April 21st 2010 11:49 am
[ Leave A Comment ]
(I am pleased to serve as a contest judge this year. In honor of this great contest, I have submited this slightly off-topic diary entry)
How one little dog changed my life:
Looking back, some two years after my foster of Spirit, I am not near the same dog-person as then. There were a couple of snarling incidents between Spirit and my Manny that I did not understand, and worse, could not find answers for, from my Rescue friends. Eventually, a Behaviorist was brought in, and I have to admit I did not really understand what he was trying to teach me at the time. Long diary entry short, Spirit did find a great forever home, the perfect ending for him.
But I was left with questions: Why did my normally placid Manny get into ugly snarl fests with Spirit? Were there things I should have done differently? How would I handle that same situation again?
My friends could offer little solid advice. The Behaviorist was $75 an hour for one-on-one consults now that Spirit was gone.. (He did Spirit’s evaluation free for the rescue.) I didn’t expect to find Behavior answers in the typical obedience classes offered at every other pet store. I was frustrated, and reluctant to even foster again fearing a repeat experience. “Foster Failure”, indeed!
Six months later, one of my friends mentioned attending a “Reading Rover” class sponsored by the Richmond SPCA. This recreational class was concerned with reading canine body language, and how it relates to behavior. Remembering my troubles with Spirit, she kept the handout and gave it to me. Funny, the SPCA was having a more formal class starting in just a few weeks! I signed up not long before registration cut-off. At the end of that class, a general announcement was made; everyone attending qualified for the “Green Team”. I wondered what was that all about…
The SPCA Green Team is a group of volunteers working under the guidance of the Behavior and Training staff. Volunteer’s dog-skills range from raw beginners, a few even without a dog at all, to Certified Pet Dog Trainers. It makes little difference to the Green Team family where any one member is on their journey understanding canine behavior. All that matters is a shared love, dedication and interest in dog training. These volunteers generally interact with those dogs at the shelter with behavior issues, with training and support from the Behavior staff as needed. Free formal classed are offered at times.
The SPCA is a busy shelter. Pulling dogs from Richmond, Va., and several surrounding counties, one might easily imagine in this volume of cast-off animals, most every behavior issue know to man and dog turns up at some time. There are fearful dogs, guarders, reactive ones, you name it. What fertile ground to learn dog behavior!
I have been a part of the Green Team for just over a year, often volunteering several days a week there. Serious time, and a good bit of cash too, has been spent on books, and videos from top Behaviorists from around the World. I have performed home visits for some of the AARF dogs and fosters needing training or behavior help. (Nothing too serious yet, THAT is for the real professionals!)
My rescue mission has changed from being focused on dog stands, public awareness, and fostering, to mainly dog training and behavior. I have found my true love! As I drive home from a session my thoughts sometimes turn to the little tripod dog that started me on this journey some two years ago, and the changes he brought to my life.
Thank YOU, Spirit!
October 14th 2008 6:38 am
[ Leave A Comment ]
Dad's closing note:
Recent events have caused me to recall childhood memories of the Moon Flowers out at Grandma’s place in the country. These plants bloom at night, hence the name. Even better, the flowers pop open in just a matter of a minute or so. Summer nights, I would be allowed to stay up late, just after dark, and watch this magic as the flower buds opened right before our eyes. We would sometimes choose buds and “bet” which one would bloom first.
Spirit was my doggy Moon Flower bud.
Of the dogs needing a home when the time was right to take on a temporary dog, Spirit looked like an easy foster. He was a good looking boy! He had a heart wrenching story, and at just forty pounds, was the perfect size for adoption. So, he had three legs... Tripods aren’t so rare these days, one of my friends even had one. Thinking I would have this extra dog for just a month or three, I placed my foster “bet” on this bud, and invited Spirit into my life.
