Monsieur BaRU

Much time and several wonderful foster dogs have passed through our house since my last entry. Here’s the boy who came to our house next:

Monsieur BaRU

Rex6

 

When I met this fella at the shelter, his name was Rex. I was there to see the vet with my foster Teddy and while Teddy waited his turn, I cruised the aisles of kennels. If I set my sights on the next dog, I figured, Teddy would find his perfect home sooner. (I’d had him close to four months at the time – and it worked! Or I like to pretend it did.)

The first thing I saw as I walked those dimly lit aisles was an incredible, half blue eye. I walked to the kennel door, and Mssr. BaRu tip-toed up to me and gave my fingers a little lick through the chain link. So gentle. So tender. I picked up the kennel card and read that he had been a stray caught in a trap placed by Animal Control. Just then, a staff member turned the corner and told me Mssr. BaRu had a really sweet personality but was heart worm “smear positive” and didn’t have long there. (Translation: He would be euthanized if not adopted soon).

Let me take a moment to tell you that the staff at Companion Animal Alliance is among the most compassionate of all the people I know. In fact, the person charged with making the euthanasia decisions has 10 dogs of her own and told me when she makes the dreaded weekly list she vomits. Literally.

It’s for this reason that I cannot stand it when people demonize those who work at so-called kill shelters. (Read this fabulous blog on the topic by my friend Abby Knight who works at the shelter.)

The people putting these animals in the line of fire are not those who have to “pull the trigger” so to speak, but rather those who breed dogs for pets, those who choose to buy a pet from a breeder rather than adopt from a shelter, and those who do not spay and neuter those pets, who can unintentionally get out and multiply.

If you fall into any of the above categories, I don’t mean to be a jerk by telling you that. I’m telling you in the hope that you’ll just make a different choice next time, now that you know. I have a dear old friend and a dear new friend who just adopted their first dogs from a shelter rather than buying from a breeder after reading about my experiences here. I would love to hear from them – and anyone else who has recently done the same – in the comments.

But back to Mssr. BaRu, whom I was not able to take home while Teddy was still our foster. Fast forward a few weeks, Teddy had been shipped to his new Mama in Boston, and I was at the shelter choosing my next foster. I headed to the aisle of long timers to make my choice. I had put Mssr. BaRu out of my mind, as I often do when there’s a dog there I like who doesn’t have much time and I can’t take him. But there he was!

Rex at the Friends of the Animals Dog Adoption House in Baton Rouge

Rex at the Friends of the Animals Dog Adoption House in Baton Rouge

 

I brought Mssr. BaRu home and he was as calm and wonderful as he was beautiful. When I posted his first picture on Facebook, I said, “Look: I found a Border Collie who’s not nuts!”

This is an inside joke for dog people who know that the Border Collie is a working breed. Highly intelligent, focused and intense, if there’s no work to do, a Border Collie will often make his own work. (My friend Laurie was fostering a Border Collie when her iphone went missing. She had turned the house upside down looking for it when she heard a muffled ringing sound and found the phone in her foster dog’s kennel, tucked beneath the dog bed. There wasn’t a scratch on it. The dog had just had a ball stealing, hiding, and now lying atop the phone).

Not long after, I got a private message from Nancy, a Facebook friend I had never met in real life, but who is also a writer and a friend of my cousin’s. Nancy had lost her Belgian Shepherd to cancer a year earlier, was heartbroken, and yet she was really missing having a dog. She was thinking she and her husband Frank might be ready to love again. Could I tell her more about this blue-eyed boy?

Suffice to say, that Mssr. BaRu was the perfect dog for Nancy and her husband. And while his heartworm status concerned her, she later told me that being unable to save her beloved Belgian was so rough that in a weird way adopting a dog with a disease that was curable felt like it would help her heal.

I am truly at a loss for words over the Nancys I have met in this world since I began fostering shelter dogs.

