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.

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!

The Old Lady Gets Surgery

It’s been a while between posts but that’s because things have been very routine, which is good! Blossom has settled right in. She gets along well with Lucy (although we call her the “fun police” because she barks at Lucy when Lucy tries to play), has our routine down pat and has been generally wonderful. No accidents and she sleeps through the night – in our bed, of course 🙂

This past Thursday, though, the time came to get her spayed. SNORT (and I ) went back and forth about whether it was worth it to spay a 14-year-old pug. We ultimately decided that spaying her could only help her odds of being adopted. Plus, we could get a dental done at the same time; since she wouldn’t let the vet examine her mouth during her initial exam, we really didn’t know what we were facing.

I was nervous because of her age but she did fine – better than fine.

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“How do YOU know I’m doing fine?”

I picked her up Friday afternoon and she was very happy to see me – as I was to see her. She was not sorry, however, to say good-bye to the vet. To quote the vet tech, “she doesn’t like us very much.” I’m assuming she was not a happy camper and had several “fits” when they tried to pick her up, put her collar on, etc. Oh well. Everyone survived.

She did lose 10 teeth – teeth that were either broken off and/or decaying. But other than that, the surgeries were routine and she’s doing great. Eating well, moving around well and not at all happy with the cone of shame.

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All cone, zero dog.

All in all, very glad to have this behind us. Surgery and recovery have, so far, been better than expected and now she has a healthy mouth and her spay is all taken care of. Next step – available for adoption?

PS – Lucy says hi.

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Buddy’s Home!

Bright and early this morning I dropped Buddy off at the vet to get neutered and have dental surgery.

"There better be a good reason I didn't get breakfast."

“There better be a good reason I didn’t get breakfast.”

The vet tech said they wouldn’t really know the extent of his dental surgery until he was put under and they were able to take xrays. So, I left Buddy in their care while I waited for an update.

"You're coming back, right?"

“You’re coming back, right?”

A few hours later the vet called and said he would have about 10 teeth removed and that since he’d responded so well to anesthesia to that point they were also going to remove about 4-6 roots from previously broken-off teeth. Once he was out of surgery they called back a second time and said he was doing well and recovering in ICU and there was no reason I couldn’t pick him up at six so I did just that!

At least he has a soft cone!

At least he has a soft cone!

We’re now back at home (obviously) and he’s doing well. He’s on pain killers and anti-inflammatories and will be on soft food for 4-5 days. We have a re-check in 10 days to get his sutures out and to make sure his mouth is still looking good. Right now he’s sleeping at my feet as we speak and the vet said he should feel back to normal tomorrow.

Given the amount of teeth he had to have removed (in addition to the six he was already missing), he has to have been in pain or at least some discomfort but you really wouldn’t have known because he is such a happy dog. That being said, I’m anxious to see how his personality changes now that he’s not in as much pain and discomfort. For now though, I’m just glad he’s back at home and resting comfortably!

Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Today Buddy turned seven years old!

"I'm a handsome devil, aren't I?"

“I’m a handsome devil, aren’t I?”

He celebrated by barking in the wee hours of the morning – I guess he wanted to start the party early! That’s an entirely separate issue for another post but we’ve been hitting stretches of 2-3 nights in a row where he feels the need to wake everyone else up at 2 a.m. just because he happens to be awake!

Anyway, it’s been a pretty normal and SOGGY day around here. I ran to PetSmart over lunch to grab more canned food for him (yet another post for another day!) and I couldn’t resist getting a birthday/Easter toy for him – and Lucy because I know too well that bringing home one toy just won’t cut it.

Birthday/Easter toys

Birthday/Easter toys

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These past few weekends have been pretty rough on everyone. Marty and I are in the midst of the spring sports seasons and both of us were out of the house just about all day this past Saturday and Sunday (don’t worry, someone checked on the doggies!). It’s been particularly rough because, until today, the weather had turned absolutely perfect and I felt so badly they were stuck inside all day. Plus our apartment is a disaster, until yesterday we had just about no food and the clutter is piling up to the point where it’s driving me nuts.

Fortunately there are only a few more crazy weekends left (I hope) until our version of summer begins, which means an actual 9-5 job with no work on the weekends! Since I started working in this field eight years ago I’ve lived for the summer months when I get to have normal hours and a normal schedule.

