Thursday, June 30, 2011

Post #20 - A Foster Story: Queenie is in the House!

Queenie - I wish I knew how to ease your troubled mind.

Queenie's been with us now 5 full days. You know, having done this fostering gig for 10 years or so, I really thought I had seen and experienced it all. Not so :) Working with Queenie and trying to get her on some sort of even keel has been challenging. I kind of knew what we would be in for as I had followed Gunner's progress over at Val's and realized that these younger of the Fab Five had really been sheltered from everything outside of their little kennel worlds. Like Gunner, everything in the house is new and confusing to Queenie. She has the same mentality about stairs (walk up them, leap down them), crates (no way Jose) and sleeping with her humans (I don't necessarily want you to touch me, but I sure as heck ain't sleeping downstairs on my own either!). The biggest issue we have had to deal with though is her reluctance to eat. She is already so underweight, seeing her not eat consistently for the week she's been here has been painful and really worrying. 
Queenie catching a few zzzzzs while Mom works on the computer
We have tried every trick in the book: dry food, canned food, human food, baby food... feeding her with other dogs, feeding her by herself....feeding her in a bowl, feeding her on a plate, feeding her by hand... - NOTHING seems to work more than once. Today was a break through of sorts in that she ate 4 small cans of a special veterinary food that is supposed to help dogs recovering from illness gain their appetite. Thank goodness it is the consistency of wet clay, because you can take a few fingers full and kind of smear it inside the dog's mouth to get them to eat it. Queenie doesn't seem too offended by this approach, and she seems to actually like the taste of the stuff so I looked up what it is made of....chicken livers!! Oh goody - my favorite! :) 
Chicken livers simmering away...the smell was horrendous!
Still, if she finds it appealing I am all for feeding her more. So we went and bought 2 tubs of chicken livers, cooked them up in some water then pureed them into a gray, smelly kind of gravy. The other dogs were doing back flips for this stuff - it is seriously like puppy crack!!!!!! For her part, Queenie seems to appreciate my efforts (which have resulted in me losing MY appetite!!) and ate another can of dog food with this gross concoction poured over it. She seems to prefer to eat at night, so tonight we will mix up a bowl of hotdogs, boiled turkey and chicken liver gravy and see how that goes. I'll keep you all posted :)

Aside from the eating thing, Queenie is definitely showing signs of settling in. She has made friends with another of our foster dogs, Iris, which really makes us happy. Iris has been with us for a couple of months but is still not ready for adoption. Until Queenie came on the scene, I would have said that Iris was the most timid, troubled dog we have fostered. Sadly, Queenie makes her appear well-adjusted :( Still, it is so interesting that these 2 beautiful yet damaged girls have gravitated towards each other. Last night while we were watching TV, Queenie and Iris slept together in Queenie's dog pen (we built an indoor pen for her as we knew a crate was going to be too claustrophobic for her).  
Queenie and her foster sis Freya
Queenie chillin' on the back deck
Before that, we found them lying back to back in the living room. Previous to Queenie coming to us, Iris was polite but distant from all the other dogs in the house. She kind of watched the goings on from the periphery. Now she seems to have found a kindred spirit. Just before I sat down to write this blog Iris alerted me to something outside the kitchen door with one, solid "woof!!". Iris NEVER barks, so this startled me to say the least. When I got up to see what it was, I found Queenie on the other side of the door looking in. Queenie has worked out how to get out the door, but she hasn't mastered getting back in, so she had inadvertently been left outside. I opened the door and let her in and the 2 girls trotted off to lay down in the living room. I was both flabbergasted and touched by the very clear dialogue of communication I had just participated in between the 2 dogs and myself. As I watch the friendship between these 2 dogs develop I get a very strong sense that it is no fluke that we ended up fostering them both at the same time. I hope these 2 girls can learn from each other that humans can be trusted and that there are good things out there in the world.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Post #19 - A Foster Story: Sweet "T" Takes on the Deep South

If Tina was unloved in her previous life; those days are over now. From the moment I found out this wonderful dog was coming to live with me, I fell in love. When I first heard about this situation, I knew that two of the dogs were very old and didn’t have long to live. I offered to take in the oldest and give him a good life until the end; sadly Mr. Diesel did not get the chance. When I was told I could bring Tina home I was honored and very excited. Not only do I get a beautiful senior to love and spoil, Tina has a chance at a forever home with a family who will love her. As a foster, this is the outcome I always hope for.

I followed Tina’s story and searched her out in any pictures of the Fabulous Five I received. Everyone loved Tina, including me and I had not met her yet.

On Sunday morning, my friend and I drove up to a town in South Carolina and met Tina. The poor thing had thrown up in the car and was sick to her stomach. But, the first thing she did was give me a kiss. How amazing is that? A dog who has been neglected and has absolutely no reason to trust humans, accepted me at first sight.

Bringing in a foster dog is always stressful. What if the resident dogs and cat don’t like her? I have taken this dog all the way to Georgia, it isn’t like I can pick up the phone and say “guys it isn’t working, come get her!” Even though I knew my pack was accepting of fosters, I was still worried as I drove home.

Tina and Harry Chill'in after the walk
We arrived in Savannah with the temperature reading 99! Tina would have to make her introductions with my pack through three separate walks outside. These first introductions had to go well. Failed first intros can doom a relationship. We brought out my old guy, Harry Potter, the honorary GSD. They walked, Tina checked him out; all was well with the world. Then we brought out our saucy young female GSD, Dezzie. She likes dogs, but she lives in a house of boys and she is… well let’s just say, “high-spirited!” She was very curious about Tina, but Tina didn’t even look at our girl. Good play Tina! Make her think you don’t care.
Tina and Asher helping mom cook. "Want some hair with that?"
Then, the moment of truth…we have a 6 year old male Foster Failure (meaning I fostered him and on purpose failed to find him a home!), named Asher. He has a RAP sheet and a history of dog aggression. Even though in the three years he has lived with us he has become a new dog; it is ALWAYS a worry when introducing fosters. Do something wrong in the introductions and it is over! My husband brought Asher out and Tina transformed! The girl actually started wiggling!!! She was flirting with Asher! All she wanted to do was get to him! I had to use a lot of muscle power to keep her from running to him! Asher began walking with her. He had his ball in his mouth (typical jock) and played it cool. He didn’t even look at her! Of course Tina, being drawn to the “bad boy” persona, wanted him even more.
I didn’t know it then, but this was the beginning of a friendship that would become important in the days to follow.
Let me OUT!!!
All of Sunday evening Tina paced and paced. When I took her outside in the yard, she frantically looked for an escape. Inside the house she tried to claw through the front door. Even though the kennel where she spent 9 years of her life was no home, it WAS the only home she knew. Tina would have done anything to return there. When rehabilitating a dog, the worst thing you can do is feel sorry for them. You must live in the now for the dog to be able to get passed the past. But, this was so hard. It broke my heart to watch her trying to find home. She was so unsettled.

