Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Anica Goes Home and Becomes Sassafras!

So this actually happened almost a month(!) ago, but I've been slacking on updating the blog so welp.

Anica got adopted! She ended up in a lovely home with lovely owners and I could not be happier about her good luck in finding such a wonderful place to go. It truly was a stroke of luck, too, as is so often the case with these little dogs: we were walking down the street and just happened to cross paths with a lady who just happened to be drawn toward scruffy terrier-mutts, and who just happened to be considering whether she might be ready to bring home another dog.

By the time all the paperwork was finalized and the adopters felt totally ready to bring her home, Anica had gotten tentative interest from a couple of other homes as well, but I always hoped that she'd end up where she did. She clearly liked this family best of all the ones she interacted with (and there were actually a couple of other families she didn't like, which surprised me -- I'd thought Anica was a dog who just loved everybody, but in fact there were a small handful of people she didn't get on with; in her defense, they were all people who were not good at handling dogs and tended to grab her in pushy and probably uncomfortable ways), so I was thrilled when they said that yes, they would like to bring her home.

There were a couple of small bumps in the beginning. One, because I hadn't been given a copy of Anica's medicals, I hadn't realized that she was lapsed on her heartworm preventative and flea/tick topical treatment, which I regret and will definitely be making an effort to ensure doesn't happen again in the future. But for Anica there was a lapse in protection, which mattered because she was exposed to fleas at the previous week's adoption event and it turned out that she had a flea bite allergy. So she went home with some itchy bumps and irritated skin that took a little detective work (and a vet visit) to resolve.

Two, there was a little bit of a transition period with getting her used to the resident dogs and vice versa, although it sounds like everybody managed to get over the grumps after a couple of weeks (which is usually how it goes, but is nevertheless always a relief to hear).

And so it seems like this little dog's story has come to a happy ending. Her name is Sassafras now, and she has a loving home and great owners.

She even got to go apple picking this fall!

Have a happy life, little dog. I'm happy I was able to help you get there. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Anica: Week Four

We're going to head out to an adoption event in a little more than an hour, so (fingers crossed!) this may be the last Anica update before she gets adopted (I HOPE I HOPE I HOPE), but here's what we have to report over the past week:

UTI is now completely resolved and antibiotics have been completed. Anica is now able to go 7 or 8 hours at a stretch without needing to potty (or, if I'm being totally honest, even 9 hours overnight, although I recognize that is less than optimal for a puppy of her age. But I've done it and she's been okay, which is a great kindness and feat of endurance on her part). It's been several days with no signs of recurrence or discomfort, so I think this problem is safely behind us.

Training is going pretty well. Due to various life/work developments over the past week, I have once again been a giant slacker failure in getting Anica as well trained as I'd like, but despite that she's coming along nicely. She walks well on leash (other than persistently trying to get at old pizza boxes and this one incredibly disgusting, partially mummified roadkilled rat which has been on the street for 3 days right next to her favorite potty spot) and has a pretty good auto-Sit when I stop, if she isn't distracted. If she is distracted then that goes out the window immediately, but she just needs more practice and rewards when she's focused; she's making excellent progress overall.

(Incidentally, brief soapbox: you know what I hate? Seeing people collar pop dogs for not Sitting when distracted, especially auto-Sits at stoplights. There's one dog walker in our neighborhood who used to do this ALL THE TIME and it drove me crazy because (a) hello, lousy training; (b) I knew that the dog's actual owner did not expect, request, or reinforce that behavior, so the dog was effectively being punished for failing to do a thing that it wasn't ordinarily asked to do; and (c) this particular dog walker was especially bad about doing that whenever she knew I was watching, I guess to show that she, too, was capable of training her dogs in public. Except not so much, and also: who does that? Collar popping somebody else's dogs to make a point to a stranger? Triple gross.)


I've also been playing various food/toy games with Anica, partly to burn off puppy energy, partly to build up motivators, partly just because it's a dumb idle thing to amuse myself. She's especially fond of the "chase" reward (as simple as it sounds: I throw a cookie along the floor so she can chase it down instead of just eating a static cookie from my hand) and the "find it" reward (also as simple as it sounds: the cookie is nominally hidden so she has to sniff it out instead of just seeing it in plain sight). Anica loves both chasing things and sniffing things, so she is very easily entertained by these games.

