A photo I never thought I’d see

Those of you who have been reading along here for a while may remember Rainer, the shy, foxy-looking German shepherd who we fostered for a little over four months.

Rainer was so gentle toward us and toward Pyrrha, but he had some serious territorial aggression toward other dogs, and he once tried to kill (actually kill, not just scare off) a potential adopter’s male dog — a terrible, terrible day which resulted in several ER visits for humans and dogs. He also showed lots of aggression toward baby Georgia when she came to visit, and he was always riled up by seeing other dogs on walks.

For this reason, when he was adopted by a young Marine, we counseled him to be extremely cautious with Rainer and other dogs and to continue the positive reinforcement training around his fears. That said, Rainer certainly had the potential to be good with other dogs, because he loved Pyrrha, and she loved him; they never had a serious quarrel.

Just last night, I got a text from Rainer’s adopter, who said that he was doing well — and to my shock and delight, Rainer had a puppy sibling! An 8-month-old German shepherd, whom you can see dozing here:

Former foster dog Rainer (on the sofa) with his canine sibling.
Former foster dog Rainer (on the sofa) with his canine sibling.

Rainer looks so chubby and content; I love it. Cody, his adopter, said that Rainer has been great with the puppy. I asked him how Rainer was doing in general, and his sole comment was: “He has been a real blessing.”

I’ll take it! I’m always amazed at how much our former foster dogs have grown and matured since we had them in our home. Rainer was perhaps our hardest case, and I can’t say how much joy it brings me to hear that he is doing well — and coexisting peacefully with a sibling.

Have you ever been surprised by a dog’s behavioral change, particularly once he or she was in a new environment?


Lessons from the foster dog: What Rainer taught us

We learned a lot from Rainer, likely because we had him with us much longer than our other fosters (Brando and Laszlo). We are going to miss him, even though our life with him wasn’t always easy.

He is a sweet boy, and we are so happy that he found his forever home! I’ve heard a bit from his adopter, and it sounds like he is really settling in and learning to love being doted on as an “only child.”

Dogs in the yard on Sunday
Rainer in our yard.

What Rainer Taught Us

  1. A dog’s personality can change over time. This is especially true of shy dogs. We already knew this with Pyrrha, since she really blossomed into a happy dog since adopting her, but it was rewarding to see this shift occur in Rainer too. The first few days, he would hide from us in corners of the backyard. Everything made him nervous. I thought he had a neurological disorder because of how much he slunk around and moved in such strange, stiff ways. But after more than a month living with us, Rainer turned out to be a totally different dog. He was so content being in our house. He wanted to be EVERYWHERE I was (I mean everywhere; private trips to the bathroom did not happen with Rainer in the house). In the latter days, he was affectionate with Pyrrha, whereas he first made her pretty uncomfortable. They even got to the point where they would sleep side by side, something I NEVER thought Pyrrha would allow in a million years. His whole physical demeanor transformed; he started jumping and sitting and letting his tongue hang out — all of these things that I thought he was incapable of doing when he first came to us.
  2. Correlated with that, a dog’s personality (and the canine power dynamic) can be different in different environments. This one surprised me. In the house, Rainer tended to take charge and let Pyrrha know her place. But in the backyard, Pyrrha ruled; she initiated play with Rainer, she got him belly up all the time, she taught him how to patrol for her feline nemesis. I’d never seen this dynamic before, and it still interests me. Rainer also reminded us that new environments are still very stressful to shy dogs. Getting groomed, going to the vet, and even going on walks made him extremely anxious, despite the fact that he was the picture of calm in our house. Again, good reminders to be vigilant in training and rehabilitation.
  3. Let dogs figure out the power structure. Obviously, do this within reason, and don’t let scuffles get out of hand, but Rainer taught us to hold back a little bit. Dogs are better than we are at figuring out canine dynamics; they suffer when we try to impose our human rules on them. For instance, it rankled me at first that Rainer laid claim to Pyrrha’s bed when he came here. My human instinct was to intervene, thinking that this is Pyrrha’s bed, she was here first, etc. But Pyrrha was OK to let Rainer take it. By the end of his stay with us, they were happily sharing the bed, and there were no more bed-territory scuffles or warnings.
  4. Don’t let strange dogs meet face-to-face, and don’t underestimate the protective instinct. We learned this lesson the really hard way with a dog fight (between Rainer and a potential adopter’s dog). I was naive, I didn’t trust my gut instincts, and I really, really should have known better. This is not a mistake we will ever make again. (And thanks to you all for your kindness and advice. This incident certainly revealed me to be capable of dangerous amateur mistakes, and you were all gracious with me. Many thanks.)
  5. Pyrrha really enjoys having a canine sibling. Even though their relationship had a somewhat rocky start and even though his presence in our home was very isolating to her social life, I think Pyrrha misses Rainer’s company. Particularly in our last weeks with him, Rainer and Pyrrha shared so many sweet moments: kissing each other’s faces, play bowing in unison in the living room, just sitting side-by-side in the yard and watching the birds and cars and people. They were happy and gentle with one another (especially Rainer, who was so tolerant of Pyrrha’s antics!).
Someone's not so shy anymore
Good luck, buddy!

