booktour, Dixieland, dog rescue, Flannery Oconnor, foster dogs, fostering, heartworms, oph, puppies

My Heart and House is Full

My heart is so full this morning that tears seem to turn up on my face without warning.

Sunday night was the official ‘end’ of my tour, although there are still a bunch of events this month and I’m hoping to get more opportunities to talk about the book, its purpose, shelter dogs and how we can all make a difference. (So feel free to toss my name/contact in any direction you want!)

My last event was sponsored by an awesome person, Karen Johnson and Paws Go. She designs and sells fabulous t-shirts and gives away much of what she makes to dog-related causes. During August and September that cause was OPH.

Sunday night, Karen hosted a book signing for me at Nectar Wine & Coffee Bar in Alexandria, an adorable little spot with great VA wine selections and amazing food. Rooney came to sign along with me (thanks Lauren!).

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The generosity and kindness of so many overwhelmed me as I drove home from Nectar through the growing darkness.  Not only was I thinking of Karen and Lauren and all the OPHers who were there that night, I was thinking of the events the day before and all along the tour.

I’ve met so many incredible people and good dogs, gotten to visit with some of my adopted foster dogs, and connected with old friends I haven’t seen in decades. It’s been an awesome adventure and I’m not even sure where to begin in my thank yous.

So many have hosted me in their homes and businesses, welcoming dogs and strangers, spreading the word about my book, and listening to my tales of all I saw in the south. And then there were the busy shelter and rescue people who took time to show me around, answer my questions, introduce me to dog after dog, and then, in several cases work with me to save a dog’s life.

 

As events piled up and I wrote about all of it, friends have said many times, “You must be exhausted!”

Truth?

I’m not.

Not in the least.

I’m energized and eager to keep working to spread this message, to save more dogs, to fix this oh-so-fixable problem.

Yesterday I got word that ‘Ski’, a small pittie mix I met at Oconee Humane Society was adopted! When I met Ski, she was pretty sad and quiet and her kennel was marked with a big red X. That red X meant that if too many more dogs were turned into the shelter or picked up by animal control, Ski was expendable – unlikely to adopted or pulled by a rescue so she could be euthanized.

I began badgering OPH’s Jen Hodge to pull this little dog even though she had yet to find foster homes for the dogs we’d already committed to. Lynn Fayard, a rescue hero at Oconee worked from her end, assessing Ski and sending pictures and video documentation. And thanks to an offer from Annette Stephens to foster her, she caught the last seat on the freedom train headed north the next week. She entered OPH as ‘Lilliana’ and today she is in her new forever home – loved and adored.

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Then there’s Vanna, now Sweet Tea, who is fostered just north of me in PA. I met Vanna when I was at Lenoir County SPCA, a shelter that was evacuated because of Florence, but is back near to capacity and took in 80 animals last weekend alone. Vanna was frantic in her shelter kennel where she lived outdoors 24/7. She leapt at the fence frantically barking and trying to get my attention.

Helen said, “That’s not who she is,” and to prove it, brought her out for me to meet. Once out of the chainlink, she rolled in the grass and wagged and wiggled all over, so very happy to meet me.

vanna outside

Because she’s a ‘pitmix’ no adopter and no rescue had been willing to take a chance on her, but once again, OPH was willing to. Mindy Young pulled her and Kayla Mitchell volunteered to foster her and now she’s safe and happy and waiting for her forever family to find her.

And then there’s Oreo.

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I met Oreo at Anson County Animal Shelter. He’d been in and out of the shelter for over a year. He was one of the very few who was adopted out locally, but both times he ran away and was then returned to Anson. As this sweet dog leaned against the fence begging for my touch, Maureen explained that with each adoption he was neither neutered nor sheltered indoors, so he climbed fences and ran off in search of attention or perhaps what most intact male dogs go in search of. Each time he landed back in the shelter.

I could have stood next to his kennel all day and he would have been content. Unlike the other dogs – he didn’t lunge at the fence or bark at us in attempts to get our attention, he simply watched us with is big doleful eyes and when we came near, he leaned his head or reached out a paw to touch a hand.

I was determined to bring Oreo north, but getting him here wasn’t so easy. First, there was the fact that he’s a large, male dog with possible bully breeding. This required special permission and a committed foster. I agreed to be that foster and eventually, OPH agreed to pull him.

And then Florence happened. Oreo and his entire shelter were evacuated to Columbia, SC because the roof was falling in.

Another large rescue came to Columbia and pulled sixty dogs, but they didn’t take Oreo because now he had two more strikes against him. First, he was now heartworm positive. He’d tested negative the previous year when he entered the shelter, but Anson doesn’t have the funds to administer heartworm preventatives and in the time since then, he’d contracted heartworms.

He had also failed his dog-aggression test. At Anson, he was tested to be fine with other dogs, but a lot had happened to this big guy in the interim, not the least of which was being evacuated in the night amongst frantic people and hauled further south.

In his test, he was fine with female dogs but reacted to dominant males. Why? I could talk your ear off of the possibilities, but it didn’t matter because now OPH wouldn’t pull him as they don’t bring up knowingly aggressive dogs.

