dog rescue, Dogs with Issues, foster dogs, fostering, Gomer Pyle, heartworms, training

A Foreigner in a Foreign Land

I got a new foster dog.

And he’s not a puppy.

And he’s not a mama (obviously).

He’s Gomer Pyle…

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Gomer has actually been in OPH care for five months. He arrived from North Carolina heartworm positive back in January. Heartworm treatment and recovery require that a dog be kept quiet and I can only imagine how hard that must have been for his previous foster. Gomer’s overriding personality traits is ENTHUSIASM.

In fact, it was this enthusiasm that led him to me. His previous foster mama recognized that he needed an outlet for that enthusiasm and even after working with a trainer, felt he’d do better in a different foster home that could provide him with more daily exercise.

Enter me.

[As previously noted, Frankie is not an enthusiastic running partner. In fact, when I tried to get him out with me yesterday he made it as far as the next door neighbor’s driveway before he sat down in protest and refused to go another step.]

We’ve had Gomer for 24 hours now. I can verify that he is indeed ENTHUSIASTIC. He is also overwhelmed and terrified and desperately trying to figure his place in this new home. Part of that is moving after being in his previous foster home for nearly five months, and part of that is just Gomer. He’s an intense, smart, ENTHUSIASTIC (did I mention that?) guy. He needs a job and a schedule and definitely a few parameters.

If I’d fostered Gomer a year ago, I wouldn’t have a clue what to do. (Evidence of this can be found in my fumbling early efforts with Gala.)

But one of my best qualities is that I learn from my mistakes. So Gomer has the benefit of my experiences with dogs like Ginger, Hadley, and Gala. In fact, I’d say he’s a perfect blend of the three.

The first thing he has needed is a ‘shutdown.’ I know there are many, many, many complicated opinions about this practice.

[For those of you scratching your heads and wondering, a shut down is a period of time where you keep a dog’s world extremely small so he can adjust. He is crated or kept in a small safe space most of his day. His interaction is limited to one or only a few people and no other dogs. He’s loved, walked, given toys and treats, but he isn’t forced to adapt to anything except his small space.]

I was one of those people who bristled at the idea of ‘locking up’ this dog who had just escaped lock up, but I’ve since learned that some dogs benefit hugely from a shutdown. It minimizes the chances of something dangerous happening for the dog (or the foster). This makes sense because dogs respond to a new environment on many more levels than we do.

For instance, over the weekend I was in Oklahoma for a wedding. Oklahoma is a completely new environment for me. Something in the air triggered my allergies which was a bonus, but beyond that – it looked different.

There were endless flat prairies, occasional rocky bluffs, and one big mountain (Mount Scott), plus prairie dogs, buffalo, and abundant birds of every shape and size.

Oklahoma felt different too –the temperature upon our arrival was 100 degrees, but it was dry heat blasted at you like an exhaust fan by the nonstop winds.

It sounded different. Our hotel was directly across the street from the courtyard of a café where Big Bob played his guitar and sang for tips ALL day from 10 am- 10pm. He had about an hour’s worth of material that he cycled through again and again with occasional Happy Birthday’s added when the guest list necessitated. Whenever he forgot a lyric, he just mumbled or added a guitar solo, which created an actually workable Louis Armstrong/Neil Young sound.

And regrettably, it tasted different. EVERYTHING was fried or dripping with butter or bacon grease, except the Cheetohs-covered scones, and the occasional iceberg lettuce.

Suffice it to say, I wasn’t feeling myself. Still, we were happy to be there and celebrate with family, hike in the wildlife refuge, and even swim with the geese in the creek.

But we are not dogs. And we knew why we were there and that Big Bob and the hissing geese were only a temporary distraction.

Gomer Pyle is also presently in a foreign land. His busy little brain is trying to take in all the new sights (cats! Horses! Frankie!), new sounds (Gracie barking, Brady pacing the kitchen, the washing machine shaking the floor, the fox in our pasture last night calling for her kits), and new smells (horses, foster-dogs past, five people and their assorted friends).

Everything is different.

And Gomer is the kind of dog that doesn’t miss a thing.

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When I took him out for his first walk yesterday he darted in every direction, challenging the end of the leash and when he couldn’t make it budge, he turned and attacked the leash itself.

On our next walk, I put on a head-collar. He fought with it briefly but then decided following me up the street was more fun and settled in for a fast-paced walk. Cars passing caused him to panic and when he couldn’t get away, he once again attacked the leash.

I employed the training I’ve learned with Frankie in our classes — ignoring the bad behavior (just keep walking, just keep walking) and treating the good behavior. Gomer very much likes treats.

This morning on our walk, when he grew frightened instead of racing to the end of the lead and attacking the leash every time, a few times he turned to me and each time he got a treat. He’s a smart cookie so I’m guessing the next walk will only get better.

