Monday, September 21, 2009


Moon is a stunningly beautiful Border Collie with a great personality, so we're not really worried about whether or not she gets adopted. She will. She's not too big, very pretty, friendly to everyone and a volunteer favorite. Our concern is that she end up with the right household; one that can give her enough exercise, mental challenges and something to DO so that she does not become bored and therefore destructive.

Her previous owners relinquished her for the reason "Not enough time." It's a frequent refrain and with a Border Collie, it is not surprising. These dogs are bred to herd flocks, and in the city, flocks can be cats, wildlife or the neighborhood kids. They are also considered by many experts to be THE smartest breed of dog. Therefore they need owners who can keep them challenged and give them a job to do every single day. This is not a lawn ornament nor a dog for a couch potato or lazy owner. Imagine you are a teacher and someone has placed a hyperactive Einstein in your care and you have some idea of the challenges of this breed.

Moon is such a lovebug and eager to learn. She's not shown any aggression toward cats, people or other dogs but she does need some basic training. Her desire to chase the birds outside the shelter or to round up people and dogs as they walked across the parking lot made for some fast and desperate leash-grabs. She would likely do best in a household with another dog to keep her company when her people are away, and a firm but loving owner will win her respect. Border Collies should not be bullied or intimidated. They are too smart for that. Give Moon a reason to adore you and plenty to do, and she'll be your best friend forever.

UPDATE (Sept 25): Ms. Moon was picked up yesterday (as were, thankfully, several dogs) by a rescue group. That is happy news, indeed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Invisible Dogs

This past week has been pretty unrelenting; a steady downpour of rain and a steady influx of animals seems to have left everyone's spirits a bit dampened. And between work, weather, and looking after a sickly Amelia, we haven't had an opportunity to take photos and feature anyone.

If you have clicked on the links at the side of our blog, you've probably seen the end result of one of the shelter's true heroes; our friend Russell Posch. Day in and day out, he tirelessly catalogs the comings and goings of the shelter's canine contingent, photographing them and trying to get them in front of the eyes of people who might otherwise not even know they are there. All of this post's photos are from his daily updates.

Many times, we meet a really great dog at the shelter, and can't help but feel a small, sharp jab of sadness. It seems ridiculous, but there are certain "dog stereotypes" that for no rational reason are much less likely to be adopted, rescued, or reclaimed. In many cases, people overlook these dogs entirely (as I saw happen again and again to Buster). Here are a few terrific dogs you might walk right past and never even notice:

Shelby is a fantastic kid with three unconscious strikes against him. First, he's a Labrador Retriever. As highly vaunted as Labs are with dog owners, people tend to balk at them due to their size and athleticism. Second, he's an adolescent - in fact, most dogs you find in a shelter are between the ages of 6 and 18 months old. Too old to be a cute and tractable puppy, too young to be a placid adult, these "rebellious teenager" dogs are often tossed to the wayside by owners either too frustrated, unprepared, or just thoughtless to deal with them. Third, and likely simultaneously both the most trivial and damaging strike, he's black. People tend to think of black dogs as common, unexciting, or intimidating.

All together, Shelby isn't too impressive or sparkly on a knee-jerk perusal. But if you were to pass him by without spending time with him, you'll have missed out on one heck of a dog. He's still young and playful; after feeding time, he flips his bowl over and chases it around his kennel like a hockey puck. When he's outside, he loves to explore and investigate things. The whole world seems to fascinate him, and he bounds along like a fearless canine Indiana Jones. And when his pluck and courage seem to falter or things just get quiet for a bit, he'll gently snuggle up with you. For such a small guy, Shelby seems to be brimming over with a mighty love.

Beth has so much going for her. She's small and calm (for a Labrador Retriever). Outdoors, she carries herself like a show dog, and manages to combine the grace and energy of a hunting dog with a gentle, even temperament that's delightful to be around. She's even house-trained. What on Earth could make people pass her over without even a second thought?

There are eight reasons, hanging pendulously from her belly. They are a temporary leftover of the reason she was dumped in the shelter to begin with - her owners kept her long enough to breed her, weaned and sold the puppies, then discarded her. And you would not believe how many people recoil at the sight of a recently-pregnant dog. On top of that, she's incredibly afraid and disoriented in the kennel area; the combination of strange surroundings, noisy dogs, and post-partum wooziness would put anyone ill at ease.

It took several minutes to coax Beth past the myriad barking dogs, through the lobby, and out the front door. But once outside and relaxed, the anxiety and shyness seemed to slough off her, leaving behind what seemed like a completely different dog. Looking at her, and seeing the grace and affection shining underneath the fear and sadness, I realized that her former owners will never understand what a treasure they threw away.

Maybel is a beautiful dog - the proportions of a working dog, but at about one-fifth the size of even an average German Shepherd. She has intelligent, expressive eyes, and a silky coat that would make a mink blush. All of that is a little difficult to take in at first, however, because she's quite likely to be huddled up in her kennel, shaking as if she were made of jelly.

