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Tails of Woe

Originally published: April 6th, 2017

The Dogtor is in

I’ve been working at the Humane Society in a neighboring county for about a month and a half. It’s hard work in a couple of ways. A large part of what I do is cleaning up after the animals. There is a lot of work to do and it has to be done before they open to the public, so it is fast paced work as well. It’s physically demanding and I come home tired.

It is also psychologically hard. I like working with the animals. I know I should not get attached because most of them will not be there long: they’ll be adopted or sent out on rescue. Keeping them around a long time is actually bad because this is (of necessity) a kill shelter, although they work hard to keep euthanasia to a bare minimum.

When I started working there, there was a little pit bull named “Freddie”. He was bright, and friendly, and even as a new employee he never objected to my coming into his pen to clean or work with him. He was obviously a favorite with all the staff. Everyone loved Freddie. He looked a bit like Gator, one of my foster dogs at the time.

We put Freddie down last week.

Canine Fostering: What It Is and How It Works

The Dogtor is in

Originally published August 3, 2017

Before I get started, let me just say that what I’m about to say will also apply to fostering other animals: cats, rabbits, horses, guinea pigs, whatever you have a heart for will have organizations trying to save. I’m involved in canine fostering, have been for a long time, so that’s the soap box I’ll stand on to pontificate, educate, and encourage others to get involved.

What Is Canine Fostering?

fostering, rescue, canine, dog, JosephineFostering is the short term care of an animal you don’t own. Programs vary: some will provide everything you could need: equipment, bedding, food, medications, everything. Some provide only veterinary care. Most are somewhere in between these. Before joining a fostering program ask what is provided to you and what you need to cover. Get it in writing.  Also ask if they have written procedures that you can study to see how they do what they do, and who is responsible for what within the organization.  Any organization that is not organized is going to be difficult to get along with.

Purposes of Fostering

There are four main flavors, or purposes, of fostering programs:

The Pop-up Thunderstorm

We had a pop-up thunderstorm roll in this morning as we were getting our day started.  It gave advance notice in the form of continuous, distant thunder so I dashed out to feed The Brown Dog Gang and let them run in the yard to relieve themselves before it arrived.  Lennon and Blondie went with me to help.  The rain started just as we were finishing up and getting them back into their kennels.

Blondie trotted up toward the house with her ears down on the sides of her head (her Yoda face) muttering, “It’s raining, it’s raining, I don’t like the rain.  I need to be inside.”

While Marie fixed breakfast, Buddy Beagle cowered in his bunker. He still barked at the thunder — until we had a close lightning strike with it’s BIG boomer that rattled the house and the power blinked. Then Buddy admitted defeat and was quiet: curled up in the back of his crate until the storm passed.

Josie hid too. In her own way.  She tried to wiggle in behind the chair, but it had been pushed back to make more room for crates.  She often goes and hides under my desk, but this morning she preferred to be where the Peoples were, so she made do with this corner.

Making and Installing Top Netting

Today I’m making up and installing top nets on kennels #1 and #2.  Kennel #3 is already done, but because I was up against a deadline (inbound dog) I rushed that one and it’s not done as neatly as these are coming out.  But it does serve the purpose of keeping (escape artist) Sable in her kennel.  She has been up standing on top of her dog house to get a closer look at that net, but she hasn’t found a weakness yet

To keep things from falling apart should a weld break while I’m installing the net, I secure the end strands of wire. When I cut the fencing, I cut down the middle between vertical strands so I have tails to work with. Most of these I just fold over to hold things together, but the two at the end corners, I wrap around tightly to hold that joint together if that weld fails.

With two 10 foot runs of fencing cut and ends wrapped, I lay them side by side. Each run of fencing is 4 feet high (wide) so together they just cover the 8 foot wide kennels.

I stitch the runs of fencing together with 3/8″ hog rings. I install one every third juncture, and I install them diagonally – alternating directions of the diagonals so as a whole, the sheet of fencing is locked together and the two pieces cannot slide past one another.

Leggy Lennon Tries Tug-O-Rope

All of the dogs except Buddy Beagle — who was indoors doing a detailed inspection of his eyelids — were outside horsing around when Lennon discovered a ropey toy that had been spirited outside and tucked away.  Lennon didn’t want to stop playing with the girls, but he wanted to chew that ropey later, so he devised a plan.  But there was a snag in his plan … a snag named Josephine!

His plan didn’t work out as he had planned, but it did involve everyone playing together.

Lennon is young and playful and gets along well with everyone.  Buddy grumps at him sometimes, but that’s not about Lennon, that’s just Buddy being a grumpy old fella.

In the past, when I’ve tried to get Lennon to play tug with me or with Blondie, he would yield the ropey as soon as his opponent tugged on it.  But today, he figured out that playing tug can be fun.  We should have a new game we can play together now.

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Is Peanut Butter Treat Day a Trap?

peanut butter treatsI made 274 of my Peanut Butter dog treats today.  That sounds like a lot, but we go through that many in a week or less with the pack I have here.

I use them as rewards (and bribes) for good behavior as well as “just because you’re a good dog” treats.  With 8 dogs normally in residence, that’s 34 treats per dog per week or not quite 5 treats per dog per day.  Since they get a treat for going into their crate or kennel – each time, you can see how we run through them quickly.

