Nov 28, 2007

And sometimes we take them home.

My little Munchie, a delicate flower, firmly believes that the best defense is a good offense. It does seem to work for him, although he is learning that he doesn’t need to stand down every dog or person who approaches him. When I first saw him, he was an inert grey wrinkled tiny thin lump lying in an isolation kennel. He was bald. He looked and smelled awful. All I could guess is that the first year of his short life had been pretty miserable. Why I gravitated to him after all the dogs I have seen in the shelter whom I have wanted to take home with me over the years, I just don’t know. What I do know is that a year and a half later after I took him home is that when I see him skipping and leaping through the park, with a full coat of hair, as fast and as graceful as anyone I’ve ever seen, it makes me happy. He was a tap dancer in a former life. His gentle eye kisses feel like rain falling on parched soil, and life would not be as rich as it is without him.

My little Mutley came along about 6 months later. Unhappily ensconced in the back of the shelter, he had come from an abusive home. He would have bit me as hard as he could have the first time I took him out to the shelter park if he had not had a cone on his neck due to an infected eye. He tried like mad, a whirling dervish of wavy black hair, teeth, and flailing legs, but after that one incident, he decided to trust me and just squirmed his way into my heart. And now we wake up together, the three of us, Munchie and I slowly, Mutley ready to capture the best of the day as soon as his eye opens. He has one beautiful expressive brown eye.

Two different dogs, both small, both very loving, both needy, both fun. They make me laugh a lot. I’d pictured my next dog as a female pit bull, around 3 years old, but somehow these little foster dogs found my home first. I’d never planned on having small dogs, nor more than one, nor any more males, but fortunately for the three of us, plans have a way of going south, and I’ve found that as is usual for companion animals, the longer that we live together, the better it gets. Happiness resides in loving and in being loved. It’s all about the love, baby.

Published in Tails of the City, quarterly magazine of San Francisco Animal Care and Control and in, an online magazine.

Nov 27, 2007

Getting to Know You

My favorite part about volunteering for GADAB is the fact that I get to meet, and sometimes get to know, all kinds of dogs. I have two dogs of my own, and every time I leave the house, I tell them that I'm off to hang out with dogs that aren't as lucky as they are--at least not at the present moment. The dogs at GADAB are all so different, and at the shelter for so many different reasons, but they are all the same in that they crave connection, moments of joy and of human friendship.

Last Saturday, I spent some time with two very different dogs--Leroy and Samson. Leroy isn't able to go out, so we spent our time playing kennel games. He is so very clever, this boy (not to mention he reminds me of my very own girl pittie). His favorite game is PAW, and he is quite generous in his paw giving.

Under the kennel door, between the door and wall...he anxiously awaited my hand to move so that he could touch it. Working diligently for treats, Mr. Leroy consistently made me laugh with his goofy demeanor and enthusiasm.

On the other hand, Samson was all business....until he went outside, that is. This big guy really had to GO, for lack of a better word, and on his way out of the building, he couldn't be bothered with anyone or anything. Once that was taken care of, Samson ran around the yard, ready to play and explore and fetch. His joy that day was apparent, and he thanked me in many ways. It was hard to take Samson back inside, and I only wished I could conjure up his very own yard in his kennel. The best I could do was offer him a Kong and leave him with the memory of the gray morning sky.

Such different dogs, but such good boys...
both of them.

Nov 20, 2007

You've come a long way, baby!

I'm a new volunteer at GADAB. Unfortunately, Gypsy has been here nearly as long as I have. When I first met her, she was very timid, kept to herself, and would just lay in bed in the back of her kennel. Weeks later, walking by her kennel, sometimes she would be up and about near the front – seems like maybe she was whispering hello to me. Lowering down near her, I would calmly greet her and offer her my company. She wasn't into taking treats; maybe she liked my companionship though. Her deep brown eyes will melt anyone's heart. GADAB volunteers have spent hours sitting or kneeling outside this Gypsy girl's kennel, coaxing her, talking with her, and trying to tempt her with treats.

Now, when I see her, she's wagging her tail, hoping I'll stop and play some games with her. She actually made up a game I call "kisses". I put my hand flat against the kennel; and say "kisses" and Gypsy licks/kisses my hand and gets praise and a treat. I move the target (my hand) around the kennel and continue to ask for Gypsy kisses. Gypsy girl, you've come a long way.

Oooh, ooh, a little more to the right, please....

Blackie is one-of-a-kind. She's a sweet, gentle soul who enjoys prancing around the park to the beat of her own drum. Blackie's not the kind of dog that begs to retrieve balls or chase toys. She likes it when you sit on the grass with her…and…well, scratch her behind. I think it's one of her favorite, favorite things. Pictured here…she's in heaven.

