dog rescue, foster dogs, fostering, returned dogs, training, Uncategorized

Four-legged Happy

Do you want to know what happy looks like in a 45 pound package with four legs?

That would be Mia. This dog simply never has a bad day, or a dull moment, or an off-switch. Well, that’s not entirely true. She does sleep—in fact, when she does it is much like she lives—loud. The girl can snore.

Mama Mia is back with us and she is an entirely different dog than the dog who arrived here last April with ten puppies still nursing.

Continue reading “Four-legged Happy”
dog rescue, Dogs with Issues, foster dogs, fosterdogs, Lucy, oph, puppies, Uncategorized

Second Chances

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.

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Here she is playing with the filling for the Frank bed.

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”

dog rescue, fosterdogs, Gingersnap, oph, shelters

A Fixable Problem

WARNING: This is not a happy or funny post. It might bum you out, or maybe it will inspire you. I’m taking my chances sharing my grief and frustration.

IMG_3629Today is the day Ginger will leave. I feel unprepared. Every other time, when a dog was leaving that I knew would break my heart, I had a plan in place. A new foster on its way or already in our house, or I had somewhere to go or be that would distract me. Not today.

Because I’m still waiting to see a doctor who will have the answers, I can’t commit to a new dog/puppy. I’m not a good patient or a patient person, so my hurting knee is dragging me down. Lucy is still here, but we’re finding our routine and she’s ready to go to a forever home as soon as her people find her.

Today is different than other adoption days. Without my usual props in place, I already feel the tears gathering and I hate that. This is the hardest part of fostering. This heart-cratering pain that is so completely unavoidable- if I just didn’t foster dogs. It’s self-inflicted, preventable, and yet, I know it’s nothing compared to the pain of all the dogs that never make it out.

I’m currently reading Rescue Road, the story of a man named Greg Mahle, who drives a tractor-trailer full of rescue dogs from the deep south, to foster homes and adopters in the north twice a month. He’s helped rescue over 30,000 dogs and driven a million miles.

I’m trying to read it as fast as I possibly can because it is unbearable. Every time I have to close the book and move back into my world I feel sad, unmoored, frustrated. How can there be people in this world, in this time, who would dump a litter of newborn puppies in a trashcan or worse yet, set that trash can on fire?

How can there be state-run ‘shelters’ that are no more than concrete holding pens completely exposed to the elements where dogs are dumped all together (young, old, sick, neutered or not) to wait for no one (or maybe a rescue) to claim them before they die of preventable diseases or state mandated euthanasia? This book breaks my heart. Reading it this weekend, knowing it was our last with Ginger, made for a sad, sad few days.

Yes, I know, Ginger is going to a GREAT home. It’s the only happy thought available for me to hold on to. Only that great home isn’t mine. It can’t be. Technically, it could be, but reading Rescue Road this weekend underlined again for me exactly why it can’t be—there are too many dogs still down there. Too many dogs dying every day because of ignorance, cruelty, apathy, and lack of resources. This is a fixable problem. Maybe that’s what makes me most crazy. Parvo, mange, heartworms, overpopulation—these are ALL preventable or treatable.

All of my mixed feelings and sadness is complicated by the fact that my knee is not healing. It limits me. Just this morning, I fell, once again. Even though I had on my brace and my new super grippy shoes that my husband insisted I buy, my unstable let still slid out from under me on a stick that fell in last night’s storm as I made my way down the hill with Lucy. Ouch.

And then there’s Lucy.
Continue reading “A Fixable Problem”

fosterdogs, Gingersnap, oph, Pit bull, Whoopi

Whoopi Finds Her Family (and Ginger Claims Ours)

DSC_4109Whoop! Whoop! Whoopi found her forever family!

She left early Sunday morning for the 6 1/2 hour drive to her new home in Rhode Island!

We’re already hearing how well she is fitting in and how much she is loved! She has a big fenced yard near the seashore, two kids of her very own, and two fursiblings (weiner dogs! Can you imagine the trio they make?). It’s a great story that makes my heart very happy. Continue reading “Whoopi Finds Her Family (and Ginger Claims Ours)”

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Pick a Puppy….but Know What You’re Getting Into!

