You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In many cases, that’s a good thing. Sometimes it works out well to be semi-oblivious when embarking on something new, unknown, different, etc. If I let the unknown hold me back, I would not be where I am in life right now and while life is up and down, I’m largely in a good spot.

This morning, one of my Facebook memories was of my first foster, Nellie (fka Cindy) from four years ago.

I look back on that experience and realize I had absolutely no freaking clue what I was getting myself into. It’s not a secret that when I started volunteering with SNORT, I had no intentions of fostering. Lucy was still a puppy – probably around seven months old or so. Our apartment had space but it wasn’t huge. My job hours were nuts (and remained nuts for the next four-plus years). ­

I’m not even sure what prompted me to change my mind about fostering. Because Nellie was a puppy mill dog, there were no photos of her (the Amish don’t allow people on their property to take photos of dogs they are surrendering). There was zero information about her besides she was a puppy mill mama who was being given up because she could no longer have litters.

But something in me just had to take her in, so we did. I picked her up sight unseen on a super cold, cloudy, depressing January morning, took one look at her, thought to myself “what have I gotten myself into?!” And promptly fell head over heels in love.

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Meeting Nellie for the first time. Love at first sight.

Now with seven fosters under my belt (and hopefully more in the near future), I’ve come to realize there’s a whole list of things I didn’t know I didn’t know before I embarked on this adventure. I was clueless about a lot.

I Didn’t Know:
1. I had such high levels of empathy and patience.
Patience has never been my strong suit. It’s why I’ve remained up in the air about wanting to have kids. But my level of empathy and patience has been practically unlimited with each foster. I don’t even have that much patience with Lucy. But with the fosters? Sure, I got upset when they crapped on the carpet or flipped the heck out during thunderstorms and kept me up for hours. But the amount of poop I cleaned up or the time I spent in the bathroom with a certain foster (Isaac!) during thunderstorms rarely fazed me. I’m not saying I’ve become Mother Teresa, but I’ve learned I have a higher capacity for patience and empathy than I previously thought.

 

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This handsome boy was petrified of thunderstorms.

2. There was so much medical lingo to learn
Entropian. Cherry eye (which I actually learned about with Lucy). Interdigital cyst. Pyometra. Thyroid levels. Seasonal alopecia. Unexplained alopecia. Spina bifida. There isn’t a single foster I’ve had that hasn’t underdone surgery or had a major medical issue. Nellie – heartworm, lyme. Violet (fka Snowy) – spay, entropian, dry eye, bladder cancer scare. Buddy – neuter, dental. Isaac – puppy Prozac, alopecia. Novalee – spina bifida. Blossom – spay, dental (I think). Lady – spay, dental.

I don’t know everything, but I’ve sure learned a lot.

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Novalee had spina bifida but you never would have known it.

3. I’d have to learn to not be squeamish
No sooner had I laid eyes on Nellie than I realized she was leaking…down there. And not pee. It was a…thick goo. Leftover from an infection or a recent litter, probably. But that poor girl just left a trail of gunk everywhere she went for a few days/weeks.

Many fosters have not been housetrained so there’s been countless pee puddles and piles of poo to clean up. So much laundry. Wiping of all bodily areas. I’ve seen tons of incisions, ears filled with wax and countless eye boogers. And let’s not talk about post-surgery poo…

Novalee once ate an entire bag of raw almonds. Let’s just say it became quickly apparent she hadn’t chewed said almonds when she spent three days walking around inside our apartment like a giant pez dispenser of almonds.

I’ve developed a stronger stomach over the past few years.

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Buddy the Pug may have peed on me (and Lucy) a time or two. #maledogproblems

4. That I would handle adoptions better than I expected
Don’t get me wrong, I was a disaster when Nellie was adopted. And tears have been shed every single time a foster has been adopted. I miss them all. But I absolutely love the experience of fostering. It gives me a sense of purpose, something to keep me busy and selfishly, it feels so good be a part of saving a dog. If I had an unlimited budget and a bigger home, at least a few of these fosters would have probably wound up as “foster failures.” But I know going into each foster that I really can’t have two dogs – not enough money, not enough space – and that reality helps when it comes time to find a forever home for each foster. Now, there hasn’t been a foster in which I haven’t uttered the words, “I think I’ll keep him/her,” but deep down I’m fully aware it’s not the ideal option for either party involved.