I wondered if she would ever calm down. My husband kept saying, “seven days” to me over and over again. I know that during the first seven days dogs change and build trust. I know this, but I had never, in all my years working with dogs, seen anything like this. To add to the stress, Tina refused to use the bathroom and she would not eat.

Monday was much of the same. She paced, tried to find a way out, but had moments of peace. She followed me everywhere and wanted to be with the pack, even if she preferred to be in a closet and watch the pack from there. 

Pretty Tina
Tina has almost no muscles in her hind legs, so walking is extremely important. I first walked her with Harry Potter, my senior male. Harry is not a GSD and NOT a confident dog. Even though Tina seemed to like him, walking with him stressed her considerably. Since she liked Asher so much, I decided to walk the two of them together instead. WOW, what a difference. It was almost like Asher recognized the stress Tina was under and took it as his mission to be her protector. Each time I walk the two, Asher is all business, showing Tina that she is safe and that walks are good. They make a very impressive pair walking together. We were stopped several times on our walk. Each time, Tina was friendly and accepting of the people we met. She wants to love people and trust them. Again, Amazing!

However, as of Monday night, still no pee!

Asher and Tina go to the vet
Tuesday morning was the day of breakthroughs. Tina woke up and after 42 hours of holding it, went outside to relieve herself. CELEBRATION!!!!!! Tina had a vet appointment that morning and Mr. Asher; her protector, decided that he was going with her. Asher is an exceptionally strong 95lb dog and when he decides he is going somewhere, it is difficult to convince him otherwise. So, off to the vet we went. With Asher as her escort, Tina was very calm in the car and at the vet. The vet examined her and had a couple of concerns that we are going to address in the weeks to follow.

Turn around mom and I will get you again!
When we returned from the vet, I took the dogs in the backyard. As I was standing there I heard a strange little snapping sound behind me and then felt a tiny pinch on my toosh! I turned around and Tina had the goofiest, big grin on her face and she nipped me again! Tina was playing with me!! Instead of trying to find a way to escape, she seemed happy to be “home”. As the day went on, Tina ate some food, played with me some more and interacted with the pack. She had fun jumping on me and trying to “sneak up” on me to nip my butt! I started crying in the yard that afternoon. No matter how many times I see the transformation of a dog that has been neglected, it never ceases to amaze me! Tuesday was a GOOD day.

I am here mom!!
One of the funniest things Tina likes to do is get in the shower when I am finished. She watches with fascination and the minute I open the door, IN COMES TINA! I guess there is literally NOTHING I do alone anymore!
Why did you get out?

This morning Tina woke me up with kisses and asked to go outside. I am still in wonder trying to figure out how a dog who lived in a Kennel all her life knows to go outside to the bathroom, but I am not arguing! Now that Tina has begun to eat all the “fun” issues have started with upset stomachs and diarrhea. This is just an inevitable step in Tina’s recovery. I will continue to hug her and kiss her, comfort her when she throws up and let her nip my toosh all she wants.

The first three days with Tina have been amazing. Fostering a senior dog, to me, is the most rewarding experience. Every time I foster a senior I tell them they are my dog, they have a home with me unless I find someone better. I couldn’t love Tina more even if I had her since a puppy. She is one of my pack and I am honored that she is allowing me to be part of her life.

Tina and her new pack checking for squirrels
Tina has made amazing progress in three days. I can only imagine what will happen in the next four. I can’t wait to share the stories with you.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Post #18 - A Foster Story: Buster Joins a New Pack

Handsome Buster

Buster and The Boys Meet
My two male shepherds and I met Buster at the kennel a few days before he moved to our home for fostering.  They were all minimally interested in each other, which was the best kind of outcome we could have hoped for.  My guys are neutered but Buster is intact, and it would not have been surprising for him to take exception to having two strange males enter his turf.  But the Big Man couldn’t have cared less, he was far more interested in the still relative novelty of being showered with love and attention by people. 

I left that night quite smitten with him, but with one or two unknowns about how easy it would be to foster him.  First (and most pressing, after seeing the environment in which he had spent his entire life), I was wondering how easily he could learn that “inside,” where you don’t use the bathroom, now means multiple rooms in a house rather than just a 6’x6’ space.  Second, I wondered how I was going to get him into and out of the car for transport (remember, he weighs in at 105 lbs!).  I had brought my doggie ramp along to the kennel to try him on, and he wanted nothing to do with it.  I couldn’t tell whether this was because he didn’t know what I wanted or wasn’t strong enough to walk up it, but this was clearly something we were going to have to work on.  And finally, Buster hadn’t yet passed the “Cassie test.”  Cassie is my senior female and queen of the pack, and if Cassie ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!  I was not all that worried about this last point after meeting Buster, but it was still going to be important for their first meeting to go well. 
Buster Passes THE CASSIE Test!
So the big day came, and Andrea and Jon kindly transported Buster to me to help with intros.  First thing, Buster and Cassie went for a little peaceful on-leash stroll, which turned out to be a completely simpatico non-event—to them anyway!  To me, it was huge, and boded well for integrating Buster into the household.  
Yup Mom! 105lbs can fit!
Then we went into the back yard to get reacquainted with the boys and start building habits about the right place to use the bathroom.  So far so good, so into the house we went for supper and to settle in for the night.  Any yes, despite my worries, he did fit through the doggie door!
Poor Buster had a rather nervous first night, with nothing familiar and none of his kennel mates around.  I couldn’t bear to crate him, so I confined him to the kitchen and laundry room, with access to the doggie door.  After an hour or so of pacing and going in and out the doggie door a dozen times, he settled down and rested quietly through the night—exhausted, no doubt.  The next morning, there were no messes.  Hurray!  We went outside and he promptly did his business in appropriate places, so we were off to a great start as far as reliable house manners.  I’ll spare you the rest of the weekend’s details about his bodily functions, but let’s just say he totally gets it. 
Supervising Mom in the Garden
The rest of the first day was all wide-eyed wonder.  He remains relatively uninterested in my dogs but is endlessly fascinated by my every move.  Who knew I was so interesting?  He follows closely at my heels and is an especially attentive supervisor of garden chores.  

