Photo of Zeke sitting.

Photo of Zeke standing.

ZEKE is a nice 6 year old neutered male.recently delivered to me for foster care and placement. He is very nice dog. gets along well with other dogs and with people. He is generally well behaved. except for vocalizing during car rides when not crated, but he is quiet when crated in the car. Zeke is very nice looking , natural ears and tail. He is current on shots and heartworm prevention. He would be best with an adopter who has some training experience and is a calm self-confident pack leader, and he would be best with one whose vehicle can accomodate a crate so he can be crated for car rides. I have a crate available to go with him to his new home. He also has a history of being fearful and wanting to find a place to hide out during thunderstorms or fireworks.

Below is information from his former owner, who genuinely cares for him but has found that he is a bit "too much dog" for her personality and training skills.
I have gone back through his former owner's description and boldfaced and put in red type those items that could be clues to or hints of his problems. (if by any chance you have set your browser preferences to have the page background in red or any color that does not contrast well with red type, please change your background color to white; or copy out this page and paste it into a palin text program and set all the type to black.) I think his former owner tended to minimize or "re-frame" (re-lable) and find excuses for any behavior that a more knowledgable person would recognize as a sign that something need to be worked on through training and behavior modification.

"We have now had Zeke for five years. (He was adopted at age one year from the Berkeley shelter.) His favorite thing is to go for walks on leash. He is a handsome dog. When we walk down the street, people stop and stare at him. However, Zeke is not overly friendly to strangers. It's not that he minds strangers, they are really not important to him in his world. He does not necessarily want to be petted by strangers for more then a few seconds. Zeke loves his family and his house. This is his world. He has other favorites too. He has two uncles (people) accross the street that he just adores.
Zeke is very well house trained. He is crate trained. He does not chew on things in the house. He is not a food hog, and will only eat what he wants. He needs to be groomed. His groomer loves him too. He goes to the vet and is not a problem. He also behaves himself when he is kenneled. He has been obedience trained. He also knows a wait command when we come to corners.
Zeke gets along with most other dogs. We saved a small dog that followed us home and Zeke accepted it into the house. In fact he is very sweet. When we first bought our standard poodle, he use to bring her pine cones and other toys to play with. He really did not know how to play with other dogs until our standard came along. He goes to dog parks and knows appropriate behavior as far as a dog can know appropriate behavior at a dog park. Once in a while he may be playing and tackle another dog and roll it, but not in meanness, but in play.
When we first got Zeke, I took him to school with me one day. There were a lot of children petting him. He was nervous but allowed it. However, I would not necessarily say that Zeke would fit into a house with children. He can get excited when he plays. He is not good on spacial relationships and could knock a child down accidentally.
Zeke is not good enough on the come command, to be let off leash when we hike. We have just accepted that he needs to stay on leash on his walks. When we first got him, he was really excited by runners and bikers. Now he seems to ignore bikers. Last year, and the last time he was off leash, Zeke did try to herd a runner. He grabbed the runner's hand, not to hurt him, but to herd him where he wanted him to go. Of course the runner was not happy. Zeke did not hurt him, but he did scare him. Zeke can spend hours watching the goats when they come to Mills College, He wants to herd them too, but there is an electrical fence in the way. Also, I realize that he has not been trained to herd animals.
Zeke likes to go in the car we think, but talks the entire time. We have had to use an electric collar (ie anti-bark collar) on him on long trips.
The best way to describe Zeke, is that he has a wonderful heart, but sometimes gets excited and does "dumb" things. Because he is big, it is not always cute. Compared to when we got him five years ago, he has turned into a really wonderful bouvier. He will always have a part of our hearts.
In the future, we plan to RV full or almost full-time for a couple years. Zeke would not fit into this type of lifestyle. We feel that it would be better to find him a new home now, instead of waiting. Like all family members, Zeke has been a part of our life for five years and will leave a lasting feelings and emotions. It is always hard to give up a dog, but we think that this will be best in the end for him. There is no point to drag this dog all over the country. It's not his style. We want a good, loving home for Zeke where he can stay put and be happy. "

