Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book Review: The Other End of the Leash

While Tim was reading How To Speak Dog by Stanley Coren, I was immersed in this fine book by Applied Animal Behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell. The Other End of the Leash takes a look at not only canine behavior, but primate behavior as well, pointing out ways in which the two often conflict and how to better understand and communicate with our dogs. For instance, how often do we use our hands to point at things we want our dogs to notice or directions we want them to go, only to have poor Fido stare confusedly at our hands? Dogs point with their faces, and so looking towards the object we want our dogs to get or the direction we want them to go works best.

Another thing we primates do is hug. Nothing says love and trust like wrapping our arms around each other and pressing our hearts together. But for dogs, that can be distressing and even downright rude. Luckily for us, our pets learn to tolerate and even understand those gestures of affection. I know I still hug my puppy and he doesn't seem to mind.

Dr. McConnell has had years of experience with troubled pets and shares some of her more interesting and sometimes dangerous encounters. She also has some hilarious stories, such as her work with jockeys from various countries. She was studying how these various cultures "speak" to their horses: what sounds they use to encourage them to run and what sounds they use to slow them down. (Very enlightening, by the way.) While she conducted her research, her driver and translator was dealing drugs and trying unsuccessfully to seduce her. The sacrifices that are made in the name of science...

Her book explores subjects such as why dogs seem to love the nastiest smells but hate being spritzed with "doggie deodorants," the fallacy of "dominating" your dog rather than simply being dominant (yep, there's a big difference), how dogs play and why it's so important that they do, and why being quiet is often the best way to communicate with your canine friend.

We can't stop being humans, and certainly there's nothing wrong with that, but what comes naturally to us - repeating ourselves, talking loudly in a high pitch when excited, using our hands to pull, push, throw, grab, love and punish - often gets interpreted completely the wrong way by our best friends. This book is an eye-opener and a jolly good read. You'll come to know Dr. McConnell's own amazing animals and share laughs, heartbreak and even life-threatening suspense.

One of the most impressive things I took away from this book was just how much our dogs learn to understand "Human."

The Other End of the Leash:
Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs
Dr. Patricia B. McConnell, PhD.
Ballantine Books
isbn 034544678x

Friday, June 26, 2009


Tom is quite a handsome gentleman, especially if you like the color red. He seems to be part red-nosed American Pit Bull Terrier, and part red Doberman. Unsurprisingly, he was brought to the shelter because of "landlord issues." I could say a lot at this point, but I'll leave it at expressing my disappointment; I try to think that we humans are made of better stuff than to stereotype a breed to extinction.

That said, if you think Dobies and Pit Bulls are predisposed to be mean or aggressive, please just move on to a fluffier entry, because Tom will severely damage your worldview.

I feel so terribly sorry for both Tom and his previous owners, because it's painfully evident how much affection was between them. Doubly so if I remember correctly that he was initially adopted from an animal shelter. My impression - after sitting for ages in his kennel with him, then coaxing him literally inches at a time out the door - is that he doesn't know what he did to wind up here, but it must have been something really, really bad. Once outside, he brightened up a lot, but was still cautious; he didn't want to do whatever it was again. Yesterday, I decided this called for some drastic action, and brought our other resident shelter-phobic, Engel, along. It turned out to be a good call.

While we walked around, Engel did her best to scout ahead of us, and Tom was content to take up the rear. He was so gentle on his lead, in fact, that I had to look back a few times to make sure he hadn't slipped his leash and wandered off. When ambling around on his own in the play yard, he was confident and relaxed (and polite to Engel the whole time). We played "tag" for a while (in the sweltering heat), and at first I thought Tom would run over me like a steam locomotive. He never did though, preferring instead to zip past me, circle around, and nudge my arm gently. Then he'd plop himself down and scratch his poor, fly-bitten ears like a puppy.

