Friday, September 25, 2009

Photo Phriday: Run Cole, Run

Because Sophia is going to clobber you with that tennis-ball bat thingie in a second.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The End of the Beginnings

Honey and Minnie Pearl, about to make English shepherd history,

On July 29 at 08:09 mountain daylight time, the first dogs walked out of the Yellowstone County Sheriff's evidence perimeter fence for the last time.

Honey and Minnie Pearl were on their way to be spayed at a private vet's office, and from there to home and freedom. See the animal control truck behind them? They were still bound by a chain of custody until they were spayed -- they had to ride to the hospital in this unlikely ambulance.

But they rode home from the vet with their owner, like real live dogs.

Most of the Operation New Beginnings dogs had to wait at least a little while longer, for the spay-neuter clinic. Many waited to be adopted or assigned to foster care. Nineteen waited interminably for the sentencing hearing, and three endless days beyond it, until they were released by the judge, never to return to their abuser. Those had to wait a few weeks more, until they could also be neutered -- a relief to the old bitches, care-worn with the work of producing litter after litter of puppies destined to die of parvo, worms, and hunger, or, if uncommonly lucky, be sold over the internet to anyone with the cash. If desperately unlucky, to survive a spell and remain behind in a canine Lord of the Flies.

Once neutered, each dog became the property of National English Shepherd Rescue, sometimes only for a putative millisecond before transferring to his or her adopter. Others stayed on, waiting for a placement, and significantly so did the volunteers. The best ones kept coming, taking on new dogs as projects as the ones they had already helped were launched into new lives. As the crowded kennel emptied and quieted -- and as NESR authorized the most skilled volunteers to take the dogs exploring outside the hated fence -- the "hard-to-place" dogs became the success stories, progressing with lightning speed, changing more in a month than they had in the previous eight.

We had until September 30 to find a foster or adoptive home for each of 240 dogs -- three pugs, one Labrador, seven big mixed-breeds (six pups, one mother), one ES-Lab mix, eight 3/4 ES-1/4 Lab pups, and 220 English shepherds.

About three-quarters are in forever homes, leaving about sixty fosters. Some are in what may be foster-to-adopt homes. Others are in high-skill foster for extensive rehab and training meant to address their special needs -- whether that need is "I must learn to trust humans" or "I need to find challenging and fulfilling work commensurate with my considerable talents." Some just didn't have a match with a forever home, but did have a foster family available to help. Some will doubtless become "failed fosters" -- beasts meant to be temporary boarders who proceed to set hooks into the hearts of their "interim" families.

Baby, touched down tonight, but still not at her final destination.

It is September 24. At 11:20 EDT tonight, the last Operation New Beginnings dog touched down at an airport in Pennsylvania. The Metra, once home to five barking barns, has been empty for ten days. There are no dogs at the Moore Lane facility. Even the cats and the cockatiels are gone. We beat the deadline by six days.

Baby will be fostering until we figure out some kennel issues that she started to show in the last month. If she needs to, she will come here after one of my three current fosters moves on to a forever home.

After I hit the orange button that reads "PUBLISH POST" I'm going downstairs and indulging in a snort of the highly addictive peat-bog and iodine extract that Douglas introduced me to on July 25 -- the day before we started the joyful labor of evaluating every dog and clearing them for placement.

I hope my friends in Billings are gathering tonight to celebrate an astounding accomplishment, something none of us envisioned ten months ago. (May I suggest this fine establishment -- not just a world-class restaurant, not just the best place to eat in Billings, but indeed, the only good place to eat in Billings. Try the shiitake with homemade pasta and smoked tomatoes.)

A home for every dog. No "this one is too old" or "too scared" or "too many medical problems." We made a promise to the dogs, and to the humans who grew to love them. No euphemasia.

And no rest for the wicked. We've sixty dogs to place, and some of them are ready for forever homes today. Foster humans need help and advice. Adopters ask for guidance. A dog must come back, often for totally unpredictable extraneous reasons, and a place must be found for him. Shit happens, and we are holding the scoop -- not for the next few months, not until my fosters are launched, not until every dog is adopted, but for the rest of these dogs' lives.
And English shepherds live long, interesting lives. There are fifty puppies who were born in custody.

