Lady’s New Home

Foster number seven is in the books.

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Lady with her new mom and foster brother, Arnie

This morning I drove Lady to her forever home; she has two wonderful parents and a Boston Terrier brother, Arnie, who was already madly in love with Lady before I left. Both parents are older and retired; they’re home almost all the time and when they’re not, Lady will have Arnie for company. I think Arnie is ecstatic with that arrangement.

This one was hard for a lot of reasons. Lady was the first foster I handled by myself. While fostering has always been “my” thing, before I moved out here I had someone else living with me to help. Now I’m out here alone. I got really lucky with Lady, though, because she was the easiest foster I’ve ever had. Not the best because I can’t pick a favorite, but the easiest. Her health issues were minimal, she got along well with Lucy and her energy level was perfect for my small apartment. Her housetraining was the biggest struggle but compared to having two dogs who don’t get along (ahem, Isaac and Lucy) or a dog who had serious health issues (Cindy aka Nellie) or dogs who barked a lot (ahem, Buddy and Blossom), she was a breeze.

It’s also hard because it’s been a rough few months. I crammed a lot into just over four months – ending a job I’d held for six-plus years, accepting a new job in a totally new career field, a move, new city, a new foster and the end of a long-term relationship. So “losing” Lady is another big event in a short period of time.

But I am ridiculously happy I fostered her. She kept me occupied and busy and I think Lucy liked having the company. Selfishly, it was also really nice to have a dog that was utterly in love with me, not just me with her. Every time we took a car ride, she sat in the passenger seat and just stared at me. When I relaxed on the couch, if she wasn’t asleep she was keeping an eye on me to make sure she didn’t lose sight of me. It was so gratifying to see love in a dog’s eyes.

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Always watching me.

On the one overnight trip I took with her (to my parents’ house), she didn’t handle the separation well when I went out for a few hours. She didn’t freak out, but she apparently sat on top of the couch and stared out the window waiting for me to come back. It makes me worry about her first few days in her new home but I hope she settles in quickly.

As with every foster, there are very specific things I want to remember about her that made her unique:

Her love of anything soft. A pillow, a bookbag (which I would argue isn’t all that soft), a blanket – if it was soft and on the floor for even a minute, it became a bed for her.

Her three bottom front teeth. They were the cutest chicklets ever and I was so happy they didn’t have to come out during her dental surgery.

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That she was mostly deaf. I loved being able to catch her sleeping before she noticed me. And being deaf didn’t hinder her in the least.

Her wardrobe. She was the second dog I’ve ever had who genuinely needed to wear sweaters because she got so cold so easily. All the generous donations we received helped keep her warm (and cute) in the cold.

How after the first week her personality came out and she started doing her happy dance for treats and food. She gets so excited for food and runs around in circles while waiting for her treats.

Watching her speedy little legs come running after me whenever she lost sight of me. Her eyesight was perfect, that’s for sure.

Her snoring. For a pug-mix, she sure snored a lot and loudly! I’m going to miss knowing she was on the floor right next to my bed every night. It was so comforting – for both of us, I’m sure.

How she frequently slept with her head in the air, as if she didn’t want to actually fall asleep for fear she’d miss something but just couldn’t manage to stay awake.

And there are certain pictures that capture her best:

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So regal

So this was a tough one. She’s been bounced around a lot but she now has a forever home that is so excited to have her and I’m sure she’ll fall in love with them.

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!

A (Deservedly) Spoiled Dog

Friday night, I had five packages waiting for me; four were for Lady. She now has a wardrobe that spans a matching harness and leash to (sparkly) sweaters to an outdoor coat.

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Thanks to wonderful SNORT supporters and family and friends, Lady is not only warm, but she has an entire wardrobe!

We went to the vet Thursday night and so far so good. She’s still on meds for kennel cough and Lyme and we started an anti-yeast medication to get her itchies under control. Right now that remains the most obvious issue – she is still very, very itchy, so we’re working on that.

She’s also put on two-plus pounds! That’s my girl! She adores treats, peanut butter and mealtime so it is zero surprise she’s putting on weight. She’s now started whining when I’m not fast enough with the treats – just like a normal dog!

