Grover was rescued on April 12, 2007 from the Oakland Animal Control, which he had entered as a street stray two weeks earlier. He was originally listed as a Giant Schnauzer and the GS Rescue was notified and it was GS Rescue who e-mailed the news and his photo to me, saying she thought he was a Bouv rather than a pepper & salt colored Giant. I phoned her right back : we both agreed that his shelter photo (shown above) made it 99.9% certain that he was a Bouv not a Giant. My next phone call was to the shelter. The phone conversation about him with a shelter volunteer made it sound like he was "running out of time" , which proved to be an overstatement. His temperament tester had marked him as "not available for public adoption" because on the first part, in which the tester stands tall , faces the dog frontally, and stares straight into the dog's eyes, Grover reacted by barking and with confident and assertive body language. (this test, which was designed by Sue Sternberg as a test to help a total novice eliminate every dog who was not totally suitable for the least competent beginner is a test that is totally inappropriate to decide if a dog is suitable for a more experienced and moderately competent adopter.) However he was available to Rescue, and the shelter was making a real effort to find a Rescue rather than simply killing him quickly , though they intended to kill him eventually if no Rescue accepted him.
I found him to be a self-confident dog with style and energy, but very cooperative when I put him through basic obedience commands. Clearly he had had some previous training and clearly he was happy to work for someone presenting herself as a calm and confident pack-leader. I suspected he could be a handful for someone who was inexperienced or lacking pack-leader "alphatude." Not a dog for a novice but a joy for an experienced handler. From his looks and his behavior I was fairly certain that he came from a serious breeder and most likely from a "working line", most likely Schutzhund / KNPV lines. Anyway I signed his bail, loaded him in the car, and home we went. (By the way this turned out to be only a few days before a freeway interchange we had to go through coming and going was demolished by an exploding fuel truck.) Arriving home , since he was a mature reproductively intact male dog, I installed him in my kennel run rather than bringing him straight into the house.
(It was not untill later that night that I remembered that April 12 is my beloved and departed Bonesy's birthday. He would have been 21 years old. I had meant to spend some time that day meditating on our 14 years together, but this rescue emergency distracted me. Oh well, Bonesy would forgive me. Precious old man, I loved you so much, still do and always will !!!)
Over the next week , while the BCNC Board members were trying (without success) to figure out who his breeder might be and contacting same so that the breeder could be asked to take responsibility for him, I worked him in two daily lessons of obedience review. The first few times, each time I approached the kennel run, he would "rocking horse bounce", bouncing alternately front end and back end, and he would bark in an excited manner. The message was clearly "take me out so we can do something interesting and fun !" This is probably the same bark and body language that had gotten him marked as "not for adoption" at the shelter. I quickly and easily taught him that I would not touch the run gate , nor open it , nor take him out unless he sat quietly. He already was responsive to the Sit hand signal (which many untrained dogs will respond to if you know how to keep their eyes focused on your hand as you lift it so as to draw the dog's head up into the "howling coyote" position) and he was equally responsive to the verbal "sit" command by itself (a trained response), so it was easy to show him that sitting brought me closer and got me to open the gate and snap on a leash, but that bouncing or barking made me turn away , close the gate, etc. After being haltered and leashed he had to hold a Sit while I opened the gate again and continue holding until I gave permission to exit the run. This is the same routein I teach for exiting doors from house to outdoors and for exiting from a car. It's a safety issue as well as a requirement that the dog exercise self-discipline and respect my role as leader.
Take Me Out to the Dog Park !
(to the tune of Take Me Out to the Ball Game)
Take me out to play ball games !
Take me out to the Park !
Buy me some cheese treats and liver jerky ;
I don't care if it's chicken or turkey.
Let me dig, dig, dig for the gophers,
And chase all rabbits who run !
I'm a healthy young dog
Who just wants some fun !
Some of the club board members were very concerned that we not neuter this extremely handsome dog without making an effort to find his breeder in case the breeder wanted him returned. I post-poned his neuter a week to accommodate this concern. However efforts to find his breeder were not successful. Because California law , the Hayden Act, since 2007 clearly requires that EVERY dog adopted from a shelter MUST be altered , there would have been no legal way to let his breeder have him back without neutering anyway; and because he was not tattooed or microchipped, he could never have been used for breeding legitimately. Although the shelter had already scanned him for a microchip and found none, I had my vet do another scan ; in fact she scanned with two different types of scanner. Still no chip. And I had already diligently searched for a tattoo on both thighs and inside his cropped ears.
