Sunday, November 29, 2009

What a difference a leash, or lack thereof, makes

It was totally unbelievable. We went to the dog park this morning, and since nobody was there I let Bill and Craig run in the big part. Bill is always fine with the big dogs, in fact he enjoys them. Craig, on the other hand, has snapped at every dog he has sniffed. However, every time he met a dog he was either on leash or separated by a fence.

So this morning I got stuck. I was all the way in the back of the park when a man arrived with his Husky. At first I was determined to just wait it out and keep the dogs in the back. But then another guy arrived with two Labs. It was time for me to confront Craig's fears. I snapped on his leash and started walking forward, unsure whether I was better to keep the leash on or off. Well, Bill made the decision for me as he took Craig's leash out of my hand and the two of them started playing tug-of-war.

I didn't want Craig so riled up, so I got the leash out of Bill's mouth and eventually took it off Craig, just hoping for the best. It turned out to be a good decision! Aside from some initial growling, Craig started playing! He did great until they started chasing him. He got frightened and just started running faster, and you know what happens then...the dogs just chase after him faster! This went on for a few laps until I could get a hold of him. It was a step backwards but I don't think it completely destroyed the progress we had made. We stayed for a bit to try and make some new, happy memories for Craig to leave with and then headed out to the car. Overall, I would say this dog park trip was a big success.

What is "fine," really?

In my last post I mentioned that Craig was fine with other dogs after an initial growly greeting, but now I'm not so sure. He's a tough case, not unlike my previous dog-aggressive foster, Olivia, who got me in a bit of trouble by attacking another dog a few months ago.

Craig seems different, though. For one, he's not as smart as Olivia. She was extra intelligent which made her antsy and competitive with other dogs. She had to outdo the biggest dog in the park by making him submit. She'd greet dogs just fine and then randomly snap. I don't think her aggression stemmed from a bad experience with other dogs in her past, it was more likely from pent-up energy due to living in a dark apartment for the first year of her life.

Craig appears to have been attacked by other dogs. I believe this because his first reaction when a dog approaches, no matter what the dog, is to snap. It's like he need to get the first word in because he doesn't want to hear what "terrible things" the other dog has to say. When he first met Bill, the initial few seconds were kind of weird. He was growling, drooling, and whining at the same time, and his tail was going a hundred miles a minute. I chalked it up to nerves because he had just be taken from his home, and he hadn't frequently been in a car before. Within seconds he and Bill were buddies, or at least Craig busied himself trying to dominate Bill from behind...for HOURS on end.

Since being neutered, the humping has completely subsided (yay!). Back when he was a humper, Bill would snap at him, giving him the perfect opportunity to escalate a fight, but Craig never did. This is another interesting piece to the puzzle and it makes me think that Craig doesn't want to fight at all, he just doesn't know how to properly introduce himself.

So we're working on it. Yesterday he hiked with me on a heavily dog-populated trial. Each time a dog would approach, I'd squat down with Craig and tell him it's okay. If he'd start growling I'd immediately give him my "no" noise (a sharp "at ah"). We made it past most of the dogs without any issues beyond Craig's obvious discomfort, but he did snap a few times. We'll work on it some more today. I'm hoping to find a big, neutral dog at the dog park who I can introduce Craig to off leash, because the leash may be part of the problem. I firmly believe that if I can introduce Craig to a few dogs without incident we can get beyond his discomfort and he'll enjoy being able to play.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Boston Terrier TAIL!

You've got to see it to believe it. My new foster, Craig, has a tail that's about six inches long! He's also got a white face with some black "eye shadow" over one eye and floppy, spotted ears. At first I questioned whether he was truly a Boston, but he is - his "off" markings and features are just a sign of bad breeding.

But that doesn't make him bad. In fact, everyone who sees him finds his uniqueness endearing. He's a healthy, one-year-old boy who is loving, cuddly, and fine with other dogs(after the initial growly, whiny meeting). The only bad thing about Craig is that he's humptastic! The first day he came to stay with us he humped Bill for 3.5 hours until I discovered the magic of the spray bottle (now I just have to touch the bottle and he stops immediately).

Craig's story is a sad one, having been born in Mexico (I think) to a backyard breeder. His mom died shortly thereafter because of a lack of medical care, and his littermates perished as well (a testament to Craig's strength). His dad is with another MABTR foster now, but for the last year, he and his dad have lived in a yard in Denver. Uh...Denver weather is all over the place and Bostons are most certainly not equipped to deal with it (not that any dog should ever be left in the yard because they shouldn't). So it's no surprise that one of Craig's favorite pastimes is sniffing all around my house - he may never have been in one before. Nevertheless, he's shockingly well-mannered and well-socialized with humans. I'm letting him sleep in bed with us, and I think he believes he died and went to heaven!

After his neuter yesterday, he quickly bounced back to his old self, and we're ready to start training him on commands. He's not food motivated, but I did find one thing he loves - CHEESE! Shaved Parmesan cheese, of all things! Easy enough, but I wish I could find a type of dog food he likes. He's a very light eater. I was making potato salad last night and he was very excited about eating the warm potatoes. Believe it or not, he preferred them to the chicken I was also feeding him!

Craig's a great foster and I'm sure he'll find his new home soon. He's definitely one I'm going to miss!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Boudicca the Celtic Warrior Pooper

This last Boston Terrier foster was another quickie, but we were not without adventure! Here's the background:

I received a call asking if I would take a seven-month-old Boston Terrier who had been dumped at the shelter with her brother and sister. Did you know shelters have night drop boxes? Well that's where these dogs landed. I can't imagine what the night was like for them because the two sisters are constantly at each other's throats... literally. Because of their mutual aggression, the shelter deemed them unadoptable. So the boy went off to his new life and the girls were sent to us at MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue (instead of being euthanized - yay!).

