Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Introducing Ellsworth

We have another big boy arriving Friday night to take O'Keefe's vacant foster spot.

Ellsworth was dropped off at the shelter when his people moved. Sadly, this is a story that is fairly common - people not wanting to deal with having a dog in their new digs or moving somewhere that dogs aren't allowed.

In Ellsworth's case though, we know that he had been with his family since he was 8 weeks old and now at 10 years old found himself terrified in the shelter environment. The shelter contacted various rescue groups because Ellsworth was so distressed by the loss of his family that he couldn't acknowledge other people or dogs. All he did was pace back and forth, watching for his people to come back for him. He wasn't grumpy with anyone but just wasn't interested in any connection. Here's a video of him at the shelter that clearly shows that.

The cold reality is that shelters are underfunded and overcrowded. They need room for incoming strays who hopefully have people coming to claim them. Ellsworth was not a lost dog - he was an owner surrender - he was older, and he was too stressed to show well in the adoption wing. That put him on a short list to be euthanized if a rescue didn't step in.

Saddened by the plight of Ellsworth, New Rattitude stepped in and he was pulled for fostering. Once in a home setting Ellsworth relaxed a little and now after a couple weeks in a temporary rescue spot, he's doing great. Stay tuned as we learn more about this loyal boy. We've heard that he's got a great energy level - active without being crazy - and will do best in a home where he gets to be around his people a lot. He enjoys having other dogs around as well which is good since he'll be living with quite a crew here.

Ellsworth is named for the artist Ellsworth Kelly. Kelly is an American painter, sculptor and printmaker who greatly influenced the course of Minimalist art and Color Field Painting.

Ellsworth Kelly in 2013

Kelly's "Curve XXIV" at the Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park

Monday, April 28, 2014

Adopted!: O'Keefe is Heading Home

Even before he arrived at our home, we had an applicant waiting for O'Keefe because he sounded like such a great fit for them. They were specifically looking for a dog who would enjoy being a running partner and as expected, this long-legged young guy really enjoys both running and walking and has proven to be great on leash.


O'Keefe will be an only dog, which is his preference since he finds it really annoying having to share the best dog toys and to worry about running into other dogs when he bounces in excitement. He's very much a guy who really wants human pals - he soaks up any attention he gets and just glows with pleasure. In his opinion dogs are pretty "meh".

He'll be nearby and if you ever like to stroll along the Redondo Boardwalk on the Puget Sound you just might see him loping along with his people. He'll be with us a few more days and then will be on to bigger and better things at his new home. Best of luck, big boy!

Friday, April 25, 2014

O'Keefe and the Pack

While O'Keefe isn't real excited about other dogs he's also not completely freaked out by them either. He's not a guy who has to be kept separate from other dogs but I am just careful that when he's interacting with dogs that I'm paying full attention to their interactions. If someone starts to seem more uncomfortable (or in Chima's case, more snarky) I get in the middle of things and redirect their attention onto me by playing some games. Our goal is fun, not fights.

The best way to keep things positive and relaxed is to keep the dogs interested in things other than each other. I walk around a lot to keep things moving and sometimes we practice cues that each of them are working on. When the treats are flowing and the fun level is high, that means that it's one more positive experience that I've given O'Keefe to help him realize that dogs can be fun.

Today we made the most of the sunshine and took lots of outside breaks. Chima, Salinas and him had a lot of fun sniffing around, and we played recall games as well as practicing cues for touch, spin, and sit.

The longer he's here, the more comfortable he is around the girls, and also the girls are cutting him more slack and not getting as offended when he happens to run into them or land on them when he's bouncing.

Both dogs are not so sure about being close together. You can see that they are leaning slightly away from each other.
O'Keefe decides he's a little too close for comfort and moves apart and lifts his paw in an appeasement gesture. Chima's not taking her eyes off the treats though.

I'm proud of him because he has learned to moderate himself around the girls and in turn, Chima has decided he might be kind of fun and today actually dropped into play position, inviting him to chase. They are all doing great!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Learning that Dogs Are Not So Bad

Some dogs just don't feel that comfortable around other dogs. Sometimes they've never spent time around other dogs so don't understand the subtle give and take that goes on between dogs, or maybe they just aren't great with reading other dogs to begin with, which many introverts can identify with. But the bottom line is that when a dog has anxiety around other dogs, it's the human's job to intervene.

O'Keefe is one of those dogs who I don't think has ever spent much time around other dogs. He is noticeably anxious when he's around them and with him the stress causes him to get bouncy and to lose track of where his body is in space. Eventually his clumsiness causes him to run into or land on another dog and because he's already stressy, his reaction is to snap at them. In a situation like that his stress has set him up to reinforce his belief that other dogs can't be trusted.

