Posts Tagged ‘pitbull’

Kane takes a rest

4:50 p.m. Sunday: Just enough time to take Sparkle and Trixie, aka “The Girls,” for a walk before starting on shelter dogs marked as housebroken. But first I need to go outside and clean up the remnants of dog food that Kane had regurgitated.


Two men walking Dottie, a leggy Jack Russell Terrier mix, hover on the sidewalk. “Have you ever walked this dog?” one asks. I reply yes. “How is she with other dogs?” They have a Jack Russell Terrier, they explain. I say she looks comfortable with other dogs on the grounds but they would need to bring their dog in for staff to assess the two dogs’ compatibility.

They want me to take her back in, and oh, could they see the Chihuahua Vandenbosch next? In goes Dottie. I greet Vandenbosch, a cute long-haired blond, and bring him outside. As I am holding the leash, he lifts his leg, stops, and then lefts the other leg.

I sidestep, just in time, and pass the leash to the nearest man. No, they don’t want to walk the dog. (Harrumph. Well, at least he got outside for a bathroom break.)

A woman with a boy follows me as I slip Vandenbosch back into his kennel. “Do you like that dog?” the woman asks the boy. He favors Copper, a 6-month-old Labrador Retriever mix. “Can we walk Copper?” the mother asks.

I pass by The Girls as I hunt for Copper’s kennel. Seeing me approach, they begin prancing. “Sorry, girls,” I say, promising that I will be back for them.

Copper … I know his name came up in an email. What were his special instructions? I check his kennel paperwork, which says he was taken in by cruelty officers and surrendered by his owners.  I warn the woman that he probably will need some training. No leash hangs from his kennel.

I ask them to wait while I check our dog walker logs and boards. Ahh, Copper! One of the few dogs that only staff and Head Start trainers can walk. He needs to have a metal leash, so he must have a biting the leash issue.

I return, and tell the woman I should accompany them on the walk. As I enter his kennel, he jumps around me – not unusual for a young dog. Boing boing. I hook my hand into his collar and manage to latch the leash.

Outside the kennel, the woman tells me she has changed her mind. I look at Copper, who is doing his best to stay in a sit. He looks at me, pleasepleaseplease. 

“I will need to take him out,” I say. “It is not fair, once he has the leash on. He’s expecting to go for a walk.”

Out we go, both of us happy to escape the kennel. Copper makes a play for the metal leash; I strong-arm him. Actually, I find him to be pretty easy to control. Our walk is brief, with me apologizing to Copper as we head back toward the entry door.

In my periphery, I see a couple standing before a kennel, their body language saying “help.” I pause; I could ignore them but … “Can I help you?” I ask. They are interested a young Pitbull mix. I ask if they have filled out any paperwork. No, they say, so I explain the process and send them back to the lobby.

Finally, The Girls and I get out, head through a gate and go off the shelter grounds. Once back, I see the couple has the Pit in a visiting room. I stop and check on them. It is close to closing, but a staffer agrees to let them take the youngster outside for a few minutes. I encourage them to return on Monday and take a longer spell with him on the leash.

That was last Sunday, Oct. 16. There were so few adoptions that I did not take a picture of the adoption board: too bleak. This weekend was much better. Here are the results between then and Oct.  23. ©

Adoption board, Oct. 23

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Constance, braving chilly weather (Photo courtesy of HSHV)

Today is my anniversary; that is, four years ago today I started volunteering at the shelter. Or at least, four years ago today, I was logged into its electronic scheduling system. I can recall snippets of first experiences, but most memorable is Constance, my first love and my introduction to Pitbulls.

As I remember, Constance arrived as Gizmo, a medium to smallish black and white Pitbull mix who occupied a run in what would now be called the holding kennels. In those days, staff and walkers made up names for strays that sometimes stuck and sometimes didn’t when the dog moved into the adoption quarters. Whether she was a stray or a surrender, she definitely was once someone’s pet, a sweet and happy wiggle worm.

On one of my first walks with Constance, I took her to a play yard, which then was an expansive stretch of fenced property. We played fetch. We ambled. Constance wandered to one end while I explored the other. When I looked up, I saw her racing toward me at full speed.

I felt a stab of fear: Here I was with a Pitbull hurling herself at – my feet. She stopped, showing sheer delight at my presence. How could I have let you get that far away from me, she seemed to say. Never again.

