Monday, August 29, 2011

Barn buddies - Jiggs and Star

A silly video of Jiggs and his buddy Star before he left the barn for foster care with Nancy and Erich. Who knew that a starvation survivor (Jiggs) would form such a warm friendship with a fighting operation survivor (Star) and a formerly anti-social redhead (Jondi)? As barn crew handler Anita Joe said, "They really were an odd yet strangely functional crew" and each seemed to lean on the other for comfort and companionship during their transition to normal life. Star and Jondi still have each other, but we couldn't help but think they were looking for Jiggs this morning during their ritual zoomie blast around the yard. What a team.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

comings and goings in the barn

Today was a great day for the barn dogs. Nita left for her new home with a young San Francisco couple. They were all eyes for her baby browns and pouty perfection. Bye-bye Nita! Elliot will miss your morning wrestle sessions and the way you loved using him as an arm chair.

Jiggity Jiggs finally left for a real live foster home, where he gets to practice life with cats and a male mentor named Rube while he waits for someone to fall in love with him. This will be Nancy and Erich's fourth foster dog for BR. Their recent project was Molly the senior-in-crisis, who is no longer in crisis and enjoying a brand new home. You usually know their project dogs because they end up riding to work every day in Erich's sidecar. The real question is: Will Jiggs take to the road like his predecessors Camelia (below) and calendar girl Atomic Betty? Time will tell.

Finally, this not-named-yet bubba head moved into Jigg's empty kennel today. He's a ridiculous boy with a body that seems more mutant than dog ... We'll 'splain why later. Right now, Jondi and Star are enjoying the sights and smells of a freshly neutered boy in their space. Mmmm. Boy stuff!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Training Video: Dog Introductions

Jondi and Atomic Betty helped us demonstrate dog intros recently. Intros are always a little different depending on the dogs that are involved, but a few key points are 1) take your time 2) praise any appropriate behavior 3) keep yourself happy and the dogs will read your confidence 5) keep it short and stay determined to set both dogs up for success and 6) end on a positive so the dogs walk away feeling good about their interaction.

I should spill that just before this intro, Jondi was busted for spitting obscenities at Betty through the fence. She avoids her a lot in this video, in part, because she got a scolding for that. The intro helped us end that bad day on a good note. We sure love us some Jondi.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Morning Time

I have always worked a dinner shift with the barn residents, but this morning I got a glimpse of what goes on when the sun is still rising.

Jondi rushed over to see me wondering what I was doing there so early. "Hey, we haven't even had our breakfast yet."

Jiggs came over to figure out what was going on with this change in the routine. Even little Jiggs casts a pretty long shadow with the sun still sitting pretty low to the east. It was going to be a hot one today.

After Jiggs inspected the barn activity, he went to see if anything was happening up at the house. Practicing his sentry stance here.

And Star, supervising the preparation of breakfast.

Below, Jondi finding a little time away from her friends, just a girl with her jolly ball.

Thanks all for being so obliging by showing the newbie what goes on before the rooster crows. (The rooster in the neighborhood is a rather late riser.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Star's Squirrel

We all think Star's pretty special, but her coolness factor jumped a few notches when she helped save a baby squirrel last week. I don't think she meant to save it, but that's how it sorted out.

No one knew at the time, but a still-nursing squirrel had been saved from one sketchy fate, then released near the trees of our barn yard by a well intentioned but misinformed neighbor on a good samaritan mission. There it was - scrambling around the grass, dehydrated, lost, very much needing her mama, and now dangerously close to a playground for DOGS. Yikes.

As luck would have it, the dogs' peaceful grass grazing ritual turned into mayhem that morning when Star sprang up with the squealing baby in her mouth. We all jumped, but not as high as Star, who started running happy laps around the yard with an unwilling passenger in her mouth, tiny tail streaming, and three very excited dogs at her heels. Flip flops are a great idea until you have to chase down a dog to tell it to let go of something it really wants. But miraculously, she did ... She dropped it!

Well, it took three very loud and dramatic "DROP IT!" shouts, but she finally did spit the babe out like a hot potato back into the grass, then gazed back at me ... "Did I do good?" Hooray Star! And hooray flirt pole practice. Above Right. Nita nibbles on the ever-patient Star.

The squirrel didn't have a mark on her, but she was shock-y and nearly paralyzed with fear. Did I tell you this all happened one hour before our out of town Pit Ed campers were scheduled to arrive for their four day training program? Luckily we have good friends in furry places, and after retrieving the babe and securing her to a warm, dark place away from dogs, a volunteer with a local wildlife rehab center came by and swifted her to triage and rehab care.