Here's a brief session of Sit practice. You can see that I haven't gotten that latency period down too much, due mostly to inadequate practice (but also she'd already been working for several minutes before I taped this clip, so she was getting a little tired and there was a dog barking outside the window that was a bit of a distraction). Also you can see that I'm rewarding with mini versions of "chase" -- not long throws because I didn't want this clip to be overlong, but still useful to reset her between repetitions.

I forgot to mark the last Sit with a "yes." WHOOPS.

And that is pretty much that. With luck, Anica will find a home this afternoon. But if not, that's fine. She's an easy houseguest and we're finally starting to get to the part where training is actually fun. Whee!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Anica: Week Three

Whoops, I've gone longer than I meant to without posting an Anica update.

Partly that's because we haven't had a whole lot to update about. At the beginning of this week, Anica came down with a UTI, so she's spent most of the past few days on restrictive crate confinement until the antibiotics kicked in and she had enough bladder control to come out again. We only really got to that threshold today, so the updates for the past few days would pretty much just have been "yep, the foster dog's still living in the box."

There's not a whole lot to say about the UTI. It was a very straightforward diagnosis: Anica had been doing very well with her potty training and hadn't had any accidents in about a week. Then all of a sudden she started urinating frequently and in small amounts, and no longer had enough control to even keep from soiling her crate (which is something she had always been 100% reliable on previously), and on top of that her urine had a strong unpleasant odor that wasn't there before, so that was pretty much a textbook UTI presentation.

I put her on antibiotics and added some apple cider vinegar to her drinking water, and within about three days it cleared up. She's still on antibiotics until she finishes the full 10-day course to make sure the bugs are totally out of her system, but she's doing fine and now has full potty control again.

BUT this means that for the past week we haven't really been able to work on anything else, so Anica hasn't had a chance to progress with her formal training. I'll resume work on that shortly and continue for as long as I've got her, but no new news on that front yet.

Despite the training delay, I think Anica's about ready to start looking in earnest for a permanent home. She's decompressed enough for me to feel like I have a good sense of who she is and what kind of home environment would likely suit her, so it's time to start hocking the foster dog for real.

I took her out to an adoption event this afternoon. It was a small event, and turnout was pretty low because of the holiday weekend, but Anica still met several families who seemed to like her, and she seemed to like them in turn. I'm hopeful that at least one of them will follow up, but even if none of those prospects pans out, I now know that Anica shows well at events and is comfortable enough to behave appropriately when meeting new people, so I can't imagine it'll take long for her to find a home. She's very good at charming new friends.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Anica - Going Into Week Two

Heading into week two and I'm starting to think my concerns about placing Anica in a home with cats may have been overblown. She does have terrier instincts (loves to chase balls, goes after the bunny fur tug, etc.), but she's also really gentle and easy to dissuade, so probably even a novice owner wouldn't have much trouble getting her to live safely with cats. I still wouldn't recommend her for an extremely skittish cat, but any normal feline should be fine.

Here are a couple of videos of her playing with Dog Mob on top of our parking garage. This is a fair representation of her play style, which shows a good degree of social skills and adaptability: she'll play chase as either the chaser or the chasee, she initiates play with both dogs and responds to their social cues, she's able to break off play in the second clip after Crooky rolls her roughly on the concrete around 0:19-0:21 instead of getting overaroused or responding with snaps/barks (which I read as a good sign, since it indicates to me that Anica is likely to respond to accidental rough treatment by trying to move away and get some breathing space -- a promising sign for placement with kids, provided the parents know how to read and respect her space-seeking behavior).

After a while they found a cicada. Pongu promptly dismissed it as pointless, Crookytail was initially fascinated but then sad because he thought he killed it with a paw swipe (he didn't, but he has a long and celebrated history of accidentally going Lenny on his little bug friends, so this was not an unreasonable assumption on his part), and Anica did... well, Anica did this:

Eventually she moved into Terrier-and-Rattlesnake Mode and started darting in to bite at the cicada, and after about another two-three minutes she finally killed the poor buzzy bug. (RIP parking garage cicada; you spent years as a blind buried larva dreaming of the sky, only to wind up as a dog toy for those clowns. Truly, life is filled with tragedy.)