I expect my commitment to the welfare of the ONB dogs to expire some time around 2027. But for tonight, Sláinte!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Photo Phriday: What's Up With These Ears?

Sam had the bad luck to be bought as a young puppy and registered with the United Kennel Club as "Kapsa's Shep."  It appears that she sold a lot of his offspring, or at least, pups with his name listed as sire. He's got a great temperament and is a lovely individual.  He also has a wry jaw and absolutely atrocious teeth, and an extra set of floating ribs.  (Hint: not breeding stock in the sane world.)  He likes to carry a ball at all times, and I wonder if this isn't because it is more comfortable than closing his jaws.  At least one of his sons rescued through Operation New Beginnings seems to have inherited the jaw deformity.

He also has a split in one ear pinna.  Normally I would assume that such a feature was due to trauma, probably fighting.  But it appears we have a mystery

There are two males that we are sure are Sons of Sam.  Here is the left ear of one of them:

The other ear is the same.

The other son is fostering at my house, and has a single split in one pinna, just like Sam's.

And this bitch could well be a Sam daughter:

It was Fancy's perfectly symmetrical split pinnae that first caught my attention, on the day that Sam, Fancy, Bruno and Max (now Barry White) were all neutered.

I am convinced that it is a congenital deformity, though I've never heard of such a thing being a genetic defect in dogs.  The head vet tech working that day is just as convinced that "someone" cut the ears when these dogs were pups, in order to "mark" them.

Anyone have any ideas?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Barking Bus

Barking bus crew. English shepherds inside may vary from those portrayed.
Barking Bus interior -- beats the hell out of United, Delta, US Airways for comfort and service from Billings to Anywhere.
Twenty-four dogs and three humans left Billings, Montana for points east at O' crack-sparrowfart Tuesday morning -- all aboard a delightfully disreputable half-gutted retired school bus.

The dogs were all bound for their adoptive or foster homes.

The humans were bound on a punch-drunk odyssey of rest-stop hand-offs, construction zones, odd smells and two-hour potty breaks. (Done the hard way -- one dog at a time.)

Friday night at 2:30 they got to my house, for a layover featuring a chicken dinner, laundry, hot showers, cold beer and clean sheets for the humans, entertaining walks in the pasture and some running time behind the new foster fence for the canine-Americans.

I met Rick, Jan, Nancy and the fourteen remaining canine passengers at the fire substation on Route 19 so I could pilot the Barking Bus* through the destruction zone that currently dominates the labyrinth lanes of the village -- not to mention our alternate access across the hayfield, courtesy of August's driveway washout.

Professor Chaos, grumbling, stayed up past his bedtime in order to feed this contingent of my White Hoodlum Friends.

Jan and Nancy are NESR personnel; I've known Jan, the founder of NESR, for over a decade, own one of her grandpuppies (though that is inadvertent, and a long story), and we've seen and met one another's dogs. Nancy and I worked together in Montana last month, where my training partner Douglas and I delighted in pushing her middle-school-teacher buttons; she owns a cousin of Moe's who is in love with Rosie's brother Audie.

The English shepherd world remains a small one, even if we are spread out over the continent.

Rick, the volunteer poobah of the soon-to-be vacant Operation New Beginnings Puppy Barn, got to meet some adult English shepherds who have never believed that people will most likely kill them in the morning. (Translation: Moe wouldn't get out of his lap.) And he got a happy reunion with former puppy-barn denizen Cole, my ONB foster #1, who rode shot-puke with me from Montana two weeks ago.

The second of those weeks has been spent preparing for two more fosters. I've made our pole barn dog-tight, installing two runs, a "living room," and an outdoor run for the special-needs dogs who will require plenty of R&R and training in order to become ready for forever homes. In other words, I ran to the hardware store every half hour for six days.

