Sunday, March 31, 2013

Note from Carter, Note Response from Mina

Dear Human,

You're pretty nice.

Am I your new favorite pink-nosed dog?



Dear Carter,


Respect Your Elders, Punk,


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Why I Foster

This foster dogs was nuts.
Since January 2011, I have been fostering dogs. There has been Sherman, Chloe, Alice, Kassie, Bree, Toby, Dude, and now Carter. Some have stayed a week, some more than a month. All have touched my soul in small and big ways.

Every time I foster, someone asks me why I do it. Isn't it hard? Don't you want to keep them? How can you let them go?

Sometimes it IS hard. I wanted to keep Chloe. Badly. She is now Keely and happier than all get out. Kassie hated Mina, and Dude stressed out easily. Sherman and Alice chewed on everything. Bree broke screen doors. Toby annoyed Mina with his constant bonding. Carter is the first blind dog I've fostered, so there are setbacks and adjustments.

So why do I foster?

Because I can.

Because it is right.

Because it makes me feel good.

Because it often saves a life.

Because it is, at the end of the day, a gift to myself and a gift to another.

It really is that simple for me. I invite a dog into my world and, in exchange, I am invited into theirs - what
Chloe, before she was Keely.
makes them happy, angry, sad, concerned, playful. I get to watch them transform, and I get to help pick their forever home. If I am really lucky, I get updates on them as they age in their new home.

It disrupts the girls' routine. It stresses everyone out. And it's why I take breaks between fostering, for us all to decompress. But it is not an enormous stress, and I have found ways to ensure Mina and Celeste receive the attention they need (fact is, they spend 8+ hours with me at work, so I don't feel they are THAT deprived). It does not send Mina or Celeste into a downward spiral resulting in uncontrollable rage or grief.

I hope everyone is able to foster at least once. Even if you do it once a year, you are making a difference! Or sponsor a foster dog so that rescues can continue to fund the training, enrichment, and medical care of foster dogs. And, if you ever want to adopt, the best method I know of is to foster first! I've done it twice with great success. :)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Here I am Kissing a Piglet

Lucy is Animal Place's newest piglet. I am kissing her. She likes being kissed and having her belly rubbed.

Don't eat pigs. They are for kissing, not eating! Just kidding, they exist for their own reasons. But kissing is better than killing, usually always.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Note from Carter

Dear Human,

You paid $99.99 for this bed?

Here, make it worthwhile - take an artsy, weirdly lit, grainy photo of my foot.



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Joy of Play

When Carter's family returned him to the shelter a year ago, they did not comprehend why stared out the window and bumped into things. I do not know if his vision loss was gradual or sudden, but his family didn't understand the change in their dog. So they returned him to the shelter. And when the shelter called to say, "Hey, did you know Carter is blind?" They took him back, for a year.

And so far as I can tell, they didn't do much with him. They had a second child and I can understand the difficulties in having two mobile children and one blind dog. I've had to modify my home a smidgen to accommodate Carter. I have to remember to keep things as stationary as possible. But mostly, I have not had to do a thing except re-adjust my reaction when Carter runs into something.

I don't know why I am a little obsessed with this, but I keep going back to his intake form in which his previous family label his favorite activity "sleeping". I think it's because "sleeping" isn't an activity for Carter; it is a year-long coping mechanism. It is the result of an unenriched environment - no play time, no toy time, probably limited people time. He spent 1/2 of his time outside and the other 1/2 apparently in the living room. There is no mention of him enjoying playing.

And this just breaks my heart.

Playing is a dog's prerogative. I have never known this to be untrue. If it is, I don't want to hear about it!

Play is a way to exercise. It is an expression of pent-up energy. When engaged with another, play becomes the premium bonding experience. It is the sharing of joy, joint play. And I love seeing it in dogs, because play is uninhibited and unwavering. It is happiness incarnate.

Mina and Celeste play and I do not stop it, despite knowing how fragile Mina is. How every sharp turn could result in a tumbling, somersaulting Mina. How one wrong move could result in two canines crashing, then clashing, then going their separate ways. Mina is 14, but her favorite activity is not sleeping - it is sniffing and motion and yelling at neighbor dogs and running free with Celeste. It is play. Even when she curls up behind me to fall asleep, she will immediately pop open her eyes if I squeak a toy and pinch her jowels and invite her to a soft game of tug.