I found his owner's descriptions to be fairly accurate. He is more outgoing with strangers than they indicate : he politely nudges a stranger to get attention and petting. He occasionally does jump up on people but lightly rather than roughly; if given a "sit" command to prevent jumping , he obeys readily. He does indeed vocalize in the car if he is not crated and the sound is such as would become annoying to most people. I think there is some anxiety underlying this , so I would be more inclined to try using "Dog Appeasement Pheromone" to reduce anxiety , rather than using an anti-bark collar. But since the owner had already discovered that he is quiet if he is crated during travel, I think that crating is likely to be the very best solution. Crating also provides a measure of safety for the dog in the event of a car collision. His own crate will be provided to the adopter. As to his history of wanting to hide during thunderstorms and fireworks, the best answer for that is to give him a safe hiding place and to have tranquilizers on hand for these occasions. I would avoid placing him in a home located in an area where thunderstorms are a frequent event. "Dog Appeasement Pheromone" can also be helpful as an additional treatment for storm and fireworks fearfulness.
Zeke is a genuinely nice dog and is very pleasant in personality. He would be a very rewarding companion to the adopter with good dog managment and leadership skills.
Zeke is being fostered by Pam Green . For more information (530) 756-2997, between 10 am and 6 pm (California time) .


UPDATE 5/31/04. Zeke has become mellow and easy to live with. He enjoys off leash country walks greatly and is now quite good about coming when called. The last two trips in the car , his vocalizing was not as bad, though still somewhat annoying. He's been to our local Farmers' Market twice for advanced social evaluation ; the Market is a chaos of people, dogs, children, activities and food stands, thus makes great demands on a dog's temperament and social skills. He has done quite well and greets people in a friendly but not exhuberant or rude fashion. (Note that this behavior is on leash with an experienced handler.)

Our trip to the Market day before yesterday was particularly noteworthy.

He got a lot of attention from adults and children and got a lot of them to pet him. His method of getting someone to pet him is just to walk up with tail waving pleasantly and put his head under their hand. He was also pleasant to all the dogs except for making a dash or lunge at a little Doxie . I couldn't tell if the dash or lunge was simply playful or if it had predatory elements : all happened very fast and my hand on the leash reacted to abort his action before my brain got into gear to identify just what was going on.

But one child was special and Zeke seems to have sensed it right away. It was a very articulate child and a very dog loving one. Zeke sprawled across the child's lap and leaned against the upper body so much that the child was leaning at about 30 degrees off vertical but enjoying it immensely and hugging and petting Zeke with great enjoyment for both of them. I wished I had had a camera with me ! Well during our conversation, mostly about Zeke, bits of information dropped in that let me know that this child had suffered very bad neglect and probably deliberate abuse from the birth parent, so bad as to require hospitalization from malnutrition and dehydration. Now the child lives with foster parents and several other children in a rural home with quite a few animals, including two wonderful dogs. Throughout Zeke really cuddled up to this needy child in a way that was an order of magnitude greater than his normal pleasantly friendly behavior to strangers. There was a very special rapport between them.

This is just one more example of a dog sensing human need and filling it as best he can.


UPDATE : Zeke has been ADOPTED. As I write this he has been in his home almost a week. They think he is wonderful, and they are right.

UPDATE : during his first week in his forever home, Zeke has made tremendous progress. With encourgaement and reward for being quiet, he has learned to be mostly quiet in the car. All his adopter needed to do is gently place hands around his mouth while saying "quiet" and then praise him for the resulting silence. (One person does this while someone else is driving. I would have tried this method if I'd had a second person to drive for me.) Her college student son adores Zeke, so now he is visiting Mom much more often, even when he doesn't hae laundry to be done. Son takes Zeke out for jogging.
Zeke has also had his first day as her "teaching assitant" at the school where she teaches adult Special Ed. The students think he is wonderful of course, and the priviledge of taking him for short walks in the shool yard may prove to be a powerful motivator for student achievement.


