Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shy Sweethearts

Many of us have had the experience of being nervous in a new situation or feeling shy in a large group of strangers. Many BACS doggies feel this way too, especially with all the different sounds and people that fill their lives at the shelter. Two particularly shy canine residents are Cinnamon and Buster. These two gentle puppies don’t seem like they had much (if any) human contact before they arrived at BACS, and as a result they can be very timid.

Cinnamon, one of the shyest dogs at BACS, is an adorable 3 month old pittie-catahoula mix. She has the most gentle expression in her huge green eyes. She is quiet and introverted, and trembles with nervousness when a new person initiates contact. But once she has been around you for a little while, she grows more relaxed and will accept treats from your palm (this girl loves treats!) and will nuzzle and lick your hand. When she gazes up and fixes you with her soulful stare, it is enough to melt your heart. Cinnamon has a long way to go before she is comfortable around people, but plenty of patience and TLC should help her get there.

Buster, a 4 month old pittie, is a sweet boy with a loving, affectionate temperament. He seems to crave human interaction and will wag his tail when he sees someone approach his kennel. But once he is face to face with you, he becomes very bashful. Fortunately, Buster interacts beautifully with other dogs, and a canine companion allows him to be the goofy, joyful pup that he is beneath his shyness. He and Goldie, another lovely, shy BACS resident, went on a walk together the other day, and both blossomed in the presence of one another dog. It was beautiful to see them romping and playing in the grass, enjoying each other’s company and leaving their shyness behind for a little while.
Text and photography by Alicia D.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reveling in Raulon's Radiance

As a relatively new volunteer to the BACS, I’ve done a lot of learning, growing, and loving in the short time that I’ve been there. One big fella has got a good, tight grip on my heart-strings, though: Raulon.

This gentle giant was one of the first dogs I walked after finishing my orientation and I haven’t been able to stay away since. There’s no need to be intimidated by this guy’s large stature; he’s a big teddy bear.

One of our favorite activities is lounging around on the benches, picnic table tops, or on the dock along Aquatic Park. As he melts into your arms, he almost emanates joy, as the wind cools his face and the sun warms his beautiful brindle coat. When we’re ready to move along, he’s more than happy to keep up a steady trot and jog around the Park, barely paying attention to the geese, runners, and disc golfers we meet along the way.

On every walk, this big guy is guaranteed to get a few hearty chuckles out of me. He can’t quite understand why we can’t walk up and join everyone who’s sitting on HIS benches along the way. His curiosity and lust for life always take us on a different route, so every outing is an adventure.

This mellow man would flourish in an active, loving household. Despite his rough start in life, he has so much love to give to anyone with a bench to sit on and a minute to spare.

A few additional Gigi/Harley pictures

Here are a few additional pictures of Gigi. Rather than creating a whole new post, I thought I'd just update my earlier entry:

Where's Gigi?

After seeing all the fun she's having, my wife and I have decided that we'd like to place ourselves up for adoption. Please call BACS and ask for our phone number, you can schedule a home visit with us anytime. We're both housebroken!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oh My Darling, Clementine!

Clementine is a beautiful, petite one-year-old pittie with a heart of gold. The good folks at Berkeley Animal Control rescued her from under a freeway on-ramp, where she was wandering as a stray.

Clementine is one of the sweetest, most gentle dogs in the universe. Her first year was no doubt pretty rough, and as a result she can be skittish and fearful of new situations and loud noises. But since being at BACS, she is gradually learning that the world can be a fun place filled with nurturing, caring people. She can be shy when meeting new people. But once she spends some time with them and realizes they are “safe,” she rewards them for their patience by letting her friendly, loving personality shine out and steal their hearts. It is a wonderful sight when her fear melts away and she is able to relax and let her goofy, happy side take the wheel. Her joy is totally contagious. She loves going to the park, where she frolics and bounces through the grass like a frog. Here she is rolling around in the grass (one of her favorite activities)…

This little snugglebug is a fast learner and eager to please. When being taught something new, she seems to worry that she is “in trouble.” This is quickly overcome with plenty of encouragement and reassurance that everything is OK and that she is doing great. She is learning to walk nicely on a leash, and she picked up “sit” and “lie down” in just a few days! She will begin doggie obedience classes with BAD RAP this weekend, where she will no doubt add many more skills to her repertoire.

