Reverse Bucket List

Given that it’s Thanksgiving, this post seemed appropriate.

So what is a Reverse Bucket List? From here: “Think of a reverse bucket list as an exercise in grateful recounting: You’re basking in the pride of your experiences and accomplishments, and you’re taking time to get thankful for them.”

Let’s just say my life is not where I thought it would be at this point in my life. I’m 33, single, never married (and I’m the girl who subscribed to bridal magazines at the age of 12), no kids and one year into a new career after going to undergrad for what I thought would be my forever career. It’s really easy for me to default to thoughts like, “everyone else my age has done more than me” or “everyone is living the life they want.” It’s A: not true and B: not really a productive line of thought.

Thus, when I stumbled on the idea of a reverse bucket list, it struck a chord – so here is my reverse bucket list, in no particular order:

1. Graduated high school with honors
2. Graduated college magna cum laude
3. Competed in the Junior Olympics (twice) for fencing
4. Brought Lucy home

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My all-time favorite picture of Lucy

5. Fostered eight times (and counting, I hope)
6. Earned my Master’s degree (while working 60-plus hour work weeks) with zero debt
7. In fact, I have zero debt of any kind right now
8. Achieved a director position in what (I thought) was my dream career field
9. Ran two half-marathons
10. Competed in three CrossFit competitions
11. Overcome an eating disorder
12. Accepted a new job in a new career field
13 Traveled to St. Croix
14. Been a bridesmaid (twice)
15. Bought my first car

Fifteen “highlights” doesn’t really seem like a lot but these are the bigger ones that came to mind (winning a bookmark-making contest in elementary school didn’t seem to qualify).

I thought this was a worthwhile exercise. My life is not what I pictured it would be at this point (far from it) but that doesn’t mean I’ve nothing with my life to this point.

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One Year

An entire year has passed since I uprooted the life I’d been living for more than six years and moved 80 minutes away to start a new job in a new career field in a new city. As usual, in some ways it’s seemed like a long year and in other ways it seems like it was just yesterday I was moving into my new apartment. A year of “firsts” of is over; that may have been the most exciting part of this past year – experiencing all the “firsts” in my new apartment in my new city. First Thanksgiving, first holiday season, first birthday (although I actually spent that in paradise…), first run, first foster, etc.

It has not been an easy year (actually, it’s been one of the hardest), but I don’t have any regrets. So much than my job and home city have changed; as cliché as it is, events – work and personal – over the past year caused me to change but that’s not a bad thing. I am infinitely happier in my new career than I ever was in my previous one. Personally? I’m working on it every day. There will be downs – there have already been downs – but I had to move on in a new career field and allow any other changes to happen as they may.

Here are some highlights from the past year:

Lady

Festivus

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I think I count four chins in this photo.

Dad’s Retirement Party

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Amanda’s Wedding

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St. Croix/Birthday

Battle Royale

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Fleetwood Mac Concert

Kramer

Pet Photo Session

Hershey Half-Marathon

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I hope the next year has just as many highlights and a few less low-lights.

Kramer’s Adoption

This afternoon Kramer went off to his forever home. I met his new mom (and her mom – Kramer’s new grandma!) halfway between Lancaster and his new home in New Jersey. It was a long day – I spectated at a CrossFit competition for most of the morning/early afternoon then drove to drop Kramer off and back home before my Hershey Half-Marathon tomorrow morning. More emotionally draining than anything else, though. Driving back home without him, knowing he was traveling in the complete opposite direction from me, was hard.

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Kramer was admittedly one of the hardest fosters to give up for a lot of reasons. I’ve been lucky – the two fosters I’ve had on my own – Lady and Kramer – have been two of my easiest. I don’t think it will ever get easier than Lady, and Kramer – while far more active – was pretty darn easy, as well.

Pugs are so distinctive in their personalities – but all four of my pug fosters have all been typical Velcro pugs. And while it takes some time to get used to having a dog who must be with you at all times (i.e. total polar opposite of Lucy), it certainly is a great feeling to have a dog that visibly loves you. I adore Lucy, but I don’t get the outward displays of love from her like I did from Kramer.

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Kramer also brought a lot of laughs into my life. He is such a funny dog and it felt good to laugh for the past two-plus months. He did something every day that made me smile and laugh. My apartment felt a lot livelier with him around.

In the last month, he’s also been extra great with Lucy. I’m not sure if she’s feeling friendlier toward him since he got neutered or if that’s just a coincidence, but she’s perfectly content to have him lay next to her. She wasn’t not okay with before then, it’s just happening a lot more lately.