Anyway what's interesting about Anica's behavior with the cicada was that she's obviously interested in it, but (I didn't tape this part, it was what happened after the video clip) she was perfectly capable of focusing on me and doing Sits even with the bug buzzing around behind her, and after she already knew that it was a Fascinating Plaything. If I had wanted her to leave the cicada alone, it would have taken no more than a couple of mild verbal "nopes" and redirection to another activity (playing with Crooky, working with me, even just walking away). Since I am a cruel and heartless person and didn't care if she ate the cicada, I let her have it, but it was heartening to see how easily she could be convinced to leave it alone.

So, again, based on that I'm thinking that she should be fine living in most households with most cats.

Other than that her training is going fine. Anica is shameless about mugging random people on the street for attention (she really wants to find a home), and I let her do that to a certain extent because who knows, maybe one of those people will happen to be looking for a dog (it's happened before!), but mostly I try to discourage that behavior because it's impolite and sometimes people encourage Anica to jump on them, which I very much don't want her to develop as a habit.

No potty accidents since last week. She's holding it through most of a workday at this point and is reliably pottying outside. Anica had a little bit of diarrhea yesterday (probably my fault for letting her join in the deck-grilling hamburger festival with Dog Mob) and was consistent about telling us via persistent squeaking when she needed to go outside, so that's a good development.

I'll post a training session with the next update. We're still reinforcing Sits on verbal cues (behavior is consistent but response time is slow, so I want to build up her confidence and reduce that delay before moving on to a new behavior) and working on introducing gradual distractions. I haven't done as much clicker shaping work as I'd hoped to, since potty training took priority last week and I've been too busy to do a whole lot beyond that, but it's next up on the list once we get those Sits a little more solid.

Friday, August 21, 2015

First Week With Anica

It's been almost a week since Anica came to stay with us, and she's beginning to relax into showing us a little more of her personality. We've started foundational clicker training, she's making good progress on a default Sit, and potty training is going quite nicely. Anica had one accident a day for each of her first three days here -- although she did make it a little closer to the door each time (to be fair, she never actually peed inside my house; all three accidents were in the condo foyer or stairwell on her way outside) -- and since the third day she's had no accidents at all.

This is a really, really nice little dog who will make a wonderful pet for some lucky owner.

At this point I feel safe saying that Anica has no major behavioral issues. She did cry a little in her crate on days 3-5 when I left to go to work or took the rest of Dog Mob out for a walk and left Anica alone in her crate, but it wasn't particularly intense (lasted maybe a couple of minutes, didn't escalate beyond whines and whimpers) and it's vanished now that she's gotten more comfortable in the house routine and confident that I'll be back eventually, so I would not categorize her as having separation anxiety or isolation distress. She's just a normal dog who worries a little when she's left alone in a semi-strange place without her semi-familiar person around. Once she gets settled in, I wouldn't expect her eventual adopter to have any real trouble with this.

She doesn't resource guard anything (food, toys, attention) from either people or other dogs. She does like to pick up random bits of garbage while out on walks, but she always drops them when given a gentle "no," and she's happy to trade her garbage treasures for cookies. My expectation is that if her adopter is consistent about not letting Anica keep her garbage treasures, this behavior will diminish and eventually disappear within a few weeks. I might have time to do that while she's here for fostering, and I might not; it mostly just depends how long it takes her to find a real home.

Anica's easily motivated by food, toys, praise, and personal play -- she likes playing the clicker game and she's willing to take rewards across the board, which makes for fun and effortless training sessions. She picked up Sit almost instantly and has it on a verbal cue already.

I'm doing a little clicker shaping instead of moving straight to Down and Stay, because that's more fun for me, but also because I'm hoping that Anica's adopters will continue to do tricks or recreational sport training with her, and in that case they'll probably be better served with a dog who's had some experience with shaping, rather than just lure-reward learning. So we'll see how that goes. Right now Anica doesn't quite seem to have grasped the concept, but she's got a good attention span and is willing to try as long as I'll let her.

Outside, Anica is playful and energetic. Inside, she's perfectly happy to sack out with a favorite toy on the dog bed. She has a great on/off switch, which is always nice to see and makes it much more likely that she'll do well in a pet home.

