dog books, Dogs with Issues, fostering, Gala, hard to adopt, owner surrender, shelters

Homeless or Humanless?

I’ve been reading a lot of dog books lately. Partly, it’s because my upcoming book will be my first in this genre, and I want to get to know what’s already out there and the writers who publish these books. But mostly, I’ve become a bit addicted. I love reading about people’s experiences with dogs. It’s not just educational and entertaining, it’s also inspiring.

Rescuing Penny JaneIn Amy Sutherland’s book, RESCUING PENNY JANE, she writes about her experiences volunteering at a shelter, sharing a perspective I’ve never heard since I meet my dogs after they’ve left the shelter. I like to think that there are volunteers like Amy at the shelters where our dogs come from. Sutherland is a shelter volunteer, walking dogs every Friday for a local Animal Rescue League. She’s also a journalist and author, so of course, she overanalyzes and writes about her experience.

While it can be momentarily dense with information on shelter dogs, Rescuing Penny Jane is an exploration of the rescue dog world, but also Sutherland’s story of adopting a difficult rescue dog and sticking it out. She writes that she won’t be one of ‘them’, confiding that in becoming a regular at the shelter she is privy to the staff’s feelings about people who return dogs. And so, even though it strains her marriage, she sticks it out with Penny Jane, a fearful and more or less, feral dog.

Sutherland’s words remind me of my own experience with more than a few of my foster dogs. I write in this blog about the funny, the touching, the messy, and occasionally the heartbreak, but each story eventually culminates in one happy ending after another. What I rarely write about is how sometimes I reach my limit and more often sometimes my husband reaches his limit. There have been teary late-night walks waiting for a foster dog to just pee, already. There have been mornings spent on my knees scrubbing carpets and grumbling mangled curse words and masked threats (who am I going to offend? The dogs?). There have been plenty of words typed and then deleted, planned posts that never materialized, and frustrations outlined in detail for my husband even as I stroke the furry head of the offender. For a few hours, sometimes a day or two, I’m done. “Once this one is gone- no more fosters!”

So when Sutherland’s husband says, “It would be easier to return Penny Jane than to get a divorce.” I don’t laugh. I know he’s not joking.  Sutherland’s frustration and tears are familiar, and I read her story with a lump in my throat. I’ve thought so many of the same things.

There is one comment she makes relatively early in the book that struck me so much that I got up to find a pen so I could underline it. She wrote – Continue reading “Homeless or Humanless?”

dog rescue, foster dogs, fostering, Gala, hard to adopt

Look For the Good

I’m a person who likes a plan. I’m not naturally inclined to waste time or wander. (Obviously, the dogs have much to teach me.)

With Gala, alas, I have no plan. The simple plan was always that we would foster her and she would get adopted. That plan, to date, is not panning out.

I’ve spent more hours running Gala’s situation through my head and heart than any dog to date. But then again Gala’s been with us much longer than any other dog. 10 months.

And Gala, like any other dog, is an individual—made up of good and bad, like all of us.

Even Frankie, who Nick and Ian are both convinced has me wrapped around his little dew claw, has a few faults. He tends to eat first, evaluate later, which I’m convinced will lead us on numerous runs to the Doggie ER in the years ahead. And occasionally, but not often, he does not come immediately when called, but he’s still a puppy, so this is only a temporary fault. (The boys also say I make excuses for Frankie.)

Most of us fixate on faults instead of redeeming features. I don’t know how to reorient myself, much less the world, to see the good before the bad. After all, the bad is what makes headlines and click-bait; it makes plots more riveting and characters more interesting. Perhaps, life wouldn’t be half as interesting if Continue reading “Look For the Good”

dog rescue, foster dogs, fosterdogs, fostering, Gala, Giving Tuesday Pups, oph, training

Unsung Rescue Heroes & A New Training Tool

I’d never want to be an adoption coordinator. Seems like an exhausting, frustrating, thankless job.

As the foster mom, I get all the glory for taking care of the puppy or dog in question. But the adoption coordinator is the one who has screened the applications, asked the hard questions, gone over the extensive adoption contract (for the bazillionth time), and made the final decision. Not having firsthand experience, I could be wrong, but it seems like ACs put in hours of effort for each adoption, and for a litter that is tenfold.