He quickly learned that a leash means a w-a-l-k (very exciting) and which door to position his big self in front of, but seems to think that every walk is “his turn.”  Unfortunately, the other dogs also get turns, so we’re doing a lot of “Buster Shuffle” at the door.  He manages to cajole me into several walks a day—short for now, until he builds up stamina.

In addition to walks, it seems that Buster has opinions about lots of things, and he’s happy to share them:  yogurt (should be on the side, not mixed in), baby gates (inconvenient), faucets (fascinating), storm doors with weak latches (‘scuse me, comin’ through!).  On short acquaintance, Buster shows every sign of having a personality as memorable as his stunning good looks.  I look forward to sharing that with you as it emerges.  

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Post #17 - A Foster Story: Georgia's First Days in Foster Home

This place is AWESOME!
Sweet Georgia Girl rode like a champ to her foster home!  She sat on the seat for about 10 minutes then decided that the big comfy bed on the floor looked pretty tempting. After about 2 hours we arrived at our destination and it was time to meet the family. Introductions were made and since it was late it was time for bed.  No need for a crate for this girl, she joined the pack and slept out in the open with the family. Since all this open space was new for Georgia it took her a bit before she relaxed and went to sleep. She sat so quietly and watched her foster sisters just find a spot and crash!  She is so smart and after awhile of watching she was like “Ok, I get this, find a comfy spot and sleep”.  
In fact, she watches her foster sisters and wants to be just like them. (Not sure if this is a good idea since her foster sisters could use a brushing up on their manners)!

Sitting pretty for Daddy, waiting for the ear rub.
I’m not sure what Angie told Georgia when they were saying their goodbyes, but it must have been “be a good girl”. Georgia fits right into the family routine and loves a good ear rub from her foster Dad. It is like she has been with us her whole life, not just a few short days.

WOW! Is this ALL mine?
Georgia loves the new yard that never ends.  When we go out she likes to run all the way to the back of the yard smiling!  Then looks back at me and runs back to me tail wagging the whole way.  I’m pretty sure she has sniffed the whole place already!    
Georgia just Chill'in
It is so funny watching Georgia Girl watch her foster sisters.  By the second evening with her, she actually wanted to play fetch.  (Well our version of fetch at least).  Her big foster sister Paws (aka Skitty Kitty) will chase the ball but isn’t too good at bringing it back to me (I’m usually the one fetching).  Georgia was watching this and was so curious that I tossed the ball low and slow away from her and she went after it!  Slowly at first but now she is actually chasing, still working on what to do with the ball once she reaches it but that will come.  
This picture says it all. This is the good life!
She does pace some in the house when she is unsure what to do.   She tends to want to counter surf but corrects so easy with a gentle voice.  We have seen her watching TV, in fact she went right up to the TV and put her nose on the screen, I think she realized the people couldn’t give her an ear rub so she walked away.
Sweet Georgia Girl is slowly coming into her own, each day I see more of her loving personality shining through. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Post #16 - A LIBERATION Story: Friday, June 24, 2011


No dog will be kept in these kennels again!
The last of the Fabulous Five have left the kennel! These runs will be taken down tomorrow and the kennel will be taken away on Monday.

Thank you to everyone who made this day possible. 

Biggest thanks of all to Angie - the Guardian Angel of the the Sweet 7 Shepherds!! Diesle and Susann are looking down and wagging their tails with approval today!

From now on, all the blogs will center around the new lives of these dogs. In fact, stay tuned for an update from Georgia's new foster Mom..coming right up!

Post #15 - A Rescue Story: Tuesday June 21, 2011

Angie with her girl Georgia
Georgia-Mae has left the building!!!!! Wow, wow, wow!!!!! It's been a long time coming, seeing these dogs get into real homes, but it's finally happening. Tonight it was Georgia's turn. She wasn't exactly sure what was going on but, in true Georgia style, she took it all in stride. Her new foster Mom, Sara, drove a long way to get her and I think it is safe to say that it was love at first sight when we saw Georgia for the first time. Sara had emailed me after the very first blog I wrote and asked if she could care for Georgia when she was ready to leave the kennel. She and her husband knew right away that Georgia was meant to be with them. After weeks of waiting, they finally got their girl tonight. As happy as we all were to see her get ready for her new life, there was also an element of bitter-sweetness for Angie. These dogs have literally consumed her life for the past few months. As much as she is thrilled that they are now moving on to greener pastures, she is going to miss them all terribly. I can only imagine. I know how I feel about these guys after seeing them only once or twice a week. For Angie, it's been at least 2 times a day, every day, for nearly three months. She sat on the floor of the kennel and said her goodbyes to Georgia who seemed to listen intently to all that Angie was telling her. Remarkably, as Angie was talking to her (and crying) Georgia climbed into her lap and laid down. 
Georgia comforts Angie and says "I love you"
This was the first time Georgia had done anything like this - always being a little bit more reserved than the other dogs. There is no doubt that she could see her human was upset and she wanted to comfort her. Seeing Georgia try to comfort Angie like this was testament, once again, to the incredible spirit of protectiveness that dwells inside these noble dogs. 

After we all said our goodbyes, we went to Sara's car and helped Georgia to get in. Sara had prepared well for her travel buddy. There was a huge, comfy dog bed on the floor in front of the passenger seat so that Georgia could either sit on the seat next to Sara, or lie on the dog bed for the ride home. Georgia didn't really know what to make of the car and I admit that, seeing her confusion, made me a bit upset. I knew she was going to be completely fine of course, but just the fact that she wasn't sure what was going on made me feel guilty. I wished I could have explained to her all the wonderful things that she was about to experience. (As a side note, the whole time we were trying to coax Georgia into the car, Tina was also trying to get in. I swear, that dog lives to ride...which is just as well since we will be going on a loooooooong car ride on Sunday to take her to her new home in GA!!). So off Georgia and Sara rode with us waiving madly and wiping away tears of happiness. The Fantastic Four are now the Terrific Three.
Georgia is READY to go!

