Four Years Ago…

Four years today ago my life changed in the biggest, best way possible. I brought home my first foster, Cindy (now Nellie).

Looking back on my blog posts from the first few weeks we had her, I had forgotten how much I didn’t know!

Cindy was a puppy mill mama to a “T,” and while they are the most rewarding fosters, they are also the most work, the most depressing (because of their pasts) and the most stressful. I had forgotten she refused to eat for the first few days, snapped at Lucy and had fluids leaking everywhere. I forgot she had no idea what toys were, what food bowls were and what a soft, comfy couch was.

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She was quite the complicated foster and yet from day one I was hooked. I can’t fully express how rewarding fostering her (and every other foster) was. It really hit home when she was adopted. We drove her to her forever home and after getting her settled with her new family, Marty and I got ready to leave. And then she followed us as we made our way to the front door. I remember sitting in my car and seeing her standing at the glass door watching us. It just about broke my heart and I cried the whole way home. But looking back on it I realize the fact that she wanted to follow “her” humans meant I did what I was supposed to do. I made her trust humans; I let her know people can be kind, unlike the humans from her past; I taught her what being a pet is.

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Cindy was the first of six fosters to date. The stress of the first few days with each foster always makes me question why I do it but then after we settle in a new routine, I wonder why I ever questioned my decision.

The rest of my fosters were equally rewarding:

Clearly I’m more than anxious to foster again but now that I’m living on my own in a teeny, tiny apartment, I need to wait for the right foster. My complex doesn’t allow bulldogs (I got in before that rule was passed, so Lucy is fine but I’m beyond annoyed) so I’ll have to wait for a pug or Boston from SNORT. I work further from home than at my previous job which is a negative but I do have weekends free so I know I can make it work. I won’t pretend it will be easy to foster and be in charge of the care for two dogs but I really need to foster again. I have a few hobbies but NONE bring me this level of fulfillment.

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.

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.

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.

Birthday Weekend

This weekend I turned 30. I never wanted to be one of those women who hated getting older. But I kind of am. I think it’s mostly because I’m not where I thought I’d be at this point in my life. I thought I’d be married. I thought I’d own a home. I thought I’d have kids. I thought I’d be in my forever job. I’m 0-for-4. Not exactly a stellar batting average.

Now, it’s not like I haven’t accomplished anything or even have any real room for complaints. Life’s been pretty good. I just think it could be better. Fortunately I have the important things – family, friends, Lucy, a job, a home, etc. Looking forward to the next decade. Sort of.

Anyway, we had a very low-key weekend, which was perfect. I even busted out the “real” camera today to snap a few pics of Lucy now that’s she’s feeling better (thanks to everyone for the well wishes, by the way!).

Her favorite stick.

Her favorite stick.

She has ups for a bulldog.

She has ups for a bulldog.

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Concentration.

Concentration.

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A man and his dog.

A man and his dog.

I even found this picture of Buddy left on the camera. What a cutie.

His sun spot at my parents' house.

His sun spot at my parents’ house.

So, a great weekend if we can just forget about the whole 30 thing. 🙂

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 Weekend Away

This weekend I was back in the car, this time driving to my parents’ house in New Jersey, mostly to celebrate Father’s Day Weekend. This time I traveled by myself, leaving Lucy and Buddy with Marty back in Pennsylvania.

I’m told Lucy did this most of the weekend:

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Yup, they didn’t do much but veg and watch World Cup soccer.

Meanwhile, I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and spent lots of time outside with my mom. We’re very lucky in that there is a gorgeous park with miles of trails literally around the corner from my parents’.

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We also indulged in a girly afternoon as I took my mom for pedicures to use up the last of a spa gift certificate I won.

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Sunday morning we opened Father’s Day gifts and then I hit the road (again) to head back to Marty and the doggies.

While I’m only 2 1/2 hours away from my parents, given my lack of free time for 10 months out of the year, 2 1/2 hours is usually two hours too far for me to get home as often as I’d like. Which means that even though my gas budget will go through the roof this summer, it’s totally worth it to travel to New Jersey as often as possible. I’ve been in PA for seven years but it’s not home and I’m forever thankful my parents’ always welcome me back!

PS – Hopefully an update on Buddy’s search for his forever home early this week!

