Think Shelters Don’t Have “Highly Adoptables”? Think Again.

At Woof Connection, the 501(c)3-pending non-profit I am a board member of, we occasionally hear people talk about wanting to adopt, but knowing that a shelter won’t have a hypoallergenic dog/a small dog/a purebred. Erin and I always just shake our heads, because all of the dogs pictured below have been in the rural Animal Control Facility in Buckingham County, VA within the last year.

While we love our Treeing Walker Coonhounds and Pit Bull Type dogs, it’s fun to see something totally different show up every once in a while! Take a gander below and recognize that a dog can end up homeless for any reason – regardless of what breed they may be.

Sweet Rhasta the Schnoodle
Sweet Rhasta the Schnoodle

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Wiccy the Chow Chow
Wiccy the Chow Chow
Sylvia the Fluffy
Sylvia the Fluffy

All of these dogs have since been adopted into loving homes!

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. It is a day to respect the sacrifices of the fallen.

Hoarder Dachshunds Get Photos

A recent case of animal hoarding in Waynesboro, VA led to the removal of many Dachshunds and Chihuahuas from an area home. I was lucky enough to meet and photograph several of these dogs. All of them can be viewed at http://www.drna.org. Fostering allows these dogs to adjust to a healthy home environment and sets them up for successful adoptions!

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Thursday Theatrical: K9 Nosework

I’ve mentioned before that Edison, one of my current adoptables, is doing K9 Nosework. This is a scent tracking class that is so fun for wearing out dog brains. The best part about it is that it is designed for reactive dogs, so if your dog loves other dogs, great! But if they don’t, you’ll be in a scenario where people understand and automatically accommodate that. Pitlandia recently mentioned a nosework adventure that SecondHandDogs did, which I discovered right after I started my class! We just had our 6-week graduation, and I took a video of one of Edison’s final searches. Right now, the dogs are still searching for food. In another 12 weeks, they will be searching for Birch oil, which is the scent that level one competition requires. SecondHandDogs covers the class methodology pretty well.

Training Tuesday: Capturing

Yesterday I sung Edison’s praises for coming to me car-ride ready. There are definitely things he didn’t come knowing, though. Being a very busy lab-husky mix, sometimes it’s hard for him to settle and take naps while I’m working in the house. I wanted to teach him that laying down on the floor was a more rewarding activity than racing around the house. This is similar to the cue ‘Down’, because the same result is being achieved: laying down!

Enter capturing. Capturing is an amazing training tool that results in behaviors that are very resistant to extinction (extinction = dog no longer performs the behavior after it not getting rewarded for a while). I also love capturing because it’s so easy: essentially, the handler does nothing. All I did was wait for Edison to offer a behavior (in this case, lie down) and then toss him a tasty treat when he did. Chances are, at that point most dogs will get up off the floor to try and see what you’re up to. That’s fine. Don’t encourage them by petting or treating, but don’t try to get the pup to lie down again either. It helps to have something to do while you wait, like cleaning some dishes or flipping through a magazine. Eventually the dog will decide that the treat was a fluke, get bored, and go lay down again. Bam! Another treat.

If you are consistent about tossing a treat every time the dog lays down, you will eventually (after about a week) end up with a dog who spends a lot more time chilling on the floor — just because he wants to! Then, if it’s important to you to have a cue associated with the behavior, you could add one. Another important thing to do at that point is generalization: nobody wants a dog who only lays down in the kitchen!

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The above photo was taken at Canine Campus, our favorite training facility in Charlottesville. Edison offered this ‘Down’ on his own, without a cue. He does this frequently, which is so much nicer than having to micromanage his behavior with cues each time!

Monday Musings: On Talents

Most of the bios for my adoptable dogs read pretty similarly. Working on crate training, eats from food toys, enjoys long walks. I try to individualize them as much as I can, but the truth is that most dogs in my house go through a similar learning process.

