialized. But the truth is, that sometimes dogs bum me out. Sometimes dogs are a lot of work, and stress, and trouble. Sometimes, I really want to get into hamster or budgie rescue.

Those little furry troublemakers, sometimes I wish they would make less trouble. Star's new adopters love her, except when she got into a scuff with a Pomeranian belonging to a neighbor of theirs during a leash walk and caused a major vet visit. 

Since I found out about this, I've been walking around with this vague sense of dread that Star will have to come back to me. Add to that the dread of my own neighbor, who's been nice enough following Star's interaction with his dog but still, there's that little bit of tension...and I am beset with grim thoughts that I need to sell my house and become a hermit out in the woods with my Swiss guy somewhere, just so I can stay away from people and keep my little wayward pup out of trouble.

The good news is that Star's adopters are determined to work through this with her. I've been researching to find them a trainer who specializes in impulsive, reactive dogs and they are walking her with a muzzle for now. They see that she is a brilliant, loving little dog who just needs some major help getting her impulses under control. 

Yay for amazing adopters!

And to cheer you all up after this downer post, here is a picture of Fozzie that, with your vote, could be on the cover of NOVA Dog magazine!

OK, I guess I still love dogs.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lady in action

You may remember that when I had Star, just about every blog post was an action post. There were action shots of Star zooming around on the pilates ball, hopping across the floor on her hind legs, teetering on the edge of rocky cliffs, spinning around, and skateboarding.

Action shots with Lady are a little bit different. Lady is such a relaxed being, that most of her action shots are about like this

Or maybe, when she gets a bit riled up, like this


Or when she's feelin' really frisky, like this 

Or, when she really gets excited, even like this! 

Whoa now girl, settle down.  Let's not get too wild. 

I am really hoping that once she gets her nails clipped and can start going for longer walks, she'll lose some weight, be more comfortable on her paws, and start to have more energy. Right now, her nails are so long that they are clearly affecting her posture and her ability to walk. 

Do you see how the nails are actually forcing her front paws back onto the heels, and the pasterns are tilted backward at a sharp angle? 

She loves to go for walks, but before long she is limping. I've tried a couple of times to gently introduce the clippers or the pedi-paws, but whoo-boy! Then we see some action. 

So we'll just have to be a bit more patient, until I can get her in to be spayed and have a paw-i-cure. Until then, she can enjoy whatever level of action she's comfortable with.

And hey, if all Lady's running around has inspired you, head over to Facebook and vote for Fozzie's picture to be on the cover of NOVADog Magazine in June! I think you'll agree that the photo of him impersonating an elephant needs to be on the cover of something

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Relaxing foster experience

Lady has been having a really nice time just settling in and relaxing at home.

She is a pretty independent spirit, who enjoys being outside and just reflecting on her own thoughts as she sniffs the breeze.

She is contented by herself, but always has a wag and numerous kisses ready for anyone who comes to see her.

I just love that spotted tongue. I tried to count the kisses last time she gave me a session but I lost count.

Tashi had a spotted tongue like that too, and I can't really imagine anything more precious. 
She and Fozzie get along well, though she and Lamar are not crazy about each other. 

But then, Lamar is not crazy about anybody, and Lady just doesn't  feel like putting up with his grumping. As she is too overweight and sluggish to get very far when she goes after him, their conflict has not really presented a problem. I do try to let Lamar relax in his own bedroom at night, so I keep Lady in the living room, where Florian has chosen to sleep with her of late. 

She is not a dog like Fozzie who loves to drape himself over you, every part of his body in contact with some part of yours, but she likes proximity with her humans. 

How fascinating dogs are, with their unique personalities. What goes through Lady's head, as she relaxes in the yard, then the moment she sees me, kisses me compulsively for minutes on end?

How is it that Fozzie, so reactive to other dogs on leash, shows such incredible maturity and tolerance with every foster dog I bring home, showing mild interest but seldom overbearing, and in turn bringing out the best in them?

Dogs are the best. It is truly an honor and a blessing to share my life with them!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Overall Run Trail

A couple of weeks ago, when we went on the Tuscarora-Overall Run Trail, we had been expecting to find some nice swimming holes carved out of the rock below the falls. We didn't find them, but on our way off the trail we met a sturdy looking guy with a bunch of photographic equipment, who clearly knew the area well. He told us how to find the swimming holes, and that we wouldn't need to hike another 5 hours and 8 miles to do it.

