Monday, January 28, 2013

Penny Lane

Late last night we got our first foster dog of 2013: a young, friendly golden retriever/St. Bernard mix named Penny Lane.

Penny Lane hails from Wilson, North Carolina. Every year, Wags sends a caravan of volunteers down to North Carolina to pull a huge haul of adoptable dogs from the high-kill shelters in that area. This year's pull included about 85 dogs, of which Penny Lane was just one.

The dogs were actually supposed to arrive in the Philadelphia area around 6 pm, but the transport van for the big dogs broke down in Virginia and was delayed for several hours there, so Penny Lane didn't get here until shortly before midnight. She did arrive safely, though, and was promptly greeted at the door by a hostile growly Pongu and a friendly but slightly perplexed Crookytail.

Being a polite girl, Penny immediately peed on the doorstep to introduce herself and rolled over to show she meant no harm.

Then she came inside to take up residence as the current Temporary Dog.

It was so late when Penny Lane got in that I didn't have time to wash her or really get to know her at all before tucking her into her crate with a couple of frozen Kongs for the night.

This morning she got a bath -- which she badly needed, as she was so stinky and filthy that the bathwater turned a disgusting foamy yellowy-brown as soon as I rinsed off her shampoo -- and I noticed that she's got double dewclaws on both hind legs, which cements that she is indeed a St. Bernard mix. It's an uncommon breed to find in rescue, but that double dewclaw is distinctive to St. Bernards (and Briards and a couple of other breeds that are even less likely to be in the mix), and Penny does have a very St. Bernard look to her.

I don't know how old Penny Lane is supposed to be. Because of the problems with the transport van breaking down in Virginia, I don't have her medical records yet. She doesn't look like she has fully grown into her body yet, though, so I would guess that she's an older adolescent -- maybe 10 to 12 months old. She's also pretty underweight right now; while she clocked in at 45 pounds at the shelter, her healthy weight is probably closer to 55-60 pounds, and if she's still got some growing to do, she might end up bigger.

In her first day here, Penny Lane has shown herself to be an outgoing, curious, and gentle dog. She wants to say hi to every person she passes on the sidewalk, especially kids -- which is actually not such a great trait, since not everybody wants to say hi back to a strange dog (particularly not a large-ish one!) and the streets were super slippery this morning -- but at least speaks well of her people-oriented nature. She likes to investigate what interesting things might be on tabletops or windowsills, and she tried to get into the garbage once, although after I scolded her, she did not try it again.

As far as I can tell, Penny Lane has had no formal training at all. She doesn't know how to Sit (or any other formal cue that I've tried) and while she's not bad on leash, she's also obviously never been asked to walk politely with a person. She always seems sort of surprised when I offer her a treat for being good, as if that's just not a connection anyone ever asked her to make before.

(Dog Mob can Sit-Stay in a nice neat line. Penny Lane, not so much.)

Despite her lack of formal education, however, Penny is a good and sweet dog with an inherently gentle nature. She is deferential to Dog Mob and tolerant of Pongu being a massive dick at her constantly. Her social skills and canine communicative sophistication are well developed; she's clearly spent a lot of time around other dogs and is very capable of conducting herself appropriately around them. She is not pushy or guardy around Dog Mob at all, at least not on the first day. She's also not especially playful, but that's normal -- if she's still not engaging with Crookytail after another couple of days, then I'll be concerned. Right now, it's normal for the new kid to feel overwhelmed.

While mildly curious about the guinea pigs, she doesn't seem to be especially fixated on them and ignored them after about 5-10 seconds of not-very-interested sniffing, so I feel safe saying that Penny Lane would do fine living with a reasonably dog-savvy cat.

Thus far she's mostly been quiet except for some grumbling and whining when I put her in the crate. She has calmed down after the first couple of minutes, and gives up pretty quickly if she can't actually see or hear anybody moving around in the same room (so I built up a visual barricade around the crate to help everybody sleep at night), so that hasn't really been troublesome. No barking thus far.

I can't tell yet if she's housebroken. I am assuming that the answer is "no," and am treating her accordingly, but it does seem like Penny Lane has previous experience with living inside a house (she navigates stairs easily and isn't afraid of opaque doors, although she did walk facefirst into the glass door downstairs this morning, so I guess she hasn't seen that before...), so it's conceivable that she might be.

And that's about it for her first day. Penny Lane is currently being treated for a minor non-contagious skin infection (she takes two pills in her breakfast for that) and seems to have a slight limp; she favors her left front foot noticeably when she walks, although it doesn't appear to cause her any pain and she'll let me handle the foot/leg without protest. It's visible in some of her pictures: she holds that foot more gingerly than the other. I'm not sure what that's about. If she's young enough, it could be a growth plate issue; that's not uncommon in large/giant breed pups. Or it could be an old injury. Or something else.

Whatever it is, it doesn't seem to be hurting her, but I probably wouldn't recommend her for a hardcore agility career right now.


  1. She's adorable!

    It's funny that you say St. B's aren't common in rescue - in Ontario/Quebec they are!

  2. Really? We NEVER see St. Bernards around here. Penny's the first one I can recall coming through our rescue in the time I've been with Wags.

    I suspect our overall dog population looks pretty different from yours, though. HH seems to get a lot of the small lapdog breeds that puppy millers favor, whereas we hardly ever have any of those guys -- they just don't show up in Southern shelters much, and rarely go un-adopted long enough to need transport to our group when they do. Demand is crazy on those guys, which I suppose is how the millers stay in business.