This little bundle of love will continue to blossom with time, patience, and encouragement. For the future owner(s) who can offer her the gentle, nurturing forever home she so deserves, she will return the love they give her tenfold. She is really a precious little treasure.

Pictures and text by Alicia D., Clementine's biggest fan.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April's Volunteer(s) of the Month!

Nancy, Addie & Matt(not pictured)

When we’re not volunteering at the shelter …

I am an advocate for the wind energy industry. My daughter, Addie, attends 6th grade at King Middle School where she plays flute in the band, and her twin brother, Matt, has just started at Montessori Family School. Now that we are BACS volunteers, and mentoring new volunteers too, I have little time to garden any more, but Addie still finds plenty of time to read books and Matt likes anything to do with cars. For summer vacation, we usually go river rafting in Utah, and go for day trips on the American River.

We initially volunteered at BACS because …

Addie has inherited my advocacy (a.k.a. badgering) skills and, last summer, insisted that we follow in her friend Faye’s footsteps and go through the volunteer process. She really wanted to spend time with the doggies because our lives are too crazy to have a dog at home. I wanted to spend more time with Addie and Matt – and get some exercise and fresh air to boot, so it has worked out very nicely!

Our favorite thing about volunteering is …

We really love the BACS community – the people as well as the dogs! The dedication of staff and volunteers is inspiring, and it’s fun to get to know everyone. We really feel at home at BACS :). As for the dogs, we like to focus on one or two to really get to know them. We try to spend lots of quality time with them to ward off kennel craziness and make them more adoptable. Matt likes to play with the puppies and little dogs in their kennel. It feels great when the dogs find a home. In two cases (Lyle and Little), we’ve become their care-givers when their new family goes out of town. I feel great about overcoming my pit bull prejudices!

Our favorite dog at the moment is …

Sadie, who we have recently gotten to know. She’s bordering on kennel crazy, but she really calms down after some quality time out. She has a lot of personality and we think she’s got a lot of potential. Ditto for Albert – such a handsome boy! And then there’s Teddy, such a goofball – and unfailingly happy. All of them, of course, really need good homes and it will be a happy day when they get them!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Devo sighting!

Yesterday while driving down Solano Avenue I spotted another recently adopted BACS dog with his new family and doggy siblings: 2 little dogs no bigger than Pugs. At the time he was meeting and greeting with 2 little Labrador puppies and their owner. I pulled over at the next opportunity, got out of the car and walked down the street to meet them

"Excuse me? Was that dog recently adopted from the Berkeley shelter?"

"Why yes! Devo, I think it was?"

"Yes - I thought I recognized him. How's he doing?"

"He's GREAT! He completes the pack."

Friday, April 9, 2010

First walk jitters

When working with older or adult dogs it's easy to forget - or at least not think about - the fact that they were once little puppies with no training, socializing, or manners. They had to learn how to walk on a leash - and sometimes this ability can be taken for granted.

I was lucky enough to take Blue-Bell and little Buster outside for their very first walks at the beginning of this week and let me tell you - their reactions were like night and day!

Miss Blue-Bell is exuberant, full of joy, playful and a really smart girl. Upon her first steps on the soft green grass in front of the shelter - her eyes grew wide with delight and she began bouncing in the air like a rabbit. She rolled, she leaped, she scratched up dirt, and practically did back flips because she was so thrilled. If Blue-bell were a little kid, she probably would have looked like the child in the photo! "HURRAY!"

Blue-bell ran in and out between my legs, jumped up to say "HI! WE'RE OUTSIDE! YIPPEE!", barked at a few other dogs, and was a big silly the majority of the walk. But she was learning quickly and with some practice and training - she'll be a pro in no time at all.

Now, lil' Buster was a different story. He is much more reserved, shy, and in need of reassurance. A home with plenty of support and t-l-c is a must for this gentle, mellow little dude. Buster simply refused to budge when I attempted to take him outside. I had to lift him up, carry him outside, and sit with him in the sun for a few minutes before he loosened up a bit.