When it came time to go back inside, Tom grudgingly went back to his kennel with a bit more courage and aplomb than Engel. I sat with him a while, as a thunderstorm tried (and failed) to roil up on the horizon. He sniffed around, looking a bit unsure, and tucking his head under my arm. Tom had come a long way over the past week, from furry anchor to belly-crawling to standing tall while our dog, Rufus, climbed all over him. And today he'd walked around like a confident, affectionate sidekick. Alone in his kennel with just me and the distant thunder for company, Tom sniffed at my shoes, sidled gently up next to me, and calmly pushed me over.

After making sure I wasn't upset with him, he broke into a huge grin - as if to say, "...and THAT's for that upstart Rufus." Then he laid his head back down in my lap, and I think I understood a little bit more why he's so upset to be separated from his human friends.

UPDATE: Good ol' Tom was rescued this weekend and is going to make some lucky owner very happy! Three cheers for Tom and his valiant rescuers!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Just to get it out of the way; no, we didn't name Horton. That said, I'm not 100% certain just exactly what he is. He's got a lot of Husky and German Shepherd bouncing around in there, and probably something Australian. Whatever is in him, every bit of it is young, enthusiastic, affectionate and energetic.

Horton is about 5 months old or so (like our dog, he's just lost his "puppy teeth"), and the best way I can describe his personality would be with the phrase, "latchkey puppy." He's eager to please, and wants to be someone's number one pal - it's just that no one has taught him what to do yet, so his social skills are still on a young puppy level. After a brief bit of discussion, he is finally learning to sit down when he's told to, and that it's a far superior way of getting affection than jumping up. Likewise, Horton is working on calming down and focusing his attention more (one of the many benefits of good exercise). Much as with Engel, life is exciting and fun; it's just that someone threw away the instruction manual.

Horton isn't the dog for anyone interested in a full-time couch potato. He's got the combined energy and cleverness of three breeds of working dog rolled into one, and he's not afraid to use them. He's not really ideal for someone who takes themselves far too seriously, either; he's a bit of a clown, and not in the least ashamed of it. For the right owner, however, he could be a playful, uncannily smart, devoted and fun-loving companion who is well-worth the effort to bring "up to speed" on being a dog.

NOTE: I probably have made Horton sound like some kind of Marley and Me nightmare-dog; trust me, he isn't at all. But he does have some "making up for lost time" to do in the social arena, specifically in the categories of jumping, nipping, and not focusing. The sooner he can knock out those "puppy vices," the happier he'll be (not to mention being more relaxed and confident). After that, I'm pretty sure he's got what it takes to be the star pupil in whatever he tries his paw at.

NOTE #2: I took Horton out with Sam today for a little while, and was quite impressed with how hard the little guy was trying to be good. He paid a lot more attention to me, and even sat down quicker than Sam a couple of times when I told them to do so (which may have just been lucky timing, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt). Apparently, he didn't want to look like too much of an idiot while standing next to the brainy, go-getter dog. Of course, when we all went out later in the afternoon, both Sam and Horton had worked up a first-class case of the ol' kennel stir-crazies and all bets were off. Regardless, a fun time was had by all.

UPDATE: Horton was rescued on June 29th and we hope to hear he's found a forever home soon. He's an awesome dog!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Engel (Angel v2.0)

In all honesty, there are a great many days when I doubt myself and the work I do at the shelter. Sometimes, I just can't find what a dog needs to give them that extra bit of courage, or discipline, or whatever else it is that makes them shine before time runs out, things get overcrowded, and they're gone forever. Although things have slowed down a bit for now, there are a couple of dogs I still worry about when I work with them. One of these is a beautiful but extremely frightened shepherd Sophie and I call "Engel," though she's listed as "Angel" officially. (She came in while the first Angel was still there.)

I have to admit, Engel touches on many things I find attractive in German Shepherds; she's tall and leggy, a bit shaggy (though not long-haired), and has a beautiful romanesque nose. Even moreso than all of that though, I love her personality. She doesn't fawn and face-lick like most insecure dogs, nor does she shy away; there seems to be a gentle steadiness to her and a heartfelt warmth, even through her fear.

