Meet Draco!

Last night, we picked up our new foster Draco (aka Tyr)!

First night with Draco

Draco is a 2-year-old who was rescued from an animal hoarding situation in West Virginia, where he was living in filth with 54 other dogs. Thankfully, the other animals were farmed out to rescues, and Southeast German Shepherd Rescue picked up Draco and his brother, Oro (who was just adopted!).

He was quite nervous when we picked him up (back legs shaking) and whined a bit in the car, but after a while, he settled in very nicely.

First night with Draco

First night with DracoI, for one, have never met a shy dog who was so quickly willing to be affectionate with people. He was way cuddlier with us in a few hours than Pyrrha even is, after a full year of living with us. As you can see, he found his spot on the couch right away:

I'd say the new foster is settling in nicely. #draco #gsd

My idea of a good night: wine, "Breaking Bad," and a shepherd sleeping in my lap. #draco #gsd

He slept like this in my lap for a full episode of “Breaking Bad.” Aww.

Pyrrha got a bit nervous during their introduction, but Draco is clearly an expert at calm, calculated avoidance. He didn’t show the slightest sign of anxiety or aggression toward her initial reactive display. He seemed to know exactly what to do to tone her down (a talent I imagine he acquired by having to survive in a house with 54 other dogs).

First night with Draco

He was still nervous about the new space, but she was quickly ready to play with him. She threw some desperate play bows and side taps his way, but he just wasn’t in the mood for playing last night.

First night with Draco

First night with Draco

First night with Draco

This morning, however (after a fairly scared, whiny night in the crate), he was ready to ROMP in the backyard, and they have been playful and sweet toward each other ever since. We are grateful! It’s always kind of a gamble how new dogs will interact with one another.

First night with Draco

In all, we think he is a total sweetheart and we can’t believe he’s still waiting for his forever home! Feel free to share photos and information about him with anyone you know, who may want a gentle, laidback dog in the southeastern United States.

First night with Draco

(Sometimes, when my glasses aren’t in, I can’t really tell them apart. Ha! As you can see, they have very similar markings and are almost the same size [Draco is a bit taller].)

First night with DracoWe are looking forward to getting to know this sweet dude!

Interested in Draco (aka Tyr)? Check out his adoption bio on the SGSR website!

Play-date with Howie, a fellow rescue alum

On Sunday night, Pyrrha had the privilege of meeting a fellow Southeast German Shepherd Rescue alum, Howie!

Play date with Howie

Rainer and I got to visit Howie’s new parents during their application process with SGSR and do a home visit there, so we were excited when we heard that they were finally able to find the perfect puppy. Howie came from a litter of 11 (!) puppies born to a German shepherd mama, Rosetta. As you can see from his appearance, there’s a good chance that his daddy was a black lab. I think you can really discern the shepherd-ness in his face, though.

Play date with Howie

We let Howie and Pyrrha sniff each other through the fence first, which went fine for a few minutes, but then Pyrrha started getting agitated and barking at him. I was thankful for Emily (Howie’s mom), who wasn’t scared off by this behavior (as Howie had recently graduated from the reactivity class that we are about to take with the same trainer). We let the dogs take a break; she walked Howie back up to her car, I brought Pyrrha inside, leashed her, and then we let them have some space in the front yard to look at each other for a bit and then carefully sniff on loose leashes. In a second, they were wagging and play-bowing, so we brought them back to the fenced-in yard, where they played perfectly without an incident.

It was a good reminder that dogs sometimes just need to be introduced in a different way, that they are very capable of recovering and being perfectly at ease if we just give them the chance. I was also very thankful for Emily, who understood this!

Play date with Howie

I didn’t get a ton of great photos, as it was quickly growing dark, but these two had a great time together. And they were both thoroughly worn out after about 30 minutes of their vigorous game of tag.Play date with Howie

Howie is 7 months old, and he was a great match for Pyrrha in play behavior. She tends to like these floppy, adolescent males!

Play date with HowieWe hope we’ll get to play with Howie again soon!

Some special shepherds up for adoption

The rescue that we foster for, Southeast German Shepherd Rescue (SGSR), has a ton of beautiful, special dogs up for adoption right now. As we are in a brief foster-less interim period, I just felt like highlighting some of these lovely pups!

First up, this gorgeous special-needs girl:

Malaika

mal1

Malaika is a 6-month-old puppy who was born with an S-shaped spine, which means that her back legs are paralyzed. But this disability doesn’t dampen this pretty girl’s spirit!