UPDATE (10/11/04) Zeke UNadopted, returning to rescue.

Zeke has alas shown some serious problems in his adoptive home, problems that were absolutely NOT even faintly indicated in my foster care. And now, too late, we learn that his former owner did have knowledge of these problems but failed to mention them when surrendering him. Things she failed to mention include a bite that was serious enough that her insurance company had to settle a claim. Basically it sounds like he tends to become very territorial , ie territorialy aggressive, in an urban setting where he sees people going by frequently. There may also be a degree of prey-chase involved as well. In any case, he bit a guest under circumstances that are hard to find any excuse for him. This was a nice woman whom he knows and likes and who did nothing more than move one hand rapidly. And has escaped from the yard (we later learned that the gate was accidentally open) and chased a jogger, though without trying to injure her. His adopter loves him and is heartbroken but does not feel able to manage the situation safely. I agree with her. So he is coming back to me later today. I will have to re-evaluate him and get some help evaluating him in order to decide whether it might be possible to place him in a home with really expereinced adopters, preferably a non-urban situation, or whether to put him down (kill him) as being unacceptably unsafe.

If this sounds a bit too Jeckle and Hyde (jackle and hide?) to understand, well there is a certain paradox in foster care . Because foster homes are usually homes with people who are highly experienced with dogs and where there are factors like other dogs in the home, plenty of excercise, etc, foster dogs often shape up and behave well. Now usually they continue to behave well and often go on improving in the adopter's home. But because the adopter is usually less experienced and less alpha than the fosterer, some dogs will respond by showing undesirable behaviors that they never showed in the foster home. Dogs are incredibly sensitive to who is in charge .

More on Zeke will be forthcoming after he has been back a while. I am just devastated by this.


UPDATE 10/17/04 : Zeke since returning to me last week has been behaving just as nicely and normally as he did previously while in foster care. I will be re-evaluating him carefully, but for now the likelihood is that he is simply a dog who gets excited a bit too easily and does not calm himself again easily enough, who gets grabby with his mouth when excited or playful, and who may get stimulated into chase mode by joggers and similarly fast moving passers-by if seen out of the window or through the fence. He needs an adopter who is experienced , very calmly alpha, and who will get him into training classes and who will work specifically on exercises for good manners when greeting guests and exercises on remaining calm or re-calming himself when walkers, joggers, skate-boarders, cyclists, etc zip past. most dogs need some work on these items, but Zeke needs it more than average. He also may be more territorial than average and therefore should not be allowed to "mark" (urinate and defecate) in areas in the neighborhood outside of his own well fenced yard ; that means he should get himself "empty" inside his own yard before starting on a walk and he should not be allowed to stop and mark in the neighborhood. The yard fence should ideally be one that does not allow visibility of passers-by, or else he should not be in the yard unsupervised or not except for short potty breaks. House windows that face towards the street should have a visual screen, such as being covered with bubble-wrap, or alternatively his accesss to rooms with such windows should be denied (except when humanly supervised so undesirable behavior can be interruted) by use of a closed door or stretch gates.

I have gone back through his former owner's description and boldfaced and put in red type those items that could be clues to or hints of his problems. (if by any chance you have set your browser preferences to have the page background in red or any color that does not contrast well with red type, please change your background color to white; or copy out this page and paste it into a plain text program and set all the type to black.) I think his former owner tended to minimize or "re-frame" (re-lable) and find excuses for any behavior that a more knowledgable person would recognize as a sign that something need to be worked on through training and behavior modification.

He is basically a nice dog, very affectionate, but needs a really aware and alpha owner who is willing to do some work with him. He could be a rewarding companion for such an adopter. He seems to have special affinity for men, though he is fine with women. I would probably not place him in a home with young children, though I would consider older dog-savvy children, as he does enjoy children.