You taught us a lot, Rainey Baby. We’ll miss you! But we are SO happy that you are starting a new life with your new family.

We are taking a few weeks off from fostering. Carrie from Tales and Tails reminded me that this is OK, that you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking a fostering hiatus. I appreciated hearing that. I feel like I need to spend more time with Pyrrha, particularly refocusing on her training, so we’re enjoying this little respite.

What have your foster dogs taught you?

Good luck, Rainer!

We have a good feeling that Rainer met up with his forever family this weekend!

Cody and Rainer
Cody and Rainer

Yesterday, we drove a few hours for him to meet up with his adopter, Cody. As I’ve mentioned, Rainer is “on trial,” which means that Cody has two weeks to decide if Rainer is the right dog for him, and then the adoption is finalized.

Cody was really gentle and sweet with Rainer, which was very heartwarming to me. He said, when he first saw Rainer, “Whoa, he looks so much like my shepherd back home.” Cody also seems to understand Rainer’s temperament and special issues, and so we all have high hopes that our sweet little dude found his forever home!

Really happy for our little guy! Now… a little break before the next foster… 🙂

Rainer goes “on trial” with adopter on Sunday

Terrible photo, but it makes me laugh. Rainer always has to know what’s happening.

The dogs were brave about the fireworks during Independence Day last night. How did everyone else’s pups fare?

Like Athena from Pitlandia, Pyrrha is scared of a lot of things, but fireworks and thunderstorms don’t bother her. Rainer, thankfully, isn’t phobic about storms, but he is considerably more anxious about them. We’ve had almost daily thunderstorms here lately, and while they are happening, Rainer tries to affix his body to mine. I can’t leave his sight without him needing to press himself up against me. It’s pretty sweet (except when you’re trying to make dinner, go to the bathroom, get dressed, etc.). The dogs were in their crates with treats while we attended a fireworks display last night overlooking the city, and we came back to happy pups and no signs of distress. So that was nice.

As I’ve mentioned, the happy news is that Rainer goes on trial with his potential adopter this Sunday. The adopter has two weeks to decide if they want to keep him before the adoption is finalized, so we are very hopeful that our sweet, shy little buddy has found his forever home! Will keep you posted.

Hope everyone has peaceful weekends ahead!

Rainer updates

Rainer is BACK after being boarded for 10 days while we were on vacation. There was the chance that he was going to be shipped off for training or to another foster home, but none of that worked out, and he loves us. And more importantly, he loves Pyrrha, so it made sense for him to come back to us until he was ready for adoption.

More dogs in the yardI confess I was pretty nervous about reintroducing him to Pyrrha (after the traumatic dog fight incident with a potential adopter’s shepherd). But that was silly on my part. We took lots of precautions in the reintroduction, but they wagged their tails and sniffed sweetly like old friends (which they are, by now). Not a single problem or incident with that. I often forget that dogs have good memories. Dogs remember the dogs, people, houses they like. Silly human.

