One Day, Two Celebrations

Today is a momentous day in our household. I had no idea at the time, but when I picked up Isaac exactly one year ago today, it was also his birthday. I didn’t know until I went through his paperwork the next day that Isaac had literally just celebrated his birthday the day I brought him home. Which means that today Isaac turns nine and that we also celebrate (I guess it’s worth celebrating?) one year of fostering Isaac.

I felt so badly that he spent his last year’s birthday being transported to his second foster home after having just left what had been his home for eight years. I think he had a better birthday this year.
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Isaac has been with us twice as long as any other foster and for the most part, this past year with him has flown by. Gosh, I adore him. So much.

Isaac's birthday pup cup.

Isaac’s birthday pup cup.

Handsome boy.

Handsome boy.

The day I brought him home.

The day I brought him home.

Yesterday Isaac spent the day with his favorite dogsitters while Lucy, Marty and I went to a BBQ.

Lucy thoroughly enjoyed herself at the BBQ.

Lucy thoroughly enjoyed herself at the BBQ.

Originally we were supposed to leave Isaac in Selinsgrove while we traveled to NJ for a long weekend. Our plans changed, though, and I’m glad we got to spend Isaac’s birthday with him.
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Two Years Ago Today…

…our first foster, Cindy, was adopted.

That face.

That face.

Cindy, now Nellie, will always be special because she was our “first.” Nellie is a puppy mill survivor who, despite having many health issues we needed to resolve, was one of the sweetest dogs ever. She should have been frightened, shy, even angry and except for the first few days when she was adjusting to life outside the mill, she was none of those things. God, she was so sweet. She was a velcro dog and tolerated Lucy even though Lucy was still a puppy when we brought Nellie home and Nellie had had more than her share of puppies to deal with throughout her life.

Her adventures with us were limited as she underwent heartworm and lyme disease treatment for three of the six months she spent with us but she never seemed to mind. She was happy with the couch, a pillow and love.

She loved pillows.

She loved pillows.

I have no idea if we would have continued fostering if we hadn’t had such a good experience fostering Nellie but that doesn’t really matter because we did have such a good experience. I cried like a baby after we dropped her off at her forever home two years ago today and I cried for several more days after that. But it was obviously worth it because she has the best home ever and she made me want to continue fostering other dogs who need a temporary home as badly as she did.

Happy Gotcha Day, Nellie!

Nellie's forever home.

Nellie’s forever home.

God, she was so sweet.

God, she was so sweet.

Buddies.

Buddies.

Squishy.

Squishy.

A Long Three Days

It’s been quite a week so far. As previously mentioned, Isaac had a vet appointment on Monday afternoon for the purpose of getting some anti-anxiety medication. He happened to get sick that morning but had partially rebounded by our appointment. We were still sent home with some antibiotics for his stomach but he seemed to be on the mend.

Canned pumpkin helps settle dogs' tummies. Isaac didn't quite get it all in his mouth...

Canned pumpkin helps settle dogs’ tummies. Isaac didn’t quite get it all in his mouth…

Tuesday was largely a normal day; Isaac ate a small mix of food, pumpkin, rice and bouillon along with his medication that morning and again in the evening. He didn’t have as much pep as usual but seemed just about back to normal. Then just three hours after his evening meal, he puked. And puked again. And again. And twice more at night while we were sleeping. When we woke up Wednesday, he was lethargic, slightly shaking and had zero appetite. I’m talking, he walked away from a spoonful of peanut butter (his favorite!) without so much as a sniff.

The vet opened at 7 a.m. and I called at 7:02 to make an appointment. I could tell he was losing weight and with no signs of wanting to eat or drink, I knew we had to get him to the vet. When they weighed him, he had lost three pounds in 36 hours. Yikes. They admitted him for IV fluids, IV medication (the same medication we had in pill form that he was no longer eating or keeping down), anti-nausea meds as well as bloodwork and x-rays to make sure nothing too serious was going on.

So pathetic.

So pathetic.