This obviously begs the question as to why I didn’t just keep him and the reason is the same as all my previous fosters – it’s just not the responsible thing to do. While Lucy has done great with Kramer, it’s not like she’s ecstatic he’s around. The only dog she was ever sad to see go was Violet (f.k.a Snowy). She hasn’t gotten as attached to another dog since. Of course, it’s not like Lucy’s told me this. Maybe she loves Kramer more than she shows. But I don’t think she’ll mind going back to being the only dog again.

I’m also trying hard to save money. I renewed the lease for my apartment for another full year but I’ve put some thought into buying a condo after the next year of my lease. And my rent is going up $50/month – not an insignificant increase. The adoption cost for Kramer isn’t a big deal, it’s the cost of keeping two high-maintenance breeds healthy that’s a big deal.

Kramer also isn’t as easy a dog to travel with as other dogs, especially in comparison to Lucy. He barks. A lot. And I think he’d get on the nerves of my family when I visit. He’s just not my parents’ kind of dog. It’s selfish of me not to take that into consideration since I do like to visit them. I wanted to be selfish and keep him. But that wasn’t the adult thing to do.

And finally, there is zero possibility of me continuing to foster if I have two dogs of my own in a teeny tiny apartment. Plus, it’s not like fostering is a no-cost activity for me. I pay for toys, treats, food, etc. It’s not a huge cost, but feeding three dogs would be a big hit to the budget and push my apartment to maximum capacity. And fostering is important to me – I want to continue doing it. Maybe down the road when I have a larger home and a bit more spending money, keeping two dogs and being able to foster a third will be a possibility. It’s just not a possibility at this point in my life.

But I’m grateful Kramer has gone to such a wonderful home. He’s going to make his new mom very happy.

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How could that face not make you instantly happy?!

And now, the usual “what I want to remember” part of any adoption posts –

– How every time I walked through the door he immediately started whimpering and clawing at the crate door for me to let him out; he was that excited I was home. There is no better feeling than someone (or some dog) who is that giddy to see you day after day.

– After he was let inside after doing his business, he made a beeline to the kitchen (where I keep their treats). If I was still outside with Lucy, it took him approximately 10 seconds to realize I wasn’t inside yet and he’d trot right back to the patio door and stare at Lucy and me outside, waiting for us to finish so he could finally get his treat

– His blankie obsession. Cutest thing ever.

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– How he loved to roll around on the couch; he’d roll and burrow in and under all the blankies on the couch. At first I thought it was because he was trying to (and often succeeded) get his belly band off but he rolled and burrowed regardless; it had to feel so good after likely living in nothing but a crate for eight years.

– His struggles to get on the couch. Nine times out of 10 I’d lift him onto the couch. But if I wasn’t fast enough or wasn’t in the room, he would do it himself. It often took several tries but it was so endearing to see him try time and time again until he finally hoisted himself on the couch. And then the rolling would commence (see above point).

– His eyes. Pug eyes are the best, but especially his. They were a beautiful amber color and so expressive.

– How he had to poop at least two times per walk – often three times. We went through poo bags fast with him around.

– Watching his tail wag. Literally all you had to do was say his name and look at him and the tail started. The best was when I’d catch him mid-blankie gnawing and call his name or he’d see me across the room – he’d keep right on gnawing his blankie but he’d make eye contact with me and his tail would start going. Sweetest thing.

– I know I mentioned this before, but how much happiness he added to my life. It was simply impossible to be sad with him around.

Thus ends the adventures of foster #8. It’s going to take a while to rebound from this one, that’s for sure.

Crazy Dog Lady

The first step in getting help for a problem is admitting you have a problem. I don’t want help for my problem but I fully admit I am a crazy dog lady. I am utterly obsessed with Lucy, all bulldogs (including those I’ve never met) and my foster dogs.

But here’s some more reality – I am single, do not have kids and I consider dogs a passion of mine. If that makes me a loser, so be it. But I foster and actively assist with various volunteer efforts for SNORT and there are worse things I can choose to devote my free time. It makes me happy and I have the (limited) resources and time to devote to that hobby.

But even I have reached a whole new level of crazy. This evening, Lucy (and I) had professional photos taken.

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Anxiously waiting to start!

A photographer named April Zielger took the photos. I’ve followed her on Facebook for years; I’m not even sure why I started following her, but she does absolutely wonderful work and she’s very experienced in pet photos. Plus, she has a slight affinity for bulldogs. When the thought first crossed my mind that this might be something I’d want to do, I really didn’t consider anyone else.

