It’s a Dog Party!

We had two charming visitors for the holiday weekend. After surviving ten days of three dogs, I was confident we could handle four, especially on a gorgeous weekend with no actual plans, just lots of ideas. Kylie and Hitch (sounds like a movie title) are foster dogs we dogsat over the holiday weekend while their foster parents went camping.DSC_8826

Kylie’s endless energy kept us from relaxing too much and Hitchcock’s quiet, gentle presence reminded us to slow back down.

IMG_1732Kylie was over-the-top excited to be here, but I soon learned that Kylie was over-the-top excited to be anywhere, meet anyone, do anything. She is one overly enthusiastic 2-year-old puppy.

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Hitch’s foster mom, Erika, explained that Hitch was very timid and “hand shy.” When you reached for him he cowered and if he was loose he ran from you.

The first few hours went fine. I walked both dogs (or Kylie led the dog-person-dog train) around the yard. Carla was not impressed with either dog and spent the afternoon lounging on the porch, occasionally lifting her head to watch the antics of Kylie when she spotted a BUG! or a BIRD!! or a CAT! or a OMG-SQUIRREL!!!!

Because Kylie was so demanding of my attention and arm strength, I decided to take Hitch out on his own. Turns out the little guy is excellent company. Perfect manners on the leash, happy to go wherever I wanted to go, and quick to do his business. He was happy to be out on a little explore and seemed to be relaxing around me, although he still froze when I reached for him. I can’t imagine what circumstances of life brought him to this point. Seeing his terrified face when I reach down to scratch his ears, broke my heart. We sat in the sunshine for a bit, side by side, but me keeping my scary hands to myself, and then it was time for me to get back to work, so we headed to the house.

As we approached the door, Hitch balked. Luckily, he was wearing a “martingale” collar so when he stopped and I pulled, he didn’t slip his collar. (After watching Carla charge away without me this morning after slipping her collar on our morning run, I’m going online to order one!) I explained to Hitch that we had to go back inside, but rather than pick him up (since he was afraid of my touch), I pulled a little stronger on the leash and stepped into the house. Hitch didn’t move and I tugged again, this time the collar snapped and Hitch took off like a shot up the hill away from the house. Bizarrely, the nylon martingale attachment had simply broken off. Hitch weighs all of 10, maybe 15 pounds so it wasn’t his brute strength or size that snapped it. I didn’t have to time to wonder about it.

I grabbed Kylie, figuring Hitch knew her and we took off up the hill after him. I wasn’t sure if calling his name would make him run faster or bring him back. I could hear Erika saying how hard it was to catch him in a fenced yard. Now, I’d have to catch him in Southern York County, unless he made it to Maryland, since that was the direction he was running.  I was already picturing me and the rest of the search party out with our flashlights that night tromping through the surrounding fields. And then tomorrow the girl scouts would organize search teams and maybe bring us bottled water…..

Dreading making the call, but knowing I had too, I called Erika. She doesn’t know me very well, so I’m sure her first thought was, “Why did I leave my little dog with this idiot?” To her credit, she didn’t say that, she said something like, “He won’t go far, he wants to be with you. I’m sure he’s scared. Just try to get him to follow Kylie.”

We spotted Hitch at the top of the pasture just on the other side of the fence. As Erika predicted, he ran gleefully towards us, tail wagging. Erika stayed on the phone with me and talked to me as we walked back to the house with Hitch running big looping circles around us and Kylie practically levitating on the end of the leash in her joy at the adventure.

Following Erika’s advice, I led Kylie (and Gracie who had joined us at this point. Carla couldn’t be dragged into our drama and just thumped her tail as we passed) into the house, leaving the door open for Hitch to follow. We kept walking without looking back and I hid around the corner in the hall, leaving Kylie in view. After several tries, Hitch followed her in and I quickly closed the door.

When the kids got home from school, I told them about my afternoon’s adventure and said, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you to let this dog out of his cage. Then I went and bought a small blue harness for Hitch to wear.

I thought our crisis for the day was over, but as usual, I was wrong. Continue reading It’s a Dog Party!

True Confessions of a Faux Foster Fail

It’s a chaotic month in this house. My oldest is graduating, my youngest is playing two sports, my daughter just finished one show and auditioned for a new show that begins rehearsing this week, and my garden went from arid desert to out-of-control weed-infested jungle in less than an hour. My husband is spending hours online lusting after used tractors and scheming about all the things he could do with that tractor once he has one. There are three horses wasting away (well not technically, but what’s the point of having a horse if you don’t ride it?), the graduation party yet to be planned, and then there’s the beach camping trip to follow (did anyone air out the tent after the last trip?). Want more? The deadline for my next novel is a week or so away, the house is trashed and the relatives arrive momentarily. So, of course, my hubby and I took a little three-day vacation last weekend. But now it’s time to pay the piper. And that goes for Carla, too.

At this point, it’s looking like Carla is with us indefinitely. She’s been here a month and there are no applications on her. We’re realizing that it’s time to start treating her as our dog even if she isn’t our dog.