Turns out that instead of an arduous climb, the spot we were thinking of was a relatively easy 30-minute hike to the stream, well below the waterfall we saw last time. 


There were waterfalls here too, not so dramatic as the first one but far more accessible.

And these waterfalls landed in perfect greenish-blue swimming pools. We will certainly be coming back here in the summer.

A perfect place to bring the dogs, with watery traverses for the most adventurous 

and nice flat rocks to relax on, for those who are older and more sensible. 

This trail was much less  physically demanding than the other one, but there was still some challenging rock climbing to do. 

Again Lamar surprised me with his agility. 

I only had to give him a boost a couple of times, on the way up those slick rocks.

Fozzie was in heaven, like a kid in an amusement park.

On the ride home, even Fozzie was so tired he eventually lay down, and stopped trying to bite passing cars. 
 Or maybe he just wanted to provide a nice headrest to his old buddy Lamar.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Mellow Interlude: Meet Lady

After the adventure of having Star for a few months, my friends at the shelter were hoping to give me a little break by setting me up with a nice mellow foster dog. Maybe one with a bit of shyness that needed to be worked on, someone who needed socialization or was stressed at the shelter.

Enter Lady. 

Lady was surrendered to the shelter with another dog, by someone who wanted both dogs to be euthanized because of "extreme human aggression." The shelter will only come to a property to pick up a dog in cases where the person making the call is requesting euthanasia, but fortunately the shelter staff can do something else with the dog if they decide euthanasia is not called for.

Neither Lady nor her companion really seemed to fit the bill of "extreme human aggression," so both were spared. Lady was an "office dog" at the shelter for a week or so, since staff didn't think that at her age--probably around 7--and with her calm demeanor, she would enjoy being out on the shelter floor with all the wild young adolescents bouncing around.  

So they gave her to me.

First step, a bath.

Then some cuddling and relaxing.

And not too much food. Poor Lady has a bit of a weight problem, and has difficulty moving. When I first saw her at the shelter and saw her struggling to get up, I asked if she had hip dysplasia. But now that I've gotten a good look, I'm pretty sure it is just a case of incredibly long nails. 

I tried to cut them right after her bath, but she wasn't having any of it. So we've been doing some slow desensitization with the clippers. I am hoping that when she gets spayed, her nails can be clipped way down while she is under. 

And as for her extreme human aggression? 

People say the darnedest things. Suffice it to say that we're not too worried.

Monday, April 8, 2013

From Star's adopter

I have been in frequent contact with Star's new people, and the news has been all good.

Star's new mom is a personal trainer--the better for keeping up with her energy. Her dad works for himself, driving around to clients all day--and takes Star with him! Here is the latest from her mom:
"She is a wonderful fetcher, and it is so much joy to play with her because she actually listens. We definitely try to keep her occupied ...because we also figured out that it is a great way to bond with her and build a relationship filled with love!"

"Usually, when I come home from work, I walk her because she spent all day with [hubby], so I want to make sure I have my time with her. After our walk we play. Thank goodness we have tons of toys, because she goes through them quickly, mostly chewing them apart! She is such a good puppy though! She always stays close to us...even when we just watch TV or I am on the computer she is either on the bed/sofa with us or on the floor! She is very social. Also, there is nothing better when we come home and she is just soooo happy to see us! Endless kisses and cuddling! We love that about her! usually by the evening, she is tired so she goes to bed with us, on our bed, which is another sweet thing about her, it's like having a teddy bear! Last night she crawled on [hubby] when he was lying on the sofa and she slept on him!! :-)"
Yah, that sounds about like Star. And it sounds like moving to a new home has not entailed all that rough a transition, as her new people are as in love with her as we were.

Star, we miss you but we're glad you're having such a blast with your new family. You've made a lot of people very proud young woman. Keep it up and don't torture your people too much. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tuscarora-Overall Run Trail

Ever since we went to Ithaca Florian has been fascinated with waterfalls, and recently we found out that there is a 93-foot high one in the Shenandoahs. We have this old packet of topographic maps showing the Shenandoah Mountains in detail, and for some reason have never really broken them out.

So this past weekend, in our brief window of just having two dogs, we decided to load them both up and go find this amazing waterfall.

