Wednesday, December 29, 2010

INU - BAKA: Lexi's shell is officially gone!

I have always valued intelligence, which is probably why I'm developing a deep respect for Border Collies. (I'm fairly certain Jack has a higher IQ than some people I've met.)

A fellow blogger is fostering a Border Collie named Lexi. Poor Lexi is recovery from extensive surgery after being hit by a car. Click here to follow Lexi the Border Collie and her recovery.

When Two Worlds Collide

As some of you know, I'm a children's writer by day and dog-foster parent by night. I'm working on an assignment right now that merges my two worlds. It doesn't feel at all like work to me, but, ironically, it's not easy to write about. It's an article about dogfighting for teens.

I interviewed one young man who was on the verge of fighting his pit bull, Elmo, but changed his mind after intervention from the HSUS End Dogfighting Program. He lived in a Chicago neighborhood where street dog fighting was rampant and was just nine years old when he first went to a dog fight.

My next interview is this afternoon with John Garcia from Best Friends. [Lady friends who love dogs, this is where you get jealous. Very, very jealous.] If you've seen Dog Town, then you know who he. He was very influential in the rehabilitation of the Vick-tory dogs at Best Friends. Wish me luck!

Oh, and if you haven't seen this yet, check out this letter from Best Friends in response to President Obama's comments praising Michael Vick's second chance. I can't believe I'm saying this, but you just lost my vote, Mr. President.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Update From Jack


Christmas was all it's cracked up to be... and more. Kim and Jonathan spoiled me silly! (Maybe it's because they decided to put up a tree last minute, and I knew not to pee on it. They really underestimate my intelligence.)











I loved opening up all my treats....


... and I even got a new toy! It didn't take me long to realize that I just have to roll it over for treats to come out.

Jonathan got two doggie movies for us to watch—Homeward Bound and Benji. Something about dogs named Chance and Wookiee? I'm not sure what that's all about.


Of course, there are two things I didn't get for Christmas that I still want—sheep to herd and a loving family to adopt me. Don't get me wrong, I love Kim and Jonathan's place. But it's small, and there's no backyard. Here's to hoping Santa is on his way with those two things. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Homeward Bound

This is the true story of a dog named Chance who was known as Patrick before and after and Patches before and after, but he was Chance in between. 


Chance was picked up by animal control in late June 2010. A local rescue group pulled him from a municipal shelter, named him Patrick, and took him to an adoption day on a Saturday in July.

It was there that a young couple looking for a lab mix fell in love with Patrick. Maybe it was his silly ears. Or maybe it was the patches on his nose.

The young couple adopted Patrick and named him Chance—after the dog in Homeward Bound that eventually finds his way home. And, after all, they were taking a chance on him. No one knew anything about his history. He had never lived in a foster home, so the couple knew nothing of his temperament or quirks. He was just a stray.

The couple soon came to find out that Chance was more than they bargained for. It started with aggressive behavior toward other dogs, then evolved into weird reactions to strangers. Soon there after, Chance developed protective-aggression behaviors toward people who weren’t “his people.” No one other than the young couple could approach him without a low growl, nasty barking, and near bites. Chance wouldn’t even let the brave dog walker into the house. Over the course of several months, the young couple worked with a trainer, but the problems only got worse. It became impossible just to walk him because of his reactions to just about everything along the way.

The young couple agonized over what to do and eventually made the tough decision to return Chance to the rescue. It broke their hearts into a million pieces. But the situation had become dangerous, and they acknowledged that they weren’t giving Chance the life he needed—confident, experienced dog owners to deal with his issues and a big yard where he could expend all of his energy.

So, on an October day, the couple gave Chance back to the rescue. He became Patrick again. As he was driven off in a van, a woman from the rescue consoled the young, crying couple. She understood that this had become a dangerous situation; in fact, Patrick had turned on her several times. She knew they weren’t bad dog owners. She offered the young couple any puppy from their rescue, or would they like to foster? They could get to know different types of dogs and learn which dog might fit their lifestyle. But the couple wasn’t ready for another dog. They couldn’t even look at or think about a dog without crying.