Please notice that in my home he has been very well behaved , except only for vocalizing in the car. The fact that he can be very well behaved in one type of home does mean that he should be equally well behaved in any home presenting a similar situation.

UPDATE 10/23/04. Zeke has been here two weeks and has been completely normal in his behavior. During quarrantine I was crating him or putting him in a secure run whenever I was away from home, and crating him at night. I still crate him most nights; he really likes his crate. Now that he is through his quarrantine, I am including him on walks, but always on leash and with a halter. He plods along next to me in very close to formal heel position on a loose leash. In the house , he is very comfortable just hanging out while I do whatever I am doing , ie without soliciting attention. He gets along with the other dogs, though I think one or two of them intimidate him slightly or certainly dominate him. The one guest I have had during his stay, he greeted very politely and simply leaned up against her and presented his head near her hand to solicit petting. I also need to start taking him into town, and also testing him on campus with hoards of bicycles zipping past to test for any chase reactions.

In no way does he behave like a problem dog in my home, though he did have problems in his previous adoptive home and probably also in his surrendering owner's home. But not in mine. My circumstances are very different from the previous homes' circumstances, and my leadership and management style is no doubt very different. So it does seem to be purely a matter of the right environment and the right human leadership.


UPDATE 12/06/04 : a tale too sad to tell.

This is a tale too sad to tell, but of course I am going to tell you anyway. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. I come to bury Zeke, not to praise him.

Although upon his return to my home , Zeke behaved as an absolutely normal dog, my rescue collegue Dee suggested that we have him evaluated at Marin Humane Society. Their chief trainer and evaluator, Trish King is very experienced and very respected and Dee was familiar with her methods. I wish now that I had had this done soon after he returned to me. But given that his adopter had felt there was a strong territorial component to his behavior, I thought this would not be assessable in a testing situation on unfamiliar ground. I thought only normal behavior would be shown in the unfamiliar territory of the MHS. I was wrong about this.

Anyway after two months in my home, during which he was a very acceptable dog, an excellent home, whose previous adopted Bouv had died of cancer recently, applied for him and met him and fell in love with him. At this point , Dee again urged and I agreed that we would have the MHS evaluation to make sure the adopter had the benefit of the best possible information. I myself really viewed this as something not likely to uncover new information but rather just to provide impartial evidence that this dog was normal enough to be an acceptable placement. Thus to provide CYA for myself, for the club, and for the adopter. I had also carefully drawn up some management guidelines for the adopters to follow his first many months in their home, and they agreed with these guidelines making sense. And yes, before they had ever met him I had fully revealed his history, especially the two bites. His adopter was unhappy at having the adoption put off an extra week to schedule the evaluation and was maybe a bit worried that this could prevent the adoption. I assured her several times that I could not imagine the evaluation would reveal anything bad, that it would give all of us some legal protection, and I assured her several times that I was committed to her adopting the dog "unless during the evaluation he turns into Cujo" said with a very big grin and with the hubris of one who thinks she really knows the canine soul.

Well during the evaluation, he may not have literally "turned into Cujo" , ie he did not act like a late stage rabid dog or show full blown sustained aggression. But he did damn near seriously bite the evaluator , Trish King. As she was gently running her hand down his rear leg, with no discernable warning he made a lightning fast attempt to bite her arm and damn near succeeded. He failed only because she did have her other hand securely holding his halter and of course because her own reactions are lightening fast -- the expertise of one who evaluates dogs of uncertain history and temperament daily.