She is being fostered by a truly amazing and generous family in Virginia Beach, who is giving her everything she needs to succeed, including a wheelchair, physical therapy, training, and lots and lots of love!mal2

Look at her go! Here’s Malaika trying out her wheelchair recently. Such a happy girl! mal16

And here she is learning how to walk on her own! There are lots of heartwarming videos of Mali’s progress on her foster family’s YouTube page too, which I highly recommend.mal18

It’s been really touching to follow her progress. If you’re interested in Malaika’s story, check out the SGSR Phoenix Dog Program (an offshoot of the rescue that highlights special-need dogs). Here’s to hoping that Mali finds her very own home soon. She is such a brave and determined girl!

Malaika’s adoption profile on SGSR

Audrey

20130601Audrey-14

Audrey is a gorgeous 2-year-old who has been waiting way too long for her forever home. She has been with the rescue for a year now, and is being patiently and lovingly fostered in Virginia.

Audrey is a sweet and intelligent girl, and she is very tolerant of children. I got to meet her at an SGSR adoption event with Laszlo, while we were still fostering him. These little kids kept running right up to her, and she was very gentle and sweet with them and not startled at all. I was very impressed.

Her only flaw is that she has trouble with other dogs. The presence of other dogs seems to really agitate her (she had a hard time calming down at the adoption event because of the dogs nearby), and so she needs to go to a home where she could be the solo canine. I have hope that the perfect home is still out there!20130601Audrey-70Isn’t it hard to believe that this beautiful girl STILL hasn’t been adopted? Hold out hope, pretty one.

Audrey’s adoption profile on SGSR

Loki

Loki1

I had to feature this 10-month-old stud because I think he looks SO much like Pyrrha! Can you see the resemblance too?

Loki is a high-energy young male who is being fostered in Virginia. He is very affectionate and gregarious lad, and he would benefit from a lot of obedience training, just to teach him some basic manners!Loki2I have a feeling it won’t take much time at all before Loki gets snatched up by a family.

Loki’s adoption profile on SGSR

Eva

Eva1

Eva is a petite 4-year-old girl who was sadly returned to the rescue, through no fault of her own.

She is a gentle and shy soul who needs a comfortable home where she can be at ease. Eva is great with other dogs and enjoys playing with them. Children seem to make her a bit nervous, however, so she may be best in a no-child home. Eva2Eva just needs someone who will understand her. I hope that person will find her soon!

Eva’s adoption profile on SGSR

All of these dogs are available for adoption, so share with your networks, if you feel willing! SGSR adopts to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and parts of Georgia and Tennessee.

For more information, please visit:

Southeast German Shepherd Rescue
SGSR on Facebook
SGSR Phoenix Dog Program

Picking up our next foster tonight!

Tonight I’ll be driving to pick up our next foster through Southeast German Shepherd Rescue!

Here is his (blurry) shelter photo:

new foster

All we know about him is that they say he is a 10-month-old male who was picked up as a stray in the countryside. And that’s it!

I always get pretty nervous when we bring in a new foster, mainly because of all the unknowns — what if he’s dog aggressive? What if Pyrrha hates him? What if he’s a constant barker? Or destructive? etc. — but it always works out, and my husband is a great mood equalizer. Thankfully, my leg of the transport isn’t too long, so I’m hoping he’s not extra rowdy, since I am unable to fit a crate in my car. I got a seatbelt-hooking harness for him… here’s to hoping that will hold!

We also get the fun task of renaming him, a job that I always love. (His shelter name is “Mel,” which is plainly awful.)

Here are the top contenders:

Boston
Bowie
Declan
Gage
Hugo
Knox
Marius
Marko
Murray
Rainer
Sander

Which name do you like best? What would you name him?

(Obviously, we’ll probably pick a totally different name upon meeting him! Have to see them first. We were going to name Pyrrha “Inez,” but after meeting her, we knew that just wasn’t going to fit her look and temperament.)

More to come on the new guy!

Becoming a “German shepherd person”

We talk a lot about breed stereotypes, but I think there’s also something to be said about those stereotypes of people with certain breeds.

For example, culture sees a person with a pit bull and assumes they’re really tough and macho. A lady with a chihuahua? She must spoil it to death and always refer to it in the third person. Border collie people? They’re super-INTENSE.

Naturally, these stereotypes are not completely true. Plenty of pit people are utter softies! There are chihuahua owners who are very serious about training and conscientious care. And maybe there are even some border collie people who are lazy?

Hanging out in the backyard

But there are perhaps types of people who gravitate toward certain breeds or breed groups. I have always loved dogs in the herding group. I can’t say that I will ever be interested in owning a brachycephalic dog or any dog in the toy or terrier category. But that’s just me! Every other dog owner has his or her reason for the dog they chose.