Engel is certainly not going to break many speed records from the kennel to the front door. She's very cautious with people she doesn't know, and frightened to death of the walk to the shelter's lobby. I'm guessing it could involve feeling abandoned, since her previous owner brought her in. Once she's outside, though, she forgets her troubles and relaxes.

It seems to me a bit odd, but Engel doesn't really seem to have learned anything you'd expect a German Shepherd to have picked up by her age. She came in with a swanky martingale collar, but doesn't really follow on her leash (she doesn't pull hard either though, and comes back to you if she notices you've stopped). Fetch is a foreign language, and she seems to know that it involves a ball, and you throw it, then you look at her expectantly. Honestly, the only things she seems to have learned well thus far are "come," "sit" and "lie down." She seems akin to a classic Porsche 928 that's only been driven to the corner grocery store on weekends. So much potential, so little time to get her courage up.

UPDATE: Fraulein Engel is about to embark on a trip to New York courtesy of Bright Star GSD Rescue in Rochester. They couldn't have come at a better time, and I don't think I could have recommended a better gal. She's being treated for a mild heartworm infestation, then trekking northward for her new life. Good luck, sweetheart!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Sam is a rather complicated dog, which is not at all surprising for her breed; Australian Cattle Dogs (also called Red or Blue Heelers, depending on color) are often an enigmatic bundle of seemingly contradictory traits. Energetic yet focused, cautious but friendly, authoritative though submissive... all of these things shine in Sam.

We took her to an adoption event last Saturday with Shakota, an Australian Shepherd (and Sam's current kennel-mate). Sam was a terrific copilot on the ride both to and from the event, and did an admirable job of behaving herself while we were there. It should be noted that Heelers aren't often comfortable around large groups of people, and Sam was not immune to this trait - Cattle Dogs have a natural herding instinct, and the poor girl was feverishly trying to keep track of literally every dog, cat and human at the crowded shopping mall.

At one point, she and I were sitting with Sophie and Shakota, watching the people pass by. Sam quietly turned, nudged me and indicated that she wanted to go outside. So the four of us gathered ourselves and headed out the door, where it turned out that Shakota - not Sam - was needing to go to the bathroom. We thought it was just a coincidence, but the same thing happened a second time before we left for the day. Sam was simply that much better at reading her kennel mate's body language, and seemed to know that little Shakota was too darned polite to impose on us herself.

There are a lot of personality "quirks" that Australian Cattle Dogs are noted for, and Sam seems to hold true to many of them. She isn't the quickest to warm up to strangers or other dogs, preferring quality of friendship over quantity. Once someone is "in" with her or her pack, though, Sam will do her best to make them feel welcome and cared-for. Large groups of people or animals both fascinate and daunt her a bit, since she feels she needs to keep an eye on everything around - in case she'll be called on to herd sheep, cats, kids, or anything else you need managed.

Sam's a dog of few needs, and those she has are pretty basic. She'll need exercise and things to do; she's smart and active, and wants to stretch her brain as much as her legs. (In fact, if someone has an Aussie Shepherd, Cattle Dog, or other working dog with behavior problems, "chronic boredom" is quite often at the root of it.) She'll need some "quiet time" with her friends and family every now and then (remember the "quality over quantity" comment?) to take a breather from the bustle of the crowd. And above all, she'll need people she can give her best to.

UPDATE: Sam was adopted today (June 27), and it looks like her new family will be just about perfect for her.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I'm not sure that these photos can do justice to Shakota - it's difficult to capture in images or words the warmth and affectionate personality of this gal. She's about three years old, having worked most of the "puppy frenzy" out of her system, and is just starting to reach that point where many dogs learn to appreciate the finer things in life; things such as the good friends around them.

