Rescue Work Overload & the Difference a little Trust Can Make

Every now and again, the dog-thing gets a bit overwhelming. This weekend was one of those times. It makes me pause and wonder if I’m doing too much, asking too much of my family, my own pets, my own heart.

It’s so easy to anthropomorphize dogs. (I toss that big word out there as if I didn’t have to look up the spelling and be sure I was using it correctly. It means to attribute human characteristics and purposes to inanimate objects, plants, and animals.)

We imagine we know a dog’s motives, emotions. We think we can read its expressions, sense its moods, understand why it responds the way it does, even interpret its feelings. (I’ve been anthropomorphizing Gracie for years — but who knows what really goes through that little head of hers.)

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This week confirmed for me once again that dogs, like people, are mysteries. It is nearly impossible to know another person’s heart, let alone a dog’s, and twice as easy to imagine that we do. We assume based on our own experiences and bias, but in reality we’re wrong as much as we’re blessed with a lucky guess or two.

Yesterday morning, for the first time in weeks, Gala and Darlin’ had a nasty fight. Continue reading Rescue Work Overload & the Difference a little Trust Can Make

The Pee Wars

I’ve had about enough of the pee wars. Unbeknownst to you, this quiet war has been waging in my kitchen for three days. I don’t know who started it. I don’t know how it will be ‘won,’ but I’ve had entirely enough of it.

So today I armed myself. I bought a doggie diaper. I’m not sure yet which dog will be wearing it, but I’ve decided to place blame on the dog who should know better, so here she is modeling it for you:

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Let me back up.

On Friday evening, I brought home two new fosters. Continue reading The Pee Wars

Second Chances

Now that I’m back to walking (YES! MRI revealed lots of damage, but nothing to stop me from moving forward and continuing to heal on my own!) I’ve had a chance to catch up on my thinking. So much was backlogged in my brain – ideas, worries, dreams, questions, stories. Lucy and I have increased our walk time each day this week and this morning we wandered the back roads for nearly an hour.

I’m still mulling over the book Rescue Road and pondering the enormous challenges to dog rescue in the US (and in the world). I had begun to feel the same way I did when my elementary school science teacher explained how far away Pluto was – it seemed like an insurmountable distance.

My teeny, tiny part in rescuing dogs couldn’t possibly put even the idea of a dent in the problem. Probably my thoughts were colored by my inability to move without pain. But now, the world looks different. I’m ready to get back in the game. I’m ready to save some more dogs.

I’ve had my moments of frustration with Lucy these past few weeks. She has come so far – she’s no longer scratching and her beautiful tri-colored coat is coming back in, her energy levels are rising (and rising!), and her happiness quotient somehow went even higher.

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Here she is playing with the filling for the Frank bed.

My frustration springs from the fact that she is not accustomed to living indoors. It hasn’t been an easy transition. Part of me wants to put her on a line outside. She’d probably be more comfortable. That’s what she’s known. Instead, we keep her in the kitchen and walk her frequently. We reward her when she pees outside and admonish her when she pees inside.

I think she finally understands she shouldn’t pee on our floor, but this morning when she evidently couldn’t hold it a moment longer, she peed on the Frank bed. I was so angry! Why would she do this? Why? Why? Why? I took her outside and then I closed her in her crate. Continue reading Second Chances

A Fixable Problem

WARNING: This is not a happy or funny post. It might bum you out, or maybe it will inspire you. I’m taking my chances sharing my grief and frustration.

IMG_3629Today is the day Ginger will leave. I feel unprepared. Every other time, when a dog was leaving that I knew would break my heart, I had a plan in place. A new foster on its way or already in our house, or I had somewhere to go or be that would distract me. Not today.

Because I’m still waiting to see a doctor who will have the answers, I can’t commit to a new dog/puppy. I’m not a good patient or a patient person, so my hurting knee is dragging me down. Lucy is still here, but we’re finding our routine and she’s ready to go to a forever home as soon as her people find her.