On Friday afternoon, the remaining dogs will be moved out of the kennel. Buster actually had an interview tonight with his prospective Foster mom and her two male GSDs and everything went perfectly. All the boys were mellow and cordial with each other and so Foster Mom Carol will be welcoming Buster into her home on Friday night. Queenie will be staying with me for a while as we continue to look for a foster home for her. We already have 6 dogs, so, while Queenie will be loved and very welcomed at our place, we know she needs more individual care and training than we can offer. Still, for the time being, she has a nice, fluffy bed with her name on it waiting for her at our place. Tina will leave Friday afternoon and bunk with Angie until Sunday when she and I will drive down to SC to meet her new foster Mom. With the last of the dogs moving, it definitely feels like one chapter is ending, but with another one just beginning. All five dogs need medical care that we couldn't start until they were in homes where they could be nursed through their respective treatments. After that, the search will be on for their forever homes. There is still a LOT of work to be done in order to fulfill our promise to these dogs, but step by step we are getting there. 

Even without having all the dogs in their foster homes, I feel tonight as if we have met our goal of bringing these dogs back to life, spiritually.  I cannot tell you how much it THRILLS me to see the changes in these dogs each time I go out there. Tonight, Buster literally came barreling out of the kennel to say hello. Remember, this is the guy who was previously so shut down we couldn't get any reaction from him. Tonight he was agile (well, as agile as a 10.5 year old, 105lb boy can be!), his tongue was lolling out to the side with happiness and he was all about meeting the new people and new dogs. Tina pranced around as if she owned the place (kind of ironic when you think about it!!) and even sweet Queenie was a bit more relaxed. I wish there was someway to tell them that the best is still yet to come!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Post #14 - A Rescue Story: Voice of an Animal Control Officer

**Editor's Note: This blog was written by the Angel Animal Control Officer, Angie, who originally came to these dogs' rescue.

Today started out like every other day of the last few months at the kennel where the “Fabulous Five” are currently living.  There I was, feeding, cleaning and medicating the dogs. Making sure their runs were clean, making sure the water was fresh and trying to give each of these special souls enough attention to get them through the day while they are alone. None of this is new, as it has become my routine in the months that I have been caring for these sweet dogs.  But yet, today I did something that I had never thought of doing before. 

Buster gets an idea!
I was sitting down brushing Buster when he looked up at me with an intense stare that made me feel like he was trying to speak to me.  Buster has this effect on me – he is so strong and seems to know all the secrets that have gone on within the 4 walls of the kennel. But today, rather than look at me with sadness or seriousness, he seemed to have a mischievous glint to his eyes. It was infectious! I felt like I knew EXACTLY what he had in mind! 
Kennel with ribbons and pictures
So I stood up, walked to his kennel door and promptly yanked off one of the myriad of championship ribbons that covered his kennel door…. and threw it in an empty box. Then I yanked off another one…and another one!  This felt good, and Buster seemed to be smiling in approval.  
Close up of awards
So…one by one Buster and I removed every ribbon, every plaque and each trophy from around the kennel.  After all, what had these prizes brought the dogs? Certainly not the companionship of a family, or a happy, safe retirement, or even a soft bed to lay on. I am sure that these items represented something good to the former owner. But to me, the person who came in and cared for the dogs LONG after they had been forgotten by their owner, they were nothing more than eye sores...not to mention the fact that poor Buster couldn’t even see out the door of his kennel because it was littered with so many ribbons and pictures! Somehow though, taking down the ribbons and trophies wasn’t quite good enough for Buster and I.  So, we got another box and began to fill it with every single photograph of every single dog show result that was plastered to the walls of the kennel. These pictures didn’t show dogs being loved, or patted or cared for. They showed dogs in artificially stances, staring blankly ahead…kind of like the way the dogs used to look before they came to know what true human companionship and love were all about.

The past, packed up.
So now…the kennel walls are bare!  No longer will these dogs (or I) be forced to look at these reminders of their past!  Soon, they will all leave this place forever and begin to replace the sadness and isolation of this place with the happiness of loving foster homes and new experiences.  Eventually the memories of this dark, dusty old place will disappear forever and be replaced with memories of days spent outside with their humans, long walks and nights laying by their human’s side!   I cannot change their past, and sadly Diesel and Susann never left here in the way that I had hoped.  But in their memory, and with love for them, I removed every shred of evidence of the past they endured for far too long!
My final act of the day was to rescue “Jaz”.  There was a dusty urn of dog ashes on a shelf with a nameplate that stated “Jaz”.  There was a note taped to it stating that this dog died in 2009 at the age of 12 ½.  I decided that she too deserved to be rescued.  At least Diesel and Susann got to know love before they crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  This dog lived and died here – we have no idea what her life inside this kennel was like.  So, in an act of love for all dogs that never know love and the security of a family and a real home…I dusted off the urn and carried Jaz home.  Today, her ashes sit on my mantle. As soon as I am able, I will scatter her ashes on top of the highest mountain that I can find… right along with Diesel and Susann.  I hope that they, just like all the rest, never look back.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Post #13 - A Rescue Story

Well, I am very proud to announce that Buster, Tina, Georgia and Queenie have now been inducted into the "Friends of Kitties" Hall of Fame! Yes folks - all 4 of these incredible dogs passed their "cat-scan" without incident!