As weeks passed, they acknowledged that there was an empty space in their lives. They took serious consideration into fostering with the hopes of becoming experienced dog owners and helping a dog like Chance one day. But would it break their hearts to give up the dogs, just as they did with Chance? They decided that the pain of doing nothing to help these dogs is a hundred times worse than the pain of giving up a dog to a good home could ever be.

On a Saturday in November, they stopped into a local pet store where another rescue was having an adoption day. They fell in love all over again, but this time with all the dogs. They asked if the organization needed foster volunteers.

And the rescue did. The young couple took in one dog, and then two…

In the mean time, Patrick spent some cold nights in a boarding facility, then landed himself with a foster family who could help with his behaviors. October, November, and much of December came and went without any potential adopters.

Then, a week before Christmas, a little girl living a few towns away wrote a letter to Santa.

“Dear Santa, please bring back our dog Patches for Christmas. We lost him last summer and we all miss him so much.”

Out of desperation, the girl’s father checked Petfinder one last time for Patches—something he had done many times months before. He wanted to make his daughter’s Christmas wish come true. And, I know what you’re thinking, parents, but no look alike would do. Patches had very distinct silly ears and patches on his nose. Perhaps a shelter or rescue group had him now. Perhaps there was some hope. But who knows what could have happened to Patches in the six months since they lost him.

As the father searched, a familiar face popped up. There he was, Patches, also known as Patrick to the rescue group, and previously known as Chance to the young couple—us. 


The father contacted the rescue and, the very next day, Patches/Patrick/Chance was homeward bound.

The little girl got her Christmas wish, Patches found his new old home, and we were able to make room in our home and in our hearts to save the lives of two dogs—Wookiee and Jack—with the hopes of saving many, many more. 














The universe works in mysterious ways.   

























Thursday, December 16, 2010

No More Homeless Pets

For those of you who are not familiar, Best Friends Animal Society is the largest sanctuary for abused and neglected animals in the country. Based in Utah, the group takes in animals—dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, you name it—that others have long given up on. Among the countless of other animals they have rehabilitated from medical and behavioral issues, Best Friends also took in 22 of  the worst-off Vick dogs. More on that another time.

For now, take a look at this video from Best Friends. Cuteness overload! If you can't adopt this holiday season, consider making a donation as a gift for the animal lover in your life. Best Friends will send a card to the gift recipient and, with a $25 donation, they'll get a subscription to Best Friends magazine too!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Give a Dog a Bone

We think Jack is still in West Virginia stray survival mode. You see, every time we give him a bone or treat (with the exception of hot dogs), he must "hide" it somewhere in the house. This is especially true of rawhide bones. You know, the ones he's supposed to be gnawing at in order to get rid of the tartar on his teeth.

Here's how it works: He scouts out the house. He finds a spot to hide the bone, like under a piece of furniture or in a corner behind an object. He "digs" a hole. He places the bone in the hole. Then he covers it up with "dirt" using his nose. Some of the places we've found his hidden bones are pretty darn creative. And we still have yet to find some other ones!

Here he is at work hiding a bone under our love seat. (It's covered with a bed sheet because he has tried to urinate on said love seat one too many times.)

video

Does anyone else have a dog that does this? As cute as it is (and I'd hate to squelch his ingenuity), I do want him to just lie down and chew on a bone. Is that too much to ask of a dog?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On Christmas Trees and Housebreaking

Well, Jack’s fur-ever family did not walk through the doors of Petco on Saturday, but he was a very good boy (aside from the barking at and humping of other dogs.) He greeted people as they entered the store; his giant bear hugs and big brown eyes convinced them to donate money to the organization.  In some cases, his paws literally found themselves right in women’s purses!

