31 August, 2007

To spay, or not to spay?

So many things have happened in the last few days! The first was this:

Roxie found a new way to escape the yard, and decided to use it regularly.

How is she escaping? It is a mystery! It started on Wednesday (two days ago), and I have not been able to figure out how to stop her. Luckily, when she escapes she typically meets me at the front door and is happy to come back inside.

But she also goes to visit Haku, her sweetheart. Haku is uncatchable, and, therefore, unneutered.

So, we thought it would be prudent to move up her spay appointment. She went in for her spay this morning, and when I left her at the vet's I thought "Ok, one more step in the right direction, complete!". I actually felt relieved and hopeful. But, that was a big mistake on my part. Because...

The vet was unable to proceed with the spay. Why?

Roxie has tick fever. Tick fever is treatable via antibiotics, but it reduces the dog's ability to form blood clots. So, surgery is not an option - she would bleed to death. It'll be at least a month before she may be able to undergo her surgery (assuming the antibiots work, and nothing else weird comes up).

So. The problem now is this:

We have an unspayable female dog who may be coming into heat right about now, and who is leaving our yard on a nightly basis to hang out with her boyfriend. And we have no way to prevent her from doing so for at least another month.

Hmmm. So, you ask, how soon after giving birth can a dog get pregnant again?

(Oh, and I do use 'dog' for both males and females, because female dogs are NOT bitches).

Pretty much as soon as they're done nursing, it turns out, they can get pregnant. A female dog can produce as many as 4 litters of puppies per year. Roxie started in January with litter 1, waited for June for litter 2, but perhaps could be prepping for litter 3 before she can undergo her spay.

Additionally, as school has started again and we have had less time to spend with all this legion of dogs, it is clear that Roxie is less pleased with her situation at our house. So, her desire to leave is growing, which I guess I can't blame her for.

Mary Ellen, after listening to me whine about this situation, observed that this could be one of those things that is simply out of one's control, and so one has to learn to do what one can, and let go of the rest. I think she's right.

28 August, 2007

One week anniversary

Today is our one week anniversary of being officially small-puppy free. Pan must've settled in to his new home, as I've heard nothing more from his new mom. So he's now situated somewhere across town, and Iorek is in the next neighborhood over from us. So close and yet so far.

Since my last post we've met once more with the behaviorists, and have instructions to work on getting Dash and Dot to feel comfortable coming into the house. We're moving their food dishes each day so that they're closer to coming into the hallway from the puppy room, and we will slowly move the food downstairs into the living room area. Once they're OK with being in the living room, with the people ignoring them, we'll be ready for our first lesson.

Roxie and I have been having our morning walks each day, first thing. She's so good to walk with - she never pulls on the leash, and she's so pleased to be out and about! Plus, also, Haku comes with us most days. He drops back behind us for a while, then comes racing up past us; he disappears when other people or cars show up, and then reappears when it's safe. He seems to really enjoy coming along with us - I think it's because that's his only time with his girlfriend, whom he loves as much as I do.

Roxie has her appointment for her spay a week from Friday, and then we'll have to start in earnest focusing on finding a permanent home for her. She's such a good girl, I think it won't be too hard to find someone who'll love her (especially if we get to put her photo on petfinder, and participate in Petsmart adoption events with Animals' Crusaders, as Rose has said we could). It'll be harder than it was to find homes for the puppies, of course. And it'll be more difficult for me because Roxie and I have gone through so much together, and I had to win her trust. And I know she'll be nervous about going to someone else's house and being their dog (though I also know she'll bond with the right person pretty quickly).

This is all happening as the semester's started, and I've been trying to settle in to some kind of reasonable work schedule. I think that's starting to happen, and this has the makings of a really great semester, if I can concentrate on the right things, and stop worrying so much over the stuff I can't control.

Hah! Wouldn't that be great?

21 August, 2007

Adopted? Or not...

