Puppy Goes Zoom

Dogs, cats, randomness–my adventures in pet ownership and fostering

Lots of Dog Pictures

My last two posts have been serious, and lacking in cute dog pictures or silliness. And while serious and thinky is good, it needs to be balanced with happy and goofy, so I’m going to remedy that now.

To start off with, this is Reba at an adoption day, showing off her new pink harness and collar. You can see from how loose it is that it needs a little adjustment. She definitely got more attention than at previous adoption days, and I like the way the bright pink pops against her light-colored fur.

Here’s Reba, performing her crazy puppy dance.  I’m not sure if she’s scratching her back or just full of energy and goofiness, but it’s hilarious to watch. We’re even working on putting it on a cue so she’ll do it on command–you know, when we have plenty of open space and nothing for her to knock over. This dance is highly hazardous to things like TV trays with full cans of soda on them.

And here we have Reba giving me a paw. She knows that if she does a couple of commands, she’ll get to play with that ball again. (Reba likes toys even more than she likes treats, and she likes treats a lot.)

Diamond and Reba, hanging out at doggie daycare.

Diamond, the dog, and Haley, the cat, cuddled up together on a dog bed

This is one of my favorites of Diamond, all snuggled up to Haley. When we got Diamond as a puppy, Thomas was incensed, but Haley decided that she was a large, funny-looking cat who should be groomed, cuddled, and played with. Their favorite game was “sniff the belly,” where Haley flipped over on her back and Diamond would try to sniff her belly and get her nose back out before Haley bopped her.

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Failures, successes, and fates worse than death (not exactly a cheery post)

I just read How I Failed as a Rescuer: Lessons from a Sanctuary, a pretty heart-rending post about animal “sanctuaries” where animals are badly neglected. Sometimes this happens because a sanctuary gets overwhelmed with more animals than it can handle. Other times, as apparently happened with Tiger Ranch, the neglect is part of a deliberate scam. Take in animals, take donations for their care, spend the money on yourself, and leave them to starve or die of illness. She makes the point that this can happen in part because people want happy endings for every animal, and we push so hard for those happy endings, pressuring people and organizations who are already overloaded. That creates both the opportunity for scams and a huge impulse for rescues and sanctuaries to take “just one more.”

Shipping animals off to live in sanctuaries, many of which are not being run particularly well (there are exceptions, but it’s not the norm), is not saving them. It’s often the beginning of a life sentence. Time and time again, we hear about sanctuaries that started off ok, but due to a variety of circumstances the sanctuary falls apart and the animals suffer. That’s often the case: terminal illness, natural disaster, financial ruin, mental illness etc. – something pushes the sanctuary over the edge and the animals pay the price.

Before you raise your pitchforks at the owner’s of these sanctuaries to call them monsters, I ask you to look at the whole picture. Where are these animals coming from?

From people like me: everyday people who “rescue” animals and desperately reach out for help once they realize they’re in over their head. From no-kill rescue groups and shelters that don’t want to euthanize pets they’ve taken into their care, but have run out space or do not have resources for long-term housing. From families that for whatever reason cannot care for their pets.

We all keep pushing down the chain. Individuals reach out to shelters, shelters plead with rescues to pull dogs, rescues can’t place all the dogs, so they board hard-to-place dogs in sanctuaries.

We’re all begging for someone else to give us the happy ending we so desperately want for the animals we love. If people deny us, we lash out that no one will help. If a shelter isn’t no-kill, we refuse to donate to them. We keep pushing and pushing until someone will take this painful, difficult situation off of our doorstep.

This sort of solidified my nascent philosophy about animal rescue. The first thing you have to accept is that you can’t save them all, and you will do more harm than good if you try. Every time the rescue we foster with posts another URGENT message, I start to think, “Well, maybe we could…” or “What if we took just one more?” And then I remind myself that we’re already outnumbered two to one by furry animals, that we need to focus on getting Reba adopted, and that Diamond needs a lot more attention than we could give her if we brought home another foster.