Cookie assistant SelmaToday Selma was my cookie baking assistant.  Selma is in training as a house dog.  She needs to learn to calm herself and act civilized while in the house.  She did well today.

When I empty a peanut butter jar, I make it a point to give it to one of the dogs to lick out.  That’s an extra special treat!  Sometimes one has just had surgery, or has just arrived and is feeling nervous.  Sometimes one has had a good break through and deserves a reward.  Today it occurred to me that little Josephine has NEVER had a peanut butter jar of her own to lick out.  It seems she is due!  But that didn’t go quite as I envisioned:

When Josie passed on the offer, Callie said she’d show Josie how it’s done.  But Josie wanted no part of this potential crime and quickly left the room.

She loves the peanut butter cookies, she’s just not so sure about that jar.

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Rebel and the Delicate Little Flower

Josephine is sometimes called our “Delicate Little Flower” because she is the smallest of our pack, kind of frail, and skittish of anything unfamiliar.  Yet, she tends to choose the biggest dogs as her playmates.  She and Julian were famous for their antics.  But this worked because Julian was exceptionally kind.  They would play in a rowdy manner, but he never hurt her.  He was very careful of that.  Callie often fills that roll now.  Rebel likes rowdy play and Josephine wants to join in, but she often yelped in pain as he got careless,  That resulted in an immediate cessation of play and a period of Time Out for Rebel in his crate.

He has figured that out and is learning self control.  This allows Josie Bean’s TRUE nature to show itself, as exhibited in her nick name: “Sharkey”.

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Rebel’s Food Rebellion

Rebel is a Husky.  Huskies are opinionated about things.  Apparently they are highly opinionated about their food too.  Unlike most dogs, Huskies won’t wolf down anything you set in front of them.  Oh, no … Huskies like things the way they like them.  Linda Daniels is no stranger to picky eaters, she has a couple as live-ins as well as some in her list of former foster dogs.  She’s been helping me solve Rebel’s aversion to eating.  A few of the things she’s turned up about Husky dining habits are:

  • Huskies don’t like combined foods.  They’re kind of like those people who have to use segmented plates to keep their foods from touching or they can’t eat it,  We found that Rebel likes shredded, boiled chicken breast.  So I tried to ease him into eating the gastroenteric dog food his vet wanted him to be eating by mixing it into his chicken — a little of it each time.  That didn’t fly: he insisted that there be NO “pollutants” in his chicken.
  • Huskies prefer a varied diet.  Most dogs are perfectly happy eating the same food day after day.  Not Huskies.  And Rebel falls in line with this.  I got my hopes up a couple of times when he accepted a little of some food or other.  But the next time I offered him that food, he said, “I had that before.  Want something new.”  Except for the chicken, he has eaten several meals of that, but not consecutively.
  • Huskies can, however, be persuaded through peer pressure…

Rebel’s former mom said that he was eating normally until about three weeks ago.  Since then he eats very little and has lost a lot of weight.  He currently weighs 45.5 pounds and should weigh in around 70 pounds.  Under his thick fur, he’s just bones.

His reaction to almost everything I’ve tried to feed him. (video)

When I was unsuccessful in his first few days here to tempt him to eat  — and I tried a wide variety of kibble, canned dog food, and people foods — I took him to Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital to see if there was a physical reason for is starvation diet.  They ran a G.I.Series with barium.  This eliminated suspicions such as megaesophagus, and bowel blockage.  They sent me home with some special dog food to soothe his gut.  He ate a little, then refused any more..

Yesterday was a good day: Marie got him to eat a some Critical Nutrition dog food, and Josie helped me get him to eat about two cups of Salmon and Potato kibble over the course of the afternoon.

Today, he’s back to refusing most everything.  He ate about 1/2 cup of chicken breast this morning, left the rest of it in his dish, and has refused everything else I’ve offered him.  So the struggle continues …

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Josephine’s Urgent Request

Josie's request
‘Scuse me, I have a request.

Josephine came to us with a request. We were sympathetic because poor little Josephine has had a hard road through life. When she became known to us she had been a pregnant stray, was mangy and terrified of being in an animal shelter. She came here as a foster dog for rest, healing, and sanity.

After working with her for a while we decided that the best thing for her … was to stay here.

Since then, she has met many foster dogs. She really liked some of them.

Fosters are sent away once they are healed and trained. That’s how fostering works. Recently Josie heard us discussing plans for our current foster dogs, became upset, and approached us with an urgent request …

Bed Check

Callie is a sweet, gentle, lovable gal. She is a Staffie mix after all. She gives us almost no trouble at all and so she has earned the right to be a full-time, free-range house dog — except when we leave the property for an extended period of time. But that’s not Callie’s fault.

Josephine likes to play rowdy. If I’m here I can monitor that and shut it down before anything gets torn up. When I’m not here, she and Blondie sometimes knock into things, moving furniture around a bit, but rarely tear anything up. If Callie gets into the mix, Callie likes to play tug-o-war. Dog beds are handy tug toys because all three can pull on it at once. That leads to tearing. Tearing leads to stuffing poking out. Stuffing poking out gets everyone excited about pulling out all the stuffing. We’ll arrive home again to find an “exploded” dog bed. Not good!

So when Marie and I are both going to be gone a while, Callie gets crated. But she doesn’t mind.