Puppy adopters are like new parents – they have lots of questions, good ones, silly one, odd ones, but lots. I get a few of those, but the AC for my litter gets most of them. Adopting a puppy is a big deal, as it should be, and puppy adopters can sometimes get cold feet and back out last minute, change their minds about what kind of puppy they want or get impatient with the lengthy adoption process and the hold time. Some adopters have lots of lines in the water (they’ve applied for several puppies at several different rescues or shelters). All of this means that the ACs are juggling many, many people and puppies at once and the winds change on whims.

As I said, I wouldn’t want their job, but I am VERY grateful that there are these odd people who enjoy being ACs and do a tireless job for OPH.

This litter had more than its share of switcheroos and moving targets. Deb had her hands full. Last fall when I had Edith Wharton and her darling dozen, I actually had to have two ACs because the job was so enormous. I’ve worked with probably a dozen different ACs with OPH and every time, I’m amazed at the work they do. So, I just wanted to mention them in a post—ACs, along with reference checkers, are the unsung heroes of every adoption.

[If you’re one of those people who read my posts and think—“I wish I could foster, but it would be too hard, messy, heartbreaking, etc.,” but you’d really like to help, consider being a reference checker or even an adoption coordinator for OPH. You do all the work from your home with your computer and your phone. If you’d like more information, click here.]

Okay, enough of my shameless volunteer recruitment. What happened this week in this foster house? Continue reading “Unsung Rescue Heroes & A New Training Tool”

dog rescue, foster dogs, fosterdogs, fostering, Gala, Giving Tuesday Pups, puppies, Uncategorized

My Dog Year

I’m a big fan of new year resolutions and reflections. In these long, dark, cold days I do a lot of pondering and journaling and assessing and dreaming.

When it comes to my dog world, 2017 was not an easy one. It began with the miracle and magic of Fruitcake.

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Helping that pup to walk was an amazing experience, and it prepared me for the bigger task of saving Darlin’s babies. The heartbreak of that experience was only softened by the community that emerged around us, giving their time and efforts to help those pups survive and then thrive. It was a hard, rich, exhausting time. Every time I hear from Darlin’s or her three surviving pup’s adopters, it never fails to bring tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.

Gala came to us not long after that and she has colored our lives ever since.

My heart ping-pongs back and forth in regards to Gala. She is not easy, but she is so amazing. Her devotion knows no bounds, but it can be all-consuming. I love that dog, but she cannot be my dog. I had a conversation this week with a trainer who offered Continue reading “My Dog Year”

dog rescue, foster dogs, fosterdogs, Gala, Giving Tuesday Pups, oph, puppies

Holiday Happiness: Foster Pup Version

When my children were young, Christmas was such a huge deal. Not that it isn’t a huge deal, still. It’s just a different kind of huge deal. Christmas is no longer baking cookies or endless shopping or matching jammies or teacher’s gifts or Christmas concerts.

And truth be told I only miss a few things on that list. Now, Christmas is more about all of us being in the same house at the same time paying attention to each other in the form of eating meals, playing games, sharing music, teasing, and giving, yes, still quite a few presents (but none that came from a maddening trip to Toys R Us).

We didn’t decorate the tree until Dec 23, even though the tree had been in the house for over a week. On Saturday morning, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer for decorating-the-tree to fit into everyone’s schedule. Frankie and I began decorating without them. His job was to reinforce the “Frankie zone” so I didn’t hang ornaments where he (or a loose puppy) could reach them. We’d been at it for about five minutes, when my oldest son, Brady walked throught the room on his way out and asked, “Are you decorating the tree?” Continue reading “Holiday Happiness: Foster Pup Version”

dog rescue, foster dogs, fosterdogs, fostering, Gala, Giving Tuesday Pups, oph, puppies

Who Wants a Puppy for Christmas?

A house full of teenagers returning home from war school with laundry in hand, holiday chores, high-maintenance foster-dog, an as-yet-undecorated Christmas tree, zero Christmas cookies made, gift-shopping incomplete, gift-wrapping not-yet-a-thought, book edits due, and impending relatives – what else could we pile on?

How about puppies?

Great idea.

And yet, it is.

These four little girls are absolute loves. Well mannered, happy, loving, healthy, and precious. The perfect escape from the holiday load. Once again, my mudroom is full of puppies. All is well in my world.

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These puppies are the Giving Tuesday Pups. They got that name because all four have sponsors who donated at least $150 to OPH on Giving Tuesday in exchange for the naming rights of these puppies. Isn’t that cool? Doesn’t it make you want to donate $150 now so you can name a pup in my next bunch? (I can make that happen.)

