cats, dog books, dog rescue, foster dogs, fostering, hard to adopt, no-kill, shelters, writing

Dog Parties and Talking Rescue

We had a dog party this weekend.

We often have multiple dogs – but that usually includes a litter of puppies which inflates our numbers. This time, it was all adult dogs, and quite a few personalities.

We had our neighbor’s dog Juno, who is one of Fanny’s best friends.

Continue reading “Dog Parties and Talking Rescue”
dog rescue, fosterdogs, fostering, returned dogs

Foster Dog Overload

I’ve often wondered what my limit is.

I know other people who have four, five, even nine dogs living in their houses.



That’s clearly my limit, judging by Continue reading “Foster Dog Overload”


One Dog, Two Dog, Three Dog….Four?

imagejpeg_0Texas and Tennessee have landed! What sweet boys these two are. Couldn’t find better mannered guests. (Well, guests who were housebroken might be better…) They are gentle and eager to please. They watch my (and everyone else’s) every move. Sadly, they both cower when anyone raises a hand above their waist, moves quickly, or picks up anything large (Ian has to keep his baseball bat hidden). I am guessing not every human has handled them kindly. No matter, they seem ready to give just about anyone a chance, loving on every person who walks through my door.

Texas - isn't he a stunner!
Texas – isn’t he a stunner!

These guys seem grateful for every kindness thrown their way. They’re like that visiting relative who is always saying, “Please don’t got to any trouble….really, I’m fine.”  They still haven’t figured out what a treat is and Texas kept running into glass doors, so they seem a bit new to this living-in-a-house-and-being-loved thing. But they are both smart as whips, so they are picking up very quickly on everything, even the don’t-pee-in-the-house rule. We’ve outfitted them with “male dog wraps” which sounds kind of cosmopolitan but is actually a glorified diaper. Male Dog Wraps are my new favorite thing, ever.

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Here’s Tennessee modeling the latest in dog wrap fashion – a nice gray nylon number.

It’s very good that T&T are such model guests because the house is overflowing with dogs. T&T arrived late Friday night and at 8am on Saturday morning Frank returned to us. He could not make the adjustment to his new home and his wonderful family. It just wasn’t the right fit. I know it was a heartbreaking week for both Frank and his adopters. It was very hard to hear the stories from afar, only able to offer advice when what I wanted to do was run down there and move in and help all of them. In the end, they made the difficult decision to return Frank to OPH and Nick and I knew immediately he had to come back to us. We are wrestling with that decision – the one I said I wouldn’t write about again in this blog. I’ve thought all along that it was up to us to choose a dog, but I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t actually up to the dog to choose us. We shall see. Meanwhile, we are loving on Frank and he has happily assimilated right back into our world and is currently lying behind me watching every word I type (and hopefully not reading this and thinking his little plan worked…). Continue reading “One Dog, Two Dog, Three Dog….Four?”


It’s a Dog Party!

We had two charming visitors for the holiday weekend. After surviving ten days of three dogs, I was confident we could handle four, especially on a gorgeous weekend with no actual plans, just lots of ideas. Kylie and Hitch (sounds like a movie title) are foster dogs we dogsat over the holiday weekend while their foster parents went camping.DSC_8826

Kylie’s endless energy kept us from relaxing too much and Hitchcock’s quiet, gentle presence reminded us to slow back down.

IMG_1732Kylie was over-the-top excited to be here, but I soon learned that Kylie was over-the-top excited to be anywhere, meet anyone, do anything. She is one overly enthusiastic 2-year-old puppy.


Hitch’s foster mom, Erika, explained that Hitch was very timid and “hand shy.” When you reached for him he cowered and if he was loose he ran from you.

The first few hours went fine. I walked both dogs (or Kylie led the dog-person-dog train) around the yard. Carla was not impressed with either dog and spent the afternoon lounging on the porch, occasionally lifting her head to watch the antics of Kylie when she spotted a BUG! or a BIRD!! or a CAT! or a OMG-SQUIRREL!!!!

Because Kylie was so demanding of my attention and arm strength, I decided to take Hitch out on his own. Turns out the little guy is excellent company. Perfect manners on the leash, happy to go wherever I wanted to go, and quick to do his business. He was happy to be out on a little explore and seemed to be relaxing around me, although he still froze when I reached for him. I can’t imagine what circumstances of life brought him to this point. Seeing his terrified face when I reach down to scratch his ears, broke my heart. We sat in the sunshine for a bit, side by side, but me keeping my scary hands to myself, and then it was time for me to get back to work, so we headed to the house.

As we approached the door, Hitch balked. Luckily, he was wearing a “martingale” collar so when he stopped and I pulled, he didn’t slip his collar. (After watching Carla charge away without me this morning after slipping her collar on our morning run, I’m going online to order one!) I explained to Hitch that we had to go back inside, but rather than pick him up (since he was afraid of my touch), I pulled a little stronger on the leash and stepped into the house. Hitch didn’t move and I tugged again, this time the collar snapped and Hitch took off like a shot up the hill away from the house. Bizarrely, the nylon martingale attachment had simply broken off. Hitch weighs all of 10, maybe 15 pounds so it wasn’t his brute strength or size that snapped it. I didn’t have to time to wonder about it.