All of us, ie Dee and I and Trish and Trish's two assistants thoroughly discussed the options. Trish was absolutely of the opinion that this dog was unsafe to be in any home other than very expert and very vigilant about management. The whole combination of two prior bites, the fact that in the testing situation he immediately tried to dominate, be pushy, claim territory, etc, plus the extreme speed of his reactions and the total absence of the normal dog escalation of warning signs (either fearful cringe or dominant stand tall and stare, followed by a growl and/or lifted lip, followed by serious tooth display) preceding the actual bite : all this made him a genuinely dangerous dog. While NOT what Trish calls "Cujo", which to her would be the sustained aggressive display that anyone can recognize and that anyone but a fool would avoid, he was more dangerous by being rather the dog who is very nice 99% of the time, ie right up until he bites without warning. His being OK in my home is attributed to the fact that several of my other dogs outranked him and gave him regular reminders of same -- plus the fact that quite likely my personna/aura/alphitude is such as to inspire most dogs with instant trust and respect (if I could have the same effect on the average voter, I could be the next Governor of California (a state in which total lack of prior governing or legislative experience is no bar to being elected) and a few years later on maybe even Pres of the US (a job for which the requirements of competence appear now to be nil)), plus of course the circumstance that my home is very rural and also visitors are relatively rare and usually very dog smart and in any case I am pretty vigilant when visitors are present.

The adopter had been offered (urged) the chance to attend the evaluation, but had declined . We did thoroughly discuss whether or not to phone her and offer her the choice to adopt the dog anyway, but if so to strongly point out the legal liabilities and probable loss of homeowner's insurance and also if so to require her to sign a copy of his evaluation statement declaring him a serious bite risk. In the end we agreed not to make such an offer because we thought that if she accepted , ultimately someone was going to get bitten, resulting in much greater heartache to the adopter, serious legal and financial consequences to the adopter, and most of all an injury, probably serious injury, to the unconsenting and innocent person who got bitten.

We also discussed wether or not I was willing to keep him for the rest of his life, with some general agreement that I could do so safely. But I had to admit that I really did not want the legal liabilities either, that the "rescue spot" he would fill for the remaining 5 to 7 years of his life would otherwise allow fostering of 2 or more dogs every year, and bottom line that while I liked him in a very mild way that just is not enough for me to take on that kind of burden.

Over-ridingly important, we all recognize that a rescuer's ethical duties go beyond the obvious duty to the dog (which comes first with most of us) and duty to the adopter (a substantial concern), but must also include some duty to 3rd parties at risk of being bitten and to society generally and finally to the good reputation of the Rescue movement and its fostered dogs. One case of an adopted rescued dog seriously biting someone will get 100 times the word of mouth and media publicity than 100 nice normal adopted dogs who fit into the family and give private comfort and joy. and we very much considered the grief we were about to inflict on the adopter, who would almost certainly blame us intensely for murdering this dog and who almost certainly would never believe that he was genuinely dangerous.

Unfortunately we had not videotaped the evaluation -- and Trish was absolutely unwilling to repeat the experiment (which to me is absolutely the most convincing evidence of all ; I do know that feeling of being an experienced dog handler who is genuinely afraid of getting hurt by this particular dog).

We killed him. NOT "euthanized" because the death did not terminate his suffering or bring him a benefit. NOT really "executed" because he really was not a criminal, not really guilty. I feel like I murdered him, and at minimum betrayed him. I tell myself that I made the best choice possible in a situation that did not have any good choices available. I tell myself not to intertwine or confuse grief (which is appropriate) with guilt (which is much less so) .

Then I drove home (the silence of Zeke not barking was deafening) and made the hardest phone call I have ever made in my entire life , the call to tell his waiting adopter . I lucked out in that she was not yet home , so I talked to the husband who was deeply grieved but also able to listen to and I hope somewhat understand most of what I told him. I feel guilty beyond measure towards these good people. They had fallen hard for this charming dog and cannot believe that he is also "Dogtor Hyde" -- just as I could not have believed it. They have every right to feel terribly hurt and betrayed and angry with me. I told the husband that.