At first she refused all food, so her rehabber grouped her with other orphaned squirrels. The family vibe sprang her to life and she started gulping down milk and chattering loudly to anyone who wanted to hear about her misadventures.

Her name? Estrella of course. Named after her surprised savior. We wondered if Star's soft mouth on the babe may have come natural after birthing so many pups of her own in the past. Who knows? Or maybe she's been taking her flirt pole practice more seriously than she let on.

Thank you Star! and thank you Denis Morella and Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Center for TLC'ing the little adventuress back to life.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

a poem for a diva

Barn alum Emma Dilemma went full adoption yesterday with her fabulous humans, Dan and Mary Sue Thomas. She was quite the Drama Diva when we first met and not the easiest placement, but she was downsliding fast at the shelter so she won the spot in the open kennel we had at the barn.

I read Emma this poem, in honor of all the gray hairs she gave us along the way. Her reply: "Yawn. Can I go home now?" Yes Emma, you sure can!

Emma Dilemma, pouty and proud.
Hated the shelter - It was just way too loud.

Didn't like dogs - they all made her cross.
Went to live in the barn where she could be boss.

Didn't like Bouncer, he was big, bold and rude.
She said "Nail trims? Forget it!" with big attitude

The Thomases signed on take her away.
Her first week home, she said "I DO NOT like crates."

They gave her a sofa, but that wasn't right.
So she got the whole bed and finally slept through the night.

When she came back to class she was pouty and sad.
"I DON'T want to be here, foster mother and dad!"

But they all stuck it out and she came really far.
... Now she's heeling and smiling like a CGC star.

Emma Dilemma is home now for keeps.
She gets what she wants, her bed and her peeps.

She rolls on her back and prances and plays.
A sweet pampered Diva, for the rest of her days.

Emma found her happiness with two people who understand and respect her princess ways. ... I guess some dogs just need a little tiara to finally feel grounded. Here's a quick video grabbed a few days after we pulled her from Berkeley Animal Care Services. Oh Emma! We're so glad you found your place in the world.

Friday, August 12, 2011

dinner down stay

Jondi sez: "If I bat my eyelashes and wag ferociously, can I get my dinner faster? -- huh? please. huh?"

Me: "No. 'Cuz now I gotta stare at you some more."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crazy Eyes

Last night at the barn, a failed photo session inadvertently captured a funny "crazy eyes" moment that's rivals former foster-dog Robin's (the poor quality of the photo shows that this is not touched-up).

From the look on Jigg's face (he's on the left, sitting in Charity's lap) he seems to be saying, "Oh no you didn't.!! Star, on the other hand looks like she's saying, "I kissed a boy and I liked it".
Silly dogs!

What do YOU think Jiggs and Star are saying?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Sorry guys ... Just had to unload some stuff into the barn. We're sure your new people will give you plenty of road trips when they finally show up to take you home.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

naugahyde haiku

Naugahyde comfort
Righteous flea market score for
my fine pit bull friend.

You look groovie and
swell. Grandma's favorite chair now
repurposed for Star.

What's a little pee
between friends? I wipe your smooth
surface - Good as new!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Aaaaannnnnd, they're off!

It's Star and Jiggs neck and neck, with Nita bringing up the rear.

Jiggs kicks in his engines and has now taken the lead with Star right on his rear and Nita gaining ground on the pair.

But wait. Star pulls a fast one and takes a hard left turn to pull away from the field, leaving Nita and Jiggs asking themselves, "Which way are we supposed to be running?" Just follow that crazy redhead!

The runners merge again to form a tight cluster. But what happened to Nita? She's been sandwiched between the two other competitors and the only thing visible is her left front leg. They stay in this formation all the way to the finish line.

This one is going to be too close to call folks. And there you have it, another down-to-the-wire finish at the BAD RAP Barn Speedway.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mmmmm... boxes

That's a strange thing to start salivating over. But all of the barn residents now associate the sight of boxes with tasty treats, namely hot dogs. Everyone, including finally Mr Jiggs, has had an opportunity to try out the sport of nose work, and you start out this fun game using boxes to capture and accumulate an intriguing odor the dogs will search for. Canine scent work for novices.

What makes nose work a perfect activity for any dog? So many reasons, but these include: 1) the dogs already possess the skill required to do the sport, i.e. searching using their noses; 2) the dogs initially get to search for something really motivating (yummy tidbits); 3) all you need are boxes, a small open space for a search area, and said tasty tidbits; 4) the dogs are ALWAYS successful. The dogs catch on really quickly to how the game is played and stay motivated because they are generously rewarded with high-value treats. It might be hot dogs, or it could be cheese, sausage pieces, tuna or other fish, or even beef tripe. It just needs to be easily detected by the dogs.