Nancy, who lives in Pittsburgh, wanted to speak with her husband and think about it for a few days. Meanwhile, I asked my Facebook friends if they would be willing to donate to the shelter’s sick and injured animals fund so I could get Mssr. Baru stated on doxycycline, which helps to weaken existing heart worms. I was so grateful to the people who did that, and leftover funds were used to help other dogs at the shelter. And then a very generous Facebook friend who is a friend of my parents’ messaged me saying she would like to pay for the costly immiticide injections that are part of the fast kill heart worm treatment for Rex. I could not believe what was coming together.

A few weeks later, Nancy bought a plane ticket and flew to Baton Rouge to adopt a dog named Rex who Frank would rename Mssr. BaRu (BaRu short for Baton Rouge). I picked up Nancy at the airport with Mssr. BaRu in the car. He sniffed her then wagged, she smiled then patted him. Their first meeting was gentle and sweet, just like both of them. A perfect match, I thought. Then we went to the shelter so Nancy could fill out the paper work and pay the adoption fee. Then we got a glamour shot of Nancy and her new boy:

 

Nancy and Rex 3

 

Nancy spent the night at our house and the next day she picked up her rental car and she and Mssr. BaRu headed home.

Rex&Nancy2 Rex&Nancy

From a heart worm riddled Louisiana stray caught in a trap by Animal Control, to a cherished pet living heart worm free in Pittsburgh in just a few months.

 

Rex at home in Pittsburgh surveying the wildlife out the window of his mom's study.

Rex at home in Pittsburgh surveying the wildlife out the window of his mom’s study.

 

How do you like that?

 

Rex in Pittsburgh looking beautiful and possibly up to something mischievous.

Rex enjoys a bone in Pittsburgh where he lives the good life.

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Diego

I haven’t posted in a while, and apologize for that. I have two very happy stories to tell about my fosters Knightly (now Yogi) and Tiger (now Ty), who are living happily ever after in their forever homes. But before I tell you those stories (and I’ll have to do that another day), I have to tell you about Diego, my friend, John’s foster, and ask you to spread the word. John has a dog of his own, with whom Diego gets along very well, but John and his wife have their adult daughters coming to stay with them soon, each with a dog of her own (and one with a newborn human baby) and John cannot continue to foster Diego much longer. It will break his heart to have to bring Diego back to the shelter.

Here’s John, with Diego’s Story (please share this link on social media):

Diego was brought to our open-intake shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in June, last year. He was about 9 months old, dirty and kind of skinny. He had some scratches and we worried he might have been used as a “bait” dog. He had a great spirit, but he also was a big, mostly black dog that had the look of some pit bull. Things got even worse…he was put on the list to be euthanized.

We thought we found his savior; someone adopted him and he went off to a new life. A couple of months later Animal Control brought him back. It seems his savior had Diego and 40 or so other dogs. They were confiscated and Diego found himself back in the shelter.

I recognized him. I had taken some of his original pictures and I knew how much he wanted a home. I had another foster, but I kept my eye on him. He had gotten huge since we last saw him, then about 70 pounds. He also had developed some fatty tumors and was placed in a kennel where he could not be easily noticed. I went home several nights telling my wife about this poor guy who couldn’t get a break. She saw it was upsetting to me and agreed that we could at least get his tumors removed.

We arranged to have his surgery scheduled. Then we worried about him being at the shelter while he healed and decided we would also foster him, just for a little while, just till his wounds healed. When he came home from a local vet, it didn’t take long before he melted into our lives. You see Diego doesn’t want much. He wants food (and plenty of it), something to chew on, and to be on the couch snuggled up against you. He likes to play in the yard with our other dogs, chasing lizards and birds. But he tires of that quickly and just wants to be inside with you.

Diego went to off-sites adoption events every weekend for the next few months. We despaired of finding him a home until some simple folk from across the river saw him and adopted him. I expected he would have a good life with them. It was not the best situation for which I could have asked, but I thought it was good enough.