We’re Exhausted

Phew. What an incredibly fun and incredibly long weekend. As previously mentioned, we left Pennsylvania on Thursday evening for Marty’s triathlon and returned Monday afternoon. We left Lucy and Buddy with my parents which was a bigger help than I can say. Not having to worry about the dogs while we were at Marty’s race made the weekend more relaxing than it otherwise would have been!

Squished

Squished

From what my parents said, the dogs were great. I knew Lucy would be – she knows the rules of my parents’ house (i.e. no couch!) and is always really well behaved. And Buddy was, too. I’m told he and my mom took a LOT of walks!

"Buddy can take all the walks he wants. Leave me out of it."

“Buddy can take all the walks he wants. Leave me out of it.”

Marty raced Ironman 70.3 Eagleman – that would be a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and a 13.1-mile half-marathon (another reason it’s tough to bring the dogs – it’s a really, really, really long day). While Marty will be the first to tell you he’s not happy with the results, I’m allowed to brag regardless of how he thinks he did; what he puts his body through for months leading up these big races is ridiculous and Sunday’s conditions were less than ideal (it was hot to say the least).

Heading out for a little half marathon after 57.2 miles of biking and swimming.

Heading out for a little half marathon after 57.2 miles of biking and swimming.

While not as stressful as racing, spectating is still really stressful. At this race, the bike and run courses were single loops so I only saw Marty as he was heading out for each – I had no idea what was going on while he was actually on the course which makes me nervous and stressed; add to that the fact that I was on my own with no one to talk to and it makes for a long day!

So, while Marty may not have been satisfied, as always I was just happy he crossed the finish in one piece!

About to cross the finish.

About to cross the finish.

One of Marty’s teammates has a bulldog; while he didn’t bring his bullie to the race, either, we’re hoping for a bullie playdate at a future race! Of course we talked bulldogs after the race and shared the countless photos we all had on our phones. 🙂

Now it’s time for Lucy and Buddy to recover from a long weekend of travel and fun with my parents!

A Weekend with the “Grandparents”

That’s right, Lucy and Buddy are going to enjoy a weekend at the grandparent’s!

"You can just leave us here, we'll be fine."

“You can just leave us here, we’ll be fine.”

Marty competes in triathlons and this weekend is his “big” race of the summer; it’s in Maryland and because it’s his big race (a qualifier for the World Championship Ironman race), we’ll be in Maryland from Friday through the race on Sunday afternoon. We always book a pet-friendly hotel in case we need to travel with our dog(s) but let’s be honest – like with kids, it’s a million times easier to travel sans-pets.

"You saying I'm difficult?"

“You saying I’m difficult?”

If we’re between fosters (or before we started fostering), my parents generally had no issue watching Lucy but it’s a lot to ask of them to babysit two dogs, none of which are their own! So that’s why the other weekend when my dad offered to watch both dogs this coming weekend, I thought he’d done so in a momentary lapse of judgment. But I double-checked with him (and my mother) and they’re on board with dog-sitting both Lucy and Buddy this weekend!

Now, they’ve met Buddy before and my mother in particular adored Buddy so I’m confident things will go well. Marty and I will drive to New Jersey and spend the night on Thursday then leave the dogs with my parents while we make our way to Maryland on Friday morning. Then, after the race on Sunday, we’ll drive back up to New Jersey, spend the night then hit the road for Pennsylvania on Monday morning.

It’s a lot of driving but this allows us to break up the trip a bit, see my family (however briefly) and make our lives a lot easier by not having to travel with Buddy and Lucy. Hopefully it’s a good weekend for everyone!

Oh, and I am not going to get ahead of myself or jinx things, but we’re slowly making progress on Buddy’s adoption process!

Professional Development

I know, two posts in as many days; that’s what the end of the spring sports season will do! Except this post still has a tiny connection to work. See, for the past four years I’ve been accruing professional development money. With budgets increasingly tight, I know that my office is going to have to provide more and more action shots for our sports teams than ever before, in addition to headshots and team shots. So, I thought I’d enroll in an online digital photography course.

And guess who my practice subjects will be?

"Just don't make us move, Mom."

“Just don’t make us move, Mom.”

I have a LOT to learn but it’s been interesting experimenting in shooting outside the auto mode.

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She got bored quickly.

She got bored quickly.

I need to pick a more scenic background next time but I hope to get lots of practice in this weekend seeing as it’s supposed to be nice the rest of the weekend.

"It's hard being me."

“It’s hard being me.”