Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Update on Sophie, the Dog-Loving Dog

This is Sophie.

She came to us as a foster back around July 2007. Here's what I wrote about her then:

Sophia is approximately 1 year old and currently weighs about 15 lbs. She is done growing though she still has some filling out to do (she was skin and bones when she first arrived at our home). She is a very shy little girl and her timidity and uncertainty will quickly tug at your heartstrings. But when she starts to come out of her shell and you see her exhibit her natural playfulness, your heart will swell with pride and joy. We have no idea what her mix of breed is--basenji maybe, chihuahua, terrier, who knows. But from her curly tail to her big doe-like eyes and long sometimes flopping ears, you will find Sophia one of the most endearing dogs you've ever met.

Sophia's History

Sophia and 2 other young dogs were found abandoned in front of an animal hospital in Taiwan, a country where millions of stray dogs are an accepted way of life. All 3 dogs were severely starved and dehydrated. Much of their hair had also fallen off from a skin disease caused by malnourishment and a harsh living environment. Both of Sophia's ears had identical cuts, almost as if somebody had intentionally scarred her. In a country where no animal protection laws exist and where dogs are treated as disposable items and are often the innocent victims of random cruelty, we can only imagine what Sophia and her friends lived through up until then.

The wonderful volunteers of The Animal Rescue Team in Taiwan took these dogs into their care and nursed them back to health.

Sophia's Arrival

It was a long trek from Taiwan to the Bay Area, and when Sophia arrived at our home, in the backyard specifically, on the night of June 27, she remained hidden in her crate for a while. The presence of another puppy, also from Taiwan but very sociable, drew Sophia out to explore her new surroundings. When my much bigger dogs came out to greet them, Sophia showed no fear or shyness towards them. She did, however, hide from me.

Once she finally ventured inside the house, Sophia immediately took up a new hiding place under my desk, a favorite among our shy fosters and Sophia's favorite place to sleep still. She crouched in the corner and stayed there for most of the night.

Every once in a while, she would peek her head out from under to see what was going on from the safety of her new "den."

Sophia Today
Sophia has come a long way since that first night. As the weeks went by, her fear towards me diminished. The playfulness she always had with other dogs was directed at me as well, and all too often I would feel Sophia's little front paws on the back of my leg as she reared up on me in excitement. Sophia does still have the tendency to hide when guests visit, she still hesitates at the door, but her ability to blossom towards me is representative of her ability to blossom towards anyone who simply gives her the chance.

We have had many other dogs come and go during Sophia's stay with us, not to mention our own 2 dogs, and she has gotten along wonderfully with each and every one of them, from an 8-lb puppy to a 70-lb adult dog. Sophia simply LOVES other dogs and will play for hours and hours with them if given the chance. She is a submissive girl yet does not get overly intimidated by rough play, growling, or barking. Whatever wariness and shyness she has towards people does not exist at all with dogs.

Sophia is for the most part a very well-behaved and unassuming dog. She is extremely playful with other dogs but is not hyper. Sophia is crate trained and is in the process of being housetrained. She used to be terrified to walk out the front door and beyond our front yard but will now often follow the lead of our other dogs and has started to enjoy our walks around the neighborhood. Car rides are also something new to her but she lays quietly on the floor. She has probably never really known direct human love and affection and is therefore unsure of herself in the company of people, but she is curious and watchful. Although shy, Sophia isn't really skittish. She is also very tolerant of being handled and lifted even though it must be frightening to her.

Adopting Sophia
Underneath Sophia's shy exterior is a silly little dog with a heart of gold. She needs someone who will take the time to recognize it. Sophia has been extremely undersocialized with people and requires an experienced guardian who will not only have the patience and gentleness to draw her out of her shell initially, but also someone who will continue to expose her to new situations and people. It may take weeks for her to get comfortable with you (longer if you're a man), but it may take years for her to get comfortable with the rest of the world. Sophia needs someone who understands that and who is willing to be flexible in their handling of her.

Because Sophia trusts other dogs so much and tends to follow their lead, her ideal home would have a confident, well-socialized and playful canine brother or sister to act as her mentor.

Sophia is kind of a juxtaposition--the true Sophia is playful and full of life, but her uncertainty with new people supresses that in the beginning and makes her fearful & timid. Once she blossoms though, sunshine and laughter will follow wherever she goes. She is the kind of dog that will become your devoted shadow once she learns to trust you. When I watch her interacting with the other dogs, I see her potential for happiness and joy. All she needs is patience, gentleness, and a lot of socialization.