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Lady, my first foster all on my own.

5. It’s a total team effort
Six of my seven fosters came when I was living with Marty. While the interest in fostering was 100% me, actually fostering was a different matter. When more than one person is impacted by taking on a foster, it becomes a team effort. Maybe not with the equal distribution of work and time, but each person in the home has some added responsibility and stress.

It also takes help from my employers – days I may need to leave early for a vet appointment or even take an entire day off to shuttle a dog to a vet appointment or surgery.

And travel impacts everyone – most holidays I’ve had a foster so that impacts every family we visit over the holidays. Each foster is different and because each was not my own nor raised as my own, their quirks don’t necessarily make them ideal houseguests. So it does indeed take a village.

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Backseat roadtrip buddies.

6. It’s stressful
I believe I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but it is stressful to bring a foster home. The days leading up bringing home a foster are anxiety-ridden. What will he/she be like? Will they like Lucy? Will Lucy like them (probably not). Are they housetrained (probably not)? Will they eat (probably not)? Where will they sleep? Are they super sick? And then once I get them home? What does that bark mean? Are they scared? Why don’t they lie down and sleep? Is that cough normal?

I’m an anxious person by nature so the early days surrounding a foster are really stressful for me. Everyone’s different but stress is one of the overriding emotions for me when I’m fostering.

I’ll never forget one of the biggest sources of anxiety with Nellie – she refused to eat. I tried everything. Dry food. Wet food. Chicken and rice. Wet and dry food mixed. Straight bouillon. Nothing worked. Until it was suggested from a fellow foster mom that she probably had no clue what a bowl was or how to eat out of it. So, I scooped some food into a super shallow frisbee and voila! She was eating like a champ. But I was just so stressed out during those first few days when I could not get her to eat.

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Making a mess; we soon progressed to a frisbee. Baby steps.

7. I would have a hard time saying “no”
I’m kind of a selfish person. Hence the reason I’m not sure I want kids. I like setting my own schedule (when work allows), taking naps on the weekends and essentially doing what I want to do when I want to do it. Fostering puts a crimp in that. Having a foster is double the work, often triple the work. After Nellie was adopted, we were going to take a break and reassess whether we wanted to foster again and how quickly. We’d had Nellie for about six months, I think, which is a pretty substantial amount of time. But roughly six weeks after her adoption, I got a phone call about Violet, saying she needed a new foster home and wondering if I was interested. “Yes” may have slipped out before I could give serious thought to it. Oops.

So despite being a self-proclaimed “selfish” person, I’ve found myself saying “yes” a lot more when it comes to fosters.

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I’m not quite sure how you say “no” to that face.

All of this is to say that fostering is a big (and important) commitment. But there isn’t a single foster experience I regret. Each dog has meant so much to me and I can’t emphasize how much the benefits outweigh the stressors.

Two Dogs, One Apartment

Sorry for the gap between blogs. It’s been a really tough week personally so the blog took a backseat.

Lucy came back home about 10 days ago (I think?) and finally got to meet Lady. And, as with everything thus far with Lady, the meet and greet was seamless. SNORT recommends separating foster dogs from their fur siblings for the first few days in a new foster home but Lady had been here for 10 days already. Plus, in the few days before Lucy came home I’d been able to see Lady interact with other dogs and she was fine. She showed interest in other dogs but honestly that’s about it – no lunging toward them, no excited hopping around, certainly no aggression. Still, I was ready to separate them with a gate but that ended up being totally unnecessary.

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  Does this face look like she’d cause trouble?!

When Lucy walked in the apartment, there was some mutual sniffing between the dogs and then Lady went over to her bed in the corner and Lucy hopped up on the couch and that’s where they spent 90 percent of their first night together. And since. Lucy and I do play together on the floor most days and while Lady frequently comes over to inspect, she has no concept of play or interest in toys, gets bored quickly and retreats back to her bed.