Tina passes the cat test!
We started off our testing yesterday with Tina - who we figured would handle the whole experience the best. Strangely, she ended up being the most freaked out by the little fuzzie monsters. I think she might also have been worried about being inside a house, and trying to walk on the wood floors. Remember, all of this inside stuff is new to these dogs and it will take some getting used to. To make matters a little more daunting for her, the home that we were at isn't your regular cat home. It was the home of the cat coordinator for a local animal rescue - so suffice to say, there were a LOT of test subjects running around the place. And believe me - they knew exactly how to put a big German Shepherd Dog in its place! After walking Tina around the cats for a while it was very clear that she had no interest in them (and actually preferred to stay away from them if possible!) and so we took her outside to recover and brought in Queenie. Queenie did a lot better than we expected. We figured she would have been the most wigged out as, well, pretty much everything wigs her out :) A funny side story though on her, before we loaded the dogs up to take the to the "House of Feline Terror", we were standing outside the kennel at their place and Tina was just ambling around off leash. She has NO interest in going far from us, she just likes to hang out, like one of the girls, and listen while Angie and I chit-chat. Angie also had Queenie outside and at one point dropped her leash. Well, sweet, timid, scaredy-pants Queenie saw the opportunity and BOLTED!!!! A few heart palpitations later though I realized all she wanted to do was run around the outside of the kennel. I forget sometimes that these dogs (well most certainly the young ones like Queenie and Gunner) have never had the chance to just stretch out their legs and zoom - like all young dogs should be able to do. So, given the opportunity, Queenie just wanted to run and run and run and run. You should have seen the ridiculous grin on her face and the way her tongue was lolling out the side of her mouth as she tore around the kennel. Sadly, as soon as we caught her, we had to kill her buzz by turning the hose on and washing the copious amounts of mud off her feet that she had accumulated by running through the quagmire at the back of the kennels. Don't worry Queenie - very, very soon now you will be able to run to your hearts content...and not worry about getting the dreaded hose at the end of it!

Queenie and one of the fluffy terrorists. Queenie refuses to
make eye contact - probably hoping it will go away!!
Anyway, back to the testing. Queenie popped into the house with very little trembling and quickly came face to face with a cat. She sniffed - it sniffed and that was pretty much it! We brought a selection of different colors, sizes and sexes of cats to her but none seemed even remotely interesting to her and so, with that, we took her back to the kennel with a score of A+ for cat friendliness.

Sweet Georgia - wouldn't hurt a fly or a cat, or a kid.
Next on the agenda was Buster and Georgia-Mae. As expected, Georgia was as sweet and as gentle with the kitties as she is with everyone else. She also got to meet some little humans in the house and she really seemed to like them. However, the thing that REALLY got her interest was the TV. Some cartoon was playing and she kept walking into the living room and just staring at the TV. I am picturing her settling into her new foster home, with an open box of dog cookies by her side (and not the low fat variety either!!) watching the soaps with her new foster Mom. I think this would be a perfect retirement scenario for Miss Georgia-Mae!

Buster listens to the cat jury.
Last but not least, we tested our Buster boy with the cats. For some reason, I was expecting that he would be the one to show a less than healthy interest in the cats. He has been feeling his oats more and more lately, showing his sense of humor and his renewed zest in life. I get the impression that he is going to be a lot of fun once he settles in his foster home. Anyway, we brought him in and immediately he zoned in on one of the cats that was sitting on the staircase. He walked right up to it and stuck his nose through the railings of the bannister while the cat stuck its nose back. Some mutual sniffing ensued and then the cat decided that the big dog was not very cool and so it raced up stairs. Buster thought he'd follow...all 105lbs of him...with me on the end of the leash! I don't think so Buster! So I redirected him to one of the other cats that was nearby and he made the fatal error of trying to sniff its butt. I don't know how familiar you are with kitty etiquette, but this is not considered a "polite gesture" and so Buster got a "whack" on his face with a full set of claws! This was a test in itself - i.e. would Buster react aggressively if the cat was aggressive to him?? Nope - Buster just sat down a little perplexed and I think made a mental note of what size and color that cat was and vowed never to go near it again!!! Instead he turned his attention to a creamy colored cat. He seemed most intrigued by the lighter colored cats - maybe he could see them better? He actually got under the dining room table to get a closer look at that one. He sniffed it, seemed satisfied and then came out from under the table. Then it was time for him to explore the house. We set off down the hall and, much to everyone's delight, a little trail of cats followed us. It was like they were curious where the big oaf was going. At one point they cornered him in the kitchen - some in front of him, some behind him it was enough to stop him in his tracks! I tried urging him to come to me but he was as still as a statue, not daring to move until someone picked up one of the cats and cleared his way. Mind you, on the way out of the house, he spied his little orange friend on the stair case and made as if he wanted to charge up the stairs at it. I think maybe he liked seeing it run :)I've no doubt that if the cat had turned and raised its paw Buster would have turned tail and run for the hills!

So the Fantastic Four (since Gunner left they can no longer be called the Fabulous Five!!) passed yet another test! I think it is very safe to say now that we have an excellent handle on their personalities - and all are quite stellar. These dogs, despite spending their days in an outside kennel, away from the house and a family, are wonderful with people, great with other dogs, tolerant of cats and patient with small children. Such wonderful personalities and spirits - so deserving of being part of a family. I cannot wait to see them in their foster homes (and eventually their forever homes), because its not just the dogs who will benefit from this - whoever the lucky people are who will be living with these dogs will also benefit. I'm telling you, these are some of the greatest dogs I have ever had the pleasure to be around. You will understand if you get to meet them :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Post #12 - A Rescue Story: Thursday June 16th, 2011

**This blog written by Gunner's foster mom**
Wow - what a difference a couple of days make! After our first horrendous night together, Gunner started to relax around my husband and my daughter the following day while I was at work. My husband even taught him to go down the stairs! Little by little he started to show that he wants to be where he can see the family, sometimes at the edge of a room, but always close enough to keep us in his sights. Tuesday night, which was our second night with him, he started to move closer to the family by laying by the chair in the den where we were sitting. That same night, before bedtime, he actually came into the den with our two dogs and me!  Wow, was this really happening?  He actually fell asleep on the floor with his new foster brother, sister...and mom (did I mention about the lack of sleep the night before???). When we all finally got up and continued to get ready for bed he took himself upstairs without any prompting from me so that he could be near us when I was putting my daughter to bed.  I think it was at this moment that I got the true feeling that he wanted to be a part of our family!  So, after all these warm and fuzzy moments with him, I had a dilemma - to crate or not to crate.  I decided I didn't want to undo all the relationship building we had just accomplished during the night and so my husband and I chose to let him stay downstairs with a gate separating the living room and foyer off from the rest of the house. This way, he didn't have to stay in the crate, but was still separate from my dogs during the night when they would be unsupervised.... while we hopefully slept.  We told ourselves that this would be the safest - and fairest - thing for all the dogs.  However, when I got upstairs, Gunner let me know real quick that he wanted to be with his new family and started up with the non-stop barking and pacing.  I opened the gate to the upstairs, just to see what he would do, and up he came.  He slept on the floor close to our bed....  he slept like a baby all night long... my husband and I slept...and all was right with the world again.  