They learn that whining, crying, and pawing result in nothing; and that being quiet and still leads to a multitude of rewards: chicken scraps, a tossed toy to play with, a bully stick, a quick snuggle. They become accustomed to staying in a crate during the day, because my day job is what enables me to have fosters in the first place. They s-l-o-w-l-y learn that walking right at my side earns the opportunities to sniff that exciting pile of bunny poop.

As similarly as I treat each dog, and as much as they all need to learn, it never fails that there is one unique skill each dog seems to come equipped with. Some are stellar for baths. Others never crowd me in an attempt to get petting. Edison is a dog who was born to ride in the car. The very first night I had him I had a dinner date right after our training class. I could have either took him home and been late or left him in the car (I definitely don’t recommend trying this with a new dog!) I left him curled up in the back seat, and to my surprise my seats were still intact when I got back! He loads up and unloads easily, and even waits for the cue to get out — a very good thing, since he’s much faster than me. He also naps like a champ, even when I’ve been a bad foster mom and not worn him out before a long drive.

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What about you? What special talents did your dog arrive with, factory-ready?

The Pitties of Seattle

I write about dogs.

I write about traveling.

I write about dogs while traveling

And I write about dogs I see on trips.

I don’t write about traveling with dogs.

Don’t ask me why.

Too long to be a Haiku, but too un-funny to be a Dr. Seuss imitation, the above is the gist of this post. I spent a week near Seattle, WA traveling for business. On the last day, I got to the airport early, checked by bag, and turned right around to take the train into downtown Seattle to have a look around for a few hours.

The train in Seattle was easy. I don’t use the word easy lightly when it comes to public transportation. Because we had to drive everywhere my whole childhood, I never got used to taking trains/metros/subways/busses/trolleys. In fact, if I am completely honest, they downright terrify me. Usually the lines are coded by color, which is nice … but some of the colors overlap, and not all of them run at the same time, and for busses you have to be on a certain side of the street, and counting every-seven-minutes-starting-from4:50-am is NOT my idea of a good time. There is more, but my palms are starting to sweat. Suffice it to say that public transportation is terrifying and confusing and makes me grumpy and I always end up having to pee.

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But not the Seattle train, oh no! It had one route, just one, that goes straight from the airport to downtown. There are stops in between, but you never have to switch trains. Just get off at the last stop, and Bam! There you are, steps from Pikes Place Market. And right away, there were dogs! It wasn’t a weekend, and it was definitely during the work day, so I was surprised to see so many. But there they were.

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Of course I stopped in to Pike’s Place Market, as well as a cute antique store a block or so away. Then I stopped into a Starbucks to charge up my phone a little before walking around downtown for another half an hour or so. It was time to head back to the train, and I even made it back to the airport in one piece! I’m as surprised as you are, believe me.

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New Faces: Edison

Psst, Hey there! I’m sneaking onto foster momma’s bloggy to tell you all about me, since she so sneakily teased you yesterday with my photo. Read on and I’ll tell you some things about me!

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I’m Edison. My foster momma says it’s a name to reflect just how smart I am. Like Thomas Edison! I do know how to do some cool stuff that gets me treats: cues like sit, down, and “crate up”. I graduated from my basic obedience class and intermediate class is teaching me lots too. I’ve almost got loose leash walking mastered, and other good manners like sitting at doorways and street crossings. Have you heard of Canine Nosework? It’s a class that teaches me to track odors, just like a police dog! My foster mom says I’m a pro at it even though we just started. Aside from my smarts, I have gorgeous black shiny fur and bright copper eyes that I use for getting snuggles and petting. I must say, I am a very handsome lab/husky (DNA tested to confirm). When foster momma is at work, I empty my food toys, chew on bully sticks, and take long naps in my crate. Dogs who know how to chill out in a crate are super easy for people who have “day jobs” to worry about. Housetraining was a cinch for me too. Hmm … besides food toys, obdedience class, and snuggles, what else do I like? Walks, of course! Since my foster momma doesn’t have a yard, we do lots of walking, about 3 miles a day. Sometimes I get to chase and catch tennis balls too — that is one of my favorite games! She says I’m like a built-in fitness program. Walks are good for tiring me out so I can snooze the afternoon away. My ideal adopters will be energetic and excited about continuing my training. Did you know there are tons of fun classes, like agility, nosework, dock diving, and even canine freestyle? We could be the most educated pair in your neighborhood! I get along with other dogs if I have a proper and slow introduction, even little tiny ones! I like kids too, so if you’ve got some human children I wouldn’t mind one bit. If you need a hiking buddy, someone to cuddle with, and a dog who is all about pleasing you, apply to meet me! I can’t wait to find my perfect match.

