Sad News

I got the sad news that my first foster, Nellie (fka Cindy) passed away this week. She was just over 11 ½ years old and spent four-plus wonderful years with her forever family.

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Nellie’s forever home.

My sadness is most definitely for her family – not for myself – and so this will be brief. She was theirs. I am sad because a truly wonderful dog is gone, one who defied all odds. Nellie survived the puppy mill, heartworm, Lyme and various other medical concerns. And she survived me (and Marty) as first-time foster parents. As I’ve written before, we really had no clue what we were getting into but I regret zero seconds of her seven months with us. Not a single second.

It is because I had such a wonderful experience being Nellie’s foster mom that I continue to foster. Seven fosters have followed since her adoption and all because of her. For that and many other reasons, she’ll always hold a very special place in my heart. Nellie has indirectly saved the lives of seven other dogs and for that I’m forever grateful.

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Pre-potty rolling session

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Squishy.

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Smiles

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She LOVED pillows.

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That face.

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More pillows.

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After heartworm treatment.

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Sweet Cindy waiting at the vet.

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Crazy Dog Lady

The first step in getting help for a problem is admitting you have a problem. I don’t want help for my problem but I fully admit I am a crazy dog lady. I am utterly obsessed with Lucy, all bulldogs (including those I’ve never met) and my foster dogs.

But here’s some more reality – I am single, do not have kids and I consider dogs a passion of mine. If that makes me a loser, so be it. But I foster and actively assist with various volunteer efforts for SNORT and there are worse things I can choose to devote my free time. It makes me happy and I have the (limited) resources and time to devote to that hobby.

But even I have reached a whole new level of crazy. This evening, Lucy (and I) had professional photos taken.

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Anxiously waiting to start!

A photographer named April Zielger took the photos. I’ve followed her on Facebook for years; I’m not even sure why I started following her, but she does absolutely wonderful work and she’s very experienced in pet photos. Plus, she has a slight affinity for bulldogs. When the thought first crossed my mind that this might be something I’d want to do, I really didn’t consider anyone else.

How did the session go? Great! I absolutely cannot wait to see the pictures. And it’s now indisputable – Lucy just doesn’t like me all that much. Any time April tried to get a picture of Lucy and me, Lucy wanted nothing to do with me. Walked away time after time after time. It is quite clear I love her far more than she loves me.

Anyway, despite now cementing myself as crazy, I had a few valid reasons (at least they were valid in my own head) to do this. First, I adore this dog. Obviously. Right now, she’s pretty much the most significant thing in my life (besides my job – no job means no Lucy). I consider her part of my family; my lifestyle is based around her and I’m more than okay with that.

Second, I am really interested in photography. I have a DSLR camera of my own, like to shoot photos whenever I travel and LOVE looking at professional photographers’ work. So, I was highly interested in having a few really good photographs of Lucy. I appreciate good work and to me it’s worth the investment. These will last forever.

And speaking of forever, Lucy won’t be here forever. Not to be morbid, but a lot of bulldogs don’t reach double digits. Many do, but many don’t. She’s already 5 ½. Statistically speaking, that puts her on the back nine (golf metaphor for you). She’s active, healthy and happy – she’s not going anywhere soon; at least, I hope not. But I don’t see anything wrong with having some really good photos to remember her by and cherish forever.

And lastly, the least important reason: I don’t have many pictures of myself and Lucy and almost none I’d consider good. I am the least photogenic person ever. It’s a fact. I’m not a hideous creature but you wouldn’t know that if you saw pictures of me. It’s bad. So, if April got even 1-2 pictures with Lucy and me in which I look something like a normal human being, it’s worth it.

Plus, you know what feels good? Really not caring what other people think. I’m sure the general consensus is that I’m nuts. For someone who’s normally pretty stingy (that would be me), this is probably seen as a waste, not to mention flat out weird. But I don’t care. and that’s absolutely freeing.

Poor Kramer

Yesterday marked six weeks to the day since I brought Kramer home and he/we celebrated his six weeks by getting him neutered and scheduling a dental.

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“Neutering means what?!”

The dental ended up being the more complicated of the two procedures. When the vet did an oral exam, he saw a lot of plaque and a few already missing teeth but thought that overall the plaque was the biggest issue. Not quite. Ends up Kramer had severe gum disease that wasn’t visible during an oral exam. While Kramer was under anesthesia and they began examining his mouth, the vet was able to stick his instrument almost a centimeter deep in some areas of Kramer’s gums – that’s not good.