This morning I met with a young woman who had been corresponding with me for days about adopting Pan. She came to visit him, met Roxie as well, and seemed to be perfect. She has a dog of her own (a 3 year old beagle) who needs a pal, and she clearly was enamoured with Pan based on his photos and such.

So we had a nice visit, and at the end of it I handed her my sweet puppy and let her drive away with him. I thought that I could get on with the business of grieving over losing him (so selfish, I know, but inevitable) and go forward to the next step in this whole doggie drama.

But within a few hours she had called me back, clearly panicking, saying that her dog was terrified of Pan, and could she bring him back. She called twice, each time I told her that of course he could come back if she needed, but that it may take any dog some time to get used to having a new friend around, and patience may be all that's needed.

So, I don't know whether I'm going home tonight to an evening of grieving or an reunion followed by more worry about finding a place for Pan soon, so that he can avoid the worst of the doggy separation trauma. I don't even know which I really want it to be. Ugh.

20 August, 2007

Dog Whisperers

There's been a lot going on with the dogs, and I've not kept up on the blogging of all possible details (ack!), so I figured I'd take the last 20 minutes before teaching my first class of Fall term to listen to some iTunes and catch up a bit on the blog. That's better than obsessing about all the things that can go wrong in a mass lecture of 500+ people, right?

When we took Pan and Iorek for their vet visit, we chatted the doc. up about various worries and issues we had with all the different doggies. She recommended a local behaviorist, Vanya Moreno, who runs a business called animal magnetism, and I called her up and scheduled a consultation.

Vanya arrived with a colleague, Ben, who has lots of experience with feral dog issues, and they met all the various dogs/puppies and saw the situation at home. They advised us to not try to integrate the Roxie pack into the Zero/Sally/Gator pack unless we were planning on adopting Roxie for real (I so wish we could!), and they very strongly advised us that if Pan and Iorek weren't adopted out soon we would have to start separating them from each other, and from their mom. They are at the phase of puppy development where this separation stuff can be done most gracefully - if we were to wait, the separation would be much more traumatic for them when it finally came. (Since that day, it looks like we've solved that problem - Iorek's at his new home, and we have a couple lines on new families for Pan. Gasp. Sob.)

With regard to Dash and Dot, they told us that feral dogs tend to get less social with humans over time, rather than moreso, unless a person intervenes fairly dramatically. Whatever we do about them, it's going to be a long and labor-intensive process to get them to the point where we can handle them normally (like, to be able to get them to the vet, and have them not be a hazard to themselves and others should we need to handle them). They won't be adoptable for a long time - if they ever get there, and we might as well just figure that they're our dogs. Which is hard - it's good because we're totally in love with them, but bad because that means we end up with a minimum of 5 dogs, and we really are better as a 3 dog family. So.

We're going to work with these guys on an 8 week regimen, which starts this Friday. It involves giving D&D certain mood-altering chemicals that are often also prescribed for humans, so that they can stay calm while we work with them. It will also involve crate-training them, which is going to be super-hard for me to do. Everyone who knows about dogs says crate-training is great; I've just never done it, and it feels icky to think I'm going to stick D & D in separate boxes from each other. They get so much comfort from having each other around...but that's exactly the problem. As long as they turn to each other for their primary comfort and support, they'll not be able to (a) calm themselves should one or the other have to go away for any length of time, or (b) understand that they can get comfort from humans. Namely, us.

Since that day, Rose from Animals' Crusaders also came by and gave Dash and Dot their booster shots, so they are officially parvo/distemper vaccinated (also, rabies, of course - that doesn't need a 3 week booster). She has such a great way of working with them, which is drug-free, and which I'd like to try to emulate as much as I can. She gets a slip-leash on them, then lets them relax for a bit, then she is able to put on a muzzle, and then comes the lots of petting and scratching and sweet-talking. If I could do that once per day over the next few weeks, I'll bet it'd go a long ways towards getting them to stop being so afraid of me. Rose has no PhD in animal behavior, but she does have 25 years of experience catching and gentling feral dogs. And she has the love for them, which is such a great thing.

