Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pitbulls - Puppy Number 11

One of my first dilemmas was this: Do I pull dogs from high-kill shelters where it's easier to kill (did I say "kill?" Oh I'm sorry, I meant "euthanize.") the dogs than it is to make an effort to work with rescues and find homes for them, or do I work with those shelters that are kill-shelters but who work closely with their communities and with rescues to place as many dogs as they can and to kill as few dogs as possible? My decision was to mostly pull from Greenville County Animal Control in South Carolina. They have developed a really good system for taking in large quantities of dogs (and cats) sometimes up to 150-175 dogs PER DAY in the summer. They manage to deal with kennel cough, mange, and parvo virus outbreaks. And the director of dog rescue, Lauren, is really good about helping me with accurate temperament testing, which is super important when you have a dog with issues like my Teddy Bear. I like to save the ones that are shelter staff favorites...dogs with great personalities in not-so-exciting bodies. Some people call them the underdogs. Pitbulls are almost always underdogs. Which brings me to my second dilemma and my most recent foster puppy: Lala.
Lala is a four-month old pitbull mix. Maybe a mix, but there is unmistakably, undeniably pitbull in her appearance and her personality. The dilemma is, do I take a dog like Lala who more than any other dog needs me to help her find a home and is one of the most likely dogs to be euthanized just because of a label, or do I just keep pulling the doofy, happy-go-lucky, easy-to-place golden retriever, lab and border collie mix puppies that are super-easy to find homes for?
Here is what I have learned about her in the last week:
First of all, she didn't respond to the name Lala, but does come when you call her Lulu or Lulabelle in a southern accent, sickeningly sweet, sing-song voice. Lulu was billed to me as the most loving dog in the shelter, which she absolutely people. When she sees someone coming down the sidewalk, she begins to wag her whole body. She will accept the slightest (even unintentional) invitation to climb into your lap and kiss your face or any bit of bare skin from the feet up - whatever is within reach, or lick your clothes if there's no skin she can get to. She adores my Maggie and is even more smoochy when Maggie giggles. The markings on her lips make her look like a little girl who tried to put lipstick on herself, so she even looks smoochy. She's definitely a people dog, and there is not the slightest bit of aggression towards people...absolutely ZERO aggression with kids, even when they are running and rough-housing...not even a nip.
She is not so warm to other dogs though. It took me and Ian quite a long time, standing out in the yard in the rain, holding Lulu and Teddy Bear by their harnesses and trying to calm them with bacon training treats while they lunged at each other, barking wildly. We finally brought them into the house and continued the treat-giving, setting up the baby gate between them, and slowing working them toward each other between more bouts of wild barking, snarling and lunging. Until finally we could drop one leash and let them explore a tentative interest in one another. There was a little more snarling at feeding time. But by the evening, they were romping on and off the livingroom sofa as if they were lifelong friends. So I can say that she will do OK with other dogs given the proper introduction. To anyone else, it must look and sound a little scary when she and Teddy Bear are rough-housing, but I never worry about stepping into the middle of it or putting my hands in between them.
Today we went for a walk around Red Bank with Drayton Michaels from Urban Dawg. We came across another dog in front of Zebu that was off-leash. Lulu was a little startled and barked, but Drayton drew her interest away with his hand and she forgot the other dog almost instantaneously. She then walked by two pomeranians and a sheltie without even noticing them. Yay!
In terms of other training, Lulu is a great dog. She is very interested in pleasing her people. She understands "NO." This is especially important because she is a curious puppy when it comes to the cat. She wants to stick her big, wet puppy nose into the cat's butt, which the cat is not having. So "NO" will spare Lulu's nose leather from being swiped by the claw of doom.
She's not much of a chewer, although she did get one of Maggie's flipflops today. I'm actually happy about that because I've been yelling at Maggie on a daily basis to put them away and not leave them laying around the house. (Thanks, Lulu!) Mostly she is happy with the dog toys that we have...bones, rawhides, tennis balls, tug-o-war ropes, kongs, etc. She doesn't really need to look elsewhere for things to play with like shoes and furniture!
She is also not much of a barker, unlike Teddy Bear. She is certainly alert to things moving in and outside the house, but is quiet. She'd be a good apartment dog.
She is crate trained and is quite happy to amble into her crate and curl up for the night, although she won't turn down an invitation to sleep in the bed! She also likes to sleep on the chair by the window in my room. And she makes it through the night without accidents.
Generally speaking, she is housebroken. She still has an occasional pee-pee in the house, but as long as I take her out on the leash every couple of hours, she does her business immediately outside.
Really, she's a great pet on so many levels, but I need to be sure that she gets placed with someone who is a strong, calm, consistent dog owner. Today Drayton said that she is a "soft" dog who never needs you to raise your voice to control her. She is so willing to please, and when I saw Drayton handling her, I could see that with training she could be an amazingly obedient dog - like a therapy dog or one of the dogs you see in agility trials.
Ideally, she will find a home with someone who just wants a super-loving dog - just one dog by itself or maybe with cats and/or kids. She is a sit-on-the-couch-with-you and kiss-your-face dog. She will love you forever, and I love her enough to find that person for her even if it takes a little longer.

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