Fifteen Dogs in My House

We survived our record-setting weekend.

Now we just have fourteen dogs. Which we’ve had before.

Gosh, this makes me sound like a dog-raving lunatic. Which maybe I am. Or at least I feel like one after this weekend.

Saying we fostered fifteen dogs this weekend is somewhat misleading since ten of those fosters were under the care of their mama and didn’t need anything from me except that I take good care of their mama (and maybe oogle them on occasion and weigh the runt each day).

Mama Bell is a good mom. Having birthed her babies in a shelter and then lived there with them for a few days, she arrived pretty stressed out from her five-hour drive. She snarled at us from inside her crate as Regina (the transporter), Nick and I carried the crate into the puppy room.

We carefully set the crate down and I fed Bell turkey hotdogs through the grate trying to bribe her into trusting me. Then I clipped the zipties holding the crate together, backed out of the room and carefully lifted the lid off as I left.

Bell popped right out, took a drink of water, and then jumped up at the gate to greet us. She nuzzled Regina and me, in almost an apology. I took Bell out for a much needed potty break and Regina got the puppies settled in the whelping box.

 

Regina and I talk briefly before she headed back to her Pot Belly Pig rescue (she also serves on the board of the shelter where Bell came from). We talked about the challenges of spay/neuter and she agreed that Katie was right to insist on the exception to the board policy that saved the lives of the ten little darlings now residing in my puppy room. Listening to her, I realized that as a rural northern shelter they have some of the same struggles that many of the southern shelters I’ve visited face – educating the community, spay/neuter, veterinary access, and funding.

Regina volunteered to drive the ten hours on Thursday so that Bell and her puppies could get out of the shelter setting as soon as possible. I never cease to be amazed at the people in this world who sacrifice so much of their lives and their livelihood to save animals. Regina told me a few stories and shared pictures of her current foster puppies, and I thought of her all evening driving that long way back to Northeast PA.

Before I went to bed, I messaged Katie that mama and pups had arrived safely and thanked her once again for saving their lives. In the morning Regina messaged me asking about an OPH program I had mentioned to her. And so this web of dog-hearted people continues to weave its way through my life.

Just before Regina and the PA Pups arrived, Scott had dropped off Daisy for us to babysit for the weekend. She was thrilled to see me and happy to inspect the play yard and her secret hide out. Everything in her lair was untouched since none of the other dogs have attempted to squeeze through the opening she made to access her spot under the deck.

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Her favorite friend Paul came for two visits and she was more than happy to see him (and steal his busy bones).

Daisy was excited to see Nick, and even Ian. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder. She looked good and we enjoyed plenty of snuggle time. We took a long walk together on Sunday after the big rains up the hollow, and if felt as if she’d never left.

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On Friday I met a transport (by the time the van finally arrived it was technically Saturday) to pick up Houdini, aka Hot Diggity. If you follow the blog, Who Will Let the Dogs Out, you may remember that I originally met Houdini in Alabama over a month ago. He was quite literally dying from life in a shelter.

Walker County is a pretty good shelter, as shelters go, but some dogs simply can’t handle life in a shelter. Imagine for a moment if you were taken from all that you know and placed in a metal building with a cement floor where everyone erupted in screams at frequent intervals. It’s a busy place and you get very little contact with others except to walk you to the potty and back. You are fed but it’s nothing fancy or special. There is nothing to do except stare at your neighbors (who don’t like to be stared at and will likely tell you so). I imagine from a dog’s view, living in a shelter is like going to prison.

Houdini got his name because of his penchant for escaping. By the time I met him, he had escaped multiple times usually injuring himself in the process. He’d finally been contained in a corner pen with tall sides and a chainlink roof secured in place with heavy weights. I don’t have a clear picture, but you can see from my fuzzy one what we saw – a small white dog curled in a ball in the back of his kennel. He looked sad and defeated.

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Unlike the other dogs around him, he did not get up to meet us, despite the fact that we were handing out treats. (And now that I know him, this is probably what shocks me the most because this boy LOVES his food.) When we pulled him out of his kennel, he was frantic and skeletal. I couldn’t bear the idea of putting him back in that kennel. I wanted to take him with me right then.

Houdini was dying of shelter stress. In fact, even when I was able to get OPH to agree to pull him for me to foster, the vet said he was too sick to travel. Now more than a month later, he arrived plump and happy with an endless appetite for treats and attention. He’d spent the time since I last saw him, at the home of the shelter director, Kay, where she’d gotten him dewormed and neutered and healthy.

He still has some of the scars from his time at the shelter (and likely from before he got there)—permanent stains on his white coat, torn ears, and small bumps and scabs. His nails and his teeth show the evidence of his escape attempts and a cut on the top of his head is almost completely healed up. But he is alive and happy and sweet and eager for the good life.

