a few words about separation anxiety. and photos, too.

is that a little snout i spy?

Well it looks like we typed too soon about how mellow little Mr. Bunny-Ears is. Turns out our little pocket pittie has a bit of separation anxiety. Don’t get us wrong– it seems minor at this point– but it is something we will need to work on.

The first few days he was with us, he didn’t pay much mind to our comings and goings, but the other day it was like a switch flipped. All of a sudden little Gonzo was whining, crying, and scratching frantically at the floor in his room when I closed his door on my way out in the morning. It’s no wonder, really, considering that the little dearling was abandoned by his people at the animal shelter in November.

The next day, I discovered that the issue seems to be worst when he can hear us still in the house, but he is closed in his room. We do a lot of rotating of Gonzo Bunny-Ears and Chick so that each dog gets his own special time with the Humans Who Dole Out Treats, and Mr. Ears is not happy with the half of the arrangement where he is in his room with his toys, alone. He whines and scratches, and finally just lays with his face smooshed up against the door. Pardon the blur in this photo, I snapped it from outside on our deck through the window and mesh screen:

sad little Mr. Ears...

We did some serious training with our own loverboy Chick when he was younger on separation anxiety. It seems that when I first adopted him, I made the fatal mistake of taking him with me everywhere, so he was almost never alone. Together, we did my shifts at the wonderful little emergency shelter for immigrants in Austin where I worked at the time, ran my errands (back then Home Depot and REI both allowed dogs inside), and went swimming. Apparently constant togetherness is the best way to give a dog a separation anxiety issue. We learned this the hard way, but we overcame with glory.

Through intensive training which transitioned to a crazy routine of stuffed and frozen kongs upon leaving, we eliminated Chick’s separation issue.  It is more challenging with Gonzo because he is a little bit less food-motivated than Chick, so if I hand him a yummy snack/puzzle and head for the door, he follows me rather than diving into his culinary challenge. Thankfully his coping mechanisms are not too destructive (he does not hurt himself or destroy things), but still.

We plan to dig out our old notes from Chick’s behaviorist, but in the meantime, this anxious-faced little nugget wants to know: anybody have suggestions for how to get back on the right track?

help me be worry-free!For more info on adopting Gonzo Bunny-Ears, click here or email us at DCpetographer [at] gmail [dot] com.

dog bath night

Well, it was that dreaded night again in the Fosterfamily household . . . dog bath night!

mr. bunny-ears really is that small.

What we have learned about Gonzo Bunny-Ears is that unlike his foster brother Chick and our last foster Lollie Wonderdog, both of whom just regular hate bath time, Gonzo really hates bath time. In the bath, he spends 36 percent of his effort scrambling his legs around, 5 percent giving me the stinkeye, and 59 percent trying (sometimes successfully) to leap out of the tub.

i'm so sad, even my ears are deflated.

On six occasions, I had to pick up all 35 pounds of him (maybe 36 pounds soaking wet) and plop him back in there. By the end of the bath, we were both soaked.

the great escape

For more info on adopting Gonzo Bunny-Ears, click here or email us at DCpetographer [at] gmail [dot] com.

the art of settling in

You know how some people just have a knack for certain things? They pick up languages in what seems like just minutes, they have perfect pitch when singing, or they can memorize useless information, like the value of Pi, out to 150 decimal places (3.1415926535897932…)? My hunny Ben, for example, has this knack for the guitar. It’s hard to explain, but he can just play.

Little Gonzo Bunny-Ears has a special talent too. When he arrived at our house on Saturday, he spent about 30 minutes playing with great vigor and ferocity (and I mean that in the least aggressive way possible, unless you are coming from the perspective of the sticks and leaves in our yard), then he came inside, grabbed a kong from the floor, and just plopped down on a dog bed. He was done. It was almost as though he had already lived with us for months, knew where everything was, and there was no need to investigate. The rest of the weekend was smooth sailing, with him somehow reading our minds and already knowing the routine before we even told it to him. No anxiety, no drama.

