Tuesday, November 29, 2011

horny teenagers!

Dan obviously thinks Elliot is tres sexy. While we wait for that famous testosterone to drop (he was just neutered last week), Danny's getting a few lessons in dog etiquette from the dogs.

First, with Elliot who's just way-too-kind about horny humping.
Next, with Jondi who will not be so kind.
And finally, if he doesn't get it, with Birdy who we're quite sure will be very scary and make a lasting do-not-hump impression.

All these life's lessons will come in handy with a new dog intolerant girl who's on her way to our program in two or so weeks.

Using dogs to teach others dogs so they can teach the dogs, and then hopefully teach other dogs. They do great work and they only charge kibble, so how can you lose?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dan the Dog

New kid Dan the Dog with that classic "WHA? Where am I?" stunned face look that comes from waking up in a strange new place.

Dan came from a connection made with Pasadena Humane at the recent SAWA conference (yay for conferences!). He'd run out of time, so they jumped at the chance to save a life. Within two days of us finding out about Dan, they put his butt on a plane and he landed in his new hometown of Oakland. We love a shelter that doesn't hesitate to help their dogs. Thanks to Lorna Campbell, Ricky Whitman and the rest of you big hearts at PHS.

Friday, November 25, 2011

the carnage

apparently Birdy ain't feelin' so bad, as evidenced by the carnage left from the thanksgiving gift brought by Aunt Catherine.

who me? ... messy?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

We're thankful for

butt scratches

and more butt scratches.

We also feel pretty lucky to have kongs, lots of toys and treats, soft blankets, the flirt pole, a big yard to run around with our friends, and a safe, warm place that we call home until our real home is ready for us. But mostly, thanks to BADRAP (Donna and Tim) for making sure we had that one last chance.

Love and happy holiday from all of the barn residents, past and present.

(That's Mei (barn crew trainee) giving Miss Birdy a final good night and oh-so-good scratches.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

playing patty cake with Patsy Pup

Patsy's hanging with Ana Poe and the gang at Paco Collars right now so she can get some more life experience. That's shop dog and collar mascot Xdog she's playing with. They've been having such a sweet little friendship that we hear-tell the Paco Collar gang was tres disappointed when a good application for Patsy surfaced this week. Have lots of fun while you can, girls!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the big C

As if those hard, swollen lymph nodes weren't enough of a give away, test results indicate that Miss Birdy does indeed have lymphoma. She doesn't know what that means since, after all, Life is meant to be lived in the now. Now is lovely. Now is the best-ever.

She'll likely have many happy months ahead of her, so our job is to search out the best patch of sun for her with a human who is okay with making difficult end-care decisions. Some call this work 'fospice care,' which we like very much.

Here's what her fospice bio might look like: "Miss Birdy adores all people and life in general. She's ridiculously cheerful and over-the-moon grateful to have your company. She has more spunk than you'd think an older, sick dog should have. She is housetrained (a hint of a former life indoors?). She is polite around dogs but doesn't necessarily have the mind to play with them. Elliot is cautious around her - maybe he just knows that she's not well. She was starved beyond recognition this year and it's likely she ate anything she could get her mouth on - bugs? pigeons? icky things off the cement that no dog should ever eat. For that reason, she needs to be reminded not to graze the ground anymore when out on walks. Her prey drive for cats is rather impressive for an old sick gal.

She's going to live really, really well, and then she's going to pass on and make us all wish we had more time. But that's the joy of doing fospice care -- it slams you face first into the realization that life is short and incredibly precious. Birdy is a gift to all of us. We look forward to seeing her belong to somebody and for somebody to belong to her."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

hello, nice to know you

to all the people who watch and who care...

thank you for for donating the soft fuzzy places to lay my pointy bones,
for helping the Nice People build the barn where I'm safe,
for the comfort of Frida's once-favorite rain jacket,
to the nice lady who stopped her car when I was lost and nearly dead in Oakland,
to the volunteer people who are my new family,
for the warm thoughts that come from people I don't know,
for the bully sticks that let me chew and chew and chew until I fall asleep,
never hungry again.

and for my new name.