DSC_8819For the first few weeks she was here, we babied her. She was sad. She was lonely. She deserved to be indulged. Wrong (always having to learn this the hard way).

This week I am weeding – in every sense of the word. I’m weeding the gardens that have finally gotten the rain that didn’t come for weeks. I’m weeding the final edition of my manuscript – taking out the parts that don’t work, even knocking off an entire character! I’m not weeding the house, though, it is what it is. But I am taking my weeding metaphor out on Carla, too. It’s time to weed out the bad behavior.

Because we’ve occasionally allowed her to be on the furniture, she doesn’t realize we mean it when we shoo her off the beds/couches/chairs. So all the furniture blocks are back up, the doors are closed, her access is restricted. I see this as an ongoing battle, one we may have to reach a compromise on. Her inclinations are entrenched and she is a wise dog. She knows when no one’s looking, and for a dog so large, she can slink around this house quieter than a cat.

While we were gone last weekend. Carla had more than a few accidents in the house, barked incessantly and was simply, underfoot. My mother, who was staying with the kids, wasn’t happy.  “When are you going to get rid of that dog?” I defended Carla – her schedule was disrupted, she wasn’t getting exercise, no one was paying attention to her needs….but secretly I was frustrated! This dog is housebroken. She’s been so good here! What happened?

Knowing this situation could happen again (when we are gone for the beach camping trip in a few weeks with twelve teenagers! I know, nuts.), we need a better solution. Carla can’t come with us; I’ll have enough to do keeping track of other people’s teenagers. And Carla is not a house dog.  Or at least she isn’t a house dog if someone doesn’t take her for a four mile run every morning. The housesitter might find that fact overwhelming. All this has led me to make the decision to treat her as one of our own but that does not mean she is a foster fail! It simply means we are preparing for a summer of Carla – just in case! (If my twelve year old is reading this – we are NOT keeping her, no matter what it looks like!)

So I’m going to reveal something that could earn me more hate mail than my unfair rant on Westie rescues
because we are treating her as our own, we’ve started training Carla to the Invisible Fence. Continue reading True Confessions of a Faux Foster Fail

Dogs in Need of Rescuing? (or vineyard hopping with the dogs)

This weekend we were in Virginia wine country and decided to do a little winery-hopping. We stopped in Chrysalis Vineyards where OPH will be hosting their big fundraiser Bark, Wag, and Wine this September. It’s a gorgeous place with excellent wines, so we very much hope to attend. (You should, too!)

The day after we visited Chrysalis, we stopped into Barrel Oak Winery whose very name invites dogs (BOW – get it?) BOW was a bit over-the-top-dog-friendly. IMG_1209In fact, on this day they were overrun with Westies. For those of you unfamiliar, these are small wiry-haired white dogs that yap.images

There were Westies everywhere you looked and it made for very intentional foot travel as I didn’t want to step on one.

There were a few dog-sized dogs visiting the winery as well and compared to the somewhat frenetic Westies they seemed like large, lumbering behemoths. I don’t sound like a dog person, do I?  I’m probably exaggerating and maybe it was just that I missed my BIG foster dog of the moment.

Nick and I kept whispering, “We should have brought Carla – she would shut these little guys up with a single booming bark.” Bringing Carla would have been like showing up the mini-bike rally with a tricked out Harley.

Upon further investigation I discovered that it was Westie Rescue day at the winery. Continue reading Dogs in Need of Rescuing? (or vineyard hopping with the dogs)

Waiting for the Right Home

And just like that, Stitch is gone. DSC_8743I’d be sad, except she’s found the perfect family. She’ll have kids to adore and be adored by, an active mommy, and no cats that are never in the mood to play anyway. This one was easier. I don’t worry about Stitch. I know what a good dog she is. I know she’s sweet and obedient and smart as a whip. Who wouldn’t love her? Especially cute kids like these…stitch

I’m happy for Stitch, so the lump in my throat is a little easier to swallow. What a great dog. What a lucky family. Amy e-mailed me tonight and said they’ve decided to keep the nickname we gave her, Stitch. We’re honored to have named such a stellar pup. Happy trails my little Stitcheroo!

Carla is still here. DSC_8464She may be here for a while. We’re okay with that. I want her to also find her perfect home. She will be harder to place and I’ll definitely worry more for her. She needs this next move to be her last. A dog can only have her heart broken so many times.

Carla will need someone who will give her plenty of exercise, indulge her affinity for soft beds, and not mind the fact that she barks. (And barks.). She has a lot to say.

