I’ve often wondered what my limit is.
I know other people who have four, five, even nine dogs living in their houses.
That’s clearly my limit, judging by the non-stop headache I can’t shake and my inability to finish any task. Items I was in the process of putting away are littered all over my house, piling up just on the other side of the gates, at the base of the stairs and in the window between the front hall and the kitchen.
I haven’t been able to make any forward progress on the current manuscripts because there is always someone whining or wrestling or teasing another dog through a gate.
There is a lot of dog-walking. Three have to be leash-walked, one supervised off-leash, and the last let out and in (and out and in, and out and in, cat-style). We go out an average of 5-6 times a day which means I’m taking up to 18 laps around our property a day. Miraculously, I’ve only fallen once.
Falling is my thing. Which terrifies me for when I get really old. (I’m relatively old right now, but still a few years away from the senior discount) I don’t know if it’s because I tend to be in a hurry, am easily distracted by nature, am thinking about ten other things besides where I’m putting my feet, or that I’m nearly always on the other end of a leash attached to an unfamiliar dog, but I do hit the ground much too often.
I used to pride myself on this, even taught ‘how to fall’ to my riding students in an annual lesson during which I instructed them how to get off their moving horses in various scenarios (we did this on the soft, fluffy surface of an indoor arena which combined with the air of expectation makes for a pretty harmless fall).
But now falling is not so exciting or funny or painless as it once was. This time, I slipped on the driveway and konked my head while walking Bugs in the dark on Saturday morning – I’d completely underestimated the status of winter and inadvertently walked across a patch of ice created by the constant weeping of our hillside under all the incessant rain. To his credit, Bugs did not abandon me when I dropped the leash, though he’s even larger when viewed from below. Thankfully, I only suffered a bump on my head (saved by the ponytail from real damage) and a little stiffness that faded as my day blurred by.
I know I’ve blithely tossed out the fact that once I had fourteen dogs here simultaneously, but twelve of those were confined to the puppy room, the thirteenth was Edith who just got her certification as a therapy dog because she’s that good, and the fourteenth was Gracie who has always been supremely self-efficient.
Five is too many.
Mercifully, it’s only for a few days. And, truth be told, five wouldn’t be too many if a) the puppy yard weren’t forbidden (Nick just patched all the holes and put down grass seed) and b) the five dogs didn’t have to be constantly sorted according to personality conflicts.
There is Daisy who must be kept apart from all the dogs.
She is gaining energy and getting bored in the puppy room, but she is still wary of other dogs indoors. Outside is a different story, but inside where she still doesn’t feel completely safe, she won’t even tolerate Frankie, my lover boy, in the same room.
Bugs (who goes home on Wednesday!!) gets along with Gracie and Frankie, but he has to be kept apart from our newest guest because they’ve engaged in too many screaming matches through the gates.
I’m absolutely certain that if I opened the gate, they would become best buds but since he leaves tomorrow there’s no sense in testing that theory. Bugs also has to be kept apart from Frankie at times because their nonstop, full-body style of play is too noisy, too destructive, and too distracting, plus at the end of each lengthy session, he needs to go out to pee, which only adds to the number of times I walk the yard.
And then there’s our newest guest.
Flannery is back. Sadly, for everyone involved, she just was not a good fit for her adoptive home. She was overwhelmed by so many new faces coming and going in a busy household with a lot of teenagers in a busy neighborhood with a lot of dogs. Flannery is intense and sensitive in equal measure and it seems like it was just too much for her little mind and heart to process. Add to that, she overwhelmed her new fur sister with her insistent and aggressive play, and her adopters had to make the very difficult decision to return her.
I think sometimes we see these foster dogs adapt in one setting and completely forget the setting they came from—Flannery is from a very rural part of our country where Virginia meets Tennessee. She’s a spunky, busy pup, who reacts to every new stimulus around her, but up here, everything is new and a pup as excitable and reactive as she is can only take in so much.
She and Frankie are happily reunited, and we have learned a hard lesson about what kind of home Flannery needs.
So, five dogs.
I spend my days rotating them between crates and gated rooms. Here are all the possible combinations –
Frankie, Flannery, Gracie
Frankie, Bugs, Gracie
I’m trying to run a happy and fair ship here, so that means constant reshuffling, time spent snuggling or playing with each one, and rotating the ‘best’ toys between the crated. Meal times are regimented and recess is supervised.
No wonder I have a headache.
On the plus side, I’m getting plenty of exercise.
NOTE: Watch for an additional post Thursday! I’ll be telling you all about the OPH Rescue Road Trip I’m leading which hits the road this SUNDAY! We’ll take you inside six of our shelter partners in North and South Carolina to meet the dogs and the heroes that fight for them. Our team of eight is a fun bunch. I’ll put a recap here on the blog next week, but you can follow in real time and see lots more pictures, stories, and live videos on the facebook page, OPH Rescue Road Trip.
Thanks for reading!
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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.
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Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available now
6 thoughts on “Foster Dog Overload”
Re the falling: There are specific exercises that are designed precisely for people who fall often. Both my husband and mother-in-law had this problem. The exercises are simple and focus only on improving balance by improving the feed back between the feet/legs and the balance centre and shortening response time thereby preventing the fall. The exercises are not about fitness or flexibility and they are easy to do, a few minutes day for a few weeks. One I recall was walking heel to toe across a room first with arms out, over and over, until they could both do it hands down. Another involved moving the upper body around while standing on one foot. Both saw significant improvement and the effect has lasted the sixteen years since they did the program. You may wish to look into balance training for yourself since this seems to be impacting your life in a negative way.
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Thanks – I will look into this. It is a frustrating problem. I do think when we are finally able to move off this hillside (we have no real level ground on our entire six acres), that will help significantly since the hill often plays into the falls.
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I think knowing your limits is a good thing, and that it keeps you and your pups happy!
Oh, my gosh! Your schedule of walks and dog rotations and one-on-one time and toy sharing and mealtime sounds overwhelming and exhausting. Please take some time for yourself soon. Perhaps no new fosters for a short period and some restorative rest and relaxation. You are too important to neglect yourself. BTW, is there any chance you have a concussion from the fall? The constant headache and inability to finish a task could be a clue.
I really liked the suggestion of the class to solve falling too often. I recently wacked my toe. I don’t fall but constantly trip or wack my toes. I always enjoy your busy life posts and will look forward to reading about your trip.
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Thanks! I love that idea too – and hope I can find something like that someday!