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.

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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!

Another Survey

Here in Central PA we were saved from the massive snowstorm that slammed (and is currently slamming) the East Coast. We got snow but maybe 5-6 inches total. It was definitely enough to make taking the dogs out a process but totally manageable.

No updates to share, minus Lucy’s perpetual boycotting of doing her business in the snow, so here is another survey I found on one of the many blogs I stalk.

Household chore I actually enjoy:
Dishes. I love warm water so doing dishes is right up my alley.

Biggest house disaster:
Our guest room. We couldn’t put a guest in there if we wanted to. We’re missing support slats on our bed, the guest room has my dresser in it because there’s no room for it in our main bedroom, we hang our sweaty clothes in there to dry. I could go on and on.

Before company arrives, I hide:
Clutter. I try to put everything in piles and quickly toss all the crap I’ve been meaning to toss for weeks.

Most recent music download:
I’ve been big into podcasts lately after I got hooked on Serial so the last thing I downloaded was a few episodes of the Criminal podcast. Nowhere near as good as Serial but it sort of fills the void.
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The last thing I bought online:
Protein powder. I’m getting more and more into heavy and Olympic weight lifting and I know I wasn’t refueling quickly enough or properly after my workouts, so I’m going to try protein powder.

I hate to shop for:
Pants. I’m 5’2” and nothing ever fits. If the length is good, the waist is too small. If the waist fits, the pants are too long. I love summer because that means skirts and shorts.

Favorite family ritual:
Lately Marty and I have started cooking together on Sundays. We got a Crockpot so every Sunday we alternate whose turn it is to cook a new recipe.
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Honestly, the above picture isn’t that far off from what ours looks like!

I sleep in:
Not much. Take that how you will – in regards to how late I sleep in or what I wear to sleep 🙂

I have a style crush on:
The mannequins at Ann Taylor. And Sofia Vergara, but that’s actually more of a body crush. If I looked like her it wouldn’t much matter what I wore.
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I’m currently reading:
Bittersweet. Took me a while to get into it and it’s definitely stranger than I was expecting (in a good way…I think?) but it still sucked me in. Since grad school ended, I’ve been able to read for pleasure a lot more and I have a whole list of books I want to get to. Maybe that’s another post (or series of posts) – book reviews!

How did I ever live without:
My dogs. I know, I know. I’m probably supposed to pick something related to making my life easier (and lord knows my life isn’t easier with two dogs) but having Lucy and our foster dogs make life a million times better!
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Resolutions…2015 Version

I know, it is isn’t even Christmas yet and I’m already talking about New Year’s resolutions. I honestly don’t know why I bother to make them because, like almost everyone else in the world, I never follow through. For instance, here were last year’s resolutions:

1. Find Snowy her perfect forever home – DONE

Violet (aka Snowy) and her sisters in her forever home.

Violet (Right) (aka Snowy) and her sisters in her forever home.

2. Budget money so we can juggle Lucy, her constant vet visits and any other potential future fosters – Not so much. I definitely paid more attention to my money and where it was going and we were able to afford what Lucy needed, but I definitely didn’t save as much as I wanted.

3. Continue to work on my patience when it comes to Lucy and her stubbornness – Again, not so much. I mean, I guess I worked on my patience but without any actual improvement.

"Keep working on that patience, Mom."

“Keep working on that patience, Mom.”

4. Take the dog(s) for at least six walks a week; we all need to watch our weight and Lucy always has energy to burn off! – Sort of? Since getting Isaac in August we’ve walked at least 14 times a week and same when we had Buddy, but Lucy has definitely not gotten as many walks as she needs. And now she’s fat(ter).

Buddy, always up for a walk.

Buddy, always up for a walk.

One out of four. Pathetic.

