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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 🙂


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.


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:







Utter sweetness.

Utter sweetness.


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.

My Plan Worked

This evening, Isaac had a quick vet appointment for follow-up bloodwork. Lest anyone forget, Isaac does not like other dogs. And what does a vet’s office have? That’s right, other dogs. Which means vet appointments are stressful, to put it mildly.

"They're not stressful for me! I love getting into it with other dogs!"

“They’re not stressful for me! I love getting into it with other dogs!”

So, I came up with the plan to take Isaac to the university track to try and tire him out. Normal walks don’t seem to drain his energy – at all – but I thought a car ride combined with new scenery and lots of people just might make him a wee bit tired so he wouldn’t act up at the vet.

Watching lacrosse practice.

Watching lacrosse practice.

Loving life.

Loving life.

After a lap around the track, we hopped back in the car to head to the vet…where Isaac didn’t start a fight with any of the three dogs in the waiting room. Miracles do happen.

And the miracles continued when I got to take a special trip to the back of the where they keep dogs recovering from surgery and there was a five-month-old English bulldog, Harley! She had to stay in her cage but you better believe I pet her through the grates. Unbelievably cute.

So, a far better evening than I had anticipated. Now we wait for Isaac’s test results to come back; hopefully they show his thyroid levels are in the normal range and we can move full steam ahead with finding him a forever home!

"Adopt me!"

“Adopt me!”

Do What Makes You Happy

I’ve slowly learned the value of doing what makes you happy. For years I thought I was doing what made me happy but recently I’ve come to realize that’s not the case. Some of the things that were making me happy are now making me unhappy but as simplistic as it sounds to just stop doing them, life obviously isn’t that simple.

So while I work to change those areas that are causing a lot of unhappiness in my life, I’ve started actively seeking out other things that do actually make my life more fulfilled. Fostering is one of those activities. I started volunteering with S.N.O.R.T. with zero intention to foster but once we started, I realized how fulfilled it made me. So, in the theme of doing what makes me happy, we continue to foster.

Another activity I’ve taken up is CrossFit. Trendy? Maybe. Expensive? Yes. Rewarding? You bet.

And I continue with small activities like Dog Days (to which we went back today!) to remind me that there are plenty of things in my life to look to for happiness.


She found the ice cubes.

She found the ice cubes.


She makes me so happy.

She makes me so happy.