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.

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The Sweetest Thing

Our apartment building is set behind a karate school and its adjoining parking lot. Our front door faces the school and Novalee loves to start our walks by going through the lot. There are always people and cars to look at and she’s no dummy – she knows that the odds are in her favor someone will stop to pet her.

As soon as I got home from work the other night, I leashed Novalee up and we began our pre-dinner walk through the parking lot. Immediately a boy – maybe seven or eight years old – rushed over, asked if he could pet Nova and plopped down on the pavement to start petting her.

His dad is someone I “know.” He’s the one who helped me rescue Isaac after he ran away. His son still attends karate lessons so I see him from time to time in the parking lot plus he lives along the river which is one of my frequent running routes. So I know him well enough to smile and wave and his son was all about Nova so all three of us began chatting.

Actually, his son began chatting. He told me about how he used to have a dog but they recently had to put him to sleep at 17 years and three months old because he was in pain. He told me about how they thought the dog was invincible and might never die. And about how now he’s lonely and doesn’t have anyone to play with at home anymore. He said he plays by himself with his toys and sometimes lays in bed watching TV but that it’s lonely without his dog.

He told me about how he wants his dad to take him to go look at dogs that are available for adoption and that maybe a bulldog would be a good dog to get. And that maybe his new dog could sleep in his bed with him. And “does this dog like to sleep in your bed?” he asked, pointing to Nova.

All the while he never once stopped petting Novalee and kept saying how cute and well-behaved she was and that again, maybe a bulldog would be a good dog to get (not so subtly hinting to his dad…).

Novalee started to get cold (I actually think she was milking sympathy pets out them) and so the dad started to get his son to move toward their truck and head home. As the son got in the truck, he turned around and asked me what the dog’s name was and I told him Novalee.

Nova and I continued down the sidewalk and as the dad and his son drove by on their way home, the son leaned out the window, started waving and shouted, “good-bye, Novalee!” He waved all the way down the street.

I have never been so happy to spend 15 minutes outside in 30 degree temps.

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Life with Novalee

It’s been just shy of two weeks since we brought this nugget home:
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(I know, she’s a model)

It was super stressful for the first week or so. She just did not like Lucy and she displayed that dislike by growling, lunging and snapping at her. So we separated them. Which worked in regards to keeping both dogs safe, but Novalee is a very needy dog. She must be not just in the same room as her people but physically touching them. And they must pet her. At all times.

After the first couple of days we were able to keep them in the same room if we were home and Lucy stayed on the couch (a place she was used to being after Isaac the Hump Monster stayed with us for 17 months). Gradually Novalee began going over to the couch, sniffing Lucy and then walking away.
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Progress.

Now they can even be on the floor (with supervision!) for several minutes at a time without incident. Novalee even tried to play with Lucy today – this is HUGE. I’m super, super cautious and nervous so I’m always prepared for the worst. It’s too early to say if they’ll ever be friends but I’ll take indifference on the part of Novalee toward Lucy.

Novalee went to the vet Monday to get her spay stitches out and to make sure everything else looked good. She was the hit of the office. Everyone loved her and she loved them! Her sutures look good, her ears are good and her dry eye is status quo.

Which means that she is officially listed for adoption!

I know, super fast. But there honestly isn’t anything we can medically do for her and behaviorally she’s house trained, knows basic obedience commands and is great with people. With time she might become better with dogs but I am positive there will be plenty of dog-free homes interested in her.
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Trust me, I am not getting ahead of myself and thinking we only have a few weeks left with her; adoptions are totally unpredictable. And I absolutely will not rush this process. She needs the right home that understands her future is pretty uncertain when it comes to her spinal issues and the effects it might have on her health down the road.

Plus she’s so freaking cute it’s almost like she’s fake; I am not anxious for her to go anywhere any time soon!

Finally, I got an update from Isaac’s new dad. And it was a great update. His new dad adores him and Isaac is one lucky, spoiled dog.
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I was happy but also largely relieved. We hadn’t heard from Isaac’s dad since the Wednesday before Christmas and I was nervous things weren’t going well. To get not only an update but an update as positive as this one is more than I could ask.