Play-date with Ozzie

But I, for one, never set out to become a “German shepherd person.” I was roped into it by my husband, who has his heart set on a GSD after his summer in Ireland with a noble, loyal Alsatian. I just wanted to adopt a DOG, any dog! But then we found Southeast German Shepherd Rescue, and the rest, well, is history…

I don’t think I fit the typical profile of a “German shepherd person.” Many of them are very tough, macho-presenting people; many have backgrounds in the armed forces or in police work (which makes sense, seeing as GSDs are often service dogs); and many like choke chains, shock collars, prongs, and heavy-corrective training. I am a small young woman who prefers dresses, reads poetry, and runs a calligraphy business in her spare time. I have met GSDs who WEIGH more than I do!

But all that said, I love our girl and I love her rescue and the dogs we’ve fostered. I still think GSDs are a very difficult breed with a lot of issues (both health and behavioral), due to the way they’ve been so poorly bred in the United States. But I love these dogs. They are so intelligent and sensitive and loving. They latch onto their people and devote themselves utterly. They are fun and quirky and neurotic and whip-smart. In short, I am glad that this breed found me.

Now, my fellow dog-loving coworkers send me articles about GSDs, pages from their dog-a-day calendars featuring a regal shepherd, etc. It’s fun to live into this stereotype of the “German shepherd person.”

Three dogs

What about you?

Do you ever feel stereotyped because of the dog you have?

Laszlo: On trial!

Smile for the camera
Laszlo: With his new family!

We are sure going to miss this little dude, but we are THRILLED to report that he went on trial* with his new family last night!

(*Our rescue has a period called “on trial,” which is a 2-week stint before the adoption is finalized, just in case the family decides that the dog isn’t a good fit for them.)

I went last night to do the home visit with the family, and I am convinced he is going to have a wonderful life with them. He has a big, beautiful farmhouse in the countryside, plus an older canine sister (a gentle, sweet 11-year-old shepherd mix) and the most dog-friendly cat I’ve ever met. (I don’t think Laszlo had ever met a cat before, but this cat — who, I should note, was bigger than Laszlo — walked right up to him, delicately sniffed his nose, and then rolled over on his back to play! Amazing.)

He will also be spoiled rotten, which of course he won’t mind. He already had a treasure trove of new toys waiting for him when we showed up.

The adoption will be finalized in two weeks, but here’s to hoping that our little guy has found his forever home!

(Side note: Thanks for all of your great advice about Pyrrha’s new problem on walks. I will report back after some of our walks this weekend.)

Laszlo updates

Laszlo in the backyard

Laszlo updates!

Look at this adorable little dude. He is going to be hard to say good-bye to, but… we might be doing that soon!

There is a pending adoption on little Lasz, so we are awaiting further details! Excited!

And more sticks

Watching bugs

He was such a good boy at the big meet-and-greet event on Saturday with the rescue. It was a potentially overwhelming environment — tons of people, children, and several dogs (one of whom was quite agitated by the other dogs) — but Laszlo took it all in stride.

He was so friendly and affectionate to everyone who came up to pet him; his little tail would just thump, thump, thump against my side whenever someone came up to greet him. Laszlo was great with little kids, babies, men, women, the elderly, the mentally handicapped, people of a diversity of races and backgrounds, etc.; he met everyone on Saturday! It was a great socialization experience. We only stayed for about an hour and a half, because I could tell he was getting tired, but I felt like it was a great day of experience and exposure for him.

Mmm, sticks

His relationship with Pyrrha still isn’t the best — she still gets easily annoyed with him and still plays too rough with him — but he is not afraid of her anymore, so I consider that progress! He enjoys running up to her and licking her mouth, which she tolerates for a time, but when she tries to reciprocate play, she is inevitably too rough and he starts to cry. So we are usually playing referee during most of our time at home.

He has a lot more energy these days, too, which makes me wonder if he’s growing? He’s only been with us for about two weeks, but I think he’s bigger already. Look at those ears!

Being his adorable self

We are looking forward to hearing more about his potential adoption! Updates to come.

Big things in your future, bro!

Things I’ve learned from fostering so far

We’ve only been fostering for two-and-a-half weeks now, but we have already learned so much!

Trifecta of shepherd protection
Trifecta of shepherd protection: Vera (adoptable pup), Pyrrha, and Brando (former foster)

A few of the fostering lessons we’ve learned:

  • Personality will probably shift over time. I thought Brando was a WILD MAN on the first day–and he was. He was so stressed out. I never thought we’d be able to let him indoors. But after a week, he’d settled down and he turned out to be quite a mellow dude. Likewise, Laszlo was fairly shut down for the first few days, but now he is all energy and play.
  • Baby gates are a lifesaver. The ability to separate the dogs when needed and the ability to keep them in a small space has been an excellent tool. Even though Pyrrha and Brando both could have jumped our baby gate if they wanted to, they respected the barrier. I also keep Laszlo in the kitchen with me while I’m eating or cooking; he can never be too far away from my sight.
  • Our small house has actually been beneficial. Although, yes, having two full-grown German shepherds in a 830-square-foot home is overwhelming, it’s actually been something of an advantage. Brando could never be too far out of our sight! (Cooking in our tiny galley kitchen with both dogs underfoot is another story, though…)
  • Crates are the best! I love crates. Brando didn’t love crates, but he gradually got used to them. I don’t know how people foster without them! We could leave for a few hours at a time without worrying that he was getting into something, going on the floor, etc. (I’m just praying now that we don’t get one of those Houdini GSDs who are able to get out of crates at will. Pyrrha has a touch of that ability–she has sprung herself out once for a gastrointestinal emergency–but thankfully she stays put 99% of the time.) Laszlo seems to have adapted to the crate as well. He still cries a little bit when we put him in there, but he has now been accident-free for four days (knock on wood!) and has been sleeping through the night (thank God).
  • Pyrrha loves having another dog around. Even though Brando would get tired of her, she never seemed to get tired of him! She was like a silly kid with him. Like a silly kid, she would occasionally get petulant and sassy, but she was always THRILLED to see Brando every morning. Very sweet. She also liked to follow him around and copy whatever he was doing, which was good news for Guion, because he got an extra dose of cuddliness from her when Brando was around. While she isn’t so thrilled with Laszlo, the two do have moments of affection.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of routines. Dogs love routines. Especially nervous dogs. Having a set schedule every day has helped our fosters relax and recuperate during their transition period. These dogs have, for the most part, had fairly rough lives thus far. Being able to count on a consistent daily routine helps them settle down and into the family life. This is the prime advantage of fostering, after all: Helping a dog (who has likely had a rough start) acclimate to life with humans.

Obviously, we still have a lot to learn, but it has been a fun journey so far!

Tomorrow, I am taking Laszlo to an adoption event with the rescue. I am sure he will garner lots of attention, being the adorable puppy and all. Here’s to hoping he finds his forever home soon!

Laszlo log

Laszlo on the couch

Laszlo Log!

Updates on our little foster buddy:

  • Working on a better relationship with Pyrrha. They are increasingly learning how to coexist with each other, which is heartening. While I eat breakfast, they like to play bitey-face under the table. Recently, they’ve been doing this weird thing in which Pyrrha holds her mouth open and Laszlo sticks his ENTIRE HEAD in her mouth and starts licking her teeth, gums, and tongue… kind of like this. It’s so strange. But they both seem to enjoy it! (Have you ever seen dogs do this?? I haven’t!)
  • He’s still sitting when he wants attention. We’ve been teaching him to sit in front of us when he wants attention, instead of jumping up. He still jumps, but he throws those sits out any time he wants something! It’s impressive. He still jumps on me, though, when Pyrrha comes barreling after him in the yard, which I don’t blame him for; I’d want to be picked up, too!
  • Makes up for all the crying and destructiveness with snuggles. It’s a good thing puppies are so cute. Because they are so much work! I was really irritated with him on Monday night; he kept messing with Pyrrha, chewing stuff, peeing, etc. But then I pulled him up on the couch with me, after an hour of enduring his antics, and he fell asleep on my chest for an hour. Sigh. You can’t stay too mad at a creature who is that adorable.
  • He met a prospective dad this week! Our friend in town saw photos I’d posted on Facebook and said he was interested. He came by to meet Laszlo and I think Laszlo was quite charming. Naturally! Waiting to see what happens here, but I’ve encouraged our friend to go ahead and put in application, because I have a feeling that Laszlo won’t linger very long.
  • Laszlo will be attending an adoption event with me this Saturday at our local Tractor Supply. The rescue is having an event there, and I will be bringing him along. I am sure his cute little face will attract a lot of attention!

More to come!

Laszlo is up for adoption! If you like that cute little face, fill out an application at Southeast German Shepherd Rescue!

Update to German shepherd markings post

Play-date with Ozzie
Ozzie and Pyrrha, August 2012.

Since it seems to be my most popular post, I updated my Primer on German Shepherd Markings.

Photos and descriptions have been updated, and almost all of the dogs featured are dogs that were adopted through Southeast German Shepherd Rescue, which is pretty cool. The rescue seems to have spanned the whole range of shepherd coats, colors, and types.

I think many people don’t know that shepherds can come in so many varieties. I didn’t myself until I started researching the breed! Most people immediately identify Pyrrha as a GSD, because she has such a traditional coat pattern, but even when walking Brando next to her, people didn’t seem sure that he was also a GSD. It’s fun to me to learn about the wide spectrum of coats within this one breed.

Does your dog have a surprising coat pattern? Do people often mistake him or her for another breed?