Four Years Ago…

Four years today ago my life changed in the biggest, best way possible. I brought home my first foster, Cindy (now Nellie).

Looking back on my blog posts from the first few weeks we had her, I had forgotten how much I didn’t know!

Cindy was a puppy mill mama to a “T,” and while they are the most rewarding fosters, they are also the most work, the most depressing (because of their pasts) and the most stressful. I had forgotten she refused to eat for the first few days, snapped at Lucy and had fluids leaking everywhere. I forgot she had no idea what toys were, what food bowls were and what a soft, comfy couch was.

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She was quite the complicated foster and yet from day one I was hooked. I can’t fully express how rewarding fostering her (and every other foster) was. It really hit home when she was adopted. We drove her to her forever home and after getting her settled with her new family, Marty and I got ready to leave. And then she followed us as we made our way to the front door. I remember sitting in my car and seeing her standing at the glass door watching us. It just about broke my heart and I cried the whole way home. But looking back on it I realize the fact that she wanted to follow “her” humans meant I did what I was supposed to do. I made her trust humans; I let her know people can be kind, unlike the humans from her past; I taught her what being a pet is.

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Cindy was the first of six fosters to date. The stress of the first few days with each foster always makes me question why I do it but then after we settle in a new routine, I wonder why I ever questioned my decision.

The rest of my fosters were equally rewarding:

Clearly I’m more than anxious to foster again but now that I’m living on my own in a teeny, tiny apartment, I need to wait for the right foster. My complex doesn’t allow bulldogs (I got in before that rule was passed, so Lucy is fine but I’m beyond annoyed) so I’ll have to wait for a pug or Boston from SNORT. I work further from home than at my previous job which is a negative but I do have weekends free so I know I can make it work. I won’t pretend it will be easy to foster and be in charge of the care for two dogs but I really need to foster again. I have a few hobbies but NONE bring me this level of fulfillment.

Good Bye…For Now

It’s pretty evident without having to write this post that – for now – this blog has hit its ending point. Updates are non-existent, thus there isn’t a need to maintain this blog, at least not at this time.

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I don’t think anyone is really this depressed.

When I first started the blog it was for the purposes of documenting Lucy’s first year or so with us and I am so glad I started my blog just a few months after we brought her home. I love looking back and reading about her first few months with us, pouring over puppy pics and marveling at how much – and how little – she has changed.

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Baby Lucy!

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Fat Lucy.

I brought home my first foster (Cindy, now Nellie) when Lucy was maybe 10 months old or so and the blog morphed into a way to provide updates and for me to document life with each foster. Again, I am infinitely glad I did so. Since we’re now on our fourth foster, and third bulldog, I like knowing I have a place to look back on memories, compare dogs, re-read old tips that worked with certain dogs, etc.

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It all started with Nellie (aka Cindy)

However, we’ve now had our fourth foster, Isaac, for 16 months (16 months tomorrow, to be exact). And while I absolutely adore him, absolutely nothing has changed within the past 10 months or so that we’ve had him. His behavior has remained relatively consistent, his health is still excellent (knock on wood) and at this point he isn’t going to be adopted anytime soon so it appears things will be status quo for the foreseeable future. Which makes for a boring blog.

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I’m not boring, mom, I’m perfect.

For Isaac’s sake, I hope he is adopted. If and when that day comes, it will almost definitely inspire me to update the blog. Plus, I will without a doubt continue to foster, which might also prompt me to revisit this blog. But as long as life remains as wonderfully boring as it has for the past year, all will remain quiet here for the time being!

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.

Types of Dogs

I’ll have an update this weekend after Isaac and I attend our group dog-walking session tomorrow. I’ve narrowed down the trigger for Isaac’s aggression to me (or maybe all females but no other female has walked him) so I’m both nervous and looking forward to the walk so we can get a handle on Isaac’s behavior around other dogs.

Anyway, that’s a post for later this weekend. Today’s post came to mind when the trainer said that Lucy was an omega dog. Here a definition I found online:

These dogs are what I consider, to be the “low man on the totem pole”. They quite often can be very sweet, but lacking in self-confidence. They choose to move through life, trying not to create a fuss. These dogs can be challenged or even attacked, by the classic Beta dog. The Beta dog knows that they can dominate or rule this personality and quite often, choose to do so. 