A couple of months went by and we had moved through a couple other fosters. Then I was “friended” by his owner. I thought about Diego and was glad that I might get an update on him. Sadly, the update I got was not what I expected. They said they had become worried about him. He was acting aggressive towards some workmen in the yard and they were going to bring him to their kill-shelter if I didn’t come for him. I had a number of suggestions but they weren’t interested. So, I took a drive to their house and found out what the problem was. Diego was being kept on a chain in the yard. It was winter, cold, and wet. There had been a fence, but rather than repair it after some damage, it was removed. I’m sure that Diego was just protecting his family, but like a lot of dogs, he gets snarly when not properly introduced to newcomers.

The man of the house tried to caution me not to walk up to Diego, but he knew me and strained at his chain to jump up and lick my face. I put him on a leash, walked to my car, and we never looked back.

Diego got out of the car, went around to the dog door not waiting for me, and went looking for my wife. He found her in the kitchen and gave her a huge hug (“Mom, I’m home”). It was like he never left. He was still house-trained. With a few reminders, he remembered his basic commands to sit, get in his kennel, etc. We were so excited to have him back, we forgot a few things, such as that he still wasn’t much older than a puppy. We trusted him in the house when we went to work but we probably should have been more cautious since he had been gone a while. We paid for that when we came home from work to find he had eaten our sofa cushions. Live and learn, right?

Minor adjustments were in order. Number one was that he had to spend the day in his kennel when we went to work. Number two, we had to keep more appropriate chew-things around the house. That was an expensive lessen, but it did not diminish how we felt about him. He was a good boy, we loved him, and he still needed a forever home.

It was back to weekends at off-sites, posting pictures, and placing ads. We were still determined to find the right home for him. He did get a little interest, but I couldn’t see letting him go to live in an apartment or house without a yard after what he had been through before.

The Friends of the Animals Dog Adoption House opened and we were optimistic. My wife and I started bringing him every morning. It was a little out of the way, but we wanted him to find a good home and thought this new venue would be the ticket. Day in and day out, Diego went to the house. Other dogs came and went, but not Diego. One day I got a call that someone was coming back to look at Diego a second time. I left work early, got to the house with plenty of time, and perched Diego and myself on the couch and waited. But, she was already there. She was looking at another dog. She didn’t even say hi to Diego. Was he upset? Not Diego, he was lying with me on a couch. What could be wrong with that? I was the one who was devastated. My boy had been passed over…again.

The months have gone by and we’ve gotten used to the fact that Diego is not for everyone. He’s big and meaty. He’s black and white. He’s not pure bred. He’s got heart-worms. He’s protective. But he’ll climb into your lap when you both know there’s no room. Or he’ll sneak into bed and lay with his head on your shoulder while you listen to him breathing softly, in and out. He gets so very excited at mealtimes, like it’s his birthday again and again. And so very hot and tired when he’s been playing in the sun too long.

Diego has to find a forever home and we need everyone’s help. Please repost, copy, and share this as much as you can. If you want to adopt Diego, please email: jnosacka@gmail.com

Thanks!

p.s. Diego is enrolled in a six week obedience class at “Fleur de Lead” dog training in Baton Rouge. He comes with a lifetime of free dog training in Fleur de Lead’s classes for whomever adopts this big, beautiful fella. Also, he is spectacular with little kids and small to medium sized dogs. He also gets along with large dogs, but needs a proper introduction, which John can tell anyone who is interested about.

Diego 01

Sweet Tippy Desperately Needs a Foster

This is Tippy.

Tippy

Tippy

This is Dog Trainer Joe Tullier and a feral pup we named Lil Yeller.

Joe & Lil' Yeller

Joe & Lil’ Yeller

Last Friday, Joe, formerly a Military Working Dog handler in the Marines and currently the owner of Acadiana Canine Training in Prairieville, LA, went up to Companion Animal Alliance to evaluate some dogs and I tagged along.

A couple of these dogs were having a hard time; one of whom was Tippy. Tippy had gotten into a couple of fights in the play yard with two different female dogs. A staff favorite, Tippy is sweet with people and fine with many dogs, but she has been at the shelter for several months and no one has shown any interest in adopting or fostering her. Maybe it’s because she’s a pit? Maybe it’s because she’s a plain, brown dog with plain brown eyes? Who knows.