The biggest change is getting myself out the door in the morning. I do as much prep as I can before my 5:30 a.m. CrossFit class but I have only an hour from when I get home from class until I leave for work so the process of taking care of two dogs (breakfast, potty breaks – usually multiple since neither dog will do all their business in one trip) and getting myself ready is going to need to be refined. But we’re making progress.

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Just an obligatory cute photo of Lucy.

The only negative is that Lady has severely regressed on her housetraining. Every day I come home from work either at lunch or at the end of the day and she’s peed. Sometimes twice a day. The obvious thought would be she’s marking her territory. Lady comes across as anything but an alpha female but the timing of her regression and Lucy coming back is too coincidental to rule it out. But if she is marking, she should be spayed soon and I’m really (really) hoping that ends the marking.

Also, Lady has completely come out of her shell. Don’t get me wrong, she still spends a lot of time in her bed, but she is so. freaking. happy. every time I walk in the door. She’s started hopping around and running in circles. It’s so heartwarming to see; it makes me realize how cruddy she felt (or how scared she was) when I first brought her home.

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Watching from afar as Lucy acts like a maniac.

And while she and Lucy aren’t best buddies, they co-exist perfectly. They each lounge on different ends of the couch while I’m gone, eat in separate areas with a zero issues and have their own go-to spaces in the apartment.

So, I have to say that the fostering-by-myself experiment is going better than I could have expected. If housetraining issues are my biggest concern, I’d say we’re all doing just fine!

One-Year Adoptiversary

Guess what happened one year ago today? Snowy (now Violet) was adopted!
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I simply cannot believe it’s been one year! Some days it seems like just yesterday she and Lucy were snuggling on the couch and in other ways it’s sometimes hard to remember the specifics of day-to-day life with Snowy. I do know for sure that she was one of our most fun and sweet fosters and I miss her every single day.

I mean, come on, does it get any sweeter?

I mean, come on, does it get any sweeter?

Snowy/Violet and Cindy (now Nellie), our first foster, were both puppy mill dogs. Snowy was a few years younger than Cindy but still had had more than a handful of litters. Unlike Cindy, though, she was in much better physical shape. Her eyes were not good, her skin needed some TLC and she had entropian surgery several months after I got her, but for the most part everything was fixable (and thank goodness her cancer scare was just that – a scare!). Her joints were really good for a bulldog, she had no breathing issues and had (and still has, I’m sure) energy to spare, at least for a bulldog.

She loved being outside.

She loved being outside.

In contrast to Cindy:

Those joints and that back sway always looked so painful.

Those joints and that back sway always looked so painful.

Of all our fosters, Lucy was definitely closest to Snowy. Cindy tended to get a bit cantankerous with Lucy from time to time (don’t get me wrong, they snuggled and got along 99% of the time but Cindy had no issues letting Lucy know when she wanted to be left alone 🙂 ) and while Buddy and Lucy were great together, I think sometimes Buddy’s energy got to Lucy. Snowy, though? There were never two better buddies.

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They loved each other so much.

They loved each other so much.

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People always ask me how I can stand to give up my fosters. I’ve written about this on more than one occasion but there are several reasons, the first being money. SNORT features all short-nosed dogs (hence the name, Short-Nosed Only Rescue Team) and more often than not, short-nosed dogs have health concerns and/or are high-maintenance starting at a young age. In short (no pun intended), they are expensive dogs to own and neither Marty nor I are in lucrative careers.

The second reason is that I love fostering. If we owned a larger house and had more regular schedules (and a larger income), perhaps we could have more than two dogs at a time which would allow us to adopt another dog and still continue fostering. Unfortunately, our apartment is not big and two dogs are our limit; therefore, if we kept any of our fosters, we’d have no means to continue fostering and that is something I definitely want to continue doing.

That doesn’t mean that seeing a foster adopted isn’t hard; it is really hard. All of our fosters have been with us for a minimum of three months so we obviously get really attached. And for the most part Lucy gets attached, too, with the exception of Isaac (she is SO done with him!). Therefore, it’s very emotionally difficult and draining to see them go. But every single foster we’ve had has gone onto the most perfect of forever homes. Honestly, these dogs are far better off in the long run in their current forever homes and that’s the whole point of fostering.

Thus, it’s comforting on anniversaries like this to look back on our time with each foster while also being so thankful they moved onto perfect forever homes. We miss you, Violet!