She continues to display excellent social skills with Dog Mob. I'd be comfortable placing her in a home with just about any kind of reasonably social resident dog. Anica is very easygoing when it comes to other dogs.

I'm a little less confident about cats or small pets, because Anica is a terrier and she does have a strong hardwired chase instinct. She'll go after squirrels and cats that she encounters on walks. However, she's also pretty easy to redirect and quick to shift her attention back to her person, so I think she could learn to live with a resident indoor cat as long as her owner was comfortable with doing a carefully supervised introductory period and the cat wasn't too skittish (a stable/confident cat should do just fine, but I don't think it would be fair to subject an extremely skittish cat to that stress). What I've seen so far is enough to keep me from making a blithe blanket statement that "oh she'll be fine with all cats ever," but I honestly don't see any reason that Anica couldn't live harmoniously with most cats, given a reasonably savvy owner and appropriate support during the adjustment phase.

All in all, so far Anica seems like a near-perfect dog. She sheds very little (I wouldn't say she's no-shed, but she doesn't drop much hair at all), she's not a barker, she's extremely affectionate and loves to cuddle, and she's happy and playful and likes lots of games. She's just an easy, fun little girl.

I'll post some videos of our training and play sessions next time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Introducing Anica!

Yesterday we picked up Temporary Dog #28: a six-month-old female Border Terrier mix named Anica. Currently she's about 20 pounds, which means her adult weight is likely to come in at somewhere in the 25-27 pound range once she fills out and develops a little more muscle. At the moment she's a bit underweight, probably from shelter stress.

Anica landed in a North Carolina shelter when her previous owner, who had acquired her as a puppy, decided that he didn't have the time or energy for a dog. He dropped her off at the shelter, where she was pulled by our rescue partners and slated for transport up to PA. After a couple of weeks with our rescue partners, she made her way up here.

She's only been here for a little over 24 hours, so it's premature for me to try making any detailed evaluations at this point. So far, however, Anica seems to be a great little dog: affectionate, snuggly, gentle, and very very sweet. She's been sociable and polite with Dog Mob -- even though, as usual, Pongu's not making that easy for her. (Last night Pongu decided to rush up to Anica's crate and yell at her every single time he heard a noise he didn't like, whether or not it came from her. Pongu yelled at her for scratching, whining, and shifting position in her sleep, but he also yelled at her because there was a truck with squeaky brakes outside, or because Peter opened the bedroom door to use the bathroom, or because Pongu was having a bad dream and clearly that was all Anica's fault.)

The first order of business, as usual, has been potty training, crate training, and leash walking. I can't tell whether Anica has had any formal training on any of these points or if she's just a naturally easygoing dog; either way, she seems to be catching on pretty quickly. We did have a potty accident last night, but so far it's only been the one, and she's pottied outside pretty consistently since then. She's been mostly quiet in the crate apart from occasional sighs and complaints when she gets bored.

Anica has been fairly easy on leash -- I've just been walking her on a flat collar, no need for a front-clip harness so far -- and seems to be rapidly getting used to walks in the city, although she has shown a tendency to snap up dropped food on the sidewalks and I suspect she's going to be pretty interested in squirrels once she's a little more comfortable. But no big problems on that front, at least not in the first day.

My very broad preliminary assessment is that she's a sweet and easy dog with no major issues. Anica would be a good choice for a novice owner or for a family looking for a child-friendly pet. I think she could do well as either a second dog or an only pet; she's dog-social and enjoys playing with other dogs, but she doesn't seem to be overly needy. I haven't seen any signs of separation anxiety or resource guarding at this time (although SA sometimes needs a little longer to manifest; this early, she's not bonded to me and therefore doesn't get too worried when I'm not around).

So that's the first look at Anica. We'll start foundational training either tonight or tomorrow, and hopefully we'll be able to find a nice home for this little dog before too long.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Summer Vacation 2015

We're (probably) getting a new foster dog in a couple of days, so time to dust off the old dog blog! I haven't updated in a while because Pongu's no longer actively trialing (we took the year off Rally and our agility plans crashed and burned when I got sidetracked doing book stuff earlier this spring; we haven't really recovered from that setback, training-wise).

