Thursday, July 26, 2012

Black Dahlia

As animal lovers, we support the Kansas Humane Society.  Because we donate, I get e-mails.  When I'm bored, I actually look at the e-mails I get - even from the Humane Society.

Looking at e-mails from the Humane Society, especially when it involves glancing through the pictures of the dogs and cats available for adoption, is dangerous.  Just ask Greg.

Can you guess, yet, where I'm leading?  Yup.  Exactly.  So I got a Kansas Humane Society e-mail last week and I opened said e-mail.  I looked at the photos of available dogs.  And I saw 2 German shepherds, which is rare.  (One acquaintance swears the local humane society puts most German shepherds and similar breeds down before offering them for adoption.  My guess is that their pre-adoption screening process does not favor untrained, large, working dogs.)  Not having totally lost my senses yet, I forwarded the profiles on to Greg, since he is the rational, hard-nosed one of this particular pair.

But even hard-nosed, rational people have weak spots.  On Saturday we happened to be driving on K-96, coming up to the Hillside exit where the Humane Society has its headquarters.  I'd already put the available German shepherds out of my mind, but Greg suggested that we stop in and sponsor one or both of them.  Of course I agreed.  He warned me, though, that we were NOT to come home with one of them.  Of course I agreed.

We walked through to see if the dogs were still there.  The older one, a male, had been adopted out, but the younger one, a black female was still there.  She was heartworm positive and seemed very depressed, just curled up in a corner and not responding to the people who walked by.  This, in dog personalities, can be a real danger sign, so I decided that we needed to meet her before sponsoring her.  Apparently several people had visited with her, but the heartworm issue caused them to shy away from adopting her.

The dog's history included abuse and neglect, a fear of men, plus 5 homes already.  She was noted to jump 6' fences and dig if left outside alone.  The Humane Society guesstimated her age as 2 years old.  When we met her, she was reserved and shy, a little skittish, but not at all aggressive.  Despite the note about her fearing men, she seemed fine with Greg.  She lay down on the floor near me and alertly watched people going by in the hall outside the window.  Occasionally she'd get up and come over for a pet.  The only "aggression" we saw was when she was still in her private room - if another dog walked by, she would come to the window and bark with her tail up - but with no hackles and the tail lightly waving.  She'd been at the shelter for over 2 weeks.

Well, I'll spare you the rest of the details, but the upshot of the story is exactly what you expected it to be:  we now have a new-to-us, young female German shepherd.  She came with the name Dahlia, which apparently was her name from her prior owner.  Black Dahlia.  A prior owner with a sense of history or literature or something.

The plan is to socialize Dahlia with Becker and Blue, to begin (or continue) basic obedience training, to get her heartworms cleared up, and then to take her down to our daughter who has been interested in getting a dog for years but only now has the time and stability to offer one a good home.  (Yes, we made the decision to adopt Dahlia only AFTER consulting with Jessica!) 

We've had Dahlia for 4 days now.  She's opening up and getting more comfortable.  She's a "shy" dog, but I've not seen signs of "sharpness," which is a dangerous character flaw, especially in a big dog.  (It was to assess for sharpness that I wanted to meet her originally.)  She's housebroken and crate trained and she does well with cats.  Anger makes her cower, but there's no sign of submissive peeing.  She'd never gone up or down stairs; it only took her one time, each way, to learn the process.  Now she goes up and down with no reservation at all.  She learned to drink from the toilet in less than a day.  (Yeah, disgusting as that is, it's my shepherds' favorite water bowl, despite the big, fresh bowl of water sitting between their food bowls.)   I let Dahlia off the leash in the house after 24 hours and she's proven her houseworthiness so far.  The crate-training was a pleasant surprise - we thought we'd have to do that ourselves.

I walk the dogs every morning and even risked letting Dahlia off the leash for a while yesterday.  The dog with her in the photo is Blue, the younger of my two Shepherds.  She loved it, stretching our for full bursts of speed, then circling around and checking right back in.  She and Blue even started playing a bit.  Her only problem was learning to keep her mouth shut as she ran through the tall grass - she kept getting seedheads in her throat and having to stop and gag to get them out.  I only put Dahlia back on the leash when I saw Blue start to look longingly at the neighbor's pond - that's a habit I'd just as soon she not learn from her adopted brothers!

Food is the biggest issue so far.  It took her over a day to even take a bite.  We tried dry kibble (to which our dogs have free access), canned dog food, tuna fish (from sandwiches we were eating), 3 different types of dog treats that Blue and Becker both love....  Nothing.  No interest.  She did eat a pat of butter (with a pill hidden inside) and a dollop of sour cream (with a pill hidden inside), but we could hardly feed her nothing but butter and sour cream.  The next day, the vet got her to eat a bit of recovery Science Diet, so we took a couple cans of that home.  Now she's eating some canned food, even with a bit of kibble mixed in, but she still eats warily and minimally.  Any noise or movement causes her to abandon her food.  On the plus side, I caught her eating a few bites of plain kibble last night.  Hopefully as her life normalizes, her eating will too.

So we're progressing.  As I type, all 3 dogs are stretched out on the floor near me, dozing.  Next on the agenda is our morning walk, so I'd better sign off and get to it before the day heats up unbearably.  Despite their relaxed demeanor, I'm sure the dogs are ready to go!


Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

She is a beauty!! We have a shepherd mix --black now with a bit of white around his muzzle and toes. Newton is supposed to be part Australian Shepherd...hence the name Newton. I would have a hard time letting Dahlia go after working with her so much. She seems to be very comfortable with your crew!
We did have three dogs...oldest one died in May at the age of 18+. Two is plenty...though I do miss the old gal. I think I have your email address...will send you a pic of all three.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Ok, no email address-- here are a couple links to my blog where the dogs are featured.

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Wow. You really do have a way with German Sheperds. She's beautiful. I'll bet it does your heart good to see her warming up to everyone. She sounds smart and takes to direction. May she start eating well and make a great companion for your daughter!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Wow, Janet, Monroe lived to be 18? That's amazing - she doesn't look like a small dog! Newton reminds me so much of Dahlia. If we weren't so dry and all the grass brown, the "head shots" of the two would be looking almost identical!

I think I'll feel fine about sharing Dahlia with Jess - I'll be seeing her on a regular basis!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thanks for your good wishes, GonSS! We'll be doing our best!

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Sweet ol' Monroe in her prime was a 50 pound dog. She was a Chow/Shepherd mix (I think Sheltie). She ruled the rooster until the end.

greggo said...

Nice story, I'm an old softie for dogs. My wife Cindy had a shepherd growing up called Chance, she has very good memories of him. It was nice to meet you the other night and I enjoyed Benjamen's presentation.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Greg, It was great to meet you and Benjamin the other night, too. I am so glad that I went! Hopefully we'll all see each other occasionally in the future, too. Garden bloggers, unite!