We took Shakota and her kennel-mate Sam to an adoption event this weekend. It was inside a bustling shopping mall, and she handled herself beautifully. Most of the time, she just sat around with Sophie and enjoyed getting mugged on by happy children and their parents (and a dog or two as well). As long as you discount that one time when Carlisle, a 6-month old bundle of reckless happy enthusiasm, stepped on her face. She complained about that kind of mugging a little bit, obviously.

Shakota isn't the most demanding or assertive of dogs by any stretch. In fact, most of the time she took her cues from Sam, or from us. Not one to pull on her leash or cause a fuss in the car, she's easily one of the most gentle dogs we've run across. Likewise, she's not really interested in status, or bossing others around. For Shakota, food, comfort and affection are the wellsprings of happiness in life, and take second place only to the company of her friends.

UPDATE: I found out today that sweet ol' Shakota tested positive for heartworms (meaning she'll need a rescue group to foster her while she's healing up). Although I'm worried about her, there's no reason she can't pull through just fine with a little help. Here's hoping she'll be back at 100% soon, sharing the joy of living with everyone she knows.

UPDATE: Shakota was picked up by a foster family today who will work with her through (I believe they said) about 6 weeks of treatment to make sure she's heartworm-free once again. I'll try to keep things updated as she gets closer to looking for her permanent home.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Opinion Time: "Guard Dogs"

There are a few things that we encounter while volunteering at an animal shelter that I have very strong opinions about. Although they're just personal opinions and observations, hopefully they'll give you things to think about without my being too annoying.

Few statements get to me quite like the old chestnut, "I'm looking for a guard dog."

Let me explain what that phrase translates to in extended English: "I'm looking for a dog that I can treat like it's a piece of furniture, ignore, yell at, incite to be aggressive, then return it to the shelter when it bites me/my kid/my neighbor's kid/my neighbor's dog/etc. Then it will have to be euthanized because it's too hostile and volatile to trust around people or animals."

A bit harsh? Absolutely. True? Far too often.

If you feel that you need extra protection around the house, a dog can be a great assistant. They've been helping keep humans safe for about 14,000 years thus far. If you want a non-stop, low-maintenance anti-intruder device, though, I'd strongly recommend a burglar alarm system. If you want something to be a lawn decoration to keep ne'er-do-wells away, build a scarecrow. If you want a devoted member of your "pack" or family who will put themselves between you and potential danger, stop thinking it has to be a "guard dog". That's a frequent mistake.

A few of the exceptional "dog guardians" I've known. Not the fiercest-looking bunch.

My favorite recommendation to someone looking for a "guard dog" isn't a Pit Bull Terrier or a German Shepherd. It's not a Doberman Pinscher or a Rottweiler (though they are all great breeds of dog). It's the humble, strong - and extremely friendly - Labrador Retriever. Seems an odd choice? It isn't, and I'll explain my logic.

Labs are, as a breed, famous for being devoted family dogs. Their affection runs deep, and their temperament is usually quite forgiving. If someone is thinking they need exclusively a "guard dog," there's a good chance that there's a feeling of insecurity; specifically, one that will subtly show when interacting with the dog (especially if security is the main reason for having the dog). Dogs often pick up on that, as subtle as it may be, and possibly read it as reticence to be the alpha of the pack. One quality shared by popular "guard dog" breeds such as Shepherds, Bulldogs, etc., is an above-average sense of independence and responsibility; if they think it's necessary, they will step in as pack leader. (Seen a lot of "out-of-control" dogs? Odds are it's the opposite, and they're "in-control" dogs.) More companion-oriented breeds (such as retrievers) are much more likely to encourage their alpha instead of replacing them outright.