Since Jack will be with us for another week or more, I’ve made the executive decision not to put up a Christmas tree this year. You see, we’ve spent this past week trying to train Jack not to do his business in the house. The first few days with us, he lifted his leg on everything in sight. As soon as he did, we took him right outside to the oak tree to show him, “This is where you do your business.” He caught on to that message quickly. He now pees on every tree on every walk every day of the week. Plus, we haven’t had any accidents in the past few days. (Cross your paws.)

So putting up a Christmas tree seems like it might be confusing. It’s just too tempting of a target, and I’ve spent way too much money on Nature’s Miracle already to risk it.

Plus, the only thing I want for Christmas this year doesn’t fit under a Christmas tree—a loving family with a big old house for our little Jack to call home.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pup-date: Wookiee

We received an update from Wookiee’s adoptive family. They say he’s a total love-bug. (That’s really an understatement.) He plays all day long with this brother, Zeus. They run around for half an hour, conk out, then do it all over again.
 
Oh, and by the way, the family has decided to formally name him Chewy.  It might have been because when we meet them at adoption day, strangers came up to pet Wookiee and immediately said, “Chewbecca!” It was our original inclination too; it totally fits.

The family sent along this photo of Chewy after he’d been groomed. He’s all grown up. He makes his foster parents proud—really proud. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jack in Training

Lately I’ve been feeling like we’re preparing for the Adoption Olympics. With just 7 days in between taking in Jack and the first adoption day, there's a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. It’s not an easy task with both of us working full time and then some, grad school, and planning a wedding.

First come the necessities—making sure Jack is healthy, clean, and looking at his/her best. We’ve spent hours (literally hours) raking out mats and dreadlocks from his fur. 

And then, of course, there’s the actual training.  We’d love to say we put a dent in house breaking and crate training, but anyone who has ever had a dog knows that these things take time. Four paws forward, two paws back. The hardest training task will be to transform Jumping Jack into just Jack. He seems to love people so much that he wants to give everyone a giant bear hug. (But I’m sure he told you that in his post over the weekend.) While many people find this endearing, it may scare off some potential adopters, especially those with younger kids.

Once we’ve gotten past the basic issues, I’d love to be able to show off some tricks. A dog that can sit and shake will surely win over hearts, right? Well, we’re about 75% there.

The final step is the pep talk. It goes something like this. "Jack-O-Lantern, you have to be on your best behavior for people to adopt you. You have to smile and wag your tail and look deep into their souls with those big brown eyes, ok? Can you do that?” Wag, wag, wag. I think he gets it.

Jack will be up for adoption through Cattitude starting Saturday, December 11. Come meet him at the Piscataway Petco from 11am to 4pm.  Here are some other new dogs that will be up for adoption: WillowOrion, and Brownie. As you can see, there's stiff competition, but Jack is a pretty competitive guy, and he’s out to win the Adoption Olympics.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

INU - BAKA: Nils Lofgren is my new favorite person.

A blogger I follow posted a link that I just have to share. It's a commentary by Nils Lofgren on espn.com about how Michael Vick has found himself back in the spotlight, worshipped by millions of fans despite his despicable crimes against animals.


Here's the blogger's post:
INU - BAKA: Nils Lofgren is my new favorite person.

And here's a book I highly recommend about the rehabilitation of the Vick-tory dogs:

From the Desk of Jack

Hello everyone,

Let me introduce myself. My name is Jack, though my human companions have taken a liking to any nickname that involves "Jack"—Blackjack, Jack-in-the-Box, Jackson, Jackal, Jackie, etc. I can assure you, without a doubt, that my name is just Jack.

I decided to hijack (get it... hi-JACK?) Kim's computer and write this entry myself. You see, I'm so smart that I know I'll write a better blog post than those depressing ones Kim writes.

So, allow me to tell you more about myself. The vet says I'm about 3 years old. But this comes from the guy who took away my manhood this week. I don't trust him and neither should you; I'm probably a year older or younger than that. I don't keep track of those sorts of trifling things. What is age anyway?