So the glorious Snip Day arrived and Grover got a load taken off his mind. My vet estimated his age at 7 years, based partly on the atrophied state of his gonads (something of which she considers herself to be an expert judge).
When he began to come indoors to start integrating into the pack, there were some rough spots. He'd already met my dogs outdoors during on-leash group walks. Now with each of my dogs he had one brief scuffle that ended with the other dog pinned to the ground briefly then let back up. OK , that is well within normal dog "status determining" behavior. The only one he had a real fight with was my other foster dog, the terrier mix "Freddie", and it was hard to be sure which of them was turning the conflict more serious. Freddie tends to get a grip and hang on and shake. In any case, I soon decided that they would have to take turns getting indoors freedom. I'd "play musical dogs" by having one in the house and the other in the kennel run ; or sometimes it would be one free in house and other crated in house. Freddie needed to be crated or in the kennel run if I was not home anyway because his mischief talent was unusually high. Meanwhile Grover was doing just fine on trips to the Dog Park and his general behavior in the house was exemplary, including getting along with my own four dogs.
A short time before Grover's advent, one of my previous adopters informed me that the Bouv he had adopted from me four years before (when the dog was 8 or 9 years old) had passed away and he'd like to be on the list for another adoption. This was an excellent home : experienced handler and able to offer the bonus that the dog could come to his office daily. I would have offered him my previous foster dog , Max, but he had just been adopted by another "repeat customer" whose previously adopted Bouv had just passed away from cancer. So I offered him Grover and wanted him to have "first dibs". Well , I probably made a mistake in letting this adopter's Significant Other come without him (he was in the middle of a major trial as Plaintiff's attorney and so was not able to get away) to meet Grover just a few days after Grover's rescue. At that time he was not yet well settled in, and she found him to be "too high energy" and basically "too much dog" for her, a relative novice. So that adoption did not happen.
Several weeks of normal foster care and training followed. Grover continued to learn or re-learn and re-polish the basics of obedience. He could easily pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test if one were offered locally. His behavior as a housedog and at the dog park and on trips into town continued to be quite good.
My usual test of a dog's ability to handle challenging public situations is our Farmers' Market. But for Grover, there was a more severe test. About 3 or 4 weeks into his fostering, came the Whole Earth Festival at UC Davis. This is a huge event, very crowded and very noisy with a lot of activity all around. It's maybe 1/4 "eco" displays ranging from solar energy to sustainable agriculture to alternative energy cars (though notably lacking in anything explicitly related to human population size as the factor that underlies and fuels all other "eco" problems), 1/4 food selling, and 1/2 craft sellers. Its a wonderful event and it is as near to total chaos as you can find. So of course I took Grover , wearing a doggie backpack. He was far from the only dog there of course, but he was the best looking, the most "eco" attired, and he was beautifully behaved.
Not long afterwards I had another good offer for him from an adopter who had two previous Bouvs, now deceased. The whole family came to see him and I thought it was a good match. At this point I had to confess that I was going to be really sorry to see him leave, that I wished I could keep him. All four of my dogs are in double digit ages, ie seniors, and one of them , Hazel, had just been diagnosed as having cancer metastases in her lungs from a tumor removed a year earlier. Anyway, the family and I spent quite a few hours together working with Grover, and they were very impresed and adopted him. Two days later , they brought him back. He'd done fine with the wife and three children (all very dog savvy and responsible kids), but had intimidated the husband.