Carter has not had that in the past year. He has not had romps in the backyard, bouts of tug-of-war on green grass, leaps and twirls of joy. He has sat on a couch or on a bed or in a living room. And he has slept. He has just been waiting, waiting, waiting for his invitation.

I invite Carter to play on a regular basis. He is intrigued and engaged. When presented with a nylabone, he grasps it gently as if to ask, "mine?" and sets to chewing on it. When given a squeaky toy, he mushes it in his big mouth and spits it out gently. When asked to run around the yard, he trusts my voice and bounds up to me. I wake him up, because I want him to know that "sleeping" is not a favored activity of any self-respecting canine...not if games are afoot.

And yesterday, I offered him a rope toy. He put it in his mouth. When I tugged on it, his eyes got large. At first, despite knowing this game, he wasn't sure what to do. Tug? Drop? Run away? Play?!? I would tap him on his side and he would leap in the air, jaws gently snapping. He was so happy! I offered the tug again and he pulled gently, tugging, twisting, enjoying this shared moment of fun.

Carter doesn't really enjoy walks. Yet. They are too overstimulating and scary. So I have to make sure he exercises his body and his mind. And the only way to do that is with play. I can get him to run, almost full tilt, on the lawn. I can distract him with squeaks and bones and rope toys. When he is more comfortable, I will invite him to try mental games, like scent games. He's not quite there - I used some essential oil on a tug toy to see if he could find it easier when I waved it around. He curled his lip, disgusted at the smell (it was lavender, geez). But I found a temporary alternative. I whack the rope toy against the lawn and he pounces, like a graceless coyote. Play = joy.

Note from Mina

Dear Minion,

Not only did you bring in a weirdly large and completely blind dog, but you put a care-bear wannabe on my shoulder? Are you serious?

Die now,


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Notes from Carter

Dear Human,

I upended a bowl, see? You may fill it with food now.



Dear Human,

Your double-gate system is impressive. I mean, I am completely bored here and could destroy it in a second. But still, good effort.



Monday, March 25, 2013

Carter's Adjustment

I has an eye, boom.
Sometimes I just stare at Carter's eyes. At the expanding and shrinking pupil, still sensitive to light but seeing nothing. At the strange ring of color in his iris. At the way he still stares at me when he hears me talk. He looks me right in the face. Always.

Over a year ago, Carter lost his eyesight. Perhaps it was a slow dimming, his world winnowing to the play of when the sun flashes across your closed eyelids. His family did not know he was losing his vision. When they had one child, they deemed it too difficult to care for the infant and Carter.

They dropped him off at a shelter. After the veterinarian established his blindness, the family was called up and told that Carter could not see. For some reason, they took him back, keeping him for another year until they had a second child and returned Carter to the shelter. For seven years, Carter has known one family. Now he must know another (mine), then one more (his permanent home, yo).

On his intake form, they listed his favorite activity as "sleeping". I suppose many dogs would claim snoozing as their favorite past-time. But after meeting Carter, I think this is a coping mechanism, a way to deal with an overstimulating world with no one in it to make it fun. He spent 1/2 his time outside, alone.

I know you are taking my picture
Carter likes toys. He likes squeaky toys and nylabones. When you present it to his nose, he understands the purpose of such things. And he is good at biting the toy, not your hand. I will work on developing some outdoor games, because Carter loves to play. Right now, our outdoor game is me running away from him and clapping while I call to him. Initially he would walk over to me, tail wagging, happy grin. Now he trots. Sometimes he even runs (often resulting in a large head bashing into my leg). I am using essential oils on his toys outside to see if that helps him track them down.

Carter slept because no one invested any time to play with him.

Carter loves people. When I first met Carter, he had just arrived after a 3+ hour car trip. He had been removed from the familiar settings of the shelter, plopped in a car with two other dogs and two new people, then transported 3 hours to a new house. But the moment he met me, he only wanted to find my face to bestow it with kisses. He did the same with my parents, who were visiting for the weekend. He hears a human voice and he thinks "good" and "safe" and "protector". Or, "provider of pets and attention".

