Saturday, October 12, 2013

Florence Arrives!

At a little before 3 am last night, we drove out to a rest stop in New Jersey and picked up our latest foster dog: Florence, a three-year-old spayed female Australian Shepherd/??? mix from Robeson County, North Carolina.

I honestly have no idea what Florence's breed mix is -- friends have guessed everything from Beagle to Heeler to Spaniel in the mix, and any or all of those could be correct. What I do know is that she's slightly under 40 pounds, has an extremely soft, fluffy coat (it really is remarkably soft, even the outer coat), and is so far being a quiet, sweet, cuddly houseguest. She's only been here for about 12 hours and is still pretty stressed from the transition, but it's easy to see that this is a very nice dog, and she'd make a wonderful family pet or beginner dog for a novice owner.

There isn't too much of a backstory on Florence. She was picked up as a stray in a part of Robeson County that is known to be a dumping ground for dogs (it's a "piney woods" area where a lot of people drive out and abandon their dogs along with the rest of the garbage that gets illegally dumped there). I always joke that our pound dogs "came off the garbage pile" but Florence did in fact literally come off the garbage pile.

Unlike most of our foster dogs, Florence seems to have been allowed indoors at some point in her life. She knows how doors work, she knows how stairs work, and the first thing she did upon coming into the house was try counter-surfing, even though there was no food on the counter at the time, so I am guessing she knows how kitchens work (also now she knows that counter-surfing is Not Allowed). The noises of the city are new and frightening to her, though. She doesn't seem to have had any prior exposure to garbage trucks, SEPTA buses, or skateboarders, and South Street on a sunny Saturday afternoon can present some drastic culture shock to a country girl!

Florence has had puppies in the past, I would guess more than once. And she LOVES cuddling; she will crawl into your lap and butt her head under your hand to make you pet her, and then go into hilarious contortions so that she can press every possible inch of herself against you somewhere. Whoever adopts this dog had better want a seriously smooshy lapdog.

But she has had no formal training as far as I can determine -- doesn't seem to know any commands, wasn't familiar with how to walk on leash, etc. She is, however, picking these things up very quickly. Just between last night and this afternoon, her leash manners have improved to the point where she fits in with all the other average dogs in our neighborhood. On an EasyWalk harness, she's a breeze.

Florence doesn't seem to know "Sit" on cue, but she offers the behavior readily when she wants to earn a treat, so I was able to pose her for pictures much faster than I'm usually able to get foster dogs posed. We can work on adding the actual verbal cue later. I don't know how much training I'll have time to do with her, but I think Sit is the only standard cue I'll bother with this time. I'm a little bored with my usual training progression so if I teach her anything it'll probably be nose touches or foot targeting or, I dunno, something different from what I usually do.

But Sit is pretty crucial to a pet dog's life, so Sit stays on the syllabus.

Florence's long, plush fur makes her legs look even shorter than they are, but she is built long and relatively low. Not nearly as much as Foozie or Serenity, but she's definitely more of a "rectangular" dog than a "square" one.

So far she has not shown a ton of interest in other dogs, either Dog Mob or random passing dogs on the street. Florence is clearly well socialized around other dogs and adept in navigating their communicative cues, she's just not very interested in them. This will probably change as she gets more relaxed (it usually does, particularly since Crookytail can be remarkably persistent in coaxing the fosters to play with him), but so far she is much more people-oriented and will basically ignore other dogs in favor of paying attention to a person.

And that's where we are on the first day. Florence is cuddly, cute, healthy, and isn't presenting any observable behavioral issues at this time, so I imagine she should get adopted pretty quickly.

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