These girls are three months old. They hail from my favorite rescue operation in North Carolina – Old North Canine Rescue, who took great care of them and sent them northward healthy, clean, and happy. The breed guess on this bunch is all over the place. They’re listed as terrier-beagle, but that’s really just an idea. No one knows, and they aren’t talking. Beyond that, it doesn’t matter. What they are is gorgeous puppies. That’s all any of us need to know. At between 10-15 pounds, they are not going to be huge dogs, especially the smaller two.  Let me introduce you…. Continue reading “Who Wants a Puppy for Christmas?”

dog rescue, foster dogs, fostering, Gala, puppies

People Save Dogs, but Dogs Can Also Save People

Sharing Gala’s situation last week triggered an avalanche of reaction. Many, many suggestions for trainers, meds, herbal supplements, etc. And more than that—lots of support and encouragement, which is maybe what I needed most. Sadly, it did not trigger any adoption applications.

I want to be clear, I was not suggesting that it is time to euthanize Gala. I don’t believe she’s out of options. And I ABSOLUTELY believe she can be successful and happy in the right adoptive home. What drove my frustration and sadness is that I’m pretty certain our foster home is no longer helping her. Her anxiety is up, not down. Yes, she has improved in many areas – she is better on the leash, she is accepting of her crate, she knows commands like sit, stay, and come. She is not trying to escape our house.

In other ways, though, I feel she has peaked and is regressing. Her reactivity to people has increased, and I believe that’s a combination of her becoming attached to us (and feeling she needs to protect us), and my nervousness when she meets someone new. I always worry how she will react. Gala is an extremely sensitive dog. And Gala loves me beyond reason. This combination becomes combustible when we are in public places where her anxiety is already ramped up.

This realization is what drove me to tears. I wrote that I don’t think I can save her, but I didn’t mean that someone else couldn’t. Continue reading “People Save Dogs, but Dogs Can Also Save People”

dog rescue, Dogs with Issues, Gala, oph

I Don’t Think I Can Save Her

I’ve started and restarted this post again and again. I like to be positive and helpful and inspiring. I really don’t want to be a bummer on your day. But today, finding a positive note isn’t easy. And maybe that’s a message worth writing. Fostering isn’t all roses and puppy breath. It can be hard and it can be heartbreaking.

When we set off on our fostering adventure, my biggest fear was that we would get a dog that would never be adopted.

Lately, I feel as if we are living that fear. Yes, yes, I tell myself, Gala’s family will come. They always do.

But for now, for this week, it doesn’t seem evenly remotely possible.

When I write about Gala, I’ve tried to focus on the positive Continue reading “I Don’t Think I Can Save Her”

Bronson/Buford, foster dogs, fostering, Gala, heartworms, oph, puppies, Updates

Travel Adventures

Traveling with two puppies took me back to the days of traveling with my toddlers. We had to pack their beds, playpen, toys, food, snacks, extra jackets (it was gonna be cold), stuff to entertain them in the car, and plenty of supplies for cleaning up after them. Once the car was loaded, we buckled Buford and Frankie into the backseat and set off for Virginia to celebrate our anniversary hiking, wine-tasting, and relaxing.

The boys traveled well for the two-hour trip, cuddled together and mostly sleeping. Every time I turned around to check on them, they’d morphed into a new formation. Continue reading “Travel Adventures”

Bronson/Buford, dog rescue, foster dogs, fostering, Gala, puppies, training

What it Takes to Raise an Awesome Dog

Frankie and Buford have become bestbuds.

I know Frankie will miss Buford when he finds his forever family. And I’m sure that will be soon, because this is one awesome puppy.

He’s my sweet little shadow in the house, regularly nudging me with his big nose (think Spud McKenzie) asking gently for my attention. I traveled to Hanover with Buford for an adoption event and he slept quietly the whole drive which was hilly and long. At the event, he was calm and friendly—quite a difference from the other overly excitable puppy attending the event. They really don’t make much nicer pups than this. Somebody is going to score bigtime with this adoption.

I know having dogs and puppies coming and going may seem a bit disruptive emotionally for Frankie, but it’s my greatest hope that instead of being a negative experience for Frankie’s little heart, it’ll be a positive one. He’ll discover that there are LOTS of dogs to love and that even though I might be paying a lot of attention to the latest visitor, that dog is just that – a visitor. I’m hopeful it will make Frankie a welcoming, confident, friendly dog who is always ready to make a new friend.

Because that is exactly NOT the kind of dog Gracie is.

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Upon meeting any new dog, Gracie’s assumption is Continue reading “What it Takes to Raise an Awesome Dog”