Sunday, December 1, 2013

Introducing Ashling

...and oh, this was an ordeal in the beginning.

Pro tip: Do not drive in Philadelphia with expired registration stickers. In normal jurisdictions, this might get you a friendly warning. In Philadelphia, it will get your car impounded on the spot, and then you will get to walk home sadly on a frosty winter night and it won't matter a bit that it's the Thanksgiving holiday or you have to pick up a dog from North Carolina that evening or, you know, that you might need that car to get to work on Monday. None of that will matter, because oh my god expired registration stickers, we can't have those on our streets.

(I'm actually not THAT bitter about it. Unlike most people who get completely blindsided by this, I handled the city's traffic cases for several months and knew it could and would happen. I just did not realize that our car's stickers were expired. So, oh well, cue vast resignation and frantic re-planning.)

So ANYWAY, this is what happened yesterday: after a grueling Rally trial that afternoon (itself a long and unfortunate tale of misunderstandings and bruised feelings), we got back to Philly around 7:30 pm and promptly had our car impounded for expired registration stickers. With Ashling scheduled to arrive at 1:30 am that night, and all our friends and relatives busy doing Thanksgiving stuff and therefore unable to help. Whee.

Then the rental car company lost our hastily made reservation because there was literally no one present in the office when we went to pick it up -- the office was open, and the car may even have been in the lot, but there was no one in the rental office to do the paperwork or give us the keys -- and so I had to call the transport person and let her know that we weren't going to be able to get the dog. By this point it was about 12:30 at night. Oh, also, my phone charger cord was in the impounded car, so I had about 10% of a phone battery left during all of this.

However, hallelujah!, the transport person was able to move the pick-up to 6:30 am instead. Total lifesaver. So we got up at 4 am and made a new hasty car reservation and took a cab to the airport's larger rental car facility, and then we were able to get a car and make an extremely sleep-deprived drive to the rest stop in New Jersey where Ashling awaited, and now the Temporary Dog is here and safely ensconced in the living room and about to begin her tour of duty as the latest foster dog in our home.

So, with that extremely long preamble out of the way, let's get to the actual dog introduction.

Ashling is a spayed female Yorkshire Terrier/Wheaten Terrier mix who is estimated to be somewhere between 18 months to 2 years old. (For a while the vet thought she might be younger, because her teeth are so clean, but then they realized that she's had a couple of litters in the past, so she can't be that young and the original age was most likely accurate after all.)

She weighs 22.5 pounds right now and that appears to be a mostly healthy weight for her, although she could use a little more muscle. Her previous home didn't give her much physical exercise and it shows. She's still very playful and active and happy, she just could use a little toning and strength building (in my opinion). Regular activity -- decently long/fast walks, some ball play, a little Tug and romping around with other dogs -- should take care of this without much trouble.

To answer the most common questions about Ashling:

(1) Yes, she sheds. She does not shed very much -- I'd characterize her as a "low shed" dog -- but it is distinctly noticeable and she is absolutely not a "no shed" dog. (Also, keep in mind here that my other dogs are a German Shepherd mix and an Akita mix who, between them, completely change the color of my office carpet from burgundy to heathered pink in about a week, so my idea of "low shed" may not be the same as that of somebody who's only ever lived with Irish Water Spaniels.)

(2) I have no idea whether she's hypoallergenic. Her coat is a weird mixture of wiry parts and curly parts and a couple of silky smooth straight-haired parts (like her ears), and, as mentioned above, she's a low-shedding dog but emphatically not a no-shedding dog, so... your guess is as good as mine. I'm not allergic to dogs regardless, so I just can't tell.


(3) I don't know if she's housebroken, since I've only had her for a few hours at this point. She pottied outside just fine and hasn't peed in my house yet, but that doesn't mean too much at this stage. Gonna have to take a "wait and see" on that one.

