When I started this diary, I thought it would go for about ten, maybe twelve weeks. I figured eight or ten weeks until the puppies went home and then another week or two after that for the adorable mama I saw in the photos to be adopted. As you all know, nothing went according to plan. And now, here we are at just over twelve weeks and Continue reading “Diary of a Rescue Weeks Eleven and Twelve: This has gone on Long Enough”
Now that I’m back to walking (YES! MRI revealed lots of damage, but nothing to stop me from moving forward and continuing to heal on my own!) I’ve had a chance to catch up on my thinking. So much was backlogged in my brain – ideas, worries, dreams, questions, stories. Lucy and I have increased our walk time each day this week and this morning we wandered the back roads for nearly an hour.
I’m still mulling over the book Rescue Road and pondering the enormous challenges to dog rescue in the US (and in the world). I had begun to feel the same way I did when my elementary school science teacher explained how far away Pluto was – it seemed like an insurmountable distance.
My teeny, tiny part in rescuing dogs couldn’t possibly put even the idea of a dent in the problem. Probably my thoughts were colored by my inability to move without pain. But now, the world looks different. I’m ready to get back in the game. I’m ready to save some more dogs.
I’ve had my moments of frustration with Lucy these past few weeks. She has come so far – she’s no longer scratching and her beautiful tri-colored coat is coming back in, her energy levels are rising (and rising!), and her happiness quotient somehow went even higher.
My frustration springs from the fact that she is not accustomed to living indoors. It hasn’t been an easy transition. Part of me wants to put her on a line outside. She’d probably be more comfortable. That’s what she’s known. Instead, we keep her in the kitchen and walk her frequently. We reward her when she pees outside and admonish her when she pees inside.
I think she finally understands she shouldn’t pee on our floor, but this morning when she evidently couldn’t hold it a moment longer, she peed on the Frank bed. I was so angry! Why would she do this? Why? Why? Why? I took her outside and then I closed her in her crate. Continue reading “Second Chances”
It’s loud. It’s messy. Things break. But gosh, they’re so darn cute. (Thank God they’re leaving.)
We are entering week three of the puppydom. Some of us are growing weary of the efforts. As veteran parents, we are accustomed to the work that comes with caring for toddlers. We even understand that sometimes a toddler might bite you. They can pee on the floor on occasion. They don’t take direction well. These are known facts accepted.
Even so, with all that cuteness, one still can become resentful. Shut up, I think, when I hear Chism holding forth. Sure, she’s barking at a butterfly or a cat wandering across the yard. Cute. Yes. But loud. And I’m trying to write, here. Continue reading “Is Anyone Getting Anything Done Around Here?”
It was after dark when we finally found our way to the house north of town. We’d missed the transport because we were attending Family Weekend at our son’s college. Now we were following sketchy GPS directions in search of our newest foster dog at the house of another OPH foster who was graciously holding “Rollie,” a ten month old shepherd/lab mix. “Why are we getting another dog again?” asked my husband. “Because I’m weak,” I told him. Which I am.
When I knocked on the door, a chorus of dogs started up. It sounded just like our house! I’d set off the “dog bell” as my husband likes to call it.
When Christine let me in she immediately began explaining the dogs swirling at my feet – a personal dog and a foster fail. I could hear others barking in another room. Again, it was a familiar scenario. I’m always explaining my own swirling dogs to friends, neighbors, the milkman, even the UPS guy. Partly, it’s because for me the dogs are part of the family and thus, require an introduction, and partly because I want to explain that I’m not completely nuts, there’s a reason I have fifty-three dogs (it only feels like it.).
Sidebar: I’m one of over 85 authors exhibiting at the York Book Expo coming up in two weeks and the featured NYTimes Bestselling author is David Rosenfelt. He has personally rescued over 4000 golden retrievers, which is impressive, but what is CRAZY is that he currently lives with 27 golden retrievers IN HIS HOME. Don’t believe me – check out the video. Anyway, he’ll be there, so if you want to meet the freak show in person, you should plan to attend the York Book Expo on Saturday October 17. (Yes, that was shameless self-promotion and no, I don’t really think Mr. Rosenfelt is a freak show. I’m just jealous because he’s a NYT bestseller.)
Okay, back to my story. Christine led me into her kitchen through the gates to retrieve Rollie who was front and center in a large crate alongside another large crate holding another adorable foster dog. Christine released Brownie so we could visit. (Someone should adopt this crazy sweet pup! You’re missing the boat!) These crates took up serious real estate in their kitchen.
