dog rescue, foster cats, foster dogs, Humane Society of Shenandoah County

Off the Chain and Into a Foster Home

It was clear that Abby was ready for a new life. I met her two months ago, living on chain tied to a dog house in the hot sun in Cowen, West Virginia. She’d been saved from euthanasia at the local dog pound, but life laying in the mud, chained to her house, made me ponder the word ‘saved.’

When I returned last week, Abby was still there, chained to the dog house. Still greeting every person who approached with joy, her tail wagging, leaning in with pleading eyes that said, ‘love me.’ This time, I had made arrangements to pull her for the Humane Society of Shenandoah County and bring her home to foster.

I was also taking, Bonnie, an older puppy who was running loose at the rescue in June, cute as a button and friendly with every person and dog, yet still there, running with the pack of personal dogs who lived at the rescue.

When our weekend’s work was finished (read about that amazing experience here), I put a slip lead on both dogs. Bonnie bucked at the idea, having never worn a collar or leash, so Nancy, who was traveling home with me scooped her up and carried her. Abby trotted happily beside me away from that dog house and its chain.

My SUV was ready for the, with the tailgate down and two crates set up side by side beneath our luggage and work supplies, plus an enormous bed donated for Abby. I worried how we would lift Abby and force her into a crate. She weighs 53 pounds (but should weigh closer to 60). There was never a need to worry. When Abby spotted the car and the crates, she jumped on the tailgate, nudged the crate door open, and climbed inside, spinning around, settling on the bed, and grinning up at me as if to say, “Let’s go! What are you waiting for!”

Nancy put Bonnie in her crate and she lay down, a look of confusion but no resistance. We never heard a peep out of either of them for the four-hour drive home.

Both dogs are now settled into my new ‘foster cottage and writing studio.’ Nick and I will move to the main house on that property later this month. The tiny cottage is stinky and worn out, but serviceable for now with window AC. Once we are full-time at ‘Starlight Ranch’ (built in the 1880s!), we will renovate the cottage, but for now, Abby and Bonnie have the run of the place and can do no harm as we plan to rip out the carpet and walls.

I don’t want to jinx myself, but the girls have been near perfect. Abby seems already crate trained and housebroken. Because I’m not at the property, they are both in large crates between my visits (three times a day). Abby goes into her crate the moment I point at it and Bonnie is getting better, but still reluctant. Abby also (so far) appears to be housebroken, having not had a single accident. She head-butts the door when she needs to go out (or nudges it open if I forgot to latch it with the eye and hook Nick installed (the doors don’t really close).

Three times a day we take a few walks around the hay field at the back of our property. Nick mowed a walking path for us. The girls trot along so nicely on leashes, as if they’ve been doing it all their lives. After the first day or so, Bonnie got the hang of the leash and now has better leash manners than any of my three dogs.

After our walks, the girls are fed (Abby needs to put on weight) and we hang out together with Bonnie tackling the plethora of toys we came back with and Abby stretching out on the bed or snuggling beside me kissing me into petting her nonstop.

They are easy fosters and sweet dogs. And it just about kills me that there are probably another 75 dogs like them back in West Virginia. Thanks to the work of Tails of Hope, For Otis’ Sake, and Who Will Let the Dogs Out, many of those dogs are no longer living in mud, but enough of them still are and a dozen are on tie-outs with houses, just like Abby was. (If you’d like to read about Saving Webster Dogs and our work weekend there, click here.)

Fostering saves lives, that’s the bottom line. If you’ve been wondering if you should get off the bench and start (or get back to) fostering, now would be the perfect time. Every shelter and rescue I know is overwhelmed and struggling with too many dogs and not enough adopters.

Meanwhile, if you’re in the market for a ‘turn-key’ dog, I’ve got one for you in Abby. She is somewhere between two and four years old. She’s had way too many puppies in her short life and is Lymes positive (likely from living outdoors on a chain for the last 6+ months). But she is a gentle soul looking for a soft place to land.

Bonnie is probably about 8 or 9 months old and calm for a puppy. She’s only 24 pounds and seems a little elongated like maybe she has some corgi or other long-dog in her. She has an easy-going nature and I’ve yet to hear her bark. She is happy and friendly and has been great with every person and dog she’s met.

If you’ve been wondering about my other ‘girls’ – the five cats we’re fostering –they are still living out on our sun porch, but will be moving to the foster cottage next week. They’ve made it clear they would like to get out – tearing apart the accordion sides of the AC unit (and nearly plunging two stories to the pavement – I now know that cat’s tails can support their entire weight and understand the phrase, ‘catch a tiger by the tail.’)

Otis takes his guard duties seriously and so far none of the cats has been brave enough to accept his invitation to play.

All of these animals are available for adoption from the Humane Society of Shenandoah County.

Until Each One Has a Home,


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

If you’d like regular updates of all our foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips, and occasional foster cat updates (!) 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 and subscribe to our blog where we share stories of our travels to shelters, rescues, and dog pounds.

If you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. Or its follow up that takes you to the shelters in the south One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues.

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:

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