Dogs I could have adopted

I spent a lovely Sunday morning at the SPCA this past week. I began the day with a handful of dogs that I could have seen myself taking home. All of the dogs were very different from one another, but I found myself daydreaming what my life could be like if I had adopted them…

Estella.

You may recall Estella from an earlier post. I was surprised that this docile, polite lady was still at the shelter. The last time I saw her was nearly a month ago and I assumed that she, being a small but mostly purebred German shepherd, would have been adopted by now. I’m guessing that she’s still at the shelter because a.) she’s a bit old; I’d guess maybe six or seven, and b.) she’s not especially intimidating. Which is a good thing, in my opinion. She was the first dog I walked when I arrived and she was a wonderful and peaceful way to begin what turned out to be an otherwise stressful day at the SPCA.

If I had adopted Estella: I’d get her on a good diet (the SPCA feeds the dogs Science Diet, since it’s what they can afford, despite the fact that it is a low-quality kibble) to get her health and coat back into order. Her coat was very dry and flaky and did not appear very healthy. She loves to run and I’d love taking her on all the trails around here. She also seems very friendly toward and interested in other dogs. I’d also work with her on curing a few fears. She balked upon entering doorways she was unfamiliar with. Not sure what that stems from, but I imagine it’s something we’d have to work on. I also think I would have kept her name. Somehow, I think it fits her.

Lady.

Lady is built like a pro-wrestler. This big girl is a TANK and walks with swagger, but she’s really a cuddle bug. I have never really wanted a pit bull, but I have always enjoyed their company at the SPCA. We have a constant rotation of pits and pit mixes, like most shelters these days, and I find them to be extremely affectionate–if occasionally super high-energy–dogs. Lady and I romped around in one of the larger, enclosed play areas and she was so sweet and happy. (Although that growl she emitted when we played tug was a little scary… even though I knew it was just for the sake of fun!)

If I had adopted Lady: First thing, I would have trimmed her nails. This reminds me that I should have left a note for the staff that her nails were pretty overgrown. I imagine that they were making it somewhat difficult for her to walk (they were even longer than they appear in this photo). I would have given her a healthy, fresh diet. I would be happy and proud to have her at my side. She is a regal and admirable ambassador for her much-maligned breed.

Charlie.

Dear Charlie. Charlie (a lady dog) has been at the shelter since I started back in May. She was adopted a few months ago, and so you can imagine my dismay when I saw her at the SPCA again, back in her same kennel. I got the scoop from one of the other volunteers. Apparently, the staff determined that Charlie would be best in a family without kids, due to some of her excitability and food possessiveness. She’s also been known to have a few scuffles with other dogs. However, a family with young children decided they wanted Charlie and they ended up taking her home. I don’t know what happened, but clearly, the family was not equipped to care for Charlie in the way that she needed. I was dismayed that the SPCA let this family take Charlie, as it seemed evident from the outset that they could not provide her with a good environment for her temperament. While I was sad to see her back, I was happy to get to spend a little time with her. Like Phantom before her, Charlie has a frightening kennel manner. When you approach door, she lunges at it and barks loudly, all gleaming teeth and tongue. However, as soon as you open it to snap on her leash, she is as quiet and docile as can be. She walks very well and never pulls. She even seems to have adapted to the constant presence of other dogs and no longer wants to snap at them. While with her, I walked to my car to take off my sweatshirt. She seemed excited about this and as soon as I opened the car door, she jumped in, tail wagging, face full of eagerness. My heart was warmed. I wished I could have hopped in next to her and taken her home right then.

If I had adopted Charlie: First things first: I would have given her a better name. Brynn, Sloane, or Gemma? Some stout, continental name. I would have worked on her with her barking and her instinct to freak out whenever people passed. I would have begun to carefully and cautiously condition her with older, respectable children, until she learned that kids could be trusted. She would be a delight to have around the house. She seems to have a very happy heart. I hope someone will give her a good home soon.

Spunky.

Spunky is a little dreamboat. This handsome lad appears to be some kind of spaniel/setter mix and he is somewhat new to the shelter. Because of his good looks and his laidback temperament, I have a feeling he won’t be around for too much longer at the SPCA. He was a delightful walking companion. I was impressed by how quiet his movements were. You could barely hear him walk, even when we were trudging through piles of crunchy fallen leaves. He seems to glide over the ground. This is not a particularly great photo of him, but he is adorable in person. He has a long, glossy coat and a beautiful feathered white tail. His joie de vivre was all-encompassing and I would have taken him home in a heartbeat.

If I had adopted Spunky: Name change also necessary. He deserves something more dignified. I was thinking “Keeper,” in honor of Emily Bronte’s constant companion. I started thinking of this when I was walking him, and by the end of our time together, I was calling him Keeper. He is such a happy dog. He would make us laugh. I would take him everywhere with me, introduce him to everything. I need to stop meditating on his handsome face; I want to get in my car and go to the SPCA right now! Sigh. Six more months, six more months…

SPCA Day: Stillness and energy

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.

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.

Roscoe.

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.

Estella.

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!