dog rescue, foster dogs, fosterdogs, fostering, returned dogs

Big Dog Lessons

I hope I didn’t take on more than I can handle.

Last night it seemed overwhelming, but today in the sunshiny energy of a new morning, it seems, well, maybe not totally doable, but somewhere in the realm of possibility.

We have a new foster dog. And he’s large, almost as large as Whoopi, the last big dog I fostered. It’s been 2 and ½ years since Whoopi last dragged me off my feet up and down our hillsides.


In theory, I love big dogs. Just the substance of them, the outsize enthusiasm and appetite, and the deep, ringing sound of their voices. But in reality, between the busy-ness of our home, my tendency to overcommit, and the simple fact that I’ve never been able to do a pull-up means that I have no business trying to foster a 72-pound dog.

Especially one that is essentially an overgrown puppy with plenty of energy who is most certainly confused and wary after been returned by his adopter one year after his adoption.

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But first, let me share the happiest of happy news – Flannery found her family!


I first met her delightful new mom and dad last weekend when we met for an unofficial Meet and Greet at a local park. Their application was still making its way through the system, but because they are good friends of my good friend Becky, they reached out and wondered whether it might be possible for their dog Lila to meet Flannery, since we all know it’s the dogs who drive these decisions.

As expected, Flannery and Lila got on quite well. Lila is a little hound dog with a happy energy and Flannery, as we all know, has more than her share of happy energy so combined there was a lot of tail-wagging and romping in the snow.

After the official word was given, Flannery’s family returned this past Saturday morning and picked her up. And so far, so good. What I love about her new family is that they appreciated her amazing personality, were not worried about her funny quirks and they were willing to work through a shut-down period as they introduce Flannery to her new life. Because Flannery is so excitable, sensitive, and smart, it would have been easy to overwhelm her, but they are taking it slow with lots of crate time and lots and lots of walks and playtime with her new fur-sibling.

There was certainly no reason to take on a new foster, as we have Daisy who needs lots of careful attention and in less than three weeks I’ll be leaving on the OPH Rescue Road Trip.


Plus, it’s spring break for one of my older kiddos this week and the other kid next week, so the house is busy and noisy enough. But me being me, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.

Bugs was returned due to allergies and would have been headed to a boarding facility this week, if we hadn’t opened our doors. On paper, he sounded great – young, friendly, loves people, loves other dogs, lots of energy. Perfect playmate for Frankie to distract him from the absence of Flannery. That was my thinking.

What I wasn’t thinking about is how the last time we fostered a large dog, I found myself being yanked over on a daily basis. So much so, that Ian, my six-foot-two son had to be enlisted to do the walking. But Bugs seemed pretty easy-going when he was dropped off, so I put him in the kitchen while I looked through the plethora of shampoos (he’s a white dog) and ear washes and all kinds of other lotions and potions that came back with him.

About ten minutes after his person left, he seemed to realize what had happened and started barking in a panic. When I approached him, he barked at me in alarm and backed out of my reach. Did I mention he’s not a small dog? Nick tried to approach him, same reaction. His frantic, loud barks echoed through our kitchen as he kept plenty of space between us and him, retreating in a panic each time we approached.

What I should have done, and knew I should have done, when he got here was put him directly into a crate so he wouldn’t have to deal with us and our noises and smells and foreignness while he was processing the absence of his people. And now, he scurried around the kitchen just out of my reach for about ten minutes, until I gave up in defeat and sat down on the floor to commence lamenting my situation. How is it I’m over four years into fostering and I still screw things up?

As I sat there mentally lashing myself, Bugs approached carefully and gave me a sniff. Then he sad down with a sigh and let me put the leash on. He followed me like a terrified gentleman to his new crate and lay down.

Before bed, we took a very tentative potty walk on a short leash and he, thankfully, did well. I put him to bed and then pondered all the lessons I had just set myself up to learn again.

This morning after having breakfast in his crate, I took Bugs for a long walk up the hollow. He did very well with a martingale collar. This is good since I didn’t have a harness big enough for him, or maybe I do, but I couldn’t find out because when I tried to put one on him, he squirmed and wrestled like a puppy, quite certain that putting-the harness-over-his-head was a game of some kind.

Bugs is a sweet, sweet boy and seems completely unaware of his size.


He and Frankie are anxious to meet each other but having screwed up his initial introduction to our home, I’m taking it slow now and trying to be smart. Lots of walks, lots of crate time. Just like Flannery. There’s a reason that OPH recommends the shut-down period. They’ve been doing this a lot longer than me.


On March 24, OPH will be holding a volunteer Seminar for new (and not new) volunteers in Gaithersburg, MD. If you’d like to learn more about this awesome organization and how you can get involved, consider joining us. Feel free to reach out to me ( and I’ll hook you up. We’d love to have you on our team. The more volunteers we have, the more dogs we can save.

And because I’m sure you miss Flannery as much as I do, here’s a little compilation of the best Flannery loves Frankie pictures (with a couple Flannery loves Gracie pictures thrown in):

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my blogs and books, visit 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, visit, 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.

One last thing! I will be leading a group of eight volunteers on a week-long trip to volunteer in some of the shelters we work with in North and South Carolina. We will be posting stories, pictures and video of our adventure. You can see all of it by following our Facebook page, OPH Rescue Road Trip. We promise to share the dogs we meet, the heroes we help, and the reality of shelters in the rural south. It may not always be easy to see, but hopefully it will also inspire you to help the many, many dogs in need. And if you’re so inclined, you can support us with donations through our Road Trip Fundraiser.

I love hearing from readers, so please feel free to comment here on the blog, email or connect with me on Facebooktwitter, or Instagram.



Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available now

Another Good Dog cover


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