Sunday, February 20, 2005

Gwen, Part One

"Dogs got personality. Personality goes a long way."
--Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction

Here's one reason I haven't been blogging much this week.

We brought home our new foster puppy, Gwen, Sunday night. She was found as a stray in Mercer County, KY, eating out of a garbage can. She was in a "high-kill" shelter that needed the space, so Tails of Hope offered to take her.

Background: Tails of Hope is a local animal rescue organization that we foster for. ToH takes animals out of shelters where they are in danger of being euthanized due to overcrowding. The shelters in our area of Central Maryland are rarely near capacity, so most of our fosters have come from a distance--Western Maryland, West Virginia, even Tennessee.

(I read an article yesterday on dog rescue "underground railroads" which said that due to spay/neuter laws and changing attitudes, the Northeast has relatively few unwanted, adoptable pets, so they have to be "imported" from the South.)

The shelter told us a couple of weeks ago that Gwen was very shy and scared and needed to learn that humans were a source of happiness rather than fear. We have a relatively quiet household, so we were chosen to foster her so that she would have a chance to come out of her shell.

What shell? Gwen is friendly, outgoing, and confident. She doesn't seem to be afraid of anything. If there's a loud noise, she might jump away out of reflex, but comes right back to investigate. She was probably just scared in the shelter because, well, shelters are scary places.

She's not wild about being in her crate, but they rarely are. We're working on this by giving her treats and meals inside it.

Because of her natural intelligence and curiosity, she doesn't like it when I'm in another room doing something without her that might be fascinating (or involve food). But if I go downstairs or leave the house entirely, she stops whining, as if she's accepted the fact that I no longer exist. So I think the behavior is brattiness as opposed to anxiety.

Gwen is half-Collie, half Golden Retriever, so she can't decide what she wants to do with her mouth--carry things in it, or use it to herd everything and everyone. Inner conflict probably goes something like this: "I love carrying this leaf around--given that I spent five minutes rooting through a pile to find the right one--but Meadow is going the wrong way and I need to stop her!"

Collies love to bark, but some have a hoarse voice that is merely annoying, not ear-piercing, which I believe to be one of many proofs of a benevolent, loving God. Gwen is one of these dogs--her bark sounds more like a cough.

She gets her stitches out from her spay operation tomorrow, and hopefully the vet will tell us she can resume normal activities. Then she can run and play with our dog and become terminally tired. There's nothing so quiet as a sleeping puppy.

People always ask me, "Isn't it hard to give them up when they go to their new home?" After I pick myself off the floor and catch my breath from the laugh riot, I tell them no, that's the best part. The hardest part is the first week with a new foster, when it feels like there's a stranger living in our house. Our movements are limited because the dog has to be watched constantly, and until it learns to relax, the mere act of me getting up for a drink of water can rouse it out of a sound snooze and make it want to throw a party ("Oh boy oh boy oh boy, we're going in the kitchen!!! Now we're going back to the table! Think I'll chew on the chair leg. No, wait, I have to go potties. There.").

That being said, Gwen is amazingly well-behaved and easy to handle. More updates on her later, if you can stand them.



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