Constantly trying to crawl into my lap for comfort, Buster was missing the world go by! But with plenty of treats and coaxing, he followed me slowly towards the end of the block. It was a long walk - at least 20 minutes to get to the boat house near the park. We were stopping and starting every few feet, but by the time we got there, Buster was much more relaxed. He was no longer crouching along the ground, he was walking tall with his tail wagging (slowly, of course), and his eyes twinkling. He had a good time, he just wanted to cuddle more.

When we arrived back at the shelter, Buster was lucky enough to be the "Office dog" for the rest of the day! :) He mostly relaxed on his bed, looking at everything and everyone going by. He enjoyed lots of tummy rubs and ear scratches from staff members and he loved the company of other dogs. What Buster needs most right now is lots of interaction with people and other dogs - the only way he'll come out of his shell is with lots of love and support. Let's give it to him!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rico Suave

The first time I met Rico he wouldn't even come over to say hi to me. He was too frightened of the "guillotine" door that separates the inside/outside kennel. He kept glancing upward at it, afraid that at any moment it might come crashing down upon his head. The only way I could encourage him to walk underneath the guillotine was with a delicious bowl of kibble mixed with wet food with lots of gravy. Mmmmm. Rico crawled to the bowl of food, took one sniff, then his nose and mouth disappeared for 10 seconds before he finally resurfaced for air. Done! Every last drop of gravy had been devoured. Full and more relaxed, Rico crawled into my lap as I was sitting on his kuranda bed and he rolled over to expose his big belly. He was an incredibly sweet, gentle, shy - but large boy.

Yesterday was the first time I was able to take him out for a walk. I'll admit that I was a little hesitant after I read the notes on his walk card. Apparently he was very difficult to collar - so I prepared myself for a struggle when I entered his kennel. However, with a little manuevering it was as easy as 1-2-3 to get him outside for his walk! After putting on a Gentle Leader head collar and a safety collar - we were off after only 1 or 2 minutes of collaring!

Now Rico is a strong dog. He is very large and powerful and with an inexperienced handler or someone with a small physique, he could easily pull them over or take them for a walk. This is why I wanted to try the GL on him to see if it would help halt his pulling while on walks and help focus his attention back to me, his handler. He struggled at first, as any dog would if they are unfamiliar with a head collar, but I marched on down the gauntlet of barking dogs without hesitation.

Rico fought the good fight against the "evil Gentle Leader" for a good 5 to 10 minutes. But by the time we reached the pedestrian bridge near Aquatic Park he had finally acquiesced, stopped pulling and was enjoying the walk. After he relaxed, he ignored the collar and was just happy to be outside by my side - which is exactly where he stayed for the remainder of the walk.

The rest of our walk went so smoothly that it would be too boring to write about it. So I'll just say that it was uneventful, but enjoyable. The best part was cuddling together in the shade of a tree after our 2 mile walk together. Rico is a very gentle, well behaved gentleman who will thrive in a household with a strong, firm, but kind leader. For our red-dot volunteers, let's work together to help Rico on his way to finding a well matched forever home.

(Photos courtesty of Rob "The Photographer" McNicholas and Neen "Sister" Nicholson)

The Gentle Leader

I'm sure that for the term "gentle leader" is not unfamiliar to our shelter volunteers. Perhaps you've seen the name written on a dog's walk card or you heard about it in your orientation with your mentor. Heard of one but have NO idea what it is? Don't fret! It's much easier than it looks. Have a look at this video to get a better idea of how the GL works:

Of course, the dog in the video has most likely had much experience with the GL and therefore is not "resisting" the collar like a dog might do upon it's first time wearing one, like this dog here:

Unfortunately, this will likely be the reaction of many of the shelter dogs because they've never used one before! Not to worry. Here is one way to learn how to desensitize the dog to the collar.

