dog rescue, foster dogs, fostering, returned dogs, training, Uncategorized

Four-legged Happy

Do you want to know what happy looks like in a 45 pound package with four legs?

That would be Mia. This dog simply never has a bad day, or a dull moment, or an off-switch. Well, that’s not entirely true. She does sleep—in fact, when she does it is much like she lives—loud. The girl can snore.

Mama Mia is back with us and she is an entirely different dog than the dog who arrived here last April with ten puppies still nursing.

Then she was skinny and sickly and still. Now she is shiny and solid and rarely ever still.

As you may recall, she moved to another foster home because we were battling hookworms in her puppies (and her). She was there through her recovery and spay surgery and eventual adoption, but was returned soon after. When she needed a new foster home, we were more than happy to welcome her back.

She loves everyone- slurping faces, jumping up for attention, following me everywhere. We are working hard to teach her that attention comes when you keep four feet on the floor. She is a ‘velcro dog’ – the kind that wants to be near people ALL. THE. TIME. She is thrilled to be in your company. When she can’t be with you, she is sad and lets us all know it. Thankfully, she is learning that it’s not the worst-fate-in-the-world to be left alone in the kitchen with a bully stick or a stuffed kong.

Mia brings a huge energy to our little pack. She and Fanny play nonstop. And this is some hardcore, body slamming, chasing, tugging, wrestling bouts that usually don’t end until I say, “Enough, Girls!” and then they retreat to their corners or the water bowl panting, with big smiles on their faces.

After that, they lay near each other sleeping off their efforts, but before long one or the other wakes up and sidles over to the other and starts gnawing on an ear or chin or foot. The other gnaws back and soon a full-on face-wrestling battle begins. From there it escalates until they are tearing through the house, tumbling over each other, and I shoo them out the dog door to do that outside. It really is like having rowdy kids in the house hyped up on sugar and food dyes.

Here are a few things I really appreciate about Mia

  1. She tolerates Fanny’s need to tug. Mia likes tug as much as the next dog, but eventually she drops her end in the hopes of doing something else. Fanny simply shoves the toy back in Mia’s face and Mia, ever the patient friend and willing playmate, picks up her end and they resume. On Sunday morning Mia had clearly had enough and retired to the Frank bed for a nap. Fanny followed her and shoved the toy (a mostly de-stuffed remnant of the Grinch that came in last Christmas’ BarkBox) in her face. Mia indulged her and picked up her end but didn’t get up. Fanny proceeded to drag Mia and the Frank bed for a nearly complete lap of the kitchen.
  • 2. Mia respects Gracie’s space, but never stops inviting her to play. Every day, Mia will bound up to Gracie, assume the play position and wiggle her butt. Gracie snarls and sometimes snaps in her direction. Mia moves back and once again invites, her face registering shock that any dog wouldn’t want to play. Gracie snarls once more and barks at her. Finally, Mia moves on, but I know that the next day she will invite Gracie again, never taking offense at Gracie’s refusals and continuing to press her case for friendship.
  • 3. She sets an awesome pace on any walk. The girl has more energy than the bunny. Yesterday I took her for two miles in the morning before breakfast and then 4.5 miles at lunch time when a friend came by to walk. And both times, she was out in front, making us racewalk. She will be good for helping me shed the COVID weight that has been creeping on.
  • 4. She’s smart and teachable. Yes, Mia is a bit mannerless (jumping on people, over furniture, pushing her way in to the places she wants to go), but she is also teachable. Already, she has ceased her jumping on me and is doing better with others. She has a solid understanding of the commands ‘sit’ and ‘down’ and is getting better every day with ‘place’ and ‘stay’. I wish I had agility equipment because I’m pretty sure I could teach her to use it. She understands to ring the jingle bells on the door to go out and how to use the doggie door. She can let herself in/out our screened porch door because the screened door doesn’t latch. She uses her paw and pulls the door open or pushes with her nose to go back. I know where she is because of the telltale slap of the flimsy wood door. I don’t think there is much this girl couldn’t learn, but for now our biggest focus is learning self control.
  • 5. She’s just so darn happy—even when I’m annoyed with her because she’s knocked something over or picked up the dead mouse on the road. And right now, I don’t know about you, but I can use some happy. The world as it is right now is hard for me. I lament the divisions, the anger, the fear, the hate that is bandied about as if it isn’t a toxin that can rip apart lives. I’m tired of so much of it and tired of wearing a mask and tired of not knowing what is coming and more than tired of putting on a happy face about all of it. But Mia? She’s just authentically happy. And I love that.

Mia doesn’t have any adoption applications because she isn’t a simple dog. She will require an adopter who is up for her level of energy and willing to put in an effort. Mia will never be a lay-on-the-porch-all-the-day-long kind of dog. She will need daily exercise, a playmate or two, a person to snuggle, and training. I personally think she’d excel at rally obedience or agility or pretty much any kind of canine sport (although so far she hasn’t shown a whole lot of ability in frisbee catching).

Meanwhile, we’re fine to wait for her people. I’m enjoying training a dog who is so responsive. And Fanny is loving her inhouse play buddy. Even Gracie is softening a little. The cats, though? They would really like her to go.

Thanks for reading!


For information on me, my writing, and books, visit 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.

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.

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 where you can follow the blog that shares stories or find the ink to our brand new podcast!

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

4 thoughts on “Four-legged Happy”

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