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Monday, May 09, 2011

Meet My New Foster: Apollo!

Well, my friends, I have my new foster and suspect he won't be with me for long.

Why? Well, he's small, he's sweet, and he is meant for someone special!

Meet Apollo, who arrived in Minnesota just yesterday. Because I had to work, another volunteer met his transport and gave him a safe haven until I could take him into my custody. When I called her to let her know I was leaving work, the first thing she said was "Oh, you're going to love him!".

When we met, I got out of my car to meet the volunteer and introduce myself, thank her for taking the dog for a few hours, and then realized I was completely freaking him out with my very normal behavior; this poor dog was at the end of his leash, as far from both of us as he could get and when he stopped...he was shaking.

I immediately dropped my voice and my knee at the same time, giving him a chance to approach and sniff me while his volunteer and I discussed what we knew about him. Although I tried to reach out, he shied away from my hand, and the other volunteer showed me he did the same for her, although, she said, he'd warmed up to her considerably in only a couple hours.

People, it takes a lot of work to make a dog this fearful. And it takes a lot more work to undo that kind of damage. 

The awesome thing about dogs, though, is that they are very forgiving and these domesticated creatures are bred to love humans in spite of ourselves. So it was that he shied away but tolerated my touch, and as soon as I opened the front door in order to hit the button for the trunk for his food, he climbed inside and made himself at home on the front seat.

Thankfully he was very open to being taken out and moved to the back seat, and true to form, made himself just as comfy there and en route home, went right to sleep.

Poor lil' guy! Just yesterday he rode from his temporary foster home in Iowa all the way to Minnesota with a bunch of other dogs, went to yet another very temporary foster home, and then had to survive the chaos of being transfered and transported yet again!

Clearly, though Apollo is very mellow, and while he was also clearly very anxious, he was just fine in his temporary "kennel", that being my car, while I moved a few things inside, leashed my dog and went back out to him in order to bring him around for as proper an introduction I could manage given the circumstances.

When I first entered the house, my German Shepherd had known something was up - her johnny-on-the-spot nose was pressed right up against my clothing, getting to know the new dog. So it was, when I opened the door to let her out, she wasn't surprised but ,being her, was still a bit overbearing. Apollo clearly wanted to be in a corner somewhere.

Instead, we went for a short walk so my dog could go potty and they could get to know each other...and hopefully he would go potty, too.

They both did, but of course I had to pull my GSD's head away from the stream. *ahem*

When we returned, I immediately introduced Apollo to the kennel and he dove right inside, with great doggy gratitude, and curled up in a corner. I left his leash on, certain that if I tried to remove it I'd never be able to coax him out again.

In the meantime I prepared their respective bowls, and served him his dinner in the kennel. I gotta admit: I have no idea how much to feed this little guy and I'll tell you why:  We all thought he was a Greyhound mix, but as it turns out, he's far too small, so we now think he's a Whippet mix. That doesn't help figure his food, though, because, like Greyhounds, Whippets have a high metabolism so they must be fed MORE than other breeds of the same weight. The problem is further complicated by the fact that Apollo is still a bit underweight, even for Whippet constitution.

Happily, he was hungry and ate what I gave him, although he wouldn't approach the water bowl. I should have remembered to give him water mixed with his food!

During the evening, he remained in the kennel with the door open, venturing out occasionally for a little attention when offered, then promptly returned and curled up.

He's a very very frightened little dog, and I knew he was also very tired from his long confusing day. Because of this, I decided to let him stay where he was and I slept on the couch nearby so that he'd both get used to my presence and would hopefully not get too lonely. (I have done this with all my dogs, both adopted and fostered and find it useful in many respects to identify behavior problems and of course, to acclimate them.)

Good Morning!

Apollo didn't make a peep all night, and in fact, when I got up at 6 or so (on my day off!), as soon as I let him out of the kennel he was a bundle of shaking, wagging, happy joy waiting for me at the door in hopes of going out!

Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a thunderstorm and although my German Shepherd didn't care, Apollo wasn't thrilled. He still cooperated with being walked around the yard, but was not interested in doing anything other than returning indoors.

Yup. Whippet.

I'm still trying to get a sense of him and he has indeed warmed up to me very quickly. He seems to be house trained and obviously kennel-trained.

At the same time, things common to most dogs are objects of curiosity for him. This morning on our walk (when the rain had stopped) we had to pause so he could watch the Canadian Geese strut through the park. Then, at another point, we had to take a break so he could study the flapping American flag far over his head.

He's curious, he's taking everything in and therefore clearly intelligent as his first response to new things tends to be to stop and LOOK at it, really LOOK and see what it is. All he asks is that we stop long enough for him to do so.

Nope. This little guy doesn't miss a thing.

Good Afternoon Mr. Mix! 

This afternoon we watched a movie and he'd been cuddled against me, but couldn't help but react to the dog sounds, and then when people got to be loud and shouting, he stood up and ran around, looking for the source of those voices. In part, he was certain I was doing it, but after a bit he understood that I was not shouting, nor was anyone in the house.  Movies remain a mystery to him, but not such much that he couldn't return to the couch, curl up, and have a nice nap.

The unfortunate thing about living in a townhome without a private fenced yard is this: there are other people and dogs around, and many people don't consider it important to supervise and leash their own dogs.

I took Apollo out to try to go potty, which he seems to have a hard time doing in the yard. I suspect he's been allowed to run freely and doesn't understand about going pee at the end of a leash. He does on a longer walk just fine, but the reality of a dog's life is this: sometimes they have to do business within a structured area without the benefit of a long wonderful walk.