This is a video of Sophia being Sophia. This is not the dog you will see when you first meet her, but this is the dog she will become if given the chance.

Sophia Digs at the Dog Park


I haven't watched the video of Sophie playing in a long time until now. It makes me smile. Sophie was probably the most dog-loving dog I've ever met. Boomer used to (and once in a while still does) have a tendency to growl at the foster dogs, particularly smaller ones, if they invaded his space. His growl would get louder and louder if the dog didn't get the hint, but they mostly did and would back off. Not Sophie though. She was undaunted and seemed to love Boomer even more when he growled at her. It was especially priceless when Boomer would be laying in a crate and Sophie came over to him. He would growl and growl, and she would just slowly step into the crate and sit down next to him.

You can't tell from the picture, but Boomer is growling at her here. One of Boomer's favorite spots to lay is under the coffee table. It's his den, his space. Here, Sophie has joined him and he is growling at her. She's just loving it.

The one thing I most remember about Sophie is her early morning ritual. Sophie preferred to sleep out in the front room every night, so I didn't make her sleep with the rest of us in the bedroom. Every single morning, around the same time, with Tyler already off to work, Sophie would come into the bedroom as I was still sleeping, jump up on the bed, and squirm, wiggle, and flop on top of me like crazy--exactly like what she did in the video with Phoebe, our pittie. It was a great way to wake up, especially knowing that this was a dog that used to hide from me and every other human.

And sometimes, if I didn't want to get up, she'd park herself on the pillow beside me.

Sophie had actually been adopted out once, against my better judgment, only to be returned a month later. The woman was one of the sweetest people imaginable with her heart in the right place, but after spending several hours visiting each other a few times, I didn't have the impression she was experienced enough to deal with as extreme of a timid dog that Sophie was. Despite my doubts, I allowed myself to be talked into letting the woman have her, thinking, "Well, she's so nice and she wants Sophie so badly, maybe she deserves at least a chance."

When Sophie was later returned to us because she was not overcoming her fearfulness of the woman at all, I decided then and there to place more trust in my instincts, even if there was very little logical reasoning behind it, even if I had to risk offending or upsetting somebody. Because even though Sophie came back to us safely, I realized the biggest risk of giving a dog to a person not suited to them is not that the dog will be returned. There's a mere inconvenience. If a person does not understand a dog properly, the biggest risk is that the dog will be unintentionally harmed in some way, either from lack of experience, lack of knowledge, bad judgment, or simple mishandling.

But the story turned out to be a happy one for Sophie. She was eventually adopted out a knowledgeable young woman with a little canine playmate for Sophie. Although not completely over her shyness, she has completely bonded not only to her human mom but to her human dad as well. (She never got comfortable with Tyler while with us.)

"Sophia is wonderful. She is still silly, wiggly, and happy with bits of nervous thrown it. She's doing better with strangers now, and likes to be in the room instead of hiding out. My nephews come over several times a week and play with her- she adores them! Especially the baby- he's 2 and a half and she kisses him all over when he comes. The older one, Jack, can get her to come when he calls. . . .

. . . . She absolutely loves jason . . .actually prefers him to me when we are just hanging at home! She sleeps by his feet when he's here and likes to sit next to him on the couch. It's crazy. I'm thrilled she's slowly becoming more of a dog! I take her over to Jason's parent's house a few times a week, she loves playing in the back yard and even lets his parents pet her (probably because they tend to be a little more free with the cheese treats!) I agree her best quality is her gentle spirit, she's just happy and loving and it's so wonderful to see her true self coming out more and more."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Introducing Pa Pi, the Oinking Chihuahua

I received an email from a young woman who had rescued Pa Pi from being surrendered to the animal shelter when his elderly owners passed away. Pa Pi was said to be about 10 years old and the young woman worried that because of his age, he might have been deemed to old to adopt out. But she couldn't keep him herself because her bigger dogs didn't like Pa Pi following them around everywhere trying to sniff their butts, so she asked if I could help find him a home.

Usually when I get requests like that, I'm not in a position to do more than put them up on Petfinder and forward the information to other rescues. With foster dogs of my own, unless the timing is just right, I don't have room for more dogs. The timing just happened to be right though for another fosterer. Robin in Sacramento, who had fostered Jasmine and Arlo and a number of other dogs, was between fosters so she kindly offered to take Pa Pi in.

