Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chapter Two

The ink is drying on Miss Tulip's, a.k.a "Rubi Lite's," adoption paperwork. Working with thee past few months have been . . . exhilarating. And frustrating. And joyous. And emotionally exhausting. And totally worth it.

So pretty much just like owning a reactive dog, except that when she flipped out, someone else was holding the leash. Usually.

Which is actually a big difference, really.

Being reactive is verra serious business.
Photo by Paige

I like Tulip's new family a lot. They don't have pit bull experience, but that doesn't mean they're bad dog owners. Neither do they have reactive dog experience, but that doesn't mean they can't handle a reactive dog. (Not a surprise - most people who've had a reactive dog tend not to want another one. Don't ask me, I don't get it, but you can probably tell that from the fact that I recently adopted my third reactive dog). I've found many rescues that will turn someone down for not having breed experience or training experience for a particular problem. Heck, my own parents were turned down for an American Bulldog for not having a fenced in yard.

I don't really care about that stuff. Each family is unique, and all having individual assets and disadvantages. It may be helpful to have breed or reactive dog experience, but I know people who have had pit bulls for twenty years that I wouldn't trust to dog-sit a stuffie. What I like to see more than anything else is an open mind and determination to succeed.

Tulip is determined to succeed. She needs a family who can keep up with her. 

Tulip's new family have that in spades. They didn't flinch when I suggested that it may take up to a year before Tulip really settled into their home (that's my long term estimate for reactive dogs - most dogs don't take that long). They devoured all the education I brought them. They're ready to jump right in to class on Sunday. They're excited to go shopping for new Tulip supplies. What really great family doesn't love new dog gear?

So the prep work's been done, the papers have been signed, nothing left to do but pray, right?

Case management for the rescue is a new role for me, and as I type that, I realize that I've already been doing it for about a year. But we don't just sign the papers and say good luck. This isn't the end of Tulip and mine's relationship. I'll still be here to help trouble shoot for her new family, and to make sure that Tulip continues to get every advantage she can in life. I've gotten rather attached to Tulip this year - I mean, she's so much like Rubi, how could I not? So the rescue and I, her fosters, and all her "aunties" and "uncles" will continue to play guardian angel as long as she needs us.

Knowing Tulip, I'm sure the next chapter in her life will be interesting . . .

Tulip, like Rubi, is many things - but never boring.
Photo by Paige.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October is "Pit Bull Awareness Month"

“This is the truth: We are a nation accustomed to being afraid. If I’m being honest, not just with you but with myself, it’s not just the nation, and it’s not just something we’ve grown used to. It’s the world, and it’s an addiction. People crave fear. Fear justifies everything. Fear makes it okay to have surrendered freedom after freedom, until our every move is tracked and recorded in a dozen databases the average man will never have access to. Fear creates, defines, and shapes our world, and without it, most of us would have no idea what to do with ourselves. Our ancestors dreamed of a world without boundaries, while we dream new boundaries to put around our homes, our children, and ourselves. We limit our potential day after day in the name of a safety that we refuse to ever achieve. We took a world that was huge with possibility, and we made it as small as we could.”
~ Mira Grant, Feed

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wash's Story

Patricia McConnell recently posted on her blog asking if her readers felt that dogs could tell stories. “If a story is a description of a sequence of events,” she writes, “can dogs, without the use of language, tell itself stories to help make sense of the world?” As a longtime bibliophile and story teller, I find the question fascinating. There is no doubt in my mind that dogs have stories, and one of the great skills of dog training is learning how to listen to what the dogs is telling you, but are dogs able to tell stories similar to the way people tell stories?

For example, I have a new foster puppy. 


If I had to tell his story, I would say that it started in Kentucky. He is the son of a Rottweiler and some slutty, unneutered boy dog. There were seven other puppies in his litter, and he and his siblings all ended up at a high kill shelter. Two of them were adopted. The Kentucky shelter staff reached out to A Rotta Love Plus to save as many puppies as possible.