Well, in the meantime, other people were around and tried to approach. I warned them off especially seeing his reaction at their approach: he was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane! When my dog, unleashed, approached to invite him to play, he hid behind me, terrified.

Then my neighbor, clearly understanding the situation and staying back, saw that another neighbor had let their dogs out..unleashed and unsupervised. She spoke a warning to me, her own voice low so as not to startle my little charge.

Of course the unleashed dogs approached and poor Apollo cowered, shaking, terrified. I yelled (well, raised my voice a little) to the unseen neighbor to come leash their dogs. She came out, saw what was happening and came towards us, apologizing. Her dogs were fine, not aggressive, so I just explained the fear of my little foster dog, which she could see. Although I didn't prefer it, she approached and petted him trying to make amends. He was obviously fearful but, having nowhere to go, accepted her touch. This may turn out to be a good thing in the end.

I thanked her for coming to get her dogs while I held mine and brought them in.

What is he?

Lemme tell you this: doesn't matter what he is: he won't be with me for long!

When I first saw his picture online, it said Apollo was a Greyhound mix.

"Great!" I said. I know Greyhounds. My older readers will remember my Greyhound, Fire, and his story of osteocarcoma (bone cancer) and the resulting end of his life.

So it was that I saw Apollo on MARS web page, and that grey-lover in me, knowing them as the specialty breed they are, had to step forward and offer my home once again.

Well, Apollo isn't a Greyhound, but he has some of the characteristics. What is less visible but more a part of his personality, though, is not his Whippet-ness, but the part of him that is part of his mix.

You see the pictures, so let's talk about the elephant in the room:  I believe Apollo is a Whippet-Pitbull mix.

What does that mean?

You've seen the media drama, you all have stories about "Pit-bulls".  So do I.

Really, there's no such animal as a "Pitbull" or "Pit-Bull".

Rather, there are about three breeds that are commonly CALLED "Pitbulls", and they share characteristics, but you need to know that there is no such thing. There is such thing as some poorly-bred dogs, of any breed and most particularly a certain three, that are making the name for a certain profile...and what you see in popular media, as usual, is not accurate.

This dog, Apollo could be either Whippet-"Pit" or Whippet-Boxer or Whippet-Bulldog. He is small, has a skinny little body and a large bully-type head with big brown eyes and at the other end of his brindle body, a white-tipped tail ready to wag for anyone willing to love him. Even though he is fearful, he is looking to his humans for protection, eager to cuddle up, eager to cooperate. I'm not sure I've ever met a dog easier to love than this one. He's a canine kewpie-doll.

Apollo exemplifies the best of his breed mix, and that's why he won't be with me for long. He is sweet, eager to please, interested in his surroundings, and although fearful, is not aggressive. Several years ago I adopted a dog that started out fearful and quickly revealed his aggressive nature: this does not exist in Apollo. His fear is one that can be quickly tamed by simple everyday treatment. Be gentle, be quiet, be patient. Let him reveal himself.

He's a family dog, and while I've never heard him bark, I believe he will be loyal, protective (not aggressive), and loving. He would rather flee than bite the hand that feeds him. Incidentally, the only sound that has come out of him thus far was a tiny little snore as he rested in my lap while I sipped my coffee during the morning news.

Apollo needs a special person, and belongs to a special person who has not yet been identified. With him I broke a cardinal rule: not to let foster dogs climb on my furniture, for I don't know what his future owner will allow. This dog isn't a German Shepherd or other working breed...he's a lapdog.

So! That rule has been withheld for now. He needs to be curled up on the couch or bed, because he is small and because he is seeking love and companionship that is not likely to come down to him on the floor.  This is a dog meant for someone who loves to read or watch movies with a cuddly living teddy bear of a canine.

What do we call him?

Last night when I picked him up, although I knew his name was "Apollo", when the other volunteer said his name, I could have sworn she had said "Paolo", the Italian version of "Paul".  He could also be called "Palito", "Little Paul".  Or even Paco! (Seriously, though, he's a "Paolo". Meet him and tell me different!)

I can't help it: I think that if he were my dog, I'd call him "Paolo". Either way, he responds to "Apollo" (Paolo not being a huge leap in sound), and his personality may well reveal other good names.

His breed mix, though, I have to say, offers a few suggestions should he become a prototype for the AKC.

If he's a Pitbull-Whippet, would that make him a "Bullwhip"?  Or maybe a "Whip-or-Bull"? (Say it fast - whiporwill!)

Probably doesn't matter. This lil' guy is a lover and I'm already sad because I know he won't be with me for very long. Give me some time, though, ok? I want to work with him, socialize him, and see if maybe he will stop shaking at every approach of a strange person or dog.

But if you REALLY think you need him now...shoot me an email and I'll send you on to the people that matter, and then Apollo (Paolo!) might be yours.  :-)


Terry Nelson said...

What a sweetheart.

Elizabeth said...

I wish I could take him. Liz

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Awwww...he is horribly thin. Poor guy. If he finds someone to love him and cherish him he will protect them with his life. All the breeds you listed can be very protective of their owners. A buddy of mine has a pit bull and I've had other friends who have had boxers and whippets.

He is very blessed he found people to care for him including you! :-)

Adoro said...

Terry ~ He is!

Elizabeth ~ I'm sure anyone would fall in love with him~

Cathy ~ No, he really isn't that thin. A Whippet is like a Greyhound - they look "thin" but are meant to be so - it's what makes them aerodynamic. He is maybe 1-2 lbs underweight to my eye (knowing the breeds) and that will take nothing to overcome. He's very healthy.

And oh-so-sweet! You think you could handle him if you take a weekend or so to watch my other dog? ;-)