Among my hobbies are greeting people with giant bear hugs, burying treats that humans give me, and playing fetch. I would love for my adoptive family to take me to training and agility classes. If I don’t say so myself, I would ROCK that.

My best features are my intelligence (I learned how to “sit” on the second try!), my beautiful brown eyes, and my cookies-and-cream paws. I get along with all sorts of dogs and people. But if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s cats. They scare the heck out of me creeping and crawling all around then sneaking up on you. But who knows—maybe I could get used to it.

Alright, I think it’s time to go outside and herd some cars. Feel free to leave me messages, and I’ll write back as soon as I can.

Paws up!
Jack

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Underworld

Beneath the world of pampered pets live millions of unfortunate dogs—in shelters, in alleyways, and worse. I’ve come to call it “the underworld.” They'll know nothing this season of photos with "Santa Paws" or over-sized stockings stuffed with rawhide bones. I’ve been grappling with the sheer number of dogs who live far, far away from the well cared for pets that we meet in people’s home and see walking down the street.

It has been my most depressing revelation thus far.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6-8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year. While about half of these animals are adopted, the other 3 to 4 million are euthanized. Even on the low end of that spectrum, 8,219 cats and dogs are put down every day, and their only crime was being born. Black dogs and breeds like pit bulls have disproportionately high euthanasia rates because of the unfair stereotypes placed on them as aggressive dogs.

It’s especially a problem in the American South. Because of economic conditions, many dog owners do not spay/neuter their pets. As one volunteer told me, many families have to choose between putting food on the table and fixing their dogs.

There is the potential for one female dog and her young to produce 67,000 dogs over a six-year period. The offspring often end up in local shelters where adoption rates are very low because people cannot afford the cost of pet ownership. These shelters are brimming with dogs that might be highly adoptable in other parts of the country. Instead, the dogs are sentenced to death to make room for more dogs coming in.

State laws regulate euthanasia. Some states require a dose of sodium pentobarbital—the same injection that a caring veterinarian would administer to the family pet whose suffering can no longer be justified. The animal dies a quick and humane death. However, for many shelters with little funding, it’s an expensive "option."

In states that allow for other means of euthanasia, some animals are put down using carbon monoxide. That’s the politically-correct way of saying “gas chamber." It’s as bad as it sounds—ten times over.

Where does this take me? It takes me to a black-and-white collie mix named Jack who won the proverbial West-Virginia doggie lottery this week. He was set to be euthanized on Tuesday. But when shelter volunteers pleaded for help, the organization we’re fostering with decided to rescue him. He’ll be part of the transport up to New Jersey this week. In doing so, he'll cross the border from dog of the underworld to pampered pet. When he arrives late Saturday night, we’ll have a cozy bed and a nutritious meal waiting for him in our home.

Yes, he’s only one dog, and yes, 8,218 other cats and dogs were likely euthanized that day. But to the future family who adopts Jack, that one dog will mean all the world.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

ADOPTED: Wookiee Went Home

A text message of three simple words was enough to bring me to tears today: He went home.

When Jonathan and I brought Wookiee to adoption day this morning, there was already a family there waiting for him. They had driven quite a distance to meet the little Wookster and to see how he would interact with their Tibetan Terrier mix. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay for long because of an appointment with our wedding caterer. We spoke with the potential adopters, then left Wookiee in the care of the rescue's volunteers, telling them we would be back after our appointment. 

It didn't really occur to us that Wookiee would be adopted out—right then and there—and that we wouldn't get to say goodbye. But he was. So in the middle of our meeting, as the wedding caterer droned on about napkin colors, Jonathan's phone vibrated with the text, "He went home." Maybe the caterer thought I was overly emotional about burgundy table linens. But the truth is that my heart was somewhere else in that moment. It was in the back of a family's car where Wookiee was on the brink of starting a new life that he deserves so badly—a great family who will pamper him, a big yard to chase squirrels, another dog to play with, and to love and be loved in return.