I met Jami, our Colorado rescue coordinator, at a gas station to do the hand-off. Little did I know she was going to give me a choice. Which sister would I like? Ugh. One was emaciated with poop hanging off her butt. The other was stocky and healthy-looking. Both were a little sketchy around Bill - unsure if they should play or attack. I guess can't blame them; if I spent my whole life fighting for resources, I would probably be leery, too.

I usually go for the most needy dogs, but this time I took the healthier one. The reason was that the other one needed knee surgery in Denver, which is about a half hour drive for me, so it just made more sense for her to go to a foster in Denver. It turns out I chose wisely...

It wasn't three hours later when Jami called to say she had been bit! Luna, the skinny sister, continuously attacked Jami's dogs and finally turned on Jami. Luckily she had baby teeth, but Jami sure had her hands full.

I hung up the phone thinking I was lucky that Maya, the stocky sister, was totally normal. It only took a few more minutes for her to prove me wrong, though, when she lunged at Bill. This happened four times in the few days I had her, and it was always over a bone or a person.

Maya was also slightly sketchy at the dog park, but it became easy to predict if she was going to get "toothy." When the energy at the park escalated and she started barking, I knew it was time to get her leashed and refocused, which seemed to work well.

I thought I would have to rehome her to a place where she would be the only dog, but I got an application from the perfect family with an adult Boxer who could put her in her place. The mom, Susan, automatically noticed Maya's bossiness (now Boudicca, the Celtic Warrior Queen), and is working with her accordingly. From what I hear, everything is going swimmingly.

Ah, puppies.I think Boudicca left about 12 reminders of why I prefer older dogs and not puppies, but thanks to my carpet shampooer, the only place that is forever stained is my mind. With the carpets cleaned and the toys put away, Bill and I are ready for a new challenge, which we hope will involve a nine-year-old in need. Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Watch out for Steroids

After putting my most recent foster, Toby, on steroids, I've learned they can definitely be a doubled-edged sword. After two days his itching stopped but shaking and fearful behavior began.

There are two kinds of steroids - anabolic and anti-inflammatory - the latter of which is most common for pet use. According to, steroids are prescribed for: allergies, spinal inflammation, brain swelling and inflammation, immune mediated diseases, inflammation from arthritis, stomach and intestinal inflammation.

Toby had a very bad yeast infection on his skin. We tried to manage it with Cephalexin and Benedryl, but found that the antibiotic and antihistamine weren't enough. We bathed him with Pyoben, and although it's more for bacteria than yeast, it seemed to offer some relief. Then we changed his medication to Prednisone and Clavamox, a steroid and a stronger antibiotic.

The switch seemed to work well, and the itching finally subsided. However, I started noticing that Toby would cower after getting about 20 feet from my house on a walk. If we drove somewhere to go walking, he would immediately want to get back in the car. He would lay in his bed and shake, and his nervous tail-wagging turned into just nervousness without the wag. I was having the hardest time figuring out what was going on until I remembered his change in meds.

Needless to say we cut his dosage back immediately. With steroids it's important not to stop them cold turkey (at least that's my understanding), so we reduced him from two per day to one per day for five days, and then we cut him back to one every other day. The shaking subsided, and while he was still fearful, our walks became more successful.

Toby is now on to his new family. His "dad" is a vet student and will surely do a good job handling his meds. Oh, and he's got a nine-month-old little "brother" now, too! This family is perfect for Toby and I wish them all well - he deserves the best home with no other dogs sitting on his head (yes - believe it or not, Bill was not the one getting his head sat on this time around!). The family who adopted Toby also deserves a great dog. I'm excited they found each other...

...And now Bill and I are off to our next adventure! We'll be picking up Foster #17 (don't know her name) tomorrow! She's a seven-month-old Boston who was dumped at a shelter. I swore I'd never take a puppy, so this is going to be a real challenge. I'll let you know how it goes. Pray for me!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Hot Couple!

I couldn't resist posting one more Halloween photo. Fosters are so much fun! Toby is the jailbird and Bill is his "lady." Yes, my dog not only humps indiscriminately, but he's also a cross-dresser. Hey, we live in Boulder, CO! Would you expect any less?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Socializing a Mill Dog with Children

Bill is terrified of children. I don't know if there were kids at the puppy mill who tormented him or if it was from the brief stint at a "forever family" with a child (who subsequently returned him within a week because he wouldn't play ball).

Anyway, to help Bill get over his fear of children, I've been taking to my friend Mandy's house frequently. Her children (six and nine) have learned the proper care and handling of dogs, even fearful ones, and they are the best kids to socialize Bill with. Since he generally struggles in other people's homes, we first went to Mandy's house when no kids were home so he could get comfortable with his surroundings. After he started roaming around her house without fear, I began bringing him there when the kids were home. He still shakes a little, but Xander and Ella (the kids) know to approach slowly and pet him under his chin. Last time we went I even saw his tail up once!

It's a slow road but definitely worthwhile. He used to put at least 20 feet between himself and any child when out on the trail or at the dogpark, but these days I see him only carefully watching them as he passes and then following behind to sniff at them. Of course, if they turn around, he's jumping backwards. But it's progress nonetheless.

Now for some fun: Mandy had an extra Halloween costume for my foster, Toby! We chose a jailbird suit and Toby didn't seem to mind it all all (though you can't tell from this picture). I had already bought a lobster costume for Bill, and I was shocked when we actually walked around the house with this doofy stuffed lobster on his back. So cute!