But, back to Buddy! Late last week he was fully cleared for surgery; we got all of his bloodwork back and our vet has everything they need to proceed with surgery which is scheduled for…Monday! At 8:10 Monday morning I’ll be dropping Buddy off to get neutered (poor guy) and to have dental surgery.

Those two surgeries in and of themselves aren’t “major” surgeries (males might disagree) but because of Buddy’s trachea I’m very, very nervous. Now, he has to have the dental surgery. A lot of his teeth are loose (I’m pretty sure one fell out the other day!), abscessed and infected. While his collapsing trachea makes surgery trickier than normal, if he wants to stay healthy for a long time, he must get his teeth fixed. Of all the things we were concerned about with Buddy – his eye, his trachea, etc. – my vet was most concerned with his teeth. Infections can’t be ignored and that’s basically what he has going on inside his mouth!

I’m always nervous about surgery with smooshy-faced dogs because of their already existing breathing problems but I’m particularly nervous about Buddy because of the added issue with the trachea. The good news is the surgery is very early in the day and normally tracheas cause problems shortly after surgery when the trach tube is taken out. He’ll have plenty of care all day after the surgery and if necessary we’ll transport him to an overnight vet for extra observation.

All that being said, it’s his birthday so I’m off to celebrate with Buddy, Lucy and their new toys (the squeakers to which the doggies have definitely found…). 🙂

"Mine!"

“Mine!”

Pee-Gate

I figured Lucy would learn after the first time, but nope.

"You saying I'm slow?"

“You saying I’m slow?”

The first week we brought Buddy home he peed on Lucy’s leg. Now, it wasn’t intentional; he just had a spot he decided he must pee on and Lucy didn’t get out of the way fast enough. The sad part? She didn’t even notice. I was more upset than she was (only because I had to clean up a pee-covered leg; it wasn’t Buddy’s fault!).

Well, late last week Buddy struck again, this time in Lucy’s face.

"What? When you gotta go, you gotta go!"

“What? When you gotta go, you gotta go!”

I swear you would have thought Buddy peed acid on her face given Lucy’s reaction; we were less than halfway through our walk and Lucy spent the rest of the walk finding spots in random yards to roll around in the grass. Then she came back home and literally burrowed herself under her blanket, something she never does on her own (sometimes we wrap her up like a burrito just for kicks). I cleaned her face with baby wipes but for at least two hours she wasn’t her “normal” self (“normal” in quotation marks because she is anything but normal on a good day).

I adore Lucy, but she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. Buddy is a male dog and she has watched him routinely mark on our walks; she just didn’t get out of the way in time!

The good news is things are still going well with Buddy and Lucy.

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I’m just waiting on xrays from Buddy’s previous vet (and the xrays on their way!) for my vet to take a look at and make sure his trachea really isn’t bad enough to warrant surgery. I really don’t think it is based on what I’ve observed so far. He is a legitimate speedwalker; I can barely keep up with him at times! His little feet fly around our neighborhood without a single coughing attack! It may take some more monitoring in extreme temperatures but so far it’s more than manageable.

Assuming his xrays look good, we’ll schedule his neuter and dental surgeries.

I’m really anxious to get his dental surgery done and not just because his breath is…ripe. It’s because given the condition of his teeth they have to be bothering him but he eats his food just fine and even chews on some of the bones we have laying around the house; I can’t wait to see what he’s like when his teeth aren’t causing him pain anymore.

Now, off to snuggle with Pee Face and Stank Breath.

Life with Buddy

We’ve had Buddy for just over a week now and just like with any foster we’ve developed a routine of sorts.

First things first – Buddy is not a morning dog.

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I’m very used to dogs going outside first thing in the morning and then scarfing down breakfast. Not Buddy. He prefers to wait at least an hour before going out and taking a little walk around our apartment complex before breakfast. I’m still not used to a dog who isn’t begging for food the minute I wake up.

He is very much the cuddler; I know he’d prefer someone who stayed home all day so I’ll definitely look for that in his forever home.

Marty's lap is prime territory for both dogs.

Marty’s lap is prime territory for both dogs.

So far his coughing has been very manageable. He really only has coughing fits when he gets excited so I try to be sure to keep things calm. We can probably schedule his dental and neuter surgery for next week but we are still waiting on his xray from his previous vet so my vet here can take a second look at his trachea on the xrays.