I can also see why she’s inclined to be skinny – like every pug I’ve ever met, she follows me everywhere. If she can hear me, that is. I’ve quickly figured out she is partially hard of hearing. Whenever I come home, she usually stays fast asleep because she hasn’t heard me open the door. I kind of love it, though; I get to see her all curled up and peaceful before she wakes up.

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Lady is also getting to be so excited when she finally realizes I’m home. She runs right over and waits for me to kneel down and pet her. She puts her wee little paws on my lap for closer snuggles. I love it.

And we’re now t-minus four days until I pick up Lucy; I’m more than anxious to see how that goes. Because of her kennel cough, I haven’t let Lady near dogs in the apartment complex but at this point she isn’t contagious anymore so I’m hoping to let her meet a dog or two before introducing her to Lucy so I can see how she is around dogs. Today she spotted a dog across the street and was super interested – in a good way. So I’m optimistic (for once).

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I just adore this dog. She was sweet from the start but now she’s starting to become a bit more outwardly happy and it melts my heart.

The Last 24 Hours

It’s been almost exactly 24 hours since bringing Lady home and it’s been both eventful and wonderfully normal.

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Night one

SNORT arranged for me to meet the volunteer who got Lady out of shelter around 6 p.m. last night in Aberdeen, Md. Lady and I were on the road home around 6:15. Lady did not make a single peep when I loaded her into the car, buckled her seatbelt harness and began the 75-minute drive home. In fact, she immediately curled up in a ball on the seat and did not move for the entire drive. Seriously. At least four times during the drive home I turned my overhead lights on to make sure she was alive. She was that quiet and that still.

She wasted no time in pottying inside (#1 and #2, although I caught her mid-#2 and carried her to the door with poop nuggets leaving a trail behind us) but ate well for the most part which was a relief because she needed her meds. She was super itchy, though, so I chopped up 1/3 of a Zyrtec and put it on a spoon with peanut butter. She looked at me like I had two heads. Finally, I just placed the spoon on the ground to see what she’d do. She slowly walked over, took one lick then realized that shit was good and went back for more, finishing the PB and the Zyrtec!

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As we approached bedtime, I wanted to take her out but she wouldn’t actually go outside, so I broke out the bag of treats. I held a treat out for her but yet again, she looked at me like I was crazy. So, I put the treat on the floor and she slowly walked over, tasted it and then GOBBLED IT UP. Holy moly, I swear her eyes lit up. It was like she’d tasted doggy crack. Seriously. I reached out to clip on her leash and she searched my hands for more treats.

Fortunately, she largely slept through the night. She had several coughing fits but I checked on her midway through the night and she was fine. Not anxious, panting or circling – just curled up in a ball in her crate.

Day One

I woke up to a clean cage, she pottied (outside!) and got more magic treats. The rest of the morning was routine. I went to CrossFit, came back, fed her and took her out before work. She still takes some prompting to go outside but once I wave the Magic Treat Bag, she’s ready to go out. In fact, she did her first Happy Pug Dance when I broke out the treat bag! Melted my heart.

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She uses the food mat as a bed 😦

The big downer from today? I think Lady whined the entire time I was gone. Which was most of the day, minus when I went home for lunch. At lunchtime when I opened the outside door to my apartment building hallway, I thought I heard some noises but my neighbors have two very yappy dogs, so I thought it was them. But as I got closer to my apartment, the noises sounded different than the yappy dogs so I put my ear to my door – and I was 99% sure I heard Lady with the most gut-wrenching whining. At first I thought she might be hurt so I quickly opened the door but she wasn’t hurt – just scared, lonely or pissed. Or all three.

To be sure it was Lady I heard, when I left after lunch I stood outside my apartment door to listen. Thirty seconds later and the sad whining began. No doubt it’s her. I went back inside and put the radio on for her. It wasn’t stopping her whining when I left again for good, but I’m hopeful.

This whole thing just about killed me. She wasn’t super loud and it’s not that I’m worried about my neighbors so much (like I said, their dogs do nothing but yap all damn day). I just felt badly for her! She was fine in her crate last night by herself so either she was too tired to care last night or doesn’t like being alone. Once I’m sure she’s housetrained, I’ll try leaving her out of the crate for short periods and see if that helps. And if Lucy isn’t an ass, she may be the best solution we have – a constant companion for Lady during the day.

