Saturday, January 14, 2012

Crookytail: The First 24 Hours

Last night we picked up Crookytail. He came to us by hitching a ride with Beth, a super pleasant and professional driver with Dorothy Hall Desjarlais's HOPE Transports. (The "underground railroad" moving Southern shelter pets to Northern rescues is so well established that there are several transport services making regular runs up the I-95 corridor. Transport costs around $125 to $150 for most dogs; cats can often ride along just for some gas money.)

The transport's arrival was accurate down to the minute (actually that was a little freaky, considering we got the ETA a solid twelve+ hours earlier, and no other commercial or governmental entity I've ever encountered has been that crazily precise), and at exactly 9:31 p.m., Crookytail walked across a frosty Home Depot parking lot and into our lives.

He was bigger than I'd expected. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I thought a 45-pound shelter dog would be smaller than Pongu (50 pounds), given that every single foster dog we've ever gotten has been underweight on arrival. Crookytail is no exception. His brindle fur hides it, but this dog is way too skinny. You can feel every knob on his spine, and his hips stick out like woah.

Also like every other foster dog we've had, he was initially terrified and overwhelmed by coming to the city. I had to carry him up the stairs to get him inside the condo (which is one good thing about all the mutts being underweight when they get here: at least they're not that heavy) and then Pongu promptly freaked out for about three hours about OMG THERE IS ANOTHER DOG HERE WHAT THE HELL!! and OMG THIS DOG IS A BOY!! For a nutless wonder, Pongu sure is hypercompetitive about having another male in the house.

Fortunately Crookytail isn't, and is on his best behavior because he's still a little intimidated about being in a new strange place, and is very adept at dog body language (some dogs aren't, especially if they've been isolated from other dogs since puppyhood, and that can cause some real big problems). So he immediately started going into appeasement mode, and after some snarking and snarling, Pongu settled down into his usual level of jerkface nerdrage.

And that is where we are right now. Crookytail is a polite, quiet, well-mannered houseguest. As usual for the mutt monsters, he doesn't appear to have had any formal training, but so far he's been pretty easy to get along with and he hasn't pooped in the house yet, so we'll get to the rest in due time.

Priorities for Day One: (a) get Crookytail comfortable going up and down the stairs and walking around the neighborhood for potty breaks; (b) get both dogs more accustomed to each other and defuse any possibility of serious fighting. (Trying to prevent Pongu from being a jerk to the new dog is impossible; in a month or so they'll be solid friends, but for now I just don't want to deal with fights.)

Aaaand... so far it is going quite well.

This is Crookytail (not) coming up the stairs after the first potty walk of the morning. Note the averted eyes and hunched posture: he's pretty uncomfortable here. It took about fifteen minutes to get upstairs.

And this is Crookytail trying it again this afternoon. He's not exactly racing up and down full speed (although we may get there eventually, since doggy wind sprints on stairs is one of my cheapo get-'em-tired-quick rainy-day exercises), but he's moving, and I can pretty much walk with him at a normal pace now. All hail the power of bribery and cajoling.

On the encouraging-muttly-friendliness front, here I have both dogs eating medium-value treats (Zuke's carrot bones) together. Neither of them is a resource guarder so I don't have Crookytail in his crate and they're pretty close together. The treats are good enough to hold their interest but not valuable enough to trigger fighting, and they last long enough that the dogs have to sit in each other's company for a while. I want them to build up pleasant associations with having the other dog around and encourage each to relax in the other dog's presence.

So again, it's going pretty well (especially considering where we were last night...), although about a minute after I made this clip, when Crookytail turned his back for a second, Pongu abandoned his bone, stole Crookytail's, ran off with it doing a hunched ninja hustle so no one would see him, and tried to smash it into little pieces. He wasn't eating the bone, he was just chewing it really fast and spitting the chunks everywhere to ruin it for the other dog. Then he did the same thing to the other bone (his original one) when I gave that one to Crookytail.

Yup, that's my Pongupants.

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