Constance occupied the first kennel to the left as customers walked into the building, a drafty concrete enclosure. Weeks passed by with no adoption. We enjoyed many walks through fallen leaves, followed by a companionable rest on a bench, Constance snuggling under my arm.

Pits, I learned, love to snuggle.

One day as I walked her, I noticed blood splattered on my pants leg. I stopped, looked over her body, her face, her feet, into her mouth.  No obvious wounds, but nonetheless alarming.

Whap whap whap, she slapped me with her tail. Then I saw, the end of her tail was raw, a fairly common condition nicknamed “happy tail” that results when dogs wag their tails against the hard cinderblock walls of the kennel. After that, Constance donned a bandage on the tip of her tail.

More weeks with no adoption, although several customers admired her disposition when they met her. One man commented that she clearly adored me. She would worship anyone who gave her the chance, I suggested. A young couple showed a keen interest in her but they lived in an apartment. I didn’t understand why that was a deal-breaker, until I learned that some apartment complexes don’t allow Pits, even perfect ones.

Snow started to fall. Constance, like many of the Pits, needed extra protection from the cold. For her, it was a red sweater with loops that strapped around her legs. She looked clownish, but accepted whatever we wanted of her.

Then one afternoon I arrived to walk dogs and she was gone. When, to whom, where, I don’t know.  I trust to someone who appreciates her. Adopted & Gone! ©

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Shiloh sprinting: Love those ears

“Take Shiloh,” I suggested. “She’s great.”

I was talking with a dog walker who had completed his training one week earlier. Culling through the list of dogs, he realized that many were not suitable for a rookie. He left the dog walkers’ station to give Shiloh, a midsize Pitbull mix, a look-see, always a good idea if the dog is an unknown.

Ten minutes later I spotted them through the fence of a play yard. I had Ali, who is not a Shiloh. We walked along a road off the shelter grounds to give Ali a break from the noisy environment. That way she could better hear my lecturing about sassy behavior like biting at hands.

The man had Shiloh on a leash, although the play yard is enclosed. “You can let her loose,” I called out.

Ali and I marched onward, almost reaching a T-intersection when she spotted a wad of crumpled aluminum foil. Grabbing it, she started to jump wildly. I could see that she was ready to leap into crazy dog mode, and so wheeled her around.

Back we went, Ali eventually discarding her litter toy and settling – well not exactly down, but close enough.

We passed the play yard to see Shiloh, leashed again, and sitting on command as the walker opened the gate to the grounds. She made me proud. ©

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Addie, smiling

Addie, an 8-month-old Boxer-Pitbull mix, was an unknown for me. I had not walked her before and so checked her adoption card before preparing to take her outside.

She was a stray, described as “rough around the edges when she first arrived. Even after all this poor girl had been through, Addie is one sweet pup.”

That seemed ambiguous. I went back to the dog walker station and checked our logs. Addie had a page – blank.

She seemed like a well-behaved and healthy girl as we ambled along, so I headed toward the gate to exit the grounds and take her for a longer walk on a nearby road. As we rounded the side of the shelter building, we saw a large, brindle Pitbull mix about 10 yards away. Behind him walked a boy who looked perhaps 3 years old, maybe 4.

“Got a good hold on your leash, buddy?” I called out.

The boy nodded.

“Where are your parents?”

Behind him I could see two adults sitting on a bench. They said something and the boy and dog turned and headed back their way.

The visiting Pitbull and Addie both behaved perfectly, no lunging or barking or posturing. I cut down a hill and followed a path that skirted the front grounds to reach the road, keeping as much distance between us and the family as possible.

We repeated our path on our return, hugging the periphery.  Just in case. ©

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An attentive Porter

Porter was chugging along nicely for a young boy, so nicely that I decided to take him offsite and walk along a road near the shelter. His adoption papers described him as a 9-month-old Pitbull mix, a stray. He already showed good leash manners and seemed to have his juvenile impulses under control.

That is, until we passed through the gate and walked along the side of the shelter building. Porter stopped and growled.

The enemy sat unfazed, a large plastic wheelbarrow that had been turned upside down. Porter inched backwards.

“It can’t hurt you,” I said as I walked over and touched it. Porter kept his distance. OK, I thought, he probably had not been exposed to much of the world in his pre-stray life. When I spoke again, he turned to me, a good sign.

He accepted a piece of dog food, another good sign. If he was really stressed, he most likely wouldn’t take food.

“See? It’s harmless,” I said and tossed a treat toward the wheelbarrow. He stepped forward, took the food and backed up again. We continued that routine, each time with the food a bit closer to the wheelbarrow.

