St. Croix, Take II

Almost exactly two years after first vacationing in St. Croix, I was back again last week. My parents are down there for five (!) weeks; they usually spend roughly 10 days in St. Croix each time they visit but since my dad retired in April, they decided to stretch it to five weeks this time and I joined them for one of those weeks for my own vacation.
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And it was wonderful. A perfect mix of relaxation and exploration. I was there for a total of seven full days, including Father’s Day and my birthday, which made the whole week a bit more special. Of those seven days, four were beach days and three were touristy-type days which was the perfect mix.

The beaches were fantastic, as was the water, and the historic sights we visited were fascinating. I also must have read four books all in one week and went through wine just as quickly. Hey, it was vacation AND my birthday week.

My dad joined a gym down there and I tagged along with him for four of the days I was there (I have a CrossFit competition at the end of July so I couldn’t afford to slack on my training too much) and also dropped into the CrossFit box down there twice (shout-out to 340 CrossFit). Holy heck, no AC + CrossFit = near death. I have never, ever sweat so much in my life. And each time I went, running was involved, so in addition to lack of oxygen inside, we were subjected to ungodly hot temps outside. I still had a blast, though. It was CrossFit, after all!

All in all, it was so good to get away. I did not check work email once and was really able to disconnect and relax. Lots of time to reflect on the past year, especially on my birthday. Year 32 was the most eventful year I’ve probably ever had – some good, some not-so-good. I’ve taken steps forward in some areas of my life and steps back in others. Such is life, I suppose.

Anyway, here’s a photo dump of my wonderful week in St. Croix! And for those of you wondering, an update on what Lucy was up to while I was gone is at the end!

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Estate Mount Washington

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View from Hams Bluff

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Whim Plantation

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The only way you’d get me on a bike would be after stopping at the full bar

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And Lucy? She was being dog-sat by a wonderful friend who stepped up big time when I was in a pinch. Lucy had a blast and was spoiled beyond belief. She honestly didn’t seem all that excited to see me when I got back!

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Yes, a pool was bought for Lucy and the other resident dog. #spoileddogs

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Told you, spoiled

In a Funk

The past two weeks or so, I’ve been in a definite funk. Not sure if it’s the fact that vacation is so close but still so far. And while it is vacation and I. cannot. wait., there’s still stress involved – making arrangements for Lucy, traveling solo, packing, etc.

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Cannot wait to be back here.

I have managed my (diagnosed) depression well for quite a few years now but there are still ups and downs with the downs being probably a bit lower than the average person’s and this is just one of those down times.

But it also hit me the other day – I’ve been without a foster for just about three months now, one of my longest stretches. It’s been a conscious decision – I knew I needed to wait until after vacation – but fostering gives me such a sense of purpose; I feel lacking in purpose without a foster. So I am definitely going to foster again, I just have to find the right foster. I live in such a small apartment (680 square feet) that I’m limited to dogs who don’t need a ton of space and aren’t overly energetic (there is absolutely nowhere to burn off steam in this apartment and with it getting to be hot outside, outside time will be limited for short-nosed dogs for the foreseeable future!).

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Foster #6, Blossom. Her dad sent me this photo a few weeks ago – clearly living the life!

There are still far more good days than bad days and I am loving life in my new home. I feel more refreshed than I ever did at any point during the 10-plus years in my previous career field. To be blatantly honest, it’s wonderful not being the boss anymore! Some people are meant to be bosses and while I’m not saying I’ll never be a boss of anyone again, right now it’s so freaking nice to not be in charge of anyone.

And Lucy has, of course, kept me sane and happy. I just love spending my weekends with her and while she won’t show it, I think she likes our new arrangement.

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Celebrating National Best Friends Day.

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There’s been a lot of this going on.

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Spending lots of time outside.

Adventures with Lucy

Now that the weather is warmer, I’m trying to get out more to explore my “new” city. I moved here in the middle of November and so until now, the weather hasn’t really been conducive to outdoor activities. But, last weekend was absolutely perfect so Lucy and I explored a new dog park.

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The pitfall of having no snout? Inability to pick up a frisbee.

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I know, she’s beautiful.

The dog park is ridiculously nice. It is turf (a bonus after all the rain we’ve had) and has a big dog section and a small dog section. There are beautiful Adirondack chairs for the humans and a water feature that turns on in warmer weather – can’t wait to bring Lucy back in the summer to see her reaction to that!

As usual, she wasn’t so into playing with other dogs but made several trips up and down the park, basking in the human attention and pets. She was super content to roam and watch the other dogs.

On Wednesday, we had a post-op follow-up scheduled at the vet. Everything has healed great – now the question is what to do about her tooth around which the tumor grew? The tumor she had removed will almost certainly come back because it grew around that tooth and its ligaments ( didn’t know teeth had ligaments?); as long as that tooth and its ligaments are still there, the tumor will almost certainly re-grow.

