dog rescue, Fanny, foster dogs, foster fail, fostering, Gracie

Tito or Not to Tito

Here is the post I thought I’d put up earlier this week before I left for the cabin to celebrate my birthday:

[Note: much has changed since then I will update you later this week!]

All of the puppies are now in their forever homes. So, it was time to pick up the really special dog I’ve been anxiously awaiting!

I thought there would be a brief overlap between the last remaining puppy who was supposed to go home Saturday and the new foster dog who was to arrive on Friday night.

Friday we all listened to Pippin’s sad cries from the puppy room, interrupted by brief visits from friends who held her or distracted her. We hadn’t been through a puppy/litter withdrawal since Homeboy/girl (you have to read that hilarious/embarrassing story to understand that name).

Late in the afternoon, it dawned on me that because her adopter was another OPH foster, I could meet her adopter at the transport location for my new foster dog (it was closer to her house) and we could unload the whiner have the adoption that night instead of waiting until Saturday.

My newest foster, Tito (OPH Lieutenant Howl) arrived on the transport van just ten minutes before Emily appeared to meet Pippin. I handed off the happy puppy to the happy adopter and headed home with Tito.


Let me tell you about Tito!

Nancy and I met Tito when we were traveling in Tennessee in March for Who Will Let the Dogs Out. He was rescued by Amber and Branden with Halfway Home Rescue (a fabulous rescue saving dogs in western, Tennessee – if you’re looking for a good cause to help – check them out!).

Tito was found with a twenty-foot logging chain around his neck. His ears had been cut off so severely that you could see right into his ear canals. This was not the work of a veterinarian. This was someone who mutilated their own dog most likely to make him look ‘tough.’ The logging chains are often used by ignorant, cruel people to try to build up a dog’s neck and shoulder muscles for the same reason as cutting the ears. Image. In many places in this country, having a tough looking pitbull is a status symbol.

Amber-13 (1)

Despite that rough start to life, Tito is the happiest of souls. When we met him in March, he was in a puppy pen in Amber’s garage. Tito weighs 55 pounds (of solid dog – that chain did its trick), yet he was content as can be to stay inside a puppy pen he could easily have knocked over. He jumped up carefully on the side of the pen at the sight of us, ready to give kisses and snuffles and accept any treats we had. We gave him a toy and he spun circles of happy before commencing chewing. He stole both our hearts.

I followed his story as he moved through the rescue channels. Amber said he was so great with other dogs she used him for ‘dog-testing’ new dogs. He didn’t bat an eye at the cats and continued to love every person he met.

Next he moved to RARE, a rescue just outside of Nashville, because he would have a better chance of adoption there. He continued to be his happy self. In fact, he was so happy, that he developed ‘happy tail’—a condition in which a dog wags his tails so forcefully and continuously, that he ruptures it over and over banging it into things (most likely the sides of his crate). The wounds would not heal because Tito just opened them again and again with his wagging. There was no option but to amputate his tail (a common treatment for happy tail).

When he was put under anesthesia for his neuter, the vet also amputated his tail. Now his little nub still wags non-stop, but at least he doesn’t hurt himself.

Eventually Tito was adopted. I was happy for him and thought that was the end of his story. But a few weeks ago, I learned that he had been returned. I immediately reached out to my rescue contact in TN to ask what happened and whether she thought OPH might pull him. That dog deserved to be in a real forever home, and if I could, I wanted to help make that happen.

I mentioned to Nick that we might foster him. I showed him his pictures. He knows me well enough to know I had ulterior motives. I confessed that yes, a part of me wanted to foster him so that we could potentially adopt him. And to my surprise, he was okay with that. In fact, he liked the idea.

We already have two dogs and we don’t need another dog.

Gracie has finally become an unflappable senior set in her ways, but Fanny, my sweet girl, is an anxious and fearful dog. She is happier and more confident with a playmate around which is why I’ve taken in a steady stream of young male foster dogs to keep her company.

Gracie, to her credit, does occasionally try to play with Fanny, but she generally lasts for one race around the living room and a brief encounter in which she snarls at Fanny who grovels on the ground in excitement. This is followed by Gracie having a coughing fit and wandering away dazed and regretting the effort.

So, my thought was—maybe Tito could be Fanny’s emotional support dog. He certainly has the energy, the play, and the confident, happy attitude.

Now that he’s here, I don’t know if he can be. He is big and strong and so MUCH. Don’t get me wrong—he’s a great dog. So loving and happy.


But he has a lot to learn about house manners and has been restricted to the kitchen with its worn wood floor indefinitely. He is new to leash walking and has a powerful urge to sniff. He loves to be outside and has already slipped out our door, forcefully pushing past whoever hesitates. Luckily, he doesn’t go anywhere. Usually he’s trying to find me.

My kids are so in love that they are working hard to help him.

In fact, I went to the cabin to celebrate my birthday with friends and left Tito home with them. I don’t want this to be my decision. The way he is now, Tito is too much for us. He needs consistent attention and positively reinforced direction. He has to be supervised whenever he is loose in the kitchen.

Other than your lap and your love, what he really wants is food. He’s more or less obsessed with it. Tito is a serious counter, table, hand surfer. He’ll snag that food wherever he can find it. A slow down bowl was no match for him.

So, for now, the jury is still out. The kids have this week to try to housetrain him, convince him not to knock people over with his brand of love, teach him to walk on a leash without taking his handler grass-skiing, and to accept that just because a food container is opened, that doesn’t mean it’s for him.