Buddy also loves being comfortable, to the point where this is where I find him every morning after my shower:

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

It’s my bed but it’s Buddy’s world.

And how is Lucy doing? I think she’s doing ok. This has definitely been an adjustment; Buddy can’t really play and isn’t as big of a snuggler as Lucy would like, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t trying.

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She’s been kind of weird lately but that’s probably just par for the course. She’s not a normal dog. Perhaps this long winter is getting to her, too.

Either way things are good. The dogs don’t not get along, if that makes any sense, and Buddy is the sweetest thing. I’m looking forward to his surgery as his teeth are the cause of some toxic breath and I know they have to be causing him pain.

Hopefully I’ll have an update soon on Buddy’s upcoming surgery!

Buddy Goes to the Vet

Late this morning I took Buddy to the vet to get him looked at to figure out a course of action.

Waiting.

Waiting.

He was a hit, to say the least! Everyone loved him but that was expected; he’s a cutie!

He spent the entire time we were waiting just hanging by the door.

He spent the entire time we were waiting just hanging by the door.

So, we learned a lot at the vet! Here’s the rundown:
– His right eye is likely just about blind. Due to cataracts and an ulcer that left behind some scarring, he may detect light/dark. But, it’s not bothering him in regards to pain so his eye is what it is at this point.

– His teeth are a disaster! I pretty much knew that heading into the appointment but our vet confirmed it – he is going to need a lot of work. When he goes under to get neutered he will also have a LOT of dental work done! No idea at this point how many teeth will have to be moved but it is very likely to be teeth, plural!

– He has ear mites so he’s on drops for 14 days. No big deal.

– So, on to his trachea! His coughing is not great but really not bad, or at least not as bad as I was expecting. Here’s what my vet told me – extreme cases of collapsing trachea mean dogs often cannot walk even short distances without coughing. That’s certainly not Buddy as he led our walk this evening! Now, we’ve only had him for 48 hours so we do want to see how his coughing seems over the next few days but honestly at this point surgery is riskier than any coughing he has. His food stays down, he’s able to take walks and his coughing fits only last for 4-5 coughs and then he’s back to himself!

I have a few blood test results to track down before any surgery is scheduled so in the meantime I’ll be watching (and listening to) Buddy like a hawk to get a sense of his coughing but honestly trachea surgery on a smoosh-faced dog who is (almost) seven is something our vet would like to avoid and thinks we can.

After the vet visit, I gave Lucy her daily peanut butter Kong and Buddy looked so dissatisfied at his own treat that I offered a teeny spoon of PB. It went over very well, to say the least, even though it didn’t all exactly make it in his mouth. 🙂

"Do I have something on my lower lip?"

“Do I have something on my lower lip?”

The Very Best News

I have never left a vet’s office so happy in my entire life.

Snowy hid her happiness quite well.

Snowy hid her happiness quite well.

I took Snowy to the vet today and fully expected to leave her there for surgery tomorrow morning to remove the tumors in her bladder. However, after a very in-depth ultrasound, the vet gave me better news than I had even allowed myself to think about – there was no cancer!

That’s right, the “tumors” we saw in last week’s ultrasound had disappeared!

Now, before you start thinking my local vet is an idiot, Snowy’s ultrasound last week did show obvious shadowing that was not present on any of today’s ultrasounds. So what happened?

They gave her a (sparkly!!) Valentine's Day bandana for being such a good dog.

They gave her a (sparkly!!) Valentine’s Day bandana for being such a good dog.

The internist we saw is very certain that the shadowing/blobs in last week’s ultrasound were blood clots stemming from her back-to-back UTIs. She believes this current dose of antibiotics forced the blood clots to dissolve, hence today’s clear ultrasound images.

Just a dog and an empty waiting room.

Just a dog and an empty waiting room.

So the next step is to finish up this current dosage of antibiotics and then re-test her urine to make sure the UTI is gone and to take another ultrasound to be sure there are no more clots. If the UTI is still not resolved, then we just have to get a more detailed urine analysis to figure out exactly what strain of infection we’re dealing with and what antibiotic will clear it up as she will have then proven she’s resistant to this particular antibiotic.

I honestly never expected such great news and her future adoptive family – whom I called the minute I walked in the door tonight! – is so, so ecstatic. We just have to wait 10-14 days to make sure she’s free of this UTI and then she will be ready to meet her forever family!