Fortunately it looks like Isaac just had a stomach bug and needed some extra help kicking it since he wasn’t able to eat or drink or take oral medication on his own. He was understandably exhausted when he got home Wednesday night and Thursday morning while we took a little walk he was definitely not as peppy as usual. However, he’s eating the bland food we were sent home with and for now the food and his medicine are staying down.

Looking a little perkier the evening he came home.

Looking a little perkier the evening he came home.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not know how parents do it. I panic at a mere stomach bug in a dog; granted, Isaac had never once puked in the 12 months we’ve had him so this was super abnormal but still – he just had a stomach bug and I was a nervous wreck.

Trying Another Tactic

**Warning: I realize there are people who may not agree with the most recent approach we’re taking with Isaac. Just know we’ve exhausted all options and everyone – the vet, myself, SNORT – is on board with this approach. Our behavioral trainer even mentioned this route as an future option in our first session.**

Late last week I scheduled a vet appointment for Isaac for this afternoon. Over the past six weeks or so, Isaac’s reaction to strangers has been escalating and not in a good way. He’s never been good with dogs – that’s well-documented and not likely to be completely eradicated although with the help of the most recent trainer we used, he is far better. Just today on our walk Isaac passed right by one dog that was roaming leash-less on his yard and a chihuahua who was – in typical chihuahua fashion – barking his head off without a single reaction to either dog.

"I told you I could be an angel!"

“I told you I could be an angel!”

However, he’s become a lot more reactive to strangers. Because we’ve run bloodwork we know there’s no health reason for his reactions. We’ve done behavior training and again, while I’m seeing improvement around other dogs, he’s not learning to better interact with strangers. I can’t get inside Isaac’s head but it’s likely that the longer he’s with us (and me in particular), the more protective he gets. Unfortunately, his protectiveness is starting to present itself as some aggression.

I will state that I have never once been scared around Isaac; this is very clearly a reaction only to strangers. Today on our evening walk, a friend/co-worker saw us walking and pulled his car over to chat. I forewarned him that Isaac was reactive to strangers but Isaac had no reaction at all to the individual; I’m convinced Isaac could tell this person wasn’t in fact a stranger based on how I greeted him.

"I gotta keep my family safe."

“I gotta keep my family safe.”

All that being said, Isaac is big and strong and if he is reactive at the wrong moment, I’m scared of the consequences so we visited the vet for our last resort – medication. “Puppy Prozac” as people like to call it except that it actually is Prozac.

I do not want people to get the wrong idea about Isaac; he is an utter sweetheart. He’s obviously loving – I think he loves us so much he feels the need to protect us! Our dogsitters adore him and he’s never once been reactive toward them except in a positive, playful way. He’s been wonderful around my and Marty’s families. I do think he’s just protecting me from strangers but it’s still a behavior that needs to be reversed or eased.

Several of SNORT’s fosters have been on Prozac for similar reasons and it’s done just as it’s supposed to – ease anxiety for whatever the specific cause of anxiety is for each dog.

It’s not a route I wanted to take but it would also be completely biased of me to deny Isaac medication that might help – I’m on anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication myself and it’s been a very positive addition to my life.

Of course, to add stress to our day, Isaac woke up and proceeded to get very sick. His tummy was obviously bothering him and he went from having some energy when he woke up to not even getting out of bed just an hour later. I was petrified – he’s never gotten sick in the year we’ve had him! Fortunately,by lunch time he had some energy back and the vet gave him some meds to make his tummy feel better; good thing we had the appointment!

Pumpkin helps with upset tummies; Isaac left a bit on his snout.

Pumpkin helps with upset tummies; Isaac left a bit on his snout.

Isaac’s Birthday Wish

Isaac has just one wish for his birthday, so please help spread the word!
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(In case you can’t read it, his message says, “Why hasn’t anyone adopted me yet? I’ve been with my foster family for a year and I love them but it’s time for me to find my furever home. Everyone tells me I’m the most handsome dog and my age shouldn’t fool you – I have energy to spare! My birthday is in a few weeks and all I want is a forever family. Love, Isaac”)

Visit SNORT’s website!

Isaac and I thank you in advance.