He trots along nicely on a leash, loves the Frank bed, gets along with all the resident dogs, and is ever vigilant for falling crumbs and hamburger buns left unattended on the kitchen table. As a dog who had almost starved to death, I doubt he will ever lose that voracious appetite.

I took Houdini to the Shrewsbury Pet Valu for a bath over the weekend and discovered that beneath that white coat his skin is covered in black spots, not unlike a dalmatian. Because of his rough start, it’s not easy to know how old he is, but it makes me wonder if he won’t be a spotted dog someday. He was not a fan of the bath and without the help of Amanda, a Pet Value employee who held him and fed him nonstop treats (and took these pictures), I’m sure I would have been the one who got the bath, not him.

Houdini indulges Fanny, but not like Tommy Hilfiger did. That boy could play for hours. Luckily, he was adopted the day before the masses descended on this foster house by a family who have a perfect playmate for him. Thor is as big as Tommy is (in his mind) and reports are that they are doing great together and Tommy is much loved.

Shew. Are you tired? I am too, but there are dogs to walk and books to write, so I’ll tell you more next week. In the meantime, you can always catch daily moments in the Facebook group, Another Good Dog and occasionally on Instagram.

Thanks for reading!

Cara

 For more information on me, my writing, and my upcoming book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One  Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, visit CaraWrites.com.

And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org.

Our family fosters through the all-breed rescue, Operation Paws for Homes, a network of foster homes in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and south-central PA. OPH is always looking for more volunteers, fosters, and adopters!

Another Good Dog coverIf you haven’t already, be sure to check out my book Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs released by Pegasus Books.

I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

Published by

Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

12 thoughts on “Fifteen Dogs in My House”

  1. You certainly have a lot of dogs in your home. But I’d not call you a dog hoarder, as you’re taking good care of them and they are far from neglected. It was nice to read about Daisy and her progress. Perhaps time has helped to decrease her fear of men even more. Keep us posted, and keep doing your part for man’s best friend. And also, just to clarify, with Bell and her puppies, are there ten dogs in that canine family counting her? Or is it her and nine puppies. Quite the litter there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 15! That is a lot of dogs!
    When we have large numbers of dogs in the house (most ever was 21…2 resident dogs, 1 mama with 10 puppies, and 1 mama with 7 puppies), I discourage the kids from sharing this information with anyone other than the best of friends for fear of seeming totally insane!
    I am eager to read more about how Bell is as a mother. Is she spending time with the other dogs in the home? Is she still wanting to be with her puppies all the time? Is she stressed by the household/dog noises or does she seem content?
    Do you worry about the dogs getting along? What is your process for introducing a new dog into the mix?
    I will try to curb my enthusiasm for having found a foster role model and limit my questions for now!
    I love reading about all the good dogs! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cracked me up – ‘I discourage my kids from sharing the information…” I’m careful too about what company I mention the total number of dogs in my house to and I’m certain my kids’ friends’ families think we’re nuts.

      As far as questions – Bell is a very protective mama, a first for me. So I only handle the puppies while someone is walking her. She’s getting better, but I want to respect her and make her feel safe, so for now, I’m not pushing her. Luckily, she LOVES to go out for walks/play/snuggles. She is definitely stressed when she hears the other dogs playing or barking – but it seems more like an ‘I want to join in’ yelp than an upset one.

      I do worry tremendously about the dogs getting along. When I bring a new dog in, I do what our rescue recommends and have a shut-down period. This can be different for every dog. It generally means the dog is either in a crate (in a room separated from the other dogs by a gate or door) or on a leash with me in the house or outside for a few days or even a week. There is no loose time, even in the fenced yard, since I don’t know the dog and he doesn’t know he is safe with me yet.

      The next step is to let the dogs either meet through a fence or gate, but hopefully go for a walk together (this is dependent on me having a willing helper). If I see wags and happy interactions, we might next let them meet in the play yard on leash and then with foster on leash and personal off-leash. Usually, that goes well and then we can release both for a brief supervised play period. But I still keep them separate in the house, only now allowing lots of sniffing through the gate and I allow the personals into the same room with crated foster.

      As long as there are no harsh words spoken, we begin to integrate – loose together in the kitchen, and eventually, if housebroken, in the rest of the house and my office. I NEVER leave foster dogs loose with my dogs (or other foster dogs) while I am away from the house or not within earshot.

      Hopefully, that’s helpful – but feel free to toss out any questions on the blog (where it might help others) or by emailing me directly (carasueachterberg@gmail.com). I’m always excited to meet a kindred spirit and if the mistakes I’ve made along the way can help anyone else, I’m happy to share them!

      Like

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