How did the session go? Great! I absolutely cannot wait to see the pictures. And it’s now indisputable – Lucy just doesn’t like me all that much. Any time April tried to get a picture of Lucy and me, Lucy wanted nothing to do with me. Walked away time after time after time. It is quite clear I love her far more than she loves me.

Anyway, despite now cementing myself as crazy, I had a few valid reasons (at least they were valid in my own head) to do this. First, I adore this dog. Obviously. Right now, she’s pretty much the most significant thing in my life (besides my job – no job means no Lucy). I consider her part of my family; my lifestyle is based around her and I’m more than okay with that.

Second, I am really interested in photography. I have a DSLR camera of my own, like to shoot photos whenever I travel and LOVE looking at professional photographers’ work. So, I was highly interested in having a few really good photographs of Lucy. I appreciate good work and to me it’s worth the investment. These will last forever.

And speaking of forever, Lucy won’t be here forever. Not to be morbid, but a lot of bulldogs don’t reach double digits. Many do, but many don’t. She’s already 5 ½. Statistically speaking, that puts her on the back nine (golf metaphor for you). She’s active, healthy and happy – she’s not going anywhere soon; at least, I hope not. But I don’t see anything wrong with having some really good photos to remember her by and cherish forever.

And lastly, the least important reason: I don’t have many pictures of myself and Lucy and almost none I’d consider good. I am the least photogenic person ever. It’s a fact. I’m not a hideous creature but you wouldn’t know that if you saw pictures of me. It’s bad. So, if April got even 1-2 pictures with Lucy and me in which I look something like a normal human being, it’s worth it.

Plus, you know what feels good? Really not caring what other people think. I’m sure the general consensus is that I’m nuts. For someone who’s normally pretty stingy (that would be me), this is probably seen as a waste, not to mention flat out weird. But I don’t care. and that’s absolutely freeing.

24 Hours with Kramer

We’re just over 24 hours into bringing Kramer home. It’s been a hell of a 24 hours – not in a bad way but man, I like to cram a lot into a little amount of time.

I got back to Lancaster at 2:15 on Monday afternoon. At 2:30 I was right back on the road to pick up Kramer. At 3:00 Kramer was promptly dumped into my tub as it was discovered he has fleas. A lot of them. For five straight minutes, nothing but dirt, blood and fleas washed off of him. There was so much blood which shocked me when I first saw it pouring off. No blood was visible until I started bathing him. Those fleas were literally causing him to bleed and for God knows how long.

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Based on the amount of blood and dirt coming off him, he’s never been bathed in his life. But he was such a trooper. Trust me, it’s not my first choice to take a dog straight to the tub before his feet even touch the floor of his new home. But it had to be done. And while he wouldn’t stand on all fours in the tub, he was good as long as his front paws were propped up on the edge of the tub so he could touch me. In fact, once the bath started, I think he absolutely loved the warm water and massage. He was so itchy and it had to feel like heaven.

After drying him off, I plopped him in the crate and literally ran to my car to get emergency flea supplies. Thanks to the support of the SNORT group, I learned of a product called capstar (it’s a pill) that kills fleas on dogs within 30 minutes. And boy did that stuff work as promised. Within 30 minutes 100s more (dead) fleas were literally falling off him. By the time we went to bed, his itching was already dramatically decreased. No new fleas whatsoever. Magic product, I tell you. And once the fleas started falling off, I brushed him for a while. His eyes literally closed in ecstasy.

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I know, ridiculously cute.

As with all puppy mill dogs, I had no idea what to expect before seeing him for the first time. He was surrendered by an Amish puppy mill breeder who said Kramer was “no longer doing his job.” I’ll just leave it there. Enough said.

No photos were taken of him and no information was given. And that’s what I got upon pickup – nothing. No paperwork. No vaccination history. NO NAME. That’s right, eight years and he never had a name. My favorite show is Seinfeld so Kramer was an obvious choice. Plus, he really does act like Kramer – he makes his presence known in the goofiest and noisiest of ways. For instance, he must mark a spot three times. No more, no less.

As you can see in the photos, though, he’s a super handsome dog. Dark fawn color and now that he’s been bathed, he has the softest, fluffiest fur. He is a pug through and through. Must have a human in his sight at all times. Spastic and snorty but so sweet.

Fortunately, Kramer seems to be crate trained – despite spending 95% of his time thus far in the crate, he’s had zero accidents. He has done his business outside, as well. The only incidents we’ve had indoors have been two marking incidents. He’s clearly marking, not peeing to empty his bladder. While the end result is the essentially same, his intent is different; I’m choosing to see it as a positive that he knows to take care of his business outside and I’ll deal with the marking as we go. Hopefully the longer he’s here the less he feels the need to mark – plus getting neutered will help. I’m also trying out the belly band today to see if he tolerates it.