Ok, first – not all of this applies to Lucy 100 percent, but it’s awful darn close. Second – our trainer believes the use of the word dominance is overused with dogs and isn’t the case with Isaac. However, a lot of what is stated above is absolutely true of Lucy. She’s always been the low (wo)man on the totem pole although as negative as that sounds, before Isaac (B.I.), it worked out beautifully with our other fosters. She was more than happy to be lower than Cindy/Nellie (who was a Beta dog but was far more “nice” in expressing that than Isaac). I believe both Snowy (now Violet) and Buddy were omega dogs, as well, and thus everyone got along – they were ALL low on the totem pole, so to speak! No one tried to fight for a higher position. They were happy not to have that stress. Violet and Lucy were two peas in a pod. There was never, ever a single issue between them. It was glorious, especially now that we have Isaac against which to compare things.

I mean, come on! They were best buds.

I mean, come on! They were best buds.

Essentially, Lucy is obliviously happy as the only dog or with another omega dog. And she’d probably be in heaven with an alpha dog (which as the trainer explained are very rare).

Now, here’s Isaac, the Beta dog, according to the same website:

This is the dog that I see more frequently in our Board and Train program.This is definitely the dog that challenges the companion dog owner over and over. Quite often, the Beta dog is also very dominant and may need to be on a strict Nothing In Life is Free program.The Beta dog may be barky, mouthy, reactive, and unwilling to accept the human as its leader. This dog spends its life, if untrained; challenging every day any form of control. These dogs are quite often, given up to Breed Rescue or to Shelters, as they are “too much” for many dog owners to handle willingly. Quite often in dog play, they cause fights by playing too rough or intense, they do not read nor accept other dog’s body language. They may be clearly possessive of prized items such as toys, rawhide, food, or even fighting to get all the attention from their owners in a multi dog household.

Um, yeah, that’s Isaac and it’s clear why we have issues at home.

The reason I believe that Cindy was a beta dog is that she did not hesitate to put Lucy in her place; the difference was it took one snap from Cindy and…that was it. Lucy backed off, Cindy laid back down and things were back to peace and quiet. And the two of them got along beautifully 95 percent of the time; they snuggled, they went outside together, they took walks together before Cindy had to undergo heartworm treatment.

And the reason Lucy and Isaac don’t get along is that Isaac is much more physical in his beta dog ways and he can physically overpower Lucy. Cindy absolutely could not do that.

I love(d) Cindy but physically she was no match for Lucy.

I love(d) Cindy but physically she was no match for Lucy.

Anyway, I meant for this to be a much more lighthearted post; I mean, essentially I’m calling Lucy a stupidly happy dog! Which is a good thing, really. And part of the reason I want to “fix” Isaac so badly is that I hate for that happy part of Lucy to be lost, even if temporarily.

D-Day

Tomorrow is D-Day for Isaac. He (and I) are going to go through some pretty intensive behavioral training tomorrow.

We’ve been fostering Isaac for over nine months now and while obviously things are liveable, we still have a very long way to go until I believe Isaac will be adoptable to a wide variety of homes. Right now he’s limited to a home with no other dogs, no small children (because he’s so strong) and a semi-rural area. And clearly after nine months we haven’t found a home that fits those requirements.

"I like it right here."

“I like it right here.”

He still flips out when we meet other dogs on our walks and still humps Lucy, although it’s not quite as frequent lately (it does tend to go in waves, though). And sometimes (honestly, very rarely) he’s not exactly friendly to people we encounter on walks and it’s always on our walks – he’s perfectly fine in our home, other peoples’ homes, etc. It’s just in neutral territory he’s too hit or miss for my liking.

Because I have no idea if or when Isaac will finally be adopted, I need to make our current situation as liveable and stress-free as possible so that is my one and only main goal tomorrow.

I expect it to be a tiring day but I can’t state enough how much I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll have a good report. 🙂

PS – I got this adorable photo of my first foster, Cindy (now Nellie). She doesn’t walk well so she now has her own personal ride – what a cutie.
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Happy Birthday From Afar

Today is Cindy’s (Nellie’s) ninth birthday!!

Cindy's first-ever birthday party.

Cindy’s first-ever birthday party.

I cannot tell you happy it makes me every year that she is able to celebrate her birthday! And unlike Snowy, we know exactly when her birthday is, according to the papers she came with.

For those new to the blog, Cindy was my first-ever foster and as such, holds a very, very special spot in my heart. She holds that special spot for so many more reasons than just being my first foster, though. Cindy was a puppy mill mama and over the six months that I had her, I learned how rewarding it is to see a dog learn how to be a pet. It sounds so silly – learn how to be a pet? – but she had NO idea what being a family dog meant.

First time playing with a toy!

First time playing with a toy!