If we hadn't had a good map and known roughly where we were going, we never would have found the trailhead--which was at the end of a small local road off VA road 340 south of Front Royal. 

The trail followed a stream for a while before starting to climb, which I always love because the dogs get to cool off their paws and get drinkies. 

I always worry about the dogs on hikes, as I know they can dehydrate quickly. I also knew this trail was going to be a challenge for all of us, as all the guide books said it was steep and tough.

And Lamar, at the age of 13, is getting a bit unsteady on his back legs so I was particularly worried about him. 

He did incredibly well though, even on the long steep stretch up the mountain. 

Near the top, there was an overlook and a pretty neat waterfall that we looked down on. 
Then there was the long trek back down the mountain, which is in some ways even harder on the legs and knees and feet and paws than going up. 

I think we're out of shape! 
I can't wait until we can hike in much nicer than hiking boots.  

Back down on the flat ground, we took a long rest and had a picnic on a mossy rock.

Lamar was relieved to find some nice soft leaves to stretch out on. 

I gave him a thorough massage while Florian took a nap and Fozzie wandered around, contentedly sniffing. 

By the time we got back to the car we could barely walk, and Lamar's hips and hind legs were stiff and shaky. 

But there's always time and energy for a dumpster run! And even loaded down with 300+ pounds of dumpster-fresh dog food, the Honda Fit got 41.7 miles to the gallon. 
A successful conclusion to a great day.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Dream Come True for Star

If you saw Star's video post last week you may have already guessed this, but the thing that has seemed impossible many times over the past four months has actually come to pass: Star has gone to her forever home!

And not just any forever home. So many times I've said that Star would need to go to a very special adopter, one who would understand her issues and work with her in only positive ways, one who wanted a dog who was a bit of a project, one who had a lot of energy and would give her tons of exercise and spend time with her during the day, as she is much more manageable in the evenings if she hasn't spent the day in a crate.

She found exactly that! Over the weekend of the 23rd, Florian and I went on a little trip to NY and CT and decided to leave Star with another foster mom while we were away. Two days before we left, Star broke out of my yard--apparently by jumping up, reaching her paw over the gate, and undoing the latch (which was on the outside of the gate) and went after a neighbor's dog. No major harm done, but the neighbor was not too thrilled. 

My little Houdini must have realized that she could be in trouble as a dog with no permanent home and a bite history on her record, because she somehow worked her magic on the universe and in the next few days I got emails from four people who fell in love with her online. It may also have helped that we had changed her name online to Suzie, as Star just wasn't seeming to pull in the adopters.

The first person I talked to was undeterred by anything I could tell him, but just seemed to grow more intrigued as I impressed upon him the project he would have on his hands. He loved how Star had such a resilient spirit after all she's been through, and she reminded him of his recently departed black pittie mix, who also was not the most easygoing sort. And, his wife is a personal trainer and wants a little high-energy companion to go on runs with her.

Florian and I went off on our trip, the adopter met Star at her temporary foster home, and it was love! 

I had the pleasure of meeting this amazing couple last week, and we got a chance to go over how to work with Star's excitement and get her to be calmer when she sees other dogs. The strategy we discussed is BAT, Behavioral Adjustment Therapy, which I have explored but never formally implemented with a dog. 

The wonderful trainers Alison and Marika, who have worked with Star in the past, demonstrated the steps for working with frustrated greeters--and I would say that both Star and Fozzie fall into that category.

It was a thing of beauty to see how quickly Star was able to calm down!

Of course, it helped that Alison had some peanut butter on hand. 

I believe Star will progress so quickly in a home with dedicated parents who love her little joyful spirit, will spoil her and have fun with her and have no other little monsters to distract them, and are armed with some great techniques to help Star gain more mastery over her impulses. Her adopters report that she is doing great in her new home, exploring and settling in and curling up in a tiny ball in bed with them.

Star was really a special little foster dog and one I got especially attached to despite--or maybe because of--her behaviors and energy. I know that I have a "type"...the petite female dogs who snort and snore a lot, and the ones who tend to get in a lot of trouble. 

But I also know that Star is not the last of that type I will know, and that maybe someday I'll foster another little scrappy snorty pup and that one will end up staying. Right now it is wonderful to know that Star is in a home that can keep up with her, and that with the attention and care she'll get there she will blossom into a happy, healthy young woman...and maybe even one who is less of a troublemaker.