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Buddy Found His Forever Home

This evening I dropped Buddy off at his forever home.

Sebastian (L) and Buddy (R)

Sebastian (L) and Buddy (R)

As is the norm, I didn’t say much of anything leading up to his adoption because until the foster dogs are actually in their homes, I don’t like to count my chickens before they’ve hatched!

On the way to meet his family!

On the way to meet his family!

Buddy is a very lucky boy, though. His family actually lives in the same town as us! I know, the odds of that are practically zero because I live in the middle of nowhere, but he is literally a 90-second drive away. His family is also a “pug family.” Their current pug, Sebastian, is a 10-year-old rescue pug (and looks like Buddy’s dad!). Their previous pug (I think her name was Sassy) recently passed away and the family was looking for a buddy for Sebastian. So Buddy will now be Sebastian’s buddy!

Like I did with Snowy, I wanted to make a list of sorts about what I want to remember about Buddy:

– He is a Velcro pug. Wherever we (Marty and me) were, so was Buddy.

It's my bed but it's Buddy's world.

It’s my bed but it’s Buddy’s world.

– He LOVES his walks. At least twice a day I took Buddy for a walk. I’m going to gain approximately 10 pounds now that he’s gone.

Always up for a walk.

Always up for a walk.

– On a similar note, Buddy would only poop on a walk; I think once in the months we had him did he actually poop in our yard.

– Also related, Buddy would spin around and around in a circle, maybe 4-5 times, before pooping. At least he gave us warning. And it was as hilarious as it sounds.

– Buddy was/is a barker. Barks at the TV. Barks at the train that goes by. Barks when no one is paying attention to him. If he were sticking around we’d definitely do some behavior training with him but his new family can now address that issue if it bothers them!

– He and Lucy got along but I wouldn’t call them best buddies. It’s hard to describe. They didn’t not get along and a lot of times they would cuddle. But they also didn’t really play together. It’s almost like they were just aware of each other’s presence and liked having company, but that was as far as it went.

Ok, they were really cute when they cuddled.

Ok, they were really cute when they cuddled.

– Buddy enjoyed car rides but only if he was given free reign of the car, meaning he hated car rides with us because we made him ride in his crate. Otherwise I would have spent every car ride keeping Buddy off my lap while I drove; not safe, not fun.

Buddy looking deceptively happy in his crate; trust me, he was not happy.

Buddy looking deceptively happy in his crate; trust me, he was not happy.

– Buddy’s cough. He sounded like a goose and it was only bad when he got excited. Alarming at first, normal after a while.

– The way he usually left some breakfast or dinner on his chin.

– His sweet, sweet eyes. He really did have the most soulful eyes.

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Man, we’ll definitely miss Buddy. Unlike Cindy and Snowy, he wasn’t a mill dog and knew exactly how to be a pet. He was house-trained, knew what toys and walks were and was used to life in a home. For that reason he was definitely our “easiest” foster but certainly not easy to say good-bye to. I just love his personality and little quirks. I’ll miss his big eyes staring at me when he wanted to be on my lap and I’ll miss having a shadow follow me around the apartment.

I’m going to be a wreck, as usual, for more than a few days. He even tried to run out the door after us when it was time for us to leave. 😦 It’s so sad to say good-bye and I’ll be thinking of how he’s doing every day. Even now I think about Cindy and Snowy just about every day and wonder how they’re doing (even when I know they’re doing spectacularly!).

What next? This time I’m going to try and take a serious break from fostering to make our lives a bit easier for a while but I know we’ll be back at it after not too long!

Happy Easter!

The Easter bunny visited Buddy (and Lucy, by default) on Thursday afternoon. I got home late from work so we waited until Friday morning to open the goodies from Buddy’s S.N.O.R.T. Easter bunny!

Inspecting.

Inspecting.

Of course I had to hold Lucy back.

Of course I had to hold Lucy back.

There were lots of Buddy-sized goodies: mini tennis balls, mini treats and more.

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Buddy loved his mini tennis balls.

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It was a nice surprise as we get ready to drop Buddy off for surgery on Monday morning. Very anxious to get the whole ordeal over with so these two can get back to snuggling.

