All along this journey, I have been buoyed by an outpouring of support online and by friends who have come by and brought food and company or emailed to ask what they can do. I even got a lovely gift from Arkansas!
As we lost the puppies last week, people kept saying, “I could never do that,” but somehow, I think you could and more than that, I could never do it without the support of family and friends.
If last week taught me anything, it’s that I am stronger than I know. All during that long, long night when Daisy’s labor began and it became clear that it was too soon for puppies to be born and there was so very little I could do beyond be a witness, I had a lot of time to think about why it was happening and whether this would be my last litter.
Everything about the situation was wrong. But what I realized is that as awful as it was, I could handle it. I would handle it. And, sadly, I will likely have to handle it again someday.
The me that started fostering four years ago, could not have handled it. That me, the one living under the illusion that all it takes to save a dog is love, would have crumbled in a weepy heap. But since that time, I have learned that when it’s necessary, I can set my own emotions aside and step in the gap left by nameless people who put this dog in this situation in the first place.
I can offer trust where there is none.
If that means sitting with a dog as she gives birth to dying puppies or coaxing her out of her tiny, safe space or feeding her six times a day or cleaning up the inevitable messes when her fear won’t allow her to step outside, I can do all those things.
And then I can write about it, so that Daisy’s story isn’t forgotten, so that someone, somewhere is motivated to make a different decision—to speak up about spay/neuter, to donate to a shelter struggling to achieve no-kill status, to foster a dog in their home and heart.
And then Daisy’s loss means something.
That long, sad, dark night changes the reality a tiny bit.
It’s a long, long road ahead to ending the euthanasia of adoptable dogs in this country, and we have to take every bit of progress we can find, even if it’s only in inches.
What follows is the second week of Daisy’s rescue. If you’d like to see the posts in real time, you can follow on Facebook at Cara Sue Achterberg, writer.
If what you read motivates you to get involved, please visit, www.ophrescue.org or your local shelter or rescue.
Diary of a Rescue Day 8:
Daisy is doing as well as can be expected after all that she has been through. I finally got solid sleep last night, but the few times I was up and checked, she was sleeping in the puppy box. This morning she had pushed all the bedding into a wall of sorts. I think all her burrowing and rearranging is her looking for her puppies. She’s had enough puppies to know they should be here somewhere.
You can see from the second photo that her puppy belly was hiding the fact that she is enormously underweight. Job number one now is to get some weight on this dog. She’s happy to comply and is enjoying the burger and chicken and rich high-fat puppy food coming her way. She is also enjoying beef liver treats – while she was pregnant she wouldn’t take treats and didn’t seem to understand the concept so we’re making up for lost time, plus, she needs the iron.
Daisy’s systems are not all back in working order yet. Anyone who has had surgery knows that can take some time. Physically, she is bouncing back well, but mentally and emotionally is a different story. Right now, she’s extremely clingy. She wants to be in physical contact with me when I am in the room or if I take her out. She has to be coaxed outside and then spends the entire time trying to herd me back into the house, stepping in front of me and pressing her body against me. She wags her tail whenever I come in the room and is generous with the kisses. Quite a change from the dog who wouldn’t look me in the eye a week ago.
We will work at transitioning her out of the puppy room and into the household once she is a little stronger. Frankie and Flannery are anxious to meet her, they hover on the other side of the gate to the hall where the puppy room is whenever I am in there. For now, we will continue to give Daisy all the rest and food and love we can.
That last photo is of the flowers that my friend Becky of Violets Are Blue just brought me. Her arrangements are always gorgeous – such a sweet gesture. Writing my way through this experience has not only helped me to process and deal with it but has reminded me that I am blessed with an enormous, generous community of dog-hearted people who care.
Diary of a Rescue Day 9:
Daisy is on the mend. Other than the new development of watery eyes and a little sneezing, she is feeling and looking better in every way. I even heard her bark for the first time when Flannery poked her nose through the gate into Daisy’s room.
Today we let the dogs see each other separated by gates. It’s the first step towards acclimating Daisy to our household. She even spent a little time with me in the kitchen while the others were in the play yard. She selected a bone out of the toy basket and carried it for many laps around the kitchen.
Eventually, I let her carry it back to her room and she has been gnawing on it ever since.
Getting glimpses of her sweet, curious personality but she is sticking close to me, sometimes too close as she’s nearly tripped me too many times.
She eats best if I sit with her while she eats, otherwise, she can be picky. If I try to read while I hang out with her, she gently bites my book and tries to take it away! She would prefer my full attention.
This girl is a love and will make a wonderful best friend for some lucky adopter. Someone who won’t mind the physical evidence of a really tough life.
This is one incredibly resilient dog who no doubt has love she has been stockpiling for years ready to give.
Diary of a Rescue Day 10:
Daisy gains energy each day. Her personality is also emerging- she’s not the meek, terrified, exhausted mama dog that arrived here. Today she seems to have found her voice- barking when she hears me feeding the other dogs and barking back at Flannery when she is challenged from the other side of the gate.
This video is of her time with me in the kitchen this morning. She never once sat down, patrolling the space and eventually claiming the yellow plastic Dewalt drill casing (Nick brings these home from work for the dogs). She never put it down until I allowed her to carry it back to her room. If you listen carefully you’ll hear her whining as she carries the toy.
I don’t think she has lived indoors before. She is anxious when anywhere inside except her puppy room. When I walked her past the doghouse in the play yard, she was very curious and wanted to poke her head inside. Maybe that’s a clue that she at least had a dog house for shelter in her previous life.
We are working on house training and now that she understands what treats are that should help. I can tell that she is already picking up weight, and other than her watery eyes, she is improving physically in every way.
While she remains my shadow, attached to me at all times when we are outside, she has begun to wag her tail finally, especially when we head towards the house after our walks and when I first enter the puppy room. I will be curious to see how she reacts to other people. Before the fever, she was anxious about all people and I wonder if her experience will make her more open or less.
Time will tell but first we need to get comfortable at our house. Still a long road ahead for this frightened dog but we’re on our way.
Diary of a Rescue Day 11:
This is going to be a slow process, I’ve come to realize. It’s pretty apparent that Daisy hasn’t lived indoors and trusting people will take time.
Small signs of hope: She made it through the night without an accident and so far today she hasn’t used her puppy pads once.
Today after doing lap after nervous lap of the kitchen, she finally sat and then lay down on the dog bed! Of course, she jumped up if I got up from my stool and clung to my leg, but at least it’s a start.
She also dragged the toy basket out of my sight after I had to retrieve one of my shoes from her mouth. So, clearly, she knows how to be naughty.
Lots of reasons to be hopeful, but trusting others beyond me will be a slow go. Today, Ian came in the kitchen while she was in there and she worked to keep the kitchen island between her and him at all times. He finally sat down on a stool so he wasn’t so big and imposing and she did stretch out her nose to sniff his offered hand before scurrying away.
She won’t approach Frankie as he stands at the gate wagging his tail eagerly hoping to be introduced. I’ve had to put Flannery in her crate when Daisy is out because her excited barking seems to panic Daisy.
I know soon we will have to start looking for her family. It will take some very special, patient people to adopt this sweet dog. Daisy has lots of love to give. It’s evident in the way she does figure eights through my legs when I stand still, rubbing herself against me and snorting happily, and how she wags her tail whenever I call her name and wiggles in excitement when I open the gate to her room.
This afternoon, though, I got a real shocker when I put her back in the puppy room after lunchtime. She HOWLED one long, sorrowful, beautiful hound dog plea for me. This sweet dog. Such a treasure.
Diary of a Rescue Day 12:
Daisy is unsure of everyone but me. She is happiest hiding under/behind my legs. It’s a small miracle she hasn’t tripped me yet.
Nick and Ian have been offering her treats which she snatches and then buries in her bedding. Building trust will take some time. Hoping to move her out of the puppy room and into the house this weekend but I don’t want to push her too fast.
She’s so curious and sweet. Everything is new to her. Whenever I have her out in the house, she sticks her nose into everything- knocking down movable objects (mops, shoe shelves, folded towel pile, trash cans) and carrying away smaller ones (bucket, running shoes, laundry baskets). She will be quite the home wrecker.
So far she is fierce and defensive with the other dogs but only Flannery challenges her back. Frankie wags his tail and Gracie stares wide eyed. This could take some time.
Diary of a Rescue Day 13:
This southern girl is not a fan of the snow! She had just begun walking a few steps away from me on the leash, even leading the way occasionally, but the snow has reversed all that. She is back to sticking to my side, winding around my legs (hopefully this explains the terrible pictures!).
Nick came home at lunchtime because of the snow piling up and has been working in the kitchen this afternoon. I put Daisy in there with him as a kind of immersion experiment for her. She keeps a wary eye on him and always has some object between him and her, even if it’s just the dog bed. Each time he gets up, she gets up and moves to the opposite side of the room.
Someone suggested yesterday that maybe she is afraid of men, but I’m not sure since she hasn’t met any women since the puppy crisis. I think this will just take time. She’s not a young dog so we may be up against a significant history of mistreatment at the hands of humans. The only thing we can do is continue to counter that experience with gentle, loving ones, and ply her with treats.
She’ll come around. In my experience dogs can be much more resilient than humans, and definitely more forgiving.
Yesterday was her last day of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, so now I hold my breath that whatever caused the original crisis will not re-emerge. It’s time to start deworming this girl and getting her body healthy.
Diary of a Rescue Day 14:
Checking in on Daisy via the puppy cam, she looks pretty relaxed. Nick and I are in Wilmington, Delaware, my hometown, to see an old friend, my ‘other little brother’ Mike Burton, do his show tonight. Mike is a hilarious stand-up and boy could I use some good laughs.
Hopefully, Ian will bond with Daisy in our absence. Very blessed to have such a capable and kind kid to look after everything while we’re gone. He’s not on social media, though, so he won’t be posting updates!
Tomorrow will be Daisy’s last day in the puppy room. I think she’s ready to join the rest of us this weekend. She’s looking better every day.
Thanks for reading!
Reminder: If you’d like to read this rescue diary in real time on Facebook, just follow the page, Cara Sue Achterberg, writer.
If you’d like to know more about the book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, visit 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! You can also purchase a signed copy or several other items whose profits benefit shelter dogs!
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.
Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available now