booktour, dog books, dog rescue, fosterdogs, fostering, poop, puppies, writing

A Day in the Life of a Puppy Foster

I’ve mentioned before that puppies are a lot of work. So I thought I’d give you a peek into a typical day of caring for ten large puppies.


Someone, somewhere in the house flushes a toilet and the puppies wake up. The pipes run through the wall in the puppy room which is our converted mudroom. It is somewhat miraculous that they don’t seem to waken if the flush happens earlier than five. Puppies commence yipping for breakfast, pooping, fighting, and zooming through poop while yipping for breakfast and fighting.


Nick gets up and has breakfast, completely ignoring the puppies, and more amazingly, the smell of the puppies.


I accept the fact that the puppies are not going back to sleep and get out of bed. I let Gracie out and put Bell in the playyard because if I don’t, both of these girls will join the chorus when they hear me prepping puppy breakfast. (Fanny sleeps in.)

I prepare the puppies eating area and try very hard not to look into the puppy room, as it is always a poop-covered disaster area and seeing it first thing is just too disheartening. Because the room is too filthy and puppies cannot keep food in their bowls, I don’t feed them in their room. I set up a temporary area in the hall outside their room where they eat.

puppy eating area

While they eat, I clean as fast I can, which is never fast enough. You would be amazed how quickly ten puppies can consume five cups of dry food. I gather their dirty laundry (towels that cover beds, beds themselves if the towels were removed and beds are poopy, soft-sided toys, and any extra towels- the ones I sometimes toss in the pen to cover a particularly wet or poopy area I can’t reach by moving the puppy fence or reaching over it. I throw all the hard-sided toys in the mudroom sink to wash later.

Next, I use paper towels to pick up the poop that didn’t land on the puppy pads, and then roll all the dirty paper towels up in the puppy pads and place the giant poop-filled tootsie roll of pads outside the pen. I spray the exposed floor with bleach spray and the areas with dried-on poop with murphy oil soap. While those areas soak, I clean the water bowls with bleach and refill them.

As fast as I can, I set out new puppy pads in the ‘bathroom area,’ and anchor them with the pen fence and a small stool. Puppy pads are a life-saver with this many puppies, even if they do sometimes shred them. We are burning through our supply of pads, so I’m hoping a holiday elf will be inspired by this post to donate some, otherwise, I’ll have to brave Walmart (my least favorite place in town).

puppy potty area

Using towels, I scrub the bleached areas (this is usually about the point when the puppies join me to ‘help’). I cover the beds with clean towels and set out lots of new toys. While I’m doing that, the puppies are romping back and forth between the two areas, sometimes pooping on the fresh clean puppy pads and sometimes pooping wherever the urge strikes them. I swoop in with paper towels to grab as many little turds as I can before they’re tracked all over the nice clean pen.

Puppy pen play area

After herding all the puppies except Rocky back into the puppy room, I clean up the eating annex while Rocky helps by eating any stray kibble. I interrupt her efforts to jam two antibiotics down her throat, which she hardly notices and swallows so she can get back to eating. I fill a tiny syringe with iron supplement and squirt that down her throat also. As she’s getting the final stray bits of kibble, I take the fence down and fold the surgery drapes that the puppies eat on (unless they are badly soiled by rude poopers), and use a cordless vac to pick up whatever Rocky has missed.

NOTE: Rocky was examined by a vet last week. She had a skin scrape for Demodex mange. It was negative, but we treated for it anyway. She also had bloodwork which revealed that she has some kind of generalized infection (treating with two antibiotics) and she’s anemic, which accounts for her low energy. Iron supplements have already perked her up tremendously (she’s a feisty girl to begin with!). She is responding well and will be ready to find an adopter soon! (pictures by Nancy Slattery)

Last, Rocky and I go back in the puppy room so I can refill water bowls that are usually drained after a meal and continue to triage the area for poop. Sometimes this is when I also make a live video on Facebook because it’s when the pen is cleanest. I realize that gives the impression that the pen is always spotless; hopefully this post makes it clear that is a momentary situation.


Feed the other dogs. While they eat, feed horses, cats, and chickens. Take Fanny out to play in the puppy yard or for a walk around the pasture.


Finally make my first cup of tea. Sip it in the playyard while tossing a ball for Bell, the relentless fetcher.

adoptable black lab


Puppies are usually napping and I can sneak in and do another quick clean up, plus clean/fill water bowls. I’m paranoid about water bowls. One of the toughest kinds of worms to get rid of in puppies is Coccidia. It’s spread by poopy paws in water bowls. I try to bleach-clean my bowls a minimum of five times during the day. I keep a spray bottle of bleach/water next to the sink and squirt-scrub-rinse-refill frequently.


Pop in for another clean up. If I have a volunteer coming, this is a good time to get the puppies out to their play area in the living room. The volunteer can babysit while I pick everything up and clean more thoroughly. The early morning clean is always rushed and spotty.

puppy play area
Play area in the living room (note the two big baskets of clean laundry waiting to be folded!) Nick built the box and the play station.