A Staycation with the Doggies

This past week I was off from work for a staycation (I hate that word for some reason but it’s appropriate in this case). Marty went on the annual vacation with his family to the Poconos; I normally go but my parents were unable to watch Lucy this year and we had just paid to have Isaac dog-sat only two weeks ago when we went to St. Croix. It was easier (and much cheaper) to have me stay behind with the dogs.

Things went fine until Thursday; the dogs were well-behaved (I don’t think Isaac humped Lucy once) and while the week was a tad on the boring side, it was definitely relaxing.

Isaac clearly thought my daily afternoon naps were taking relaxing too far.

Isaac clearly thought my daily afternoon naps were taking relaxing too far.

The three of us had a nice routine each day – until Thursday.

On Wednesday night around 8 p.m., our landlord informed me he’d be over the next day at 8 a.m. to put in our new windows. Which meant I had to deal with two dogs (one of which is petrified of everything and one of which hates everyone) on my own. Fun stuff.

The minute the workers knocked on the door, Isaac went bananas and Lucy cowered in a corner. I had to pen Isaac in the kitchen, then upstairs as they worked their way to the different rooms, while Lucy was a ball of nerves. In fact, she was so scared she ran faster than I’ve ever seen her run right out the open front door, knocking over and breaking a flower pot in the process.

After 20 minutes I’d already had enough so a coach from my gym offered to take Isaac off my hands until they were done; Lucy and I then went on a long car ride until they were done.

This is pretty much what the three of us looked like the rest of the day:
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I found out later that day that apparently my vet will board dogs for just $8 a day; so my word of advice? If you have more advance notice than I did, put your dogs somewhere when work is being done on your house. Lucy still hasn’t recovered; I can’t go near our curtains without her freaking out because one of them fell down in the middle of the night after they weren’t put back up properly on Thursday.

I should have a more interesting post on Monday; we’re approaching a year (!) of fostering Isaac and I’m hoping that on Monday we’ll take a major step toward making him more adoptable.

PS – The week of relaxation allowed me to PR at my first 5k in 8-9 years with a time of 22:39, good for third in my age group and 58th of over 1,000 runners. Probably the highlight of my week – I never do well at athletic endeavors!
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Take Your Pet to Work Day

Just checking in with an adorable photo from today! Around 11 a.m. I found out today (June 26) was not only Derek Jeter’s birthday but also Take Your Pet to Work Day! On Fridays during the summer I try to leave the office by mid-afternoon so I figured if I brought Isaac back to the office with me after lunch he could hang out and meet people before calling it a day.

He got antsy quickly since I had to shut my office door so he wouldn’t escape but I got him to sit still long enough in front of our official athletics backdrop to snap a quick photo (or five!).

The next SU mascot.

The next SU mascot.

Of course Lucy was jealous Isaac got to go for a car ride so after work she got a ride to PetSmart to get her nails ground down; let’s just say the car ride was the highlight of that trip. She’s not a fan of the groomers although they’re certainly fans of her.

I figured we’d do as many activities as possible today since the weekend is just about guaranteed to be a washout and neither dog ventures outside in the rain. Wish us luck with our soggy weather!

The Best Week Ever

Just a few hours ago, Marty and I returned from what I deem the best week ever. My parents take semi-frequent vacations to various U.S. Virgin Islands and on their most recent booking to St. Croix, they offered to let myself and Marty come with them. They were renting a two bedroom house and they obviously only needed one of those bedrooms so when they posed the question of whether we were interested in occupying the other bedroom, the answer was a very emphatic YES!
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For the past 9-10 days, I have been completely disconnected. I did not bring my laptop, only sporadically turned my phone on and pretty much avoided any talk of work 99% of the time.

Because it was such a perfect week, I wanted to document it so that I could remember it for a very, very long time:

We flew out of Newark early Saturday morning and had a brief layover in Puerto Rico before flying into St. Croix late Saturday afternoon.

Saturday night after we got settled in, we went to a local brewpub for dinner. I just had wine so I can’t speak to the beer, but the food was shockingly good. And the view (we were right on the boardwalk) was spectacular.