There are monsters in my kitchen.

This is how close the monsters can get.....it's not easy getting a clean shot.
This is how close the monsters can get…..it’s not easy getting a clean shot.

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.

DSC_0268I’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.

DSC_0269Chism 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!”

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Dog-less (for now…)

We’re dogless. Well, that’s not exactly correct. We still have Gracie.

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But she doesn’t count.

Okay, that’s not fair. She counts, but she already has her forever home, for better or for worse, so no worries over her.

This week I said good bye to three dogs. I think I’m getting better at this, because instead of being a wiggly-hearted sap, I was excited for my dogs – proud of them and so very happy for the families that lucked into these good dogs.

Frank was the first to go. And the hardest. I still miss his wide soft head, always there, right next to me at the perfect height for petting. I worried and fretted and second-guessed myself, but in the end it was the right home for him. Continue reading “Dog-less (for now…)”

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Being Frank About Frank

DSC_9975I’ve been thinking a lot about Frank. He’s the first foster dog I’ve had who was returned. I feel partially responsible for that fact. I worry I didn’t present Frank as frankly as I could have. I wonder if I could have said or done something differently that would have made the situation turn out differently. Maybe, maybe not. I do believe that there are courses we are all on and we must follow them. So maybe Frank moving to Virginia and then back a week later was a lesson for me, for his adopters, and probably for Frank.

Since he moved back in, Frank has been my daily joy, showering me with his devoted affection and constant company, but he has also had a few episodes that illustrate why he wasn’t such a great fit in Virginia.

This morning, I separated him from the other dogs so that everyone could eat in peace. Frank has a habit of sampling everyone else’s food when it’s served and Gracie and Tenn are not sharers, plus Tex can’t afford to miss a meal. So Frank was left alone in the living room with his bowl. I was nearby, folding laundry.

Frank did not eat. Instead, he grew frantic running between me, the gate into the kitchen where he knew T&T were and the door to the porch where Gracie was. Panicked would describe the expression on his sweet face.

When he finally slowed down for a moment, he paused and peed on the dog recliner (the ugly, filthy blue recliner that we long ago stopped trying to keep the dogs off and now keep around just so they can rebel and sit on it). I was shocked! Frank hadn’t peed in our house since the first day he was here over three weeks ago. I yelled and reached for him, but he raced away and I followed him upstairs where he peed on the edge of the blanket on our bed. This time I yelled, but I was able to grab him. I dragged him outside, and left him there while I cleaned up his mess. He whined at the door, but I didn’t let him in until I’d located his male dog wrap and securely fastened it around him. There would be no more peeing in my house.

As soon as Frank was reunited with the other dogs, he relaxed. He spent a half hour wrestling on his humongous bed with Tennessee, his favorite playmate and his biggest advisory. Continue reading “Being Frank About Frank”

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The Power of a Puppy-Cam

DSC_9414Puppies are powerful. They change everything – schedules, priorities, moods.  No one can be unhappy around a puppy. There’s been a lot of smiles and laughs around this place all week.

Of course, I’m not smiling or laughing when I’m cleaning up after them, except when Marzle grabs the pee rag and takes off dragging two or three siblings along with it. That’s kind of funny. Unless they step in the poop enroute. That’s unfunny.

The puppies are a people magnet. We’ve had plenty of visitors and I’m fairly certain attendance was up at our annual fourth of July party due to the six furry guests who basked in all the attention.DSC_9412

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I think OPH should harness the power of these puppies in their fundraising. Spending as much time as I am with them, I’ve had lots of ideas.

My first thought was – Puppy rental! It seemed like a great idea. Elite Daily has a nice article on the power of puppies entitled, “Why Women Love Men with Puppies.”