As you can see, they are back to being BFFs:

More dogs in the yard

More dogs in the yardThe GOOD NEWS is that he is scheduled to go on trial this Sunday! “On trial” with our rescue means that the adopter will have Rainer for two weeks to “test drive” him and see if he’s a fit with their home before the adoption is finalized.

Things are looking up for you, Rainey Baby! Here’s to hoping that this potential adopter will come through and that you will be in your forever home soon!

More dogs in the yard

Review: Orijen Black Angus Beef treats

When Chewy.com asked if we’d like to review treats from Orijen, we were more than happy to! I’ve heard great things about Orijen’s products for a while now, but I’ve frankly been too cheap to spring for them myself. We learned, though, that with Orijen, you get what you pay for, which is a very high-quality product.

Orijen Black Angus treats

When I ripped open the package, Pyrrha and Rainer went WILD.

Pyrrha and Rainer investigate treats

This photo is blurry, but this is what Pyrrha did immediately after the bag was opened:

(c) Doggerel

She has never done this before! She knows that paws are NOT allowed on the table. But the overpowering aroma of these Orijen treats was simply too much for her to handle.

(c) Doggerel

The Black Angus Beef treats are small, freeze-dried bits, and the ingredients are top-notch: Angus beef liver, boneless Black Angus beef, and Black Angus tripe. That’s IT. The meat is also preservative free and originates in Alberta. This is really impressive in the world of dog treats, which are often loaded up with starches, grains, and unpronounceable chemical mixtures. Not so with these treats.

Orijen Black Angus beef treats

Orijen is also manufactured in Canada, which is comforting, coming out of all of the horrific news of tainted dog products manufactured in China.

Overall? Pyrrha and I give these treats 5 stars.


You can buy a 2-oz. or 3.5-oz. bag of these treats from Chewy.com.

Have you tried any Orijen products before? Did your dogs love them as much as mine did?

Disclaimer: I was provided with a bag of treats in exchange for this review, but all opinions are expressly mine.

Backyard in black-and-white, with dog updates

The living is easy and the sticks are plentiful.

Dogs in the yard on Sunday

Dogs in the yard on Sunday

It’s been so damp and yucky here the past few days, but the dogs aren’t bothered by it.

Dogs in the yard on Sunday

Rain man

We’re still hoping that Rainer finds his forever home soon. Just look how handsome he is!

The GREAT news about Rainer is that there is a less than 1% chance that he will develop degenerative myelopathy (DM)! We got his DNA test results back from OFA yesterday. After the vet raised the possibility of his back-end instability being the early signs of DM (a really horrible neurological disorder for which there is no treatment or cure), the rescue sent out for this test, and we anxiously awaited the results. We were very, very happy to learn that he is a heterozygous carrier, which means that it is very unlikely that he will develop DM. YAY!

I’ve also become increasingly less worried about his balance, as it actually seems to have gotten better over the month he’s lived with us. He still isn’t as “stable” as Pyrrha is, but he doesn’t slink around anymore and he seems so much stronger and more confident. He’s also showed a lot more willingness to run at full speed and wrestle with her.

They’ve been getting along so much better lately, which has been really heartwarming. Just last night, I saw her do something I have NEVER seen her do with another dog: Rainer was sleeping on the dog bed in the living room, and Pyrrha started inching toward him on her belly, and then she put her head on his paw as an invitation and started licking his face. Wow! Never seen our little ice queen show such cuddly affection for a foster before!

Rainer has also become so well-adapted to home life: great in the crate, not a single accident indoors, playing better with Pyrrha. His only vice is that he likes to silently steal a shoe or a tissue from time to time, but he’ll always swap it with you for a treat.

He is a good boy who deserves a good home. We hope that his perfect family is still out there somewhere!

Hope you all have peaceful, fun weekends ahead of you!