Things began quite well. It only took a matter of days for Spirit to house train. He quickly learned basic obedience and even a few tricks. Spirit was popular at the adoption stand. Everybody visiting wanted to know his story, and many gave him hugs and pets. I was even inspired to create a Shutterfly story book all about him and his life…
Winter turned to spring. Summer came and went. Many other dogs came into the rescue and were adopted out, but all these months went by without us receiving even a single application for my little guy. After time, Spirit like many dogs, became grumpy in the stressful environment of the adoption stand, so we showed him less. At home, he began to have issues, mostly with my male dog Manny. I began to wonder if my chosen bud might be a dud, and never grow to have a home of his own.
How could this be? I had spent quite the effort nurturing this bud! I provided a good environment for him. There were others of his kind here and they were doing fine. I trained Spirit. I fed him. I watered him. I can’t say I fertilized Spirit, more like he fertilized me, or at least the back yard... I couldn’t keep Spirit forever, but I couldn’t let him down either! What was I to do about this needy dog that couldn’t seem to find his forever home?
It was at this stressful point in my foster of Spirit that THE APPLICATION arrived.
Having lived with Spirit for over half a year, I had a good idea of what his forever home should look like: Spirit would not be a good choice for the novice dog owner. He needed that perfect combination of a firm but gentle hand, rare even with experienced dog owners. I know Spirit was occasionally frightened by my own loud and boisterous manners. And Spirit doesn’t like surprises, his great surprise in life being suddenly hit by a car. In general, Spirit is reserved in nature. These characteristics ruled out houses with children bouncing about, and maybe even pouncing of my already damaged dog. Nor would the party crowd be a good home, for many of the same reasons.
Spirit best liked to play with Sadie, my female dog, and I did want him to have a doggy pal to share his life with…
So, the perfect application would begin with: Married couple, no children, female dog…. This application had all that and more! This couple had recently lost their special needs dog, and wanted to reach out to another hard-to-place dog. They even had a female dog, the perfect canine companion for Spirit. In my wildest fantasy application, I’d never have thought to include both Behaviorist, and Works with the Mentally Ill in the job titles section.
They did have a cat; I was worried about that since I didn’t know what Spirit’s reaction to a cat would be.
A meet was set up at my Mom’s house, neutral territory for all involved. I can’t say that started out well... Spirit cowered up on Mom’s porch for much of the first meet, while their dog Binger, determinedly marked off Mom’s yard better than any human surveyor ever did. As this is going on, I am thinking; “Nooooo, Spirit!!! This is the best chance you’ll ever have for a real life. Don’t blow it!” Fortunately the couple was interested enough to arrange several other meets, and during that time, decided that they would like to give Spirit a try in a foster-to-adopt arrangement.
It was time to transplant my little bud.
Instead of potting my little guy up for the move, I ended up washing off the home soil. Can’t deliver a dirty boy! As I drove over, I thought of all the horrible things that could go wrong. (My friends will agree I am a pessimist at heart.) There was the cat. How would Spirit react to this new creature he was expected to share his life with? Would Binger, the existing dog accept Spirit as a pal in her home territory? Would Spirit be so defensive in this new environment that he growl and snap at everyone? Would I even end up bringing him back home with me that night? These thoughts chased each other through my mind as I drove over…
But last night, my little Spirit finally bloomed!
I will always remember watching as Spirit blossomed right in front of my eyes, just like the Moon Flowers of my childhood. He and Binger, were zooming around like old pals not long after our arrival. Tails wagging, it was time to bring the dogs inside Spirit's new home… The cat? Invisible!!! Spirit didn’t even pause to sniff him. I brought in some dog supplies to launch Spirit off to a good start in his new life, and watched a bit more.
Seeing smiles on all the faces except the cat. And cats, being cats don’t smile much anyway. It was time to leave Spirit with his new family. While he was happily exploring his new home, I whispered my good-bys to the couple and quietly closed the front door. I drove home with a tear in my eye, yet a smile in my heart.
Next year, I think I’ll plant some Moon Flowers...
October 4th 2008 4:46 am
[ Leave A Comment ]
the first Saturday in October, 2007, Spirit was found more dead than alive at the Pound. Today, the first Saturday in October 2008. he will be formally adopted.
There must be 20 people that played a major role in saving this one little dog. I am but one of them. To the others; GREAT SAVE, FOLKS!