This is the first time I’ve been in the home of another OPH foster and I have to say, it was a relief to know we are not the only people who live like this. In fact, I think a tour of Homes is in order for OPH. I’ve love to see what other foster families are doing to preserve their homes and their sanity. Something you learn very quickly when fostering dogs is your home will never be the same. So if you’re seriously into home décor and such, fostering is probably not the gig for you. On the flip side, one bonus about this situation is that you never have to explain why your house is a mess. You have a dozen foster dogs – of course, your home is a mess. No one has any expectation otherwise. Continue reading “Our Home – Castle or Assylum?”
There are monsters in my kitchen.
Okay, they’re just puppies. But they have sharp fangs, make odd noises and have other worldly energy. In only one week, they’ve outgrown our mudroom which housed six puppies for three weeks this summer. These are BIG girls with BIG needs.
I’m super excited to say they are already mostly housebroken which speaks to their extreme smarts and not my superior training ability. That, and they’ll do ANYTHING for a treat.
I’m partial to Charm but that’s only because I have to rescue her so often from Chism’s extreme energy and lack of empathy. Chism doesn’t get that when she has a good hold on Charm’s ear and Charm is emitting a high pitched squeal for long periods of time that translates as “Excuse me, but you’re HURTING MY EAR!” Charm is the Laurel in this Laurel and Hardy act. She’s sweet and clumsy and so very forgiving.
Chism takes up all the air in the room. She is ON all the time and if you catch her taking a quick nap on the Frank bed, all you have to do is think, “Ah, there she is sleeping” and she will leap to correct your assumption. Whoever adopts this pup better know his/her way around a dog training manual.
Here’s the thing about Chism. She will either be the coolest dog you ever owned or the most difficult dog to ever rule your life. It will very much depend on the effort and time put in for the next two years. Consistent training and challenges are what she needs. That and plenty of exercise. Plenty. Continue reading “Pick a Puppy….but Know What You’re Getting Into!”
This weekend we were in Virginia wine country and decided to do a little winery-hopping. We stopped in Chrysalis Vineyards where OPH will be hosting their big fundraiser Bark, Wag, and Wine this September. It’s a gorgeous place with excellent wines, so we very much hope to attend. (You should, too!)
The day after we visited Chrysalis, we stopped into Barrel Oak Winery whose very name invites dogs (BOW – get it?) BOW was a bit over-the-top-dog-friendly. In fact, on this day they were overrun with Westies. For those of you unfamiliar, these are small wiry-haired white dogs that yap.
There were Westies everywhere you looked and it made for very intentional foot travel as I didn’t want to step on one.
There were a few dog-sized dogs visiting the winery as well and compared to the somewhat frenetic Westies they seemed like large, lumbering behemoths. I don’t sound like a dog person, do I? I’m probably exaggerating and maybe it was just that I missed my BIG foster dog of the moment.
Nick and I kept whispering, “We should have brought Carla – she would shut these little guys up with a single booming bark.” Bringing Carla would have been like showing up the mini-bike rally with a tricked out Harley.
Upon further investigation I discovered that it was Westie Rescue day at the winery. Continue reading “Dogs in Need of Rescuing? (or vineyard hopping with the dogs)”
And just like that, Stitch is gone. I’d be sad, except she’s found the perfect family. She’ll have kids to adore and be adored by, an active mommy, and no cats that are never in the mood to play anyway. This one was easier. I don’t worry about Stitch. I know what a good dog she is. I know she’s sweet and obedient and smart as a whip. Who wouldn’t love her? Especially cute kids like these…
I’m happy for Stitch, so the lump in my throat is a little easier to swallow. What a great dog. What a lucky family. Amy e-mailed me tonight and said they’ve decided to keep the nickname we gave her, Stitch. We’re honored to have named such a stellar pup. Happy trails my little Stitcheroo!
Carla is still here. She may be here for a while. We’re okay with that. I want her to also find her perfect home. She will be harder to place and I’ll definitely worry more for her. She needs this next move to be her last. A dog can only have her heart broken so many times.
Carla will need someone who will give her plenty of exercise, indulge her affinity for soft beds, and not mind the fact that she barks. (And barks.). She has a lot to say.
