Thursday, August 2, 2012


I don't post much about the dogs who have homes.

I dropped off updating Indy once her adopter had chosen her; I still haven't posted the story of how Crookytail came to live with us permanently, or what Dog Mob has been up to in the months that this blog's been dark. And I never posted about Mab at all.

That's because I view this blog, in large part, as a way to get the word out to prospective adopters and inform them about foster dogs who still need homes. Once a dog has a home, the urgency diminishes, and I tend to move my efforts to more pressing concerns.

But it's also a record of dogs we have fostered, and in that spirit, here's a post about Mab.

Mab, whose name was "Oreo" at the shelter, was taken into Robeson County Animal Shelter by an animal control officer who found her running around as a stray. She stayed in the shelter for about three weeks with zero interest. Her picture showed a small, nondescript black-and-white dog with a pointy muzzle and flattened ears; she was listed as a six-month-old "shepherd mix." But the description also said she had an exceptional personality, and a friend of mine was looking to adopt a dog, so I sent her Mab's picture along with a photo of another dog who was running out of time, and asked whether she might be interested in either one.

With 90 minutes to go, she picked Mab. It wasn't an easy choice, but fortunately the other dog was also saved at the last minute. (They got lucky. The situation at RCAS has deteriorated considerably, as rescue partners shift their efforts to other shelters, and the odds for dogs and cats in that shelter have dropped far below what they once were.)

So Mab spent a couple of weeks in quarantine boarding and got a ticket to come up to Philly, and then she spent a couple more weeks hanging out with Dog Mob and learning how to learn.

Mab arrived with a couple of bad habits: she liked to nip me when she got overly happy and excited, almost as if she were saying "high five!" to celebrate getting something right. She also frequently wrapped her front paws around my leg and dug in, which caused some painful scratches.

The nipping went away after a couple of days of the time-honored "No!" + turn-back-and-ignore technique, coupled with praise and treats for holding a polite Sit instead. The grab-and-scratch seemed to be born out of anxiety more than anything else, and it faded swiftly once Mab started to relax and learn the rules of living with people.

And she learned fast. That nondescript-looking "shepherd mix" turned out to be a purebred (or close to it) Border Collie, with all the smarts her breed is famed for. Mab learned new commands at the rate of about one per day -- not just how to approximate the desired behavior, but how to perform it in finished form on a verbal cue in a moderate-distraction environment. In two weeks, she went from absolutely nothing to an above-average pet dog's level of training: Sit, Down, polite leash walking, beginning Stay, beginning recall, and various combinations like "come from 10 feet away, sit and wait to be leashed, walk with handler to door, sit at door, wait for cue to pass through."

Not only was she extraordinarily smart, Mab was exceptionally sweet.

I often tell people that Dog Mob consists of one dog who's smart but a dick and another dog who's nice but kinda slow. (This isn't entirely fair to Crookytail, who is of above-average canine intelligence; he just seems slow next to Pongu. It is, however, entirely fair to Pongu, who is a massive jerk to people and other dogs alike. Some fearful dogs turn out to be gentle and loving once you get past their anxiety. Pongu is not one of them. I love him more than anything, but he is a spiteful, jealous, petty little bratling.)

Anyway, the point is that I don't have a dog who's both smart and nice. Mab, however, is that dog.

She lives in Vermont now, where she is doing very well. We were glad to have her, for a while, but a foster home is just a waystation for a dog. What they all want is a real home, and once they have it, they don't look back.

They know where they belong.

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