How does a dog get to be such an incredibly mellow fellow?

For more info on adopting Gonzo Bunny-Ears, contact us at DCpetographer [at] gmail [dot] com, or click here.

New foster: Gonzo Bunny-Ears!

Introducing our new foster, Gonzo Bunny-ears!

Can you even believe how cute this little fellow is?

Poor little Gonzo was caught running loose in Prince George’s County in November. He was taken in to the shelter, and his owners were called in to pick him up. Just a few weeks later, Gonzo was caught again! The second time his people were called, they decided not to come. Can you imagine? This sweet little dog was abandoned by his people because they were too careless to keep him contained, and too disinterested to come save him.

The county shelter in Prince George’s County is extremely overburdened and underfunded, which means that they simply cannot afford to keep dogs very long before they are forced to put them to sleep. Little Gonzo was a staff favorite, but his time was limited. So there he stayed, lonely, worried, and homeless. Just in time, he was pulled by Partnership for Animal Welfare, a local rescue group with which we volunteer. Unfortunately, there were not enough foster homes for Gonzo, so he had to stay at a kennel. Kennel life did not suit him, as evidenced by his barely-furry tail. Poor little guy had banged his tail against his cage so obsessively that he wore the fur right off!

When we met Gonzo Bunny-Ears, we knew he had to be ours to foster.  We have always wanted what we call a “pocket pittie” – which he looks like – and his enormous ears are just a sweet little bonus. He came into our home over the weekend and is settling in beautifully. He is a ready-to-go house dog, and is sweet as can be.

I bet we won’t have him very long before a lucky family snaps him up!

A letter from Lily (Lollie Wonderdog)

Lollie/Lily sent us a letter, and her dear mom said it would be ok if we shared it on the blog — so check out how great she’s doing in her new home!

Dear Fostermom and dad,

I hope you guys had a fantastic time in Costa Rica. Someday i’d like to go there . . . do they let dogs go?

Well, I’m getting settled in my new digs, and I’ve already had my new mom and dad redecorate for me!  Since they have low windows, I just can’t resist yelling at ALL the squirrels . . . and there’s a lot of them.  So I helped them put up some “frosted” things on the windows.  Wasn’t I suprised when I realized I couldn’t push them aside with my snout like I could do with the curtains!  The nice thing is that my mom doesn’t have to clean the snout marks off the window anymore, and I’m much quieter now that I can’t see all the squirrels, but I wonder if they miss me as much as I miss them?

I’m loving my new dad . . . he picks me up, sings me songs, calls me ‘sweetie’, and lets me hang out on his lap . . . imagine a pit bull as a lap dog!  And he didn’t think he even liked dogs very much!  I’m still waiting for that purse I was promised, though.

Isaiah and Olivia use me as a pillow when they read, and I’m getting better at letting them know I’m ready to get up. Before I learned, their heads hit the ground hard when I decided being a pillow wasn’t working for me and I got up . . . oops!

Speaking of oops, mom made a GIANT oops when she bought me some new treats!  I tried to tell her I don’t do wheat well . . . I showed my new family how I can clear a room in two minutes when not very lady-like scents came from me. Important lesson noted!

I also started doggie school . . . It’s in a big room full of dogs!  I really want to sniff everyone’s butts, but my teacher says “not yet!”  All the assistants told me I was the star of the class!  They were impressed that I already knew so many tricks . . . they couldn’t believe that I have only been with my family for a few weeks.  My mom told the teachers my story and how I was with a fantastic foster family, and then they talked a lot about the benefits of fostering bully breeds.  The teachers were so impressed with how loving I was.  Fostermom, we’re all so glad you got me out of the shelter, so everyone could see how loving and sweet I am.  I have been working very hard on “watch me”, “touch” and loose leash walking . . . When I’m the only dog around I do just great . . . but all these little dogs in the neighborhood! I keep picturing them slathered in ketchup . . .yum! My parents say that’s not acceptable, so I have a lot of homework to do!