The night after killing Zeke , I laid awake half the night making a mental list of all the tasks I would have to complete before I would be free to kill myself. No doubt Dorothy Parker would have gotten a good poem out of it, as she did (in "Resumé") about the drawbacks of each of the common methods of suicide. The list of tasks is long enough that and arduous enough, like Parker, I concluded that I "might as well live".

I waited a few days before telling his former adopter, who had so wisely returned him when she recognized that he presented a danger she could not cope with, as I debated with myself whether or not to do so. I had previously told her the good news of his impending adoption, and she had been over-joyed. To tell her of his death would give her pain. And yet I knew that even if I did not tell her that she might well eventually hear of it. The deciding factor was my strong suspicion that she might well be worrying that his bite in her home was somehow her fault, something she did wrong. The evaluation and accompanying re-consideration of everthing else I knew about him (and seen in light of extensive readings in the dog behavior literature), made it clear to me that this adopter did NOT do anything wrong and did NOT create or contribute to the problem. So I thought in the long run, knowing that would give her more relief than the news of his death would give her pain. Moreover she would not spend the next 6 years wondering if he would bite someone again. I gathered my courage and phoned her.

For once I had made a good choice. Her first words after hearing that the evaluation had gone badly and he had tried to bite the evaluator were "was it my fault?" and she was appropriately relieved and reassured to be told that it was not. Over the weekend we talked for some hours. In this light of new knowledge , she re-esamined some of the behaviors Zeke had shown in her home. All of these further confirmed that his problems were not solvable nor safely manageable. She finally said that in a way she believed that "there were two Zekes" : one of them the nice sweet dog she so much loved, and the other one the suddenly strange aggressive dog that she came to fear.

I think so too, although I only saw the sweet Zeke and not the dangerous one in my home. And I now think that even in my home he would have been a dog with land mines or time bombs inside him.

I grieve for him and feel guilt towards him and towards his waiting adopters. I deeply regret not getting him evaluated before allowing an adopter to meet him. But it would have been worse if I had let them adopt him without that evaluation. It would have been worse if he had behaved as the good sweet Zeke throughout the evaluation and not revealed the dangerous Zeke. Dee is the real hero in this story. She saved us all from a greater tragedy. We are now forming policy to have any iffy dogs professionally evaluated before entertaining adopters ; and some dogs with suspicious histories will have to be evaluated before we accept their surrender.

To put Zeke's story into perspective and to avoid anyone getting the wrong impression that rescued dogs are dangerous, I have probably fostered about 100 dogs or more and to date only 3 have been snuffed for behavior reasons, this one being the third of them. Ah, well one other was destroyed after adoption without my knowledge or consent for nipping or biting two people in the butt; he was a dog I regarded as pretty normal, but who was in my home only a few days (the adopter actually did most of the fostering) and I will never really know whether or not he should have been killed . I have turned down a few owner surrenders because their history was such that I could not have considered them safe to place and felt the least dangerous home for them was right where they already were; and in these cases I urged the owners to seek Behavior treatment at the UCD VMTH Behavior service. I have taken in several dogs with initial behavior problems that could have made them unsafe, but I was able to work with them and turn them around to become good placements who have done well in their adoptive homes. Only 2 have come back for behavior issues : Duke because of lack of leadership in the home (he lived out his life with me in great peacefulness) and Shady because the adopter did something absolutely stupid and exactly what I had clearly clearly clearly warned him never ever ever to do (ie try to take food away from this food-guarding dog). So the safeness and good behavior of a well fostered rescue dog is at least as good as that of dogs obtained from the more responsible breeders or from a shelter that does do serious behavioral evaluation, and much better than those obtained from less responsible breeders, from pet stores, or (for the naive adopter without a knowledgeable friend assisting) from those shelters that do not do any serious behavioral evaluation and whose intake does include some seriously ill-behaved dogs.

Because if the rescuer is honorable and responsible, she buries her mistakes.

site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 4/12/04 revised 12/06/04
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