Even more integral to the security equation is how you interact with your dog. A dog will protect you and your home if it feels it must, true. Fear of repercussions and a sense of duty will carry them far, but potentially leave them socially stunted. Back to the "Labrador factor." They aren't famous for their ferocity, but people wax poetic about their love, adoration and devotion to their family and friends. At one point, I temporarily fostered an 80-pound black lab. The first day he was at my house, we played fetch, ran around, and just generally did fun "dog-and-human" things. When I came home the next day, he heard my car pull up and footsteps approaching the gate. Believe me, I would not have wanted to be a stranger; Ajax instantly turned into an 80-pound barricade of teeth and muscle. And as soon as he saw that it was me? Back into the unstoppable fetching fiend, all slobber and admiration. When I was growing up, my Irish Setter, Red, was exactly the same; nothing but affection until someone threatened his family. Even Remo, who only stands about 18 inches tall, threw himself between me and an aggressive Bulldog without hesitating.

I've seen dogs be aggressive. And I've seen dogs be protective. There's no contest.

Friday, June 19, 2009


When Trixie first came in, she was so frightened I didn't even notice the wound on her back - and that's not an easy thing to miss, believe me. The poor girl had been clipped by a car, and injured so badly that she might never walk again without the aid of a wheelchair (yes, they actually do make wheelchairs for dogs, as novel of an idea as it seems). I'm hoping she will be able to have a much fuller recovery (though it doesn't look extremely promising), and if any dog has what it takes, I would bet Trixie does.

I spent a while today just cradling her head in my hands, talking to her. She was so very frightened and uncomfortable, she shook like a leaf in a thunderstorm. When I went to refill her water dish, I returned to find that Trixie had picked herself up and was waiting dutifully at the door of her kennel for my return. After helping her get a drink, I gently returned her to her bed. I've seen a lot of brave animals and strong animals, but that six-inch odyssey of hers left me quite humbled.

Due to the nature of her injury, Trixie is available only to a rescue group. I'm hoping that someone is able to step in and help provide her the medical care she needs; she'll provide her own courage.

UPDATE: Trixie was picked up this morning by the appropriately-named Hope from All-Texas Dachshund Rescue, and they even had a vet who works with them stay after-hours to check her out! I'm thrilled that she's in such good (and capable) hands, and hope to hear more about her as she recovers.

UPDATE pt2: I received an e-mail from Hope at ATDR, and there's some fantastic news! The vet X-rayed Trixie's injury, and found some severe "trauma" - but amazingly, nothing broken. After a few days of strict crate-rest and steroids to boost her body's own healing ability, she was able to stand up on all four feet. Though she's far from out of the woods yet, her prognosis looks very hopeful!

A Quick Note: Shelter Diaries doesn't advocate any one shelter/rescue group/foster group over another. We do, however, believe wholeheartedly in finding an organization that rings true to you, and doing what you can to help them out. Doing "the right thing" is often a thankless, difficult and daunting task - as well as a drain on resources both tangible and innate. It's easy to lose ourselves in the drama unfolding around the four-legged animals we share our world with, and forget the two-legged animals who step up to champion for them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I don't normally think of Chows as being black; my experience has mostly been with red ones like Harlan. In fact, the only black Chow I've ever had any prolonged dealings with was a much-less-than-friendly neighborhood bully who lived downstairs from me many years ago. Shasta, probably a Chow/Border Collie or Shepherd mix of some type, falls about as far from that as a dog can.

When we first met, I wasn't sure what to make of her. She was frightened and uncertain, and wrinkled her nose oddly when she sniffed my hand (I later realized that her nose just does that). I had to pick Shasta up and carry her outside because she was so afraid; but after getting the feel of grass under her feet, she did a complete turn-around. Inquisitive, adventurous and affectionate - a far cry from the shivering, cowering bundle of fur in her kennel.

Shasta's a girl who knows just what she wants, too. When I had to run out to my car to look for some kitten-feeding supplies, she vaulted up into the car, hopped over to the passenger seat, and curled up in anticipation of a road-trip adventure. And when it was time to go back to her kennel, she sprawled on the floor in protest. I picked her up, and she wrapped her front paws around my neck, licking my cheek imploringly. She hammed her way dramatically all the way to her door, where she calmly hopped down for a drink of water. I half expected her to take a bow.

