Monday, February 29, 2016

Choosing Obi Part 3: Visiting the shelter

We were heading down to Vancouver Washington on Sunday to hand over our foster boy Tolkien to his adopters so it made a perfect time to stop by the Humane Society for SW Washington shelter to check out Obi.

You always want to stack the deck in your favor when meeting a dog who is worried about meeting strangers. So before leaving I made sure to chop up a hot dog. Right away he will know by the smell of my treat bag that I am someone worth investigating further. 
I buy all beef, nitrate free hot dogs and keep them frozen individually in the freezer for occasions that require super high value treats. Chopped bits of roasted chicken works well too. 

I also loaded up the car with a crate, lots and lots of old towels and a collar since it was pretty likely that he'd be going home with us. In his owner surrender papers it mentioned that he gets car sick so I figured the extra towels might be needed.

First stop was to meet our last foster parent Tolkien's adopters and to hand him over to them so they could head back to Bend Oregon. That went great!
Tolkien meets his new mom

After arriving at the shelter Troy and I were led to a large room and the shelter coordinator went and got Obi from the kennels. I had my treat pouch on and hot dogs at the ready. When he first entered the room he stopped a moment when he saw strangers but then his nose twitched a bit and he quickly crossed the room to investigate what it was in my hand that smelled so good. I sat on the floor to meet him which is less imposing than standing or even sitting in a chair and towering over him.
Obi watching the treat bag very closely

By his body language - tucked tail nub, looking away, lip licking, one paw lifted - I could tell that he was not super comfortable but he was willing to stick around and when I didn't give him treats for a bit he would just step back a little bit and then watch my hands and the treat bag. The video cut of the end part of all that touch I was giving him - he got a big hot dog jackpot since I could tell it wasn't easy for him. The reason I was touching his back, even petting over the top of his head and his ears was to see his reaction and if he would back away - which he totally had the option to do - but he didn't. Brave boy!

Next I had him meet Troy since his owner surrender papers noted that he was afraid of men. I didn't notice much difference in how he greeted Troy from how he greeted me, though. So that was good news.
Getting some treats from Troy

I walked him around on the leash a bit and then knew we would be taking him home so the coordinator went and got his shelter paperwork and we signed the agency transfer papers to officially make him a New Rattitude dog.
Introducing New Rattitude's Obi

The next part was scary but he did great - we had to exit through a lobby full of people and lots of kids. Hot dogs helped.

One problem that Obi had with this shelter is that it is located next to a gun range and Obi is extremely fearful of loud noises like that. So in the parking lot the gunshots were much louder and he froze up and couldn't walk. In the first video above you can see him stop and look up when the semi-automatics are shooting. I didn't really notice it much when inside but Obi was clearly very aware of it. To help Obi out Troy brought the crate from the car over to him and I threw a generous handful of hot dog pieces in the crate and helped him inside.

He does get car sick and by the time we had driven the 160 miles back home he had vomited and done tons of drooling. Poor boy was really feeling awful. After a short walk around the front yard area though he quickly seemed to be perking up.

Stay tuned for the next post when he meet the Rat Pack for the first time...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Choosing Obi Part 2: The Videos

A few days later when the shelter employee was back at work she sent me 4 videos to review and see if I was still interested in meeting him for an in person evaluation.

When I watched the first video of Obi with a volunteer that he knew in his kennel, I became very worried. If this was his normal then he was more of a project than I felt ready to take on.

In the video you can see how he is taking treats from the lady which is great, however after taking the treat he avoids touch and runs back to his bed creating distance between them. If this was someone that he knew well then how would he be with strangers?! Of course, the setting is in the kennel and you can hear the commotion that goes on in that part of the shelter. And every time he is taken from that area he has to walk past the dogs who often will charge the kennel doors growling and barking. Scary for a little guy!

Time to watch the next video - Obi meeting someone he's never met before.

Well, I felt much better after watching this one. It became obvious that it was the noise that was causing the majority of Obi's avoidant behavior. This video was filmed in what looks like a lobby area and it is away from the noise of the kennel area. While he still isn't feeling entirely comfortable with this man, he is taking treats from him and allowing him to pet him without trying to retreat. Very good to see!

