cats, dog rescue, Fanny, Flannery Oconnor, foster dogs, foster fail, fostering, Gala, kittens, Long Term Dog, parvo, puppies

My Four-legged Silver Lining

We are down to just one foster.

Hard to remember when that was last the case. It leaves me wondering what I will write about on this blog. Although Mia is an incredibly interesting and entertaining dog, maybe it won’t be an issue. Just in case, I’m considering a few other ideas (and welcome yours!).

First things first, we are all out of kittens! I wrote last week that we were expecting Ana back after her spay surgery and eye exam, but as it turns out, she was adopted instead.

When Elsa’s adopter came to get her and met Ana, she saw how adorable and sweet Ana is (and how bonded to Elsa) and after going home with Elsa to think about it; she came back and adopted Ana too! Such a happy ending for that love of a kitten.

Ian is disappointed. He was secretly hoping that no one would adopt Ana because of her eye condition, and we would keep her by default.

You would think by now, he would know that this is foolish thinking. If I didn’t adopt Gala or Flannery, then obviously, length of stay does not have any impact on the likelihood that we will adopt an animal.

(It does indicate how much I will miss that animal, though. I think about Flannery every day and miss our agility runs. Mia reminds me so much of Gala that I absentmindedly and affectionately call her ‘Gala’ on a regular basis.)

We are busy falling in love with Otis on a daily basis–even Gracie is softening. Watching Otis with Fanny makes it clear to me that the adoption magic was surely at work.

I’ve told you before that Fanny is an anxious dog. We’ve tried all kinds of things including herbal supplements, CBD, pheromones, prescription medicine, strict routines, and now a thundershirt (which I think may be helping and plan to write about in an upcoming post).

With Otis beside her, Fanny is beginning to relax. She is allowing both Ian and Nick to reach out and pet her. Despite having had her for over a year, that was not the case until Otis came on the scene. They could pet Fanny if they were sitting down and Fanny came to them, but she dodged their outstretched hands and ran from their touch. They’d grown used to it, but when Fanny actually jumped into Ian’s lap and leaned in to Nick’s hand for a pet, we were all shocked.

My first thought was, ‘it’s jealousy or competition’, but Fanny’s been here through plenty of other puppies and dogs (Mia now for over nine months), and this behavior is new. In the car, we’d already seen some difference with the thundershirt, but now with Otis along for the nearly three hour drive to the cabin, she lays down with him instead of pacing and drooling and vomiting and trying to crawl in the front seat.

It seems, without meaning to, we have adopted an emotional support puppy for our dog. And maybe for all of us. As this pandemic drags on, Otis has lifted the mood around here. He has such an easy-going personality, shares his love equally, and brightens the mood with his antics. He plays with the big dogs, but can entertain himself quite well with any chew toy (or paper from the recycling bin).

Beyond that, his smarts continue to impress me. He learned to ring the bells to go out in just a day, is completely housebroken, crate-trained, and has a solid sit. He knows the routine in the evening, running to his crate after his last potty break. When the other dogs break out in a chorus because the UPS guy or the milkman have arrived, he runs directly to me and sits calmly knowing he is rewarded by coming to me instead of racing to the door and barking. Fanny usually follows his lead and is also getting better at coming to me instead of reacting at the door.

Otis’ huge appetite might be because of surviving parvo or might just be who he is, but at any rate, it makes it simple to teach him nearly anything. When we are out and about, if I stop to talk to someone, he already sits calmly at my feet waiting for the treat he knows he will get when I finish my conversation.

I don’t know when or if a new foster dog or foster kitten will join us. Probably not until Mia goes home. She is ready for a forever home—she is bursting with love and affection, knows all the basic obedience commands, and usually accepts her role on the other end of the leash (she walked calmly past the neighbor’s ducks who were loose on the road recently). She’s ready; she just needs the right adopter. I’m hoping for a little adoption magic once again.

We’ve completely torn apart our puppy room—throwing out everything to remove every trace of parvo we can, even tearing up the vinyl floor, throwing away countless towels, blankets, and toys, bleaching the walls, molding, tile, puppy fences, even the coat rack hooks and shelving that was high above the puppies’ heads. Parvo is simply too pervasive and dangerous to risk anything. In fact, tonight we will paint the walls and molding with Klls and soon Nick will replace the utility sink.

While I don’t plan to have any more puppies in this house, I don’t know who will come after us. If we can rid this house of every trace of parvo, we will.

It feels good to do this—kind of like a ritual cleansing. I won’t ever forget what we’ve gone through, and I have learned and continue to learn so much about parvo.

Otis will be a forever reminder of the devastation and the dangers of parvo. He will also be the inspiration to continue to rescue and to educate others. He’s the only silver lining I can find from this experience. After losing Frankie, I had promised myself I would never adopt a puppy again, but this special puppy found his way here, and I have to believe he did so for a reason.

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).

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 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

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:

8 thoughts on “My Four-legged Silver Lining”

  1. So glad Otis is such a star. You deserve a sweet, easy dog to make your life fun again after the horrors of parvo and the pressure of meeting your deadline in the midst of all the chaos of 2020. He is adorable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we keep saying – how did we get so lucky. A sweet, easy dog is just what we need. Not that I don’t love Gracie and Fanny, or that I regret Frankie, but it is so refreshing to just have this little love bug who reminds me of my first dog Lucy in how he is just naturally easy, intuitive, and so, so smart.


  2. Ahhh that was so sweet and it brought a sentimental tear to my eye. So glad that Fanny especially, and all of you benefit from the “silver lining” in a small and lovable package. I am waiting for the news on the thunder shirt. Is it Otis or the shirt? I have an anxious guy too. Probably his red heeled/pit bull mix personality trait but very head strong too. I’ll be waiting for the next blog. 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We think it may be a little of both, although we discovered that a shirt calmed her prior to adopting Otis when I put a tight jacket on her before putting her in a freezing car. What I do know is that when I get the shirt out, she gets very happy and sits right in front of me clearly asking me to put it on!


  3. Otis has been through so much he’s probably totally capable of extending empathy. My friend’s dog who lived through Parvo is psychically amazing. After Mindy died and I went to visit, Coda came to me and just sat there, leaning against my leg and looking at me. Suddenly I realized she wanted me to tell her about Mindy. I know that sounds completely NUTS but I did tell her. She knew Mindy, who was a sweet and benign presence who made everyone feel better, so that was maybe part of it, but I felt Coda was concerned about me. I told Coda how it happened, what I did, why, what the vet said, and that Mindy went peacefully after a horrible night and numerous strokes. I swear Coda nodded. When I told Coda’s people they seemed to think it was very likely that Coda had been concerned and wanted me to talk to her. Coda’s human is a blind man with OA.

    After living with 27 dogs as companions and friends, I don’t doubt at all they get a lot we aren’t aware of. I think this is illustrated in livestock guardian dogs who have been bred for centuries because of their ability to care for sheep and goats. Their care involves keeping away predators, but also nurturing the baby animals and, often, helping the sheep and goat moms deliver the babies. I wouldn’t be surprised if Otis hasn’t found Fanny’s broken places and understands them in ways no human can.

    I think I say it best here:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beautiful post – I love the company of dogs too, makes my heart more peaceful and my home happy. I’m never happier than when I’m down at our cabin with just the dogs (don’t tell Nick), hiking or reading or throwing a ball or just sitting together on the porch watching the sunset. Another person with a parvo survivor dog said they are ‘old souls’ and Otis definitely seems to have that quality.


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