Repeat morning feed minus the Rocky meds. If I’ve have some help and done the thorough clean at 10:30, there is usually little cleaning that needs done at lunch, which is good because it gives me more time for the big dogs before I have to get back to work.


Enforced nap time for the puppies. Much like children, some of them don’t nap. I turn off the light and try to keep the exterior noise to a minimum. This is also my ‘creative writing time’ when I work on fiction so I need the quiet. The puppies generally cooperate, but not always. They are on the other side of the wall from my writing desk, so sometimes I hear the rumbles that go on, but I make myself ignore it even as I know the clean up will be brutal.


Clean up and if it doesn’t take too long, I spend time with the puppies in the pen. I try to give each of them a few minutes of snuggles, holding them on their backs in cradling position to see if they trust me. This litter loves to snuggle but not many of them will allow me to hold them like babies for long. This also gives me time to examine them and sometimes, if they aren’t too wild, clip their nails with baby nail trimmers.


If there are people coming to visit puppies or potential adopters coming by during the week, I try to schedule them in this window since I’m not working on anything at my desk that can’t be interrupted (it’s usually reading, research, and social media time).


Dinner. This is a repeat of their morning meal with Rocky getting her meds again.

This is a live video my friend Lisa made of Saturday evening’s meal (and yes, Rocky is a girl but Lisa like many people mistake her for a boy because of the name and the fiesty attitude.)


Time in the play area in the living room. Now that they are jumping out of the playbox we’ve had to put a puppy pen around it. The puppies love Gracie and Fanny. Gracie has mostly disdain for them but will sometimes interact. Fanny seems curious and unsure of them, but she will touch noses and when there isn’t a puppy fence, steal their toys. It’s harder to interact with the fence up and because there are so many in this litter, I can’t fit in the box with them.

puppies meeting Fanny

If this is a day that the pups need weighed, dewormed, or vaccinated, Nick usually helps me. Ian may also be enlisted to keep the other pups in the box, while we work with individuals. He compares this to playing Whack-a-Mole (not that he whacks them!) because you basically have to sit at the opening in the fence (it doesn’t quite fit all the way around the box) and keep putting puppies back in the box as they jump over.


One last clean-up before lights out. The puppies are quiet all night as long as there isn’t any movement in the rest of the house. On the nights that one of my kids is up and roaming or has people over, the pen is inevitably a bigger mess the next morning because the puppies hear them and get up to play and party too.

I didn’t include laundry in the day, but that is done sporadically EVERY day because puppies make a lot of laundry. Keeping toys, towels, and bedding clean is important if we hope to have worm-free puppies.

puppy dirty laundry

The other thing I do at least ten to fifteen times a day is wash my hands, pretty much after every trip into the puppy room, and before I go in if I’ve been away from the house.

Every day can be different and Weeks 1-4 are definitely easier than 5-8. Because these pups were born on a Monday and adoption day is a Saturday, I have the pleasure of caring for these monsters sweetie pies for nearly nine weeks this go round.

This is week seven, a little breather as there are no scheduled dewormers or vaccines, only microchipping to be done. Jen Hedrick, another OPH volunteer and former vet tech, came over to chip my pups last night despite the awful weather and the crazy detour to get to our house (thanks Jen!).

There is a lot of work to puppies. You definitely pay for the pleasure of all that cuteness. Every puppy foster home has its own system, likely honed by trial and error, and it improves with each litter. I wish we had more space, but this is what we’ve got, so I work with it. Ten big puppies are much more work that five small puppies (my last litter). At this point, I almost always declare that I’m not doing any more puppies ever again, but I never stick to that ultimatum because if I have an opportunity to save a life, I’ll safe it. Yes, it’s exhausting and endless, but when you consider the alternative, it’s worth it. Even with all that poop. (If you’d like to foster for OPH, click here.)

If you’re in the Harrisburg, PA area and you’d like to meet the PA Pups (or at least some of them), I’ll be pimping them out for donations to OPH at Cupboard Maker Books this Sunday from 3-5pm. Edith Wharton (my fiftieth dog ) will also be there signing books with me. Another Good Dog is now out in paperback, just in time for the holidays (what a great gift!). Stop by and see us if you can.

puppy book signing

Also, the 2020 Another Good Dog calendar featuring the PA pups will be for sale next week. As soon as they arrive, I’ll announce it via the Facebook group. They are simply gorgeous! How gorgeous? Well, here are some of the ‘bad’ pictures we didn’t use:

Nancy is such a talent and managed to capture each puppy’s personality, plus even a picture of the entire litter (not an easy feat). Here are the outtakes from that circus:

If you want to see the ‘good’ pictures, we’ll be selling them next week (I’ll announce in the FB group and on the blog when they come in.) We have a limited number of copies to sell, but will take orders if we run out and all proceeds will go towards our next shelter trip in February. Nancy and I will be traveling to Tennessee and Mississippi to raise awareness and drop off donations.

Thanks for reading!


If you’d like regular updates of all my foster dogs past and present, plus regular videos of the PA pups, be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.