When I’m slow mixing up breakfast, she swirls around my feet, chastising me excitedly, “Get a move on lady! My granny could whip that up faster than you with one hand tied behind her back!” The sheer volume is stressful and makes it hard for me to focus. Does she get the coconut oil in the morning or the probiotics? No matter, I’m certain she’d eat anything I served. Continue reading Waiting for the Right Home

The Messy Truth about Dog Fostering

Look what arrived!!IMG_1677

I think it’s time to be honest about what it takes to be a foster family for all these deserving dogs. Maybe I’ve made it sound glamourous and exciting. Sure, it’s all that. Kind of. But beyond the sweet faces, fuzzy snuggles, amusing antics, and happy endings, there is some serious work. And sometimes there is a little bit of frustration and a tiny tad of aggravation and occasionally there are moments when you groan and say “Why am I doing this again?” to a clueless dog who looks at you with complete unadulterated innocence. You need to be a determined and patient person to foster dogs. And you definitely can’t take your house (or belongings) too seriously.

For me, the hardest part has not been the getting attached or the rearranging of our family schedule or the late night and early morning walks. What makes me the most nuts and causes my husband to growl, are the messes. And I’m not talking about the shredded newspaper, the upended ash bucket, or de-stuffed stuffed animals. I’m talking about pee. The latest foster dogs are pee-ers.

I know they look innocent, but they are capable of significant mess making and proportionately ridiculous destruction.
I know they look innocent, but they are capable of significant mess making and proportionately ridiculous destruction.

Continue reading The Messy Truth about Dog Fostering

Making Yourself at Home

When you first meet someone that you like, you show all your good sides. You’re polite, respectful, careful not to say anything too offensive or expose how much you don’t know about say, football or lawn mowers. But as your relationship solidifies you can cut loose a little. I think that’s what’s happening with Stich (Symphony).

She’s reasonably confident that we aren’t going to kick her to the curb so she’s relaxing and letting her real personality out. A personality that is hysterical. It matches her goofy smile. Somehow the shape of her head and her enormous mouth combine to make her look like she is always grinning – literally ear to ear. She looks cartoon like. You can’t be in a bad mood when you’re hanging out with this dog. She’s just too funny.

DSC_8549I am her chosen person, but she keeps careful note of where everyone else is, rarely does she lie down unless we’re all in the same room. Nick and I have offices on opposite ends of the first floor, so when he works from home she spends her days in the room between us, keeping herself busy accumulating a cache of belongings in her crate (just in case?)

Maybe it’s the fact that she was living on the streets prior to coming here, but she is a hoarder. I was talking with another OPH foster a few weeks ago and listening to the funny story of how their dog, who was also a street dog, was an incredible hoarder, piling up everything she could gather and then nesting upon it. This has been Stitch’s strategy.

DSC_8550She accumulated her stash very quietly. I rarely saw her moving things around, but the shoes in the back of her cage piled up. She didn’t chew them like Galina, she simply gathered them. I applauded this activity because it saved me from nagging children to put their shoes away. Then she began rounding up all the dog toys and loading them into her cage. Next were any abandoned socks, a few random pens, and Ian’s graphing notebook.

Yesterday afternoon I noticed her crate had been cleaned out. There was only the blankets we’d put in there originally, none of her loot. I was the only one home, so I know it wasn’t a child with a sudden case of I’ve-got-to-clean (not that my kids have EVER had this little known condition). I looked in the living room and found Carla’s bed piled with Stitch’s stash. She’d even added two pairs of snow pants she’d pulled out of the Goodwill box in the hallway. Continue reading Making Yourself at Home

A Stranger in a Strange Land

Bringing a strange dog home isn’t my favorite part of fostering. The first 24 hours, heck the first three days, even first week, the dog is a foreigner in a strange land. She doesn’t know how to act. She doesn’t know the rules. We don’t know what to expect from her. Will she get along? Will she pee all over my house? Can she be trusted? The cats are never happy. The answers are all over the place.

Pretty much each of the dogs we’ve brought home, with the exception of Wheat Penny (who was a puppy and had no expectations, baggage, or attitudes) has seemed like a completely different dog after a few days compared to the dog we brought home from transport.

Symphony is no exception.11090842_935901093116103_4658826510233429709_o

The dog I picked up on Saturday morning was much smaller than we anticipated. She was nervous, unsure, and peed pretty much every few minutes everywhere she went as if she were marking her territory. (It’s also possible she had a urinary tract infection from the long time spent in a crate for travel from South Carolina.)

She growled at Gracie and threatened the cats. She pulled on the leash when I walked her and escaped out of the house twice (she is a door opener which means she is no dumb cookie). She refused her dinner, was silent, wary, watching us. I never saw her sit down – not once – the whole day. She walked from room to room keeping track of everyone. Although she looks more like a Boston Terrier than a Border Collie, I would guess there is some kind of herding dog in there somewhere.

The first night, I went to bed exhausted from taking Symphony outside to pee every fifteen minutes, walking Carla, supervising all the interactions between the dogs, and cleaning up after Symphony’s efforts to establish her presence. Here’s the thoughts that raced through my mind and kept me from sleeping, I can’t do this. What have I gotten myself into? Two foster dogs is too much for me. I am a wimpy foster mommy. How the heck do these people have three and four dogs? They must be nuts. I must be nuts. This is the last dog. Ever. Continue reading A Stranger in a Strange Land