At any rate, Tippy was on that day’s euthanasia list, but if Joe thought she was salvageable, she would get another chance. Unfortunately, an open-intake animal shelter — where no animal can be turned away — is a place where many dogs unravel after too much time without personal attention. Joe, who in 2007 was selected to be a part of Dog Training School at Lackland Air Force base where he spent 2 ½ years training dogs for the military, thought Tippy could do just fine if her circumstances changed a bit.

But back to that soon.

The other dog having a hard time that day was Lil Yeller, a feral yellow lab mix pup who wouldn’t let anyone near him. Kenneled with another puppy who is quite friendly, Lil’ Yeller was spending all of his time pressed up against a corner of the dog house inside the kennel. And if the vets tried to touch him, he screamed.

I think it’s fair to say Joe and I had a rather good time cornering that puppy and bringing on the love. Joe draped himself over the dog house so Lil Yeller could not get inside  or hide behind it. And when he flushed him out, I touched him with one finger. SHRIEK! Seriously, little puppy? Joe and I looked at each other and I almost laughed. This fella was a Drama Queen. Then we sweet talked him and touched him a little more and a little more until in literally about five minutes, as you can see above, he was quite happy and comfortable in Joe’s arms.

The problem, Joe said, was that his puppy companion was not providing Lil’ Yeller with the kind of security he needed. Lil’ Yeller needed the security of a strong adult role model.

Enter Tippy.

Tippy2

Tippy gave Lil Yeller the once over.

Tippy3

And over.

Tippy4

And over. In fact here she is looking at Joe and thinking, “What the heck are you doing to my puppy?”

Tippy5

Then she gave Joe her blessing.

Long story long, after moving on to several other cases, the decision was made to kennel Tippy with the two puppies. The good news is, with the security that Tippy has given this puppy, Lil’ Yeller has found the courage to approach the kennel gate with a wagging tail when people come to visit.

And while this has been a lovely short term fix, both dogs desperately need a home, and fast. Tippy even more so, because puppies are more adoptable than older dogs. Here is what the shelter staff says about her:

Tippy needs an adopter or foster!!! Right now she is living at the shelter with 2 feral puppies working to help socialize them, so you can see Tippy is generally great with other dogs. She dislikes certain personalities and this causes herto get into fights in the adoption dog yard at CAA. She is a wonderful dog that needs to be out of the shelter environment ASAP in order to help her be the best dog she can be. She is HW negative, 2-3 years old and spayed. Our friends at Acadiana Canine Training will give 3 free behavior sessions to anyone that fosters or adopts Tippy. Please contact Paula at pshaw@caabr.org if you can help.

Please head up to the shelter and  check these two out. Joe will also have Tippy and the puppies at a Friends of the Animals adoption event at Orvis in Perkins Rowe this Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.

Please keep in mind that while Companion Animal Alliance is working towards No-Kill status, currently, it is a Kill Shelter. Animals are euthanized simply for lack of space, which means Tippy and Lil’ Yeller really need your help.

Tippy’s free behavior sessions are valued at $240, so you know that she’s got the makings of a great dog, or Joe wouldn’t have given her his stamp of approval. Plus, even if you’re just fostering her, you’ll get quite an education in those three sessions.

Can you step up and help this sweet girl or Lil’ Yeller?

Hope to see you there.

UPDATE: Tippy found a wonderful forever home, and just in the nick of time! Here she is with her new family, and her great big backyard. “Adopt don’t shop” is literally a matter of life and death for great dogs like Tippy who face euthanasia at shelters across America every day. Please help spread the word and adopt your next dog. He or she is waiting for you.

TippyYard TippyAdopted1

Syrus: Day 3

Another great day with Syrus. Still a total sweetheart. Still quiet in my kennel. Still delighted to see me and mellow when I go. If I could make a template of every future dog I want to foster, I’d make it out of Syrus.

Don't look so pathetic, Syrus.

Don’t look so pathetic, Syrus.

Don't look so pathetic, Syrus.

That’s a little better, Sweetheart.