ARLP, being made of mush-hearted volunteers, found foster homes for the puppies and agreed to take them in. October 6th, the six remaining puppies were transported north to Minnesota. I claimed “the sassy puppy with the white chest.” I named him Wash after the character from Firefly, because that is the best name for a puppy ever. If you’ve never seen Firefly, why the hell not –er, I mean, you’re just going to have to trust me on that.

Trust the puppy . . .

The puppies are sick. They have what I call “the animal shelter triumvirate.” That is, they have fleas, intestinal worms, and kennel cough, the three most common illnesses in animal shelters nation wide. We gave them flea baths, dewormer, and kept them separate from their house mates until they could start healing.

Then, we found out they had parvo.

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever, weakness, dehydration, and in puppies in particular – especially puppies that are sick to begin with – it is often fatal. This last week has been a flurry of fluids and vet visits, giving distemper boosters to the adult dogs living with the puppies, begging for donations for care, and hoping against hope that the puppies pull through.

Two of them, Derby and Lucy, did not make it. The multiple blows of fleas, worms, kennel cough, and parvo were simply too much for their little bodies to bear.

The remaining four puppies, though, seem to be pulling through. Wash, Tucker, Squirrel, and Dobby Racer are all starting to act like normal puppies again – eating and running and jumping and annoying the heck out of their foster parents. Much to our delight.

If I were to tell Wash’s story, that’s how it would go.

But if Wash were to tell his own story, I think it would go something like this:

“Wow, leaves, my favorite! They fall, and they taste like paper! Paper tastes great! Hey, a stuffy! BEHOLD, I am PUPPY, DESTROYER OF STUFFIES!! Ooh, sock, I destroy those too, watch –hey, being held! Um, okay, yeah I guess I’m a little tired, but I –snore, snore, snore – OMG, a CAT! My favorite!!!”

You know what? Ignore me. Wash’s story of himself is way better than my story of him.

"My stories rock. Now pet mah bellies!"

Monday, October 8, 2012

Faking It

Rubi will always be a reactive dog. That doesn't go away. But somewhere in the past year or so, we've more or less attained my favorite stage in reactive dog ownership: faking normal. That's right, Rubi can now pass as a pretty average, happy, energetic pit bull in public.

She's not normal, but it's nice to pretend.

The end of last month brought us two events to celebrate the not-crazy. First, we did a bully breed education class for a group of kids at the local animal shelter. Rubi was, above all, herself. This in itself is pretty amazing. She wasn't the raging, screaming, uncontrollable banshee we've all come to know - and let's face it - dread and hate. She was energetic and happy and let each of the kids "clicker train" her through a trick. The program was an hour long, and she had to chill in her crate while Maus did a nosework demo. (Which, as a side note, he rocked. In a room full of kids. May the wonders never cease.)

Let's just take a moment to bask in the glow of Rubi going into a building full of noisey, strange dogs and her not going bat-apeshit crazy. Everything else was just icing.

Photo evidence by Seth.

Rubi also came back to Growl Class for the last day because of why not? Every once in a while, someone will tell me that they don't take/aren't going to take to class with the implication of why would they? They've trained dogs before, and they know all that stuff already. This always makes me a little sad. I might not have learned any new training techniques in this class, but I will never underestimate the value of having another set of educated eyes watching you and your dog train. Each class I take, I learn more about my dogs, and this helps me to refine my techniques and increase my skills. I don't know all this stuff already.

To be honest, I hope there's always more to learn.

Take this picture I took of Rubi after class on our last day of Growl Class:

Now, there are a lot of pictures of Rubi on her mat in this blog. And there are a lot of pictures of Rubi looking happy at the camera. But this one is special. I have put away my bait bag. There is no ball or toy in my hand. This is Rubi looking at me - just me. She is that excited to play and work and just be together. This picture of mediocre quality means more to me, I think, than any other picture I have ever taken of her. It is a picture of the relationship we have created between the two of us.

Isn't it incredible? I mean . . . wow. Who knew we had that?