Things have gone from good to better to GREAT following that. Gunner is amazing me more and more each day.  He is calm in the house and follows me around.  Stairs, no problem!  If it's a matter of staying close to his family, he'll zip up and down without any issues!  In our short time with him, we have learned that Gunner is one smart cookie! After only one night with us, Gunner had worked out the evening routine and now knows EXACTLY when it is going to be snack time for the dogs! We are walking him a fair bit each day to build up his muscle mass and exercise tolerance and he is learning quickly how to be a gentleman on the end of the leash. Since Gunner had only been kenneled (and forced to exercise in a 10 X 3 run), he had not developed the muscle mass in his hind legs like GSDs should have.  So, we walk him a couple of times each day to slowly start building up those muscles.  Yesterday, mu husband and daughter took him and our dogs for a nice long walk down the Greenway.  He was sniffing all the different trees and grasses and enjoying the great life outdoors - this is pretty amazing given that just 3 days ago he was like a bucking bronco on the end of the leash and wasn't anywhere near close to being able to relax enough to sniff things!.  After the walk, Gunner came home pooped out! Goodness knows this has to be the most exercise he has ever had in his life!

So little by little, we are seeing Gunner emerge from the shell of a dog we first met a couple of weeks ago. He seems to like to be touched more now, and always sits close to where he can watch us.  He is eating well, is respecting my dogs’ space, is gentle but cautious around my daughter, and has given me cheek kisses! And the best bit?? I got a tail wag when he saw me first thing this morning, and he actually is smiling now!  This makes everything worth while!  It will still take Gunner a while to trust all humans, but with the progress that he has made in three days, I know he will be a stellar dog when fully rehabilitated!  After he gets more comfortable, we will start focusing on some obedience training.  Time, love, patience, and consistency are what this boy needs, and we are so happy to be the family able to give these things to such a deserving boy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Post #11 - A Rescue Story: Monday June 13, 2011

**This blog was written by the volunteer who took Gunner home** 
Yay, I got to bring Gunner home tonight!  The car ride from the kennel to my home went better than expected. Gunner sat there looking out all of the car windows at the cars and scenery and was pretty calm...until we hit 40 during a high traffic period!  Once those big trucks started coming to our side, Gunner started to panic - pacing fast in the back of the car. Of course this was understandable given that he has never been in a car before. Even so, by the time we got home BOTH of us were pretty stressed out!  

When Gunner entered our house, I can only imagine the sensory overload he must have experienced.  Different floors, wide open space, ceiling fans, different noises, a thing called a TV, an active 8 year old child and the list goes on! Just being around people is a challenge for this boy. We always knew that Gunner and Queenie (the two youngest GSDs) would be the hardest to rehabilitate. Both these dogs have had extremely limited exposure to humans, other dogs, and life outside of the kennel. The older dogs had been show dogs, and even though it had been several years, they were at one point exposed to humans and dogs in the show ring. They'd also been handled, after all, they had to be tolerant of touch and well behaved in order to win all those ribbons that decorated their kennels. The young ones, however, had never entered the show arena, due to the fact that they were born at a time when the owners health had already started to decline. Despite all of this, and despite never having been in a house before, Gunner took everything in stride...well, almost everything -  the stairs terrified him!!  We got him to go up ok, if he was on a leash, but going down the stairs proved to be a different story. One or two steps might not have been a problem, but 8 stairs was terrifying. In Gunner's mind, there was no walking down, he would jump down. Just take a flying leap and clear all 8 steps at once! My husband caught him twice while he was airborne! 

Gunner's first night was very unsettled.  He is so hand shy! After being in the house a while and seeing how things worked (and seeing how calm our other dogs were), he would come to me and lick me on the hand, then walk quickly away. His way of handling stress is to pace, no doubt a learned coping mechanism he had to use while he was in his small run at the kennel. He also paced a lot in his crate when it was time for us to go to bed. None of us got much sleep. He pretty much demanded to be let out of his crate, but we knew we needed to ride it out for a while.  When you first start crating a dog, it is like putting a child to bed and they start crying.  You have to let that child cry for a while, otherwise, they learn real quick that if they cry, they will get picked up.  The same goes for crate training a dog. You have to try and out last them sometimes. At the same time though, you have to know when it becomes too much, since crating needs to be viewed as a positive experience and the actual crate a safe place. Apparently Gunner had never read the dog journals we had about this topic as he wanted nothing to do with his crate, period!  While we were laying there listening to him pace, whine, and bark, all the while our hearts breaking because we knew he was confused and scared, we suddenly heard a loud bang!  We ran to see what was going on and, much to our surprise, Gunner was out of his crate looking up at us.  The crate doors were closed, so how the heck? He did this once more before I finally let him win half way at 2:00 am.  I brought my pillow on the floor in front of his crate and laid down with him, with my hand up on the crate door to offer reassurance.  FINALLY he laid down in the crate at 6:40 am the next morning..... 5 min before I had to get up for work :(    