Lady has a vet appointment Friday evening. She came with meds for kennel cough and Lyme disease but definitely needs a good check-up. She only has 3-4 more nights of meds and her cough is still pretty bad. Her skin is also in rough shape; it’s not mange, but it’s more than just a case of the itchies as she has several patches of missing fur. I’m also curious to see how much weight the vet thinks she should gain; I’m guessing at least five pounds. She isn’t spayed and I know she’ll need to put on some serious weight before she can undergo surgery if that’s the route we ultimately take.

I can tell she’s getting a bit more comfortable but for the most part she just sits on one of our two dog mats and shakes. Probably a combination of scared and cold (I’m telling you, she’s scary skinny!). I also think she might be part Chihuahua. She’s definitely mixed with something that has a smaller frame than a pug and I know Chihuahuas are known to shake/shiver. But it breaks my heart. She looks so tiny and scared. But if we already got one happy pug dance out of her in just 12 hours, I know there’s more to come!

Foster Adventure #7…

Get ready for a long one with very few pics…

Tonight I drove to Selinsgrove to drop Lucy off with Marty where she’ll spend the next two weeks. Why?

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(The above pic is from the shelter)

Normally Lucy wouldn’t be going anywhere with a new foster, let alone for two weeks, but a few hurdles with this foster made it necessary.

On Sunday,  Jan. 29, a request was put out from SNORT to foster a nine-year-old pug mix (that would be Lady) who was in a kill shelter in Maryland and had until Wednesday at 7 p.m. to find a foster home. You can put two and two together and figure out what would happen if a foster home wasn’t found by Wednesday.

I agreed to foster, thinking that it would be like every other foster – I’d bring her home, slowly introduce her to Lucy and then go from there.

Except on Monday morning, SNORT found out that Lady has kennel cough (and more – I’ll get to that in another post) and needed to be kept in a dog-free home for two weeks until the medication ended any threat of her infecting other dogs. Yikes. I am most definitely not dog-free but SNORT also had no dog-free homes available to foster.

Lady started antibiotics on Saturday and apparently within two days was a totally different dog. She went from despondent, detached and nonreactive to playful and friendly. How in the hell could I let a happy, unsuspecting dog be euthanized?

I couldn’t, so with Marty’s support and (immense) help, I am able to foster Lady. Lucy will spend the next two weeks with Marty while Lady finishes up her medication for the kennel cough. After the two weeks are up, I will bring Lucy back home and we’ll begin our “normal” fostering journey.

While every foster is drastically different, bringing home a new foster without Lucy there (for two weeks, no less) is just plain strange. While I know Lucy is in phenomenal hands with Marty, I’ll miss her. She’s been my buddy for the two-plus months I’ve been out here on my own.

Plus, I worry about Lady getting comfortable being the only dog for two weeks when all of a sudden I add Lucy into the mix. And I worry about Lucy walking into my apartment only to discover a new dog who’s gotten plenty comfortable in Lucy’s absence (don’t worry, I’ve already thought of a solution for that one!).

One thing at a time, though. For a change, I can devote all my attention to my foster for the first few weeks (which are undoubtedly the most stressful and chaotic) rather than having to divide my time and attention between two dogs.

I can also get a sense of Lady’s temperament and try to figure out how to best manage the two dogs once Lucy’s home. My apartment is not that big but I picked up a new crate and have a baby gate so we’ll make it work if the dogs wind up having to be separated when alone (or together…).

So to address my aforementioned solution for integrating the two dogs, my plan is to pick Lucy up from Marty’s with Lady in tow. That way they can meet in semi-neutral territory and then walk into their apartment here in Lancaster together. I don’t know what the hell Lucy would do if I walked her into the apartment after two weeks away and she saw Lady curled up on the couch in Lucy’s spot. Nothing good, I’m sure.

And hey, maybe Lady won’t be a typical Velcro pug (hahaha!) and won’t want to be on the couch with us. Or insist on following me everywhere – although even if she does, my apartment is 680 square feet. She’ll quickly find out there’s nowhere far I can go. Maybe Lucy will be her favorite companion, not me.

That’s the nerve-wracking and exciting part about fostering. You almost always have no idea what to expect.