I grabbed Kylie, figuring Hitch knew her and we took off up the hill after him. I wasn’t sure if calling his name would make him run faster or bring him back. I could hear Erika saying how hard it was to catch him in a fenced yard. Now, I’d have to catch him in Southern York County, unless he made it to Maryland, since that was the direction he was running.  I was already picturing me and the rest of the search party out with our flashlights that night tromping through the surrounding fields. And then tomorrow the girl scouts would organize search teams and maybe bring us bottled water…..

Dreading making the call, but knowing I had too, I called Erika. She doesn’t know me very well, so I’m sure her first thought was, “Why did I leave my little dog with this idiot?” To her credit, she didn’t say that, she said something like, “He won’t go far, he wants to be with you. I’m sure he’s scared. Just try to get him to follow Kylie.”

We spotted Hitch at the top of the pasture just on the other side of the fence. As Erika predicted, he ran gleefully towards us, tail wagging. Erika stayed on the phone with me and talked to me as we walked back to the house with Hitch running big looping circles around us and Kylie practically levitating on the end of the leash in her joy at the adventure.

Following Erika’s advice, I led Kylie (and Gracie who had joined us at this point. Carla couldn’t be dragged into our drama and just thumped her tail as we passed) into the house, leaving the door open for Hitch to follow. We kept walking without looking back and I hid around the corner in the hall, leaving Kylie in view. After several tries, Hitch followed her in and I quickly closed the door.

When the kids got home from school, I told them about my afternoon’s adventure and said, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you to let this dog out of his cage. Then I went and bought a small blue harness for Hitch to wear.

I thought our crisis for the day was over, but as usual, I was wrong. Continue reading “It’s a Dog Party!”


The Messy Truth about Dog Fostering

Look what arrived!!IMG_1677

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.

I know they look innocent, but they are capable of significant mess making and proportionately ridiculous destruction.
I know they look innocent, but they are capable of significant mess making and proportionately ridiculous destruction.

Continue reading “The Messy Truth about Dog Fostering”


Making Yourself at Home

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.

DSC_8549I 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.

DSC_8550She 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”


A Stranger in a Strange Land

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.

Symphony is no exception.11090842_935901093116103_4658826510233429709_o

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”


Some of Us Are Remedial Learners

Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake. This week’s adventures have reminded me that I am still a rookie foster mom over here. The lesson is a repeat from Galina days, but it appears I needed to learn it again. And the consequences may mean more than a three-dog weekend, they may lead to a three-dog month.

Here it is: Never look a gift-adoption in the mouth. Or something like that.

On Wednesday the perfect adopters (and I mean perfect like I made them up myself) were approved to adopt Carla. I had a lovely conversation with her future adopting mama. We made plans for the family to meet and adopt Carla on Thursday. Hooray!

And then, because there were actually two other applications in the system on Carla, I made the bold move of agreeing to take a new dog from this week’s transport.

Symphony is adorable and part Border Collie – a breed I have always coveted.ec8a4b9e7073391214973fb2f291133d22d9073b

She even has a great story (a street dog picked up by paramedics), reminds me of the dog on the Little Rascals, and looks to be the perfect size playmate for Gracie. Carla is too big, Wheat Penny was too small, but Symphony looks just right. All was well with our dog world.

And then Thursday morning I received an email from the potential adopters saying there had been a drastic shift in their situation and they would sadly be unable to adopt Carla at this time. Whoosh. (That was the rug being pulled out from under my carefully laid plans.) Continue reading “Some of Us Are Remedial Learners”


Three Dog Weekend

It’s been a three-dog weekend. Which means that I’ve spent a lot of time on the other end of a leash. This morning I successfully walked “big dog” (new foster Carla) and “little dog” (old foster Wheat Penny) at the same time. We made it just over two miles before Wheat Penny began dive-bombing Carla. Carla was unfazed, ignoring her full body pelts and then simply dragged the varmint along after she grabbed Carla’s leash and attempted to fling her about (effectively flinging herself about instead.) Carla’s got a few pounds on Wheat Penny.IMG_1625

Let me introduce you to Carla. She has a regal way about her, rising above the other dogs snarls and craziness. She is a gorgeous 65+ pound Treeing Walker Coonhound who was surrendered by her owners (previous OPH adopters) after four years. The owners are expecting a fourth baby and Carla became too much for them. As her previous owner put it, “Carla is just existing here, she’s not living.” Here was this enormous hound dog trying to be a suburban pet in a busy household who increasingly had no time for her. I can’t resent these owners for surrendering her, only be glad that they did. Carla deserves a better life and they knew that. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision. Because who could toss out a face like this- Continue reading “Three Dog Weekend”