Cindy spent the first seven years of her life in a puppy mill; we don’t know exactly what it was like but she was likely kept in a wire cage, saw little to no significant time outside that cage, was forced to produce litter after litter and never received proper veterinary care. Her c-sections were likely done in horrendously unsafe conditions as evidenced by the fact that when her forever family had her spayed, it was a very complicated surgery as they had to essentially dig through layers of scar tissue. Her paws were splayed (due to the wire cage, I’m positive) and her joints? Horrible. Her shoulders were/are bowed and I’ll never forget when our vet sort of pushed her shoulders up and in to show me where the joints should be. Her back was/is swayed and she was both heartworm and lyme positive when we got her.

But she was not only an absolute trooper through all the medical treatments she had to endure but also a true sweetheart. Every single day she amazed me by her ability to be so sweet after being so abused for so long.

She LOVED pillows.

She LOVED pillows.

And she had so many cute little idiosyncrasies. For example, her jowls would puff out and flap every time she exhaled particularly hard. It was so cute. And the way she would take minutes to adjust the couch pillows just so until she was happy enough to settle down on them (see above!). I’ll never forget the first time she ran or how, before she began heartworm treatment, she would slowly trail behind Lucy and me on our walks around the block, no leash needed. She was A: too slow and B: just wanted to be with us – it never seemed to cross her mind that running away (not that she ran fast enough to get away…) was an option.

Cindy’s adoption process was a tough one; twice we thought she had found her forever home only to have the homes fall through. But it was all for a reason as Cindy found the absolute best home ever. Truly. She is loved beyond belief.

Here are a few more of my favorites photos of the birthday girl.

Smiles

Smiles

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Paws crossed.

Paws crossed.

After heartworm treatment.

After heartworm treatment.

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Sweet Cindy waiting at the vet.

Sweet Cindy waiting at the vet.

Cindy's double bed setup.

Cindy’s double bed setup.

How can she look so sad in sparkles??

How can she look so sad in sparkles??

So addictively cute

So addictively cute

Like Snowy, I miss this squish every single day. It’s because of her and my wonderful experience with being her foster mom that I continue to foster. Happy Birthday, sweet girl!

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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Six Months of Isaac

We officially hit the six-month mark of fostering Isaac!

The very first picture I took of Isaac - on our way home!

The very first picture I took of Isaac – on our way home!

Actually, we hit the six-month mark on Feb. 2 but I was in the midst of the flu, a sinus infection and thrush. I’ve only just begun feeling human; the past couple days have been rough, to say the least. Honestly, I really never get sick beyond a cold or two a year and so to get hit by a virus and double ear infection two weeks ago and then the flu and a sinus infection this past week…I’m physically drained, to say the least.

Anyway, Isaac’s six-month anniversary didn’t escape my notice, I was just too sick to write about it! I thought I’d do a mini recap/highlight reel of the past six months.

August 4, 2014: Isaac Goes to the Vet
As is standard with all fosters, I took Isaac to the vet the first chance I got. He essentially had zero health concerns, the first time that’s ever happened with a foster! He was (and still is) missing large chunks of fur but the lack of hair was not deemed to be caused by anything serious; likely a case of unexplained alopecia.

One of the first photos I ever took of him. And still one of my favorites.

One of the first photos I ever took of him. And still one of my favorites.

August 7, 2014: Isaac Goes back to School
Isaac didn’t, and still doesn’t, know how to play with Lucy, let alone other dogs. So was this training session a waste of money? Absolutely not. He learned a lot of basic obedience commands we still use. He just is never going to be a dog that plays well or gets along with other dogs.

The (not-so) model student.

The (not-so) model student.

Oct. 26, 2014: Isaac Goes to Crusader Carvings
His first real outing and he did great! He had an absolute blast and was very well-behaved with all the people.

Yeah, he liked the attention just a little bit.

Yeah, he liked the attention just a little bit.

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Oct. 31, 2014: Isaac Runs Away
He took years off my life. He had a blast.

"I'd do it all over again, too!"

“I’d do it all over again, too!”

Thanksgiving, 2014
We took Lucy and Isaac on their first extended road trip together. It was stressful, but we survived, thanks in large part to nice weather and a lot of walks!
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December 22, 2014: Isaac’s First Christmas With Us
We went low-key this year, but Isaac didn’t know any better!

He was just as happy to watch us open gifts as to get his own!

He was just as happy to watch us open gifts as to get his own!