Sadly, this is not a realistic possibility for many reasons, not the least of which is that puppies under 16 weeks and not fully vaccinated shouldn’t be out in public places because of the risk to their health. (All my puppies are spoken for and will be going home long before 16 weeks, so you lucky people make sure to keep them healthy by staying away from busy places!)

The restriction on public appearances means my other ideas of Puppy-Selfies and Puppy-kisses and Puppy-therapy, would probably not be a go either.

Many times visitors this past week have asked, “How can you get anything done? I’d just stand here and watch them all day.”

Honest truth – sometimes I do. They are so far beyond the realm of normal cuteness and their presence is addicting. It’s very easy for me to while away a good hour just watching them wrestle and throwing tennis balls in the pen or snuggling with a puppy on the church pew on my back porch breathing in the puppy scent and day dreaming.

Thinking about this while picking blueberries (a mindless task that takes hours), I came up with a brilliant way for OPH to use puppy magnetism to raise serious funds and awareness. Continue reading “The Power of a Puppy-Cam”

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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.

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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!”

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True Confessions of a Faux Foster Fail

It’s a chaotic month in this house. My oldest is graduating, my youngest is playing two sports, my daughter just finished one show and auditioned for a new show that begins rehearsing this week, and my garden went from arid desert to out-of-control weed-infested jungle in less than an hour. My husband is spending hours online lusting after used tractors and scheming about all the things he could do with that tractor once he has one. There are three horses wasting away (well not technically, but what’s the point of having a horse if you don’t ride it?), the graduation party yet to be planned, and then there’s the beach camping trip to follow (did anyone air out the tent after the last trip?). Want more? The deadline for my next novel is a week or so away, the house is trashed and the relatives arrive momentarily. So, of course, my hubby and I took a little three-day vacation last weekend. But now it’s time to pay the piper. And that goes for Carla, too.

At this point, it’s looking like Carla is with us indefinitely. She’s been here a month and there are no applications on her. We’re realizing that it’s time to start treating her as our dog even if she isn’t our dog.

DSC_8819For the first few weeks she was here, we babied her. She was sad. She was lonely. She deserved to be indulged. Wrong (always having to learn this the hard way).

This week I am weeding – in every sense of the word. I’m weeding the gardens that have finally gotten the rain that didn’t come for weeks. I’m weeding the final edition of my manuscript – taking out the parts that don’t work, even knocking off an entire character! I’m not weeding the house, though, it is what it is. But I am taking my weeding metaphor out on Carla, too. It’s time to weed out the bad behavior.

Because we’ve occasionally allowed her to be on the furniture, she doesn’t realize we mean it when we shoo her off the beds/couches/chairs. So all the furniture blocks are back up, the doors are closed, her access is restricted. I see this as an ongoing battle, one we may have to reach a compromise on. Her inclinations are entrenched and she is a wise dog. She knows when no one’s looking, and for a dog so large, she can slink around this house quieter than a cat.

While we were gone last weekend. Carla had more than a few accidents in the house, barked incessantly and was simply, underfoot. My mother, who was staying with the kids, wasn’t happy.  “When are you going to get rid of that dog?” I defended Carla – her schedule was disrupted, she wasn’t getting exercise, no one was paying attention to her needs….but secretly I was frustrated! This dog is housebroken. She’s been so good here! What happened?

Knowing this situation could happen again (when we are gone for the beach camping trip in a few weeks with twelve teenagers! I know, nuts.), we need a better solution. Carla can’t come with us; I’ll have enough to do keeping track of other people’s teenagers. And Carla is not a house dog.  Or at least she isn’t a house dog if someone doesn’t take her for a four mile run every morning. The housesitter might find that fact overwhelming. All this has led me to make the decision to treat her as one of our own but that does not mean she is a foster fail! It simply means we are preparing for a summer of Carla – just in case! (If my twelve year old is reading this – we are NOT keeping her, no matter what it looks like!)

So I’m going to reveal something that could earn me more hate mail than my unfair rant on Westie rescues
because we are treating her as our own, we’ve started training Carla to the Invisible Fence. Continue reading “True Confessions of a Faux Foster Fail”