Record Breaking Dog

Gala has broken the record.

Longest foster dog we’ve ever had.

At nearly five months here, Gala easily surpassed  Whoopi, Ginger, and Carla,  our other longest fosters.

She’s also the dog with fewest applications. (Currently that would be zero applications.)

lighter

In the past five months, she’s only had four interested potential adopters. All changed their minds. None ever met her in person.

If you’re a reader of this blog, perhaps that doesn’t surprise you. I’m nothing if not honest about the challenges of this dog. But I hope I haven’t done her a disservice by highlighting her physical feats and mishaps. I would hate for anyone to focus on those and miss out on the fact that Gala is one incredibly loving and amazingly intelligent dog. Gala’s intensity isn’t just for chasing after birds or jumping over obstacles, she also channels that intensity into loving her people and trying to please them.

 

Because she loves to ride in the car, I invite Gala along for many errands. It gets her out of the crate and gives me peace of mind to know she isn’t finding any kind of trouble. She’s an excellent passenger. My youngest son volunteers at the library in the summer, so Gala accompanies me most mornings to drop him off. After he gets out, she whines and cries and worries on the way home, and when we pick him up she waggles and covers him with kisses, happy he is back safe.

When I am out of the room, she waits longingly at the door until I come back- never taking her eyes from where I have gone missing. Thanks to the e-collar, she no longer jumps over the baby gate to follow me.

In fact, thanks to the e-collar, the cat can prowl through the kitchen again unaccosted and doesn’t have to worry about being pounced on as she lounges on the porch.

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Thanks to the e-collar, we can walk all the way around the outside of the pasture fence, and not once will Gala attempt to dive under the fence to chase the horses. I’m no longer taken for a cross-country ski-less rides across the wet grass and I don’t need to worry about my arm being yanked out of the socket at the sight of a bird in the bushes. There might be a slight tug as Gala finds the end of the leash, but that’s where it stops.

The success we’re finding with the e-collar makes me ever certain Gala can be trained to be a perfect houseguest (we’re nearly there) and even to remain inside a fence (we don’t have a fenced yard in which to test this theory). I’ve only ever used the vibrate setting because she responds so beautifully to that. I’m pretty sure if I ever had to shock her, she’d be reduced to a quivering mass, but I’m saving that setting for emergencies (like cornering a horse).

I use the collar on our walks, too, which is helpful as Gala feels it necessary to protect me from every dog we pass (fenced or not). One quick press of the button, though, has her back at my side, hair standing on end and muted snarl, but sticking with me.

In fact, the only issue we have with Gala now is Gracie. And it’s not necessarily Gala who’s at fault here. Gala rarely barks, snarls, or even makes faces at Gracie any more. Gracie, on the other hand, regularly taunts Gala – snapping at her from outside her crate, growling at her when she passes. I don’t know if the e-collar can help us with this. I worry that if the dogs got into it and I used the collar on Gala, Gracie would seize that advantage.

Perhaps, Gala needs to be an only dog. But maybe not. She’s such a loving and happy spirit, I can’t help but believe that in the right hands, with the right dog, she could overcome her fears. I’m no dog trainer, so I really can’t say.

My father-in-law sent me an article recently about how dogs are tested for aggressive tendencies in many shelters.

testing dog aggression

Some tests involve using a fake hand to reach for a dog’s food as it is eating. If the dog bites the hand, it may likely be euthanized. The tests are being called out as unfair and inaccurate (thank goodness). Dogs in a shelter are stressed beyond reason and might quite reasonably be protective of food (especially if they haven’t had enough lately).

Thousands of dogs have been euthanized for failing those tests, just like thousands of dogs have been euthanized for looking like pitbulls. My dog Gracie is very food protective – she would definitely fail the aggression test. Gala, on the other hand, is not food protective, yet her intensity and short, short hair might put her in the pitbull camp. I’d have to wager if they’d both turned up in a shelter five years ago, neither would have made it out alive.

Like too much in life, it all depends on luck and timing.

The same article said that more and more, researchers are concluding that these tests are wildly inaccurate. A dog in a shelter is a very different dog than a dog in a home setting. An aggressive dog might be more submissive and subdued in a shelter and a non-aggressive dog might be more on edge and defensive. Which makes foster homes a much better gage for a dog’s temperament.

In the past five months, I’ve gotten to know Gala very well, but even so I can’t be sure how she will be in another home. I think that living here with the constant threat of Gracie, the temptation of the horses, the flow of strangers in and out, and the long hours in her crate is not easy. I have to wonder if she might relax in a real home with a person who is devoted to her instead of sharing her with a changing roster of puppies and dogs plus a quirky, grumpy personal dog. It’s hard to say, but I hope we will find out soon.

My puppy-blurs, as a friend recently called them, are doing well. They are happy and busy and oh-so-loving. They spend their days in the puppy pen poised to pounce at the fence; tail-waggingly thrilled to see visitors. Like overwrought teenagers at a rock concert – they leap at the sight of anyone, throwing themselves in your general direction and then falling to the ground in ecstasy if you reach out to touch them.

