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

The Adoption Decision

Adopting a dog is not something anyone should do on a whim. Yes, there are many times when you get that ‘feeling’ or ‘connection’ or ‘moment’ that tells you that this is the one.

But when you are a part of a family—human and canine (and feline)—adopting a dog has to be a family decision.


In this family, the opinions of the kids are important, but as far as the adoption decision, irrelevant. Although they very much live here at the moment, in just a few months, none of them will live here. Brady will resume his adult life in Phoenix; Addie will return to college for her senior year (after which she plans to travel the world); and Ian will start college only to return in the summers (if then).

They all love Tito. Brady and Addie even voluntarily take him for walks (something I do not remember them EVER doing in the history of Achterberg family fostering). They croon to him and dote on him and forgive him when he has accidents in the kitchen (which thankfully are becoming fewer and far between). Only Ian understands the gravity of this decision, and he’s voiced his reservations (likely because he knows that he will not be here to help).

There is a lot to love about Tito. This big, hunky 55-pound marshmallow is all love and joy. He has never met a stranger. His happiness oozes out at all times, even when he’s trying oh-so-hard to sit still while I put his bowl down or his harness on. His joy wiggles through his body at the sight of any of us, his little stumpy tail going a mile a minute.

Nick calls him ‘Mr. Big’ and I hear him chatting Tito up in the kitchen when they are alone, something he rarely does with our foster dogs. I’ve been smitten since day one when I met him at Halfway Home Rescue in March, having just been freshly rescued off a life on a logging chain.

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The cats (which are actually ‘foster cats’ still in need of homes but have been here since last August) watch him but have quickly realized he’s not a threat, just a nuisance. (And NO, they do not want to play!)

Gracie growls at Tito whenever he makes overtures and Tito runs away like a puppy chastened. This interaction has not changed.

It has been Fanny’s reaction to him that has ultimately made our decision. They have flirted through the baby gates that separated them for the last two weeks—at first because that’s how we do introductions here, but then because Tito was sick.

This past week we have allowed them to meet without fences between them. We’ve taken them for walks together and generally they settle down but for the first ten minutes, they need to walk on opposite sides of the street to keep them focused on the task at hand and not hanging each other with their leashes when one or the other leaps on the other to invite them for a full-on wrestle in the street.

We’ve tried each day to put them together in the play yard. Each time it has started out intensely with serious wrestling and tumbling and playing. They seem to enjoy each other. The problem is that even after thirty minutes of this intense play, it doesn’t settle down. I thought after three or four days of multiple play sessions, they would be over it, but they play beyond exhaustion. And instead of this lessening each day, it has gotten worse.

Over the weekend, Fanny finally had enough and began snapping at Tito. I don’t know if each is waiting for the other to give in and neither will, but watching the body language of my dog, I can tell she is no longer just playing. (She doesn’t snap in this video, but she began growling at him just after it – there has been NO fighting, just warnings.)

Adding a toy in the mix makes the situation much worse as these are both toy-loving dogs. The problem is that Fanny likes to be top-banana. Her favorite part of every day is when we throw the tennis ball (I use a chuck-it stick and Nick uses his lacrosse stick) as far as we can and she chases it down and brings it back over and over and over. Fanny would do this all day, so we always have to be the ones to call it quits since she never will.

Tito also loves to chase a ball and will return it a few times until he’s had enough, and then he’ll lay down with it for a good chew.

Tito (5 of 41)

I knew better than to throw a tennis ball, so we tried throwing a soccer ball and then a huge tug toy. Each time Fanny got their first, but Tito commenced a game of tug with her that lasted (literally) twenty minutes. At times, Tito just lay down and acted as an anchor for Fanny to drag and shake. Finally, Fanny gave in, but I could see the frustration and fury on her face.

While both dogs are sweethearts and both dogs love to play, the chemistry just doesn’t work with them together.

Which means that some other very lucky family will get to adopt Tito and this family will be sad to see him go (well most of us, the cats will likely not miss his enthusiastic overtures).

If you, or someone you know, are in the market for a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime dog (who still needs plenty of training!), you can apply here. (His official OPH name is Lieutenant Howl.)

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.

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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:

15 thoughts on “The Adoption Decision”

  1. That’s what I observed in the video you posted a few days ago. Fanny isn’t having it. The only reason that stayed “play” at all was because Tito was accepting the bottom dog role most of the time. I don’t think he and Fanny were playing the same game at all. She was playing “MINE!!!!” and he was playing, “Are we going to be friends?” I’m sorry. He’s just so awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Cara, I have known you long enough to always trust your judgement. You have had so much loss with your rescues, but you have learned so much, and we have learned from you. You saved Tito more than once. Fanny’s brother is sister will come along. Some energetic and dedicated family or person will give Tito a wonderful home. That was a tough decision, I know.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice post, but sorry that your family adopting Tito is no longer in the cards. I’d started wondering how this would go when I read about the rigorous wrestling the two do that you mentioned here, reminded of how my mom’s retrievers took so long to work things out. How did you come to call the dog Tito instead of his OPH name? I’d wondered where the Lt. Howl name came from. I’m sure he’ll find a good home, and know that you did your best to make it work. Good for you for knowing when your own personal dog, Fanny, was starting to find him a bit much and taking her signals into account. Not all dog owners are so attentive, and then things go wrong for everyone. Keep doing your part for man’s best friend, and I trust you’ll enjoy the last few weeks in which all of your children will be home. I’ve been out of my family home for a little over five years now. How time flies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having the kids home has been great (and stressful), but I am ready for life to go ‘back to normal!’ Tito was given his name by the guy who rescued him from his life on the chain. That was what he was called when I first met him and it fits him well, so I knew no matter what OPH named him, he would stay Tito at our house. He knows it now, too.


      1. When I think of the name Tito, I think of Michael Jackson’s brother, the first person I knew of to have that name. It’s an interesting one. I’m sure you’ll soon find a dog to adopt that will be just the right fit for your family and who will become a fast friend to Fanny. Perhaps that dog is out there right now, looking in their own way for you, but hasn’t yet found you. One day it will.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hard to do, but we make decisions based on the interaction between the family and the dogs. Tito will find his forever home thanks to your posts. I’m sure he will get many apps and when the right dog for your entire family unit comes along, you’ll know. Be a good boy Tito- you are amazing. Thank you Cara. You too, are amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so sorry it didn’t work out, as I know how much you love that dog. But I do think you made the right decision. From what you are describing, t wouldn’t be fair to Fanny to add Tito to your home, and you were wise enough to realize that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve learned so much from Fanny and spent so many hours trying to figure her out. It does break my heart that Tito can’t stay, but the whole experience has given me another perspective into my complicated little girl. He’s a special boy and easy to love, so we will find him a great home.

      Liked by 1 person

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