Nov 15, 2007

Tito out of the pool and headed home.

After four month in our care, one of our favorite residents, Tito, finally went home. Agency teamwork in action. With PAWS in charge of the human end of the matter, and GADAB handling the dog part, Tito was able to return to the person who had raised him since he was a pup.

All the best to you, buddy, we sure enjoyed your company - what a great dog you are, active, playful, responsive and sooooo affectionate. Good student, too, quick and eager. He learned quickly how to play a proper game of tug, could catch a ball on the fly as well as any baseball major leaguer, drop the ball right in front of our feet, and sit promptly, waiting for the next throw.

What a guy. How sweet it is when a guy like Tito goes back to a good, solid home with the person whom they love most in the world. Have a great life, pal.

Nov 12, 2007

You say you don't have agility equipment?

You do!

Brooms, orange street cones, chairs, treats between rake tines - changing the unfamiliar from scary to fun. Each dog is different and we take as much time as as everybody needs to get them acclimated to new things.

Take a look at little Mo's flying leap over the "jump pole".
With a rake resting on one end of a kiddie pool and the other end resting on an upturned plastic chair, Mo flies over the pole, eyes on the treat prize in one of our hands. Rewards can include balls or toys as well, whatever gets your dog motivated.

We desensitized him to the pole first, being cheerful and encouraging, laying it on the ground, putting treats near it, then putting treats on it, moving it around on the ground with treats by it, then asking for a jump over it with it still on the ground, and little by little, our fearful little lad gained enough confidence to make The Big Jump. Dog agility equipment? Just look around your house, your block, your child's room. Get some tips or take a class.

He discovered that he loved it, leaping over it back and forth, like a little wind-up toy. Mo likes to zoom around anyway and now he can zoom and jump. Success breeds success and confidence builds confidence.
We miss him and fear for him. Oricha.

"Trouble in mind . . ."

Trouble and Mark taking a break in the shelter back lot. We use this space when the shelter park is occupied. As you can see, Trouble delights in receiving affection.

What can you do in a space like this? It can look pretty barren before you envision it as a playground. See that single dumpster? One or more of them can generate spirited games of hide-n-seek or "catch me if you can!" In this space, we can initiate games of ball or stuffed toy retrieves, especially toys that squeak. We can bounce balls off the shelter wall (it's behind the dumpster) that our ball-loving friends can pick up on the fly or on a bounce - that's poetry in motion, folks.

We can work on manners training; we can play find the treat and as soon as they find it, call them to us to get another treat (find-it/recalls) for recall reviews. Find a space and use it.

Give them tools for life, give them fun, work their brains and their bodies, love 'em. Love them as much as they love us.

Nov 9, 2007

It's only a bad hair day if it itches.

Good thing we got you before you lost all your hair, sweetie. You're a lovely little girl - did they just not see the spots of bare skin all over your lovely body? Or is that why they dumped you? We can joke that Christine's hair is a close match to yours, but we've got something else for you - our Special Spa Treatment. You're getting one of those today, baby.

We get a lot of dogs in with mange, ranging from minor to serious cases. In addition to vet treatment, we add holistic vitamins to boost their immune systems and apply aloe-vera comfrey gel topically for itch relief. We also use Vitamin E.
I always have the feeling that dogs with mange have not been touched for a long time, and how they must need it. Just look at this little girl thriving under Christine's gentle caress.

The Kiss

Teaching a puppy the proper way to kiss is a canine life lesson upon which we place a great deal of importance. We practice over and over again, with multiple puppies of all ages, different sizes, and varied techniques.

One look at this photo, and it's immediately apparent just how powerful a good puppy kiss can be. Judi, the lucky recipient of Booda's tender ministrations, is utterly absorbed in a soft, perfect moment.

Got a good hairdresser?

I'm Lil' Mo Mohawk (aka Oricha).
Lots of folks find it hard to believe that I had to go back to a guy who was witnessed abusing me.
If only I could speak.

Nov 7, 2007

One sweet moment for Mo

Mo, in a rare, still moment, pauses long enough to receive some love from Sarah Jo.

This little dog's owner was witnessed beating him and was subsequently charged with misdemeanor cruelty. The case went to trial, but the jury hung (6-6). The District Attorney's Office initially made the decision to refile, but then abruptly dismissed the case.

We don't know why. We don't know why little Mo will be going back to the same owner. The futility and sorrow we feel cannot be measured.

The correlation between animal cruelty and cruelty towards human beings has been sadly and profoundly documented. When will we learn what justice for all means? Mo is just one little dog, but he counts. Everybeing does.