So I met him at the dog park in Pleasant Hill, brought him back home so I could do a quick diapy change for Popeye, and then headed out to Sacramento. I'm generally not crazy about itty bitty dogs and don't bond to them as immediately as I usually do to bigger dogs, but for a chihuahua, Pa Pi is a pretty likable fellow. He's not a yapper, not a nipper, and not high-strung in the least. He's very rotund and makes oinking sounds, so he might be mixed with piglet. Calmly accepting of almost everything, even the vacuum, Pa Pi is a super duper mellow dog.

(Yes, I do like to dress up dogs, but no, I'm not the one who subjected him to the hat fashion show.)


BTW, Robin has a Taiwan dog herself. His name is Logan and while he has the long legs, straight upright ears, spotted tongue, and lean lanky body characteristic of many Formosan Mountain Dogs, he is the most feral, pharoah, stunning looking one I've ever seen so far.

A Soldier's Welcome Home

A soldier being greeted by his dogs after returning home after 14 months in Iraq

Courtesy of:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jasmine the Greyhound, Foster Mother to all Abandoned Animals

I received this story by email this morning:

In 2003, police in Warwickshire, England, opened a garden shed and found a whimpering, cowering dog. It had been locked in the shed and abandoned. It was dirty and malnourished, and had clearly been abused.

In an act of kindness, the police took the dog, which was a Greyhound female, to the nearby Nuneaton Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, run by a man named Geoff Grewcock and known as a willing haven for Animals abandoned, orphaned or otherwise in need.

Geoff and the other sanctuary staff went to work with two aims to restore the dog to full health, and to win her trust. It took several weeks, but eventually both goals were achieved.

They named her Jasmine, and they started to think about finding her an adoptive home.

But Jasmine had other ideas. No-one remembers now how it began, but she started welcoming all Animal arrivals at the sanctuary. It wouldn't matter if it was a puppy, a fox cub, a rabbit or, any other lost or hurting Animal, Jasmine would peer into the box or cage and, where possible, deliver a welcoming lick.

Geoff relates one of the early incidents. "We had two puppies that had been abandoned by a nearby railway line. One was a Lakeland Terrier cross and another was a Jack Russell Doberman cross. They were tiny when they arrived at the centre and Jasmine approached them and grabbed one by the scruff of the neck in her mouth and put him on the settee. Then she fetched the other one and sat down with them, cuddling them."

"But she is like that with all of our animals, even the rabbits. She takes all the stress out of them and it helps them to not only feel close to her but to settle into their new surroundings.

"She has done the same with the fox and badger cubs, she licks the rabbits and guinea pigs and even lets the birds perch on the bridge of her nose."

Jasmine, the timid, abused, deserted waif, became the animal sanctuary's resident surrogate mother, a role for which she might have been born. The list of orphaned and abandoned youngsters she has cared for comprises five fox cubs, four badger cubs, 15 chicks, eight guinea pigs, two stray puppies and 15 rabbits.

And one roe deer fawn. Tiny Bramble, 11 weeks old, was found semi-conscious in a field. Upon arrival at the sanctuary, Jasmine cuddled up to her to keep her warm, and then went into the full foster mum role. Jasmine the greyhound showers Bramble the Roe deer with affection and makes sure nothing is matted.

"They are inseparable," says Geoff "Bramble walks between her legs and they keep kissing each other. They walk together round the sanctuary. It's a real treat to see them."

Jasmine will continue to care for Bramble until she is old enough to be returned to woodland life. When that happens, Jasmine will not be lonely. She will be too busy showering love and affection on the next Orphan or victim of abuse.

From left, Toby, a stray Lakeland dog; Bramble, orphaned Roe deer; Buster, a stray Jack Russell; a dumped rabbit; Sky, an injured barn owl; and Jasmine with a Mothers heart doing best what a caring Mother would do... Such is the order of God's Creation.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Visit with Isissy

I stole this recent picture from Isis' blog. She was what I consider to be our first harder-to-adopt foster dog, and even after 2 years since she was adopted, I am awed that she found the most perfect home in the whole wide world. Our little shy Iris is now Princess Isis.

When I think of Isis and how happy she is now, I always feel hope that the perfect family is out there for every dog no matter how seemingly hard to adopt they are. It's just a matter of giving the dogs time until their new families can find them.