Poor little Maybel is terrified, and I honestly can't say I fault her for it. Suddenly finding herself in a strange place, behind a kennel door, surrounded by unfamiliar, barking dogs... it's easy to imagine that being completely overwhelming. And just in case that wasn't enough to make a little dog catatonic, Maybel's first day at the shelter also happened to be very likely the first day of what was quite likely her first time in heat. She probably thought she was dying.

The first day I was able to sit with her in her kennel, she was still so terrified I was a little worried she may lash out in a fit of angst. She didn't, however, and after a couple of minutes bravely walked over to let me pet her. A couple of days later, she was walking around outside with me, a much more calm and confident dog. I noticed for the first time that her fluffy tail loops around itself and slightly to the side, like that of a Shiba Inu or Basenji. And I also noticed that she's got a great - if elusive - smile.

UPDATE 9/21: All three dogs have been adopted or rescued! Hooray!


Sunday, September 13, 2009


At first glance, Kuno can look like a pretty tough customer. There's little doubt that he is tough: there doesn't seem to be an ounce of his hefty frame that isn't muscle, and he seems to have no idea what the word "uncomfortable" means. And like most real "tough guys," he's got the heart of a playful puppy.

In fact, if Kuno had one flaw that we could point to, it's that no one ever taught him the difference between a 6-pound puppy and a 60-pound grown up. He's starting to grasp the concepts of walking vs. dragging, snuggling vs. head-butting, and his kisses occasionally have a bit of teeth to them (note: that's "teeth" as in a puppy-like nip - which all dogs have to be taught not to do with people - and most definitely not a malicious or forceful bite), but he is still a bit of a newcomer to the whole thing, and could use a friend (or family) with a bit of patience and understanding while he's learning. He may be an older dog, but wants very much to learn some new tricks.

Learning that "jumping up" is only
all right when asked to do so.

Kuno isn't a celebrity award-winning fetcher, mostly because puppy games seem less fun to him than running around and just hanging out with the people he's fond of. I get the impression, though, that he'd love to learn new things, as long as he thought it made the folks around him happy. In fact, being around happy people seems to be at the top of his short list of "must-haves": food, some fun exercise, a tree to pee on from time to time, and the love and approval of his packmates.

He takes to new friends quickly and will be a loving and faithful member of someone's household. If you want a tough-looking dog with a great disposition, you really should come meet Kuno. He'll be thrilled to meet you.

UPDATE 9/16: Along with Royce and several other top-notch dogs (please check the "Urgent Dogs" sidebar), Kuno is on the "short list." If the shelter has another day as unbalanced as the past two (we're talking a 5- or 6-to-1 ratio of "in" vs. "out" here, people), both he and Royce will very likely have to be put to sleep to make room for incoming animals.

UPDATE 9/22: Kuno was finally rescued today! We're so glad he's safe now. Be good, fella!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Royce and Becky

Royce and Becky have a few things in common: they are both pit mixes, (he's pit/mastiff, she's pit/retriever) both about a year old and both rather timid about coming out of their kennels. Becky is so afraid she has to be carried outside and being on a leash makes her very nervous. Royce gets so anxious about going outside he'll just lay down on the ground or try to bolt back inside. But today when we brought them together, they gave each other courage and a sense of belonging that was heartwarming to witness. They are also both incredibly sweet and gentle dogs, eager for a loving pet or to be allowed to give kisses, which they do with wild abandon.

Becky came in with a leg injury, possibly a pulled muscle or tendon. She seems to be fine now although she does walk high up on her toes. When I have her on a leash, she sits down or pulls away. Off of a leash (but still inside the shelter) she keeps close and follows much more confidently. She seems to be comfortable around other dogs and shows absolutely no aggression toward anyone or anything so far.

Royce has that same even temperament. We thought that bringing these two kids together could be an interesting experiment. Both seem so very submissive and shy. We took Becky out of her kennel first-- off-leash since she wouldn't follow along otherwise-- and went to Royce's kennel and got him. They greeted each other politely, then (and she had to wear the leash at this point) we headed as a group toward the back door. Royce hesitated at the threshold but his desire to follow another dog was too strong and he eventually came outside on his own. Then Becky got intimidated but seeing Royce with us made her want to keep up with this strange new pack and she went along with us to the play yard.

Once inside, they sniffed each other, did a brief bit of "climbing" one over the other and there was only one brief moment of tension-- a single growl-- and then everything was fine. From two little dogs too timid to walk outside to a pair of romping, jumping, chasing puppies, Becky and Royce transformed in just a matter of minutes. It was amazing.

I think that either dog would do well in a home with another dog who is not overly aggressive or bossy. They've made a huge stride toward overcoming their shyness and insecurity. (Both are owner surrenders.) Given a stable, loving home, these will be some of the best dogs anyone could ask for. They just want to know they belong. These are very special dogs and they deserve a chance to prove it.

UPDATE 9/15: Royce is still there and now on the "urgent" list. He also seems a little bit sneezy, and it looks pretty bleak for him. We're still holding on to hope that he gets adopted or rescued tonight.

Becky, on the other hand, has been adopted. BY US! :) Yup, she's our girl now and we've renamed her "Amelia," (Emmy for short).