***Interested in adding this smarty to your family? Contact me!***

1 week, $75, Whole Foods Market: Will I starve?

Before I moved to Charlottesville, I’d never been inside of a Whole Foods. But since I’ve exposed myself as a shameless hippie before, it won’t surprise anyone that I fell in love with the place. The little signs that tell you where the food came from? The grind-your-own peanut butter? the rating scale for the quality of life for all the meat products? Cue a foodgasm every time I walk through the doors. It was only after I had shopped there for a while that I realized that WF is the butt of some common jokes. “Oh, you mean Whole Paycheck?” Other comments have mentioned dreadlocks, patchouli, and corporate greed/corruption, but you get the idea.

In an ideal world, would I get everything direct from a farmer? Sure I would. But for me, WF was an excellent introduction to the world of fresh and local produce with an emphasis on clarity and honesty in packaging and presentation. It also provides a good halfway point between my daydreams, in which I arrive at the farmers market with my bamboo totes the minute it opens, (preferably 20 pounds lighter and in a sundress!) and the real world, in which I scarf down yet another bowl of cereal at 8pm because I’m trembling from hunger and too tired to cook. WF means that if I don’t make it to the farmer’s market on Saturday, I’m not condemned to row after row of “low fat antioxidant rich granola bars!” with high-fructose corn syrup proudly holding 2nd place in the list of ingredients.

With that in mind, I hatched a small plan. Could I buy enough with $75 at Whole Foods to feed myself three (relatively) wholesome meals a day for a week? I didn’t want to go below that $75 mark, because I’m not crazy, and these people have already lived on a $1 a day, and being a copycat is lame. I also set a requirement that a food item should be local, unpackaged, unprocessed, organic, or all of the above. I’m not trying to live on frozen meals in plastic trays, people.

I’ll shut up now and we can get to the food. With my $75 I bought the following:

My spoils
My spoils

 

– 1/2 pound of butter (local from here!)
– 1 dozen eggs (local from the very valley I live in!)
– 1 gallon skim milk (local from here!)
– 6 apples (from VA!)
– 1 head of broccoli
– 1 package dark leafy greens (organic)
– 1 pound of rolled oats (bulk; no packaging!)
– 2 pounds of sugar (also bulk!)
– 1 whole chicken (organic!)
– 1 white baguette (made at WF)
– 1 loaf Whole Wheat bread (made at WF)
– 1 Bavarian style pretzel (made at WF)

Total? $64.86. Definitely under the goal of $75. I could have picked up a few more things (I was eyeing some raspberries longingly) but since I’ll be using some things I already own, I wanted to up the realism a bit by not squeezing every penny out of my allotted cash. The total also includes $4 in bottle credits I payed for because of the milk, which theoretically I could use to “pay forward” my next grocery purchase. A ‘bottle credit’ means I pay more up front for a glass bottle, but if I return it I can get that money back.

For the objectors: I realize I could get these things cheaper than $75. I realize that $75 is not even considered cheap if you have to multiply it by four for a family. I realize that even WF has had issues with its corporate accountability, like most grocers. I’m not a social scientist. I’m just a girl who likes recognizing the ingredients in her food and pretending to know how to cook. I’ve heard so many times that it’s impossible to eat well, with local foods, minimizing waste, without spending a fortune. I wondered if it was possible, so I’m trying to figure that out.