It’s not all work though!  We’ve gone hiking a lot . . . I fell off a log into a stream once, and I realized I could swim! That night I had a nice warm bath, and rested in a nice warm blankie by the fireplace . . . I requested an irish coffee or a hot buttered rum, but I settled for a peanut buttery kong!

Anyway Fostermom, I just wanted to let you know I’m doing great . . . I’m settling in with my new people. They take care of me, and I’m doing fine . . . as long as there’s no wheat around – stinky!!

See you soon and love to all my adoring fans!

Lily Fireworks

Your chance to save a life: meet December

Meet December.  Like Lollie Wonderdog, December is a beautiful, affectionate, gentle dog with a terrible, sad past. And like Lollie Wonderdog was just weeks ago, December is looking for a home.

Her story is still waiting for a happy ending and her journey is far from over, but this sweet girl’s sad beginnings came to a close in late 2009.  December was still practically a puppy when she was discovered in a cold, abandoned house in rural Virginia. She was cold. She had no food. No water. She was left in a tiny crate – far too small to stretch out or even move around at all, and abandoned. She had been there, alone, for a long time. When she was found, she was laying still in her own waste, too scared to wag her tail, too weak to even cry for help. She had given up.

When the property’s landlord found her she was rushed to the vet, where she was found to have a critically low body temperature, and in such a state of undernourishment that she weighed just 21 pounds. It took days to stabilize her, and she stayed with the vet far longer before she was able to get her strength back. During her time there, the vet uncovered signs—bad signs. Cigarette burns on her body. Other bad signs.

Once back to health, December returned to the shelter in Radford, VA, where she has lived for more than a year. She has bounced back from her tortured youth and has somehow learned to trust again. She now weighs 43 pounds. She loves all people and other dogs. She is very attentive, staring lovingly into the eyes of anybody who will paying attention, and wags her tail at the slightest hint of kindness. She has a steady temperament and a big heart. The cutest ears you’ve ever seen.  Eyes the color of roasted almonds. She is spayed, vaccinated, and heartworm/Lyme disease tested. She has adoring fans at the shelter where she lives. She even has a free ride from the shelter where she lives to her foreverhome– wherever it may be– through Rural Shelter Transport. She has it all – except a family and home of her own.

Unfortunately, the small rural shelter where December lives cannot keep her forever, and cannot provide the enriching, warm environment that an intensely social animal needs to thrive.  Recently, December has begun to show signs of kennel stress and depression. This condition is almost inevitable in dogs living in a shelter environment long-term. It tends to vanish quickly once a dog moves into a home, but is next to impossible to treat in a shelter environment. If December isn’t adopted soon, she may not make it out at all. Her fragile little life could be over before it really had a chance to begin.

I am not one to preach to the choir, but without the kindness of strangers, dogs like December have no chance. Looking for your very own special four-legged companion? Consider adopting this dearheart. Know someone who might be a match? Shoot them a quick email. Have a great network online or in the real world? Share December’s story to help her find a home. Thinking about getting into fostering? She might be the perfect dog for you. You may not be able to independently find December’s forever family, but you may be able to play a role. Not every small act can save a life, but a large number of small acts certainly can—and has—time and again.

If you are interested in meeting December or just learning more, please contact pals@psknet.com or visit her on petfinder: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/15884113

6/16/11 update: December was adopted!! She now lives with this adorable young couple in the DC area. They love spoiling her and carrying her around like the little baby that she is!

Why we foster: part 1 of 2

Our decision to start fostering was not rooted in one single reason, although I could most cleanly trace it back to this: I have always wanted to foster dogs. It’s an intangible and squishy reason, which makes it an utterly unsatisfying answer. So last week after our very first foster, Lollie Wonderdog / Lily Fireworks, moved into her new forever home, I thought it was time to search for better answers. I came up with a few. The first two are below. The next few to come.