OK, that took longer than 20 mins, and I had to break off to go teach class. But I'm glad I took the mental break. The 500+ were well-behaved and attentive, so all is well for now.

But I really wish I were hugging a puppy!

19 August, 2007

Iorek has a new home

Well, it has happened. We found a new home for little Iorek - with a young couple who live not far from here and who've just bought their first home. Chris, the dude, was looking for a yellow lab type dog, and came to see Iorek. We brought Pan down as well, and he immediately (and properly, of course) fell in love with both of them. He tried to talk his wife into letting him bring both puppies home, but to no avail - this made me like him more, though, that he realized that Pan was as lovable, and as much of a treasure as Iorek is.

Chris picked Iorek up and took him home about a half hour ago, saying that he had a buddy who he was going to tell about Pan, and he was hoping that he could get his friend to adopt Pan too. There have been a couple of other people answering our ad in the paper, so hopefully Pan will find his new home soon also.

John and I have very mixed feelings - we're really pleased that Iorek's got a good home with someone nice, and we are glad to have N - 1 dog problems left to resolve. But we're going to miss our little Iorek very much, and never ever forget him.

14 August, 2007

What we've learned about Roxie

Roxie had her wellness check at the vet this morning - she got her vaccinations, and we talked about when to schedule her spay (answer - in three weeks, when her booster shots are due). Here's what we learned:

  • She's 60 pounds, not 40 pounds, as I had guestimated

  • She's likely 2-3 years old, rather than 1.5-2 years, as I had guessed

  • She's immediately, totally, lovable to anyone who meets her

Actually, we already knew that third thing, but it's nice to have it confirmed.

Tomorrow, we shall learn more. I've hired an animal behaviorist to come out and consult with us about how best to manage all these dogs when I have to be back at work full-time, and so can't have the current dog-segregation scheme anymore (it crucially depends on one of us being home if it's too hot or stormy for dogs to be stuck outside w/o adequate shelter). We shall decide whether the thing to do will be to try integrating the current two dog pods into one, or trying to come up with a way for Sally, Zero and Gator to be crate trained or something so that they can be in the house while we're away. Pan and Iorek have gotten much less nippy since John and I have started enforcing rules with them - I'm anxious for the behaviorist to meet everyone and let us know what she thinks are the issues and solutions.

And, this afternoon something really nice happened. Dottie let me pet her. Kinda. I was able to hold her paw, stroke her nose, and put my hand on her back without having her panic and skitter away. I've told her that one day soon I expect to be able to hug her and kiss her head. She's still skeptical of that, but we are one step closer!

09 August, 2007

First Veterinarian Visit

Pan and Iorek had their first real vet visit (we don't count the emergency vet visit when they were 2 days old - we try to put that out of our minds) one day after their 8 weeks birthday. Here are some things that we learned...

  • Iorek weighs in at 15.6 pounds; Pan is 14.4. This implies that they are going to be very very large dogs when they get done growing! For comparison purposes, Zero was 8.8 pounds at that age; Sally was 6.6. They are now 113 pounds and 65 pounds, respectively. BUT Zero and Sally were not well cared for and nourished during those first 8 weeks of life, as we only discovered them at 7 weeks. So they almost certainly would've been bigger earlier if their first months had been different.

  • Frontline, the tick control medicine we planned to give them anyway (ticks are endemic to our area, and you just have to treat your dogs for them) has also recently been certified as a treatment for sarcoptic mange. Which they show no clinical signs of, but which they have been exposed to. So, yay! Preventing the mange is easy as can be!

  • Our vet encouraged us to work on asserting dominance with them, as both are going to be so big, and both showed signs that they may want to assert their dominance over us. Problem is, it's very cute when they do it now. Dang it.

  • Although I had read that neuter surgeries can happen as young as 8 weeks, our vet recommends not doing that until 4-6 months of age. She suspects that very early spay/neuter may be associated with urinary problems later in life.