UPDATE: Shasta got to take that road-trip today when she was reunited with her owner. We're so very glad that she found her way back home!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


This is Alice. She's a happy girl when she's out and about with her friends or when you hop into her kennel with her for some cuddling. She's not picky so long as she's getting pets and stritches. She's been overlooked for some time now, though. She's not especially barky or jumpy although once she has your attention, she will cling to you or press up against you, grateful for the physical comfort of your warmth and touch. Alice has a beautiful smile, doesn't she?

She seems to like everyone, and her clean, pretty coat makes me think she used to be someone's pet. She does know the game "fetch" but it was so hot today, she only brought me the ball once and then wanted no more of that. The rest of our time together was spent sitting in her kennel, watching people and dogs go by and enjoying some snuggles and petting. She has a great head for kissing too. Nice and broad with that Staffordshire dip in the middle. She would make a great pal. She's just waiting to be noticed.

UPDATE: Our little sweetheart was put to sleep June 19. Sleep well, Alice. Miss you...

Monday, June 15, 2009


When Angel first came in, I didn't really even have time to sit down with her - I just brought her some food and water, and was off again. I later came back, and it took quite a while to get her courage up. Having recently been pregnant, Angel's belly and teats were still swollen, and she was confused and uncertain. She's still a bit intimidated by her rapid change of surroundings today, though after taking her out the first time, it wasn't difficult to see why.

Tugging and pulling on her leash, Angel seemed to have no interest in me at all. She dove from place to place, planting her nose to the ground and looking around frantically. Especially under things. Tables, cars, trailers... and then it hit me with a sudden tightness in my gut. She doesn't know where her puppies are. The first three times we took her out, we helped her look around, knowing full well that they weren't anywhere to be found, but hoping the effort would make her feel better. She certainly seemed to appreciate it, and she's calmed down quite a bit.

Of course, "calm" is a relative term. Though understandably slow to trust strangers, Angel absolutely loves to run and explore, and is certainly looking for a person who shares her adventurous, energetic spirit. She is smart and seems to enjoy being challenged mentally, which is a common trait in shepherds - she'd quite probably have a grand time playing games, or learning tricks once her "need for speed" has been sated.

UPDATE: Angel was put to sleep on June 19. I'm really going to miss your out-of-breath grin, and your curious face popping up over the edge of your kennel wall. You were a great gal.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Technical Note, and a Rant

Just a quick mention about some of the images on here:

We upgraded our Fotki account to a paid one yesterday - that's the good news.
Some of the images on the Shelter Diaries web log aren't showing up properly now - that's the... well, not so good news.

I'll keep an eye out over the next few days to see if things smooth out. If not, I'll think of some clever, overcomplicated "Plan B".

Also, I wanted to mention one thing specifically to the rescue groups that are bending the very fabric of space and time to sweep some of these (and so many other) animals out of certain doom and into someone's life. If you are sponsoring any animal appearing in our blog or gallery, you are welcome to use our images to help get them to the homes that they deserve.*

Well, I wanted to mention that, and the fact that you guys are big ol' heroes, every last one of you.

*NOTE: The photos we take are most certainly not intended to be used in the context of some of the libelous, hateful campaigns that well-meaning yet misguided people have been indulging in against various shelters and rescues, and the people involved in them. We volunteer at a "kill shelter," and applaud the efforts of the folks who break their own hearts day after day for the chance to save as many cast-off, "undesireable," abused, and otherwise forsaken animals as they can. Shelter Diaries most certainly will not take it lightly if you try to use our hard work against them.

Also, if you crosspost our blog entries, we humbly ask that you include the entire text of the entries; we love all of these animals like they were our own, but it is both dishonest and (in the end) potentially harmful to the animals and adoptors to 'sugar-coat' the rough edges of their personalities. Adoptions are relationships, not products. Thank you all, and let's keep on trying to make these animals proud of us.


