I've had an awful cold the last few days, but I'm trying to refrain from posting about that, and focus on the good news. Sorry for the long post. Those of you who are dog lovers may be interested (and helpful!?)

I had been sneaking around the shelters and adoption events in San Diego looking for a dog to surprise my husband with, but I always came home disappointed. On Christmas Eve, I drove all the way to L.A. to visit their 6 shelters, after seeing on Craigslist that all adoption fees were being waived for Christmas thanks to an anonymous "Silent Santa". The whole experience was pretty heartbreaking. The dogs were generally kept in kennels outside, with temps in the 40s, and no space for them to run around and keep warm. Most of them were shivering and either barking desperately or curled up in a depressed heap. I found out that the box in the back of each kennel was heated and lined with blankets, but no one could see them back there. So when people came by, they chose to shiver rather than miss their chance to find a home. There were so many beautiful dogs, I wanted to turn my house into a shelter. They had a lot of large breeds, including puppies which I knew would grow to be 100-pound dogs, something my tiny yard could never accommodate. A lot of the smaller breeds were very noisy and hyper, which I also know is not tolerated in our neighborhood. I was starting to think I would go home disappointed again.

When I saw "Larry", my eyes suddenly went misty. I don't know if it was the sight of his ribs and spine through the patches of missing fur, or the way he stood quietly, hopefully, staring at me... maybe it was just timing, the point in my own thought process when I spotted him. It was probably his heavy black eyeliner, which makes him look so genuinely emo even when he's bouncing and wagging his tail. Whatever it was, the image of his small frame stuck with me while I was exploring the other shelters. I kept thinking he was too big -- when I first saw that his tag said "Pit Bull", I assumed that he would grow up to be a fairly massive dog. Shows how much I know. This puppy's already 4 years old. My age, basically. My little monster. I went back for him and began a very long trip home in the worst traffic I've yet encountered. The shelter was out of carriers and the little monster was afraid of the car, so it was (I say again) a Very Long Trip.

When I got him home I tied him to our front door and did a Ding-Dong-Ditch so I could hide and watch my husband's reaction to him. Poor thing. Both of them, I mean. So confused... We got the dog settled in as well as we could before bedtime. My hubby (the one who had to get up at dawn for work) got up 4 times to clean up after our new friend. He is very well behaved, housebroken and quiet... and completely obssessed with food. This may sound normal for a dog, but this particular dog was a stray for quite a while, and has more street smarts than we can handle. After picking up all the garbage that had been dumped and strewn across the floor, we had to dog-proof the house by moving all trash, cleaning products, tissues, medicine, plastic bags, etc. It's kind of scary getting into the mindset of a truly desperate creature to think of all of the sights and smells that might be associated with food. This was not quite like baby-proofing. This one was not discouraged by childproof caps, and even opened a screw-top container which contained the only actual food item we had left out (chocolate, of course).

We took him to Petsmart the next day and discovered the only thing that makes him more crazy than food: other dogs. We were worried that there was something wrong with his vocal chords because we had never heard him bark, but he is a lot less shy with strange dogs. He will pull on his leash to the point where he can no longer bark or breathe, and he doesn't seem to care because he MUST get to that dog. Mostly he just wants to go through the usual sniffing routine, but I've learned that he will snap at dogs that are smaller than he is. I am only surprised because I haven't known a lot of pets who have a realistic concept of their own size in relation to other animals. Again with the street smarts. It makes me sad to think about him having to learn how to break into trash cans and who to pick a fight with. The bright side is that I'm not worried about him getting hit by a car if he ever runs off. He refuses to cross the street when there are cars present.

We've been calling him Max, officially Maximillian Trouble Todd, unofficially Buddy (as in, "Knock it off, Buddy!"), Caninus Maximus, Maxi-Poo (he hates that one. it cracks me up), or Little Monster. It may be a while before he's off-leash or impressing all our friends with his death-defying tricks, but I think we'll keep him. :)

All comments, questions, suggestions welcome!

From: [identity profile] myras-girls.livejournal.com

Well both Maggie and Kaylo are "Pit Bulls". Kaylo is pretty big, but Maggie isn't too big, I think. I mean, 45 pounds isn't a big dog, right?