Ashling and three other dogs (supposedly her siblings, although this may or may not be true) came from the home of an owner who chose to surrender them to Animal Control in Robeson County, North Carolina, rather than deal with potential neglect or cruelty complaints. I know very little about the owner beyond that she reportedly may have had some kind of mental impairment or substance abuse issues, and that a lot of the information she provided to ACO when surrendering the dogs is of questionable accuracy at best.

All four of the dogs got sick either before or shortly after they were surrendered. Small, cute, wiry-haired, friendly dogs are rarely in serious danger at most shelters, no matter how busy or crowded, because these are highly adoptable dogs that lots of people want. And all they had (initially) was kennel cough, which is the equivalent of a human cold -- a common, minor illness that typically resolves on its own within a couple of weeks and rarely needs any treatment whatsoever.

But unfortunately this particular shelter is so underfunded and so high-volume that even something as minor as kennel cough can amount to a death sentence for even cute, friendly, problem-free little dogs. There is just no money for any kind of treatment at all, and they can't have sickness spreading to the other animals, because while kennel cough is not serious to a young healthy dog, it can endanger older or sickly ones, and also a lot of adopters leave as soon as they hear a cough, because they just don't want to risk it.

So, after talking to the shelter manager, I pulled Ashling, because although her overall profile suggested she shouldn't have been in danger, under these circumstances she actually was.

And so she took a ride out of North Carolina, hopped out in the pre-dawn gloom at a frosty rest stop in New Jersey...

...loaded up into our rental car after a potty break...

...and traveled to a strange new world of SEPTA buses and concrete everywhere and Dog Mob and guinea pigs.

She only just arrived a few hours ago, so this is a very preliminary assessment indeed, and probably some new things will come to light as we get to know her better. But, at first glimpse, Ashling seems to be a friendly, spunky, playful little dog with a good amount of courage about braving the big bad city. She is tolerant of body handling (although she does not love having cold or wet things on her feet, whether that's frosty grass or a damp paper towel used to her footpads at the doorstep). Walks decently on leash, although she doesn't seem to have much practice with it. Not bitey or neurotic at all -- she's confounding my little-dog stereotypes all over the place on that front.

Her behavior suggests that she was a spoiled lapdog in her previous life, in the negative sense of "she probably just spent her time sitting on her person's lap eating bonbons and was never given any structured interaction, training, or opportunity to use her brain." As far as I can tell, Ashling has had no formal training whatsoever (she is totally unfamiliar with the concept of Sit/Down/etc.).

Although Ashling loves sitting on a person's lap and is quick to seek out cuddling, she's really new to the concept that people might give her cookies for doing more complicated stuff. You actually can watch the wheels slowly start to grind into motion as she registers this idea; it's pretty funny (and sad, given that she was a previously owned dog and not a stray). She's highly food-motivated and polite about taking treats, so I'll try to hit the basics while she's here and we'll see how that goes.

Ashling has no manners -- she thinks jumping up on your legs is a perfectly fine way of saying hello or expressing her excitement, which is not uncommon for a dog her size and doesn't really cause any trouble because she's so small, but I still find it annoying so we are going to work on that. And she doesn't like being crated and is moderately vocal about that, although it doesn't last very long and she is giving up on it pretty quickly (because crate yowling Does Not Work in this here household) so I'm hoping/expecting that this will cease to be an issue shortly.

Overall, I think that Ashling is a nice little dog and would be suitable for most families and beginning owners willing to put in a little work to teach the things that her first owner neglected.

She appears to be well socialized to other dogs and interacts with them appropriately (including Pongu, who makes that hard for the fosters). She has shown only mild curiosity in the guinea pig and no predatory behavior, so I think she'd be okay with cats and other small pets. I haven't had her around any kids yet, but I don't see any red flags in her behavior thus far -- I imagine she'd be fine with well-behaved children. Other than her crate whining (which, again, I expect will go away before long) she is very quiet and would be an easy keeper in an apartment or condo.

So that's Ashling at first glance. The days to come will tell me whether I was right or wrong about a lot of this, but it's a starting point for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment