Foster Adventure #7…

Get ready for a long one with very few pics…

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

Tomorrow night I’m bringing home my seventh foster. Meet Lady:image1.PNG

(The above pic is from the shelter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck!

A Bit About Blossom

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

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She’s beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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“Running”

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

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YOU try to get mad at that face.

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

One Year of CrossFit

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted and today’s post won’t even be dog related. There isn’t anything newsworthy regarding the dogs. Isaac is still with us and the verdict is still out on whether the medication is making a difference. It usually takes up to six weeks to see the full effect so I’ve sort put it out of mind. I just give him the meds each day and forget about it. We’ll see where we stand in a few more weeks.

His energy is still low. Poor guy.

His energy is still low. Poor guy.

I have a fun survey at the end of the post because I like surveys (in some ways I am still 12 years old) and because I have nothing else to say!

A quick personal update, though. One year ago today I started CrossFit. I had been working out for years and years before trying CrossFit. I ran, I cross-trained, I lifted weights, I did p90x, I did Insanity. I was in good shape but certainly not in CrossFit shape. I found that out real quick when I couldn’t walk for two days after my first class.

Let's just say my legs didn't look like this a year ago.

Let’s just say my legs didn’t look like this a year ago.

Some background for anyone new: I suffered from an eating disorder and exercise addiction for more than six years. I once weighed 90 pounds and my life revolved around food (not eating it) and working out. I did permanent damage to my body (my bone density is crap for a 31-year-old) and in some ways forever changed (not for the good) my approach to food and exercise.
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HOWEVER, CrossFit has helped all of those issues more than anything else ever has. I am such a better place physically and mentally than a year ago. I care so much less about what I weigh. I care so much more about what I can lift. I eat more often when I’m hungry rather than ignoring my hunger. I eat far more whole food and a lot less processed food. I hit the gym most days of the week but have finally learned to listen to my body and take rest days. I run less but run smarter. CrossFit isn’t for everyone and I’m not going to try and make everyone drink the “CrossFit Koolaid” but it’s been a life changer for me. I’m still not where I want to be in regards to my mental approach to food and fitness, but I’ve made gigantic steps.

A 5k PR with LESS running.

A 5k PR with LESS running.

Now, onto some mindless information about me:

A – Age: 31

B – Biggest Fear: Spiders. Creepily clustered holes (it’s a real phobia!)

C – Current Time: 5:30 p.m.

D – Drink You Had Last: Polar Lime Seltzer Water.

E – Easiest Person To Talk To: My parents. I have to include both because since my mom’s stroke, she can’t really hold a conversation but she’s still easy to talk to!

F – Favorite Song: So many. Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac is up there.

G – Grossest Memory: There was one diaper in particular during my babysitting days that makes me cringe to this day.

H – Hometown: Morristown, N.J.

I –  In Love With: My dogs. Wine. Chocolate.

J – Jealous Of: People who are happy with where they are in life.

K – Kindest Person You Know:  One of my best friends, Lauren.

L – Life Isn’t Complete Without: Dogs. Wine. Chocolate.

M – Middle Name: Anne.

N – Number of Siblings: 1 – a twin brother.

O – One Wish: To have enough money to foster all the bulldogs. And then adopt them. In a home with a fenced-in yard, of course.

P – Person You Spoke To On The Phone Last: Marty.

Q – Question You’re Always Asked: What exactly is it that you do? Collegiate sports information isn’t exactly a self-explanatory career.

R – Reason To Smile: It’s not Monday.

S – Song You Last Sang: All the songs from Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits album. Makes for great driving music.

T – Time You Woke Up: 5:20 a.m. Well, alarm went off at 4:55 but I’ve become a snooze button pusher.

V – Vacation Destination: Having just been to St. Croix, I certainly wouldn’t argue a return trip.

W – Worst Habit: Picking scabs. Usually until they bleed. Drives Marty bonkers.

X – X-Rays You’ve Had: A lot. My teeth are a disaster and I’m at a high risk for stress fractures so that adds up to a ton of x-rays.

Z – Zodiac Sign: Cancer. Born a few weeks too late to be a Gemini whose sign is twins!

Proud Mama

Alternate title: We’re Alive.

Quite a gap between posts but a lot of relaxing has been going on over here. The athletic year is done as of tonight when the final track & field athletes compete at Nationals. Once I post those recaps, I am officially done with the year! Despite tonight’s events, life has gradually been slowing down for a few weeks which is glorious. Last weekend Lucy and I traveled to New Jersey to visit my parents for a belated Mother’s Day celebration. Lucy had a blast away from Isaac and she was the perfect guest.

Because I wasn’t around last weekend, Isaac wasn’t able to get back to the free dog walk. Why couldn’t Marty take him, you ask? You’d have to ask Marty. But I digress. These walks are super important for Isaac to try and get him almost desensitized to other dogs, in a way.

Today we made our way there and Isaac was awesome. Truly. He did not snap at a single dog and even walked right by several dogs that were snapping at him!