Maggie will also choke herself on a leash attached to a flat buckle collar around her neck. I've had good luck with Gentle Leader/ Halti face harness for walking. If the dog pulls, the face harness pulls the dog's head down at which point it's counter-intuitive to the dog to pull.

We're currently using the Gentle Leader: Gentle Walker chest harness for both our dogs. Kaylo haaaaates the face harness so we use the chest harness for them both. The Gentle Walker tightens around the front of their chest when they pull, which discourages pulling. Maggie still pulls a bit but it's way better than attaching a leash to a neck collar.

You can check out [livejournal.com profile] petbulls to chat with other bully breed owners. It's been a great resource for me! I also strongly recommend Nothing In Life Is Free as a training technique.

Yay dog! Where are the pics?

From: [identity profile] bubbles79.livejournal.com

Thank you for the advice! We did get a face harness which we're trying to get him used to. I posted a pic on Christmas, but I'll try to get a better one to post within the next couple days. I'm excited. :D

From: [identity profile] myras-girls.livejournal.com

Oh, I went back and looked at your Christmas pic. I think it wasn't showing up when I saw it on my flist. It's showing up now!! CUTE!!

From: [identity profile] bubbles79.livejournal.com

Thank you!! I had a pic of him with the tree in my last post, but I'm working on getting a better one. :)

From: [identity profile] mkitty3.livejournal.com

I'm so happy you got an older shelter dog! There are so many cute puppies running around that often times the older dogs get passed over. *loves*

From: [identity profile] bubbles79.livejournal.com

I know. He was in that shelter for months. Poor thing. He was probably happier in the street, bite wounds and all. I know he's happier now, though! We are one happy little family. *g*

From: [identity profile] bubbles79.livejournal.com

I know! I totally wanted to mail you one.

Seriously, though, that's why I didn't talk to you about my puppy-shopping "adventures". I didn't want to make you jealous.

From: [identity profile] pen-of-jen.livejournal.com

not jealous... i'm happy for you. =D i want pics and stories and serious business. =D

From: [identity profile] rael-barclay.livejournal.com

As you might have guessed, I've read a lot of dog books over the years. The best one I have found is: How Dogs Learn . It really puts a person in the correct frame of mind to understand and teach. It doesn't talk down while at the same time is totally accessible to the average person. If I had not just given my copy to my mom, I would ship it over to you. :)

I've been around pit bulls, and they are a wonderful breed. If anyone ever says differently (and they do), I always tell them that it is the owner, not the dog.

I think it great that you have a puppy!! They are all puppies to me, even 11 year olds. :)

From: [identity profile] bubbles79.livejournal.com

Thanks for the tip! It looks like they have that book at the library, so I'll check it out.

He sure seems like a puppy to me. So cute! :)

From: [identity profile] bop-radar.livejournal.com

Oh this is the second doggy adoption story I've read about on my f'list today! How exciting. Congratulations on finding Max. He sounds wonderful! They're beautiful loyal dogs.

If he's anything like my rescue dog, he will change a lot in a surprising amount of time, but the early days will be tiring and anxious. Routine works wonders, I think. Once he starts to know that there will be regular mealtimes, things will change. He may always love food though--my little one's definitely an opportunist, and we can't leave food lying around. ;) Make sure that you set boundaries for him so he knows where he stands and that you're the pack leaders--he'll respect that and feel more comfortable if you show him you're in charge. Praise him for doing good things, like not destroying stuff, coming to you when called, all of that. He may never have had a protective pack leader--he is probably used to having to survive on his own, and he will find it so reassuring that you guys are there now and he doesn't have to do all the defensive stuff himself.

Oh, and it will be exciting to see him learn what healthy playing is! My dog did not know what playing was when we got him. Now he loves his play time--fetch and tug-of-war--it is such a delight to see. Make sure not to play rough with him as he'll think aggression is allowed.

You probably know all this! I just like babbling about dogs. ;)

From: [identity profile] bubbles79.livejournal.com

Thank you! I didn't know all that, but I'm learning. He has mellowed about food already and gotten more playful with us. We're about to take him to the dog park right now -- that should be a learning experience for all of us!