Our vet sent her biopsy and x-rays to a specialist to determine if we remove the tooth and its ligaments now or wait for the tumor to re-grow. Either way it looks like we’re facing surgery relatively soon or down the road.

Fortunately, she adores the vet and while I absolutely do not want to put her under for surgery again, she handles surgery, anesthesia and recovery really well and is super happy to be at the vet.

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Ridiculously happy to be at the vet.

Because our appointment was late in the evening, I took her to work with me this afternoon so we could go right to the vet after work. She had a blast.

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Taking it all in at work.

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Pretty nice setup under my desk. 

Next weekend we go to New Jersey for a brief weekend visit with my parents so the adventures continue!

Lady’s New Home

Foster number seven is in the books.

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Lady with her new mom and foster brother, Arnie

This morning I drove Lady to her forever home; she has two wonderful parents and a Boston Terrier brother, Arnie, who was already madly in love with Lady before I left. Both parents are older and retired; they’re home almost all the time and when they’re not, Lady will have Arnie for company. I think Arnie is ecstatic with that arrangement.

This one was hard for a lot of reasons. Lady was the first foster I handled by myself. While fostering has always been “my” thing, before I moved out here I had someone else living with me to help. Now I’m out here alone. I got really lucky with Lady, though, because she was the easiest foster I’ve ever had. Not the best because I can’t pick a favorite, but the easiest. Her health issues were minimal, she got along well with Lucy and her energy level was perfect for my small apartment. Her housetraining was the biggest struggle but compared to having two dogs who don’t get along (ahem, Isaac and Lucy) or a dog who had serious health issues (Cindy aka Nellie) or dogs who barked a lot (ahem, Buddy and Blossom), she was a breeze.

It’s also hard because it’s been a rough few months. I crammed a lot into just over four months – ending a job I’d held for six-plus years, accepting a new job in a totally new career field, a move, new city, a new foster and the end of a long-term relationship. So “losing” Lady is another big event in a short period of time.

But I am ridiculously happy I fostered her. She kept me occupied and busy and I think Lucy liked having the company. Selfishly, it was also really nice to have a dog that was utterly in love with me, not just me with her. Every time we took a car ride, she sat in the passenger seat and just stared at me. When I relaxed on the couch, if she wasn’t asleep she was keeping an eye on me to make sure she didn’t lose sight of me. It was so gratifying to see love in a dog’s eyes.

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Always watching me.

On the one overnight trip I took with her (to my parents’ house), she didn’t handle the separation well when I went out for a few hours. She didn’t freak out, but she apparently sat on top of the couch and stared out the window waiting for me to come back. It makes me worry about her first few days in her new home but I hope she settles in quickly.

As with every foster, there are very specific things I want to remember about her that made her unique:

Her love of anything soft. A pillow, a bookbag (which I would argue isn’t all that soft), a blanket – if it was soft and on the floor for even a minute, it became a bed for her.

Her three bottom front teeth. They were the cutest chicklets ever and I was so happy they didn’t have to come out during her dental surgery.

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That she was mostly deaf. I loved being able to catch her sleeping before she noticed me. And being deaf didn’t hinder her in the least.

Her wardrobe. She was the second dog I’ve ever had who genuinely needed to wear sweaters because she got so cold so easily. All the generous donations we received helped keep her warm (and cute) in the cold.

How after the first week her personality came out and she started doing her happy dance for treats and food. She gets so excited for food and runs around in circles while waiting for her treats.

Watching her speedy little legs come running after me whenever she lost sight of me. Her eyesight was perfect, that’s for sure.

Her snoring. For a pug-mix, she sure snored a lot and loudly! I’m going to miss knowing she was on the floor right next to my bed every night. It was so comforting – for both of us, I’m sure.

How she frequently slept with her head in the air, as if she didn’t want to actually fall asleep for fear she’d miss something but just couldn’t manage to stay awake.

And there are certain pictures that capture her best:

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So regal

So this was a tough one. She’s been bounced around a lot but she now has a forever home that is so excited to have her and I’m sure she’ll fall in love with them.

Two Dogs, One Apartment

Sorry for the gap between blogs. It’s been a really tough week personally so the blog took a backseat.

Lucy came back home about 10 days ago (I think?) and finally got to meet Lady. And, as with everything thus far with Lady, the meet and greet was seamless. SNORT recommends separating foster dogs from their fur siblings for the first few days in a new foster home but Lady had been here for 10 days already. Plus, in the few days before Lucy came home I’d been able to see Lady interact with other dogs and she was fine. She showed interest in other dogs but honestly that’s about it – no lunging toward them, no excited hopping around, certainly no aggression. Still, I was ready to separate them with a gate but that ended up being totally unnecessary.

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  Does this face look like she’d cause trouble?!

When Lucy walked in the apartment, there was some mutual sniffing between the dogs and then Lady went over to her bed in the corner and Lucy hopped up on the couch and that’s where they spent 90 percent of their first night together. And since. Lucy and I do play together on the floor most days and while Lady frequently comes over to inspect, she has no concept of play or interest in toys, gets bored quickly and retreats back to her bed.