Cara Sue Achterberg with pupFor information on me, my writing, and my upcoming book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One  Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, visit

And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit

Our family fosters through the all-breed rescue, Operation Paws for Homes, a network of foster homes in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and south-central PA.

Another Good Dog coverRecently released from Pegasus Books and available anywhere books are sold: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs.

I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at



22 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of a Puppy Foster”

  1. I was wondering if writing it all out made it seem a bigger job than you realized! Knowing you, you just keep going no matter what!

    Thank you for the many amazing things you do for the many pups you have fostered and the assistance and publicity you bring to the southern shelters.

    I am impressed that Fanny sleeps in! So she knows she really belongs!


    1. I think writing it out DID make me realize how much work it is. Luckily, it’s only for a set number of weeks and then I’ll have my life back. I feel truly lucky that I have a flexible enough work that I can do this. It’s hard, but it’s so rewarding.


  2. Bless you for fostering so many dogs, and especially for fostering puppies! They are a ton of work, and in your case, they impact your household too. But it’s so necessary for the homeless animals to have a place to stay until they can be adopted, and homes are better than shelters by far!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, I thought it was work taking care of a group of orphaned kittens and bottle-feeding them every three hours. But at least they instinctively know how to use a litter box. Once their eyes are open, you just plop them in the box once and they appear to be genetically programmed to start pawing and go about their business. Too bad Mother Nature doesn’t similarly hard-wire puppies to hold it and ask to go outside!

    Your bottomless reservoir of patience with poop never ceases to impress me, Cara. It’s a good thing they’re so incredibly cute and cuddly!

    As always, a big tip of my (metaphorical) hat to Nancy for her awesome pics! Of all the animal portraits I’ve shot over the years, puppies are the hardest because they rarely hold still for even a couple seconds. Then again, some adult dogs never stop moving, either. Thank goodness fast motor-drives, high shutter speeds and limitless rolls of digital film!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I got into fostering because we were looking for a new dog and thought we’d try out fostering until we found ‘the one for us’. Now, 158 dogs later, I can’t imagine stopping. Yes, it can be painful (especially the first few times) when dogs leave, but knowing how many are dying in our shelters without foster homes makes it a necessary sacrifice. I try to think of it as simply helping the foster dog prepare for family life and then celebrate when they find their family. It also helps that many of my adopters stay in touch. You should give it a go – you’re stronger than you think and fostering saves lives.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like quite a day for you with all those puppies. And I thought that living with just two golden retriever puppies was a lot. I can definitely relate to the comments about a puppy’s nap time: it’s a valued time of quiet for the owners, and it can be so easily disturbed if one isn’t careful. Perhaps one day you could video one of your mornings in the pen as you clean it amidst all the activity and share it on here. We like your videos and pictures. I hope they get adopted soon. And I’m glad that Bell is doing well, and trusting you to care for her puppies. As you said, the more socialization and attention they get, the better. They have to learn to trust people handling them. Keep doing your part for man’s best friend, and have a cup of tea during one of those quiet nap times in the afternoon. Can’t beat that downtime… when my mom and I had two puppies with us (one she got and one she was looking after for her sister and brother-in-law), we’d often nap when the puppies napped. To keep them from fighting (I assume that puppies, even the youngest ones, do that for dominance reasons?), my mom put them into separate kennels in the kitchen. They’d still battle when they could, but it was less often. Phew!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is quite a day – every day! We’re in the countdown now with only nine days to go! I will try to get more videos up – it’s hard to video me doing anything since I’m the only one here most mornings. I watch them all day long and forget that for people who don’t, it’s probably pretty entertaining. Still, I’m looking forward to the morning of Dec 22 when I won’t wake up to ten poppy puppies!


  5. I loved this post! So much work; I can relate. Sometimes at the end of the days when we have a houseful of fosters, I wonder how it’s possible that I didn’t get to the laundry or whatever small, symbolic task I had planned to knock out; seeing your daily schedule makes it easy to see why!
    I think it’s important that you’ve highlighted the scheduled “puppy socialization/play time”. Many people think that fostering puppies equals playing with them all day, but the puppy cuddle time is limited amid all the clean up and management (and in my case often outsourced to the kids or friends who can’t wait to get their hands on puppies while I tackle yet another shredded puppy pad or load of laundry). Even with a sweet snuggly puppy pile on my lap, I can’t help but see that one puppy over in the corner soiling the blanket or remember that Mama still needs her walk…it’s endless!
    But, as you’ve commented, this crazy period is fleeting in our lives and theirs and if facing some (okay, a lot!) of poop first thing in the morning and throughout each hour of our day for a few weeks means a healthy start (and life!) for these babies, then bring on the poop!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That should be our mantra, “Bring on the poop!” And yes, outsourcing the socialization is absolutely necessary. I wish my kids were still interested. Only one is living here fulltime and he probably doesn’t even know the puppies’ names. He (and his gf) did watch the puppies for me the other evening so I could enjoy dinner out and a Squirrel Nut Zippers concert, though. That was pretty nice and a reminder that real life will return in just nine days!


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