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.

One-Year Adoptiversary

Guess what happened one year ago today? Snowy (now Violet) was adopted!
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I simply cannot believe it’s been one year! Some days it seems like just yesterday she and Lucy were snuggling on the couch and in other ways it’s sometimes hard to remember the specifics of day-to-day life with Snowy. I do know for sure that she was one of our most fun and sweet fosters and I miss her every single day.

I mean, come on, does it get any sweeter?

I mean, come on, does it get any sweeter?

Snowy/Violet and Cindy (now Nellie), our first foster, were both puppy mill dogs. Snowy was a few years younger than Cindy but still had had more than a handful of litters. Unlike Cindy, though, she was in much better physical shape. Her eyes were not good, her skin needed some TLC and she had entropian surgery several months after I got her, but for the most part everything was fixable (and thank goodness her cancer scare was just that – a scare!). Her joints were really good for a bulldog, she had no breathing issues and had (and still has, I’m sure) energy to spare, at least for a bulldog.

She loved being outside.

She loved being outside.

In contrast to Cindy:

Those joints and that back sway always looked so painful.

Those joints and that back sway always looked so painful.

Of all our fosters, Lucy was definitely closest to Snowy. Cindy tended to get a bit cantankerous with Lucy from time to time (don’t get me wrong, they snuggled and got along 99% of the time but Cindy had no issues letting Lucy know when she wanted to be left alone 🙂 ) and while Buddy and Lucy were great together, I think sometimes Buddy’s energy got to Lucy. Snowy, though? There were never two better buddies.

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They loved each other so much.

They loved each other so much.

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People always ask me how I can stand to give up my fosters. I’ve written about this on more than one occasion but there are several reasons, the first being money. SNORT features all short-nosed dogs (hence the name, Short-Nosed Only Rescue Team) and more often than not, short-nosed dogs have health concerns and/or are high-maintenance starting at a young age. In short (no pun intended), they are expensive dogs to own and neither Marty nor I are in lucrative careers.

The second reason is that I love fostering. If we owned a larger house and had more regular schedules (and a larger income), perhaps we could have more than two dogs at a time which would allow us to adopt another dog and still continue fostering. Unfortunately, our apartment is not big and two dogs are our limit; therefore, if we kept any of our fosters, we’d have no means to continue fostering and that is something I definitely want to continue doing.

That doesn’t mean that seeing a foster adopted isn’t hard; it is really hard. All of our fosters have been with us for a minimum of three months so we obviously get really attached. And for the most part Lucy gets attached, too, with the exception of Isaac (she is SO done with him!). Therefore, it’s very emotionally difficult and draining to see them go. But every single foster we’ve had has gone onto the most perfect of forever homes. Honestly, these dogs are far better off in the long run in their current forever homes and that’s the whole point of fostering.

Thus, it’s comforting on anniversaries like this to look back on our time with each foster while also being so thankful they moved onto perfect forever homes. We miss you, Violet!

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Happy Five Months?

Can you believe we’ve had Isaac for five months already??

One of the first photos I ever took of him. And still one of my favorites.

One of the first photos I ever took of him. And still one of my favorites.

I, for one, cannot believe it’s been five months. Despite him not being our easiest foster (due to his determination to dominate Lucy), these past five months have flown by. We’ve now had him for nearly as long as we had Snowy and just one month less than we had Cindy, who has been our longest foster to date.

What’s different about Isaac is that for the majority of these past five months, he’s been healthy, which most certainly was not the case for our other long-term fosters. (I consider Buddy a “quick” foster because we only had him three months but even he had a host of health concerns). Isaac’s missing fur on his sides was not deemed to be caused by anything significant and his thyroid levels returned to normal really quickly once he was put on medication, which he no longer has to take.

So for five months we’ve enjoyed a healthy and fun second dog – certainly a change with no surgeries, medications, etc. to worry about. But that also means that for five months this perfectly healthy and handsome dog has been searching for his forever home and has yet to find it. Five months of his life that weren’t spent with his perfect family.

The longer we have him, the more I fall in love with him. Partly because it’s pretty obvious he also loves me, not to sound too self-centered. But he follows me pretty much everywhere and Marty says that every morning after his breakfast, he stares at the garage door waiting for me to get home from CrossFit. I can’t tell you how great of a feeling it is to have such unconditional love! I don’t even get that from Marty 🙂

A very, very common sight when I'm home.

