Friday, November 26, 2010

foster dog bandwidth

Because you need more excuses to graze the Internet, in the tradition of the Vick Dog Blog, here are three new blogs from dogs that are currently in our program, written by their foster homes. These have been such a fun way for us to share the dogs' progress as well as remember how far they've come as the weeks tick by.
Robin - a recent intake from an Ohio case.

Chunk - also from the Ohio case.

Winnie - our new favorite diva, from Florida.

Two of our locally rescued dogs are about to get their own little spot on the Internet too, so stay tuned. Below, Robin exploring the brave new world of dog beds and stuffy toys.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

giving thanks

Counting our blessings today and appreciating the support, the inspiration, the army of helpers who help shoulder the load, the little miracles that come along just in time - and especially - the lessons learned from these impossibly generous creatures.

Have a safe and gentle holiday with you and yours.

Photo: Cruelty case survivor 'Chunk' asking me to slow down just a bit and sink in. Thank you Chunk.

Monday, November 22, 2010

schooling a former stud muffin - it takes a village (of dogs)!

When Chunk came to us from the crap-ass breeder in Ohio, we knew that he'd most likely been used as a stud dog for much of his life. He showed the classic behavior that's so common with puppy mill studs; one track mind with no idea how to relate to dogs outside of, well, you know. A neuter helped curb some of the reproductive drive, but he didn't have a clue as to how to play. Since most homes want dogs that can have one or more dog-friends, it's important to us to socialize our charges as much as possible while getting them ready for adoption. This is where having a group of well-socialized, known quantity dogs is such a life saver. Chunk needs to learn 1) not to hump and 2) how to play. And since he's a rather low-key, middle aged guy who's never done either, it will take very tolerant dogs to bring this out in him. We grabbed video clips of Chunk's progress during short, well supervised play sessions. Here are some of our favorites. With each clip, he learns something new from each dog.

First, Elliot. The loose-bodied malberian's been great for teaching Chunk that dogs are safe, but he's too young to teach him not to hump. That's fine. We wanted some of Chunk's first experiences with dogs to be happy, even if altogether frustrating.

Next, Sally. She takes great pride in correcting dogs that offend her, but without going overboard. We don't employ our senior as much as we used to to socialize dogs since she tends to throw herself into these sessions with so much gusto that she sometimes throws her back out (!) But she told us that she thought Chunk was uber sexy, and was game to teach him some new moves. Immediately, she gave Chunk a few VERY loud and scary corrections for trying to mount her (not shown).

Once he showed a little more respect, in classic Sally fashion, she invited him to play. Chunk's not quite sure what to think of Miss Sally now - which is fine. Being confused at this point is a good lesson for the former stud muffin. We want him to think rather than fall back into old patterns (FYI, We're giving Sally LOTS of praise in this clip because she hates the camera and tends to go on strike when it comes out.)

Below - finally - a decent play session with Lola. He's still trying to mount, but he's also starting to try out some new moves. A few more sessions with a variety of dogs including helpful teacher Lola, and new doors will open for this boy. For now, Chunk will also be getting verbal reminders from us when he falls back into humping, but the dogs are giving him the opportunity to learn and develop a real play style. What would we do without all these wonderful dogs to help us out?

One Caveat: Here's our "don't try this at home" disclaimer. Every dog - especially every under-socialized dog - is going to be wildly different in how much he can tolerate from new dogs. If you've never done new dog-intros, you're wise to mentor with someone who knows how to do them before tossing dogs that don't know each other together. It's not rocket science and it's really fairly easy to read dog body language, but experience is SO much kinder than blind experimentation. So be smart, k?

EDIT BELOW ...and finally, Chunk starts to play. Whew.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

welcome to bootcamp

I snapped this not-so-nice photo of a stressed little boy-dog when things were at their worst for him a few days ago. I want to remember this moment.

He didn't come from a cruelty case. He's a locally rescued dog who's still unwinding from several weeks of Good Intention Overload.

Let me tellya! His original rescuer didn't know it at the time, but by taking a drivey little never-had-nothing orphan and then lavishing heaps of freebies on him - free affection, free praise, free treats and snuggle time in her bed - she created the most insufferable BRAT.

