dog rescue, foster dogs, fostering, oph, puppies, Rescue Road Trip

You Can’t Come Home Without a Dog

After spending nine days visiting shelters, rescues, dog pounds, and one awful flea market where they sold dogs and puppies, it was inevitable that I would come home from our Who Will Let the Dogs Out trip with a dog.

Mind you, I didn’t even take a crate with me on this trip. (It wouldn’t fit in our rental – Jeep’s look much bigger from the outside than the inside.)

Wednesday night, I finally hit a wall of exhaustion and emotion. I told Nancy in colorful language that I was finished with the trip, didn’t think anyone cared about the dogs in such dire circumstances, and I was sick of people (and dogs, for that matter). I went to bed certain that if I felt this hopeless in the morning, I was going home, forget the rest of the trip.

In the morning, I had an emotional hangover, my heart felt shaky and my head pounded. Instead of leaving, though, I texted Jen at OPH regarding a dog I’d heard about that didn’t get picked for the OPH transport from Tennessee that week. Could I just grab him on my way out of town? I needed to feel like I had actually helped in some way. Even more, I just needed the company of a dog.

Thankfully, Jen and Laura (the rescue wizard of Columbia, and our host for our last night of the trip) were able to make it happen. Between Robin, another amazing dog hero in TN and Laura and likely a few of the fabulous staff and volunteers at the Cheatham shelter, ‘Tyrone’ was vetted, transported to Laura’s for me (via a visit to Laura’s office), and was waiting for me when we arrived on Friday night.

We loaded him up the next morning and headed home. As we drove, Nancy and I debated a name for him. The theme for the transport he missed was Irish names. Granted Tyrone is actually an Irish name, it didn’t seem to fit him, plus I was pretty sure it was already used at some point in the 8000 dogs that OPH has rescued.

We came up with Shenanigan because it was fun to say and happy-silly like he is. Of course, Shenanigan has been used before too, so we christened him Tennessee Shenanigans.

Shenanigan was a perfect traveler – no fussing, no carsickness, and quick with his job each time we stopped at a rest area.

He’s barely six-months-old and a total sweetheart who loves every person he meets and gets along great with both Gracie and Fanny—respecting Gracie’s request for distance and wresting nonstop with Fanny. (Don’t mind the room under construction – when I go away two things generally happen: Nick starts a big project and I come home with a dog.)

Because he’s a puppy, manners are still in the making. He’s learning not to counter-surf or chew shoes, but as an adolescent those temptations are mighty. He knows ‘sit’ and while it’s clear he understands the purpose of a leash, he’d rather jump on me or cling to my side when we are out.

In fact, he’s basically my shadow, falling in love from the moment I got him home. We’re working on being okay without me in the room, and as long as one of the other dogs is with him there isn’t too much fussing. In his crate alone the first night, though, we heard about his loneliness. Since then, we’ve moved his crate next to Gracie’s bed and that has been enough comfort for him.

He weighs about 40 pounds, but he is thin, lanky and has some pretty big feet, so I’m certain he’ll get bigger. He reminds me of several of my previous foster dogs – mostly Lafayette all grown up (now Princeton),

but also a nice combination of Oreo and Houdini.

Shenanigan is a love and certainly a balm for my weary soul. He’s available for adoption through Operation Paws for Homes.

If you haven’t been following along on the Who Will Let the Dogs Out journey, I hope you’ll read through some of our adventures from last week. We had so many visits that I am still posting about them this week (four left to go!).

LOGO WHO DOG5-OPHblu2e (1)The purpose of the trip was to raise awareness and resources for unwanted dogs in the south and the heroes who fight for them. It was an incredible trip and I’m still processing all that I learned. One thing I do know is that nothing will change until people are aware there is a problem.

I truly believe it’s not that people don’t care, it’s that they don’t know. Everyone working so hard to rescue dogs in the south needs your support. You can help us (and them) by sharing our blog posts (and subscribing to the blog) and following on Facebook.

Cara Sue Achterberg with pupThanks for reading!


If you’d like regular updates of all my foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips from OPH training, be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.

For 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 coverIf you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs . It’s available anywhere books are sold.

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

Many of the pictures on my blog are taken by photographer Nancy Slattery. If you’d like to connect with Nancy to take gorgeous pictures of your pup (or your family), contact:

13 thoughts on “You Can’t Come Home Without a Dog”

  1. Shenanigan … What a great name!

    It often may seem like one is but a drop in the bucket — or an ocean — of despair, but it’s not just a proverbial drop; it’s a heart (or a soul if one believes in such things), and saving a heart of a fellow being is no small thing.

    When I worked for an animal shelter in Tennessee many moons ago, it didn’t take long before, as with my other colleagues there, to get cynical and feel like saving one animal didn’t make much, if any, difference in the never-ending avalanche we experienced daily. And I suppose if we view one life in the context of tens of millions of homeless dogs and cats, it can be hard to feel otherwise. But after several years of distance from that stress and heartache from looking into their eyes day in and day out, I now believe that one isn’t just a drop because the heart that we save needs to be viewed not as one among millions, but as his or her own unique self, and that one is a bigger number with more significance than we sometimes give it.

    Think of the impact a single act of a single person in a single moment can have on another over an entire lifetime. For those of us who were never lucky enough to have been blessed with (human) children, I think those smile-inducing, sometimes life-saving moments of love and joy — a tail thumping across the room, a soft purr of appreciation and love meant just for us, the touch of a nose against ours, and knowing that, no matter what, there always will be at least someone happy to see us when we get home — get magnified to much more than a single moment, but over a lifetime to infinite proportions.

    In times of feeling hopeless and defeated, remember all the individual hearts you have saved over the years, and how each of them has touched others. I know in your heart you know this, but sometimes we each need to be reminded of all the individual acts of kindness we have shown and how we may never know just how much each one act has spread.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steve, you are so right. It is so discouraging to see thousands of pets going through the shelters every day, thousands being spay/neutered in programs throughout the South, and thousands being sent North, but the numbers of unwanted pets doesn’t change–it may even be getting larger. Those that are saved may just be a drop in the bucket, but there are many more drops in the bucket now than when I started working in rescue.

      Cara, without someone like you making people aware of the problem, it will not change!! I am sure your trip was physically and emotionally exhausting, but please don’t give up. We need you. We need legislation. Thank you so much for what you are doing. I personally will work with you any way possible—please keep getting the message out!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In Texas there is a big flea market once a month and the animals in the cages are heartbreaking. I wish the state would not allow this practice. I accidentally parked in the wrong lot and had no idea this was going on. I have never been back it traumatized me, so I can relate to how you must have and are feeling. But TN Shenanigans is so cute. He’ll be gone soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a real eye-opener for me. I’ve learned there are more of these markets in TX, SC, KY, and AS. heartbreaking and extremely disturbing in this day and age.

      I think you’re right, we won’t have Shenanigan long.


      1. I don’t know for sure, but someone told me that they do this at the flea market in Raleigh. I plan to check it out.


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