My Dog Problem…

“You know, when you’re hiding how many dogs you have from your family, it’s a sign you have a problem.”

This is what my sister-in-law said to me over a beer Saturday night. I had just confessed to her that we had another dog coming on Sunday, but someone else was holding the dog over the weekend until all the extraneous family left.

We had a weekend full of family visiting to see my daughter perform in YorVoice –  a friendly local a-la-the-Voice competition held at a gorgeous theater in downtown York. (She WON by the way – pardon me while I take a moment to do a proud-mama-brag! You can see it HERE. She’s the third performer.) I told Sherry that I wasn’t hiding the new dog; it was just a crazy busy weekend beyond the visiting relatives and I didn’t want to add to the chaos. (But, really, all our weekends are pretty busy so if I’m honest, the deception was prompted completely by the visiting relatives.)

This would be the first time some of them had been here in a while. Since their last visit, we’ve fostered over 75 dogs. There are now baby gates and dog beds and toys and baskets of laundry creating a new maze of obstacles in our home, similar to when we had three toddlers/preschoolers roaming the land.

There’s a nice, new cozy bed in the guest bedroom, but that doesn’t mask the fact that three whiney puppies are ensconced on the other side of the wall from their bedroom, plus the pushy mama dog who is protesting the onset of weaning and regularly breaks through the baby gate to whine outside the puppy pen. Add to that my snarky, awkward personal dog, and, well, you get the picture. It seemed smarter to avoid having to explain why I could possibly be adding to the chaos.

Eventually I was found out (and teased), but Sherry was right about it probably being wise to be upfront about your problem with your family. I think the days have passed when they could have had me committed involuntarily. For the most part, I distracted them with puppies.

Other than much eye-rolling and head shaking (and the requisite snarling from Gracie), Nelson’s arrival on Sunday went uneventfully. I have many, many excuses for why I signed on to host him. But they are only that — excuses. The real reason is I couldn’t resist him. Because, yes, I do have a dog problem. (Owning that.)

In case you’re interested, here are my excuses – Continue reading My Dog Problem…

Things Happen for a Reason

Finally, finally, maybe, we are out of the woods. Knock on wood. Fingers crossed. Prayers sent.

I still wake up every morning and hold my breath until I see all the pups breathing, and pause at the puppy room door numerous times during the day to be certain I see a steady rise and fall of sleeping puppy bellies. I have a feeling, this paranoia may be hard to shake. I’ll probably be poking and prodding sleeping puppies for years to come.

Bogo is still very congested, breathing like a tiny darth vadar, so I put her in the nebulizer treatment center (aka, the cat carrier covered in a quilt) several times a day. She doesn’t last in there long, whining after a few minutes and then going into full-on howl mode after five. I don’t feel too horrible letting her scream a bit ever since a pharmacist friend told me that when she’s screaming she’s actually taking in more of her treatment.

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Doodlebug sleeps much more than a normal puppy her age. When I enter the room, Puddin’ hops to his feet and attempts to tackle my toes and Bogo lifts her head and watches the action. Doodlebug simply snores away unless I wake her. Of course, this was reason for me to case the internet in search of some mysterious puppy condition in which 4-week-old puppies sleep nonstop – Sleeping Beauty Syndrome? I’m hoping this excessive slumber is only due to a tiny body trying to grow. The pups seem to be at least a week or two behind developmentally, so Doodlebug sleeping like a two-week-old pup is hopefully normal.

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All three pups Continue reading Things Happen for a Reason

The Roller Coaster Quest to Save These Pups

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Up and down. Up and down. Every day in that puppy pen, it is up and down. I’m getting better at riding the roller coaster. Not sure if that’s a good thing. Maybe I’m just becoming numb.

In the beginning, when my pups began to fail, I was frantic, teary, desperate. Now, I’m resigned and accepting and grateful. We are doing everything we can. They will survive or they won’t, but it won’t be because we didn’t try.

My husband reminds me again and again not to think past today. I don’t want to ponder difficult decisions down the road if these pups don’t begin to thrive. Spending so much intense time with them has given me opportunity to know them well and the thought of any of them dying feels unbearable. And yet, I’ve witnessed the death of five puppies now, so I know that if I have to, I will bear it.