But everyone's still here and doing well otherwise. Here are some pictures from Dog Mob's summer vacation. We got back from Nantucket a couple of weeks ago. As ever, they had a great time and we can't wait to go back.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Happy Valentine's With Pongu!

Pongu and I finished his goofy little Valentine's Day trick yesterday, about a week ahead of schedule. We haven't been able to make it to agility class the last few weeks because of terrible weather (which, for some reason, always hits on Mondays lately) and we're not training in Rally or obedience anymore, so once I figured out a trick that Pongu could actually do, it went pretty quickly.

My how-to post on teaching this one (well, part of it, anyhow) is scheduled to go up on Team Unruly in about a week. Till then, Happy Valentine's from Pongu!

(And Crooky, too, even if he didn't get so much as a cameo this time.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Scarlett Goes Home

Well, it's been a few days and her adopters haven't called to send her back yet, so I guess I can make the official "foster dog's been adopted!" post.

Last week Scarlett met with two sets of prospective adopters. Either family would have been a good and loving home for her, I'm sure; both prospective adopters seemed to be willing and prepared to help her get back to good health.

So really it came down to which family Scarlett seemed to click with more strongly, as best I could try to guess that within the limitations of a 30-minute initial meeting.

She liked both of them, but she seemed a little more comfortable and cuddly with the first family. And then it turned out that the second adopter wasn't able to take her anyway, owing to an accidental injury shortly after their meeting with Scarlett, so my decision ended up being pretty easy after all.

On Saturday morning she went home.

It sounds like Scarlett's doing pretty well there and has made herself a part of the family already, so I'm very hopeful that this placement will turn out better for her than the last one did, and that maybe this little dog will have a permanent, loving home for real this time.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Scarlett Goes to the Vet

This morning Scarlett went to my regular vet to get her tapeworms treated and a number of other issues checked out.

I realized she had tapeworms on Saturday when I found the distinctly unpleasant egg casings on her poop. Tapeworms are the easiest of the common worms to treat (it's pretty much a one-and-done pill treatment, whereas most of the other worms require several days or even weeks of deworming medication), but in my opinion they are by far the grossest. Like, not even close.

So as soon as I saw that, I called up my vet, because I was not going to wait to see the rescue vet. Nope. No way. I will pay all kinds of premiums to not have tapeworms in my house.

I also wanted to have several other issues checked: the patchy hair loss, the persistently itchy skin, a gauge of just how underweight Scarlett was, and so forth.

Scarlett was an absolute sweetheart at the vet. She didn't hassle the other dogs or cats in the waiting room (although she did tilt her head curiously whenever she heard a meow), she was sweet and polite with the vet tech, she let both the vet and the tech manipulate her legs and look at her teeth and get her up on the weighing table without a squeak of protest, and all in all she was a model patient. This puppy really does have a wonderful temperament, and she showed it during that visit.

The health news wasn't great, but it was better than I expected.

She does have tapeworms (which I already knew) and the vet prescribed medication for that. A skin scrape ruled out mange (good!). Allergies remain a possibility, but the vet thought it was more likely that her skin issues were caused by a bacterial infection (her lymph nodes were significantly swollen and the red bumps along her belly and inner thighs are consistent with a bacterial skin infection), so Scarlett has a course of antibiotics to get through and a bottle of medicated shampoo to alleviate some of the itching and dandruff.

I also submitted a stool sample for a fecal test, the results of which are expected back on Wednesday.

So the good news is that all of this stuff should be eminently treatable. The bad news is that she was ever allowed to get into this condition in the first place. It remains unfathomable to me that an owned dog could live in someone's home for two months and wind up this underweight, with tapeworms and an untreated skin infection, before finally being returned to the rescue.

When we got home, Scarlett got her first of probably many medicated baths. She was not excited. She did, however, accept her miserable fate with as much dignity as possible (which was, sadly, not a lot).

And that's where we are on the health front for now. She is putting on some weight, at least. Today she clocked in at 36 pounds, which is far from excellent but at least represents some improvement.

In other news, Scarlett is also not excited about the cold and damp weather we've been having. She hates walking through the snow and picks her feet up ridiculously high in a futile attempt to avoid it, although she absolutely loves eating snow and will run around hunting down particularly tasty drifts. If we get a half-decent dump from the blizzard that's supposed to be coming in tonight, I'll take her out to see how she does in deep snow.