Because you can’t help them all, no matter what you do, it makes more sense, to me, to focus on quality rather than quantity (though I realize you can go overboard in that direction too). The bit that stood out to me from this post was her point that “you’re only rescuing an animal if you see it through all the way to the end, whatever that end may be.” Passing the buck isn’t the same, because you don’t know what happens after someone else has taken the problem off your hands. Instead, you have to accept that you can’t do everything, and focus on what you can do well in your own little corner of the universe.

It kind of ties in with Debbie Jacobs’ posts calling for more accountability in animal rescue. She makes the point, and I agree, that it’s short-sighted to cheer for a rescue placing a bunch of dogs when no one is keeping track of what happens with those dogs after they’re placed. Are they still in the home? Are they doing well? Or are there problems? Did the dog get rehomed again? Are they being mistreated? Maybe some adopters lied on their applications and are now breeding the dog or using them for fighting. If you don’t follow up, who knows?

So far, it’s easy for me to follow up with the dogs I’ve personally fostered, because there are two of them, and we still have one. I friended Gertie’s adopter on Facebook primarily to get updates on how she’s doing (and cute pictures). I hope to continue with that for as many dogs as we foster, because I think it’s good information to have (especially when we’ve already had a dog come back to us once, but that’s a whole other post).

Both Jessica and Debbie make the point that euthanasia is not the worst thing that can happen to an animal. Being in a state of never-ending terror, or in constant agonizing pain, or going crazy from months of confinement, those are worse. So before putting or keeping an animal in an iffy situation (a sanctuary you can’t be sure about, an adopter you haven’t had time to research, a questionable rescue, etc.), the question to ask is, “Can I say with confidence that this is better, from the animal’s point of view, than being put to sleep?” Sometimes it might not be. Sometimes euthanasia might be the kindest option. Either way, it’s often better to take responsibility for the hard choice, rather than pushing it onto someone else and assuming that everything will be okay.

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Thoughts on Service Dogs

A few weeks ago, I read How to Think of Service Dogs. There’s a ton of info here about what’s legally required and what’s not where ADA service dogs are concerned. People have a tendency to believe that a real service dog “must” know certain commands or “must” be certified by a given organization, but those aren’t real legal requirements.

Later, I read on Service Dog Awareness’s Facebook page that supposedly 8 out of 10 service dog vests purchased on-line are for fake service dog teams (though the author of the post didn’t have a link to the article handy, so who knows who published that or where they came up with that number). A lot of people were of the opinion that companies selling vests or other service dog attire are unscrupulous and are contributing to fraud, but honestly, I don’t think it’s a seller’s job to verify that, any more than a wheelchair company should make you prove you’re disabled before they let you buy one. The most I honestly think anyone purchasing a service dog vest should be asked is the same questions they’re asked when they want to bring their dog into a restaurant or grocery store: “Do you have a disability as defined by the ADA?” and “Does the dog help you with that disability?” That should be it.

Sure, people who have service dogs provided by organizations will get a vest from that group when they get the dog, but people who train their own service dogs should be able to put a vest on them if they want, to make the dog easily recognizable and so people know not to bug the dog while they’re working.

I’d also love for someone, anyone, who’s writing about the scourge of fake service dog teams to throw out some stats. Trainers I know have definitely had people ask them to “certify” a dog as a (totally bogus) service dog so they could take it places or keep it in a situation where they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed to. And in any discussion of the issue, there will be people who are heavily involved in the dog world who’ve never seen anyone faking (that they know of, of course), and people who seem to see it all the time. It definitely happens, but “how often” is pretty fuzzy. So an actual study and some hard numbers would be fantastic.

The reason I really want to know the numbers is that the first rule of problem-solving should be that first you figure out how big the problem actually is and quantify what harm it’s causing. That needs to happen before you even ponder solutions, because there’s no way to know if the solution is worthwhile or useful if you haven’t defined that.

My personal feeling is that any of the problems I’ve heard of with fake service dogs would be addressed if the laws that require service dogs to be under control in public were enforced. If someone brings a well-behaved fake service dog into the grocery store, they’re being an entitled jerk, but they haven’t actually harmed anyone. But make a disabled person “prove” that they’re allowed to have a service dog, and that’s going to cause harm. And if someone brings a badly behaved dog to a store or restaurant, they can be kicked out, whether it’s a legitimate service dog or not.

