Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday communion: Chicken strips and a boy named Chunk

To lift our moods on this crap-tacularly rainy day, new boy Chunk and I went for a little walk on a local golf course. It's usually empty during rain, so I looked forward to getting better acquainted with our new charge in a quiet, albeit soggy setting. We're designing best foster options for our new boys right now, and everything they can tell us about themselves makes the matching that much easier.

This lovely boy walked at my side like an old pro. Nice. He's a wee tiny thing, similar to Linda Chwistek's boy Audie in size. As cute as he is, Chunk hasn't wanted to take treats from our hands since he got here. It seems to be part of his submissive nature ... He's just trying to be a respectably polite doggy, since - in his mind - polite dogs don't dare take food from big tall hu-mans. While that's super sweet, we want to get him passed that so we can help him learn cool new manners and tricks that will help the world adore him. Plus, we want him to enjoy the fun of getting tasty treats from friends.

To help him feel more at ease, I chortled to him all around the golf course, especially during those moments when he looked up at me (which was often). Me, trying to read funny little him and him, looking up and trying to read funny strange me.

We got back to the barn and I laid chicken strips on the floor while he was feeling especially perky from his hike and stepped back ("I'm not looking"). Hmm? Then ...Slurp.

Then, chicken strips laid out on my outstretched hand on the floor. Careful nosing, then - Yes. Then, a choice morsel in my palm raised up closer to his face. He stared at me, questioning. Can I? 'Yes Chunk. Good boy.' He braved up and licked it from my hand, ever so careful not to use a tooth. Then, several more went down the hatch. A small hurdle for a dog who will soon learn that the world is a wonderful place full of welcoming, outstretched hands, treats and praise.

We always say that fostering is all about problem solving, working to soften those caveman behaviors and help streamline dogs from crap beginnings into real life: The barking, the poo dancing, the shyness, the over-exhuberant greetings. Every new dog has a pocketful of behaviors that need fine tuning. We take note, we puzzle, we compare notes and, with some luck, we solve. It's not rocket science to polish up a new dog, but it helps to bring a fresh eye to each individual. Who are you? What does the world look like to you? How can we help you find your way? I guess the rain was good for both of us tonight.

More pix of Chunk and Robin here.



Pit Bull Awareness Day


Thank you to everyone who attended our heavy-weather Open House at training class this weekend.

The rain held off just long enough for us to have an enjoyable couple of hours greeting the visitors and showing off the dogs. Jonny, Uba and Audie were a big hit of course. Not sure what they thought of the pawtographing part of the day, but our guests sure seemed to like it. Photo: Beth Cannon snapped Jonny signing "The Lost Dogs" for a fan.

Channel 26, a news station that serves SF's large Asian American community, came out and did a nice story on the dogs. If you're curious to see what Jonny, Uba and Pinky look with Cantonese subtitles, double click on the graphic to the right to see what the KTSF26 archive page looks like, paste the url in your browser, then fill in the fields as shown in the jpeg to get you to the story. I can't be sure, but the tagline next to the pit bull image seems to say, "Bulldog bite cases. Easy to generate fear of this dog, whether it be misunderstood Bulldogs." If you speak better Cantonese than my online translator, please share.

We were thrilled when some of the visitors who watched shelter dogs working in class applied to adopt them once class was done. We always love when that happens at our Open Houses, and it seems to be a pattern now! Many thanks to Patsy who stationed herself at the Berkeley shelter to handle impromptu tours. It paid off: A longtime resident who'd been at the shelter for nine long months (Ruby) found her people this weekend and is sleeping in her new home tonight. As part of our commitment to Berkeley's pit bulls, Ruby's owners will get free training in BR's classes, so we're thrilled to be able to help them transition. Stay tuned: Video junkie Becky Correia is preparing a fun video of the day with little snippets of interviews from guests who attended the event this weekend, so check back soon for that.