Also, the big variable with this foster? Minus these first two weeks, I’m doing this all on my own. Two dogs. One very tiny apartment. Vet visits, potty breaks (and cleaning up those potty breaks if Lady chooses to take them inside…), mealtimes – all on me.

I guess this is kind of my test as to whether I can foster on my own although it admittedly varies widely based on the specific foster dog. Isaac would have been fine to handle on my own. No health issues, no housetraining issues, etc. Cindy (now Violet) would have been much harder with all her vet visits, housetraining issues, etc. But if I can manage Lady who, from what I can tell, is in need of some serious TLC and attention, I have confidence that while fostering may be a bit less frequent than in the past, it’s still possible.

Wish me luck!

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.

That Was Rough

On Sunday, Blossom was adopted. Cue the waterworks.

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She was adopted by a guy who is somewhere in my age range. He lives in a New York suburb outside of the city and is newly single. He lives in a single story home and does a lot of work from home. I told myself  the only scenario that would be better than our home was an owner who was home more than we are – and we found that. After less than a week on the available page, I was already in touch with Blossom’s new dad and everything was official yesterday.

Blossom is our sixth (!) foster and I don’t have favorites. Seriously. But she was the one I was closest to keeping for a variety of reasons. She is old, she had a horrible life and was bounced around a LOT the last year and yet had made tremendous strides to overcome her past in the two months we had her. And I loved her. I loved everything about her (ok, except her barking!). She and Lucy got along well and Blossom was happy with us. But an even more perfect home came around and I had to let her go.

It’s quiet and lonely at home now. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Lucy and she is more than enough for us – we don’t NEED two dogs around – but it’s funny how quickly you get adjusted to a new normal. Our normal with Blossom was a lot louder but a lot more fun, too.

I already got an update after Blossom got home Sunday afternoon and things are going well. She met some extended family – of both the human and dog varieties! – and the meet and greets went spectacularly well .

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Thanks to Marty for allowing me to bring her home. Thanks, Marty, for leaving it up to me whether we adopted her. Thanks to SNORT for allowing me to foster her and for working in finding Blossom the best home. Thanks to my parents for letting me use their house as the exchange site! As always, this was a team effort!

A Bit About Blossom

We’ve had Blossom for two months today and in some regards a lot has changed and in other regards not much has changed.

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She’s beautiful.

First, she still gets along wonderfully with Lucy. Blossom does not like or have interest in toys so that means she’s got at least one thing going for her, at least in Lucy’s eyes. No interest in toys means no fighting over toys.

While Blossom can be on the….annoying side (more on that later), I think for the most part Lucy likes having a companion. Every single day I come home for lunch, the dogs are curled up together on the couch. They are literally touching every single day. It’s so sweet. So I think the company is good for both of them.

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Blossom is still about as healthy as can be for an old girl. She recovered wonderfully from her spay and dental and besides some achy and stiff back legs, she’s one active little dog. Blossom MUST follow one or both of us if we even so much as get off the couch so obviously her mobility is not limited in the least.

So what’s changed? She has blossomed (pun intended) in the two months we’ve had her. We went from not being able to pick her up, touch her face, touch her paws to being able to (almost always) pick her up, kiss her face, rub her belly. It’s been remarkable, really. It’s the sweetest thing – each morning I go back upstairs after letting Lucy out to bring Blossom downstairs. Lately every morning she opens one eye, looks at me, then rolls onto her back for belly rubs. Then she waits like the spoiled dog she is for me to pick up and literally place her on the floor so she can go downstairs.

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Blossom most definitely knows the word “treat” and “runs” back inside after doing her business to get her treat. That girl moves when food is involved.

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“Running”

Her one major flaw? Her barking. It’s pretty constant and it’s slowly driving Marty mad. It doesn’t bother me nearly as much unless I’m trying to sleep. If she were our dog I might try to do some behavior training but with her abusive background I really didn’t even know how to start…so I didn’t. But if that’s her biggest flaw, I’ll take it. And her cute face MORE than makes up for it.

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YOU try to get mad at that face.

In short, I love her. I love her big eyes, I love how much she’s improved since she’s gotten here, I love her demanding little personality. I love having a shadow follow my every movement. I cannot wait to see how much more she grows.