While Novalee is wonderful and I am ecstatic we have her, I really still miss Isaac. He was our most difficult foster but also one of the best. It was great to have a dog that so clearly loved us – and of course we loved him!

While bittersweet, this reminds me exactly why I foster.

I’m Back…

For now. And for two very good reasons. Hang on, this is a long one…

First, on Dec. 22, Isaac was adopted.
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I know, as soon as I made the decision to put the blog on hiatus, Isaac was adopted. It took me a while to write this post for several reasons. First, holiday travel. Isaac was adopted the afternoon of Dec. 22 and the very next morning we were on the road for travel.

Also, while his adoption was/is a very valid reason to update this blog, I just flat out did not want to write about it. I missed him beyond belief, the holidays were over…I guess I just felt too blah to write about it. He was adopted, it was over and we’ve moved on, or tried to.

I still miss him desperately, though. I sobbed when he left; I cried myself to sleep that night. I kept hearing phantom noises I thought were him because I was so used to him following me literally everywhere. Even the bathroom. I was used to him snoring next to me at night (yes, he found his way back onto our bed).

I’ve been taking myself for two walks a day to make up for the lack of walking now that he’s gone. It’s pitiful, really.

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“I like it right here.”

He was adopted by a wonderful man, though. Isaac will be the only dog, have the run of the house and his own personal dog walker during the day while his new dad is at work. It killed me though when his dad picked up him. As they drove off, Isaac looked back at me, as if wondering why we weren’t coming with him.

Lucy is obviously the beneficiary of Isaac’s departure. She has been so much more playful and overall just a happier and more relaxed dog.

The second reason to update the blog is that Lucy will not remain an only dog for long. In fact, as I type this she is already no longer an only dog.

Yup, we’re fostering again.

Meet Novalee.

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Novalee is a one-year-old puppy mill mama. She comes from an Ohio puppy mill. She actually spent the past two weeks or so with another foster mom in upstate N.Y. but it was never meant to be a permanent foster home for her. I expressed interest in taking her, so here she is!

Her background: she has spina bifida, dry eye, ear issues and a butterfly disc in her back. Sounds like a hot mess, right? Not really. Her spina bifida actually has almost zero impact on her quality of life – for now. She is completely mobile and has no neurological issues. Practically unheard of. She is largely continent; if left alone too long she may have some issues but none of our dogs are ever left alone for long.

She had a difficult spay before she got here but is healing. Honestly, there is not much more that can/needs to be done for this girl. Her ears need some attention, she needs some meds to clear up a recent UTI and her dry eye will always need attention, but her spina bifida is what it is at this point. There is no magic cure or surgery for it and since her quality of life is exceptional at this point, she’s really a “normal” dog!

Now, how about her personality?

Holy sweetness. If she is in the same room as you, she must be touching you (or any person) at all times. Seriously. She will paw at you when she wants to be pet, which is all the time. She gets annoyed if you do not pay attention to her.

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She is not (yet) good with Lucy. She’s not bad, but she’s growled at her and made moves to…lunge at her? I don’t know. After Isaac I am super cautious and we are taking it very slowly. As with Isaac, I think Lucy will spend a lot of time on the couch if the two are in the same room together. Novalee is content enough on the floor. Since she’s been home, though, I’ve largely kept her gated in the kitchen. Things need to go slowly and she’s had a long and confusing day.

After Isaac I had hoped for a dog like my first three fosters – Cindy, Snowy and Buddy – who either had no reaction to Lucy or adored her. Maybe with time, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Finally, the big question – why do I continue to foster and why do I foster at a continuous pace? Why not take a break?

Because I can’t say no?

Honestly, that’s a very big reason. Although I wasn’t even asked to take most of my fosters – I volunteered. So that’s only partially true.

I love dogs? Of course. I love bulldogs in particular? Absolutely. I want a ton of dogs but can’t afford a ton of dogs so I foster? Yup.

I’m trying to fill a void by “collecting” dogs? I don’t know, you’d have to ask a shrink. Maybe. Probably. I don’t have kids. I have a job I’m less than thrilled with. I’m located far from friends and family.

Either way, I’m happy and I’m hopefully helping out a few dogs and families along the way.