Add to this new complication, several layers of communication difficulties (everyone involved in rescue in NC and SC right now is beyond busy trying to save the dogs), and Oreo’s fate hung in the balance for much too long.

Finally. Finally. After more discussion, more commitments on my part, a tireless rescue worker from SC who brought him northward, the willingness of Nancy and Matt Slattery to meet that transport (since I would be at my final book event), I was driving home from my last tour stop hoping to find Oreo had arrived safely at my house. Every time I thought of all the struggle to get him here and how close he came to not getting out of shelter ever, I swallowed tears.

When I reached home, I was only moments behind Nancy and Matt. They were in the driveway with Nick. Oreo was here! I knelt down next to him and he leaned against me, just as he had in Anson and it seemed the perfect final note of the last two months.

This dog has my heart. I don’t know what happens from here — I don’t know what is true and what is not about him, what lies ahead or whether he will prove me right or just incredibly soft-hearted, but it doesn’t matter because now he is here. Now we can start getting him home.

We set Oreo up in our garage with deluxe accommodations. Nick hauled a carpet downstairs from the attic to set up a little mini living room for Oreo and I pulled out all the best toys.

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We’re letting Oreo rest from his latest adventures – being neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, transported once again, and arriving here. So we’re giving him some quiet space away from the other dogs to decompress. When I visit him and sit in the chair in his living room, he climbs into my lap and puts his paws on my shoulders like a hug. Oreo is not a small dog and it’s a bungie chair, so we both sink to the floor each time, but I usually stay put until it gets hard to breath because this dog is pretty irresistible.

Ian loved him on sight and Nick is amazed at Oreo’s impeccable manners – he doesn’t jump on you in greeting (the only dog on the property currently who doesn’t since even Dixieland has begun jumping in greeting), he doesn’t pull on his leash, he doesn’t ‘bite’ treats out of your hand, and he hasn’t made a peep yet. I know that all could change as Oreo relaxes and realizes he’s safe here, but for now he is winning hearts and minds.

Our only issue now is that he really does not want to go in his crate. It’s not a very big space for such a big dog and likely the only time he’s been in a crate has been to be transported to yet another shelter. I’m trying to get him an XXL crate (like the one I had when Gala was recuperating from her broken jaw) so I can walk him into it and he’ll have plenty of room, but I don’t have a vehicle large enough to haul it from storage in Hanover to my house. I’m hoping to find a truck-owning friend who will help me out before Oreo has his heartworm treatment and has to be contained for recovery.

So, yes, we are full-up on dogs. I am officially that crazy dog lady with five dogs and eight puppies living here with us. We haven’t had this many since Edith and her darling dozen.

I’d be embarrassed except in light of all that I saw in the shelters down south, I’m looking around wondering where else I could put a dog. Maybe your house? If you’d like to know how you can foster – contact me and I’d be happy to talk you into it because I can’t do this alone. Together we rescue.

Update on everyone else:

Flannery has become part of the family – hanging out with Nick to watch football (she’s spilled his beer three times now), making friends with Gracie, and taking long walks with Frankie. I took her to two events over the weekend and she did pretty well at the first event, but was exhausted and grumpy by the second event with no patience for other dogs or enthusiastic people. She did great on the long drives. We continue to work on leash manners, but thankfully she’s pretty small so while improvement is slow, I can still make her go where I need her to. She’s sitting like a champ though and happily saunters in her crate for a treat.

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Dixieland and her darlings are darling, although we’ve discovered that while Dixie is small (only about 20 pounds) and full up with milk, she can still scale the four foot baby gate. She’s let herself out of the puppy room (and in) during the night a few times as she does not like to potty in the room with the puppies and being a nursing mom it’s hard to hold it all night. We gave her a few mulligans, but then Nick installed our jumping-dog-gate-topper and that has kept her in (so far).

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NOTE: Just in case you have been paying attention to my book schedule, there’s been a change. I will NOT be at the Shrewsbury Family Pet Shop this weekend, that OPH adoption event has been changed to Saturday October 13. I’ll be there for the first hour helping out and signing books, but then I’ll be scooting to White Marsh, MD for a signing at Barnes & Noble.

Have a great week!

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 (which is rarely monthly, but I’m working at it…everybody needs a goal).

If you’d like to know more about the book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, check AnotherGoodDog.org, where you can find more pictures of the dogs from the book (and some of their happily-ever-after stories), information on fostering, the schedule of signings, and what you can do right now to help shelter animals!

If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more pictures and videos of my foster dogs past and present, 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

Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available wherever books are sold or order now:

Another Good Dog cover

 

 

11 thoughts on “My Heart and House is Full”

  1. I love Oreo thank you for rescuing him!! My new rescue who was in foster for 2 1/2 years is sitting here with me. He’s a real sweet boy but having lessons on how we treat cats, especially elderly cats. It’s such a privilege to give a dog a forever home and I hope Oreo will find a loving home too. You are an AWESOME. AMAZING person. I wish I lived closer because adopting just one of your rescues would have been hard as you have so many wonderful dogs to choose from.

    Liked by 1 person

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