  • Little Pan's boy bits have both descended beautifully, but Iorek has one descended and one undescended item. This could complicate a neuter surgery, if the other item doesn't drop to where it ought to be. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, you don't probably want to know.

This was also their first time on leashes, first time riding in the car, etc. They did great and got their little vaccinations and are all set. We left one of our 'adoptable dogs' fliers at the vet's office to post, and she said she'd recommend us to clients who are good dog parents and who might want to adopt a dog, but not to any of the scary clients who are not. She's a great vet...(Dr. Sherry Johns, Sonora Animal Hospital).

Another set of milestones in the puppification process, complete. Check!

07 August, 2007

Evil Adoption Scams

I posted classified ads about Roxie and the pups at Petfinder.com, recently, even though they've made it so that normal humans (non-shelter groups) can only post in this sad little area under 'classified ads' > 'adoptable pets (not in shelters)', where you can't post photos, and your ad is not findable using the main search tool. I knew it was a long shot that this'd work, and I collected info on how to screen out evil people who want to adopt your pet for nefarious purposes, just in case I got any nibbles from the ads.

What I've learned is that it's not at all hard to tell when you're getting an inquiry from a certain kind of evildoer - because I started getting occasional emails that read like this:

"Hello seller. How are you today,my name is CLIENTON JOHNSON. I browse across your dog which i am interested in buying your dog and i will like to know the asking price and the condition of it. So I would like to hear from you if you still have it for sale with your final asking price Thanks. Best Regards."

All come from free e-mail accounts, all contain lots of spelling/grammatical errors (esp. weird capitalization), and all give off this CREEPY vibe of 'I am a robo-adoptron and I want to purchase your pet'. Some of them don't even refer to the 'pet' as a dog or cat or whatever - they just use the generic word 'pet', and ask for things like 'the dimensions of your pet'. UGH!

I've logged one or two of them into scambusters.com, but haven't found anyone else reporting this particular kind of scam. I don't know what these people would do if I actually responded to their emails - but I am certain it'd be nothing good.

Evil by email, baby.

06 August, 2007


Monday afternoon, I come home from work, and head out to visit the pups and make sure everyone's OK. Of course our dogs (Zero, Sally and Gator) are here, and muddily frolicking away. In the back, I find Roxie, Dash, Pan and Iorek - but can't find Dot. I scan the perimeter, and see two areas where it looks like someone has dug under our fence back there. Ack. I call Dottie, and nobody answers. Weirdly, the areas of digging are under the fence that separates our back yard from our neighbor Bill's. So, if someone dug under, they should still be in (ack ack) Bill's yard. Perhaps playing with his dog, Little Girl.

After a few minutes of panic, I see a little black nose emerge from the doggie door. Dottie's in the puppy room! All dogs are accounted for, and I immediately feel relieved. I start piling rocks in the areas where there was digging, but I think to myself 'now I know - she's decided to stay'.

Then, John comes home from work, and I take him out to show him the areas of digging, and tell him the (I think) happy story. But Bill comes over to the fence and says 'your dog was in my yard, you know'. Dang. It turns out that the dog Bill saw in his yard wasn't Dottie - it was ROXIE. And when he caught her in there, she ran home by climbing up and over the chain link fence, like a cat. It was at that time that I noticed that Roxie's nose was all scratched up - don't know how that happened. I suspect that she entered Bill's yard by digging under the fence, but decided that digging back would take too long once she'd been discovered.

Bill has a little granddaughter who spends time at his house, and he was (rightfully) concerned that some strange dog was back there, without his knowledge, when she might have gone out to play. We apologized, and chatted about how we might prevent her from doing that - we're really lucky that our neighbors here are nice and understanding people. We assured him that we didn't intend to let any of our dogs into his yard, and we'd work to make sure it didn't happen again - he was very graceful about it.

But, we also agreed that it's going to be really hard to figure out how to prevent Roxie from climbing the fence if she's determined to do it. Hopefully, getting chased home was traumatic enough that it's convinced her not to go back over there. If not, we may have to take drastic measures to secure the yard. Ugh.