Beginning Sunday morning, Marty and I began each day around 6 a.m. For the first few days I was awake at 5 or 5:30 a.m. but there’s something about laying in bed with a fabulous view, strong breeze and warm air that makes it impossible to actually get out of bed at that time. Eventually Marty would brew coffee and we’d have a cup on our own personal deck prior to getting our day started.
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Most mornings we picked a place to run; I say most mornings because before leaving on vacation, I tweaked my back during deadlifts and gave myself permission to take days off to make sure my back didn’t bother me too much. And with nothing but hills and mountains around, my back wasn’t exactly keen on running each morning.

After our (or just Marty’s run), everyone would spend the rest of the morning having breakfast, drinking coffee, reading books and floating in the pool.
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Lunch was around noon and usually eaten at home; cold cut sandwiches just taste better on vacation. :-)

After lunch we’d decide how to spend our afternoons.

On Sunday, we went to Point Udall for some photos and then spent two or so hours at a beach (Shoy Beach) which was my one and only requirement for the trip – multiple trips to a beach. It has been a very, very long time since I’ve been that relaxed. The water was calm, warm and clear. I could have spent all day in the water – it was perfection. I haven’t been truly happy in years but I was pretty darn close on Sunday. My dad cooked some delicious chicken thighs that night and we spent the rest of the night relaxing.

Point Udall

Point Udall

Shoy Beach.

Shoy Beach.

Monday afternoon was spent walking around Chistiansted, the “biggest” city/town on the island. We stopped in tons of little shops, picked up some trinkets and I found the perfect ring – a gift from some of the early birthday money Marty’s family was kind enough to give me before leaving.

Fort Christiansted

Fort Christiansted

Christiansted

Christiansted

That night I treated my parents (and Marty) to dinner out along the coastline at eat @ cane bay. I normally stick to wine but my mom and I both decided to order one (ok, two) “Sex in the Champagne Room” – vanilla run, cranberry juice, maybe pineapple juice and champagne. Beyond good.

Tuesday we started the day with another run and then spent the afternoon playing tourist. We had lunch in Frederiksted and then toured the Cruzan Rum Factory and the St. Croix Botanical Garden. Both were worth the visit but the rum factory was the definite highlight.

RUM

RUM

Botanical gardens

Botanical gardens

Wednesday we went to Chanay Bay for another beach day; this time we broke out the snorkels and it was awesome. Starfish, fish, sea urchins. Wednesday night dinner was at Off the Wall – casual dining with the sand literally between our toes.

My more than generous parents.

My more than generous parents.

Thursday we visited Cane Bay – my least favorite of the three beaches we visited. The water was rougher and the water not deep enough for my liking. We also got sandblasted and I think I stepped on a sea urchin. But any beach in St. Croix is still fabulous.

Our final full day was Friday. We went back to Christiansted that morning to pick up some final gifts and mementos and then headed back to Shoy Beach for the afternoon. I spent a ton of time snorkeling and relaxing in the water, soaking it all up. It was definitely my favorite of the three beaches and the weather, while hot, was gorgeous. We capped off the night at Cheeseburgers in American Paradise – another perfect atmosphere with great food (and company!).
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Again, I could not have asked for a better week. I was beyond relaxed and exploring an entirely new place was utterly fascinating. From driving on the “wrong” side of the road to asking if we wanted rum in our morning smoothies from the local coffee place, it was more than I could have hoped for. I know this isn’t a trip we’ll be repeating for a very long time so I more than soaked up everything we experienced the past week.

Odds and Ends from the Week:

The poverty on the island is depressing. Nothing I didn’t expect but still sad.

In relation to the above point, the number of homeless/stray dogs and their conditions hit home the most. We saw one dog outside one of the grocery stores we visited with a severe limp and a massive tumor growing near her front right armpit. She was just sitting outside the grocery store watching people come in and out. My heart just about broke. And she was just one of the many strays we saw.

The wild life here is different. Very different. Horses that don’t appear to actually belong to anyone. Goats, chickens, roosters and baby chicks everywhere. Teeny, tiny lizards. Big iguanas. Crabs. Birds unlike those in the States.

Just a random horse hanging out right by the road.

Just a random horse hanging out right by the road.

Island time is real. We went to a parking lot that was supposed to open at 8:30 a.m. It definitely opened no earlier than 8:35.