As any of you know, when you practice a habit regularly, that habit becomes more and more difficult to break because the longer you do it, the more frequently you are being reinforced for it. In O'Keefe's case I wouldn't call him a reactive dog because he really does his best to ignore the situation and move on. He does great on leash and can pass other dogs on walks without reacting toward the dog - he's nervous but he passes them by quietly. However, O'Keefe is definitely a dog who is teetering on the edge of becoming reactive if he continues to have negative experiences with other dogs.

I felt really bad the other day because I took O'Keefe to a meet up and he was anxious about it. It was a new place and he was meeting new people so I should have know better than to say yes when another person who happened to be there as well and asked if her two dogs could meet him. I'll give him this, he did admirably well. He stepped back a few times, was looking away (a way a dog signals that they mean no harm and want to diffuse a situation), but the other large dog, a lovely huge, elderly Golden Retriever, kept bumbling forward to come meet him. He felt surrounded and then finally he snapped in his face. My fault. I set poor O'Keefe up and it wasn't fair.

Does that mean O'Keefe can never be around other dogs? No way. He's currently living with four of them. But what it does mean is that it is going to be of the utmost importance that from now on, as much as is humanly possible his meetups with other dogs will need to be short, carefully supervised, not face to face (dog's should never greet each other face to face like they typically do on leash) and then rewarded with a high value treat after a few seconds of greeting as he is moved along. That will build up a connection for him that other dogs foretell good things. This will be reinforcing a new mindset for him since currently his conditioned emotional response to dogs is to get nervous. If he learns that dogs = yummy things, much like Pavlov taught his dog that a bell = food and built a response, he will soon feel a positive emotion when he sees another dog and will start to look to his human for that reinforcement.

Will he always need the treat when he sees a dog? Nope. When that response is strong and happening every time then the value of the reinforcement can be varied as well as how often the reinforcement happens. This will really strengthen his behavioral response.

Consistency is the key though. Animals, us included, are never static. A behavior is always becoming more likely or less likely - the trick is to move that behavior in the direction we want it to move. And we can - all with positive reinforcement. The toughest part of R+ training though is for the human to change their own personal habits and make sure they are consistent. I know I mess up occasionally, like I did at the meet up but changing that and doing what is best for the dog is key so I've learned my lesson and am being much more careful. The result is a more relaxed O'Keefe (snoozing beside me currently as we type) who is learning being around other dogs doesn't have to be so worrisome.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sunny Slumber

It's wet and cold today but I thought I'd post some photos from yesterday when it was a beautiful sunny, spring day. O'Keefe and Frodo were too busy exploring the yard to sunbathe but all three girls were happy to take in the heat with a sunny snooze.

A contemplative Chima

Sal goes "splat"

Little Tilly kicking back near the fountain

Can't wait for more days like this. Here comes the sun!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Out and About with O'Keefe

O'Keefe seemed to be settling in so well that I thought I'd take him for a walk in a busy area to see his reaction to having dogs, cars, kids, etc. around while he was walked on leash.

He was  a bit nervous but handled himself well - stepping back when a reactive dog had a fit in the distance and tail wagging and ears up when a 5 year old girl asked if she could pet him.

We started out with some time on the beach to sniff at things and hopefully give him some time to relax after the car ride before we started walking. He was alert and nervous but not overly so.

We were walking along Ruston Way on the Tacoma Waterfront. Anyone who's been there knows that on a sunny Sunday it can be overwhelming and yesterday was no different than usual. An incredibly long, slow train was passing on the other side of the road for most of our walk and the sidewalk was thick with dogs, kids on scooters, runners, walkers, wheelchairs, strollers, etc. There are a lot of smells down there too with the bay on one side as well as the seafood company and several restaurants.

We kept is short since I didn't want it to be a bad experience for him. I can't say he loved it but he wasn't thrown off by it much either. Next time we'll probably stick closer to home where things are quieter and we can work on his loose leash walking skills - something I'm not the best at teaching.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

O'Keefe the Wonderboy!

O'Keefe has settled in seamlessly and continues to amaze me. While I can tell he's a little anxious with the changes of the last few days, he isn't trying to mark in the house and is getting along great with the other dogs.

Chewing on a bone

And then being goofy and rolling around on his bone

He's also a snuggler and really enjoys his people so as soon as one of us sits down he is sure to come over to keep up company. Did I say what a great dog he is?! I really love it when it's this easy to bring a new dog into the house.