The dogs don't need to have a strong work drive, like our Star, who showed off her nose work skills for Letti, who then posted photos for all of us to admire. Nita shows a great fondness for searching, just takes it at a slower pace. And for timid dogs like Mr Jiggs, it can be a real confidence booster. He was a little hesitant at first about sticking his head into a square object, not certain what might happen once his nose hit bottom. But once he realized there was something mighty tasty for him to discover and to savor, he was all for trying it again.

"Hey, I just found something really yummy and no one is pulling me away from it!"
Looks pretty pleased with himself, doesn't he? And he should be. He was successful at searching for and finding the source of the odor, and even got over his initial reservations about sticking his head into something unfamiliar.

Mr Jiggs might want to demonstrate his expertise at this new sport for some visitors who will be arriving shortly at the barn. We'll have plenty of hot dogs on hand. Whether you've got a low-key dog or a hard-working, non-stop girl who needs constant challenges, or maybe you're working with a dog who's lacking self-confidence, nose work can be a great addition to all of the fun activities you do together.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

cornering the market on cuteness

The other evening Nita wanted to show me what she looked like when she was asleep, since I only ever see her and her friends when they are wide awake and ready to run circles around anything stationary.

Yup, the little girl is as cute asleep as she is awake.

wild oakland

Where is this place?
We get that question a lot when visitors phone on their way up to the barn, many of 'em thinking they must be lost. It's too rural to be Oakland, right? We ride between two worlds up here in the hills: The barn is sandwiched between the sad-lands of East Oakland and the incredible open space of the east bay green belt. Yes, it's still Oakland!

Now that our noisy construction phase is done, the wild things have been peeking in and finally making themselves at home. The barn swallows (left) were here almost immediately - spinning figure eights in and around us while we kick up free food flies for them during doggy doo pick up. We kept the eaves open so they could build their lovely mud nests. The house sparrows have been happy about the new real estate, too. (below)

Because we're situated on a ridge facing open space, we get buzzed nearly every morning by our favorite resident turkey vultures as they take their first flight of the day. We just love these naked faced clowns.

They tip and tilt just over our heads as they feel their way towards the nearest thermal updraft. We always know when the doggy poo pail is getting a little too full because they linger longer in our air space - gawking down at us, inhaling the fragrance when it's time to empty. Mmmm. Stinky smells!

Ravens like this place, too. I think they're entertained by the dogs' rowdy play sessions. An established pair makes regular morning visits here. They jump from tree to tree and seem to comment on everything the dogs are doing, sometimes breaking into that classic gravely raven laughter: "Cr-r-ruck! Cr-r-ruck! Cr-r-ruck!"

Star seems to have a special raven admirer. She's had shiny black flight feathers appear in her path more than once. Pure coincidence probably - but they always end up with her and no other dogs. She carries them around like little trophies until it's time to hold them between her front paws and rake them through her teeth. Maybe she counted ravens as her friends back when she was chained out in the desert yard in her former life.

Early morning brings squabbling turkeys too, who march like little soldiers along the back fence - probably still pissed about being blocked from the yard by this new-ish barrier. This space used to be major turkey stomping grounds until the pit bulls came to town. A raspy rooster two doors down joins them in their sunrise noise making. The ultimate alarm clock. Deer move through too, of course. Even more exciting, the deer were tracked by a twice-spotted mountain lion this past winter, which put a big damper on our evening hikes with the dogs.

The dogs are serenaded by creatures at night, too. Barn owls and great horned owls call from the outskirts, and grey foxes and coyotes take turns howling and yipping just over the hill from the barn.

I thought the howling might cause barking, but the dogs seem just fine with the eerie late night opera. I suppose they hear the songs for what they are; an "all is right with the world" message from their wild cousins. We hope they agree.

Monday, August 1, 2011

visitors are fair game

A friend got a full blast of the happy, hungry, me! me! me! energy today during a morning visit to the barn. We sometimes forget how overwhelming the pit bull love vibe can be. Every visitor is a rock star and the dogs are like preteen groupies - jostling, jumping and pushing to steal a little kiss. Whoa. Time to pull out the treats and show Sara how to get a calm focused 'sit' out of everybody,

Whew. That feels better. Barn Blog followers will want to notice a certain red dog planted comfortably in the middle of this doggy chaos (above). It's Jondi! She's getting so much more relaxed and at home with other dogs.

It looks like Sara is having a giggle about the Lampshade Kid. Really Honky - we're laughing with you, not at you.