A very, very common sight when I’m home.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that if he got along with Lucy we’d keep him, especially since he’s not getting any adoption applications. He is such a fun, healthy and active dog. But he doesn’t get along with Lucy, even though he probably thinks he does. She is getting very aggravated (as are we) with his persistent humping and let’s face it – he’s not getting any smaller and she’s not getting any bigger, so he will always win.

While it is possible to teach an “old” dog new tricks, it certainly isn’t a guarantee. Isaac’s learned “sit,” “down,” “touch” (i.e. “come”) but try to teach him not to hump Lucy? So far an utter failure.

I know Isaac’s perfect home is out there – a dog-free home with plenty of open space for walks and running (he loves running through the park next door to us) and maybe even kids; he’d be fabulous with kids. I’m sure people are turned off by his age (8 1/2) but I’m not exaggerating when I say he has the energy of a two-year-old dog, if not younger.

Hang in there, Isaac. We’ll find your forever family soon!

ALWAYS happy. Except when I cut our walks short.

ALWAYS happy. Except when I cut our walks short.

Buddy Found His Forever Home

This evening I dropped Buddy off at his forever home.

Sebastian (L) and Buddy (R)

Sebastian (L) and Buddy (R)

As is the norm, I didn’t say much of anything leading up to his adoption because until the foster dogs are actually in their homes, I don’t like to count my chickens before they’ve hatched!

On the way to meet his family!

On the way to meet his family!

Buddy is a very lucky boy, though. His family actually lives in the same town as us! I know, the odds of that are practically zero because I live in the middle of nowhere, but he is literally a 90-second drive away. His family is also a “pug family.” Their current pug, Sebastian, is a 10-year-old rescue pug (and looks like Buddy’s dad!). Their previous pug (I think her name was Sassy) recently passed away and the family was looking for a buddy for Sebastian. So Buddy will now be Sebastian’s buddy!

Like I did with Snowy, I wanted to make a list of sorts about what I want to remember about Buddy:

– He is a Velcro pug. Wherever we (Marty and me) were, so was Buddy.

It's my bed but it's Buddy's world.

It’s my bed but it’s Buddy’s world.

– He LOVES his walks. At least twice a day I took Buddy for a walk. I’m going to gain approximately 10 pounds now that he’s gone.

Always up for a walk.

Always up for a walk.

– On a similar note, Buddy would only poop on a walk; I think once in the months we had him did he actually poop in our yard.

– Also related, Buddy would spin around and around in a circle, maybe 4-5 times, before pooping. At least he gave us warning. And it was as hilarious as it sounds.

– Buddy was/is a barker. Barks at the TV. Barks at the train that goes by. Barks when no one is paying attention to him. If he were sticking around we’d definitely do some behavior training with him but his new family can now address that issue if it bothers them!

– He and Lucy got along but I wouldn’t call them best buddies. It’s hard to describe. They didn’t not get along and a lot of times they would cuddle. But they also didn’t really play together. It’s almost like they were just aware of each other’s presence and liked having company, but that was as far as it went.

Ok, they were really cute when they cuddled.

Ok, they were really cute when they cuddled.

– Buddy enjoyed car rides but only if he was given free reign of the car, meaning he hated car rides with us because we made him ride in his crate. Otherwise I would have spent every car ride keeping Buddy off my lap while I drove; not safe, not fun.

Buddy looking deceptively happy in his crate; trust me, he was not happy.

Buddy looking deceptively happy in his crate; trust me, he was not happy.

– Buddy’s cough. He sounded like a goose and it was only bad when he got excited. Alarming at first, normal after a while.

– The way he usually left some breakfast or dinner on his chin.

– His sweet, sweet eyes. He really did have the most soulful eyes.

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Man, we’ll definitely miss Buddy. Unlike Cindy and Snowy, he wasn’t a mill dog and knew exactly how to be a pet. He was house-trained, knew what toys and walks were and was used to life in a home. For that reason he was definitely our “easiest” foster but certainly not easy to say good-bye to. I just love his personality and little quirks. I’ll miss his big eyes staring at me when he wanted to be on my lap and I’ll miss having a shadow follow me around the apartment.