Book Review - Shelter Stories

For a long time now, Sophie has been a big fan of the comic strip Mutts by Patrick McDonnell. First penned in 1994, it follows a cast of loveable, furry personalities reflecting on life, and the unique dynamic between man and nature (especially the four-legged variety of nature).

In Shelter Stories, McDonnell compiles a selection of strips inspired by his work with the Humane Society of the United States and the stories of various animals he's encountered, as well as the people who have taken them into their lives. Interspersed with the always funny, often poigniant comics, Shelter Stories also includes real-life vignettes of adopted animals and their people.

Though it's definitely light reading, there's a lot of depth to McDonnell's work. People who work with animals - especially those in shelters, rescues, and such - will find many of the characters and sentiments hauntingly familiar. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry... But all of them will leave you smiling and remembering why it's important that we all pitch in and do what we can to help those who are lost, forgotten, cast aside, or just overlooked.

Mutts: Shelter Stories
by Patrick McDonnell
Andrews McMeel Publishing LLC, $16.99
ISBN: 9780740771156

Mutts official website: www.muttscomics.com
(all images copyright © Patrick McDonnell)


Poor Minerva became available today at the shelter, and she's already on the list of dogs needing "urgent attention". It's quite understandable - she arrived with a broken back leg, and really needs osteopathic veterinary care right away. I have no idea how much it would cost to get her back on all four feet, but I'm certain it isn't trivial or cheap.

I must confess a very soft spot in my heart for Minerva - in both the looks and personality categories, she could easily be Buddy's little sister. On top of that, I've had a couple of broken bones myself, and can easily empathize with all the discomfort, annoyance and worry she's feeling. Every time I see her though, she hops up and teeters on her three good legs, wagging her tail for all it's worth. Her cup is running over with affection and unabashed gratitude.

Due to the nature of her injury, Minerva can only be released to a rescue group. Hopefully, someone will be able to work something out - if she's this sweet with a broken leg, I can only imagine what she'd be like with all four paws on the ground.

UPDATE: Miss Minerva was rescued on June 16. Here's to a speedy recovery for our sweet girl! Good luck, Minnie!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cy, the One-Eyed

Little Cy caught my eye (no pun intended) while waiting for his vaccinations. I was smitten with his happy grin, wagging tail, and youthful enthusiasm. He was squinting one eye at me, though, and I checked to see if it was injured or had something in it. Upon closer inspection, I found that Cy appears to be missing his left eye altogether.

That doesn't seem to slow him down much, though; he's fearless and adventuresome. I'm not even sure if he can see out of his right eye, or if he's blind or nearsighted. What he lacks in the visual department, he does a good job of making up for with his ears and nose - which makes it a little bit tricky to tell if he can see where you're going, or if he's just following you by scent or sound. He'll navigate hallways and obstacles with grace and ease, then bump headfirst into his water bucket. Cy's tapetum lucidum - a lens-like membrane in the eye that enhances night vision - looks a bit more reflective than normal, which might be significant. It could indicate blindness in that eye, or it might effect his ability to see in certain lighting... I'm no expert on such things, so I'm in the dark, if you'll pardon the expression.

Aside from needing a good vet to check him out, little Cy could use a fair amount of interaction with people and other dogs. He seems to have been pretty much on his own for most of the first four months of his life, and appears to have missed out on a lot of the "puppy experience." He won't grow up to be a small dog by any stretch of the imagination, so he'll need to be taught to be calm, gentle, and polite (important things for all puppies to be taught, and doubly so in larger breeds).

One outstanding thing that happened today won him my sincere admiration. We were walking together, and passed Sam's kennel on Cy's "blind side". Sam dropped into his best awkward "play bow" and began barking like crazy. Instead of bristling at him, like I've grown used to seeing the other dogs do, Cy turned, bowed back, and bounced around yipping his best, "Yeah! Let's go play!" in reply. Come what may, I'll always remember Cy as the one dog that won't let appearances deceive him.

UPDATE: Cy was rescued on June 16th. Hopefully he will soon be in his new forever home. Good boy, Cybernator!