Today is different than other adoption days. Without my usual props in place, I already feel the tears gathering and I hate that. This is the hardest part of fostering. This heart-cratering pain that is so completely unavoidable- if I just didn’t foster dogs. It’s self-inflicted, preventable, and yet, I know it’s nothing compared to the pain of all the dogs that never make it out.

I’m currently reading Rescue Road, the story of a man named Greg Mahle, who drives a tractor-trailer full of rescue dogs from the deep south, to foster homes and adopters in the north twice a month. He’s helped rescue over 30,000 dogs and driven a million miles.

I’m trying to read it as fast as I possibly can because it is unbearable. Every time I have to close the book and move back into my world I feel sad, unmoored, frustrated. How can there be people in this world, in this time, who would dump a litter of newborn puppies in a trashcan or worse yet, set that trash can on fire?

How can there be state-run ‘shelters’ that are no more than concrete holding pens completely exposed to the elements where dogs are dumped all together (young, old, sick, neutered or not) to wait for no one (or maybe a rescue) to claim them before they die of preventable diseases or state mandated euthanasia? This book breaks my heart. Reading it this weekend, knowing it was our last with Ginger, made for a sad, sad few days.

Yes, I know, Ginger is going to a GREAT home. It’s the only happy thought available for me to hold on to. Only that great home isn’t mine. It can’t be. Technically, it could be, but reading Rescue Road this weekend underlined again for me exactly why it can’t be—there are too many dogs still down there. Too many dogs dying every day because of ignorance, cruelty, apathy, and lack of resources. This is a fixable problem. Maybe that’s what makes me most crazy. Parvo, mange, heartworms, overpopulation—these are ALL preventable or treatable.

All of my mixed feelings and sadness is complicated by the fact that my knee is not healing. It limits me. Just this morning, I fell, once again. Even though I had on my brace and my new super grippy shoes that my husband insisted I buy, my unstable let still slid out from under me on a stick that fell in last night’s storm as I made my way down the hill with Lucy. Ouch.

And then there’s Lucy.
Continue reading A Fixable Problem

The Grave Consequences of Being a Slow Learner

I’ve fallen down a lot over the past year and a half while we’ve been fostering dogs. I’m talking about physically falling down, though certainly I’ve mentally and emotionally taken my tumbles.

Carla was the first to knock me over when she darted in front of me while we were running. A 75-pound coonhound is not something you can hop over, so instead she took me out like a football player making a clean block. Luckily (for me) she broke my fall. I only suffered a few scratches and started running with a longer leash so the next time she’d have the leash length to clear me if she happened to notice a squirrel on my opposite side.

Then Frank pulled me over twice. Frank wasn’t huge, but he was 50+ pounds of solid muscle. When he slipped into the chicken pen as I was closing the gate, I chased after him and stupidly grabbed his collar while he was in full flight. You can imagine the rest. A skinned elbow and bruised knee were my penance for my bad decision. (Frank didn’t get a chicken, though, so perhaps it was worth it.)

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The second time I was walking down our steep hill in smooth-soled shoes and my feet slid out from under me. I’m not sure he had anything to do with that fall other than happening to be on the other end of the leash when I clumsily lost my footing. The result of that fall was only a few grass stains.

DSC_9923Tennessee took me out while running. He had been the perfect running companion, incredibly obedient and sticking close to my side for weeks. Until something behind us startled him and he slammed into me in his panic and sent me sprawling. I ended up with two skinned knees and one skinned palm on that one.

After that I had a long run of not falling over, nearly a year and then Whoopie yanked me over when her bloodhound nose picked up the scent of a cat and I couldn’t keep up. I did a lovely belly flop on the grass, but was no worse for wear.