Chick is a good mentor.

Our resident wonderdog, Chick, really is a model dog. He has impeccable manners, never says a peep, wouldn’t dream of asking for anything, is the best cuddler in the world, and has the most expressive ears and eyes. He has been an excellent tutor in good behavior to his rather uncivilized uncle Tex the black lab, who in his worse days is a slobbery, bouncing, yipping terrorist (though on his good days, thanks to Chick, he is sweet and quiet). I have always had a nagging feeling that it is a waste of Chick’s excellent dogness not to share his talents with other animals who are still learning how to behave. He may not have taught his foster sister Lollie/Lily much, but he did teach her how to pee outside, and that certainly counts for a lot.

teaching tex how to bounce

Pit bulls need all the advantages they can get.

It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a homeless pit bull to get out of a shelter alive. Is that how the old adage goes? I won’t depress you with statistics, but pit bulls really do have a hard time being adopted. They have an unreasonably bad reputation (although fabulous groups like BAD RAP and StubbyDog are working hard to turn this around), and with so many worthy dogs available in shelters, pit bulls are often overlooked. I have often said that people who don’t already adore the bully breed group are just people who haven’t really spent time with any bully types. Put simply, many people just don’t know what these dogs can be like, and can’t picture one in their lives. Fostering is a perfect way to counter this all-too-common lack of imagination. If we, a non-controversial young professional couple, bring a foster pit bull into our home and successfully demonstrate how perfectly a dog like Lollie/Lily can fit in, won’t that open some minds? It’s hard to make any sweeping generalizations, but since we took Lollie/Lily in, handfuls of people have written us to say that their eyes have been opened.

noncontroversial Chick and his somewhat controversial hand-knit sweater

5 things we love about Lollie Wonderdog

I will quickly admit that sometimes the post comes first, and sometimes the photo. I often have my camera on hand to capture the cute, the weird, and the totally normal elements of daily life at Casa Walldeczka, and often the photo and the post come together in unison. Other times, there is a photo that inspires a post all on its own. This is one of those posts.

Lollie Wonderdog (now Lily Fireworks) had been in her new home for almost two weeks now, which means that we have been almost two weeks without her. We still talk about her all the time (really — all the time), and there are a few things in particular we look back upon with special fondness:

1. Her willingness to play dress-up. This is why Lollie/Lily was a perfect match for a family with kids. I swear, this dog will let you do anything to her. Cover her in blankets, make her wear a necklace, a boa, a hat, whatever. And she looks great in everything. 

2. Her soulful brown eyes. Not much needs to be said here. Her deep, caramel-colored eyes are mesmerizing. 

3. Her unshakable steadiness. Nothing can make this girl jump. Pull her tail, her ears, poke her, she doesn’t care. But in reality, don’t do any of those things. It’s not nice. 

4. Her “pet-me” headstands. I can’t describe it any better than the photos and video. 

5. Her heart-shaped booty. This is the one. The inspiration for the list. We just can’t get enough of her cute little butt! 

Lily’s sending off party

The night before Lollie Wonderdog left our foster care and became Lily Fireworks in her forever home, we had a little goodbye celebration for her. All her favorite people came, bearing gifts, treats, and hugs. From her foster mom and dad she got an indulgent helping of treats and an extra-long walk.

From her aunt Kelly she got a fun bone-shaped stuffie to rip apart, and a very cute new sweater:

From her uncle Dave/Santa, she got a fabulous new pink feather boa . . .

and a visor with her new name on it (also doubles as a neck kerchief)

Everybody except the dogs toasted to Lily F’s progress, journey, and beautiful new life with a nice craft beer (the dogs toasted with their regular old bowl of water). It was a lovely send-off for a spectacular wonderdog.

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