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.