But for now, everyone seems to be back where they belong. I sure do wish we were having more luck placing these dogs - we really aren't equipped to take care of this many dogs for this long...

02 August, 2007

A Good Morning [def]:

I have developed as of today a new definition for what counts as a good morning. It's one where the following conditions hold true:

  1. There are the same number of dogs in your yard when you wake up as there were when you went to sleep.

  2. There exists no dog in any kind of trap or crate at the end of your carport, or anywhere else.

  3. You do not have to try to catch or trap any dog or vet any dog who is terrified of being handled.

  4. Your sweetie is just as invested in this whole dog rescue thing as you, to the extent that he gets up extra early to do dog feedings and wellness checks in spite of that he's got an actual work schedule to deal with.

  5. You have an excuse to share lots of dog-related photos and anecdotes with your friends, who tolerate your dog obsession as though it's not at all pathological, and as if they're not completely bored of dog stories.

By this standard, this was an excellent morning! Thanks Itchy, Colleen, Diane, Mike, Mary Ellen, Patep, Alina, Marian, Adam, Shannon, Jennifer, Jian, and everyone else who's listened so patiently and been so supportive over these weeks! xoxoxo

01 August, 2007

Amazing Coincidences

Dash came home from the vet this morning, and Dottie stayed in the yard last night. We're really hoping they decide to stay for good rather than finding ways to escape from the yard, and we're happy and relieved that they both seem to be doing well. They'll accept treats from our hands, and while Dash is still stand-offish, he and Dot both seem to want to approach us and, maybe someday, play or be petted. At the moment, Roxie, Dash, Dot, Pan and Iorek are all outside playing together - very sweet. Zero, Sally and Gator are in the house with me, being hyper-alert to all sounds from the outside. This is stressful for Z, S & G - but they're handling it well.

But the coolest thing happened when we went to pick up Dash this morning. We were talking with Rose, who turns out to be the president of Animals' Crusaders, as well as a vet tech for Santa Cruz Vet Clinic, as we were trying to get Dash to go into his crate for his ride home. I mentioned that Dash and Dot's dad, Haku, was still hanging around our place, and did my usual 'Haku is the most amazing dog' speech. Rose then related a story about a dog who she's in love with, and has been trying to catch for years, but who has defeated all her efforts to trap him. 'In 20 years of trapping dogs, he's the only one I haven't been able to get', she said. I said that we were hesitant to try to catch Haku because of his size, and the fact that he trusts us and is doing so well on his own, and then I said something like 'Dash has his pappa's paws'. Rose looked at Dash's feet, and asked 'are you talking about a big lanky red dog, with one ear up and one ear floppy?' - it turns out that her uncatchable dream dog is, in fact, Haku - and she lives down the road and around the corner from us. Both of us have apparently been telling him for years that he could come in at any time, and he'd have a great home - and he's spurned us both.

Rose has known Haku for longer than we have (she calls him 'Old Pup'), and she actually knew a lady who was feeding him when he was a puppy. So we now know his age (about 7 years) and his provinence...he was abandoned when he was little by some people in a trailer park nearby who moved away and left him behind. She showed me a new trap she'd bought - it's HUGE - just to see if she could catch him and get him neutered and vaccinated. She again volunteered to come to our house to give the pups (D&D as well as P&I), and Roxie, their anti-mange shots in two weeks - and after thanking her for that, I said she could bring the trap if she wanted and we could try to catch him together. She'd bring him in for his neuter and shots, and release him back to where he is - hopefully to stay at our house or hers of his own volition for another 7 years.

Amazing. She's also volunteered to let us post pictures & bios of our adoptable dogs on the Animals' Crusaders website, which is connected to the proper petfinder.com search engine and allows the posting of photos. Then she said 'Animals' Crusaders is going to pick up part of your bill', and we ended up paying only 1/2 of what we really owed. So, I will be contributing regularly to AC for the foreseeable future. And we now have a Haku/Old Pup fan club.