I have a lot of non-dog resolutions rattling around in my brain for the upcoming year but this is a dog blog. So in keeping with that theme, here are the resolutions I will make and may or may not achieve:

1. Shift into a career that allows me a more “regular” schedule to continue fostering and allow me to help SNORT in more ways than I am currently able.
2. Keep on top of cleaning! That means vacuuming, dusting and even just keeping the dogs themselves cleaner (wiping paws, more baths, etc.).
3. Continue fostering.

That’s it. Not exciting but with effort, all three are doable.

There’s a First Time for Everything

For the first time ever, I diapered a dog.

Lucy is almost as confused as Snowy.

Lucy is almost as confused as Snowy.

There is more than one reason we had to go this route. First of all, Snowy’s in heat. S.N.O.R.T. ordered us a very cute pair of doggie undies but they obviously haven’t arrived yet and things are getting a bit messier so I bought a package of doggie diapers at PetSmart (**updated to add: I came home from work tonight and Snowy had managed to remove her diaper 😦 **)

Reason #2: Snowy has reverted back to peeing and pooping in the house, mostly overnight, but occasionally during the day (like today). I reached out to S.N.O.R.T. to get some help; I successfully housetrained two dogs so I’d like to think I have a bit of experience but I cannot get Snowy housetrained!!

One volunteer suggested that separation anxiety might be the cause of the messes and there could be some validity to that. She primarily pees and poops when we’re not home or are upstairs sleeping, but there are the occasional times she’ll make a mess in another room while we’re home. Still, not ruling it out.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution! If we crate her, she barks (and doesn’t stop. Trust me.) and because we live in an apartment, we can’t let her bark it out. Second, if we let her upstairs at night, she’ll sleep on our bed. Even if we put a dog bed on the floor she’ll hop right up into our big, comfy bed (no one said she was dumb) and I draw the line at sleeping in the same bed as my dog. Third, we do have to work during the day but crating her is ruled out and I can’t bring her to work.

Those eyes kill me...she's so sad

Those eyes kill me…she’s so sad

One suggested solution to the problem was creating a sort of pen for her; something that doesn’t feel like a crate to her but small enough that it might discourage her from soiling where she spends the day while we’re working. I think it’s a very logical next logical step. It would give me flexibility to move the pen around and try a few different spots – for instance, if she wants to be in the same room as Lucy, in a separate room, etc. Heck, I’ll even pen them together if they want!

Anyway, the reason for all this bathroom talk lately (which no one wants to stop having to think about more than me) is that holiday travel is less than a week away and I’m more than mildly freaking out! We HAVE to come up with a solution or else my family is not going to welcome us home with a dog that makes constant messes and I don’t blame them. We cannot kennel her as she is a foster dog and not our own; plus, I love traveling with my dogs! Neither of our families has met Snowy yet and pooping aside, they are going to love her!

I bought this pen today after work, we’ll set it up tonight and then see how it goes:

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As a side note, I got home from work last night around 9:30 and Snowy was making a mess everywhere (don’t get me started on the fact that Marty was home with her while I was at work and yet it went unnoticed she was tracking blood everywhere!). PetSmart was closed so I couldn’t run out to get anything so we grabbed an old pair of Marty’s boxers and put them on Snowy. I was doubled over in laughter from both her insane cuteness and her look of utter disgust. She was not amused. Honestly though, it was hilariously adorable but when I went to take a picture Marty stopped me.

“You can’t put a picture of her in men’s boxers on the internet. It’s not fair to her.”

And he accuses me of treating the dogs like people??

How it All Went Down

Monday, 8:30 p.m. – Head upstairs to watch TV in bed before going to sleep. Snowy joins me, of course, and spends a half hour literally just lying on my lap. Talk about a heating pad.

Snuggling on MY bed.

Snuggling on MY bed.

9:00 p.m. – Call Marty upstairs as I’m about ready to go to sleep (hey, I have a 5 a.m. wakeup call!); instruct him to lock Snowy in the cage when he comes up to bed later. After many, many nighttime wakeups and Snowy’s persistence in crapping and peeing on the floor in the wee hours of the morning, the cage seems to be the only solution left to try.