Kramer came home with five teeth left. Not five teeth extracted. Five teeth left. According to the vet, teeth were falling out left and right with very little prodding; as the vet tried to clean one tooth, the other next to it would fall out. While one tooth looked ok, the x-rays revealed zero roots holding the tooth in.

My poor little buddy. He wasn’t woken up from anesthesia until 4:30 and I couldn’t pick him up until 7 p.m. He was still so incredibly out of it, as is expected. But because he’s always such an energetic, happy guy, it was such a stark difference from the doggie I dropped off. When Lady lost 14 teeth, she was groggy but Lady slept 90% of the day to begin with – it wasn’t such a drastic difference. Kramer was just not himself at all. He gave me the most half-hearted tail wag I’ve ever seen him give and just stared off into space.

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He was so groggy he thought Lucy was a chair.

He was the saddest little sight. He was falling asleep sitting up – he refused to lay down but couldn’t stay sitting up. His mouth incisions were still bleeding quite a bit and he just sat there, swaying, with his little tongue permanently sticking out of his mouth.

He wasn’t much more alert this morning – he still had little interest in food which made it hard to get his meds in him. I was able to get some of his meds into him with some peanut butter and by the time I came home at lunch to check on the doggies, he was dramatically better. His tail was wagging at full speed and he stood right up in his crate to greet me.

Getting the meds in him is still an issue; he must HATE the taste of one of them because he refuses it in all forms – mixed in food, mixed in peanut butter, mixed in whipped cream. And then he ate a few gulps of his canned food and promptly puked it up – all over my sandals.

I finally got some canned food to stay down and he ate 75% of his pain meds with peanut butter after much prompting and forcing of peanut butter in his mouth.

He is so much better tonight, puking aside. He’s energetic and starting to bark at mystery noises outside again. My poor guy – he’s going to feel so much better now, though, with all those painful teeth gone.

Be sure to check SNORT’s available page – he should be listed soon!

Settling In

After this past weekend, I feel like I can take a deep breath and really settle into a routine with Kramer. A week or so after bringing Kramer home, I dog-sat Spike, a 70-pound English bulldog. At only one year old, Spike had a LOT of energy and a very small space in which to expend that energy. I only had Spike for roughly 48 hours and then five days later, Spike came back…for an entire week.

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I’m not going to lie, it was a stressful week. Three dogs, with Kramer still learning the ropes of being a true pet, in a small space was pure chaos. The best way to describe Spike is like Tigger (from Winnie the Pooh) on steroids. He’s got a phenomenal and hilarious personality but it’s not a personality meant for small spaces with small(er) dogs. If he wanted to walk in the evenings, his energy was tolerable. If he didn’t want to walk (and there was no making a 70-pound dog walk against his will), watch out. Anything in the apartment was fair game – burrowing in the couch. Playing fetch. Eating my coasters. Body-slamming Kramer. Humping me. Chewing his Nylabone.

Fortunately for him, he’s adorable which made up for a lot of the chaos.

But back to our routine. Kramer is really starting to get the hang of being a pet. He has never had a true accident inside – every time he’s peed indoors it’s been marking, not because he had to pee. He’s never gone #2 inside, which I consider a true miracle. He has quickly caught on to the post-pee/poop treat routine. After coming inside, I find him waiting (not-so) patiently in the kitchen by the fridge where I keep their treats.

Kramer is still blanket obsessed and it’s the cutest thing ever. He must have a blankie with him at all times. Starting last week, I allowed him up on the couch to see what he’d do. As long as he has his blankie with him, he’s content to lounge around gnawing on it while Lucy sleeps (as usual) and I read (as usual).

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He is very much a pug; he barks (a lot) and follows me everywhere but that’s all typical stuff I expect from a pug. He sleeps just fine in the crate at night and I’m assuming he does the same while I’m at work during the day. He just chewed on one of Lucy’s many beloved Nylabones yesterday and while I thought Lucy’s head was going to explode – she doesn’t share well – it was another sign that Kramer is quickly learning to enjoy the good life.

I finally scheduled Kramer’s neuter and dental surgeries for Sept. 11. I’m super anxious for both – he has an enlarged prostate which is contributing to the marking and constant peeing outside but that’s reversible with the neutering (another reason to spay and neuter your pets!!). His breath also reeks so the dental will be much-needed.

