Friday, August 13, 2010


One of the true joys of working with dog rescue is coming up with names. Names for new pups and dogs, and names for new breeds... uh, mutts.

We have had dogs named after scientists, beers, TV show characters, Peanuts(r) characters, literary characters, everyone-in-the-group-name-starts-with-the-same-letter, and - I kid you not - one litter that was so flea infested when we got them that they and their mother received the name 'flea' but each one in a different language. Siberian Husky litters often get Inuit, Native American, or Japanese names. We even use a Book of Baby Names and a Book of Dog Names when we're stumped.

But the mix breeds, that can be fun. First, what the heck is it? Sometimes we know, sometimes it is easy to guess. Sometimes we're just "what the ...?" Of course, everyone knows the popular ones: puggle, maltipoo, labraddodle, goldendoodle, and so on. My favorite current special blend is Fermi, our 'Chug". That is Chihuahua/Pug, cuz Pahua just did not feel right...

But we're getting some new ones that just beg for a new name. Momma was a Siberian Husky, dad was a Great Dane.

So what ARE these pups? Sane Duskies? Great Siberians? Siberian Danes? Griberian Hanes? Bolshoi Danes? Gruskies? Marmadookskis? Scooby Dooskis?

For now, we've settled, I think, on SiberDanes.

Wha, you got somethin better? Bring it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Know your breed

You may or may not be keeping track of the Bear-Bear tragedy (just search for Bear-Bear, you'll find it), but in a nutshell, an off-duty officer shot and killed a Siberian Husky in a dog park, claiming that Bear-Bear was attacking his dog. Witnesses say differently, and subsequent evaluation showed no evidence that either he or his dog were hurt in any way, not even a scratch. The Anne Arundel police department has re-opened the case, so perhaps justice will be found for Bear-Bear's family.

What this got me thinking about was how this horrible tragedy even happened. Leaving aside whether the officer should have ever drawn, much less fired, his weapon, the main thought that came to me was that he misunderstood the play, based on breed. Witnesses say that Bear-Bear was just playing with the officer's German Shepherd, in a way that is typical of Huskies. Aye, therein lies the rub...

Siberian Huskies are very active and noisy when they play. To the casual observer, with no history with Sibes or behavior evaluation, you'd think they were shredding each other. They love to jump on and over each other, lots of teeth showing, and all kinds of WOOs and YIPs. If you watch carefully, there is actually little contact, and no harm - no biting, no blood. But to the casual observer, Hell's Fury hath come to earth in the form of an insane devil-eyed wolf-looking demon dog.

But you know what? The same can be true, in different ways for other breeds. Bully breeds have powerful jaws and high tolerance to pain. Aussies and Border Collies love to nip at the legs. And on and on.

You might be doing the best favor ever for your dog, and others, to learn about the play style and general interaction characteristics of your dog's breed, or breeds. Unfortunately, Bear-Bear was being watched over by his owner's brother, and even he did not have even a few seconds to react before Bear-Bear was murdered. Be aware. Be knowledgeable.

And keep Bear-Bear's family in your thoughts.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Call and The Calling

It had been a long week, both at work and at the rescue. I was heading back home at the end of Friday, and I had already fielded two calls from work on my cell phone (at least the bluetooth in my car makes that safe and easy). The phone rang again - I did not really want to handle another call but I answered anyway.

"Hello, is this Dave?"
"This is Joe [name changed for privacy]. We adopted Sally [also name changed] a while back, and I called you a few weeks ago about her problems."

My heart sank. I remembered the call. I was dreading THIS call. Joe had called one evening very angry, telling me that this insane puppy just had to go. She was irritating their older dog, She was biting him and his wife. She was eating her own poop. She was out of control, and had to go. We talked for a while - at least he was willing to listen. I gave our 'standard' approach, reminded him that they agreed in the contract to work with us to resolve the problems. I promised to have one of our trainers call him and discuss what was going on. He kept insisting that it was just not going to work, and my wife was getting exasperated just listening to my side of the call. I finally said Fine, bring her to us tomorrow.

Joe called back a couple of hours later, apologized, said they love Sally, but at just at wits end. They were willing to work with us. I told him I would line up help right away. I had our favorite Animal Behaviorist call them.

The Behaviorist called back a couple of days later and said that while the call was short (bad timing, Joe was busy) she thought that they would be able to work things out.

That was a few weeks ago, and I had not heard any more from Joe.

Until this call. Sigh. Here we go...

"Yes, Joe, I do remember you and Sally. So how..."
"I just wanted to call you and tell you how much we LOVE Sally and how grateful we are that you had the patience to work with us. She is a totally different dog now - she and her 'brother' play all the time, they are inseparable and love each other. My wife and I cannot tell you how happy we are with her, we cannot imagine our life without her. She is Daddy's Girl - she goes everywhere I go."

I was speechless. Mostly because I was grinning from ear to ear. "Joe, that makes me so happy to hear! Wow!"

"Dave, I also want to apologize - I was such a jerk when I called..."

"No apology necessary! You did the right thing! Now everyone is happy!"

And so the call went for a good ten minutes. Joe told me that the one thing I had said to him that really stopped him in his tracks and made him think. Apparently I had told him that 90% of the time puppies are out of control it is the owners' fault - because the humans are not in charge, not doing their job, not spending enough time with the pup, not actively managing. He and his wife thought about it, prayed about it, listed to the Behaviorist, did their research, and set out to make their life with Sally work.

They succeeded.

THAT call is one of the reasons we do this. Joe thanked us for being thorough. For asking questions. For making the Home Check. For being there after the adoption to help them to succeed. For being patient when he lost his cool.

If anyone was looking into that silver Genesis Coupe on my way home, I am sure they were wondering why that guy was grinning like such a fool.

Good way to end a long week.