Then I watched the next video showing Obi with his volunteer friend in a quiet room. MUCH better. His behavior change from the noisy area to the quiet is like night and day. He could easily have moved to another part of the room but he is enjoying the attention and stays with the volunteer.

Finally I watched the video of Obi being leashed up (which he finds scary according to the shelter employee) and then being led into a room where there is another small leashed dog.

Nice body language on Obi's part and he didn't freak out when initially meeting nose to nose on leash. They circled nicely getting their sniffs in and Obi does his best to calm things down a bit since the other dog is so excited and pushy. He looks away and moves away a few times until he feels ready to approach again.

I shared the videos with my friend to get her opinion but after watching them felt very comfortable with meeting Obi at the shelter to assess him in person and if all goes well, transfer him over to New Rattitude's care and take him home with me. I am feeling about 95% sure that I will pull him from the shelter when I meet him later today. Stay tuned...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Choosing Obi: Part 1

Deciding which foster dog to rescue has to be a careful decision and the variables that go into the decision change based on the foster parent, their current skill set, and also what is going on in their life at the time.

While I do a pretty good job working with foster dogs who have fear and anxiety issues, it doesn't mean I love doing that kind of work. It can be intense and emotional and finding a good fit  in an adoptive family can take a long time and extra careful screening on my part. Because I tend to ride the line of rescue burnout fairly closely, I rarely feel up to taking a dog who needs a lot of extra emotional care and training. That's a long term commitment and a lot of work.

However after 2 easy house-trained foster dogs in a row, when I recently received an email from the Humane Society of SW Washington in Vancouver, WA they had caught me at a good time.

The email stated that they had a Rat Terrier named Obi at the shelter who was extremely stressed out by the noise and activity and they were looking for a foster spot for him where he could relax more. This is the same shelter where New Rattitude's recently adopted senior foster dog Skeeter was from and I know I can trust the employee who contacted me to give the full story of a dog and not gloss over behavior issues. It's important to know in advance (as much as possible) what you are getting into. A good shelter is going to tell you the truth about a dog so you can make a good decision and building up a network of shelter employees who you trust to evaluate dogs for you is a great resource.

The shelter sent me the owner surrender form, the evaluation form that was filled out by the employee who evaluated him and a basic description of what was happening at the shelter. After reading what she sent, I followed up with several questions about him: How was he with other dogs? Or with strangers? Can he meet another dog on a leash? I also asked for some video of him with people and with another dog. Then I emailed a friend and sent her the paperwork to review so I would have an opinion from someone who was outside the situation but who has a great knowledge of working with fearful dogs.
The only photo they had for me was this tiny little shelter picture but definitely looks like a Rat Terrier. Some shelters are not so great about identifying Rat Terriers and often call them Jack Russells or Chihuahuas.

One of the reasons to get all this information beforehand is that it is almost impossible to say no to a dog once you've met them. It breaks your heart to say no and leave them there so if there was a reason I needed to pass I wanted to know that before I took the trip to meet him. I knew that I didn't want a dog who was so fearful and skittish that I couldn't touch them as I don't currently have the time and energy to give my all to a dog who needs that much work. However, often dogs who are mildly anxious become total train wrecks in the shelter and if that was the case, he could be a very easy dog who was unadoptable in a shelter setting because he was such a mess.

The employee sent me back some great video of Obi and in my next blog post we will talk about what I saw in those videos and how I made my decision.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Adopted! Tolkien is an Oregonian

Our quiet, well-mannered, house-trained (yes, that is 2 in a row!) foster boy has been adopted and will soon be moving to Bend Oregon. He'll be joining an animal loving mom and dad who have two Salukis, a Cattledog, a Rat Terrier and a Bengal Cat who keeps the dogs in line. They also have horses and Tolkien can look forward to getting to go trail riding, and tearing around on 2 fenced acres. Lucky boy! His new mom also participates in the sport of barn hunting with her other Rat Terrier so Tolkien will be learning about that too. He has been showing me he has a pretty good prey drive so I'm sure he will love the chance to barn hunt.