Chima is reserving judgement but she is always the last to be won over by new foster dogs. She is however, not snarky about him getting in her space which doesn't always happen.

Chima and O'Keefe - She's currently reserving judgement

Sunny days always make intros so much easier. The dogs have had lots of time to sniff and run around without feeling cornered like they might inside. Sunday is supposed to be even nicer so we plan on taking O'Keefe over to the Ruston Waterfront in Tacoma to see how he handles being on leash in an area busy with people, dogs, joggers, cyclists, etc.

Checking out the birds that are up in the tree branches

Handsome guy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rescue Railroad: 5 New Dogs in New Rattitude Foster Homes

Along with our new boy O'Keefe, there will also be 4 new female foster dogs arriving in our Pacific Northwest foster homes. Let's introduce the new crew!

Pippa is about 1 to 2 years of age and is a busy little gal who enjoys playing. Her and her sister (who was rescued by another group) were strays who both have a new lease on life now. Pippa will be fostered in Amity, Oregon.

Colbie is a little 10 pounds, 1 year old shortie who found herself running out of time in the shelter. What a cutie she is! Colbie will be fostered in Bellevue, Washington.

Mimi is about 10 or 11 pounds and 2 to 3 years of age and is a beautiful gal who has a gentle, calm spirit. We can't wait to see how she blossoms in foster care. Mimi will be fostered in Seattle, Washington.

Quin is 4 to 5 years of age and weighs about 16-18 pounds but could stand to lose a little weight. She had run out of time at the shelter so a New Rattitude foster mom pulled her and fostered her temporarily for us until she could make the trip north. Quin will be fostered in Marysville, Washington.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Introducing: O'Keefe!

Klee is on her way home tonight and tomorrow night we have a new foster dog arriving. We'd like to introduce handsome O'Keefe. We don't know much of his story - just that he was surrendered to the shelter when his family decided to move to a place that doesn't allow pets. His age is about 2-3 years old, he weighs 22 pounds and he looks to be a purebred Rat Terrier.

He's a handsome, athletic guy and on top of all those good looks he's house trained as well! O'Keefe's been staying in a temporary foster home for the last two weeks after he was sprung from the shelter and we actually already have an applicant who he seems like he would be a good fit for. So wish him luck. He may be heading home fairly soon!

O'Keefe is of course named for the well known artist, Georgia O'Keeffe, although we dropped the double "f".  O'Keeffe is an extremely well known artist and is considered the "Mother of American Modernism". She was dedicated to painting imagery that expressed what she called the "wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it." I highly recommend a visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico if you are ever in the area. You can also tour her home and studio, Ghost Ranch, in Abiquiu, New Mexico.
Photo of O'Keeffe by her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz

"Music: Pink and Blue" - 1918

"Rams Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills" - 1935

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Adopted! Klee is heading home

We had Klee in foster care for quite a while considering she is a puppy. The reason was that initially she had to wait to be spayed since she was recovering from a head injury. Then her new family had a 2 week trip planned so she stayed with us until they were back.

But the time has finally arrived and we will be sending sweet Klee off to her new home over on the Key Peninsula tomorrow evening. She will have a mom and dad who are home most of the time as well as a furry sister who is close to her age. Both girls had a ton of fun with each other during the home visit and I'm pretty sure they will be best of pals in no time. None of the dogs at our house like to roughhouse with Klee other than Chima and Chima's size and intensity were a little too much for her so I'm sure it will be very exciting to finally have a dog who is a closer match to her in size, energy and play style.

So goodbye sweet Klee. Have a long, happy life!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Helping with Yard Work

Salinas checking in the fern for any interesting critters

Typical view of Chima: - burrowing underneath plants to check for anything worth chasing or snacking on

It was a bit drizzly on Sunday but still, the temperate rain made for good weather to weed and cut things back. The dogs found this fascinating since the ten plus large Western Sword Ferns needed to be cut back carefully which made for lots of yard waste for them to dig through. It also opened up a lot of areas around the deck for them to check out but I do think Chima misses the ferns since they made great places to tunnel through. No worries Chima - they'll grow back to normal in no time.

Salinas and Chima check out the fern I'm cutting back. I think all the dogs where a bit horrified that I was ruining their best tunneling areas.


Frodo didn't like all the dirt and mess so he quickly went back inside to watch the work from the comfort of the back of the couch. The girls enjoyed it though, and since it's that time of year where yard work is a constant chore to keep things under control, they will get many chances to "help".

They also spent a fair amount of time sniffing and climbing on the wood pile. Klee just used it as a puppy jungle gym.

But Salinas was all business, digging around in the wood to check for any intruding rodents