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After two surgeries, there isn’t anything we need to address before he gets listed for adoption. As long as the surgeries go well, he should be able to hit the available page pretty quickly after the procedures. Which is sad. Obviously, it’s much easier on me with just Lucy to look after, but so far, the two fosters I’ve had on my own (Lady and Kramer) have been phenomenal. They’ve been two of the simpler fosters I’ve ever had and have been great additions, even if temporary.

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Kramer’s First Vet Visit

This evening Kramer had what was almost definitely his first-ever vet visit. All in all, a successful visit.

The quick rundown: he is heartworm and Lyme negative. At a healthy weight (maybe even slightly underweight). His heart sounds good. He has an enlarged prostate (which will be alleviated when he’s neutered) and bad teeth (which we’ll take care of with a dental while he’s under for the neuter). His eyes are good. His ears are dirty but nothing alarming.

And this picture accurately sums up our visit:

IMG_2057He really wasn’t as bad as this picture makes it look. He was just wriggly, squirmy and energetic for the entire visit. It often took three of us to hold him in place for basic stuff, like hearing his heart. He was having none of it – he wasn’t angry, per say, he was just confused and wiggly! He’s wiggly at home, too – sometimes it takes me a good 30 seconds to clip his leash on because he squirms so much!

We’re waiting on fecal test results and an estimate for his neuter/dental. If the estimate is too high we may have to find another vet but big picture, he’s pretty darn healthy all things considered.

Oh, and I’ve been a tad busy since Saturday afternoon. I agreed to watch Spike, former SNORT foster and now Marty’s dog. I’ve been dying to meet the guy and he was as adorable as I expected, but three dogs (one of which is close to 70 pounds and still all puppy) in 680 square feet was a bit of an exhausting challenge! Spike left this afternoon and everyone – Lucy, Kramer, me – will be recovering for a few days!

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24 Hours with Kramer

We’re just over 24 hours into bringing Kramer home. It’s been a hell of a 24 hours – not in a bad way but man, I like to cram a lot into a little amount of time.

I got back to Lancaster at 2:15 on Monday afternoon. At 2:30 I was right back on the road to pick up Kramer. At 3:00 Kramer was promptly dumped into my tub as it was discovered he has fleas. A lot of them. For five straight minutes, nothing but dirt, blood and fleas washed off of him. There was so much blood which shocked me when I first saw it pouring off. No blood was visible until I started bathing him. Those fleas were literally causing him to bleed and for God knows how long.

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Based on the amount of blood and dirt coming off him, he’s never been bathed in his life. But he was such a trooper. Trust me, it’s not my first choice to take a dog straight to the tub before his feet even touch the floor of his new home. But it had to be done. And while he wouldn’t stand on all fours in the tub, he was good as long as his front paws were propped up on the edge of the tub so he could touch me. In fact, once the bath started, I think he absolutely loved the warm water and massage. He was so itchy and it had to feel like heaven.

After drying him off, I plopped him in the crate and literally ran to my car to get emergency flea supplies. Thanks to the support of the SNORT group, I learned of a product called capstar (it’s a pill) that kills fleas on dogs within 30 minutes. And boy did that stuff work as promised. Within 30 minutes 100s more (dead) fleas were literally falling off him. By the time we went to bed, his itching was already dramatically decreased. No new fleas whatsoever. Magic product, I tell you. And once the fleas started falling off, I brushed him for a while. His eyes literally closed in ecstasy.

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I know, ridiculously cute.

As with all puppy mill dogs, I had no idea what to expect before seeing him for the first time. He was surrendered by an Amish puppy mill breeder who said Kramer was “no longer doing his job.” I’ll just leave it there. Enough said.

No photos were taken of him and no information was given. And that’s what I got upon pickup – nothing. No paperwork. No vaccination history. NO NAME. That’s right, eight years and he never had a name. My favorite show is Seinfeld so Kramer was an obvious choice. Plus, he really does act like Kramer – he makes his presence known in the goofiest and noisiest of ways. For instance, he must mark a spot three times. No more, no less.

As you can see in the photos, though, he’s a super handsome dog. Dark fawn color and now that he’s been bathed, he has the softest, fluffiest fur. He is a pug through and through. Must have a human in his sight at all times. Spastic and snorty but so sweet.