Terrifically-Spoiled dog had lots of love on tap but no rules and not a leader in sight. His baby brain couldn't handle the freedom, the excitement, the non-stop vending machine of Life's biggest party. So, like a triple-latte-tanked teenager with a paw full of mom's credit cards, he (understandably) made all kinds of bad decisions, which got him ejected from one foster situation to another to another! All told, this dog was said to be in eight or nine different addresses in ten weeks time. Just imagine.

It seems his big eyes, tiny size and sad story inspired each new caretaker to repeat the same structureless spoiling, including pillow time in their bed at night .. "Pooooor weeedle misunderstood peeboo." ... Until he chased the cat or snarked at a dog or otherwise acted like a terrier gone awry. Then, good bye! Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. By the time we met him in Pit Ed class, his eyes were bugging out of his stressy head and he was homeless again. His final caretaker pleaded for help and then ducked beautifully while we cussed and grumbled. She even bought us lunch, and suckers that we are, we accepted both the dog and the bribe.

So here he is, in our program now, making us slightly nuts (well, much less nuts than HE was a few days ago).

We'll ride it out. There will be rules. There will be structure. You will not snark dogs, chase cats, bounce off my body or otherwise get what you think you deserve. We'll ignore you when you holler, beg, cajole, YODEL for attention, and if you persist - Yes, Little Stinker - we will zap you with the squirt bottle and walk away ... entirely unimpressed. Gasp.

We're cold as ice, baby.

You are no longer a six figure rock star bouncing from one terribly exciting situation to the next. You are just a cadet in our bootcamp. We don't care how cute you are - Your pleading eyes will not move us to feed your addiction to frenzy.

Life will be perfectly boring, and you'll be forced to rest, ponder, breathe - come back down to earth, already. When you get out for stretches and exercise, you'll have to work for everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. When you're ready to play with dogs again, you'll be grounded and sane - Not spastic and defensive (not surprising, spazz boy got into some scraps before he came to us). You'll look to your new leader(s) and we'll coo - very quietly so it doesn't excite you - "yes. good boy." But only when you do the good stuff.

And when we get to the other side of this, you will be truly adorable, and the world will wonder how such a fabulous dog ever ended up homeless.

Sigh. We'll fool everyone - I promise.

Wish us luck. Here's some good Nothing In Life is Free information in case your dog has had access to too many credit cards in your home. And our own personal 'bible' for teaching rules to a new dog.

UPDATE: 'Tater' survived bootcamp and gained some important manners while with our team. He flew off into the sunset to become the household pet of a working dog handler in VA. We're thrilled that he found such a loving home with someone who understands the little squirt. Yo TATER TOT! Below, at home with Ellen and Eric. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

tunnel vision

Winnie survived one of the most disturbing cruelty/neglect cases we've seen in our work. Having her here seems to have helped stop Tim's nightmares from his memories on the ground. We can't divulge details while a prosecutor builds the case, but can certainly say how great it is to have nothing but tunnel vision for Winnie's happiness now. Home boy Elliot is ever-helpful with the important work of keeping her well exercised and learning fun games .. this one being a favorite as you can tell. We're not sure how he folds himself into that tunnel for wrestle games, but it brings some of the biggest smiles of our day when he does. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

news from a compassion hold home

From Sara Woods, BR volunteer and big hearted foster home:

I wanted to share that Elphaba passed on few weeks ago. She was rescued from the shelter after being diagnosed with pancreatic tumors. I volunteered to foster her as a compassion hold. While I expected to provide her some peace and TLC for a few weeks, Elphaba made other plans. Some people may have known her as Toes but she came to me soon after I read Wicked. Elphaba was named for the heroine who popular culture also knows as the Wicked Witch of the West. Elphaba shares with her namesake an experience of being misunderstood and fated for a tragic end, but also a triumph of spirit and a tender soul. Elphaba was a wonderful and loving pet. We shared a home for a year and half, which surpassed all expectations and is reminder that with love and grace that unexpected miracles are possible.

Elphaba loved everything about life even if her health presented challenges. She taught me a lot about how to live. She loved to play like a puppy even though she was a senior. She enjoyed her daily activities with enthusiasm and never met a food she did not relish. She was mild and well mannered by nature with few vices, except squirrels. Squirrels really got her heart pumping. So now she is in doggie heaven free to chase squirrels and eat as much cheese as she likes. Rest in peace, my pretty.

I want to thank on behalf of myself and my beloved pet, Elphaba, all the people who heard her story and sent us such positive vibes. I truly believed those vibes strengthened her. In particular, thank you to respite providers - Sara, Jarrod, Peg, Claudia, Pat, and Bob. Thanks to Donna and Tim for choosing her, allowing her to be part of my family and for all the countless ways you provided support.