Another lazy weekend in the yard with the dogs

This weekend was a nice mix of productive (lots of yard work) and lazy (lots of TV while it rained).

The dogs, as you can see, were thoroughly relaxed.

There were bouts of play…

Gimme dat stick… and then there was a lot of just lazing around.

Dogs in the yard on Sunday

Dogs in the yard on Sunday

Dogs in the yard on Sunday

Dogs in the yard on Sunday

I think the best part of fostering a shy dog, after you get over that initial hurdle of getting them to trust you and actually like you, is getting to see them RELAX. And just be happy. We have a floppy, open-mouthed foster boy now, where we previously had a nervous, slinking, easily startled former stray. It’s so heartwarming.

Kiwi vine is really thriving
Our kiwi vine is really going crazy.

He is a sweetie, and I have to keep believing that the perfect home is still out there for him.

Handsome Rainer

Spread the word! Rainer is still looking for his forever home!

If you are interested in adopting Rainer and live in the southeast United States, fill out an application at Southeast German Shepherd Rescue! Or spread the word that he’s up for adoption! Here’s his online adoption profile.

Poem: “Spring,” by Mary Oliver

Lounging dogs
Rainer and Pyrrha in the yard.

By Mary Oliver

I lift my face to the pale flowers
of the rain. They’re soft as linen,
clean as holy water. Meanwhile
my dog runs off, noses down packed leaves
into damp, mysterious tunnels.
He says the smells are rising now
stiff and lively; he says the beasts
are waking up now full of oil,
sleep sweat, tag-ends of dreams. The rain
rubs its shining hands all over me.
My dog returns and barks fiercely, he says
each secret body is the richest advisor,
deep in the black earth such fuming
nuggets of joy!

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

So it really feels more like summer here these days, but I love this poem from Mary Oliver, about a spring walk with her dog, and the simple delight that dogs take in the little things.

Hope you all have peaceful weekends!

Rainer continues to settle in

Rainer in the yard

Although two potential adopters have since fallen through for Rainer (through no fault of his own), we hold out hope that he will find his perfect home soon. How could he not? Look at that adorable foxy face!

Life has been busy lately, so I haven’t had much time for dog updates, but rest assured that the pups are doing well.

Little dog-related events from the past week:

  • We have witnessed subtle, spontaneous bursts of affection between Pyrrha and Rainer, which is very heartwarming. It certainly took them long enough! Rainer tended to make Pyrrha pretty uncomfortable, especially indoors, but lately, I catch them sneaking kisses when they think I’m not looking. One of them will sidle up to the other and start licking the muzzle, pawing playfully on the side, or throwing out a play bow. It kills me every time.
  • Last night, Pyrrha had an unfortunate on-leash reaction to a small Australian shepherd while Guion and I walked her and Rainer. I just kept walking and tried to pull her away. I wasn’t sure what else to do; we couldn’t have turned around (or we’d be following the other dog) and we were walking alongside a busy street. She was fine as soon as the dog was out of sight, but whew. It’s so embarrassing and exhausting. And inconsistent! Some dogs set her off; others, she passes with no reaction at all. We kind of think she might be “showing off” for Rainer, who is still pretty shy when strangers/new dogs pass on the street. Sigh. I need to talk to our trainer about this in-depth.
  • I’m also interested in the different dynamics between the dogs depending on the location. For example, INDOORS, Rainer is in charge. She defers to him with the dog bed, the shared water bowl, going through doors, etc. But OUTDOORS, Pyrrha rules. She bosses him around; she knocks him over; she gets him to be belly-up when they play. It’s very interesting to me. I don’t intervene; if this is how their power dynamics shake out, that’s fine with me. It’s just curious to me. Have you ever had dogs interact that way? Different roles depending on the space?

Keep your fingers crossed that Rainer will find his forever home soon!

If you are interested in adopting Rainer and live in the southeast United States, fill out an application at Southeast German Shepherd Rescue! Or spread the word that he’s up for adoption! Here’s his online adoption profile.