The biggest change is getting myself out the door in the morning. I do as much prep as I can before my 5:30 a.m. CrossFit class but I have only an hour from when I get home from class until I leave for work so the process of taking care of two dogs (breakfast, potty breaks – usually multiple since neither dog will do all their business in one trip) and getting myself ready is going to need to be refined. But we’re making progress.

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Just an obligatory cute photo of Lucy.

The only negative is that Lady has severely regressed on her housetraining. Every day I come home from work either at lunch or at the end of the day and she’s peed. Sometimes twice a day. The obvious thought would be she’s marking her territory. Lady comes across as anything but an alpha female but the timing of her regression and Lucy coming back is too coincidental to rule it out. But if she is marking, she should be spayed soon and I’m really (really) hoping that ends the marking.

Also, Lady has completely come out of her shell. Don’t get me wrong, she still spends a lot of time in her bed, but she is so. freaking. happy. every time I walk in the door. She’s started hopping around and running in circles. It’s so heartwarming to see; it makes me realize how cruddy she felt (or how scared she was) when I first brought her home.

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Watching from afar as Lucy acts like a maniac.

And while she and Lucy aren’t best buddies, they co-exist perfectly. They each lounge on different ends of the couch while I’m gone, eat in separate areas with a zero issues and have their own go-to spaces in the apartment.

So, I have to say that the fostering-by-myself experiment is going better than I could have expected. If housetraining issues are my biggest concern, I’d say we’re all doing just fine!

A (Deservedly) Spoiled Dog

Friday night, I had five packages waiting for me; four were for Lady. She now has a wardrobe that spans a matching harness and leash to (sparkly) sweaters to an outdoor coat.

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Thanks to wonderful SNORT supporters and family and friends, Lady is not only warm, but she has an entire wardrobe!

We went to the vet Thursday night and so far so good. She’s still on meds for kennel cough and Lyme and we started an anti-yeast medication to get her itchies under control. Right now that remains the most obvious issue – she is still very, very itchy, so we’re working on that.

She’s also put on two-plus pounds! That’s my girl! She adores treats, peanut butter and mealtime so it is zero surprise she’s putting on weight. She’s now started whining when I’m not fast enough with the treats – just like a normal dog!

I can also see why she’s inclined to be skinny – like every pug I’ve ever met, she follows me everywhere. If she can hear me, that is. I’ve quickly figured out she is partially hard of hearing. Whenever I come home, she usually stays fast asleep because she hasn’t heard me open the door. I kind of love it, though; I get to see her all curled up and peaceful before she wakes up.

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Lady is also getting to be so excited when she finally realizes I’m home. She runs right over and waits for me to kneel down and pet her. She puts her wee little paws on my lap for closer snuggles. I love it.

And we’re now t-minus four days until I pick up Lucy; I’m more than anxious to see how that goes. Because of her kennel cough, I haven’t let Lady near dogs in the apartment complex but at this point she isn’t contagious anymore so I’m hoping to let her meet a dog or two before introducing her to Lucy so I can see how she is around dogs. Today she spotted a dog across the street and was super interested – in a good way. So I’m optimistic (for once).

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I just adore this dog. She was sweet from the start but now she’s starting to become a bit more outwardly happy and it melts my heart.

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?

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(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!

Girls Weekend

This past weekend was a Girls Weekend to a “T.” My former fifth grade teacher, who remains friendly with my family, decided to come out to visit me from Saturday-Sunday.

I could go on and on about Mrs. Kenny and how she impacted my life. She remains the best teacher I’ve ever had. She taught me how to write. And I mean truly write. She expanded my already deep love for books. She created lasting memories I will never, ever forget. I still remember the books we read, projects we did and lessons we learned. I was such a nerd I read my grammar book every night just like she said we should.

Anyway, she is now retired, travels quite a bit and this past weekend she decided to travel out to Lancaster for a visit!

It wasn’t the best of weather but we made the most of the weekend. We went shopping, got our nails done, had a great dinner and ended the night with cupcakes in our beds at the hotel.

The hotel she stayed in happened to be pet-friendly so she asked if Lucy and I wanted to spend the night in the hotel (which was beautiful) for a true girls’ night. So we did!

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It’s Monday and I’m still exhausted! For some reason Lucy will not fall asleep on human beds. She literally just does laps on the bed. Lays down for 15 minutes. Does a few more laps. But heaven forbid I try to put her on the floor – she is convinced she actually wants to be on the bed even though she won’t sleep. I think I got 4-5 hours of sleep that night.

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Of course, she finally laid down when we woke up in the morning.

Despite the lack of sleep, it was a great weekend. I was able to explore my new town a little bit more and catch up with someone who has been part of my life for 22 years.

I do not think, however, that Lucy will be invited to another Girls’ Night 🙂

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