When I’m slow mixing up breakfast, she swirls around my feet, chastising me excitedly, “Get a move on lady! My granny could whip that up faster than you with one hand tied behind her back!” The sheer volume is stressful and makes it hard for me to focus. Does she get the coconut oil in the morning or the probiotics? No matter, I’m certain she’d eat anything I served. Continue reading “Waiting for the Right Home”
I think it’s time to be honest about what it takes to be a foster family for all these deserving dogs. Maybe I’ve made it sound glamourous and exciting. Sure, it’s all that. Kind of. But beyond the sweet faces, fuzzy snuggles, amusing antics, and happy endings, there is some serious work. And sometimes there is a little bit of frustration and a tiny tad of aggravation and occasionally there are moments when you groan and say “Why am I doing this again?” to a clueless dog who looks at you with complete unadulterated innocence. You need to be a determined and patient person to foster dogs. And you definitely can’t take your house (or belongings) too seriously.
For me, the hardest part has not been the getting attached or the rearranging of our family schedule or the late night and early morning walks. What makes me the most nuts and causes my husband to growl, are the messes. And I’m not talking about the shredded newspaper, the upended ash bucket, or de-stuffed stuffed animals. I’m talking about pee. The latest foster dogs are pee-ers.
When you first meet someone that you like, you show all your good sides. You’re polite, respectful, careful not to say anything too offensive or expose how much you don’t know about say, football or lawn mowers. But as your relationship solidifies you can cut loose a little. I think that’s what’s happening with Stich (Symphony).
She’s reasonably confident that we aren’t going to kick her to the curb so she’s relaxing and letting her real personality out. A personality that is hysterical. It matches her goofy smile. Somehow the shape of her head and her enormous mouth combine to make her look like she is always grinning – literally ear to ear. She looks cartoon like. You can’t be in a bad mood when you’re hanging out with this dog. She’s just too funny.
I am her chosen person, but she keeps careful note of where everyone else is, rarely does she lie down unless we’re all in the same room. Nick and I have offices on opposite ends of the first floor, so when he works from home she spends her days in the room between us, keeping herself busy accumulating a cache of belongings in her crate (just in case?)
Maybe it’s the fact that she was living on the streets prior to coming here, but she is a hoarder. I was talking with another OPH foster a few weeks ago and listening to the funny story of how their dog, who was also a street dog, was an incredible hoarder, piling up everything she could gather and then nesting upon it. This has been Stitch’s strategy.
She accumulated her stash very quietly. I rarely saw her moving things around, but the shoes in the back of her cage piled up. She didn’t chew them like Galina, she simply gathered them. I applauded this activity because it saved me from nagging children to put their shoes away. Then she began rounding up all the dog toys and loading them into her cage. Next were any abandoned socks, a few random pens, and Ian’s graphing notebook.
Yesterday afternoon I noticed her crate had been cleaned out. There was only the blankets we’d put in there originally, none of her loot. I was the only one home, so I know it wasn’t a child with a sudden case of I’ve-got-to-clean (not that my kids have EVER had this little known condition). I looked in the living room and found Carla’s bed piled with Stitch’s stash. She’d even added two pairs of snow pants she’d pulled out of the Goodwill box in the hallway. Continue reading “Making Yourself at Home”
Bringing a strange dog home isn’t my favorite part of fostering. The first 24 hours, heck the first three days, even first week, the dog is a foreigner in a strange land. She doesn’t know how to act. She doesn’t know the rules. We don’t know what to expect from her. Will she get along? Will she pee all over my house? Can she be trusted? The cats are never happy. The answers are all over the place.
Pretty much each of the dogs we’ve brought home, with the exception of Wheat Penny (who was a puppy and had no expectations, baggage, or attitudes) has seemed like a completely different dog after a few days compared to the dog we brought home from transport.
The dog I picked up on Saturday morning was much smaller than we anticipated. She was nervous, unsure, and peed pretty much every few minutes everywhere she went as if she were marking her territory. (It’s also possible she had a urinary tract infection from the long time spent in a crate for travel from South Carolina.)
She growled at Gracie and threatened the cats. She pulled on the leash when I walked her and escaped out of the house twice (she is a door opener which means she is no dumb cookie). She refused her dinner, was silent, wary, watching us. I never saw her sit down – not once – the whole day. She walked from room to room keeping track of everyone. Although she looks more like a Boston Terrier than a Border Collie, I would guess there is some kind of herding dog in there somewhere.
The first night, I went to bed exhausted from taking Symphony outside to pee every fifteen minutes, walking Carla, supervising all the interactions between the dogs, and cleaning up after Symphony’s efforts to establish her presence. Here’s the thoughts that raced through my mind and kept me from sleeping, I can’t do this. What have I gotten myself into? Two foster dogs is too much for me. I am a wimpy foster mommy. How the heck do these people have three and four dogs? They must be nuts. I must be nuts. This is the last dog. Ever. Continue reading “A Stranger in a Strange Land”