Aero

Aero was adopted at the end of April but I wanted to finally share his story here. Mostly to show how much work Animal House puts into the dogs that they rescue.

My year didn’t start out the way I had hoped. I got sick in January and even after the crud finally cleared up in February, I just couldn’t get back to normal. Any extra physical exertion, stress, or even a long day of work would leave me feeling like I was run over by a truck. I still don’t know exactly what it was. Possibly mono, over training syndrome, or some mix of both? I didn’t start to feel normal again until mid-April. I scrapped my racing plans for the beginning of the year and dropped out of the New Orleans Marathon and the Pocatello 50. I wasn’t sure when or even if I would be able to get back to racing this year.

Fortunately I met Aero in February and he gave me a new project to focus on. If I couldn’t run, I could at least be productive just getting him out to work on his training.

The first time I took Aero out, we could barely make it across the street. He was extremely reactive to everything – even leaves blowing in the wind would send him into a frenzy. He was especially reactive towards cars and had flunked out of his last foster placement after he escaped and tried to attack car tires …while they were moving. Most dogs will relax and settle down as soon as they get out of the shelter and start running. But Aero just kept getting worked up into more and more of a frenzy. He pushed into the gentle leader hard enough to make his gums bleed and any time a car went by, he’d thrash around like a fish on a hook. I tried redirecting him with treats but he just wasn’t responding. He wouldn’t refocus on anything and just kept hyperventilating, working up a froth of bloody drool. So I cut my run short with him and retreated back to the shelter.

Aero was a mess. Most shelters wouldn’t hesitate to put a dog like Aero down. Even at a no-kill shelter, he could have easily ended up in the small percentage of dogs who just can’t be rehabilitated and saved. He’s extremely lucky to have ended up at Animal House. They have dozens of other volunteers just like me who put in many hours of time with each of their dogs. And they have a full team of Canine Coach trainers organized by Cathie Lee from K9 Wisdom.

Aero on our second day out at Lory State Park.
Aero on our second day out at Lory State Park.

The next day I went back to try again and decided to take him out to Lory Park where we could get away from cars and people. For most of our run, he behaved like a perfectly happy, normal dog. We ran into Kristel and Rob on the back side of Arthur’s Rock and he barked, jumped, and snapped in the air …not a great way to make new friends. He had a couple more reactive episodes with deer on the trail and some hikers and their dog near the trailhead. But overall the outing was a success. Aero had some real potential …if only I could take him out to remote trails every day.

Unfortunately getting him to and from Lory Park was almost impossible. I spent 20 minutes trying to lure him into my car at the shelter before a car pulled out of the parking lot and scared him into jumping in. I didn’t have the same help parked at an empty trailhead at Lory Park. I spent almost an hour with half a bag of cheddar sun chips to lure him back in. So transporting Aero away from the shelter wasn’t going to be a practical solution on a regular basis.

I tried running him around the fields and streets around the shelter but it was incredibly difficult to make any progress. At best, Aero was always tense and on high alert ready to react to anything. Getting anywhere on the streets took forever stopping every couple minutes to try to redirect his focus from traffic with treats, changing directions, and doing downs and sits. On one particularly bad day, after taking about 20 minutes to make it a mile away from the shelter, I decided to end our run early and head back. It took 40 minutes to cover the same mile on the way back stopping to sit and practice redirecting Aero’s focus literally every two steps.

Since we weren’t making much progress during the day, I changed my schedule to start taking him out after dark. I could pick him up at the shelter just after sunset and we’d be able to get out around the fields and ponds behind the shelter just after the regular evening dog walkers cleared out for the night. Without distractions, Aero was a completely different dog. Once we got moving, he’d calm down after the first mile. After two miles, he would noticeably relax. His shoulders dropped and his ears would flop down and he’d lope along with his tongue hanging out like any normal, happy dog.

This worked pretty well until daylight savings time. Aero had made significant progress but wasn’t quite ready to handle the full crowd of off leash after-work dogs so we switched to running in the mornings when it wasn’t as crowded. We were able to find plenty of space on our own and gradually start encountering other people and dogs. Unfortunately our mornings out around the ponds didn’t last long. The area is private property but has been an unofficial local off leash area for a long time. Evidently the property owners decided to put an end to this and put up barbed wire fences and no trespassing signs. So Aero and I were stuck heading back out onto the streets again.