This week Scarlett is scheduled to start meeting with prospective adopters. It's my hope that we find her a good match and a real home soon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Scarlett - First Four Days

We're about midway through our first week with foster dog Scarlett, and things are going pretty much as one might expect. Currently she's spending a lot of time in the crate, which I don't love (particularly as my crate is a bit too small for her), but until we get potty training handled, there's no good way around it.

The good news is that we're making solid progress on the potty training front. Either Scarlett was pretty much housebroken at her previous home, and she just had a temporary regression here, or she's a quick learner. In either case, we're quickly reaching an understanding that outside is for pottying and inside is not.

Less-good news is that Scarlett is prone to submissive urination. She pees a little whenever the other dogs are mean to her, and since Pongu is a giant bully dickhead to foster dogs, that means Scarlett invariably widdles on my floor within five minutes of coming inside, even if she pottied successfully on the walk, because it never takes more than five minutes for Pongu to start being a jerk to her.

So it would be a lie if I said that she hadn't had any accidents, but the only reason she has accidents is because Pongu makes a point of being mean to Scarlett until she pees herself (at which point she goes back in the box and Pongu gloats mightily at her woe), and I don't know if that counts. If you took out the "resident dog is a giant wiener" factor, Scarlett would have a pretty good track record.

She has a pretty good Sit-Stay even in outdoor environments with another dog nearby. It's very much a beginner Sit-Stay, but it's there, and I can't take any credit for that one because she already knew how to do it when she got here. Improving on that is just going to be a matter of practice and proofing -- Scarlett clearly has the basic concept down, she just needs work on distance, distractions, and duration.

She's also very good at walking on leash now. Not totally perfect, but easy enough that I can take all three dogs out for a walk, hold their leashes on one hand (one finger per leash!) if necessary, and it's sufficiently non-annoying that I can walk them around for an hour-plus and still be mostly sane at the end of it.

I think she's beginning to put on weight, but it's too early for me to feel sure about that yet.

When she got here, Scarlett was (and still is) visibly underweight. Her bones stuck out all over, she had bad flaky dandruff and patches of hair loss, she scratched herself constantly, and she had kennel cough. All in all I was pretty worried when I saw her, because she looked like a straight shelter pull, not a dog who'd been living in a home for two months. Her former owner had told me that Scarlett was eating 5 cups of kibble plus fish oil supplements every day, and it was hard for me to square that with the obviously undernourished dog I received.

That's more than twice what I feed my dogs (Pongu and Crooky came at 63 and 72 pounds at their last weigh-ins, and they get about 2 cups of kibble apiece per day), so I thought that if this puppy was eating that much and still looked so skinny, then she must have some metabolic disorder and possible food allergies. That could be a real problem -- allergies, in particular, can be an extremely expensive and troublesome proposition that could put off a lot of adopters. Dobermans are known to be prone to such problems, and Scarlett epitomizes poor breeding, so it wouldn't be a surprise at all if she turned out to have those issues. If she did, then I'd be faced with trying to place a special-needs dog, which could be a real headache.

The jury is still out as to whether Scarlett does in fact have allergies or disorders. But I've been giving her slightly over 2 cups of kibble per day, plus raw food supplements and treats, and in the few days that I've had her, it appears that her dandruff is getting better, she doesn't smell as strongly as she did on arrival, her energy level has gone up, and her weight seems (I think) to be increasing. Her kennel cough is also improving; she barely coughs at all anymore, except when we've been out on a long walk (we do a lot of long walks to improve her stamina and leash manners).

So it's possible -- fingers crossed! -- that either Scarlett's previous diet didn't agree with her, or her adopter's report wasn't entirely accurate, and we're not dealing with major food intolerance issues. But at this point that's just a possibility, I haven't seen enough to feel sure about anything yet.

(^ not the best picture I got from that attempt, but the one that makes me laugh the most. Pongu's forlorn eye roll that Scarlett can't hold a Sit on the stairs is hilarious to me.)

