On Sunday afternoon, Nick and I went to Annette and Randy’s house to pick up Benji and Otis. They had been recovering there ever since being released from the hospital in Purcellville. Annette and Randy know a thing or two about helping parvo survivors. They adopted Kofi, who was only survivor of his litter of ten who broke with parvo. In the past eight years, they’ve fostered about 20 parvo pups, nursing them back to health and their forever homes.
Parvo is so insistently contagious that removing the virus from a home once it is infected is nearly impossible. Annette and Randy have chosen to be a foster home for parvo infected pups to come to recover from the virus. And it’s a great place to recover – warm, welcoming people who are smart and experienced, plus a handful of big, loving dogs who help shepherd sick puppies back to health. It’s a special place.
When we arrived, the whole clan came out to greet us in their incredible backyard living room. Otis and Benji bounded out too. If we didn’t have Fanny in our car waiting and didn’t need to get home to relieve Ian from puppy duty, I would have happily hung out on their porch in such great company the rest of the day.
Instead, we cuddled the pups, accepted kisses from their sweetheart dogs, got the medical care information, and chatted briefly, long enough to realize they were kindred spirits and I hope our paths cross again (but not over parvo puppies!). Then we hustled the pups to our car and hurried home to reunite them with Lassie and Beethoven.
Otis and Benji have so much more energy and are a healthier weight than the two who are here. It underlines just how skinny my pups are and how little energy they have in comparison. Otis and Benji have huge appetites and Lassie and Beethoven have still to recover theirs. I bribe them with puppy paste and chicken, but it’s a daily battle to get calories into them. Annette reassured me that their appetites will eventually come back with a vengeance, but I can’t help but be impatient. Especially now as I watch Otis and Benji bounce around the puppy pen.
The noise level in the puppy room has definitely increased. As we watched the tail end of the Eagles game Sunday night, rotating puppies out to cuddle on the couch, Ian said, “For the first time, instead of being annoyed by all that puppy barking, I’m happy to hear it.”
Agreed. It is comforting to hear them wrestle and bark, even whine for our attention. That room has been so silent for weeks.
Now, moving forward there are many questions to address. The first is when will they be healthy enough to go home. Thankfully, I don’t make that decision. The rescue will want to be certain that they are no longer contagious to other dogs and won’t introduce parvo virus into their new homes, making them unsafe for future puppies.
Which leads to my own questions about this home. OPH has a puppy protocol that is strict – puppies can only be on bleachable surfaces. Everything they touch must be sanitized. They can’t even be put on grass until we are passed the parvo risk period (about 9 days). We are generally very good at following protocol and have never experienced parvo before. I have a gate that separates the hallway with the puppy room from the rest of the house and I change my shoes when I come through and use that barrier as a reminder to wash hands, toys, bowls, whatever I have before going through it.
That said, in the worst of this nightmare I can’t be sure I didn’t violate protocol. I was too focused on keeping them alive. I may have forgotten to change shoes or wash hands or carried contaminated towels out that gate. I can’t be certain that our house is uncontaminated. Because of that I have decided that we will not foster puppies in this house again. In fact, I’m not sure I will even take adult dogs off transport for fear that they are not completely vaccinated and protected. It’s rare, but adult dogs do get parvo. OPH lost one the same day we lost Enzo and Winn-Dixie.
This is a hard decision. But this has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through in terms of fostering—I don’t think, in fact I know, that I can’t do it again. At least not anytime soon.
I know so much more now and would do so much differently. I have a million second guesses and regrets to process when all is said and done. I still can’t bear to think about those faces and the pain that Hooch, Toto, Winn-Dixie, and Enzo suffered only to die in the end. I can’t see past the pain yet to think through the consequences. And I have not let myself truly morn them, only because there are four puppies who need me right now, and astronomical bills that I am committed to helping pay.
Eventually, we will sort out what fostering will be for us going forward. We have plans to sell this house in 2021, and are still figuring out where we will go. COVID has stepped up the timeline for our eventual move to Virginia or at least to a smaller house in PA.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be contemplating giving up puppy fostering or selling this house, I would have thought you crazy, but I guess we all realize now how quickly our lives can spin in an entirely new direction due to things out of our control.
I am so appreciative for all the support and prayer that has been showered on this situation and our souls in these last few weeks. I am grateful for such a large rescue family – spread all over this country, and even the world. You have lifted us up and I have leaned on that support again and again when the pain overwhelms. I can’t thank you enough. Over 250 people have donated to help defray the cost of the medical care to save these puppies. Together that amounts to over $15,000!
The final vet bill for the care of the Movie Mutts will be over $30,000. Yes, that is a crazy amount of money. But how do you place a value on a life—even a tiny life like these? I’ve always been of the mind that money is not the end, only the means. And there are worse things to spend money on, for certain.
We will continue to try to raise money. Two artists have stepped in to help—Joanne Lustre, a gifted painter who has an incredible talent for capturing the hearts of her subjects on paper, has offered to create watercolor paintings of your pet for $100 (including shipping) and all of that money goes directly to the rescue to help pay our medical bills. (You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to order yours.)
Here is the portrait she painted of my beloved Frankie –
Nancy Slattery, who many of you know because she takes so many of the gorgeous pictures on this blog, has also offered to sell any of the images of my former foster dogs. The money going directly to the rescue. So, if you have adopted a dog from this foster home and are interested in purchasing a collection of their images, contact her at email@example.com, and she’ll make that happen.
I’ve left the fundraiser active on Facebook and continue to post updates there. If you feel compelled to give, you can do so there or you can donate directly to the rescue – www.ophrescue.org/donate (or mail a check to: Operation Paws for Homes, P.O. Box 35606, N. Chesterfield, VA 23235).
I’ll leave you with a few pictures of the recovering pups and a few videos of Mia, who is still here and still the happiest pup you could meet….
Thanks for reading!
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).
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 WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org where you can follow the blog that shares stories or find the link 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 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.