Aero working with Animal House's Advanced Canine Coaches. (Photo by K9 Wisdom Training)
Aero working with Animal House’s Advanced Canine Coaches. (Photo by K9 Wisdom Training)

During this time, Aero was getting even more work through the Animal House Canine Coaching program. While I was out running Aero in the evenings and mornings, Cathie’s Canine Coaches would come in during the day to put Aero through even more structured training exercises.

Aero soaked up all of the training like a sponge. Underneath all of his issues he was actually an incredibly smart and affectionate dog. His attachment to any volunteer who worked with him was intense. With just a little bit of attention, he would just melt and try to crawl into your lap. In the right home, he had the potential to be an amazing dog.

We still had some good days and bad days. But on most bad days, I realized it was really me that was having a bad day. It took a lot of patience to work with Aero and if I was just the slightest bit too tired or frustrated. But week over week, Aero continued to improve. Aero’s reactions were limited to just the big scary trucks and buses and obnoxious dogs that we encountered.

A big break through. Aero just chilling out at the gas station parking lot as a huge dump truck rolled by.
A big break through. Aero just chilling out at the gas station parking lot as a huge dump truck rolled by.

At the end of March, Aero had made enough progress that it seemed like it might be possible to run him in the new 5k race that Animal House was organizing in May. I was recovered enough to be able to run short 3-5 mile easy jogs on a regular basis but was still in no shape to consider getting back to my normal trail running. So this seemed like a worthwhile goal for both of us to work towards.

I introduced Aero to my own dog Baxter to practice running with another dog.

Aero meeting Baxter.
Aero meeting Baxter.
Aero and Baxter running together.
Aero and Baxter running together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With some advice from Kim and Cathie, I managed to get Aero into my car.

Aero finally getting in the car!
Aero finally getting in the car!

It still took a long line and a ton of treats to lure him in but at least I could reliably transport him places. Once he could ride in the car, I started taking him to our Tuesday night social runs at Reservoir Ridge. The first night out we had to split away from the rest of the group but he gradually got used to the other runners and dogs.

Kim and I teamed up to take Aero and Jessie out to the Reservoir Ridge social run.
Kim and I teamed up to take Aero and Jessie out to the Reservoir Ridge social run.
Aero enjoyed our snowy social run out at Reservoir Ridge.
Aero enjoyed our snowy social run out at Reservoir Ridge.
Aero loved playing in the snow!
Aero loved playing in the snow!

Since I wasn’t actually racing the Horsetooth Half Marathon this year, I decided to use the event as a final training test before taking Aero out to his first 5k at the Fast and the Furriest. I had assumed that we’d jog down to Lee Martinez to watch the runners coming down the bike path to the finish, do a few training exercises, and then retreat back to the shelter whenever it became too much for Aero to handle. Instead we jogged right down to the race and jumped right in on the bike path running back and forth pacing Katie, Alex, Cat, and Mary in the final mile to the finish. After we ran with Mary, we headed down to the finish line and walked right through the crowd and spent the rest of our time hanging out with friends in the beer garden listening to Slush’s ska band play. I can’t tell you just how amazed I was at how well Aero did at the race. It was awesome!

Aero hanging out in the crowd at the Horsetooth Half finish line.
Aero hanging out in the crowd at the Horsetooth Half finish line.
Aero hanging out in the beer garden listening to ska.
Aero hanging out in the beer garden listening to ska.
Aero making friends with Cat.
Aero making friends with Cat.
Aero really likes to give hugs.
Aero really likes to give hugs.
Yup, the former crazy dog is just a big baby.
Yup, the former crazy dog is just a big baby.

The next weekend, we successfully ran the Fast and the Furriest 5k. Aero was the 2nd overall dog and if I had been in better shape, I’m sure he could have been the 1st dog. He was fantastic the entire time and handled the crowd at check in, the mob at the start, and the excitement of chasing other runners and dogs perfectly.