Stay tuned for what I actually ate for the week! Oh, and if you’re wondering where the doggies are, here’s a little something to tide you over:

Hello there, I'm Edison
Hello there, I’m Edison

Photo-ing and my Driving Addiction

After the age of 16, a lot of the arguments I had with my parents revolved around driving. I didn’t get any speeding tickets, or hit anyone, or even crash into a tree, or go in the ditch (which in Minnesota snow is quite a feat, thankyouverymuch) … so why the discontent? Simply put, I liked driving too much. I would disappear on a weekday afternoon and head to a town over an hour away, just to see what was there. I routinely took bizarrely long circuitous routes to get home that covered twice the distance I needed to. Often they would find that I was short on money, because I was simply using it all on gas. I still remember the first time I parked in a parking ramp, to see the Bodies exhibit in Minneapolis. Proud would be an understatement.

Driving appeals to rural kids, I think, because it is the only way to get anywhere. Since adulthood I’ve talked to people who grew up a few short blocks from the movie theater, or a quick bike ride into town. They don’t seem so attached to their cars, because they didn’t need them. But kids like me — kids who lived 7 miles from the nearest gas station — we love our cars. From twelve years old, we talked about was what it would be like to be able to drive. I think we weren’t talking so much about the actual act of driving as we were about getting away, about not needing a chauffeur, about having a little more control over getting to where we needed wanted to go. Keep in mind, we weren’t speed demons, or motor heads, and we certainly weren’t interested in them for “parking” purposes. We were in the band, ok? For the most part we didn’t date until college.

(This car stuff is totally not random, I promise. Stay with me.)

By now, you’ve seen photos for dogs that you know I’m not fostering, like this little lady, this guy, or Sammi the Brave. After I took an updated profile picture of my first-ever foster, Lance, my regional coordinator started requesting that I travel around and take pictures of the other DRNA dogs in the Shenandoah Valley. Pretty soon I was making a trip anytime someone picked up a new foster. Everyone seemed to worry that they were inconveniencing me, but I secretly celebrated every trip. Since the day I miraculously squeaked by passed my driver’s test with flying colors, I’ve loved an excuse to take a drive. It makes the eco-freak in me cringe, but man-oh-man! The possibilities of the open road! Even if I’m only driving an hour or so to another foster’s house, I try to take the opportunity to stop in a little vintage store, or try a local cafe. I’m convinced that travel is a mindset rather than a number-of-miles-from-home thing. Plus, it makes the 16 year old in me bust into a big grin.

The photo that started it all
The photo that started it all

That’s how my little Canon Xsi and I got serious. One little weenie named Lancelot. From there, it turned into lots of dachshunds. Then I started showing up at Augusta Dog Adoption’s weekly PetSmart events. I pose a simple question: “Who needs a better picture?” Dog handlers talk to potential adopters and take donations, and I slip away with their fosters one-by-one, to a whatever small patch of shade I can find to snap a photo of them.

Ruger, and ADA adoptable!
Ruger, and ADA adoptable!
Andy, an ADA adoptable!
Andy, an ADA adoptable!

My photos are not amazing. I have an entry-level SLR with a kit lens. I shoot in aperture priority 95% of the time. I never use any lights other than the sun. I don’t own photoshop and I’m not entirely sure I could manage to do anything other than crop and up saturation and contrast anyway. My photos attract adopters, but your photos definitely can too! This post from way back in the day talks about my basic doggie photo tips. I promise, if I can do it, you can. As much as I would like to inflate my ego by telling myself I’m indispensable to the groups I work with as a photographer, that’s simply not true. And it makes me feel even better knowing maybe I can help other people learn how to take attention grabbing photos. Even a road-loving girl like me can only drive so much!

Do you love driving? Have you worked a formerly “wasteful habit” into something positive? Does anyone have a Chevy Volt and love it? I’m totally serious, I need to calm my inner hippie down!