Although she's also feeling a bit under the weather and is a bit stiff in her back legs - both she and Royce may have been handled a little too roughly by their previous owner - she'll have a futon to sleep on, a thorough check-up, and Rufus to keep her entertained (and largely sleepless, at present).

UPDATE 9/17: Royce was one of a handful of dogs put to sleep today. He had become quite ill (as has Becky/Amelia) and the shelter is crowded again. I guess the rain makes people resent their dogs or something. :( Before Tim took Amelia home, he brought her by Royce's kennel so he could see she was okay. It seemed to cheer him up. He was a great dog.


Saturday, September 5, 2009


With all of the bustle and noise associated with an animal shelter, some dogs are easy to overlook. Colter isn't one of those dogs.

The first time I saw him, I was headed to the kitchen to fetch a bucket of water. Saying a brief "hello" to all of the dogs on the front row of kennels, I saw a lanky, black head pop up over the edge of one of the back kennels... and it kept rising... and rising. Colter stretched up to greet me, and looked like nothing so much as a large, black deer with floppy ears. We met more formally at feeding time, where I got to duck briefly into his kennel. He hopped around like an excited puppy, but settled down and sat for his dinner like a trooper. It wasn't hard to tell that he was quite a people-oriented dog, and I looked forward to being able to take him out and play once his waiting period was over (the shelter holds dogs for 3-6 days usually before they become adoptable, to give owners a chance to come in and claim a lost animal).

He's tall and lanky - no exaggeration, his nose pokes me in the chest when he stands up straight - but underfed, and quite thin for a Great Dane. We think he might have something else in him as well, perhaps Labrador Retriever (or moose). Colter isn't too crazy about playing fetch, but loves a good run, and a leisurely walk with a friend. That's a good thing, because it seems everyone at the shelter wants to take him out for a gambol.

I wouldn't recommend Colter for a family with small children, but not because he's bad-tempered. There isn't a mean bone in his body, and that's a lotta' body to be talking about. He is young, though, and doesn't always remember that some people aren't as well-equipped for an exuberant, frisky puppy jumping on them as other folks. Especially when that puppy is four feet tall. That noted, he's attentive and eager to please, and delightful to romp around with. It's a little weird watching him run and jump (there's so much of him, it looks like he's running in slow-motion), but if you've got a little patience and a high slobber-threshold, it would be hard to find a better pal than Colter. He works hard to put the "Great" in Great Dane.

UPDATE 9/5: Colter was adopted! :)


Bradley (code name: The Gryffon)

I'll let you in on a little secret: sometimes Tim and I "rename" the dogs. We call this guy "Gryffon" (although Tim might argue me on the spelling of it). I'm writing this entry, I get to spell it like I want. :D

Gryffon, er, Bradley is an Irish Wolfhound mix. What the other part of the mix is, well, that's up for debate. Maybe Labrador? He's a really down-to-earth, relaxed sort of dog. He gets along well with both hyper puppies (one a terrier, one a German Shepherd) that we introduced him to. As you can see from the following photos, he really is a gentleman even under duress:

The smaller dog is Pepper, who we had planned to feature as well, but she, like the German Shepherd puppy, was adopted today. As sweet and adorable as the younger dogs are, Tim and I are both really drawn to Gryf. He has a lot of character in his somewhat scruffy face and his kind eyes. At first he was very timid, scooting back to the far end of his kennel when we'd come visit. But his caution gives way to trust eventually and he enjoys a walk outside and a scratch behind his ear. He's not glompy or overly-salacious with affection. Perhaps with time and the comfort and security of a forever home, he'll come out of his shell and express his affection more readily. He's a great dog and will just get better with time and love.

UPDATE 9/10: Our sweet boy was put to sleep this morning. Someone wanted to adopt him, but apparently he was too ill to be adopted out. I'm so sorry we couldn't save you soon enough, Gryffon. We loved you, though. I hope that made your last days a little bit better. Good bye, buddy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


You probably don't notice anything odd about Candy from this photo. Instead, you see her sweet, happy face, her pretty coloring and her pink collar-- meaning at one time, she was somebody's baby. I was surprised to see such a lovely spaniel at the shelter and figured she would be adopted right away. But Candy has a little problem. Maybe a big one:

See that strange pink thing? It's a tumor that practially drags the ground. It's got to be uncomfortable and needs to be removed. Sadly, the sort of labwork that needs to be done for her might not be available in the shelter setting. It could be a matter of taking it off so she can live a long happy life, or it might indicate cancer that's already spread throughout her body and removing it would only make her more comfortable, not save her life. But frankly, I don't think it matters which. Even a week or a month of freedom from it would mean so much to her. Quality, not quantity of days is what matters.

Candy loves to be outside, even on the hottest days, and cries when you put her back in her kennel. I had to pick her up and carry her into the shelter yesterday and at first I thought touching the tumor would be sort of gross but really, it's just part of her body, and the relief of me carrying her made her relax a bit. I feel so sad for her. I wonder if she was abandoned because of her condition. It's hard enough to face an undiagnosed illness. Harder still to do it alone in the world.

Candy hasn't given up yet.

UPDATE 9/3: Candy's growth began bleeding internally and she was euthanized this morning. She's free of it at last.