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Success! Reba Passes CGC

Today, we took Reba for her CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test, and she passed!

The test took place at the Humane Society. It was raining buckets, so we did most of the test inside. It was a really distracting environment, with a puppy in a crate in the corner, people occasionally coming and going, and another dog we could hear barking from the next room.

Despite all that, Reba did really well. We could tell she was very tempted to jump up during the “sit for petting” portion of the test, but she held back.  And she did the sit, down, and 20-foot stay beautifully.

The part we were the most concerned about was the “supervised separation,” where you leave the dog with the test evaluator and go out of sight for three minutes. Reba hates it when Matt leaves, so this was definitely going to be her biggest challenge.  We heard her whimpering, and we thought we were done, but she passed!  The rule is that the dog fails if they make noise for 15 seconds (whining, barking, etc.). Reba would whine for a few seconds and stop, so she was within the criteria.  Hey, if there’s one thing she’s good at, it’s working the system!

The only thing she had to do over was the loose-leash walking. Between tons of smells and the fact that it started raining again, her focus was completely shot. But she did it inside without a problem. This was another concern area, because she tends to get pully when she’s distracted, and is distracted by all kinds of things.

When we got home from the test, we gave her a pork chop to celebrate. Way to go, Reba!

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Adoption Day and a Mini-Makeover

Today’s an adoption day, and our girl Reba is getting a bit of a makeover in hopes of finding her forever home. As you can (kind of) see above, she’s currently sporting a silver collar with spiders on it. She has the matching harness, and it looks pretty sharp. But as nice as it is, spiders don’t exactly scream “Cute, cuddly, and loveable.” Her previous owner really loved all things goth, but for mainstream appeal, we thought something softer and sweeter was in order. Especially for a pittie, who people assume is a “tough” dog, spiders just send the wrong message.

So, we ordered a new harness and collar from Lupine, in Plum Blossom.

Incidentally, Lupine makes really nice stuff, and they replace their products free, for life, even if they get chewed on.

I’m hoping that Reba’s new “pretty in pink” look will help her win the hearts of potential adopters. She also got a bath yesterday, so she’s nice and clean too.

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Manners are Awesome

Since my last two posts were about Reba’s ability to create chaos, I didn’t want to give the impression that she’s all chaos all the time.  She’s developing good manners and impulse control as we continue training her.

Because she has so much energy, playing fetch and catch with her seems to be a really good thing. Not only does she get to run off some of the crazy, but having to do a trick or two before I throw the ball is good impulse control practice.  Now when you have a toy she wants, she will often throw a “sit.” The flirt pole works even better for this.

Right now, she can sit, stand, and lie down on cue. We’re working on expanding her “stay.” Right now she’s good for 30-40 seconds and probably 20 feet. She can also roll over and offer a paw. I’m working on refining that so that she offers a specific paw with the cues “left” or “right.”  I’m not certain she’s got the cue words down, but she has figured out that she’s supposed to offer the paw closest to the hand I put out.  This is useful for nail trimming, and besides, it’s cute.

Another cue I’ve been using is “Kisses” where I offer my cheek for a quick face-lick. Since she’s all about licking faces, I’m hoping that putting it on a cue and giving her the opportunity to do it sometimes (usually when she’s sitting and calm) will make it easier for her to *not* lick faces the rest of the time.

She’s not 100% on not jumping on people yet.  She usually doesn’t jump when people come to the door, but if you pet her a bunch and rile her up, she can wait about a minute before she can’t take it any more and she jumps up and licks your face.  She also tries to crawl into your lap when you’re sitting on the couch, even if there’s already a laptop there.

But overall, she’s doing really well.  She’s smart, and she picks things up quickly.

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Crash Dog, Part 2

The doggie daycare where Reba spends a couple days a week posts pictures of all their pups on Facebook.  Reba had the rather dubious honor of making their picture of the day with a flying leap smack into another dog’s face.

Silly silly puppy. I think we may have to do some agility work with her, in much the same way you sign the clumsy kid up for ballet.  And heaven help her when we put down hardwood floors.

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