Carter adapts well. I was unsure how a blind dog would navigate a new home and backyard. He created a spatial map of my house within 20-30 minutes of arrival. He still moves with care and still runs into things. The backyard took a couple sessions but he has mastered 85%  of it. The remaining 15% involve my patio plants, which he sometimes jumps into or knocks over. That's life.

Carter likes routine. What I've read about blind dogs is they like their safe zones to remain safe. I set up the office for him, and he will only drink his water off of the placemat I put in there. In the living room is another bowl of water and it must be to the right of the small table or he gets flustered.

Walks outside are currently intimidating for him. While his primary scent is his nose, he wants to follow up what he smells or hears with a glance. Car sounds confuse him, but he is comforted when I ask for a sit and stroke his massive head. We are working on better leash manners, but mostly I'll be working on making outdoor walks more fun, less stress.

Carter is a big mutt. He will probably be labeled as a Pit Bull, but I think he is a mixed breed dog with unknown parentage. He is 76 lbs, far too large for a standard sized American Pit Bull Terrier (Pit Bull). If you saw him from behind, you'd call him a Retriever. His head looks mastiff-like or Rottweiler-like...or maybe American Bulldog. He is a Nice Dog.

Please help, that dog was mean
Carter is very sensitive around other dogs. The first night, he heard and smelled Mina and Celeste. And when they would walk by his room, he would peer over the baby gate, nose working furiously, and whine. This morning, my dad helped me introduce him to Mina. It went acceptably well. I have to rethink dog-dog introductions with him. Mina is a bad greeter and pushy. She likes too much nose-to-nose contact and that is too much for Carter (and most dogs, I'm surprised she gets away with it so often).

Mina got grouchy with him and Carter responded out of fear, air snapping at her. But neither dog seemed angry over this encounter, just slightly stressed. Mina practiced her air of indifference, chewing on some grass and staring in the opposite direction. If Carter had been sighted, he would have appreciated the calming behaviors Mina was exhibiting. But Mina's charm was lost upon him.

I reintroduced them, allowing Mina to sniff Carter's butt. Carter got concerned and air snapped at her again, but Mina was unbothered and did not respond. She politely turned away. I ended the session with scooping Mina up and letting Carter sniff her rear-end. At the very least, his last encounter with Mina involved a normal dog-dog interaction. Mina didn't care and demanded a cookie for her hard work.

The interaction left Carter a little stressed. I notice that when he gets stressed, he runs into things more. He is not using his nose then. If you have tips on introducing concerned blind dogs to pushy sighted dogs (or dogs in general), please share. Ideally, I'd like to be able to have Mina and Carter together when I'm present. I'm not sure this will work, but I think it will work with the right dog. Mina just may not be that dog.

Okay, after this epic essay, I will stop. I'll be blogging more about living with a blind dog, fostering when my two other dogs are pushy ladies, and working on eliminating an irksome behavior in Carter (I'm waiting to see if my technique works before I post on its success!)

I'll also post when his adoption information is available. He will make a great companion for someone.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Study on Length of Stay in Two NY Shelters

Does coat color matter in terms of a dog's likelihood of adoption? What about breed?

Researchers in New York looked at the records of two no-kill shelters, the TCSPCA and the HSYC. You can see the entire journal article here.

They were interested if age, coat color, weight, or breed impacted the length of stay at these two shelters.

Their results are interesting. The results may not apply to all shelters.

The average length of stay for all dogs was a little over a month. Older dogs stayed longer, and there were no statistically significant differences in length of stay for male versus female dogs.

Size - smaller stays shorter
Size seemed to impact length of stay the greatest. Small dogs remained at these two shelters for a far shorter period of time than larger dogs. This makes sense. Many landlords limit the weight of dogs they accept, especially at managed apartment complexes. Smaller dogs are easier to manage, handle, and cheaper to care for (generally speaking).

I found it fascinating that it was dogs the size of Mina and Celeste who remained at the shelter the longest. Medium sized dogs had a longer length of stay than even large and x-large dogs. I wonder if more x-large dogs are purebreds sought after by breed-specific rescues?