9:15 p.m. – Marty says good night, hauls a very sad Snowy downstairs. Bedtime for me!

11:?? – Marty locks Snowy in cage and comes upstairs to go to bed.

Just pretend Butler Blue is Snowy. It's near impossible to lure her into the cage.

Just pretend Butler Blue is Snowy. It’s near impossible to lure her into the cage.

11:45 p.m. – Wake up to incessant barking from Snowy.

11:46 p.m. – Race downstairs to find this:

Yes?

Yes?

and a pile of crap on her bed.

11:47 p.m. – In the midst of our shock, Snowy takes advantage and literally makes a mad dash through the living room and up the stairs (girl’s got some speed). She makes a leaping jump onto our bed before we’ve even made it halfway up the stairs.

11:48 – Marty cleans up, I yell at Snowy, give up and crawl into bed next to her.

In case you missed it in my breakdown of events, Snowy escaped out of a locked cage. I asked Marty this morning if he was positive he locked the crate door and he was pretty sure he did. We’re going to give it one more try tonight. If Little Miss Escape Artist gets out again, I’ve truly lost all hope for a crap-free and pee-free home.

I’d Finally Had Enough (Dog Cleaning 101)

Our apartment just isn’t that big, but as anyone who owns a dog will know, a dog has a way of inching its way into every space, corner and crevice in a home – I find hair in my food, drool marks on the couch, blades of grass on the carpet brought in from Lucy’s paws, etc., etc.

The grass is easily taken care of – it’s called a vacuum. There’s really not much I can do about the hair; despite my hate for this phrase, “it is what it is.” I vacuum pretty frequently, dust the hard surfaces and use this fabulous tool on the carpet:

I guess Lucy doesn't want me to clean?

I guess Lucy doesn’t want me to clean?

This was one of those total impulse buys turned turns out to be one of the best purchases I’ve made! It’s essentially a scraper for the carpet and despite using this at least once a week on the carpets in our living areas, I scrape up at least another small dog’s worth of hair every single time. Kind of fascinating in a weird way.

The drool, however? Major thorn in my side. I never wanted Lucy to be a couch dog but she is and there’s no going back now. Unfortunately, she drools in her sleep and chews her toys on the couch so it is now a cess pool of (crusty) drool. Basically, it’s just plain nasty. I couldn’t stand to sit on it, let alone let visitors sit on it. And we can’t put a blanket down because a certain 18-month old bulldog likes to eat blankets.

This weekend I’d finally had enough. I was sick of sitting on a couch encrusted in drool so I did what everyone does when they have a problem; I Googled the shit out of it.

Our couch is a microfiber couch:

An "after" shot after the second cleaning of the weekend.

An “after” shot following the second cleaning of the weekend.

And Google said rubbing alcohol would solve all my problems. According to what I read, all I had to do was spritz the couch with rubbing alcohol and use a neutral-covered sponge to rub all the nastiness out of it.

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So, Lucy was designated to the floor while I cleaned the couch…twice.

Sad Lucy

Sad Lucy

Verdict? I think it’s helping. It’s not perfect but that’s also part of the beauty of microfiber; it’s similar to suede in its feel and texture so it’s not supposed to look perfectly even-colored. The water/drool stains seem to be just about gone so if nothing else, I feel as if I can now actually sit on my own couch without contracting a disease (I’m joking…sort of).

In more interesting news, my parents came out to visit this weekend and Lucy was semi-normal (for her) around my dad. She adores my mom and seems to be more receptive to my dad in her own territory. Baby steps, baby steps.

My parents’ visit was much needed (for me) as it will be the last time I see them for entirely too long. It’s pretty obvious I am very close with my family; I’ve had a lot of things on my mind for the past year-plus and seeing them always puts me in a better frame of mind. It’s too bad that with my job I can’t see them more frequently.

I think Lucy misses them, too.

"Why did they have to leave?"

“Why did they have to leave?”