Following that thought too far, is painful so I’m trying very hard not to think ahead. Focus on now. What’s in front of me. Three adorable, precious puppies. Continue reading The Roller Coaster Quest to Save These Pups

The Battle to Save These Pups

I really don’t know what I’m doing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that in the course of fostering dogs and even more times in the course of fostering puppies.

And once again, I am wishing, wishing, wishing that I knew more or was a quicker study when it comes to caring for this litter. Granted, this isn’t an easy litter. In any way. And yet I can’t help but feel responsible, if only for my ignorance.

We lost another puppy yesterday. And whether or not I could have done anything about it, is probably not the point. But that doesn’t stop me from doubting and questioning and sinking into a pit of serious sadness over what feels like my inability to do anything to help them. I go through the same thing with my kids, just now I’m transferring that mama/caretaker guilt to fostering.

I was recounting the story for Nick on the phone yesterday (he is traveling this week) and I said, “I just wish they’d give me another litter – I know so much more now. I could do better.”

And then I thought about that.

How horrible is it that lives depend on me and I’m still learning?

But, you know what? Continue reading The Battle to Save These Pups

A Hamilton Birthday Party

Every time I have the opportunity to see one of my former foster pups, I always wonder if they will recognize me, and pretty much every time I go away both sad and glad that they don’t. Or if they do, they keep it to themselves.

I’m sad they don’t recognize me because I still love them and remember the bond we had. Some of them were with me for months. At the same time I’m so very glad that they are happy in their new lives and not pining for me. As I said to someone who asked me about it at the Hamilton puppy birthday party over the weekend, “If they did, there would be 70 dogs roaming around the mid-atlantic (plus one in Indiana and one in Massachusetts) feeling depressed.” I’m glad they’ve moved on. I’m grateful dogs are so resilient.

On this past Sunday, I had the immense pleasure of seeing Schuyler and six of her nine pups a year after they consumed my life and solidified my puppy addiction. When I agreed to foster Schuyler and her newborn puppies, through a simple miscommunication or perhaps an assumption on my part, I thought I was getting a mom dog and three pups. That seemed manageable and my husband was game.

Then, a day before I picked them up I discovered there were actually nine puppies coming. Luckily, my marriage survived it. And I do still wonder if I would have ever volunteered for that many puppies had I known. Either way, it set my course and explains why since then I’ve fostered 26 puppies in less than a year.

When they left my house, the Hamilton puppies weighed 10-12 pounds and now they are all between 45-65 pounds. They are still a happy bunch and took over the dog park where the party was held. The Hamilton pack was back in action. They wrestled over sticks, just as they had in the puppy pen last spring.

Continue reading A Hamilton Birthday Party

The Other Foster Dog

So, you may have noticed that I haven’t written very much about my other foster dog. Vera Bradley has been with us for a month now, and in that time her presence has been eclipsed by puppies leaving, Estelle leaving, and then Darlin’ giving birth. That’s my official excuse.

My unofficial excuse for not mentioning Vera often is that my family is in love with her. All of them.

Well, except the cats.

The cats are beyond terrified of her. One has even taken to living up the hill with the barn cat. There is good reason for this fear. I have little doubt that Vera would (best case) run them out of town or (worst case) shred them into little bitty pieces, if given the opportunity.

In fact, it is this very threat to the cats that keeps my family from kicking me out and keeping Vera instead.

And Vera, for her part, loves them. Every one of them. Even Gracie…. Continue reading The Other Foster Dog

The Tale of Three Mama Dogs

Estelle went home on Friday. We all miss that happy little girl with the funny ears, quirky ways, and incredibly sweet nature. Now she gets to be the puppy she was meant to be instead of spending a lifetime having more puppies.

I looked over her paperwork, finally, in preparation for her leaving and saw that she was only ten months old when she arrived here, a puppy with a belly full of puppies.

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While she came from dreadful circumstances, oh what a happy ending. Continue reading The Tale of Three Mama Dogs