This first night with Gunner was by far the most challenging time I have had fostering a dog. Considering it has been approximately 2 1/2 months since Angie has been going over to feed and spend time with the fabulous five,  I can only imagine what Gunner was like when she first started going if he is still this anxious now. However, having seen the progress that the dogs are making, compared to how they were when we were first introduced to them,  I am remaining positive and believe that Gunner, like the other dogs in the kennel, is a survivor and will one day thrive in a loving, patient home. That said, please pray that he sleeps tonight!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Post #10 - A Rescue Story: Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Buster, just too cute in his shades!
Tonight was a really special night. It was a milestone of sorts I guess. Tonight, Angie, Val and I left the kennel with HUGE smiles on our faces! Tonight, we had taken all 5 dogs together on their very first walk around the block. It was AWESOME!!!!!!!!! Tonight, we were just 3 friends taking our dogs out for a walk together. We weren't rescuers or AC Officers, and these weren't sad or neglected dogs. We were just regular people taking regular (albeit stunningly gorgeous!!) dogs out for a stroll. Man it felt good! We were all a little uncoordinated to begin with - the dogs aren't all that great on leash yet, but we got into a groove. Angie took Tina and Queenie, Val worked on Gunner, and I had Buster and Georgia. That first Monday when we had gone to wash the dogs (was it really just 2 weeks ago??) we had tried to walk Buster and Georgia down the street. Admittedly it was hotter than hot, but the weather notwithstanding, the dogs wanted NOTHING to do with leaving the property. Buster was so out of shape that we only got across the street before he had to sit down. And Georgia was just freaked out altogether. But tonight... Tonight it was a completely different story!! All the dogs were pulling - not to get back to the kennel, but rather to get out in front! I nearly burst out crying when Buster pulled me over to a tree to sniff and then mark. Yep - the sight of a dog peeing nearly brought me to tears!! You have to understand though, we have watched these dogs go from empty shells - where nothing piqued their interest or curiosity - to the point now where, to a stranger's eye, they look like every day normal dogs. THIS is what makes it all worthwhile. As Angie said - this was the pay off for all the dog poop she'd had to shovel over the last month!

So off we went on our tour of the neighborhood. At one point Angie decided to jog a little with Queenie and Tina. Gunner wanted to follow, so he and Val started to jog and at that point, Buster decided he needed to be in front and so he started to pull me to go faster. Neither Georgia nor I felt like jogging, but Buster is over 100lbs, so when he said "faster" we pretty much had to oblige. Looking back we must have looked so funny. Not exactly New York Marathon material :) We found a tennis ball along the route and Angie bounced it to see if anyone was interested. Gunner sniffed and licked it, so we took it back with us and Val is going to see if, once Gunner is settled, whether or not he'd like to play with it. Thus far in our work with these dogs we haven't even considered playing with them. It's all been about cleaning them, medicating them, planning the next move in their care. Tonight was just about enjoying them - and seeing them enjoy themselves. We came across some cats and squirrels - all at distances, so it wasn't easy to tell if any of the dogs had any interest in these other critters. We'll find out more in this area of of their personality when I take Neville - our test cat - down to meet all the dogs! That should be an interesting blog!!!

Georgia, Buster and I cut early from the walk as they were getting tired and we thought it best to increase their exercise tolerance slowly. Angie, Tina, Queenie, Val and Gunner however kept walking. Apparently, the further they walked, the better Gunner got on leash. He's a smart boy, so we know it won't be long before he gets the hang of "heel". Along the way, Gunner came upon a sprinkler in a yard.  Gunner was so inquisitive that he had to go check it out.  He stood there getting sprayed and tried to lick the water coming out of it.  Yep - it's the little things that mean so much! Everyone got lots of cookies and kisses and hugs when they got back to the kennel. It was hard leaving them there when we had to go home, but at least tonight we knew that they had gotten some exercise and had seen new things that they could think about during the late night hours.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Post #9 - A Rescue Story: Friday June 10, 2011

Find out how you can help at First Giving

Buster meets Casey
Losing Susann and Diesel yesterday was a hard blow for everyone involved with these dogs. In one day, we went from the Sweet 7 to the Fabulous 5 - funny how the names don't reflect the nature of what happened. Still, now is not the time to reflect on the unfairness of it all, we still have a LOT of work to do in order to get these dogs out of the kennel and into forever homes. It's with this mind set that we kicked ourselves into gear and arranged to go out to the kennel tonight to test all the dogs with dogs from outside their pack. Knowing that these guys had been isolated for so long had us all worried about how they might react to dogs they weren't used to. We had to know how they'd do though as all of our foster homes have at least one other dog (and a lot have cats...but cat-testing will be a story for another day!). So tonight we went out to visit the dogs and this time we brought some friends with us. The first test dog was Shannon's dog Kasey - a young GSD/pointer/something-or-other mix. Kasey usually does good with other dogs but if someone snaps at her, she will defend herself. For this reason, we started out slow.
Tina checks out Kasey while Queenie looks on
While Shannon walked Kasey around the yard Angie and I brought out Tina and Queenie. Tina took one look at Kasey and let out a bellowing bark!!!!! I think this is the first time I have heard them make a sound outside of their kennel. The bark couldn't have meant anything too bad in doggie language as Kasey didn't seem upset by it, so we just kept walking the dogs near each other and let them get used to the new smells. Eventually they made contact..... and everyone held their collective breaths....and the dogs.......sniffed butts and then walked away from each other!! Alrighty then....not exactly the explosive reaction we were thinking we might get, but no complaints here!! Kasey and Queenie were totally fine with each other - in fact Queenie seemed comforted by Kasey's presence when we took them for a walk together. For her part, Tina was still obsessed with the back end of things. I guess she had never smelled a spayed female dog before and couldn't quite work it out. We were actually filming the dog test to post online later, but ended up turning the camera off as we figured there was only so much butt sniffing that people wanted to see. Seriously - Tina spent a lot of time back there! But (no pun intended there) after she had concluded that Kasey was a) a dog and b) no threat, she pretty much ignored her and started checking to see which of the humans had brought treats for her! It was at that point that she discovered the opened hatch of our car.
Car testing Queenie
After that, Tina was only interested in one thing - getting in that car! She doesn't quite have the back leg strength to hoist herself up but with a little bit of help she was up and in and laying down in readiness for a ride....which she was sure was coming.....some time......."c'mon guys, you wouldn't leave a girl waiting would you???". Seeing Tina in the car prompted Queenie to also jump in to check things out. She wasn't quite as sure of the "fun factor" of the car but figured that as long as her roomie Tina was in there, it couldn't be too bad. None of us had the heart to make her get out without giving Tina her ride, so Jon took both girls for a cruise around the neighborhood with the windows down and the wind blowing through their hair. Tina was in HEAVEN!!!! This girl loves to cruise!!!!! When Jon brought them back, it was a struggle to get Tina out of the car, but eventually she complied with our wishes...once prompted with a few more sticks of Pup-peroni!

