One Year

An entire year has passed since I uprooted the life I’d been living for more than six years and moved 80 minutes away to start a new job in a new career field in a new city. As usual, in some ways it’s seemed like a long year and in other ways it seems like it was just yesterday I was moving into my new apartment. A year of “firsts” of is over; that may have been the most exciting part of this past year – experiencing all the “firsts” in my new apartment in my new city. First Thanksgiving, first holiday season, first birthday (although I actually spent that in paradise…), first run, first foster, etc.

It has not been an easy year (actually, it’s been one of the hardest), but I don’t have any regrets. So much than my job and home city have changed; as cliché as it is, events – work and personal – over the past year caused me to change but that’s not a bad thing. I am infinitely happier in my new career than I ever was in my previous one. Personally? I’m working on it every day. There will be downs – there have already been downs – but I had to move on in a new career field and allow any other changes to happen as they may.

Here are some highlights from the past year:

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Festivus

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I think I count four chins in this photo.

Dad’s Retirement Party

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Amanda’s Wedding

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St. Croix/Birthday

Battle Royale

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Fleetwood Mac Concert

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Pet Photo Session

Hershey Half-Marathon

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I hope the next year has just as many highlights and a few less low-lights.

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A Day of Hope

Today SNORT participated at A Day of Hope, a charity event designed to raise awareness about puppy mills and the fight against them. It was literally 2-3 miles down the street from me so after we set up, I went back home to grab Kramer. After all, he is a puppy mill survivor and adoptable dog!

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It was such a wonderful event. So many rescues and booths, a blessing of the pets ceremony and a puppy mill survivor parade. It was a long day but Kramer was just awesome. I hesitated bringing him because he just had his surgeries but for all but the last hour the temps were tolerable and it was overcast so I decided  it was too good of an event for him to miss! He was a great ambassador of puppy mill survivors – he was cute, well-behaved and got plenty of love and attention.

Enjoy the picture overload!

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So glad he’s a survivor.

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Strutting his stuff in the puppy mill survivor parade.

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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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A Special Transport

It was quite the weekend. Yesterday (Saturday), I competed in my third CrossFit competition (second individual competition). I’m very self-aware that I’m mediocre at CrossFit but I really like pushing myself. I did about how I expected and while it was physically tough (which is the point!), it was fun to spend the morning sweating and competing.

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What wasn’t fun? The after effects on my hands and muscles. My hands look no better today and there isn’t a single part of my body I can move without pain. But it was worth it.

After the competition, my parents came out to visit for the afternoon/evening. We went wine tasting (the best way to recover, in my opinion) and had a great dinner. While I’ll see them again next weekend (my mom and I are going to a Fleetwood Mac concert!) it was nice to have them out here. I’ve been in the Lancaster area for nine months now and this was only the second time they’ve been out to visit so it was nice to show them around a bit.

This morning, after taking roughly 10 minutes to get out of bed (so painful), I got ready to spring a dog from the Lancaster SPCA. I’ve been volunteering with SNORT for almost four years now but I’ve only done maybe 2-3 transports and I’ve never actually physically removed a dog from a shelter so today was a first.

I was there to spring Lugnut, a 12-year-old male pug who was surrendered by his family. Yes, after they’d had him for 12 years.

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It was both heartwarming and depressing being inside the shelter. So many dogs. So many homes needed for them. So much barking. So much smell. But wonderful volunteers who are doing everything they can to care for the dogs. There were so many pitbulls; one had his/her ears cropped so ridiculously short and I know they are going to be hard to adopt out. A little wire-haired terrier named Annie. Of course I was beyond depressed for each and every one of them. It’s just not the life any dog should have to live.

But anyway, I sprung Lugnut from the shelter and we made our way to meet his foster family. He was shaking like a leaf – absolutely petrified. And I think he was largely deaf so it was hard to calm him down since he couldn’t hear my voice very well. But he had the perfect pug head tilt down pat. We made the relatively uneventful drive where he met his foster family and from what I’ve heard, he’s settling in and meeting the other pugs in his foster home. I’m so happy for that cutie – he deserves to live out his golden years by being loved and spoiled.

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.