Aero won a bag of doggie treats for placing 2nd at the Fast and the Furriest 5k.
Aero won a bag of doggie treats for placing 2nd at the Fast and the Furriest 5k.

I never got to run the Animal House 5k. The day after the Fast and the Furriest, Aero met his new mom. I met her on Sunday for a short jog around the park and it was a perfect match. She came back and took him home for good the very next day. The last I heard, he was doing extremely well. His mom has been teaching him new tricks, has taken him hiking, and has been training him to run along next to her bike. I can’t think of a better match for a perfect home.

Since then, I’ve started Cathie Lee’s Canine Coaching program and really look forward to helping more dogs like Aero. I’ve managed to get myself back into shape to start the Hardrock 100 this week. But I’m still not in any shape to race competitively and I’m not sure if I really want to put all of my time and effort into racing. If I can run on a regular basis and help more shelter dogs, I think I’ll be pretty happy.

 

Shelter dogs

I’ve finally found time to put together a full photo album of most of the dogs I’ve run with. So far I’ve only taken the time to post info about a few of the dogs who have needed the most help finding homes. The dogs I’ve run with the most have usually been the ones who needed the most help with exercise, training, and socialization.

But the vast majority of the dogs who come through the shelter are perfectly good dogs. Fortunately there are really very few true rescue cases from extreme abuse or neglect. And even these dogs are surprisingly good dogs who really don’t really need therapy or rehabilitation – they just need a good home. Most shelter dogs are dumped by people who don’t want to take the time to train or exercise their dog. And it never ceases to amaze me how many perfectly well trained and socialized dogs end up at the shelter. Anyone with a little patience could easily adopt a dog already trained better than they could train a dog they raised themselves.

I’ll write more about a few good ones who are still available later. And this next year, I plan to do a better job collecting photos.

 

Chief, Draco, Nitro, Raquel, and Zorro

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted about any Animal House dogs. Since I last worked with Mickey, Animal House has been turning over a lot of adoptions so I really haven’t spent a lot of time running with any one particular dog. Over the past few months Angel, Rocky, Kendal, Benny, Xara, Buzz, Benji, Happy, and Frieda have all been adopted.

But here are a few great dogs who are still stuck at the shelter. I’ve spent some time with each of these dogs and really think they’d make great companions with the right owner.

Chief (Photo from Animal House)

Chief has been at the shelter since last July. I’ve been out running with him a couple times and he learns very quickly and really wants to work with you. He gets very attached to people and has some separation anxiety issues so he’d probably be best with someone who can spend more time at home with him. His only other issue is purely cosmetic. You can’t tell from the photos but half of his hair is missing. Evidently it’s a genetic condition, blue hair alopecia, so other than regular brushing and feeding him high quality food, there isn’t anything you can do about it. Anyone willing to take home the funny looking dog that no one else wants is going to end up with an incredibly loyal companion.

Draco is one of my all time favorites. Animal House brought him in from some other shelter that wasn’t feeding their dogs enough and when I first met him, he was all skin and bones. He’s super friendly and loves treats and attention so he was very easy to work with. He loves to run and the first time I took him out on the trails, he just fell in naturally to bound along at my side. He’s in a foster home now and is doing extremely well learning basic commands. He’s even learning how to run nicely next to a bike. The only problem is his name. I guess the volunteers were on a Harry Potter streak assigning names and he got stuck with the mean kid’s name. It really doesn’t suit his personality. His foster mom has been calling him Drake which is a bit better.

Skinny Draco happy to be out on his first run at Reservoir Ridge.
Draco looking much better at his foster home. (Photo from his foster mom, Abby)
Nitro (Photo from Animal House)

Nitro is another one who could use a better name. Kim asked me to take him out for the first time just a couple days after I ran the Antelope Island 100k. My legs were still pretty wobbly from the race and with a name like Nitro, I expected to get dragged all over Reservoir Ridge. But Nitro turned out to be a pretty good dog. We had a bumpy start …mostly because it didn’t seem like he’d had any practice on leash and didn’t quite know how to behave. But once we got things sorted out, he was really easy to run with. He has a lot of energy and has plenty of moments when he gets super excited and occasionally spins around in circles. But he responds really well to both positive and negative voice commands. Just tell him NO when he’s in mid-jump and he’ll actually stop himself and settle down ….my own dogs won’t even do that once they get wound up! I think he’ll do extremely well if anyone takes the time to pay attention to him and give him consistent directions. Nitro is living with a foster right now and is doing great. He gets along with another dog in the house and chases the cats around, but not maliciously. For a lab mix, he’s on the small side so I think he’d be a great dog to take anywhere traveling around running, hiking, and camping.