So I said I was going to include a recipe today for fattening up an emaciated dog, and I really was going to do that, until I read the ingredients. The problem with the ingredients, as I see it, is that the main ingredient is “raw, cheap hamburger meat (for the high fat content).” Many of my friends in the rescue community swear by this recipe to pack on the pounds and nobody has reported a problem with it. But when I asked a vet friend about feeding dogs a raw food diet once (as some friends of mine do), she simply responded: Ca-Ching.
Translation: Raw meat can lead to expensive problems for your dog’s digestive health. Hopefully, we’ll get a lively debate here in the comments section on that, but to play it safe, I decided not to make the famous recipe, nor to print it here. However, if you google “Satin Balls” and it pops up, what can I do?

Slightly bummed about deciding not to pack the pork onto Syrus’s ribs and watch him expand exponentially (ha,ha), I thought I’d run by a large pet chain where I have been known to score high quality, high protein dog food at 75% off a couple of months before it’s “Best Before” date. The last time I was there, I’d found several giant bags of $60 dog food that had already passed that date and asked if I could simply have it for my rescue dog efforts, but the manager said no, she wasn’t allowed to do that. Something to do with SKU #s. It had to be slashed and put in the dumpster.

Aw, I know.

Aw, I know.

Slashed? Seriously? Can’t they just leave it beside the dumpster? Apparently not. Not unless they “forget” to slash it. I asked if they could “forget.” She said she couldn’t, but she couldn’t speak for the other managers. Long story long, I asked her if I could buy the food for $1 a bag. She checked and said she could only sell it to me for 75% off. You know what? There was A LOT of really good dog food whose primary ingredients were salmon and herring, so I bought it. Several trusted sources of mine say that dry dog food is good for a year past the “Best Buy” date, or unless it smells funny. And as my 85 lb Mastiff mix, Crespo, has skin allergies, this is his stash. There’s no way I can afford to drop $60 a bag on my sweetheart, so I’m grateful when I’m able to find this and I kind of hoard it for him. And I have been known to share it with fosters that have Demodex mange, a bad skin condition that requires a really good diet to heal quickly.

Everything's gonna be alright. (Bob Marley said so.)

Everything’s gonna be alright (says Bob Marley).

Anyway, got to the store and it wasn’t open yet, so I decided to check the dumpster. Let me just say that this is so not my style. I can’t even believe I’m telling you I did this, but yes, I went dumpster diving for dog food. I’m sorry, dear upper middle class friends and relatives who just threw up in their mouths and then worried I got swarmed by roaches and rats. I’m sorry, but I have no regrets and I’ll do it again. The worst that happened was I experienced the heartbreak of seeing an unconscionable amount of high quality Nutro Max dog food in slashed bags. This is the kind of dog food that would really have helped the thinnest and sickliest of our shelter dogs. It just killed me. I picked up the end of one bag and watched all the food slide out. Sigh. I’d been hoping the expired dog food bag slasher was sleeping on the job, but no such luck. All I came up with was a moldy rawhide, which I passed up, and a sealed bag of rabbit litter. (Hey Julie Sheffield: That rabbit litter on your porch? Your welcome.)

So I came home empty handed for Syrus. While the shelter does give its foster homes dog food for foster dogs, its first ingredient is corn. Not ideal. In my mind, a high protein, high quality dog food past its Best Buy date is better than a “younger” food that’s made of mostly corn. I decided to dig into Crespo’s stash and mix it with Syrus’s shelter food. (Did I mention that Crespo LOVES this food, it makes his coat gleam and he never scratches?)  I also gave Syrus leftovers like the chicken and scraps of brisket I keep stashed in the freezer for training treats. Syrus polished off the remainder of the brisket training treats before noon. He sits like nobody’s business now.

Yo, Syrus. Yes, I do want a kiss, but not this very second, okay?

Yo, Syrus. Yes, I do want a kiss, but not this very second, okay?