Breed - larger is better
Larger breed types remained at these shelters for shorter period of times. Guard breeds remained at the shelter the longest. Bully breeds (e.g. Pit Bulls) did not have the longest length of stay and remained at these two shelters for similar periods as hound and sporting type dogs. Researchers note that other studies have shown that breeds like the American Pit Bull Terrier remain at shelters for longer or are killed sooner by shelter employees.

Color - blind 
What I think a lot of people will find the most interesting is that coat color did not seem to play a role in length of stay. That is, black dogs were not living at the shelter for fifteen years. The researchers pointed out that other studies have shown other results.

A lot of this probably depends on the shelter (no-kill v. hi-kill), location (rural v. urban), and the support from the community & shelter itself.

My experiences at two shelters, over a period of six years, aligns with some of these results and not others. I never saw dogs who were black be adopted less frequently. Puppies were always popular and so were small dogs. At the hi-kill, larger shelters, Pit Bulls and Labrador Retrievers comprised the two largest populations of dogs who were at the shelter and who were also killed by the shelter. This shelter serviced the greater Sacramento region which is comprised of both heavily urban and rural regions. The other shelter, a no-kill shelter in a very urban region did not have problems placing Pit Bulls.

What do you think?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Here is a Survey to Show How That People are Weird

I happen to be a dog person. I like their needy natures. Cats are needy on their own terms. Also, they generally try to eat me when I rub their bellies. I have it on good authority (read, pigs) that belly rubs are the best things ever. I see no reason why cats should hate them.

Cats also use their claws in weird places. Like embedded in my skin. Usually this is a cat who thinks I am a tree to be climbed. This is inappropriate. Dogs don't do this. Or at least they care if I tell them to stop. Cats just tell me to go screw something.

But humans are weirder than cats. Take this survey in which people (dog or cat, I don't know) were asked to share their perceptions of cat personalities based on coat color.

For example, participants (n = 189) were more likely to attribute the trait “friendliness“ to orange cats, “intolerance“ to tri-colored cats, and “aloofness“ to white and tri-colored cats. No significant differences were found for “stubbornness“ in any colors of cats. White cats were seen as less bold and active and more shy and calm than other colors of cats. While survey respondents stated that they placed more importance on personality than color when selecting a companion cat, there is some evidence that they believe the two qualities are linked.

I screamed when I saw this cat. Squealed, actually. That's because I thought she was a scarf. She was sitting amongst the scarves at a thrift store. But she's a cat. According to this survey, she is aloof. I think all cats are aloof. This did not stop me from immediately pawing her with my hand and telling her she is adorable. Then I saw her snaggle-tooth and promptly dropped dead. She yawned. She purred. And then she fell asleep, which I guess goes with the survey respondents claims that non-white cats are lazy bums. Nevermind that she's 19.

Anyway, weird survey. Cat people.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Celeste Likes Freedom

I took Celeste hiking at the sanctuary. She hates it when we stop and I make her pose for photographs.

Weaving, running, leaping, sniffing...those are the activities Celeste has in mind on walks of any kind. Leashes are for losers, she thinks.

Dogs are fun to watch off leash. Truly off leash. I'm not talking tiny dog park with fifty-five other dogs off leash. I'm talking fences can't be seen off leash.

Celeste is the best off leash buddy. She wants me to be a part of her world. She does not understand why I move so slow or don't immediately chase after that rabbit with her. She does not get why it is ill advised to track down bucks with pointy antlers and sharp hooves. She is confused when I call her off the great turkey chase.

I love walking with Celeste. I love watching her stretch, all sinew and youth and muscle. I love how she uses her nose, her most powerful sense. She will root the earth, like a pig, in search of a scent. She will follow strange and curious smells down animal trails. And she looks back at me, imploring me to follow, to be a part of the hunt, the search, the pack. That i never follow the rules must be so annoying to her. Or, maybe she finds me a doltish but charming pack-mate. I don't know.

All I do know is off leash meanderings make Celeste one happy dog.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Next Foster Dog

Meet Carter.
He's 7. He's blind. And he's mine starting Saturday! Well, by mine, I mean he's my next foster dog. I'm really hoping MIna thinks he is the best thing since peanut butter.