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Back to a Family of Three

This morning Snowy went home with her forever family.

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I didn’t want to plaster their faces on the internet without their permission, but the parents have three daughters and two other dogs waiting at home (a pug and a Frenchie!). There is a fenced-in backyard that I know Snowy will absolutely adore and from what I gather, the mother is able to spend most of the day at home which is Snowy’s version of heaven.

I made sure to give Snowy (whose new name will be Violet, named after the character from Downtown Abbey) a lot of hugs and kisses yesterday and this morning before they picked her up. Lucy did, too.

One last snuggle

One last snuggle

This is – obviously – by far the worst part of fostering. It’s horrible to drive off (in the case of Nellie) or watch the dog drive off with her new family (as was the case today) and not be with them anymore. It is so easy to get used to being a two-dog household and what makes it hard is that I know Lucy is impacted, too. In fact, she ran after the car this morning as it drove away with Snowy in it. 😦

So I did what any good “parent” does – I spoiled her with a new toy.

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Yeah, it was destroyed in 10 minutes but for those 10 minutes, Lucy was a very happy dog!

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I’ll be honest, it stinks to say good-bye and I’ll be down in the dumps (to say the least) for a few days. Part of fostering is to get involved enough and care enough about the dog to make them adoptable and we certainly did that with Snowy. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do this all over again because I would, but it is absolutely hard. People ask me all the time how I can give them up and the answer is that we have to. Plus, I am always so happy for the dog who finds that perfect forever home because they deserve it (especially dogs with backgrounds like Nellie and Snowy) and Snowy hit the jackpot with this one. 🙂

A Christmas Miracle

We survived seven days, four long car rides and 11 hours of driving with two adults, two (gaseous) bullies and a car filled to the brim with gifts! And it was all totally worth it as we had a truly wonderful Christmas in New Jersey with my family and Marty’s.

I’m not going to lie, Marty and I (ok, mostly me) were pretty nervous about spending an entire week on the road with the dogs. Lucy would be fine, I knew, but Snowy is still a bit skittish around new people, not to mention the fact that she still regularly craps and pees on our carpet.

Both dogs far exceeded our expectations! Snowy was so much less skittish, had ZERO accidents and she and Lucy were great buddies on the trip, cuddling together in the car and in their bed.

Bully totem pole.

Bully totem pole.

We started the week in Northern New Jersey with my family.

"Helping" my dad open gifts.

“Helping” my dad open gifts.

Inspecting the loot.

Inspecting the loot.

Even though Lucy was still playing her usual game of “I’m afraid of Grandpa (my dad),” both dogs did great. Snowy was immediately comfortable, well-behaved and did tremendous during our 15-person Christmas dinner at my parents’ house. My aunt practically had a new dog as once she started petting Snowy, Snowy became butter and sat there for a good 10 minutes in pure heaven.

Me and Snowy

Me and Snowy

We hit the road the day after Christmas for Christmas Part II in Southern New Jersey. I have no idea how the dogs’ gas didn’t kill us during the car ride as they had some of the most toxic farts I’ve ever smelled, but we all made it there alive.

Marty has three nieces and a nephew and both his siblings live close to his parents so we got plenty of family time in. Marty’s youngest niece adores the dogs and literally ran Lucy ragged over our two-plus day visit!

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Yup, she took over an entire recliner.

Yup, she took over an entire recliner.

After that visit, we decided to confuse the doggies even further by traveling back to my parents’ house to celebrate my mom’s 60th 39th birthday on Saturday night. By then the doggies were too tired to do much of anything, let alone crap in the house (ahem, Snowy).

We hit the road Sunday morning for our last 2 1/2 car ride of the week – and year! – and now we’re back relaxing on the couch while Lucy and Snowy snore away.

It was a tiring but fantastic holiday week!

The Forgotten Dog

Who could actually forget this face?

"I'm nothing to you anymore."

“I’m nothing to you anymore.”

With all the Snowy talk over the past three months, it might seem like Lucy isn’t get her fair share of attention but that isn’t the case at all! Lucy is still our number one and every day I am so thankful we made her ours. She is such a fun doggie and I know I can’t imagine life without her around!

