As I write, I ask you all to keep in mind that this dog is a FOSTER. That means he is up for adoption and I am only serving as a temporary home. This really means I'm serving the family (or single person) intended by God to have this dog.. It IS a daunting task and I admit I'm intimidated.
If you are interested at some point in adopting this dog, please send me an email so I can put you in touch with the rescue organization. Please do not hesitate to do this: one of the reasons I decided to try my hand at fostering is because I cannot afford a second dog, my own dog is happier as an only pet, and I decided that sometimes it's worth putting one's heart on the line for a greater good. (Don't worry, my dog will "speak" to me again eventually.) There aren't enough people out there who are willing to even TRY fostering...so I hope my writing about "Bear" (my blog name for him) ends up encouraging others to try this role for themselves. Recall that God created animals for a reason and a service such as this glorifies and serves Him, too.
So....First Night and Day with Bear....
In speaking with the placement coordinator while she was at my house last night, I asked for some advice/recommendation on kennel usage based on what she knows and her experience. She did recommend I kennel him at night instead of letting him run loose in my bedroom, for fear he might decide to "mark" everything I own while I sleep. As this was also my line of thinking, that's exactly what I did. Bear went into the kennel with only a little hesitation, but didn't seem to be interested in the treat I offered him.
In general, he doesn't seem to understand what treats are about. I actually pulled out the "big guns" last night; freeze-dried liver, used for training. He turned it down! Yet, when my dog snarfed it down, he decided to give it a try. I've also seen this behavior before, in a dog who had been very abused. The fact that he is eating them, albeit with hesitation, is a good sign. He's willing to trust...a little...and accept treats.
Well, so, I went to bed, my dog came with me, and Bear remained in his kennel downstairs. He wasn't pleased. In fact, he sounded a lot like Chewbacca complaining, making me wonder if he's got some Malamute in him somewhere! (Yes, German Shepherds can be "talkers", too, and Bear is DEFINITELY one of them!) Unfortunately I could hear him scraping and pulling at the kennel door, he was barking, and I tried to wait it out to see what would happen.
You see, when puppies are first kenneled, they also go through a period of separation anxiety. (So do human babies, but I'll leave the child rearing to actual parents!) Typically the best thing to do with a puppy is to let them just cry and howl...it doesn't hurt them and eventually they learn that all is well, their people come back, and they are safe. If the people decide the crying is too much for them and come down to comfort the puppy, the puppy is then reinforced in the negative behavior. This ISN'T a good thing! It prolongs the training period!
I had this in mind last night, but had to realize that since I am in a townhome with neighbors on three sides, well....I had to make a decision. I thought back to my greyhound and how I'd given him the courtesy of spending his first night with him downstairs in the livingroom. The first few nights, in fact. Granted, Bear isn't going to be my dog, but what I did for my grey helped him to settle in a little more comfortably, knowing he wasn't alone in an unfamiliar place, and I never had problems with him.
So I grabbed my pillow and blanket and spent the night on the couch. Bear was a little appeased, but not entirely. He calmed enough to stop barking, although did punctuate the night with a few barks, growls, and Chewbacca conversations. (He has a very lovely singing voice! If this can be harnessed, he can stand in for any future Wookies as a voice-over!)
This morning when I got up, I decided to forgo the coffee that is usually my primary concern, and just decided to get ready for work. During the time I took to take my shower and get dressed, I didn't hear a peep out of Bear. I wondered if maybe it had to do with the lights....was he accustomed to always being in a lighted area? Is this dog....afraid of the dark? The silence? Maybe just the lack of a pack of howling dogs to chat with around him?
I went to work but came home early today, bringing things with me to do from home. Thankfully this week I have that ability. It won't always be so. It's not USUALLY so!
Thank God I came home! He had bent the kennel door inward and jammed it. The latch had been undone, but the hooks were still in place. I had to work a bit to get him out!
Now, SOME of this might just be a "German Shepherd" thing. When I first got my own German Shepherd (my present one), she was an escape artist and delicately opened the kennel gate without doing any damage. I learned quickly that she could not be kenneled. I also learned that as long as she didn't have free run of the whole house, she was generally well-behaved (although a few things were sacrificed as can be predicted.).
I'd be willing to give Bear the benefit of that doubt, except for two reasons:
1. There is absolutely NO evidence that he is familiar with house training. Although he has not "marked" anything else since his arrival last night, I don't think he can be trusted yet to know where the potty is SUPPOSED to go. He seems to have no idea, while on the leash, that he's supposed to be relieving himself. When he does, it's incidental, more dominant behavior than actual understanding that it's potty time. Unlike my dog.
2. He's not yet neutered. Would YOU let an intact stud canine run around your house KNOWING that he's not house trained yet?
So we are at an impasse...I can't trust him outside the kennel yet, and he clearly doesn't like being IN it!
Now, none of this should be taken to mean he has actual separation anxiety. Overall, what I'm seeing is general Shepherd traits, and I am finding he is willing to let me go out of his sight as long as he knows where I am. This is typical new-dog behavior. When I go into the kitchen, for example, he might follow and check to see where I am, but then he'll find a dog bed and lie down on it until I return or peek around the corner to make sure he isn't peeing on my theology books.
This afternoon we took a nice walk since the city finally "plowed" the sidewalks, making them passable. Bear really didn't seem interested in doing his business, but just kept looking up at me as if to ask, "What are we doing now? Am I good? Am I a good boy? Where are we going? What now?"
I don't think he's ever been outside of a dog run before. Bear is absolutely FASCINATED by my TV, doesn't know how to walk on my pergot floor and was hesitant to go up the stairs this morning when I decided to introduce him to the upper level.
But he is sweet, he's willing, and although still very timid and prone to shying away, he's also very much trying to please and seems to be enjoying being curled up on the rug or dog bed.
On the Stinkyness....
He's still pretty stinky. It's not his fault. I did recall I have some "waterless" dog bath powder I keep on hand, decided to try it. It helped just a little, but he's so filthy his fur is hanging on to the powder so I can't wash it out! His skin is also very dry and I think I'll be adding some olive oil to his hamburger and rice mash this evening. When I get his rabies certificate sent to me, I can maybe take him in to the groomer's for a good bath. A REALLY good bath!
He's skin and bones but I hope to get him fattened up, his coat shiny, and see what he's like when he's got some real German Shepherd confidence!
Those of you who have seen the movie "Seabiscuit" might remember Tom Smith's lines, two of which come into play here:
Bear is going to be an awesome pet. I look forward to sharing with you all what he's really like. Already he's settling down and reminding me that, indeed....lives shouldn't be thrown away just because they're a little beat up.