Diary, dog rescue, former foster dogs, fosterdogs, fostering, litters, oph, puppies, rescue flight, Updates

Combatting Quarantine Stress with Foster Dogs

I’ve realized that there is a correlation between how many dogs are in our house and the amount of stress in my life.

I’m pretty sure the stress brings the dogs, not the other way around. I tend to pile on the animals when I’m feeling stressed or uncertain. Their needs, their affection, the immediacy of their presence is calming for me.

Yes, the world feels upside down right now, but that doesn’t change the fact that this dog needs to be walked or these puppies need to be dewormed. And when I finally sit still, there is always a warm, furry body cuddled against me or a wet nose pressing my hand demanding attention, pulling me away from my worries.

The house is full of dogs and my heart is full of their stories. Fasten your seatbelts, there’s a lot to tell.

Let me start with a happy ending. This one has been 13 months in the making. Yesterday, Daisy B, the mama dog whose story unfolded tragically a year ago February in my ‘Diary of a Rescue was finally adopted. Daisy was with us for nine months from her shattered beginning –the fevers, the slow loss of all eleven of her puppies over the course of a few days that involved multiple trips to the animal emergency room and to our OPH vet to her recovery and the slow and steady unfolding of her silly, affectionate personality.

Daisy was possibly the most fragile, frightened dog I’ve ever encountered. She always struggled in our busy, active household full of new people and new dogs and too many men. She had several angels who reached out to her— OPH volunteer and friend, Paul, who wooed her with turkey hot dogs and tenderness and more patience than nearly anyone I know. Friends like Tanis, who visited her to reinforce her trust of humans. Kassie, Daisy’s adoption coordinator who worked behind the scenes screening potential adopters and championing Daisy. And then Deb and Scott who volunteered to foster Daisy last September. At their quiet house, with their steady love, she finally came into her own and yesterday she was adopted by a family who seem meant to be her forever home.

Sometimes when a rescue takes such a long, long time it’s easy to get discouraged, but time after time I realize that we can’t rush the adoption magic. It will come. Dogs will find their families. There’s a reason we say, “Together we rescue.” Sometimes it really does take our rescue village.

Last week brought another adoption, one that happened much faster! Tennessee Shenanigans, my sweet pup who accompanied Nancy and I home from our Shelter tour, was adopted by repeat OPH adopters. He’s destined for a great life with a fun family. One lucky dog.

Shenanigan’s adoption was my first adoption from our cabin in Virginia. And also my first socially distanced adoption. I was at the cabin for a few days with Ian and his friend AJ working on a few projects and getting in some hiking. We’d left Siobhan, our beautiful Husky foster who is awaiting heartworm treatment at home as we’re trying to keep her world calm. Siobhan is an easy, sweet, low-key dog.

“It’s going to be a quiet week,” I thought on Thursday after Shenanigans left.

And then my phone rang. It was the OPH Puppy Coordinator. I knew that couldn’t be good. Barb usually messages me via Facebook with potential litters or mamas. The phone ringing meant it was urgent.

And it was. A mama dog and her ten 1-week-old puppies were in a shelter in Sampson County, North Carolina that was planning to close its doors on Saturday. This family had to be out of that shelter or they would be destroyed. The staff would be doing only the minimum and couldn’t care for a family, nevermind that it wouldn’t be safe for them in the shelter where they could contract parvo and other infectious diseases and parasites. Many rescues have stopped transports as their states shut down. Could I take this family if they could figure out a way to get them north?


Is there really a question here? Of course, I told Barb. I can do this.

So, the next day I met an amazing pilot named Kay, who flew the family from North Carolina to Winchester, VA. Kay, who I instantly knew would become a friend (she drives the same Element that I do, lives in VA, and has flown over 500 dogs to safety in her little plane) unloaded the mama dog from a crate behind her seat and unlocked her hatch to pull out a box of puppies.

The puppies and mama had been crated separately because it was reported that she was very protective of her puppies. I won’t lie and say this information didn’t make me more than a little frightened. It was one thing to agree to foster a mama and pups, it was something else entirely to foster a dog who might be threatened by my presence or the handling of her puppies. I wondered how we would handle her in the wire crate (the only one I had with me in VA). I brought along a plastic bin for the puppies and a bag of chicken jerky for the mama.

Mama dog (now Mia) was not what I’d pictured. She was small (maybe forty pounds) and her butt immediately commenced wiggling in happiness to be out of the plane. I ran her over to the grass to do some quick business, fed her a handful of jerky, and then loaded her easily into my crate. I said good bye to my new friend Kay and put the puppies in their bin and took off.

I wasn’t ten minutes from the airport when I began to worry about the puppies. They’d been away from their mama much too long, no matter how I worked the math in my head the journey from shelter to airport to plane to car added up to at least three or four hours. Too long. The puppies were quiet – were they dehydrated?

I spoke with our medical coordinator who said, “I don’t want you to get hurt, but if it was me, I’d rather get bit than lose a puppy.”

I agreed, so I looked for a place to pull over so I could transfer the puppies to the crate. I saw what looked like a school up ahead with immaculate grounds and neat buildings, so I pulled in. Only when I’d already committed to the turn did I realize I was turning into the Virginia customs and border patrol.

I considered turning back out and driving on, but my worries for the puppies overrode that fear, plus I thought, what safer place could I do this? My actions would probably all be on tape somewhere in one of those buildings as I unloaded a mysterious gray bin and then opened the hatch of my car and transferred its contents carefully one at a time into the crate in the back. Mia was happier to see me than the puppies, but she did finally settle down and nurse them as we drove home.

Now they are safely ensconced in our puppy room proving quite the distraction from all that is going on in this world.

I’ve been posting lots of live videos to the Another Good Dog facebook group, scattering a few pictures on my Instagram, and started another Diary of a Rescue on my Facebook writer page (seems kind of perfect that I started a new Diary and Daisy was adopted a few days later!). I’m hoping the journey of this little family will be a healthy counter to the uncertainty that is filling all our lives right now.

Thanks 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.

100 dogs coverFor information on me, my writing, and books, visit CaraWrites.com. I have a new book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One  Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, coming out in July. If it sounds like something you’d like to read, I’d be beyond grateful if you’d consider preordering it. Preorders contribute to the success of the book, not only giving me and my publisher some peace of mind but hopefully attracting media attention.

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 WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org.

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.

If 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 carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

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: nancyslat@gmail.com.





6 thoughts on “Combatting Quarantine Stress with Foster Dogs”

  1. Happy to hear Daisy found the perfect family, Cara. Julie, my shy little girl from Bladen, also went to her furever family this weekend also, great match. Love your new little family, and so glad Mia was not super protective. That can be disastrous!! Thanks for all you do. Naomi

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My little foster family came from Sampson. I’m so grateful for the local advocates who helped get many of the dogs out of there and several other shelters that closed this past weekend. Praying for the NC dogs. Glad you were able to place your shy dog, they can be tricky to find the right homes for. My Fanny is one of them, which is pretty much why she stayed with us.


    1. Mia is doing great with the puppies, but she is an all-business mom, only going in the box to nurse/clean up. Otherwise she is sitting at the gate waiting for me to happen by and give her some attention. Not the least bit protective now that she’s out of the shelter environment and trusting all of us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s so wonderful! I’ve seen it again and again: get a dog out of the shelter environment, and you see a whole new personality. And 99% of the time, it’s a change for the better!

        Liked by 1 person

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