Snowy is full of issues (eyes, housetraining, etc.) so she gets more mention on the blog right now than Lucy but Lucy still gets more than enough attention from us.

In fact, she’s helping me write this very blog post…

"Type a little faster there, Mom."

“Type a little faster there, Mom.”

She has (again) been an absolutely tremendous foster sister. While she hasn’t quite been able to get Snowy to understand she’s supposed to do her business outside, Lucy clearly loves having Snowy around. Snowy doesn’t really get “play time” in that she won’t really play with Lucy but Lucy won the battle to get Snowy to cuddle with her barely two weeks into Snowy’s stay with us.

The night that I scarred Snowy by bringing out the measuring tape, Lucy was the first to comfort her with ear kisses after I managed to coax Snowy back downstairs.

I try not to think about it but I’m pretty sure Snowy’s future adoption will hit Lucy hard. Snowy’s energy level is almost as high as Lucy’s and they get along really, really well. It also looks like we’ll have Snowy for as long as we had Cindy (now Nellie) – six months or so – and obviously Lucy has grown attached (as have Marty and I).

But long after Snowy is gone we’ll still have Lucy and she is the best bullie I could have asked for. She’s a weird one but a bundle of cute fun and there’s not a day that goes by that I regret adding her to our home!

Hi!

Hi!

Life Lately

We’ve had Snowy for three weeks already, which is hard to believe, and every day we’re seeing more and more of her personality come out.

I will always, always love Cindy; she was my first foster, the sweetest dog I’ve ever met and without a doubt I would have kept her if my finances had allowed. Snowy falls in a similar category except that she appears to be a slightly better fit with Lucy than Cindy was. Snowy is incredibly active and mobile; she loves going for walks, jumps all around the house with excitement and randomly breaks out in a run in the middle of our walks, of which we take many.

While Lucy and Snowy don’t actually play together a whole lot, Snowy’s physical nature makes it a bit easier to take the two of them out together. It’s actually easier to walk both of them together than Lucy by herself because Snowy’s love of walks encourages Lucy to walk more easily.

"Don't get used to it, Mom. The minute she's gone I'm back to boycotting walks."

“Don’t get used to it, Mom. The minute she’s gone I’m back to boycotting walks.”

Snowy has picked up on the routine around here and has started to mimic some of Lucy’s behaviors, like stealing my seat on the sofa.

"You snooze, you lose."

“You snooze, you lose.”

She’s also taken to checking out my laptop, just like Lucy:

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I’ve finally been able to teach Snowy to sit when it’s time for treats – a command we worked very hard on! – and we’re slowly but surely getting her to understand the whole concept of doing her business outside.

Snowy has a follow-up vet appointment on Tuesday. Her eyes don’t produce tears and is currently on two medications to hopefully kick-start some tear production. The vet is going to re-check her tear production, or lack thereof, and I’m crossing my fingers we won’t need a follow up with a doggie ophthalmologist; the hope is she won’t need eye surgery as long as she shows signs of producing tears.

If she doesn’t need eye surgery, the only thing left is to schedule her spay and then I feel pretty confident she’ll be ready for adoption. If she does need eye surgery, we can probably do both surgeries at once, which is what we did with Lucy (along with a nose job and palette surgery…).

We’re having so much fun with Snowy; I’m so glad we agreed to foster her!

Happy Anniversary!

Exactly one year ago today I started this little blog. If WordPress hadn’t reminded me I never would have guessed it had already been a year. In some ways I felt like this past year dragged on forever and yet it’s hard to believe I’ve written about Lucy for 12 months now!

Unfortunately tonight I’ll be working so this will have to serve as an official anniversary post. Thanks to everyone who’s been reading along with Lucy’s journey for the past year!

Baby Lucy!

Baby Lucy!

Post-surgery but still adorable!

Post-surgery but still adorable!

Halloween!

Halloween!

Lucy's first Christmas.

Lucy’s first Christmas.

Sweet Cindy

Sweet Cindy

Cindy's first-ever birthday party.

Cindy’s first-ever birthday party.

Happy Birthday!!

Happy Birthday!!

Bed buddies

Bed buddies

Cindy's forever home

Cindy’s forever home

Dog Days at SU

Dog Days at SU