Thursday, December 17, 2009


When Hershey first came into the shelter, I was on my way out with another dog. His owner spun him around and pressed him against the wall, indicating that I should keep the other dog away (I went out another exit). Apparently, there had been an "incident" with Hershey and another dog, and no one wanted a repeat performance.

I'll be the first to admit, it takes a lot to convince me that a dog is "just bad." I don't always agree with Cesar Millan, but I do think he's spot-on when he says that the overwhelming majority of dog problems are based in their environment (and particularly the humans that interact with them). Thus far, Hershey hasn't betrayed my optimism for him.

He's no perfect little puppy, of course - at a modest 93 pounds, he's used to doing what he wants, when he wants to do it. Hershey's pretty sharp, though, and he seems to be getting the hang of this "dog/human teamwork" thing quite well. When it came time to weigh him, he climbed right up onto the scale and waited patiently... and then stepped back down, paused, and on again when we realized that we'd forgotten to turn the scale on. All the while, he was just happy for the attention.

In fact, attention is one thing I think Hershey is needing desperately. It took quite a while - and quite a lot of brushing - to make an appreciable difference in the gritty, oily, dander-crusted mess that was his coat. He didn't seem to mind a bit, which made a nice change from trying to brush our rowdy and grooming-shy dog, Rufus. Hershey's elbows and hocks were scuffed and skinned up, and his collar was pretty filthy - despite still having the plastic price-tag hanger attached to it. I got the impression that someone was in a bit of a rush when they put it on him, long ago.

We gingerly tested his bad reputation with other dogs, starting with an adorable (and pregnant) beagle named Savannah. (She's available too! Hint, hint...) Their conversation seemed to consist mostly of:

"Wow, you're big."
"Yep. You're kinda' small, aren't you?"
"Hey, I got buns in the oven. See? Wow. You're big."
"Er, thanks."

No tension, no drama. A good start. Next we brought out Homer, a male Pit Bull Terrier. No problems at all when they met, although Homer really wanted to romp around and Hershey wasn't overly keen on puppy antics. He did, however, want to go out and walk around. When Homer marked a pillar, Hershey casually sniffed it and moved on - apparently, he's secure enough in his doghood to not feel compelled to "over-mark" other males. There was one moment of tension when another puppy was brought outside, and Homer took the opportunity to get up in Hershey's face. A low growl ensued, and we decided that a break from the happy-go-luckyness was in order.

Later, when the vet was taking Hershey out of his kennel, there was a brief moment of alarm when he and Miller lunged at each other through the kennel door. He backed down as soon as he was reprimanded for it, and I got a visible cringe from him when I put a rebuking finger on his nose (which seemed a bit of an over-reaction to a "hush" command). After getting his weigh-in and check-out, I took him back to his kennel. No problem passing Savannah's kennel, or Joker (another adolescent male), or Homer. As soon as we reached Miller, though, the retriever was at his door, barking and bristling. Hershey tensed up, but relaxed again when I told him to leave it alone. He acted up once more, growling when I had moved between the two dogs - and again dropped the drama when told to.

I'm not sure if Hershey's issues with other dogs are simply testosterone-based (he's 6 years old, and not neutered), or if it's a wayward side-effect of his guarding instincts (all three times he got agitated, there was a person between him and another confident, male dog). For now, he'll need supervision when around other dogs, and a lot of good, old-fashioned training. Personally, I'd love to see him rescued by a group that specializes in German Shepherds, who can re-direct his lonliness, frustration, and tenseness to more satisfying, challenging outlets.

As I said before, I tend to give dogs the benefit of the doubt. I don't doubt for a minute that Hershey would unhesitatingly end any fight brought to him. There aren't many dogs that I've seen with quite so much desperate affection in their eyes, either. He's a bit of a fixer-upper, perhaps, but my gut tells me that he might be well worth the effort, and then some.

UPDATE (12/29): As Tajana and Almir pointed out, Hershey was rescued today! He's made so much progress since he came into the shelter, I have little doubt that he'll earn himself a permanent place in someone's heart - and family - soon.


Tajana and Almir said...

Hershey sure is a majestic dog and a great dog to make your own. I wish we could take him. On this Winter Solstice, I intend that he is adopted by a good and solid family soon.

Tajana and Almir said...

It looks like Hershey has been rescued. Yeah!!!