I've never fostered or worked with a blind dog. I am going to set up the kitchen for him, since it's the safest and easiest for him to become familiar with. I am going to buy bells for Mina, so he can hear her (Celeste has jingly tags). I've also heard that different textures can be used to guide blind dogs to certain areas, like for water and food.

He belonged to a family that gave him up a year ago when they had a child. They did not understand why he would just sit on the bed "staring" outside, for hours. The shelter immediately noticed he was blind and called the family back. They took him back in, but a year later, when they had a second child, they gave up this amazing dog for good.

Luckily, he ended up at a great shelter that works its collective butts off to rehome or send to rescue their dogs and cats. I agreed to foster him through a really wonderful rescue called the Center for Animal Protection and Education (C.A.P.E.)

Apparently he still loves to play and is a very young at heart 7-yr-old. I don't know why people think seven is old. Not for a Pit Bull. Mina didn't start to show real signs of age until three years the age of, I dunno, 11 or 12.

If you have ever fostered a blind dog, any tips would be appreciated!

Bring It On Down to Veganville

For those of you who have not seen it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mina Dog

Mina is my serious dog.

She is also my very concerned dog and my worried about everything dog.

Ears pinned back dog. Twitchy eyes dog. Curled up in a ball dog with a white tipped tail covering her nose dog.

She's my everything dog.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Police Shootings of Dogs

Long Beach police shot at a dog who was running loose at a nearby stadium. The dog merely ran at officers when they opened fire. Lucky for the dog, the officer had bad aim and did not hit him. The dog - so dangerous! - ran home. Link

Salisburty Township police shot and killed a dog described as a Pit Bull after he and another Pit Bull got loose. The other dog was non-aggressive. The shot dog was dog aggressive and engaged in fights with two other dogs. During those fights, both guardians were bitten. The dog aggressive Pit Bull was shot and killed when he "charged" at officers. Link All the idiots come out in full force in the comment section, whoot!

Officers in Richmond, CA shot and killed two dogs after one of three dogs bit an officer. The shooting occurred while officers were serving a warrant. The dogs are described as Pit Bulls. Link

A loose Pit Bull in Texas was harassed, shot at twice with a tranquilizer dart, tasered 1-2 times and finally shot at twice, one bullet killing the petrified dog. Despite not belonging in that neighborhood, neighbors were fine with claiming the dog was "dangerous" as did animal control...even though no one knew who the dog was or who the dog belonged to. Link

Ohio police shot at three dogs during a drug raid, killing one and wounding another. The dogs were described as two Pit Bull type dogs and a Labrador Retriever. Link

A South Carolina deputy killed a Rottweiler that had stood up. The dog had attacked his guardian (and had bitten previously) and was laying in the yard when police arrived. While the dog did not attempt to attack police, the deputy shot the dog three times with a shotgun. LInk

Maryland police shot and killed one dog who had been involved in an attack on his/her guardian. Two dogs, described as Pit Bulls, bit their guardian at least once. The dogs escaped their yard. Police claimed that one of the dogs became aggressive, so they killed the dog. The other was easily and safely captured and is at a shelter. Link

Washington police shot and killed a dog described as a Pit Bull. Two dogs were running loose, chasing cars, and police were called. The dogs approached the officer in the driveway of their home, when the officer kicked at them. He shot and killed the dog who continued to "charge". The other dog is at large. Link

While serving a warrant for arrest, the suspect allowed his dog to escape. The dog "charged" at an officer who ran backwards and fell down. While falling, and despite being in a residential area surrounded by other officers, the officer discharged his weapon. The dog was hit once and was safely transported to an animal hospital...where he didn't eat anyone. He is expected to survive. Link

Ohio police shot and killed a loose Rottweiler named Lucy, in her driveway. The dog had escaped from her yard and harassed a mail delivery person. Officers were called and when Lucy "charged" at the officer, he discharged his weapon and killed her. Link

Utah police shot and killed a Rottweiler. The dog's guardian was being chased by police, when he rammed his vehicle into another vehicle. While trying to arrest the human, the dog got out of the car and charged at officers. They shot and killed the dog. Link

Ogden police shot and killed a German Shepherd whose guardian had let loose when police arrived. Link

Star, who was shot in the head by a NYPD officer while her guardian lay unconscious on the ground, is ready for adoption! Which is amazing, all things considered. Link