Aaaalso, this dog sings prison blues in her crate constantly. She isn't crying or whining to get out. She's just... grumbling, talking to herself, occasionally sighing in discontent, and otherwise offering a running commentary on the whole world from the box. It isn't especially loud (hardly any barking, at least so far) and it's generally pretty funny, but it is striking how completely quiet Scarlett is outside the crate, and how vocal she is when she's inside. So far, the talky/grumbly/jailhouse blues singing thing hasn't diminished at all, so I guess her prospective adopters should probably be prepared for a certain amount of crate commentary in their lives.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Scarlett Comes (Back) to Philly

Yesterday we got Temporary Dog #27: a five-month-old purebred red Doberman puppy named Scarlett.

This is actually Scarlett's second time through Wags. She was originally adopted out as a 12-week-old puppy back in November 2014 and was placed with a very nice family in Connecticut. Back then, her name was "Harper Paisley," which is still the name on her internal paperwork at the rescue (so if anyone is wondering why the dog has two names, that's the reason! Harper was her original rescue name and Scarlett is the name that she actually knows and answers to).

Unfortunately, her adoptive family fell into some severe and unforeseeable troubles and was forced to return her to the rescue. So, at five months old, Scarlett is now back with the rescue group and once again looking for a home.

I've only had Scarlett for a little less than 24 hours, so it's very early to make even preliminary assessments of her temperament or personality at this stage. Here's what I can say so far, though:

-- She has kennel cough right now. She also appears to be a little underweight (although it's possible that this is just teenage puppy gawkiness) and has dry skin with some dandruff.

In response, I've changed her diet from Blue Buffalo kibble (which is what her adopter had been feeding her -- that's a good-quality brand, but it's possible that formulation might just not have agreed with the puppy) and switched her to Acana kibble supplemented with the same variety of canned foods, home-cooked foods, and raw foods that my dogs eat. I also gave her an apple cider vinegar rinse this morning to hopefully cut down on some of Scarlett's "doggy odor." We'll see if any of these things help.

-- Housebreaking is very much a work in progress. Given her young age and the culture shock of transitioning from Connecticut to the middle of Philly, however, this isn't too surprising. I'm hopeful that this will prove to be a temporary regression and we'll be out of this phase soon.

-- She's very dog-social and playful with other dogs of all breeds and sizes. Scarlett seems to love the company of other dogs. She's also friendly with children and seeks them out for cuddling and attention. I'd have no concerns placing her in a household with normal, sociable dogs or kids.

I'm not as confident about how she'd do with cats; my impression at this stage is that she would be fine living with familiar indoor cats but might be tempted to chase outdoor or barn cats. However, I'm not going to make any promises on that front this early. I haven't had her around enough cats or small animals yet to feel sure about that.

-- Scarlett seems to be familiar with leash walking and is doing nicely on her EasyWalk harness (although she can be a bit bouncy when she first comes out of her crate and has energy to burn). She seems to know "Sit" and defaults to it with just a little bit of hesitation.

-- I've seen no signs of resource guarding, separation anxiety, unwarranted aggression, or other obvious behavioral problems.

Overall my impression at this early stage is that Scarlett will likely make a wonderful pet for a family that understands and enjoys the highly affiliative, goofy-but-intense, occasionally distractible Dobie personality. Her adopters should be prepared to engage in some form of lifelong activity to keep her brain and body engaged -- whether it's a formal sport like agility or just frequent hikes in new environments, this puppy is going to need something beyond backyard games of fetch to stay happy -- and should also be prepared for lots of positive socialization throughout her adolescence and young adulthood to keep her comfortable around strange people and, especially, strangers coming into her home.

At this point I don't know yet whether I would recommend her as a performance prospect. Her caution in new environments is very pronounced at this stage, and one of the effects of that is that she tends to investigate new areas with a hunched posture and all her weight on her back legs. This distorts her gait and conformation enough that I don't feel comfortable trying to evaluate that myself (admittedly, structural evaluations are not my strongest point, and a more experienced eye might be able to see things that I'm missing... but I can't, so I don't want to make any representations about Scarlett's structure until I've been able to see her more evened out). I also haven't seen enough to feel comfortable assessing her mental qualities for performance yet.

So that's where we are after our first day together. I hope to hang onto Scarlett for the standard two weeks in order to do a more thorough evaluation and hopefully match her to the perfect home. Beyond that, though, it's my hope that we'll be able to place her with a loving forever family very soon.