Porter looks at dog food scattered on a wheelbarrow

Then I placed a piece on the offending object. A quandary for Porter. In the end, his stomach won out. I followed with a handful of kibble on the wheelbarrow’s flat bottom. He ate it all.

The trick will be if he remembers, I thought as we resumed our trek. We walked uninterrupted for a half mile until we passed a sheared tree trunk, another boxy inanimate shape that elicited a warning growl. This time we just looked and then walked on.

On the return trip we walked by the wheelbarrow again to reach the gate. Porter didn’t growl or even stop to sniff it. One life experience down, many more to go. ©

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It is August. The mosquitoes thrive and the deer are practicing being stupid, which will kick in full gear during the autumn rut.

Pearl, all ears

At least that was my sentiment as Pearl and I walked down the road Sunday morning. The rain had passed and air dried enough for mosquitoes to emerge. I could see them land on Pearl’s lustrous silvery-beige haunches as we walked. I encouraged her to keep a steady gait to keep the fiends from landing.

The deer doesn't budge

Woods flanked the walk on our right side. Pearl, the most obedient of Pitbulls, paused when we passed a spot where the wire fence opened into the treed grounds. Pearl was being stared at by a doe. Pearl returned the gaze politely.

It isn’t that unusual for a dog and me to encounter deer on this walk. I have written about it in the past. But this was a first: a dog who didn’t react. Pearl stayed relaxed, so relaxed that I could reach in a pocket and extract my camera. The doe flicked her tail a few times. I thought she would flee, but no, she just stood and watched us.

The mosquitoes proved too much for me. I put the camera away and Pearl and I proceeded down the road. A few minutes later we spotted two more deer crossing the road. I was really impressed with Pearl, who again did not react  — the deer, idle and each in a lane, seemingly waiting for a car to challenge them, not so much.  ©

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It was a typical late August weekend, hot and a little muggy. Canton (Michigan) had scheduled its first Paws in the Park event on Aug. 22-23, 2009, to showcase a developing dog park. It was part fundraiser, part adoption promotion and part animal party. The shelter would receive some of the participant fees and have the opportunity to introduce attendees to adoptable pets.

My date for the morning was Charlie, a handsome Pitbull who, as I recollect, had been abandoned, tied to a tree or the gate outside the (old) shelter. Charlie was a model dog, physically and socially. He greeted every person and dog enthusiastically, happy to roll over on his back or sit on command.

I noticed he had a special fondness of small dogs and learned to brace myself when one came near. It was the only time he tugged on the leash.

“He must have lived with a small dog,” I would comment to people as I assured them that this muscle boy was as dog friendly as they get. Whoever owned him previously raised him well.

Charlie was a big hit. Person after person expressed interest in adopting him. Several promised to visit the adoption tent or stop by the shelter to explore the possibility.

After a few hours of Charlie and me courting would-be adopters, I called my husband and offered to pack Charlie into the car, collect Mark and return to the park. We met in our driveway, Charlie demonstrating his tricks, first for Mark and then for our mailman.

Mark was as smitten as I was. Adoption was out for us, though. Charlie needed a fenced yard, which we cannot have in our neighborhood. In the early morning I had taken Charlie to the shelter play yard and threw balls back-to-back for at least 15 minutes to let him burn off energy.  Without that kind of exercise, he would be frustrated.

As I recall, Burton also has a partner at the Paws-Park dance. I remember seeing what I believed to be Burton lolling on the grass near the adoption tent, sitting with his volunteer dog walker and visitors. Like Charlie, Burton was a perfectly socialized dog, amenable to meeting dogs, children and adults. I bet he was thrilled to be away from the kennels, soaking up the sun’s rays and attention.

Mark, Charlie and I in one orbit, Burton and his people in another. I have to think we let the dogs say hello, something that is verboten on shelter grounds but in this kind of setting, nearly inevitable. It now reminds me of stories heard many times of high school or college classmates, barely aware of each other at the time, who would later meet and marry.

Burton got adopted! That is what I remember hearing as one of the day’s successes when I settled Charlie back into his kennel. I cheered, of course, but was inwardly disappointed with the event. None of the many people who fawned over Charlie had followed up.

Days passed, no takers.

Charlie found a permanent home a few weeks later. Burton, if my memory of this event is correct, was then living in Beagle-bliss domesticity again. For a while, anyhow. ©

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