Nick hopes to bring him down here this weekend so we can see what that big personality is like in our tiny cabin and how he and Fanny do together. And then we’ll have to make a decision because I don’t want this amazing dog to wait a minute longer to start his forever life.

I debated sharing any of this with you, dear readers, as many of you are serious dog-lovers who would have thirty dogs if you could. I don’t need to be convinced to adopt this awesome dog. What I need to figure out is if this is the home that is best for Tito and if Tito is the best dog for us.


If I know anything after fostering 176 dogs, it’s that there is always another good dog coming.

Serious decision making time here at this foster home and in this foster’s heart.

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 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

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:



16 thoughts on “Tito or Not to Tito”

  1. He has the most joyful face! I hate how mistreated he’s been.

    My rescue was quite the food hunter. He was the type that if he got into a 40 lb bag of dog food he’d have eaten every last kibble. He’s now not like he was when we first got him. He grew to be more food secure, but he does think anything being opened is for him. I do have a feeling he was like this because he didn’t get enough to eat early on. He also has to eat 3 meals a day or he throws up bile. I’ve never had a dog eat more than twice a day

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. We recently had a terrible case of a pack of six pitbulls who attacked their owner, nearly killed him (he survived but will be permanently disabled), then attacked the man trying to rescue him. They then went on a rampage in a suburban attacking anything that moved, human or animal, until they were all either killed by being hit by cars as they ran in traffic or were shot by police. Police were able to rescue a puppy with the help of animal control. Pitbulls are banned in Winnipeg. The dogs did not have licenses, the owner did not obey the three dog limit, and the owner was not a registered licensed dog breeder either.


  2. A condition called appy tail and a slow down dog bowl. Two new things I read about here. Glad that he’s a happy dog, but it does sound like he needs some serious training. I’m sure you’ll make a good decision about what to do with him in the end, whether or not you keep him. Glad your kids are willing to help with him… that could be a good sign. How do you keep track of the number of dogs you’ve fostered? On a chart? Fostering 176 dogs… that’s a lot. Keep blogging.


    1. It is very helpful that the kids are motivated to help Tito – makes his chances much better. I keep track of the number of dogs on my ‘kennel record’ that I have to keep for the county to keep my kennel license. They total my dogs each year, so it’s easy to look back and figure out what number we are on.


  3. He sounds like a potential candidate to be a great dog, but he definitely needs to learn to be that dog. I’m a great believer in positive reinforcement when the dog (or child) does something positive. I know that many dog lovers do not believe in Caesar Milan’s techniques in training dogs, but he says someone has to be the pack leader–either you or the dog.

    If the dog becomes the pack leader, he will take over the situation and make the home his territory and basically be out of control. Therefore, you must “explain” to him that you are the leader, and he must conform to your lifestyle. He must learn to walk on a leash, come when called, wait when the door is opened, and have certain restrictions when in the house.

    Unfortunately, when puppies (and rescue dogs) do not learn these basic rules of society, many end up being dumped in shelters. I see it every day.


    1. Yes, we definitely have a lot of work to do whether he is only a foster dog or becomes our dog. He’s never been introduced to much that we are expecting so it’s really not that he’s ‘bad’, just that he doesn’t know (yet)!


  4. You are SO wise to take a “wait and see” attitude with Tito! (I love his face, by the way….one of the cutest I’ve ever seen.) Just because he’s a great dog doesn’t mean he’s the right dog for you and your house, and I personally believe that every dog doesn’t just deserve a home; they deserve the “right” home. It is sad that he has such a hard start in life…and those clipped ears and heavy chains are very common in the world of dog fighting, which might have been his owner’s intent as well. Thank God he was spared that horror! I look forward to reading more about him, and I know that you will make the right decision for all of you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That is some smile! How do he and Fanny get along? Is he respectful of Gracie? Tito sounds like he has fabulous potential — but whether you want to expend the energy to guide and shape that potential is another story. Thanks for sharing the journey with us — we readers support whatever your family chooses to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. His smile is near constant – something I truly love about him. We haven’t yet introduced him to Fanny beyond noses through the gate and two short walks together. His health took a turn, so we are waiting for him to be back up to speed before we put them together.


  6. A kennel record… a handy way to keep track of who comes and goes in your pack. To Tumbleweedstumbling, not sure if you live in Winnipeg like I do, but I remember that case too (I also heard about another case involving an aggressive lab, named, I think, Boss [what a name] who attacked a child, and even then his owner couldn’t understand why the city was pushing for him to be put down, which he eventually was. He’d been poorly trained). I think pitbulls and other “bully breeds” are allowed in the rural part of Manitoba… I know a second cousin had a pitbull that my mom met (and that jumped on part of her car when she once visited and did it some damage… hearing about that did not impress me, but being a bit of a softy and a dog lover, my mom didn’t hold her cousin liable for it), but I think it eventually got old and had to be put down. While it attacked at least one barn cat, I don’t think it attacked any person. I never met it; to be honest, I was always apprehensive about doing so, having at the time heard more bad things about pitbulls than good (this was years before I found this blog and read about Cara’s experiences). Would I willingly meet one now? Not sure. If it was under the skilled hands of an owner like Cara, perhaps. If it was being incorrectly trained or given too much freedom by an overly-permissive owner? No. I’m not too comfortable around dogs, so try and pick my moments when it comes to being around them, now that I’m an adult, just four years older than Cara’s oldest. I am happy in my pet-free apartment, thanks. But Cara, keep blogging. Keep raising the awareness of the importance of good dog training and ownership, and doing your part to rescue dogs from what could turn out to be an otherwise grim fate.


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