Christmas, 2014
All four of us survived our second road trip in a month. Again, not exactly stress-free but we all made it out alive!
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And now here we are at six months! Nothing of note has really happened since the holidays; we haven’t traveled anywhere, Isaac hasn’t run away again, etc. He’s been hit or miss in regards to his behavior around Lucy; he’ll go days where he won’t bother her too much and then we have a morning like today where they haven’t even gotten out the door to do their business and he’s already humped her. So, the norm.

It’s not like you exactly celebrate six months of fostering because you’d like all foster dogs to be adopted ASAP but it’s still been a fun six months to look back on. He’ll definitely stand as our longest foster to date; I checked on Cindy’s stay with us and it was six months and five days and we’re just about there already with Isaac. But he’s so fun and sweet. Last night he curled up in bed with me again until my coughing drove him back downstairs 🙂 And this morning on our way in from our morning walk, he grabbed just one more chunk of snow to chew on (he clearly doesn’t understand this snow isn’t going anywhere soon!). He never fails to make me laugh.

He makes himself laugh, too.

He makes himself laugh, too.

Happy Five Months?

Can you believe we’ve had Isaac for five months already??

One of the first photos I ever took of him. And still one of my favorites.

One of the first photos I ever took of him. And still one of my favorites.

I, for one, cannot believe it’s been five months. Despite him not being our easiest foster (due to his determination to dominate Lucy), these past five months have flown by. We’ve now had him for nearly as long as we had Snowy and just one month less than we had Cindy, who has been our longest foster to date.

What’s different about Isaac is that for the majority of these past five months, he’s been healthy, which most certainly was not the case for our other long-term fosters. (I consider Buddy a “quick” foster because we only had him three months but even he had a host of health concerns). Isaac’s missing fur on his sides was not deemed to be caused by anything significant and his thyroid levels returned to normal really quickly once he was put on medication, which he no longer has to take.

So for five months we’ve enjoyed a healthy and fun second dog – certainly a change with no surgeries, medications, etc. to worry about. But that also means that for five months this perfectly healthy and handsome dog has been searching for his forever home and has yet to find it. Five months of his life that weren’t spent with his perfect family.

The longer we have him, the more I fall in love with him. Partly because it’s pretty obvious he also loves me, not to sound too self-centered. But he follows me pretty much everywhere and Marty says that every morning after his breakfast, he stares at the garage door waiting for me to get home from CrossFit. I can’t tell you how great of a feeling it is to have such unconditional love! I don’t even get that from Marty 🙂

A very, very common sight when I'm home.

A very, very common sight when I’m home.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that if he got along with Lucy we’d keep him, especially since he’s not getting any adoption applications. He is such a fun, healthy and active dog. But he doesn’t get along with Lucy, even though he probably thinks he does. She is getting very aggravated (as are we) with his persistent humping and let’s face it – he’s not getting any smaller and she’s not getting any bigger, so he will always win.

While it is possible to teach an “old” dog new tricks, it certainly isn’t a guarantee. Isaac’s learned “sit,” “down,” “touch” (i.e. “come”) but try to teach him not to hump Lucy? So far an utter failure.

I know Isaac’s perfect home is out there – a dog-free home with plenty of open space for walks and running (he loves running through the park next door to us) and maybe even kids; he’d be fabulous with kids. I’m sure people are turned off by his age (8 1/2) but I’m not exaggerating when I say he has the energy of a two-year-old dog, if not younger.

Hang in there, Isaac. We’ll find your forever family soon!

ALWAYS happy. Except when I cut our walks short.

ALWAYS happy. Except when I cut our walks short.

An Update of the Very Best Kind

I had a few blog post topics rattling around in my head but at the end of my work day this afternoon, I got the best email I’ve gotten in a very, very long time.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I think about all of our fosters every day. And today, on the one-year anniversary of Cindy’s adoption, I got an email from her mom that brought (good) tears to my eyes.

Sweet Cindy.

Sweet Cindy.

I won’t go into too many details as Cindy (now Nellie) is no longer a part of our family but there aren’t words to describe how perfect her forever home is. She is (so deservedly) spoiled and loved. She has a plethora of soft, fluffy surfaces to sleep on and no shortage of people to pet her.

Her mother sent a recent picture; I didn’t feel right posting it on the blog but just picture a bed, a pile of pillows and Nellie on top of said pillows. Heaven for a dog who deserves nothing but everything her new family is giving her.

Today’s email made my day, my week. Fostering is hard – mostly emotionally difficult – but when fosters find homes like the one Nellie found, it’s worth it 100 times over.

Here is a very small selection of my favorite Nellie photos.

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Cindy's double bed setup.

Cindy’s double bed setup.

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Upside down turtle!

Upside down turtle!