A Great Bunch of Dogs

I spent 3 hours today, working my way through shelter dogs, devoting 30-45 minutes to each one. I’m using Sue Sternberg’s shelter dog training protocols in an attempt to get the shelter dogs to:  1) self-calm,  2) follow a lure and learn how to learn,  3) walk nicely on a leash.

I was struck by what a nice bunch of dogs we have at the shelter. Because of a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder in spring of 2007 (just stopped hurting about 6 months ago) and a torn cartelage in my left knee in spring of 2008 (just stopped hurting about 2 months ago), I limit myself to dogs in the 20-40 pound range.

That makes me feel slightly sad for those big, boisterous dogs I can’t currently train. Tomorrow we’re having a training session for volunteers and hopefully I’ll have new volunteers willing to work with just the big dogs.

There are two old dogs at the shelter that just break my heart. Last Friday, these two neat, 10-or-11-year-old Great Dane mixes were brought to the shelter by 3 young men in their carhart suits. They had just spent the holiday season talking Mom into a nursing home, they all had to get back to work and lives elsewhere, and Mom’s terrific old dogs needed to go somewhere. As our “petfinder.com” photographer took pics of these old girls, one of the young men kissed them on the face.

They’re still at the shelter, sharing a large kennel run, sleeping curled up near each other. No one is interested in them, even the older couple I spoke with today who wanted an “older, spayed female.” I’m reminded of a line from “Elephant Man,” where the scientists are questioning whether or not this deformed human being had self-knowledge. “We can only hope he doesn’t know what’s happened to him.”

I did have an opportunity to meet a lot of cool dogs and do a little training —-  1) Sampson the young pit mix with the prick ears, very hyper at first but, when he realized I had treats, focused on my nicely,  2) Elvis the shepherd/ cattledog mix, so calm and sweet, loved to lie down for attention,  3) Baby, the boxer mix bitch who was a stray, then was adopted, then was returned to the shelter because her person had lost their apartment,  4) a no-name border collie cross with the sweetest temperament I’ve seen for awhile,  and  5) Kalli, a little shepherd-cross bitch who has been at the shelter for a couple of months and who turned out to be pretty kennel-jaded (not really interested in me as a human being, just wanted out of her kennel and walked outside — perhaps the product of too many months with too many dog-walkers who didn’t bother training her for anything).

More importantly was who was missing — the little chocolate lab puppy I had shown a couple a week ago (and they said they wanted to adopt) and two little aussie crosses who went to rescue groups in the northeastern US.

Our shelter manager has resigned, we have a temporary manager assisting with transition to an un-named, soon-to-be-hired new manager. The possibility of taking on that job remained foremost in my mind for several days. Then my mother reminded me that this is our QUIET time of year and that, perhaps, a 40-hour-a-week, minimum wage, no benefits job might not fit so nicely into my schedule during agility camp and trial season.

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