Yang claims any and all toys, piling them in the corner of the puppy pen. Yin is the food supervisor, always getting more than her share and making me grateful no one did an aggressiveness food test on her at the shelter. She loves her food and although she shares with Yang, many times she does this the same way my kids shared their Cheezits – by eating as fast as she can while growling, “Hey, you’re getting more than me!”

I’m still struggling to get non-blurry pictures of these girls, but here’s a few of my better attempts –

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about OPH or apply to adopt Gala, Yin, or Yang, click here.

If you’d like to know more about my blogs and books, visit my website, CaraWrites.com.

Blessings,

Cara

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Published by

Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

12 thoughts on “Record Breaking Dog”

  1. The truth is, if anyone else had our dog they would have given him up long ago. His energy level is off the charts. At age 7 he is finally satisfied with 2 long hikes a day, 1 hour of fetch, and 1-2 hours of play time with the neighbor dog. Gala sounds a lot like Jake. He’s insanely active but a great dog- just took a whole lotta work for a couple years.
    The puppies look like greyhound mixes! Cute!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh I hope it doesn’t take Gala five more years to settle down! Jake sure landed in the right home. Hoping to find one like yours for Gala. Those crazy puppies have twice as much energy as a greyhound – I’m beginning to think I’m dealing with Jack Russell/border collies crosses!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good lord if that was a hungry man, I would think he might react the same!!! Poor babies sometimes never even get a chance!!! I am just so thankful to you that you are able to take in the Gala’s of the world!! My Max was extremely skittish and fearful but always so sweet. Now it’s a joy when I hear him bark and do things that a “normal” dog would do.

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  3. I am here to say that although Whoopi was a long foster, she found us and we found her! She is a perfect fit for this family of hounds! I have no doubt that Gala will find her match too! When it is meant to be..it will be!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Whoopi…..such a challenge is so many ways but I’m certain it all happened in order for her to find you. Ian still talks about Whoopi with such affection in his voice. Carla, too. He told me that when he’s an adult he’s only going to foster ‘giant hound dogs’. Thank you for rescuing and loving her!

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  4. Gingersnap (aka Ginger aka GG) was another 5 month OPH foster. On our first walk with her when she lunged and barked at neighborhood dogs with her hackles up I though, oh no. When she ran the fence line with those same hackles raised as neighbor girls walk by I though things worse than oh no. We’d moved her to an urban suburb. We’d moved her into a house with 3 kids and a stream if guests; into a house where everyone is gone at work or school all day. . .But there was a sweet energy there, a (relentless, yes) affection, and a visible (if not also distractable) desire to please. 1 yr, training sessions, and lots of love later, and she’s Ginger 2.0. Same girl, newer, more functional model. Your honesty about what we were signing up for helped us do right by her. It will bring you Gala’ s right people too.

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    1. Thanks Claire! So good to hear. We talk about Ginger all the time. My daughter always says she was the perfect foster dog (her memory is rose-colored) and she wants a dog just like Ginger some day. These high energy, super smart pups aren’t necessarily ‘easy’ but they are so worth the effort. Thank you for rescuing Ginger and giving her the time and training and love she needed. Hoping someone just like you comes along for Gala soon!

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  5. I’m glad your efforts with Gala are working so well, and hope you get applications soon! You’re right that it is better for dogs to be in foster homes than shelters. I also read the article in the NY Times about the temp tests, and it did make some good points. But I have also seen that test done, and it also has some merits. It’s not given to dogs that are hungry, and dogs that try to “protect” their food can still pass. If the dog’s first reaction to a hand slowly sliding the food bowl away is a hard bite, that is a red flag, as most dogs would warn first, then bite only if the warning was ignored. That being said, I do think that the resource guarding portion of the test is the least accurate, and hope that someone comes up with a test that is more accurate.

    Shelters are in the impossible position of trying to make sure they don’t adopt out dogs that are going to hurt, maim, or even kill someone, while at the same times making sure they don’t euthanize adoptable animals. And they sometimes make the wrong decision. All I can say is that I am very glad I’m not the one who has to make that call, since I don’t think I could handle the pressure.

    I’m glad I found your blog! Helping homeless is a tough thing to do, and there’s lots of different opinions out there, but in the end, we all want to get the dogs into love, permanent homes!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an exciting household you have! So many sweethearts under one roof. I have always been glad our dog Styx went into foster care after being rescued from a high kill shelter as he would have failed any of the tests at that time. You are such an angel for your devotion to these animals. I was telling my husband about you and how grateful I am to cross virtual paths with you. Your compassion keeps me hopeful on the better things to come in the animal world.

    Those temp tests really are incredibly inaccurate. The Carson Shelter in LA County euthanizes an immeasurable amount of animals for failing those tests. It is a shame and largely unnecessary but I believe better days are to come with so many people working toward a more sustainable future and putting forth amazing efforts to support the change.

    Thank you so much for sharing! I look forward to all the fun to come!

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    1. Thanks – and I hope you are right that better days are coming. I think many rescues are helping to raise awareness and save dogs, but sadly, there are others with great intentions who are not screening dogs appropriately and being honest about the health and behavior issues that some shelter dogs face. Shelters face intense pressure and insufficient funding and have to make such hard decisions. Here’s what I tell myself when I’m discouraged – all we can do is the best we can do. Thanks for reading and for your kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

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