I have found that most dogs will put up a "fight" for about 5 to 10 minutes...after this they will grow tired of putting so much energy into pulling that they will learn to relax, ignore the collar, and happily walk by your side. Not fond of the choke collar or prong collar? Try one of these on for size! Just be sure to add a "security" collar on the dog attached with a carrabeaner just in case!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Shani is Back

We were all absolutely delighted when a lovely woman adopted Shani last week. This long-term older girl has been a green-dot favorite and stalwart "mentee-learner" dog since her arrival in early December. Unfortunately, Shani and her new canine brother did not hit it off as well in the home as they did at the shelter during their introduction, so this morning Shani was returned to her home of four months with familiar faces to walk her and love her just as they did before. Shani's adopter was heartbroken, and had already registered her with the microchip company and bought her Berkeley license-- things most people take a few weeks to get around to doing. We welcome Shani back with open arms . . . and she wants everyone to know that she's ready for a walk first thing tomorrow morning! : )

Adoption update: Scout!

Several months ago, a pretty lil' border collie mix named 'Sparkles' came through our shelter doors and was instantly a hot ticket item. Everyone wanted to adopt her - at least 15 people lined up outside the shelter at 10:00 a.m. to make sure that they didn't miss their opportunity to bring her into their lives.

Perhaps you're wondering why was I so invested in Sparkles future? Well, because I knew one family that was just the right fit! The family that I knew was active (both adults ran every day!), experienced with border mixes (having had one for 15 years prior to looking into adopting a new dog), and committed to training and providing the appropriate stimulation for such a high energy dog (a hobby of theirs!). Sadly, Sparkles was adopted to another couple and this family went home broken hearted. A week later, however, she was returned.

The day that Sparkles was returned, I called this family to let them know that 'It was true! She's back! Come see her!'. The whole crew: the moms, the 3 kids, and the minivan came to the shelter that same afternoon to spend some time with her to confirm that it was a match made in Heaven. Obviously it was, because that afternoon Sparkles went into a forever home where she will flourish and thrive!

Today I was lucky enough to run into this family and Sparkles, now "Scout", when the kids had a play date (did I ever mention that I'm a nanny? :) It's true!). Scout is doing GREAT! It turns out that she's dog reactive while on leash, but not off leash and Scout and her new person are attending training classes regularly to modify this behavior. Scout and her new family go running, hiking, swimming at the beach, and even tree climbing (Scout apparently is QUITE the athlete whether she's jumping 5 feet into the air to catch frisbees or jumping from branch to branch up a tree to chase a furry squirrel).

I'm so glad that Scout found such a great, well matched forever home.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lyle Update

You might have read Lyle's other post, where my mom, my brother and I went to his new home to see how he was. Here is another Lyle update, from when we took care of Lyle at our house during Spring break, while his owner, Kevin, was out of town.

Like when we saw Lyle a week or two ago in his permanent home, Lyle was way more relaxed than he was in the shelter. It was wonderful to see him out of cages and bars forever!

Since me and my brother, Matt, were out of school, Lyle got tons of attention and walks! We practiced his new trick, 'paw' (a.k.a. 'shake') and played lots of tug-of-war and fetch. I tried to teach him to 'drop it' better, since he wasn't very good at that. We also discovered that he can jump very high, 5 feet into the air!

Because of his thin head coat that reveals a lot of pink skin, Lyle had his very own doggie-sunscreen, which we put on him when we put him on a long lead in our yard, or when it was sunny during his long walks.

At night Lyle slept on his very large doggie bed. Though he snored a little bit, he knew when it was his bed time and settled down when everyone was ready to sleep.

There was only 2 bad things about his stay (not counting snoring): 1. He 'liked' our 19 year old kitty cat, who mostly stayed safely under the house during his 5 day stay. 2. A couple times it rained pretty hard, so it was a little bit difficult to keep the floors clean with muddy paws always romping across it. But despite those 2 things, it was very fun to take care of Lyle. :)

Here is Lyle after a long walk in Tilden, crawling to the floor of the car in an attempt to cool down.

This is Lyle's 'what is a camera?' look, or perhaps his 'where is food' look

Lyle was very happy to see Kevin when he came to pick Lyle up from our house. :)