Going slowly is what this fast-paced guy needs. It’s not something that comes naturally for me, but thanks to the dogs who have come before and taught me a thing or two, I recognize that this isn’t about what’s easy for me, this is about what Gomer Pyle needs.

And right now he needs his world to be small so he can adjust and adapt to a whole new world. A shut-down will help him to take in this new world slowly and safely, without being overwhelmed.

I have to say, as much as I did enjoy Oklahoma, I might have liked it even better if I could have had a shut-down for a bit—just until my ears got used to Big Bob’s tunes, my tummy got used to deep-fried everything, my nose adapted to the all-new pollen, and my internal thermostat adjusted to accommodate temps twenty degrees higher than at home.

Congrats Brandon and Evie! We were honored to be there to see the magic!

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my blogs and books, visit CaraWrites.com or subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter.

If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more regular updates of foster dogs past and present and extra puppy pictures, be sure to join the Another Good Dog facebook group.

I love hearing from readers, so please feel free to comment here on the blog, email carasueachterberg@gmail.com or connect with me on Facebooktwitter, or Instagram.

 Best,

 Cara

COMING AUGUST 2018 from Pegasus Books and available for preorder now:

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20 thoughts on “A Foreigner in a Foreign Land”

  1. The “Shutdown” is so important for a lot of these rescue dogs and so under-utilized! Thank you so much for sharing this info. He looks adorable and can’t wait to see the lucky family he gets adopted into!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had no idea what that was called — but I employed it with Dusty T. Dog when he was a puppy. He no longer needs his crate (after 12 years…) but in times of stress he will find the most crate-like thing he can, the bathroom or the tiny hallway between the bathroom and the guest room. Some over-stimulated guys just need a little safe place to regain their equilibrium. I love Gomer. He’s beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the crate too. I recently bought an egg chair. It kind of enclosed me, and I thought to myself, no wonder the dogs like their crates so much. The dogs like the egg chair too. 🙂

    In the evening, my hyper-stimulated puppy spends a lot of time in his crate. It helps him to calm down. Otherwise he is a menace to his doggy buddies, and of course, it protects the furniture. Furniture is a particular attraction to bored, anxious and over-tired doggies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How do these foster dogs get their names? The names are really creative. I particularly like the name you gave to Brinkly and Uptown Girl: the Eighties Ladies. But Gomer Pyle? Muffin? Waffles? Other dogs? Where do they get such interesting names. I have a friend who fosters dogs, and one of her dogs was named Bacon. It made this dog dislike smile and laugh, hearing her say that name. Hardly traditional.

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    1. Usually the dogs are named by the ‘shelter pull team’ (The people who decide which dogs our rescue will take from each shelter), but mamas/puppies are named by their foster. The reason they can get pretty wild names is that our database won’t allow us to repeat names and we currently have nearly 8000 dogs in it, so you have to be creative!

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  5. Interesting reason. It seems like they tend to use the names of food or random words (Uptown Girl, Homeboy, etc). I wonder if any of the dogs will ever be named after noteworthy OPH volunteers or noteworthy people in the world in general. Some people have mixed thoughts about having a dog given the same name as them. In the sixth grade, a hamster our class got was named Anna, and people were worried about how I’d feel about that. I thought it was amusing, and sometimes wonder what a dog with my name would be like. I can be a feisty woman, but also have a soft side too. Maybe I’m like a German shepherd or terrier. Do you have a favorite breed of dog?

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    1. Every now and again dogs are named after people. I’ve named my litters after literary figures and had a litter I named after the historical characters in Hamilton. One of our OPH litters was named after all the MD police officers killed in the line of duty (that foster’s husband is a state trooper).

      I used to have a favorite breed of dog, but that has changed again and again as I meet dogs of so many different breeds that I fall in love with. I was a hound girl, still am to an extent, but I know they can some of the most stubborn dogs around. I never had a feeling one way or another about pitbulls until I adopted Frankie, and now I love them. So, I guess it changes.

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  6. I have a stuffed basset hound that a former neighbor gave me when I was a child. As an adult now, and knowing more about what a hound looks like, I like to feel the dog’s long floppy ears. The woman who gave it to me passed away in 2003, and judging by how unenthused she was to have our dog at her house (this was a dog we had when we lived in Virginia and I was small, a large, but gentle, female golden retriever named Lady), I wouldn’t say she was a fan of living dogs. Because she was a special person in my life though, I’ve kept the basset hound. And yes, they can be stubborn and high maintenance. My mom and I (well, more so my mom… not being a fan of the dog’s, I kept my distance) looked after one a few times about a decade ago, and she was slow to follow instructions from people who weren’t her owners. She was friendly, just not that obedient. I’ll take my stuffed basset hound over a living one any day. They do have a unique-sounding bark though, I’ll give them that.

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