I’m going to be a wreck, as usual, for more than a few days. He even tried to run out the door after us when it was time for us to leave. 😦 It’s so sad to say good-bye and I’ll be thinking of how he’s doing every day. Even now I think about Cindy and Snowy just about every day and wonder how they’re doing (even when I know they’re doing spectacularly!).

What next? This time I’m going to try and take a serious break from fostering to make our lives a bit easier for a while but I know we’ll be back at it after not too long!

A Day of Celebration

I know, it’s the first Monday back at work since Daylight Savings but Monday, March 10 also happened to be Lucy’s second birthday!!

Try to contain your enthusiasm, Lucy.

Try to contain your enthusiasm, Lucy.

I simply cannot believe we’ve had her for almost two years (we brought her home on May 13). It has unquestionably been the best (almost) two years I’ve ever had.

It was a pretty low-key day, though. Marty and I obviously had to work but once I got home, we did one of Lucy’s favorite things – we took a car ride! Granted, it was just to the vet to schedule her yearly physical but I also picked up her birthday gift while we were there – a brand new collar!

Pink and brown with pawprints - perfect!

Pink and brown with pawprints – perfect!

And she may have gotten a few extra treats today. 🙂

"Not enough extra treats if you ask me."

“Not enough extra treats if you ask me.”

However, perhaps the very best birthday gift came from Violet (aka Snowy). When I got home from running errands with Lucy, I found the sweetest, kindest, best birthday surprise ever:

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I absolutely teared up upon seeing and reading this. We still miss Violet tons but it makes me so happy to see her with such a great, loving and kind family.

All in all, a pretty great second birthday for our little Lucy!

Another Throwback Thursday

Things have been pretty quiet on here which reflects how busy life is elsewhere. Things are really picking up at work as we’re in the midst of the crossover season where winter and spring sports overlap. That means because I’m busier at work, I’m less busy with Lucy so there’s a lot less to write about!

I did, however, get a truly wonderful update from Snowy’s (Violet’s) forever family. Her UTI is cleared up, she’s had only one accident and is getting along famously with the family’s two other dogs. She’s full of energy and has truly found her perfect forever home.

Violet and her sisters.

Violet and her sisters.

So, with a lack of anything terribly exciting to write about, here are a few Throwback Thursday photos!

The Great Bee Sting Incident of June, 2012

The Great Bee Sting Incident of June, 2012

Hoppy!

Hoppy!

Shocker - actually voluntarily sitting near my dad!

Shocker – voluntarily sitting near my dad!

Hanging at my parents' house.

Hanging at my parents’ house.

Becoming friends...sort of.

Becoming friends…sort of.

My Buddy & Me

Since we’re back to a one-dog household things certainly are a lot more quiet around here. Snowy was much more of a barker than Lucy; I loved opening the garage door when coming home from work and hearing Snowy go nuts. I don’t get any sort of reaction from Lucy when I come home!

Lucy does seem to be coping pretty well with Snowy’s departure; I think she was a little lonely but for the most part her behavior is pretty much the same. I do still feel guilty, though, that she lost her buddy and since I was able to leave work this afternoon (Friday) around 4:30, the sun was actually out and it was above freezing, we took a walk around the neighborhood.

Normally Lucy resists any form of a walk without a buddy (of the dog variety) to walk with but today she bounced right along; she must be more stir crazy then I realized!

Then I said the magic words – “car ride!” – and we made our way to Petsmart to get her nails clipped. Oh, and she got a super discounted Valentine’s Day toy, too. 🙂

Yes, another pillow destined to be shredded in minutes.

Yes, another pillow destined to be shredded in minutes.

As we were driving home from the store and she was resting her head in the crook of my elbow like she always does when I’m driving, I realized how truly happy Lucy makes me.

Car ride buddy

Car ride buddy

It probably sounds pathetic, but she makes my life so much better. I look at her cute, wrinkly face and it instantly puts me in a better mood. I don’t have a ton of close friends out here – most are back home in NJ – and when Marty isn’t home it’s just me and Lucy so it’s a good thing I like her. 🙂

On an unrelated note, the elephant in the room: will we foster again? I asked the very same question after Cindy (Nellie) was adopted in July and I said we were taking a break until the fall season was over. That “break” lasted six weeks so I won’t make any guarantees at this point. Do I want to foster again? Yes, absolutely, but we’re going to wait until the seeming right dog and right times match up and take it from there.