"I know how to pretend to look good."

“I know how to pretend to look good.”

He’s not “cured” by any means. When it’s just the two of us on walks he’s still hit or miss but it’s obvious he can be around other dogs. And the other benefit to the walks? This is what he looks like for the majority of the afternoon:

Melting.

Melting.

Seriously, I was ecstatic and so proud of him. He has no idea why I was happy but hopefully the more positive experiences we have the more progress we’ll continue to make. A well-behaved dog is in there, we just have to keep working at it.

And because I don’t want Lucy to feel left out, here’s a cute picture to end today’s post!
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We Survived

Isaac and I survived our first group dog-walking session!

“‘We’ survived? I did all the work!”

So here were my expectations heading into the morning: show up at 11. Get Isaac out of car. Isaac proceeds to bark, lunge, snarl, snap, etc. Get back in car at 11:10 and drive away without going on the 11:15 dog walk.

While some of that happened, spoiler alert – we finished one loop of the walk! We got there just after 11 and I purposely hung back away from other dogs. Isaac roamed but we were pretty far away from any other dog. As people started to gather at the starting point, I slowly walked over with Isaac, dread in my stomach. And Isaac proceeded to lunge, snarl, snap, etc. at another dog.

Lovely.

However, it was a fairly short lived outburst and the trainer immediately paired Isaac and me with another dog walker and her dog who I was told (correctly) was non-reactive and basically wouldn’t give Isaac the time of day no matter what. What happened next? Isaac walked four feet from the dog and her owner for the entire walk. My jaw just about hit the ground when Isaac did not react one bit to the other dog.

“I like to make you look like you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Now, as far as the actual walking goes, he was a disaster. He was pulling and so excited for the first 3/4 of the walk that he pretty much died in the final five minutes. I seriously thought I was going to have to carry him back; it was a warm day and pacing is a foreign concept to Isaac. I’m also lucky my arms are still attached as he pretty much yanked me around the majority of the course. When all was said and done, though, Isaac had walked for a good 20 minutes four feet from another dog and with plenty of other dogs in the vicinity without a single incident.

What does all this mean? I don’t really know. We didn’t run into any other dogs on our walks the remainder of the weekend so I can’t say he’s magically cured. But it was definitely a step in the right direction. Unfortunately I can’t take him next weekend as I’ll be out of town but it is definitely something we’re going to do many more times. Maybe we’re making progress after all.

Types of Dogs

I’ll have an update this weekend after Isaac and I attend our group dog-walking session tomorrow. I’ve narrowed down the trigger for Isaac’s aggression to me (or maybe all females but no other female has walked him) so I’m both nervous and looking forward to the walk so we can get a handle on Isaac’s behavior around other dogs.

Anyway, that’s a post for later this weekend. Today’s post came to mind when the trainer said that Lucy was an omega dog. Here a definition I found online:

These dogs are what I consider, to be the “low man on the totem pole”. They quite often can be very sweet, but lacking in self-confidence. They choose to move through life, trying not to create a fuss. These dogs can be challenged or even attacked, by the classic Beta dog. The Beta dog knows that they can dominate or rule this personality and quite often, choose to do so. 

Ok, first – not all of this applies to Lucy 100 percent, but it’s awful darn close. Second – our trainer believes the use of the word dominance is overused with dogs and isn’t the case with Isaac. However, a lot of what is stated above is absolutely true of Lucy. She’s always been the low (wo)man on the totem pole although as negative as that sounds, before Isaac (B.I.), it worked out beautifully with our other fosters. She was more than happy to be lower than Cindy/Nellie (who was a Beta dog but was far more “nice” in expressing that than Isaac). I believe both Snowy (now Violet) and Buddy were omega dogs, as well, and thus everyone got along – they were ALL low on the totem pole, so to speak! No one tried to fight for a higher position. They were happy not to have that stress. Violet and Lucy were two peas in a pod. There was never, ever a single issue between them. It was glorious, especially now that we have Isaac against which to compare things.

I mean, come on! They were best buds.

I mean, come on! They were best buds.

Essentially, Lucy is obliviously happy as the only dog or with another omega dog. And she’d probably be in heaven with an alpha dog (which as the trainer explained are very rare).

Now, here’s Isaac, the Beta dog, according to the same website:

This is the dog that I see more frequently in our Board and Train program.This is definitely the dog that challenges the companion dog owner over and over. Quite often, the Beta dog is also very dominant and may need to be on a strict Nothing In Life is Free program.The Beta dog may be barky, mouthy, reactive, and unwilling to accept the human as its leader. This dog spends its life, if untrained; challenging every day any form of control. These dogs are quite often, given up to Breed Rescue or to Shelters, as they are “too much” for many dog owners to handle willingly. Quite often in dog play, they cause fights by playing too rough or intense, they do not read nor accept other dog’s body language. They may be clearly possessive of prized items such as toys, rawhide, food, or even fighting to get all the attention from their owners in a multi dog household.