Below: Photo by Rob McNichols of Ruby with her new people, saying good-bye to a shelter volunteer. Congratulations Ruby and new family.



16 comments:

Anonymous said...

So the way to Chunk's heart is a chicken strip! Looking forward to reading alot of great things about this boy! Congrats to Bad Rap, Ruby, Berkely Humane for a successful Pit Bull Awareness Day and Open House! Such great news to soften a dark, gloomy, very rainy day!

Lynn in N. Cal

J.M. said...

Very sweet pictures.
That`s great that Ruby has found a forever home.

Anonymous said...

Ruby

welcome to your wonderful new life.

Rock on little doggie

Rob said...

Interesting. Two of our dogs came from a hoard in Montana, a puppymill gone bad. Because there was fighting over food (not to mention cannibalism), the dogs had unusually excellent dog manners... but they would also refuse to take food from a human hand. That is, they refused to be seen eating... many people reported that they had success by offering food from their hands behind them while not looking at the dog. Months of patient work in this manner eventually led to the successful taming of these dogs. Not sure if your fella Chunk in this case has similar issues, but it might be worth a try if nothing else works.

Donna said...

Hi Rob. Thankfully, Chunk jumped his food hurdle tonight when he started eating the chicken strips from my hand, so I'm hopeful that it's not going to be an ongoing issue. Some of the Vick dogs were the same way (Frodo, Uba), but they took a little longer to come around. It's an interesting side effect of improper socialization, isn't it?

Samantha Laine said...

Oh my stars. Story of CHUNK and the chicken strips made me gulp down silly emotion. So beautiful.
Slide show of Tim and CHUNK is so sweet. And tender. And all things bright and beautiful. ROBIN has the most amazing smiles! We love hearing about and seeing these guys. Good Karma and good focus and laughing out loud. Love "I tug therefore I am." Thank you from high cotton territory.

Dianne said...

Yeah, we see this in the puppy mill dogs. One great sign that they are "warming up" is when they will take treats from your hand. Great job! We have three available to the public now. A staffer was complaining because one little guy always grabs the mop when he tries to clean the kennel and won't let go. I say that's typical terrier behavior, and he says no - he's a pitbull. I correct him - American Pit Bull TERRIER. Geez Louise.

Donna said...

Absolutely Dianne! ... and a dog that's willing to show so much interest in a mop 'toy' is on his way to learning great things ... The tug of course, being the ultimately reward for a job well done. Robin starting learning obedience pronto once we figured out his drug of choice.

PoochesForPeace said...

i love when dogs make big steps like that! Makes me wanna cry! Your new foster pooches are in our thoughts :)

Trisha said...

Chunk seems to be sweetness personified. His expression is so relaxed, but there's a little bit of "is this really happening?" in it. Like he can't believe his luck. Thanks for doing what you do.

Levi Mac said...

Yea! Ruby found a home! And I am looking forward to reading more about Chunk too! Dog after my own heart...mmmm chicken :)

Joel said...

David Hall is the volunteer in the picture with Ruby. He and Kelley O'Keefe have been bringing her to pit ed class for several months. Since she was at the shelter for nine months, we'd have to list about 100 volunteers to acknowledge everyone who spent time with Ruby. But certainly thanks are in order for David and Kelley. She really improved - her first class she sat around whimpering for an hour! And you can tell from the picture that she will miss David.

Pam said...

Yes, I think 100 is about right, for "it takes a village" to raise a good dog in a shelter setting. And this collaboration is exactly what makes Berkeley such an exceptional shelter.

Pinky's PA said...

Yay Ruby, Robin and Chunk!!

Doc Sinister said...

I think I'm in love with Chuck. That face, those eyes... I just want to give him somewhere soft to snuggle and a yard to play in for the rest of his life.

Page said...

I am pretty sure that I have never wanted a dog more than I want chunk! Donna, can I keep em'??

What a beautiful boy....I love the shy ones! It's all about hot dogs for enticement and a gentle caring hand....