He has been relaxing and starting to play here and I am sure that will continue in his new home. Congratulations sweet boy. Have a happy life, full of love!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Tolkien on the Hunt

Even though Tolkien is very easy going, I've started seeing signs that this boy has a bit of prey drive. The other day as he was leisurely strolling out the sliding door he saw a robin take flight and he shot across the yard after it.

Tolkien and Sal, waiting for the squirrel to come back down

Then today when I was calling the dogs back in I looked up to Sal's favorite spot to squirrel watch as well as wait out mice that might be in the brush pile on the other side of the fence. Who should be there with her and staring up into a tree but Tolkien. I bet he is a patient hunter like Sal. Chima gets bored and has not time for sitting around waiting for a mouse to forget you are on the other side of the fence or for a bird to land in front of you.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sharing With Sister

Tolkien absolutely loves this donut style dog bed and can often be found snoozing in it. He soon learned though that if Salinas wants to "share" a bed she will just come lie over the top of the dog in it and they either have to deal, make some room, or get out of the bed. That's how that rude girl rolls. 

Chima, ignoring the fact that Sal is lying on top of her.

Chima usually completely ignores her and lets her sit on top of her rather than have to give up her spot. Tolkien though chose to shift to the side so they could share. Good boy, Tolkien! He's so easy going and my two bossy girls don't phase him in the least. 

Tolkien shares his bed with foster sister, Sal.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sniffing Around

Tolkien isn't a fan of this wet weather we've been having but when there's a break in the rain and cold he enjoys sniffing around the back yard with his foster sisters.

He wanders around and "waters" the daffodils for me and today I even caught him interested in the shed that we know mice live underneath. It is a constant source of irritation and obsession for Chima and Sal so I'm guessing soon he'll be joining them when they go on the hunt at night.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sad Boy

I don't know Tolkien very well yet since he's only been here a couple days but I definitely get the feeling that he's depressed. I don't think it's the norm for him but I'm sure that losing two families and getting shifted around to 3 different houses over the last few months has taken its toll.

The good  news is that I am seeing a few signs that he is feeling better about me and tonight he chose to curl up next to me rather than the opposite end of the couch like he has been doing. It is dogs like Tolkien that really break my heart because while I know that when he moves on to his new home it will most likely be his last transition, he doesn't know that so I feel guilty because I know that I will be yet another person he loses. I know that logically it has to be done to save lives and find those 2nd chances for homeless dogs, but it is the part that tends to grab you emotionally and logic isn't especially good at overcoming emotion.

Sad dogs get to me.  Dogs almost always are these happy, carefree, live-in-the-moment creatures so when a dog is depressed it just feels so terribly wrong.

The good news is that things will change for Tolkien. Exercise and exploring will help as will hanging out with the other terriers in this house who are all about living in the moment. Things will get better and slowly he will reblossom as the happy and loved dog he was meant to be.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Introducing Tolkien!

Our newest foster boy arrived yesterday and is proving to be a nice, gentle boy. He's got a bit of kennel cough but rest and good food will clear that up soon enough.

Tolkien was a stray who joined the family who found him after his former family couldn't be located. They had him neutered and when no one claimed him contacted us to find a rescue spot for him.

Chima and Tolkien doing their sniffing introductions
He's an easy going boy who is probably 4-5 years old. His teeth look more like a 3 year olds and are very nice but he has the tiniest bit of gray in his muzzle so I believe he's older than three. His coat is nice and healthy and very soft and he has "ticking" in his white fur which looks very cute - doggy freckles. He's definitely on the chunky side and I would guess is closer to 25 pounds and needs to take off several pounds to get to his healthy weight range. We've got that covered using a good quality grain-free food and careful portion control.

Tolkien and Salinas meeting each other nicely. His tail is always a happy blur when he is interacting with other dogs. 
The other dogs immediately felt at ease with him - he's just one of those kind of dogs. So far he is still keeping a bit of a distance with me and Troy until he knows for sure we are trustworthy. I wouldn't call him skittish by any means but he isn't one of those "in your face" kind of dogs - at least not so far. All the changes are a lot for a dog to take and some stability is needed before we can really see the true do. So far though, I really like what I am seeing.

Tolkien is named for the writer and poet J.R.R. Tolkien, best known for the classic fantasy novels The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.