Sincerely, Sara Woods

We're so grateful to Sara for opening her heart to dog that wasn't slated to get that long term happy ending we all work for. It seems likely that Elfaba hung on much longer than anticipated because of Sara's care and companionship, and we're all the better for it.

Compassion Holds are a worthy way to give comfort to an old or sick dog that would normally be destroyed in crowded shelters - pit bulls especially. Unfortunately many busy shelters still see an old or ailing pit bull as an opportunity to open kennel space via euthanasia. We commend those that rebel against old-world shelter tradition and are willing to contact local resources for special case like these ... We know you're swimming upstream, especially in places where pit bull type dogs are plentiful.

If you work in a shelter and would like to learn more about developing a program for cases like Elfaba, or if you have candidate dogs that come up and want to know if BADRAP can help, or, find someone local who can, please contact us and post "Compassion Hold" in the headline of your email.

Thank you Sara, and thank you dear, sweet Elfaba.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Houston TX - Still in the dark ages

Click2 Houston offers this depressing news article on three Houston shelters' unforgivable stance on pit bull type dogs. "Should pit bulls live or die?"
Statement from Houston SPCA:
"The Houston SPCA does not adopt pit bulls."

Mission Statement: Our mission is to promote respect for all animals and free them from suffering, abuse and exploitation.

Statement from Houston Humane Society:

"The Houston Humane Society does not adopt out pit bulls due to their dangerous nature and liability for the shelter ... While these animals may seem friendly, all too often they are ticking time bombs as they are extremely powerful, unpredictable and can cause serious damage and even death. Attacks by pit bulls frequently come without warning and the shelter would face serious liability if they adopted out a dog that subsequently attacked a person. In addition the shelter faces danger for even housing pit bulls as criminals involved in dogfighting rings often break into shelters to steal these dogs. Adoptive families may also be targeted as well." - Sherry Ferguson, Houston Humane Society Executive Director.

Mission Statement: The Houston Humane Society (HHS) is a non-profit animal shelter dedicated to eliminating cruelty, abuse, and the overpopulation of animals.

Harris County Animal Shelter

"In this line of work, it's very, very difficult to determine the good ones from the bad ones." - said Dr. Dawn Blackmar, Harris County's director of veterinary health. Blackmar is also a veterinarian and runs Harris County's animal shelter. She says so many pit bulls come into the shelter abused and mistreated, so there's no way to know their history. She says there's no way to know if the pit bulls were bred to fight or even what could trigger a violent attack.

One Houston shelter rises above. From the news piece, "BARC believes good pit bulls are making good pets for responsible owners. (Adopter and veterinarian) Susan Pickle says her new pet, Rosy, is proof pit bulls are not all bad. "I just don't think it's justified, and I think people need to give them a chance," said Pickle. "I think there are a lot of good dogs out there that are being killed, and that's all it is, killing them.""

Photo: A homeless dog that was lucky enough to avoid Houston Humane, Houston SPCA or Harris County Animal Shelter. She's now waiting for a home at BARC. Find her here.

Hat tips to facebook friend Bonnie Marugg for calling out this news piece.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

inside the barn

The little barn in the Oakland hills that you helped us build has been humming with activity, and every day we invent better ways use the space to benefit its guests. Right now, dogs from two different cruelty cases fill the kennels and our busiest hours of the day.

Our work involves sussing out new dogs and organizing dog socials and training sessions so we can confidently match them with the right foster home or adopter. Adoption candidate families find their way up here too, to study the dogs they might be adopting and watch them romp goofy like real dogs outside of the rules of Pit Ed class.

Never satisfied, of course we're already talking about ways to expand out one of the walls to include a washer/dryer and maybe-just-maybe one more kennel. Doggy doors to outdoor runs are on the drawing board, too.

We hosted our first big tour at the barn last week and it was a rousing success. You'll see photos from the tour in the slideshow. 2011 is the year we get back to doing Pit Ed Camps, so we're excited about that. We're also open to holding tours or little day camps for local schools and clubs, so if you have a desire, please let us know what you're thinking and we'll try to accommodate your lesson plans or field trip goals. The dogs would be so very pleased to see you.

Here's a little peek inside the walls:

LINK HERE for the full screen slideshow.