You wouldn't think it would be so hard to say goodbye to a dog you only knew for one week. But it was, and it is. Even for just a short time, welcoming these creatures into your home takes 110% of your heart and soul. We were warned that the first one would be the hardest; what makes it harder is that Wookiee is a really great dog. Just seeing the progress he made in a short amount of time is enough to make us very proud foster parents. 

So tonight, after we cleaned out his crate and washed out his bowl, we went out to dinner and toasted to Wookiee going home.  May the force be with you, Wookiee! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dog Meets World

A number of things have become abundantly clear to us in first few days of fostering Wookiee. 

First, this dog is damn cute. No matter which way he looks at you or how stubborn he's being, his little, furry face just melts your heart.

Second, this dog is not feeling at his best. (Luckily, Wookiee seems to be his one-year-old self now that he has had some medicine.) 

Third, this dog has not yet met the world. On walks, he's very cautious with curbs and grates and "For Sale" signs and people walking by holding umbrellas. Which leads me to the story of Wookiee v. the Purple Umbrella. A few nights ago, I grabbed my purple umbrella as I prepared to take Wookiee out for a walk. I figured that, like some dogs, Wookiee might not be a fan of the rain so I thought we could both fit under the umbrella. Not so. He wanted NOTHING to do with the umbrella. He scampered and crouched down. Once we finally got moving,  he dashed out far ahead of me and stayed there for the entire walk. But when he looked back at me and the purple umbrella, he freaked out.

Once we got inside, I tried to introduce Wookiee to the purple umbrella. He was fine with it closed. He sniffed it, then moved on. But with the umbrella opened up, he dashed to the other side of the house—even without seeing the pop! If you think about it, umbrellas are pretty funny inventions anyway—the way they transform from one thing to another in less than a second. I don't blame Wookiee; he probably thought it was some crazy magic trick. But we'll work on his little umbrella fear.

Another thing we're working on is learning how to play. Perhaps it was because Wookiee wasn't feeling well, but it appeared as though the pooch knew nothing about the world of play. For days, Jonathan and I channeled our inner canines and modeled how to chase after a ball and play tug of war. But Wookiee has just watched—unamused. Then, last night, Wookiee took it upon himself to go into a basket of toys and take out a white teddy bear. He threw it up in the air, caught it, then chewed at it.

So while the video below may simply look like an adorable dog with a fear of purple umbrellas chewing his toy, it's actually great progress in the education of Wookiee meets world. 
video


Sunday, November 14, 2010

"We Have a Wookiee!"

At 9pm last night, we received a call from a volunteer telling us, "We have a Wookiee!" 

Wookiee was rescued from a shelter in Virginia. He made the trek yesterday from VA to NJ with the help of some dedicated volunteers. The volunteers have organized an underground-railroad type transport system. Each volunteer drives a stretch of the trip, then hands the dogs off to the next volunteer. When Wookiee reached us last night, we gave him a good meal to fill his belly and a good scrub-a-dub-dub bath to get rid of that shelter-dog smell. Shelter dog, no more! We're putting Wookiee on his way to his forever home.

We're told that Wookiee is a terrier mix and is about one year old. He was recently neutered and is heartworm negative. He's cute as a button and sweet as sugar. He'll be up for adoption on Saturday, November 20.

If you look at the photo below, you will see that we do indeed have a Wookiee. We're just having a hard time resisting the urge to call him Chewy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Know What You're Thinking

I know exactly what you're thinking. "But isn't it going to break your heart to give up the dogs?" My fiancĂ© and I have heard this from friends, family members, and colleagues alike when we tell them of our intentions to foster dogs.

The answer is yes. It will break our hearts. Into a million pieces. We'll cry. We'll miss the pitter patter of paws running through the house. We'll long for the warm body curling up next to us. But the reality is that another warm, furry body with pitter-patter paws will be saved from an untimely death and will find its way into our open home and open hearts.

And the truth is that the pain of doing nothing to help these dogs is a hundred times worse than the pain of giving up a dog to a good home could ever be.