Fortunately, Kramer seems to be crate trained – despite spending 95% of his time thus far in the crate, he’s had zero accidents. He has done his business outside, as well. The only incidents we’ve had indoors have been two marking incidents. He’s clearly marking, not peeing to empty his bladder. While the end result is the essentially same, his intent is different; I’m choosing to see it as a positive that he knows to take care of his business outside and I’ll deal with the marking as we go. Hopefully the longer he’s here the less he feels the need to mark – plus getting neutered will help. I’m also trying out the belly band today to see if he tolerates it.

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One week from today he has a vet visit. If this guy’s ever been to the vet I’d be shocked; plus, there’s zero record of any visit that may have happened. I’m really hoping he doesn’t have heartworm or Lyme. I’m expecting he will have something we need to address – it certainly appears he’s spent his entire life outside with zero care.

And Lucy? She’s less than thrilled. Poor girl had a busy and tiring weekend to begin with then I literally rushed in the door with Kramer. I’m thankful that so far Kramer hasn’t been overly interested and most definitely has yet to show signs of aggression. Again, they’ve been separated 95% of the time so far and she won’t even walk by his crate she’s so scared (for zero reason. He has done nothing to her and he’s inside a locked crate). Clearly part of it is her just being her neurotic self. But I do feel badly; I always do. I don’t think she ever loves when I have a foster around. But fostering is important to me and I always make sure she gets just as much attention as she always does, if not a bit more.

I really did decide to tackle a lot this past weekend – a long weekend in NJ, a late-night concert (Fleetwood Mac which was worth 10 times over but also saw me get back to my parents’ at 2 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning) and then picking up Kramer 10 minutes after getting back to Lancaster before proceeding to de-flea him and go grocery shopping for the week. And then back into the work week routine at 4:30 this morning.

Fortunately, I have no more travel plans for a while – hence why I chose this time to get a new foster. We should be able to settle into a good routine and get Kramer healthy and on his way to finding a forever home!

 

Meet Kramer

Forgive me – it has been a whirlwind of a long weekend so this will be brief; more to follow in the coming days!

I spent a long weekend in NJ with my parents so that my mom and I could attend the Fleetwood Mac concert at CitiField. Hands down one of the best experiences of my life. Simply a phenomenal performance. My second time seeing them and this was even better than the first time.

I left NJ this morning (running on six hours of sleep which is just not enough for me!) to pick up my latest foster, Kramer.
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He is an Amish puppy mill surrender. He came with no records, no name, nothing. So I got to name him (Seinfeld is my absolute favorite shows so Kramer it was).

I will have a lot more in the coming days about this guy. The short story? He is a pug through and through. Snorty, affectionate, energetic and ridiculously sweet.

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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.

Adventures with Lucy

Now that the weather is warmer, I’m trying to get out more to explore my “new” city. I moved here in the middle of November and so until now, the weather hasn’t really been conducive to outdoor activities. But, last weekend was absolutely perfect so Lucy and I explored a new dog park.

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The pitfall of having no snout? Inability to pick up a frisbee.

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I know, she’s beautiful.

The dog park is ridiculously nice. It is turf (a bonus after all the rain we’ve had) and has a big dog section and a small dog section. There are beautiful Adirondack chairs for the humans and a water feature that turns on in warmer weather – can’t wait to bring Lucy back in the summer to see her reaction to that!

As usual, she wasn’t so into playing with other dogs but made several trips up and down the park, basking in the human attention and pets. She was super content to roam and watch the other dogs.

On Wednesday, we had a post-op follow-up scheduled at the vet. Everything has healed great – now the question is what to do about her tooth around which the tumor grew? The tumor she had removed will almost certainly come back because it grew around that tooth and its ligaments ( didn’t know teeth had ligaments?); as long as that tooth and its ligaments are still there, the tumor will almost certainly re-grow.

Our vet sent her biopsy and x-rays to a specialist to determine if we remove the tooth and its ligaments now or wait for the tumor to re-grow. Either way it looks like we’re facing surgery relatively soon or down the road.

Fortunately, she adores the vet and while I absolutely do not want to put her under for surgery again, she handles surgery, anesthesia and recovery really well and is super happy to be at the vet.

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Ridiculously happy to be at the vet.

Because our appointment was late in the evening, I took her to work with me this afternoon so we could go right to the vet after work. She had a blast.

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Taking it all in at work.

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Pretty nice setup under my desk. 

Next weekend we go to New Jersey for a brief weekend visit with my parents so the adventures continue!