I ended up taking in Max, slave name Mack -- who is going to get an entirely new name soon -- and Dakota the half-Lab. More on them in later posts.

Here are the two dogs that Jan is fostering (the little one) or adopting (the big one):

Marty, the black and tan guy, was known as Fred at ONB, and his slave name is Barney. (Creepy, huh?) He was a "foundation" dog -- one that Linda Kapsa bought from a breeder who had not taken the precaution of a written puppy contract. He is a medium-sized ES male. He is my Rosie's uncle. He is a grandson of Jan's dog Toast. He is going home.

Keeper was a four or five month-old puppy at the seizure in December. He is done growing. He is one of hundreds of exhibits attesting to the importance of perinatal nutrition. No, it isn't inbreeding depression that stunted him. The pups born in custody -- the ones whose dams were fed during late pregnancy and nursing, and who were fed themselves as babies -- are normal-sized English shepherds.
Before breakfast we walked all the dogs while Rick broke down crates and freed up space for humans to stretch out. The dogs were all neutral towards my free-range chickens and nebby turkeys.

Nancy and Stan the Man, leaving kennel stress behind.
We settled my two new fosters into their transitional space, reloaded the dogs bound for points further east, fed the humans, and paid a visit to the world-famous Dale, fattest pullet in the laying flock.

Jan and Nancy can now attest that Dale remains robustly alive and grunting (she tries to cluck), if a bit behind of the rent (that's Dale's excuse for an egg that Jan is holding.)

At 11 in the morning I watched the Barking Bus drive up through my hayfield and away, conveying the rest of the hairy passengers to their new lives.

At last count, there were in the neighborhood of a dozen Operation New Beginnings dogs left to place into foster or adoptive homes -- about 95% are in homes or spoken for.

* Jan's coinage, and it delighted me in the same way the Whomping Willow does. It certainly felt very Hogwartsian, standing in the fog outside the fire house in the small hours to flag down this strange vehicle with its stranger contents.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Situation Wanted: Agility

What about this girl doesn't say "built for speed?"

Pacey is looking for an experienced competitive agility handler who wants to put in some training time and WIN BIG.

Pacey can outrun, out-turn, and outmaneuver all other dogs at the Metra. She is FAST, FAST, FAST.

She knows where her back feet are at all times. Wonderful proprioception.

She is bold on obstacles, including new and normally daunting ones.

Did I mention that she is FAST?

Wait, it gets better. After observing Pacey exercising with other dogs and buzzing the shed-row, I figured that her formal evaluation would be something of a rodeo, with a dog who constantly circled or paced ('cuz, you know, her name, too).

Took the leash, and she just dropped into heel and came along. Not because of the great training her handler has given her (and it has been great) but because Pacey is in total control of her own adrenaline. She can turn it on when she wants it, turn it off when she doesn't.

Wish I could do that. Don't you? How cool would that be?

Photos here

Adoption info here

There is a transport to the Eastern US coming in the second week of September, so interested parties (wherever you are) do not delay. We will also consider an application to foster Pacey, so if you would consider a foster-to-adopt or straight up foster-until-we-find-the-right-home, please, apply to foster. It takes time to process applications and check references.

Adopters should familiarize themselves with the ONB story on the NESR website, so that they know they are getting a basically untrained dog who has not lived with people before -- but has been handled and socialized for the past eight months. She will need time to adjust and plenty of basic training before she can start in the Big Leagues.

Please forward to all haunts frequented by agility folks. This little bitch has too much potential to squander. I can't believe she hasn't been snapped up before now.

And while I'm here ...

NESR still has more Montana dogs available for adoption immediately, and we have a great need for high-skill foster homes who can work with a project dog. Our timeline for getting all the dogs out of the county facilities in Billings is rather short.

If you have any questions about fostering or adopting, don't hesitate to ask.

Pupdate: Pacey got a forever home with an agility competitor in the Midwest about 30 seconds after I posted this to this blog and the English shepherd lists. Hoping to hear of her triumphs in the coming months and years.