Mr. McGoo

Late last night, I was looking through all old dog videos and came across the only video we have of my first 2 dogs, Jasper & Samson. This was taken back when Tyler had found his old camcorder from college. To the average watcher, it's a pretty boring video, but I think I had only watched it once or twice before, when Jassy & Sammy were still alive or maybe not too long after they passed away.

Last night was the first time I had seen the footage in years, and I was mesmerized by it. Sammy & Jassy died in Dec 2004 and May 2005, respectively, each due to different forms of cancer. Everything I do on behalf of dogs today is borne out of my love for them. They are my inspiration. I made a lot of mistakes with them, just out of plain good-intentioned ignorance, so in a convoluted way, rescuing dogs is in part also my way of making amends.

I've never really had another close encounter with a german shepherd since Jassy & Sammy died. I've never really had the desire to. In my mind, Jasper and Samson have always been My German Shepherds. I've had many other dogs since then of course, but they remain My German Shepherds.

Watching that video last night, it was coincidence that I received a call from Marta at Any Dog Rescue this afternoon about a dog named Mr. McGoo at the Martinez Shelter whose time was up and was scheduled to be euthanized today if not pulled by a rescue before the shelter closed. Problem was, she couldn't get out there in time and was having trouble finding someone who could. Marta and I have never met personally but were both indirectly involved with Gypsy, the elusive stray australian cattle dog mix that was just captured by some caring individuals. So Marta thought of me and of course how could I refuse?

So after taking Popeye to Oakland to have Dr. Burke, a chiropractor with a heart of gold and a gentle touch, work her magic on both of us, stopping at the Danville Vet to pick up some meds for him, then in Pittsburg to pick up some raw meat for the dogs' diets, and coming home only to have deal with a Fedex mishap regarding the delivery of Popeye's newly adjusted cart (more to come on that in later days), I drove out to Martinez to get Mr. McGoo.

While waiting at the front desk, somebody came by with a litter of kittens. I'd never seen kittens that up close before. I'm not really a cat person, and honestly I'd like to keep it that way. I was by no means a dog person before Jassy & Sammy came into my life, but now that I am, I feel overwhelmed enough with the number of dogs I already cannot help. I'd rather not add cats to the mix.

But my, were these kitties cute.

Then out came Mr. McGoo. Did I mention he's a 95-lb german shepherd? Jasper and Samson were each both over 100 lbs and I always considered them my little babies, but it's been a long time since I've mingled with a dog that huge. I think his paws were the size of my fist.

Mr. McGoo turned out to be a silly, good-natured, and very sweet boy. He was deemed aggressive towards other dogs because he got into a scuffle with his kennel mate and therefore was not available for adoption to the public. He pulled me out of the shelter and happily got into my car where he patiently sat for almost an hour while I fought the traffic home.

We spent about an hour in the backyard, where I discovered he's as tennis ball-obsessed as Jasper was. Jasper spent most of his life trying to figure out how to fit that 4th ball into his mouth. Mr. McGoo was satisfied with just 1. He loved to fetch and would bring the ball back, drop it on my lap, sometimes even right in my hand to throw it again. Also like Jasper, he drank a ton of water and liked to drop the tennis ball into the water bowl. Whereby he'd then pick the ball back up and drop it in my lap. Thanks, Mr. McGoo.

He also wasn't afraid of the hose.

I got the impression that Mr. McGoo had a loving family. Unfortunately his microchip was never registered (probably he was purchased from a breeder then, who implanted the chip but the new owners never registered it). His inner ear also had a tattooed identification # which I had never seen on a dog before. I tried to look it up online but had no luck. He was so good-natured, so fun-loving. He rode well in the car that I feel that's something he's used to (my german shepherds did not often ride in the car and always sat very stiffly). He knew how to fetch a ball and bring it back, so he had someone that would repeatedly throw it for him. He also knew "sit" and "down." I cannot help but wonder if there is somebody out there looking for him. He is a beautiful german shepherd and quite well-mannered. Somebody cared for this dog.

Mr. McGoo was only with us for about 2 hours before he was picked up by another rescue volunteer for the next leg of his transport. But during that short time, memories of all the german shepherd-like qualities that I always associated with Jassy & Sammy came back to me. Mr. McGoo was already bonding to me and I could see that he would be the kind of dog that would follow a person from room to room just like my 2 boys always did (even when I would try to tiptoe quietly so as not to wake them from their sleep). Loyal and just very human-oriented. By the time he was picked up, I was already in love with him.