And then this past Monday night, I hit the ground again, only this time I didn’t get up. I was walking Bambi and Lucy at the same time in wet grass, in the dark, in sandals, down the hill. So, you can already see all the mistakes I made going into this. The two of them both lunged forward at the same time and I’m not even sure why. I think Bambi was only excited, as she is a puppy, and I believe Lucy, who is not a puppy but has a puppy-spirit simply joined in the fun. Continue reading The Grave Consequences of Being a Slow Learner

Our Present Pack of Pups

My trusty co-pilot and helper (read: the only kid without a driver’s license or a job this summer) and I met the Lucy train in Hagerstown last Wednesday and picked up our latest charge. She’d been riding shot-gun for the last leg with a very nice person named Terri. When I opened the hatch of my SUV, she hopped right in, settled in the crate we’d brought and went to sleep. Obviously, she wouldn’t be a high-maintenance guest.

This poor pup has been through it—I can’t say exactly what, but she is riddled with scars, the worst one being a permanent necklace from where a collar was embedded and/or she was left chained up for a long period. Despite all that, she is a happy, friendly, easy-going girl. The resilience of dogs is something to behold.

Thankfully, she doesn’t appear to be pregnant. As exciting as that would have been, the last thing this sweet girl needs is puppies. Her skin is inflamed and hot and covered in some form of eczema that requires us to keep a cone on her 24/7 so she won’t chew herself bloody. It’s a testimony to her good nature that she handles her misery so well. She scratches at the cone trying to get to her neck and chest, where the rash is worst. She chews at her side, biting the plastic cone that prevents her from a reaching her itchy skin. It may not help, but maybe the effort brings a mental relief. I remember scratching at my riding helmet covering my itchy head when I was in the middle of a competition or lesson. It’s psychological; you feel like you’re doing something. I would shake my head, too, which I’ve seen Lucy doing.

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If you’ve ever had poison ivy or hives covering your entire body, you might have some sense of what this pup is going through. The urge to itch is all-consuming and yet—she can’t reach it. She’s headed to the vet on Wednesday to confirm that she isn’t pregnant and hopefully get a prescription for some serious drugs to help her out. The vets that examined her before she came north diagnosed a flea allergy. While there are no fleas on this girl now (I’ve given her enough oatmeal baths to verify that), I would assume at some point she was infested with them. Continue reading Our Present Pack of Pups

Revolving Door of Foster Dogs

Wow, hang on tight, the musical chairs/foster dog switcheroo is on warp speed this week.

Friday night instead of a pregnant mama (didn’t work out this time), we picked up the two foster puppies we volunteered to host for the weekend. We planned to take them to boarding on Monday. I’m not sure why I call anything a plan since it rarely resembles one and most times ends up looking nothing like the original. So, let’s call it an idea.

I had a ‘white’ weekend (nothing on the calendar), so the idea was to give these two little girls some runaround-with-Ginger time, make sure they got their wormers and flea/tick treatments, and hope some dogs got adopted and another foster home opened up. If not, we’d take them to boarding on Monday. Great idea, right? Sure it was.

When we arrived home with our pups on Friday night, Brienne galloped around the yard, her nose on overdrive. At six months, she is all hound. Eight month old Little Lady, on the other hand, didn’t move. We pulled her from her crate and when we set her on the grass, she immediately flattened herself against it and then tried to burrow in.

When Brienne did a fly-by, Lady got up, took a few steps and then dove back into the grass, rolling and rubbing her nose and belly against the grass, as if she was trying to get as close as possible to it or maybe disappear. When I set her on the pavement, she dove for the grass and again pressed herself against it. Had she never touched grass before? Finally, I picked her up and carried her into the house.

The next morning, when I opened the crates, Brienne bounded out and smothered me with kisses, while doing the happy hound murmur. Brienne is vocal like a real hound. The only other hounds we’ve had who made such constant commentary were Carla and Whoopie. I love the sounds and the constant wagging tail. Brie is one happy girl.

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Lady hung back in her crate until I took Brienne out of the room. When I shut the door and sat down outside her crate, she cautiously crept out and then leaned into me, pressing her long nose against my side, wagging her backside (she has no tail). I was gone—hook, line and sinker. What happened to this precious pup? No matter; from here on out, there will only good things.

When I picked up a leash, she scrambled back into her crate, so I sat back down and waited.

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Continue reading Revolving Door of Foster Dogs