Um, yeah, that’s Isaac and it’s clear why we have issues at home.

The reason I believe that Cindy was a beta dog is that she did not hesitate to put Lucy in her place; the difference was it took one snap from Cindy and…that was it. Lucy backed off, Cindy laid back down and things were back to peace and quiet. And the two of them got along beautifully 95 percent of the time; they snuggled, they went outside together, they took walks together before Cindy had to undergo heartworm treatment.

And the reason Lucy and Isaac don’t get along is that Isaac is much more physical in his beta dog ways and he can physically overpower Lucy. Cindy absolutely could not do that.

I love(d) Cindy but physically she was no match for Lucy.

I love(d) Cindy but physically she was no match for Lucy.

Anyway, I meant for this to be a much more lighthearted post; I mean, essentially I’m calling Lucy a stupidly happy dog! Which is a good thing, really. And part of the reason I want to “fix” Isaac so badly is that I hate for that happy part of Lucy to be lost, even if temporarily.

Putting a Plan in Place

Yesterday Isaac and I (and Lucy) met with a new trainer who is more than equipped to deal with Isaac’s behavioral problems. See, obedience training with Isaac wasn’t (and still isn’t) my top concern – he’s learned sit, down, touch, etc. I needed a trainer who could work with Isaac’s behavioral issues and we found a great one!

For three-and-a-half hours yesterday, we did a lot of talking – some training, sure – but a lot of talking about what might have caused Isaac’s behavioral problems, what I can do myself to help things, what I can do with Isaac to help things, what Marty and I can do with both dogs to help the situation, etc. So, so informative.

To backtrack a bit, I had two main concerns going into yesterday – getting Isaac to stop humping Lucy and getting him to be less dog-aggressive on our walks.

“But I love humping Lucy.”

Hang with me for a minute on this analogy: you know how when you have a computer issue, call IT, they come down and all of a sudden your computer is functioning perfectly fine? Well, that was Isaac yesterday. The trainer took Isaac out for a walk without me; they saw other people and other dogs and apparently Isaac was a perfect gentleman. Of course he was.

Despite Isaac’s good behavior outside the home, he still spent the majority of the three-plus hours intermittently humping Lucy so at least the trainer got to see him in action on that level. 😛

For the next few days I’ll start incorporating the tips I learned yesterday and then on Saturday, Isaac and I will go to the trainer’s dog-walking class a few towns over. Gulp. Isaac around a bunch of dogs?! It’s a nerve-wracking thought but it honestly is going to be great in the long run; the trainer will get a glimpse at Isaac with me around other dogs (and a lot of them!).

I don’t want to say I’m the problem but I think I’m the trigger when it comes to Isaac’s aggression; he tends to flip out at other dogs only when I’m walking him. Marty said Isaac will sometimes growl at other dogs when he walks him but none of the lunging, snarling and snapping when I’m walking him. So our main goal is to get Isaac to the point where he’s non-reactive no matter who is walking him. Oh, and to stop humping Lucy, of course.

Oh, Isaac. What a project. Totally worth it, though.

How can you NOT want to help this face?

How can you NOT want to help this face?

Seeking Answers

I hesitate to post too much about Isaac because, while very few people read this blog, I don’t want to taint anyone’s opinion of Isaac (or anything about my life) by reading small snippets. Most posts are written because at the time of writing them, a certain issue is really bothering me. Writing as always been therapeutic for me. But as happens in life, a few weeks later what was really bothering is now in the rear view mirror. But here we go anyway…

Something in Isaac’s behavior lately indicates that he needs some help. What kind of help is the million dollar question. His aggression (outside the home – always outside the home) has gotten a bit worse and now we need to figure out why – is it behavioral and therefore able to be alleviated through training or is it health-related? Is there something going on in his little peabrain that’s making him act differently?
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His thyroid tests came back and while the base levels are slightly low, his TSH (thyroid stimulation hormone) levels are perfectly normal, meaning his thyroid is actually functioning at a normal level. Our vet believes that the next step is behavioral training. If we keep up with training we should see a difference.

The elephant in the room? What if we don’t see a difference in his behavior? Then what? Then we have to continue digging. I’m hoping to see the behavioral trainer within the next 7-10 days and really buckle down on training. A SNORT board member sent me this article which is a training technique I can – and will – immediately implement.

Our walks might look a little different from now on...

Our walks might look a little different from now on…

I’m not going to go into the possibilities if we find out we’re dealing with something that can’t be rectified with behavioral training. That’s too far down the road. But I love Isaac and I so desperately want to help him. While he can be aggressive, do you know what I found out last week? Big, rough, tough Isaac is petrified of thunder storms. He was shaking so hard the other night he woke me up! I can hug and kiss him (and frequently do, more than is normal or acceptable) and smother him with love. I can take random chicken wing bones he picks up on our walks (I know, gross) right out of his mouth without so much as a snap from him. I know he is a sweet dog and I want everyone else to know that, too.

Oh, I love him.

Oh, I love him.