Not Good

He’s back…

I got a call from Isaac’s new mom last Thursday night that he had growled at an elderly lady on one of their walks yesterday and it shook his mom up. I wasn’t there so I don’t know the details; Isaac never actually physically touched or harmed the woman and while it was made to seem unprovoked, most dogs don’t get that angry over nothing. What may have appeared unprovoked to a human may have been very provoked in the mind of a dog. Again, I have no real idea what happened so I’m not going to waste time creating scenarios in my head that either excuse or blame Isaac. I do know it was dark which could easily have been at least a partial explanation.

What is fact, though, is that Isaac will not be staying in what was supposed to be his forever home; he is going to be removed and put back in foster care.

The obvious assumption is that he’s coming back to live with us. And he is. But contrary to popular belief, that is not how I wanted this to play out.

At least one of us is happy.

At least one of us is happy.

Let me say this flat out – Lucy is my number one priority. Since Isaac has been gone, her personality has been night and day. I had forgotten how energetic, active and mobile she really is. With Isaac around, she was either stuck on the couch or fearful of spending too long on the floor for fear that the hump monster would attack. I’m fully aware it seems like a minor and lighthearted problem, but it’s absolutely not. My dad even said he didn’t think the humping could have possibly been that big of an issue until he saw Isaac in action and Lucy’s fear of Isaac. Isaac is persistent and not to be stopped, no matter the punishment (timeout, a water bottle spritzed in the face, a swat on the bum, etc.).

In short, this sucks. This really, really sucks. I’m not sure if I can adequately express how much stress this has caused me. I’m tired and irritable 24/7. It’s been really fun for Marty.

I know it is not Isaac’s fault that he needs to return to foster care but it also isn’t Lucy’s fault, either, and I don’t feel as if she should have to deal with Isaac again. But Isaac has to go somewhere; his owner wanted him out ASAP and there literally aren’t any other choices since no other dog-free foster homes are available or want to take Isaac. And of course I love Isaac; selfishly I want him back but it simply isn’t fair to Lucy.

"I most definitely was not consulted on this decision."

“I most definitely was not consulted on this decision.”

Hopefully we find him his real forever home soon.

Isaac Found His Forever Home

After nearly seven months of fostering, Isaac has found his perfect forever home. It happened very quickly; the adoption was approved late Friday night and by this afternoon he was in his forever home. I didn’t have a lot of time to mentally prepare, which is maybe a good thing, maybe not.

Oh, I love him.

Oh, I love him.

I found out Friday night the adoption was approved and then spent most of Saturday at work so the adoption didn’t really have time to sink in but no doubt about it now – he’s gone. I’m not doing well; I spent the majority of the car ride home fighting back tears (and losing).

If you have any dog for 6 1/2 months there is obviously an attachment that forms. But I fell in love with him. Head over heels in love. There were so many things I love(d) about him. His eyes. His nubbin and how it shook when he was happy. His energy. The way he’d rest his head on your lap so you would pay attention to him. The way he’d flip his bed upside down to lay in it. The way he’d “run it in” on the last stretch of our daily walks. The way he’d wiggle his butt and grab a toy the minute you walked in the door. The way he barreled down the stairs, almost head-first into the front door. The perfect brown spot right over his rump. His fascination obsession with cars. The way, for the last two weeks, he’s slept in our bed at night. And how he placed his butt directly on Marty’s pillow every night 🙂

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Probably my favorite memory from the past few months is from Christmas morning. We were at my parents’ house and I was the first one awake. So I got up, fed the dogs and took Isaac for his daily after-breakfast walk. It was still early and there wasn’t a soul outside but all the outdoor Christmas lights were on, Christmas trees were lit and you could tell which families had little kids because those were the only homes with lights on inside. It was so peaceful and quiet…just the most perfect morning.

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His new home is just so perfect, though. He is so, so loved already. And his adoption is going to be so good for everyone (except me!). His new mom could not be happier, Isaac could not be going to a better home and Lucy will finally get some peace! But oh man, I miss him. So very much.

Isaac and his new mommy.

Isaac and his new mommy.

And now some more of my favorite pics from the past six-plus months:

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Utter sweetness.

Utter sweetness.

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