The weather was pristine this weekend and made my morning and afternoon at the SPCA that much more enjoyable. The dogs were happy, as always, and I had a great time with them.
A few notes on what I learned:
Lesson #1: Never underestimate the power of a pit bull body slam
Eden was kind enough to teach me this lesson. As you can see, she is a very lovely lady. But don’t let her demure, elegant gaze fool you: This girl is a tornado. Just trying to snap a leash on her was like trying to wrangle a bronco. In a tiny kennel. She dragged me all over the trails and I decided, for the sake of my arm sockets, to take her to one of the fenced-in areas to let her run around–something she clearly needed.
I took her leash off and she tore around the fence, running at full speed. I picked up a tennis ball and she chased it merrily for a while but that soon bored her. I turned around to pick up a tug toy on the ground and as I was standing up, WHAM! Thick pittie skull smacked me right in the tail bone; I think I actually heard our bones crack against each other. I was knocked down, which she found very amusing, and in quite a bit of pain. Tailbone injuries are the worst! Had no idea how painful that would make the rest of my afternoon there. Walking up hills was awful.
But, whatever. I pushed through the rest of the day and managed to get Eden back into her kennel without any further fiascoes. The enduring lesson? Don’t turn your back on a rambunctious dog who REALLY wants to play with you. Your whole body, in fact.
Lesson #2: Let dogs sort out inter-dog social situations on their own.
I was in a fenced-in area playing with the sweet-faced Roscoe (who was ineptly described as a “St. Bernard mix” by the shelter. Hardly!) when another volunteer, L., walked by with a tiny 10-month-old mix named Blossom (photo not on file). The two began to play bow through the fence and L. asked me if she thought they would play well together. I said we should try it, even though I was a little anxious. Blossom was much smaller and shyer and so we decided to keep Roscoe on his leash in case things went south.
I always get nervous when dogs meet other dogs, and maybe this just contributes to the anxiety of the meetings. We led Blossom in and Roscoe sniffed at her and then immediately stood over her and started playfully gnawing on her neck. Blossom started to whimper a little and my first instinct was to pull them apart. But L. gently stopped me and said, “We’ll let them sort this one out on their own. Roscoe doesn’t appear to be trying to hurt her and Blossom is willing to yield.”
L., a more seasoned volunteer, of course, was right. In just a few minutes, the two were happily chasing each other in circles and bowing and wrestling. The formerly bashful Blossom was even taking well-timed nips at Roscoe’s legs. It brought me a lot of joy to watch them play together and reinforced the lesson that dogs often need to be left to themselves to sort out social situations. Human interference usually makes things worse.
Lesson #3: Not all GSDs are shy, anxious messes.
So, Estella is probably not a pure GSD, but she looks pretty darn close, especially in person. (This photo makes her nose look bigger than it appears in real life.) I first saw her in a pen near one of the trails and she quietly approached the corner of the pen to sniff me and the dog I was walking.
All that I’ve read about GSDs has made me pretty nervous about wanting to adopt one. It seems that, as a result of bad breeding, GSDs are especially prone to nervous dispositions, which can often lead to anxiety and shyness-based aggression. I now expect almost ever GSD to act this way, especially a GSD in the county animal shelter.
Estella, however, graciously proved me wrong. She is an older lady, approximately 7 or 8 years old, and maybe a tad overweight. I didn’t get the chance to walk her this weekend, but I did make a point to spend some time with her in her kennel. When I approached the door, she sat politely and looked up at me noiselessly. This in itself is unusual for any shelter dog. I held out my hand for her to sniff and walked into her kennel with a biscuit. I offered it to her and she gently took it from me and laid down by my feet while I stroked her coat. It was a brief encounter, but it was encouraging just the same.
Looking forward to my next visit; I never know what I’m going to learn or experience next!