I did get a picture update of Snowy (Violet) where she was sharing a bed with her doggie siblings and she looked so content and happy, which makes the past five and a half months totally worth it.

Back to a Family of Three

This morning Snowy went home with her forever family.

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I didn’t want to plaster their faces on the internet without their permission, but the parents have three daughters and two other dogs waiting at home (a pug and a Frenchie!). There is a fenced-in backyard that I know Snowy will absolutely adore and from what I gather, the mother is able to spend most of the day at home which is Snowy’s version of heaven.

I made sure to give Snowy (whose new name will be Violet, named after the character from Downtown Abbey) a lot of hugs and kisses yesterday and this morning before they picked her up. Lucy did, too.

One last snuggle

One last snuggle

This is – obviously – by far the worst part of fostering. It’s horrible to drive off (in the case of Nellie) or watch the dog drive off with her new family (as was the case today) and not be with them anymore. It is so easy to get used to being a two-dog household and what makes it hard is that I know Lucy is impacted, too. In fact, she ran after the car this morning as it drove away with Snowy in it. 😦

So I did what any good “parent” does – I spoiled her with a new toy.

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Yeah, it was destroyed in 10 minutes but for those 10 minutes, Lucy was a very happy dog!

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I’ll be honest, it stinks to say good-bye and I’ll be down in the dumps (to say the least) for a few days. Part of fostering is to get involved enough and care enough about the dog to make them adoptable and we certainly did that with Snowy. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do this all over again because I would, but it is absolutely hard. People ask me all the time how I can give them up and the answer is that we have to. Plus, I am always so happy for the dog who finds that perfect forever home because they deserve it (especially dogs with backgrounds like Nellie and Snowy) and Snowy hit the jackpot with this one. 🙂

It’s Like She Knows

Snowy is set to go to her forever home tomorrow morning. She may be set but I am not. However, as I told my mom, it’s not like this ending is exactly a shocker. The point of fostering is to get them better and then let them go.

We haven’t done anything terribly different the past few days – work on Friday, work on Saturday, bum time today – but it’s as if Snowy knows she’s leaving us because she’s been extra cuddly.

Quite comfy on Daddy's lap.

Quite comfy on Daddy’s lap.

For the past two months or so, Snowy has gotten into a routine of coming up into our bedroom every night after she’s let out for the last time and crawling right into her dog bed which is on my side of the bed. It’s been working great – she’s with us at night but not with us in our bed and she falls right asleep.

Well, this afternoon I went upstairs to take my normal Sunday afternoon nap and Snowy came upstairs with me, as she usually does. And then she crawled up onto our bed.

Not Snowy's bed.

Not Snowy’s bed.

It’s been months since she tried to get up onto our bed but she hopped right up this afternoon and I absolutely didn’t have the heart to make her get down. We only have her for one more night and I selfishly I wanted her snuggle with me this afternoon. So we took one last nap together. 🙂

It’s Valentine’s Day!

As I do with most holidays, I got the doggies small “gifts” in honor of Valentine’s Day. It’s quite obvious I love them to death and it is Valentine’s Day so I had to show them a small token of love!

I purposely got very, very cheap, stuffed heart pillows. No matter what I pay for stuffed toys they don’t last longer than an hour…maybe two if we’re lucky. Sometimes the dogs are efficient enough to destroy them in minutes.

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Yeah, these lasted for roughly five minutes, no joke. Oh well, they were a very happy five minutes.

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And Snowy literally sulked for a good 10 minutes after I had the nerve to take the pillow away when she was about ingest the squeaker.

Sulky Snowy.

Sulky Snowy.

The girls and I are on our own tonight – yes, on Valentine’s Night – because Marty is working all night but I’m soaking up snuggle time as it looks nearly certain that Snowy will be going to her forever home on Monday morning. I fully realize it’s happening but I’m still kind of in denial and trying very hard not to think about Monday morning too much.

For tonight I’ll pretend Monday morning isn’t happening and enjoy Valentine’s Day with my girls. 🙂