I'm not 'Skinny Girl' anymore. I'm Miss Birdy and it's so nice to meet you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tired Pups

and happy pups

We're all familiar with the old adage, "A tired dog is a happy dog." This is what we strive for every shift and everyday with the barn residents. And when it's achieved, the dogs aren't the only ones who are tired and happy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

autumn rains bring fresh greens

Even though we're a little saddened by the cooler temperatures and encroaching darkness, the cooler and wetter months bring out young, tender blades of various grasses. Turns the otherwise brown hills to a beautiful bright green color, and provides something for the pups to nibble on when outside.

Patsy enjoying some freshly picked doggie salad greens. Ah, this is the life, balancing out the diet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

cool, short days

It's great that we were able to enjoy an extra hour last Sunday, but that also now means it's getting dark much earlier. And the past few days have reminded us those summer days are gone for a while. Oh what to do when the sun has set and the temperature outside isn't all that inviting. Naturally, nose work inside! Anytime is the right time for nose work. I've yet to meet a dog who preferred to do something else when set in front of some boxes with an enticing odor emanating from them.

Here are some of the barn girls demonstrating that given a little bit of open space and scattered boxes, we've got our evening well-planned.

Jondi, showing that flaps can't fool her.

Patsy, such a pro at nose work at such a young age.

And even our new skinny girl, taking to nose work as if she'd been enjoying this activity for years.

Dark and cold outside? Who cares! We've got nose work to do. Keep the lights on and the treats handy.

getting acquainted

I had the opportunity on my shift this evening to meet for the very first time our newest barn resident, the girl-who-has-yet-to-be-named. Oh, we've got plenty of ideas. But being this is such an important responsibility, the barn crew members wanted to get to know our new girl a bit so we could select a title that is fitting. For she's about as friendly a dog as you could meet. All wags and smiles and leans.

Here's our girl saying "Hello" from inside her kennel, sizing me up a little first, but still doing so while her tail wags away.

Eventually (within a few seconds), her curiosity got the better of her, and she came over for a closer look (well, probably smell), and to let me know she loves company.

She's quite content to take a leisurely stroll, or sit, or just hang around while you do any variety of chores around the barn. This girl definitely needs a name as lovely as her personality. We're still entertaining ideas from others.

this is Lucy

She came from a terrible, terrible cruelty case and lived in the barn with us for a few weeks. You didn't hear much about her because we had to put her to sleep. Beautiful, hopeful, Lucy. The neglect that she suffered affected her behavior in a way that we were unable to fix, and rather than see her live out her life in a lonely, dusty sanctuary pen, we set her free.

I won't pick at the scab of what was "wrong" with her here. Not necessary. What was right with her was that several people loved her and still hold her in their hearts. In my mind, she boomeranged right back to the planet and jumped straight into the body of a newly conceived pup so we humans could have another shot at getting it right. Are we getting it right yet? Yeah - we have some work to do.

Looking at this photo of Lucy aches. Most every shelter worker and rescuer we work with has a long list of the same ache. They come along with the 'job' of helping damaged animals - an occupational hazard of the heart. How much they (we) talk about it publicly depends on how willing they (we) are to face the understandable hurt and anger from their volunteers and public. We were lucky - in Lucy's case, the entire crew of dog handlers understood and silently nodded in agreement when we announced that it was time for her to go.

That will be the way it is at the barn. We'll take in some of the most neglected dogs in the country, and most of the time, they'll walk away with new lives. But sometimes, they're only here to find some love and friendship before they leave the planet.

Rest in peace, beautiful Lucy. Your home will always be here in the heart of the barn.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Brrr......cold nights come to the barn!

The redheads with their pretty short-haired fur have noticed the recent drop in temperature here in northern California.

In fact, a couple of evenings ago, the air in the barn was noticeably chilly. So we introduced the girls to warm woolies and each got to wear a lovely sweater for the night. Here they are modelling their new nightwear - da daaah!!

First Patsy.

Patsy looks snug in her Tasmanian Devil sweater as she beds down for the night.

Here's Star looking quite sporty in her forest green sweater. That blur in the back?

That's Star's tail wagging like crazy as she supervises while Lettie turns on a space heater to take the chill off the night air.

And Jondi? That's no pose. She's already half asleep on the couch in her navy blue sweater. How pretty!