Just call him "Mr. Buster Cool"
Next we tested Georgia and Buster with Kasey. Once again, there was a lot of butt sniffing but other than that, no reaction. Both these guys seemed more interested in getting human attention rather than worrying about the new dog in the yard. Buster in particular seemed happy to have human company. Before tonight, he was pretty shut down and kind of a hard nut to crack. We couldn't tell if he was exerting his "alpha-ness" or if he was just a shy, reserved dog. Tonight though there was a distinct difference in him. He seemed more content - happier to hang out with people and get attention. He even let us put some sunglasses on him! Yes, I know, dressing up dogs can constitute a form of animal abuse but hey - look at the picture - he looked really cool (and I think he knew it!!). The Buster of a couple of weeks ago would never have allowed this kind of tom foolery. I think seeing the change in his personality really brought home to us the good that was  being brought into these dog's lives. 
Kasey flirting with Gunner
Last dog to be tested with Kasey was Gunner - young, handsome Gunner. If dogs could swoon then that is exactly what Miss Kasey did!! Whereas she had been a cool customer with the other dogs, when she saw Gunner she acted like a pre-teen at a Justin Bieber concert! She went into a play bow, she ran in tight circles, she flopped down onto her back and wiggled her body. Gunner *almost* looked as if he was going to play with actual fact I think he was confused...and maybe a little startled! After all, this young boy has never had a playmate before. He has spent his whole life in a dog kennel with his Mom! I am sure seeing Kasey flirt with him like this was all very new to him. Hopefully though, he will learn quickly that these kinds of shenanigans are EXACTLY what young pups are supposed to do!
Buster was way more interested in Pup-peroni than Kasey

Shortly after Kasey arrived on the scene, Val and Fred had arrived with their 2 GSDs Jade and Brady. We proceeded to test all of the Fab 5 with these dogs also and, much to everyone's amazement, they all did fantastic!! Even Buster and Brady! We were especially concerned with how Buster might be with another male dog - being that he is over 10 years old and still intact! Some of it may have had to do with the fact that Brady is an extremely sweet, laid back boy, but seriously, Buster couldn't have cared less! After we had done all the formal testing and were just standing around we all marveled at how incredibly well-tempered all of these dogs are. I mean, for having been isolated for so long, they seem to just have really nice manners. This is going to make placing them in foster homes sooooooo much easier. I have to say, I really sighed a breath of relief when I saw their reaction - or lack there of - tonight. 

So now we are one step closer in our quest to move these dogs into REAL homes. It seems like it is taking forever to get all these blasted ducks in a row, but I know we have to move carefully at each step. The more care and diligence we put in at this stage of the assessment, the better the placements will be when we move these dogs. I really don't want to see them being bounced from foster to foster, so we HAVE to get it right the first time...even if it takes a little bit longer. I think it seems so much more arduous because we are working with 5 dogs all at once. In actual fact, we are using the same process we use for all dogs we bring into the rescue. It's a lot of work, but I know we would all rather take our time to get these assessments accurate than risk placing one of these pups in a home they weren't suited to. 

Next step - cat-testing!! Oh, I can't wait for that!!!  :)
Queenie and Tina riding off, possibly for the cat-testing???

Post #8 - A Rescue Story: Thursday June 9th, 2011

To find out how you can help, go to First Giving

**Editor's note: This blog entry was written by one of our other volunteers, Jon, who went to support Angie and the dogs on the day that Diesel and Susann were sent to the Rainbow Bridge.

Diesel - Gone, but never forgotten
Susann - Free now to terrorize all the other female dogs in heaven!
Diesel enjoying the warm morning air

It hasn't even been a week since I first met these dogs
 during their medical examinations. The moment I saw them that day, I immediately loved them all. Sadly, it was also at that time that I also realized that two of these broken shepherds wouldn't get to see the wonderful future that was being planned for them. I believe so strongly that no dog should ever die alone. These animals who stand by us humans through thick and thin deserve to have someone holding them when their time comes to pass. It's the least that we can do. That's why I went today. I wanted them to know that their lives *mattered* to someone. That, even though we weren't able to prevent their suffering over the last who-knows how many years, we were able - and willing - to be there with them right until the very end. I wanted Diesel and Susann to pass knowing that they were loved. 

Diesel, Angie, and Susann, Friends Furever
When I arrived today, Angie was walking Susann and Diesel was laying down in the garden enjoying a sun spot. The memory is vivid and some how comforting - the grass, the birds making music and the warm, humid morning air that let us know that summer was fast approaching. I talked with Angie for a time before the doctor arrived. Seeing how comfortable and relaxed the dogs were with her made it clear to me that these dogs were loved. As we stood talking, Diesel was restful but always intent on keeping Angie within sight. Susann wandered around sniffing the grass and flowers, but she never strayed far. The love that Angie felt for these 2 dogs (and all the dogs) translated into total trust on the part of the dogs - in their mind, as long as Momma Angie was there, nothing bad would happen.

Diesel enjoying his hotdog
My contribution to the day's event would come in the form of sausages. I'd already shared some with the other dogs still inside the kennel, but now it was time to treat Diesel and Susann to theirs. I unwrapped the snacks that I'd brought and gave these curious shepherds their first (I'm sure) taste of smoked sausage. Based on the speed with which they were devoured, I'd say they approved!

The doctor arrived and immediately set to work making both dogs comfortable. We started by keeping Susann rested in the shade and Diesel at a distance enjoying his sun spot. In only a short time though, Diesel decided he wouldn't have any distance between us and pulled himself to where Susann lay in Angie's arms. Susann had already passed but Diesel sniffed her and seemed satisfied that he understood the situation. He then lay himself down next to Angie and Susann for the last time. 
Susann and Angie - 2 Unforgettable Ladies
We all know what the death of a loved one feels like. I'll only say that it's personal. How you feel and how you deal with it is yours to live with. It was an honor to be with these dogs when they passed. As hard as it was, I was glad I was there. I am so grateful for the kindness  the doctor showed in handling Diesel and Susann today, and the gentle hands that both Angie and the doctor used in order to help them to their peaceful end. Diesel and Susann found their rest... and they were not alone.