Wow, I’m really rambling here and I’m sorry but I haven’t even gotten to the absolute best part of Syrus’s day. Here it is: I got an application in this morning from the woman who expressed an interest in adopting him and she and her family are 99.9% perfect. (If you didn’t see my previous blog about Syrus, I was acquainted with this woman and her husband when I lived on Long Island, and she saw my blog in her friend’s Facebook newsfeed and just fell flat out in love with Syrus’s pictures).

So here’s the .9% possible problem. They have cats. Syrus seems interested in cats, but I’m not sure if he’s interested in them as friends or as snacks. So the task at hand is to test him out with my friend, Allie’s cat, Moo and see how strong his prey drive is. Moo lives with two dogs who are her best friends, so we’re hoping he’ll forget the prey drive and pick up the cats-and-dogs-can-be-friends vibe.

I leave you with that hope for Syrus. Can you please just put it out there? Just hope that Syrus wants to be friends and only friends with Moo. Because if so, he’s going to live the most beautiful life in a seaside town in New York with a teenager, two cats, two elderly Ridgebacks, a fenced yard and a really awesome antique store to boot. And getting him there will be another fun blog. And then I can help another Syrus.

How could you not want to help another Syrus?

How could you not want to help another Syrus?

Syrus: Day 2

In today’s Syrus News:

Syrus is still a very good boy. He kept his kennel clean and dry and was very happy to greet me this morning with tail wags and wiggles. It’s kind of funny to see a dog with a head like an anvil and a gigantic skeletal body greet you with wiggles as if he’s a fat little puppy, but he does. He’s happy. Syrus is a lesson to us all in how to be happy.

The good news today about Syrus is that (a) he doesn’t climb chain link fences, as some of my foster’s have and (b) he doesn’t bark when left alone and (c) his bronchitis appears to be getting much better, so his antibiotic is working.

The other good news about Syrus is that someone I know from New York read this blog yesterday and has had the good taste to fall in love with him. Well, maybe that describes more than one of you. But this person wants to adopt him!  I’ve sent her my adoption application, which includes practical questions to help a person decide if she is REALLY ready for the 10+ years of responsibility that come with having a new dog, and I’m hoping she is reading this right now and getting it back to me.  Because Syrus has some other (somewhat vague) interest in him too, but I think this person would be ideal. And I’ve already checked up on her behind her back. So cross your fingers for Syrus, because this would just be great if it all works out. I can just see him now, all filled out, coat glistening and secretly cheering for the Saints on tv in his new home.

I know you want a picture of him today and I promise I’ll go get that later after I get some of my paid work done. And I’ll also be posting a recipe I’ll be making later today that one of my rescue buddies shared for fattening up an emaciated dog. I know most of your dogs are probably as fat as pigs (like mine), but if you ever pick up a stray that needs fattening, it will come in handy. And meanwhile, you can just show it to your own dogs and tell them it’s the dog version of that “food porn” web site. I’m sure you’ve seen the people version, right? If not, here it is: http://foodporndaily.com (Don’t look at this if you’re on a diet or you’ll have to kill yourself.)

Okay, gotta run, but before I do, please brighten our day by sharing your dog’s best quality in the comments below.

About Dog by Dog

Dog by Dog chronicles the lives of shelter animals in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as they make their way from the shelter into foster homes, and then loving, forever homes. In 2007, this open-intake animal shelter had to euthanize nearly 11,000 of the dogs and cats that came through its doors. Today, through a variety of initiatives that include a foster care program, off site adoption events and low cost spay/neuter programs, that number has been nearly halved. Still, thousands of friendly, healthy, housetrained, and highly adoptable animals are put down annually simply for lack of space. We are hoping to change that. The name of this blog is a reference to Bird by Bird, an Anne Lamott book on writing. In it, Lamott advises beginning writers to start small, as her father once advised her 10-year-old brother, who was agonizing over a book report on birds: “Just take it bird by bird.” Working in animal rescue can feel so overwhelming at times that I decided the only way I could reasonably help without burning out was to apply Lamott’s advice and take it dog by dog. This blog shares the heartwarming stories of a few good dogs overcoming the worst. With your help, the blog will network these dogs across America and into loving homes.