OK , he's back with me. He is the kind of Bouv whom I would describe as being especially sensitive to the quality of leadership personality ("Alphatude") in his handlers. This is a dog who is very well behaved with anyone who knows what they are doing and who has the attitude of being a calmly self-confident and benign leader : She Who Can be Trusted, She Who Must be Obeyed, and She From Whom All Blessings Flow. But for any handler who is uncertain or inexperienced, this kind of dog is plenty willing to take over the decisions and run the household. Dog like this can show the symptom I call "being hall monitor" in which the dog will station himself in the key hall or intersection in the home and set up as "the traffic cop" to decide who passes. Poorly handled such a dog can become very intimidating to some people. I've had that type before, Duke being an excellent example. ( One sees this a lot in horses : many horses who give trouble to novice riders will go like a dream for an experienced one. )
He's a wonderful dog for a trainer. He is so responsive to sophisticated training and behavior influencing. For example, he was originally a bit too "energized" , too excitable and too excited, when we were all out in my yard. In the morning during spring , summer, and fall , I usually eat breakfast and read on the porch and my dogs mostly relax around me or play a bit or stroll a bit. Grover was alerting on all passing activity (such as a distant vehicle, farm workers, an airplane passing overhead, as well as the more obvious squirrel or rabbit outside the fence) and he was pacing and fence-running. So I wanted to teach him to calm himself back down and to be more relaxed. I put his halter and leash on and had him lie beside my rocking chair. Each time he alerted and wanted to run out into the yard, I had him lie down again. From time to time when he was lying calmly , I would reach down and stroke him and speak in soorthing tone or sometimes I'd invite him to sit up and lay his head in my lap for better caresses, then have him lie down again. The first few days he was easily excited and not very easily re-calmed. To save my arm and shoulder, I put an eye-screw into the wall and attached his leash handle to it with snap. But after a few days, improvement started to show. In two weeks, his attitude was much changed and he was now arousing much less intensely and calming himself fairly easily. I was able to unhook the leash. Now he strolls the yard occasionally and I have only to call him back to the porch to get him to come and lie down calmly. I suspect in his earlier life he was encouraged to exite easily without being taught to calm back down just as easily. Being able to calm down is a critical skill for every dog and it is even more critical for a genuine working dog though this ability is not tested in most Working Trial events and is not cultivated by most trainers who are focused on such events.
What of the future ? Currently my plan is to keep him myself UNLESS an absolutely right home applies for him. Such a home would have to be one in which all the adults were experienced dog trainers with good "Alphatude." Grover would do best if he were the only male dog in the home, or if there is another male that one should be either a very submissive one (and the owners content to have him act submissively to Grover ; that is often a problem as owners often assume that a dog is happier being higher ranked and they want their old dog to rank above the new one) or else a dog who is a very good "peace-keeper" who uses social skills and canine body language to keep other dogs feeling sweet towards himself. (My Chris is such a peace-keeper dog, and there has never been a harsh word or bad look between Grover and him.) He would be fine with a bitch. He has been fine with most of the dogs at the Dog Park, but occasionally there has been the start of something between him and another and , as a good citizen of the dog park, I always interrupt before the situation can escalate and I take my own dog out of the situation. (Freddie too gets along with others at the dog park almost all the time, but once in a while I have to interrupt and remove him from a situtation rather than risk it going bad.) An adopter would have to have a lifestyle or activities that would provide Grover with ample work for his mind and his body. Really, every dog needs some work for mind and body in order to be happy nd best behaved; but for dogs like Grover , dogs who have a working dog type of temperament, this is extra important.
Meanwhile he will live a good life with me. I'm willing to keep him and I'm willing to place him if that offers him a better life than I can give him. As you can see, he is quite content here and does not worry about his future.
Grover did indeed finish out his life with me, living to an advanced age. Below is a photo of him relaxed on my bed.
Grover lived into very old age as my very cherished dog.
He enjoyed a complete cure of a Mast Cell Tumor thanks to surgery and radiation at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. He lived another 4 years after that. The tumor never returned. Only a small area of hairless black skin remained. Many thanks to Dr Kent and Dr Theon, radiation oncologists, for his cure.
His last year or so would not have been possible without the excellence of the ER / ICU of the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Like many very old dogs, he did have a few illnesses along the way.
He passed peacefully (euthanized) at home on 3/17/2014, almost a full 7 years after I rescued him and after two different vets judged him to be 10 years old. Could he really have been 17 years old ? Probably at least 14 by my judgement. At any rate, he had a very rich and full life with me.
Grover's elegy verse was completed a year later.
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