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One week from today he has a vet visit. If this guy’s ever been to the vet I’d be shocked; plus, there’s zero record of any visit that may have happened. I’m really hoping he doesn’t have heartworm or Lyme. I’m expecting he will have something we need to address – it certainly appears he’s spent his entire life outside with zero care.

And Lucy? She’s less than thrilled. Poor girl had a busy and tiring weekend to begin with then I literally rushed in the door with Kramer. I’m thankful that so far Kramer hasn’t been overly interested and most definitely has yet to show signs of aggression. Again, they’ve been separated 95% of the time so far and she won’t even walk by his crate she’s so scared (for zero reason. He has done nothing to her and he’s inside a locked crate). Clearly part of it is her just being her neurotic self. But I do feel badly; I always do. I don’t think she ever loves when I have a foster around. But fostering is important to me and I always make sure she gets just as much attention as she always does, if not a bit more.

I really did decide to tackle a lot this past weekend – a long weekend in NJ, a late-night concert (Fleetwood Mac which was worth 10 times over but also saw me get back to my parents’ at 2 a.m. Sunday night/Monday morning) and then picking up Kramer 10 minutes after getting back to Lancaster before proceeding to de-flea him and go grocery shopping for the week. And then back into the work week routine at 4:30 this morning.

Fortunately, I have no more travel plans for a while – hence why I chose this time to get a new foster. We should be able to settle into a good routine and get Kramer healthy and on his way to finding a forever home!

 

Meet Kramer

Forgive me – it has been a whirlwind of a long weekend so this will be brief; more to follow in the coming days!

I spent a long weekend in NJ with my parents so that my mom and I could attend the Fleetwood Mac concert at CitiField. Hands down one of the best experiences of my life. Simply a phenomenal performance. My second time seeing them and this was even better than the first time.

I left NJ this morning (running on six hours of sleep which is just not enough for me!) to pick up my latest foster, Kramer.
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He is an Amish puppy mill surrender. He came with no records, no name, nothing. So I got to name him (Seinfeld is my absolute favorite shows so Kramer it was).

I will have a lot more in the coming days about this guy. The short story? He is a pug through and through. Snorty, affectionate, energetic and ridiculously sweet.

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A Special Transport

It was quite the weekend. Yesterday (Saturday), I competed in my third CrossFit competition (second individual competition). I’m very self-aware that I’m mediocre at CrossFit but I really like pushing myself. I did about how I expected and while it was physically tough (which is the point!), it was fun to spend the morning sweating and competing.

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What wasn’t fun? The after effects on my hands and muscles. My hands look no better today and there isn’t a single part of my body I can move without pain. But it was worth it.

After the competition, my parents came out to visit for the afternoon/evening. We went wine tasting (the best way to recover, in my opinion) and had a great dinner. While I’ll see them again next weekend (my mom and I are going to a Fleetwood Mac concert!) it was nice to have them out here. I’ve been in the Lancaster area for nine months now and this was only the second time they’ve been out to visit so it was nice to show them around a bit.

This morning, after taking roughly 10 minutes to get out of bed (so painful), I got ready to spring a dog from the Lancaster SPCA. I’ve been volunteering with SNORT for almost four years now but I’ve only done maybe 2-3 transports and I’ve never actually physically removed a dog from a shelter so today was a first.

I was there to spring Lugnut, a 12-year-old male pug who was surrendered by his family. Yes, after they’d had him for 12 years.

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It was both heartwarming and depressing being inside the shelter. So many dogs. So many homes needed for them. So much barking. So much smell. But wonderful volunteers who are doing everything they can to care for the dogs. There were so many pitbulls; one had his/her ears cropped so ridiculously short and I know they are going to be hard to adopt out. A little wire-haired terrier named Annie. Of course I was beyond depressed for each and every one of them. It’s just not the life any dog should have to live.

But anyway, I sprung Lugnut from the shelter and we made our way to meet his foster family. He was shaking like a leaf – absolutely petrified. And I think he was largely deaf so it was hard to calm him down since he couldn’t hear my voice very well. But he had the perfect pug head tilt down pat. We made the relatively uneventful drive where he met his foster family and from what I’ve heard, he’s settling in and meeting the other pugs in his foster home. I’m so happy for that cutie – he deserves to live out his golden years by being loved and spoiled.

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.

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.