Raquel has a ton of energy but is really very easy to run with. She’s very responsive and loves attention and treats so she’s super easy to train. I honestly have no idea why she’s still at the shelter. Other than her high energy, she has a pretty impressive vertical leap …maybe she’d make a great frisbee dog? She’ll be a lot of fun for anyone who stays active and runs and hikes regularly.

Raquel

Zorro really shoudn’t be on this list of dogs that have been difficult to adopt out. He’s hands down the best behaved dog that I’ve run with yet. He walks and runs on a slack leash at your hip and pays attention to voice commands. He’ll follow behind you on narrow single track and if you tell him to go, he’ll run out in front as fast as you want to go. But he doesn’t pull and will come right back to your hip as soon as you tell him slow down. (I would love to try skijoring with him!) He knows how to sit and he is very patient and gentle taking treats. He hasn’t quite mastered “down” yet but he will gladly roll over for a tummy rub. For a Malamute mix, he’s really quite calm and gentle …definitely not your typical alpha dog. But despite his nearly perfect behavior and temperament, it’ll probably take some effort to find him the perfect home just because he’s a Malamute and it’ll take a lot of work to take care of him. He’ll need a lot of exercise, he’ll shed a ton, he’ll be miserable in our summer heat, and he sings. But anyone who thinks these are all lame excuses to pass up a perfectly good dog is going to love this guy.

Zorro

If anyone is interested in adopting any of these dogs, please contact Animal House. The Animal House staff will have a lot more detailed information about each dog. Nitro and Draco are currently living in foster homes and Chief has been in and out of fosters homes and is currently back at the shelter. Some have even worked with volunteer trainers.

I would be happy to answer any questions as well. And anyone interested in meeting a dog to can always come out and join our Fort Collins Trail Runners social at 6pm every Tuesday at Reservoir Ridge. I always bring a dog from Animal House to the run.

Misty

Since Rocket got adopted so quickly, I’ve been rotating my runs around with several dogs at Animal House. Most are in various stages of training and evaluation but this last week I had a chance to take Misty out for a run.

Misty is already fairly well behaved and sits very well.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well Misty behaved on our run. I usually expect that any young shelter dog will have some sort of issues to work with. But as far as I can tell, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Misty. There really isn’t anything that she even needs to improve on. It really makes me wonder how such great dogs end up in shelters.

She definitely shows a lot of curiosity towards people, other dogs, and birds …especially birds. But it’s mostly a playful curiosity rather than an intense fixation. She responds to voice commands and is very easy to control and redirect with just a slight tug on her leash. She definitely has a lot of puppy left in her so she needs someone to consistently set an example to teach her proper manners. But it shouldn’t be too difficult. It only took a few minutes for her to figure out that she was supposed to run with me on my right side. I didn’t have to make any effort to “train” her. I just got her positioned where I wanted her to run, she eventually followed my lead, and off we went.

Misty is a great little runner.

We stopped midway through our run to take a break and play and she got a wild burst of the puppy zooms and ran circles around me like the tasmanian devil. But as soon as it was time to move on, she settled down and trotted along right beside me.

Zoom, zoom, zoom...
Time out.

She’s fairly small for a shepherd mix so she’s very agile and athletic but still easy to manage. She’d make a great all around companion to travel around running, hiking, and camping. As long as Misty is still at the shelter, I’d love to keep running with her but there are other dogs who really need the extra exercise, socialization, and training. Misty is ready to go home and live with a family right now so I really doubt she’ll be available much longer.

Relaxing after a good run.

Contact Animal House for more info about Misty and feel free to email me with any questions.