We had a dog party this weekend.
We often have multiple dogs – but that usually includes a litter of puppies which inflates our numbers. This time, it was all adult dogs, and quite a few personalities.
We had our neighbor’s dog Juno, who is one of Fanny’s best friends.
Juno is basically still a puppy – so I was reminded about the relentless energy of puppyhood! Juno is busy and nosy and so very, very cheerful. All puppy.
Gracie grumbled at Juno whenever she approached, but Juno never seemed to take it personally. Sometimes Juno would be zooming around the room, bouncing off people and dogs and she’d literally run over Gracie where she lay. Gracie would explode in a fit of barking that turned into coughing and reminded me of an old person hollering at kids cutting through his yard, “Hey, you kid, get out of here!”
Fanny loved the opportunity to wrestle and play like a puppy! Billie Jean is not a let’s-wrestle-up-one-side-of-the-couch-and-the-other, like Juno, so it gave Fanny an outlet (which improved her relationship with Billie). The play sessions were endless. Basically, they only ended when I separated the two.
Managing multiple dogs is stressful, and not the least bit conducive to writing. It was hard to hold a thought, much less put it on paper, while Juno was underfoot. She yipped at imagined monsters, leapt on/off beds, and anytime your face was nearby she slurped it (usually at high speed). She made me remember how much I enjoy having younger dogs to foster – they’re fun, but they’re leaving soon.
Billie Jean is an easy foster who pretty much understands English, is completely housebroken, and can usually communicate her needs well. For example, when I am working at my desk and so deep into my writing I don’t notice her nudge my side, she’ll simply jump onto my desk and put her face in my face, her butt going a mile a minute. It’s hard to be angry when you’re laughing.
She is relentless in her pursuit of the foster cats. Neville and Luna live in our ‘cat room’ which really should be Nick’s office, so he is temporarily set up in the
dungeon basement lower level. (They moved in pre-COVID, anyone interested in adopting these cuties and freeing Nick?)
We have to keep the door securely closed and restrict their access to the rest of the house while Billie is here. I don’t think she just wants to play with them. The room has a French door covered by a curtain inside, but Neville is angry about his restricted activities and pushes the curtain aside often to watch the rest of the world (the living room). When Billie spots him she dives at the door and he beats a hasty retreat to his cat tree.
While, fostering is not requiring a big effort right now, I have been thinking about it a lot. Mostly because I’ve had the opportunity to talk about fostering and its impact on shelters in interviews lately. But also, because I’ve been recording the audio book for 100 Dogs & Counting in a studio in Baltimore this week. It’s brought back so many memories.
In fact, when I got home today, I almost expected Gala to come running to greet me instead of Billie Jean and Fanny. I’d forgotten how hard the experience of fostering Gala was on me and how it truly set me on a different course in terms of dog rescue. I doubt I would have been so driven to go to the shelters or so determined to go back again and again, if fostering had continued ad naseaum as a fun family activity that provided great material for this blog.
Gala made me question all of it and in reading the book and trying to make the reader/listener hear me, it’s dragging my heart through all those tough emotions – the frustration, doubt, desperation, and deep sadness that was the experience of fostering Gala. Luckily, it also brings up the many times she made us laugh, her incredible athleticism, her clear devoted heart (which reminds me of Billie Jean’s!), basically, the marvelous dog who still is Gala.
Too often in life, we roll along, going through the motions of our day, rarely reflecting on them. For me, writing is the way I sift through my own heart and keep my days from disappearing in a fog of history. So, this is good – this experience reading the book, but I know it’s going to be a long two weeks emotionally, remembering not just our experience with Gala but the person I was when we fostered her and the person I became because of her.
I’ve started doing weekly Facebook LIVE events on my 100 Dogs & Counting Facebook page, called “Let’s Talk Rescue” where I have conversations with others involved in rescues and shelters. The times vary, but you can look on the list of events on the page to find out what’s coming up.
Some of the conversations will focus on the issues of rescue, but others will share the challenges of shelters. We’ll take questions, share pictures and stories, and keep the rescue conversation going. I close each event with these words– “Until every cage is empty, I’m going to keep talking.”
We have to keep talking for the ones who can’t do it themselves. The Galas, and the Fanny Wiggles, and the Billie Jeans. My guest this week was Amber Reynolds of Halfway Home Animal Rescue in TN.
Amber and her family and a remarkable group of volunteers, rescue dogs from the dog pounds of Western, TN. Dogs (and cats) many have forgotten.
I love their motto, because it’s one every foster, rescue, and shelter worker or volunteer can embrace – “Providing the care they need and the love they deserve.”
But what I love best is a comment from a shelter director who knows what Amber does best, “Amber just pulls with the agenda of saving all lives!”
In rescue/shelter lingo, ‘pulling’ is when a rescue takes a dog out of a shelter to find a home for it, usually because its life is in danger. What this director meant by her comment is that Amber pulls dogs to save its life regardless of its breed, size, age, or condition. Many rescues (for good reasons of their own) pull specific types of dogs – small, young, attractive, basically most adoptable. Amber doesn’t do that – as this director said, she pulls with the agenda of saving lives. She pulls the dogs who are in the most danger, not the ones that will cost the least or be the easiest to rehome. And that makes her pretty special in the rescue world. We need more hearts like Amber’s.
If you love a rescue dog, I hope you’ll join the conversation. Saving lives takes all of us.
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.
For information on me, my writing, and books, visit CaraWrites.com where you can also find more information on my new book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, (Pegasus Books, July 2020) or on the book’s very own Facebook page and Instagram account.
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. You can also hear stories of our shelter visits on our brand new podcast! Please comment, subscribe, and share wherever you get your podcasts!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: email@example.com.