The prices. Oh. My. God. $7 for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? $6.99 for a regular-sized box of cereal? I genuinely have no idea how people afford to eat on this island and we weren’t exactly suffering from the impoverished conditions in which many of the locals live.

Obviously a big “thank you” to our dogsitters. Without them there’s obviously no way we make this trip.

And an even bigger thank you to my parents for taking us along. Seriously more than we deserved and I appreciate it.

My Little Helper

On Friday, I was able to give Lucy a few hours peace from Isaac when she accompanied me on a home visit for S.N.O.R.T.!

I’m not able to do a ton of home visits because of my location (I’m really not near anything) and because they usually happen on the weekends – except I don’t really have weekends from late August through May. Anyway, this home visit was for a potential adopter (no, not of Isaac, sadly) for one of S.N.O.R.T.’s fosters and it was only an hour away in Harrisburg.

Lucy loves car rides and I knew Isaac would get a car ride on Saturday when I took him to the group dog walk so I loaded her in and off we went!

Yeah, she enjoyed the car ride.

Yeah, she enjoyed the car ride.

The family I was doing the home visit for had a Boston Terrier, Tank. Unfortunately Tank wasn’t a huge fan of Lucy – although apparently he adored his pug sister that passed just recently – but Lucy was too excited to care. She helped herself to some dry cat food and found a rawhide that, in true Lucy fashion, she became obsessed with. Seriously – Tank could have been ready to rip her head off (which he wasn’t, by the way) and she wouldn’t have noticed. She was happy as a clam. Once she shoved the rawhide so far under the coffee table she couldn’t get to it, I took it as a sign that the home visit was done.

All in all, a brief but fun outing for both of us. Hopefully I can do a few more this summer while I have the time and Lucy can “help” out again.

Happy (?) Ten Months

Two days ago marked 10 months of fostering Isaac.

"Ten months already? Time is flying by!"

“Ten months already? Time is flying by!”

When we first got Isaac I never imagined we’d have him for 10 months but I was also unaware of the myriad of behavior problems we were taking on. Once I realized we had some issues to deal with, I knew we were in for the long haul. I didn’t think the long haul would be 10 months but here we are.

When I really sit down and think about it, I feel horrendous that 10 months (and still going…) of Lucy’s life have been spent with a dog that she not only dislikes, but is semi-fearful of. For the 10 days Isaac was adopted Lucy was a different, i.e. happier, dog.

"Woe is me."

“Woe is me.”

We’ve definitely got a new “normal” with Isaac around and Lucy is coping just fine. But I do desperately want her to be as happy as she was B.I. (Before Isaac). Unfortunately, Isaac is going to be very difficult to find an adopter as he’ll be nine in August. A nine-year-old bulldog isn’t exactly in high demand. Especially one who needs to be an only dog and has, um, aggression issues toward other dogs.

How can anyone not want this handsome face?

How can anyone not want this handsome face?

But that’s the negative stuff. And I don’t want that to overshadow the fact that I freaking love this dog. He’s funny, healthy, active, handsome. His eyes kill me – they’re just so sweet. They’re so sweet I don’t mind when he comes over to my side of the bed at 5:30 on a Saturday morning, rests his head on the bed and stares at me (all while breathing heavily) until I wake up. Somehow it’s not as endearing when Marty does that.

I love our walks, just the two of us. Granted, they’re sometimes stressful when we run into other dogs, but for the most part it’s a great way to relax and I swear it kept me sane this past year.

I love how his nubbin shakes so hard when we come home, when we talk to him, even when we just look at him. He’s one happy dog with us.

I love how he stares at me while I’m using my computer; I don’t quite know what he wants, but it’s adorable.

"I'm always watching."

“I’m always watching.”

The unfortunate part of the whole thing is that Isaac would make an absolutely perfect only dog. He’s house trained, is fine being on his own during the day (although obviously he loves it better when we’re home), is HEALTHY, active and quite simply, adores his people. Once he realizes he’s “yours,” you could not ask for a better dog.

Well, here’s to hoping that for Isaac’s sake (and Lucy’s!), I’m not writing a post in 10 more months celebrating 20 months of life with Isaac.