Yup, it's sweater season and these three amiga's are all set for cold winter nights.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

She Grins!

My nine year old, red brindle, slightly chubby pit bull girl is a grinner. It is the ultimate statement of joy when she pulls her lips back to show her teeth in a beauty pageant grin. I treasure Lulu's grins and I have been trying to get a good picture of Lulu's grin for the whole eight years she has lived with me. This is one of the best shots. Grinning requires a lot of wiggling and dancing.
This weekend the senior, red, starved girl who has not told us her name yet is staying with me. She grins too. She is in my guest room so she can have peace and quiet to rest and regain her strength away from prying dog eyes and teasing cats. Every time I open the door to visit her I am greeted with a wide grin that makes her whole body wiggle and dance.
Her specialty is the one sided grin. She flashes a half smile for every little joy she experiences, whether its sniffing the morning air, settling down on a clean blanket, or licking her dinner bowl clean.
This is one brave and strong girl. She has no muscles and yet somehow she proudly trots around the back yard when its her time outside. She can't get enough affection and melts for belly rubs and massages. She deserves to spend the rest of her life warm and loved, with a full belly, grinning for someone who treasures her as I treasure my grinning girl.
She has really earned her happy ending.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Drills for skills aka brain training

Drills, drills, drills - athletes do 'em, soldier's do 'em, emergency teams do 'em, kids in school learning math do 'em too. And as a freshman barn-crew dog-handler, I've learned that yes, barn dogs need to do 'em too.

It's fun working with the pooches on new skills, watching them learn how to do nose work, touch, shaping, flirt pole work, walking a treadmill - the list goes on. But I've learned that unless the barn dogs keep practicing those basics so that they react without a second thought, they get - well rusty, even a bit sloppy. Yes, it's true. So, along with the fun stuff, its time for the barn pooches to get back to regular basics drills.

Exiting a door? Sit-stay, look, down-stay
Entering a door?
Sit-stay, look, down-stay
Want a toy? Sit-stay, look, down-stay
Ready to play?
Sit-stay, look, down-stay
Going for a walk?
Sit-stay, look, down-stay
Ready for dinner? Sit-stay, look, down-stay etc. etc. etc.

Repetition, repetition, repetition.
The drills are brain training so that eventually, no matter what distraction presents itself, the dogs automatically react to commands without even thinking. All part of the work to prepare the pooches for life with a forever family.

Here they are practicing down-stay. First up, the visiting Teddles.

Great form Teddles - your mom's done a great job with you!

And now sweet Jondi.

OK - a bit sloppy there Jondi.
All the way down please.
Try it again.

Ahhh, nice looooong down-stay.
Much better!

And finally, our other resident red-head Star; learns new things in a snap, but loooong down-stays are her Achilles heel.

Stay Star......stay!
Well done.

Staying down IS tough but keep working on it, and you'll find it easier and easier.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

He's two! - A barn team member has a birthday

One of the barn's busiest helpers turned two yesterday. It's Elliot, of course. I found him on petfinder of all things when trying to search out a nordic breed youngster. The search was hard! My application was rejected by two groups until I finally pulled out my BR card. Wow - What an exercise it was in working with rescues. Some can be really snotty! He came from this warm hearted rescue in Idaho and, like a sappy mom, I'm constantly thanking Karen for letting me have him. She'd already received 25 applications for him when I applied.

Elliot's job is to 1) keep me sane 2) remind me what it feels like to have a dog that doesn't attract negative attention and 3) help us socialize the dogs that come through our program. He's done a stunning job on all accounts. I can't explain why he knows how to de-stress dogs. Maybe it's because the sled dogs are closer to their ancestral wolf-y roots, who first developed canine body language? but the cues he offers to scared, sassy and under-socialized dogs are pure genius. Growling dog? Elliot turns his head slightly, yawns and lays down. Stiff body posture? Elliot slowly turns his rump to the worried nose, "Here. Smell me." I really have to peel my jaw off the floor one of these days and get some of his work on video. Here he is working his magic on the worried Nita.

Happy Birthday Elliot, and thanks again kind Universe for sending this dog our way!

The most famous barn helper video of all ..