Can I Have Just a Word with Adopters?

When I get an email from the adopters of one of my dogs it always makes my day. I don’t know if after I’ve fostered hundreds, I’ll still feel the same way. So far we’ve fostered fourteen dogs & puppies. I still wonder and worry about all of them. And hearing they are doing well and are loved never ceases to plant a smile on my face that lasts for hours. I share the news with my husband and children and patient friends who indulge me as I regale the latest tale of my foster furbaby.

DSC_7920Galina was our first and will always hold a special place in my heart. I can still picture her sweet little self snoring on the futon beside my desk. She had such energy and taught us quickly how destructive a foster dog can be – especially a beagle!

DSC_8233And adorable Wheat Penny, how could we not love that sweet face. She was our first taste of puppy and what a treat she was. And then came Stich (Symphony) who was easy and fun and adorable. I remember thinking, “How could anyone not want this dog?” Her big smile and her pile of hoarded stash in her crate were a constant source of amusement.11053290_935900013116211_8762747800097371945_o Continue reading Can I Have Just a Word with Adopters?

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Dog-less (for now…)

We’re dogless. Well, that’s not exactly correct. We still have Gracie.

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But she doesn’t count.

Okay, that’s not fair. She counts, but she already has her forever home, for better or for worse, so no worries over her.

This week I said good bye to three dogs. I think I’m getting better at this, because instead of being a wiggly-hearted sap, I was excited for my dogs – proud of them and so very happy for the families that lucked into these good dogs.

Frank was the first to go. And the hardest. I still miss his wide soft head, always there, right next to me at the perfect height for petting. I worried and fretted and second-guessed myself, but in the end it was the right home for him. Continue reading Dog-less (for now…)

Chhhhhhanges……Adjusting and Letting Go

Texas and Tennessee keeping tabs on the horses for me.
Texas and Tennessee keeping tabs on the horses for me.

Wasn’t sure I would write this week. We still have no answers with Texas and my heart is tired of thinking about it. Did I miss something? Could we have done something? If only I’d been home….all these thoughts swirl around me when I watch Tennessee and Frank playing without Tex. I’ve always hated mysteries. Living with this one frustrates me, but I guess I’m going to have to make peace with it.

My favorite quote when it comes to parenting, training horses, writing, and now fostering dogs is from Maya Angelou – “You did then what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.” Simple words, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to them for comfort. Regretting not doing something you weren’t capable of doing at that time is pointless.

Tennessee has morphed into a different dog. I guess none of us realized how much of a calming influence Texas was on my little pack. Left to his own devices, gated in the kitchen, he’s managed to remove the entire top edge from my hard plastic laundry basket, destroy the zipper and strap (the two most important elements) of my daughter’s book bag, and gnaw the corner off one of her school owned textbooks. Continue reading Chhhhhhanges……Adjusting and Letting Go

The Dangerous Privilege of Loving a Dog

11260843_10155902566435411_3526323269060517134_nTuesday was a hard day.

I thought it would be a hard day because it was my first ever live TV interview. I was nervous and excited. I spent extra time with the dogs in the morning giving them an extended playtime outside because I knew they would be cooped up for a good portion of the day. They had their usual crazy runaround and tackle game for a good 20 minutes. Then I leashed Frank to end the shenanigans and took them for a walk.

Tex and Tennessee swirled around us as we walked the perimeter of the pasture. Then we ventured into Gracie-land and they were very polite and respectful, keeping their distance from the grumpy girl dog. At the bottom of the property, Tex spied my neighbor’s goats and immediately assumed the low crouch of a herding border collie, scuttling off towards the road. I panicked for a moment worrying that he would dart across the road to herd the goats, but when I whistled he immediately spun around and raced back to me. Such a good dog.

My interview went fine. It was interesting to see the inner workings of a TV studio and meet the other guests. It was over before I knew it and I was back home again. I took the boys out for a romp, but they tired quickly in the heat and we went back inside. I double checked that there was no food on the counter and nothing I didn’t want chewed to bits within reach and left all three boys gated in the kitchen to go run a quick errand.

When I came home, Frank and Tennessee greeted me at the door. I knew something was wrong the moment I stepped inside. There was an eery smell I can’t describe and the energy felt all wrong. I found Texas lying on the giant Frank bed with his chin on his front legs as if asleep. Only he wasn’t asleep. He was gone.

I still can’t believe it. I spent the rest of the afternoon/evening calling people, looking for clues, trying to figure out how Tex could have just lay down and die. “It happens,” said my neighbor/vet/friend after we’d talked through every possibility. But it still makes no sense to me. He was healthy, happy. Just that day I’d noticed what a shine his coat had gotten. He ate well, had learned to love treats, played and ran and smiled his big border collie smile. He loved wrestling with Frank, always going for Frank’s ankles, probably well aware Frank was too strong and big for him to out-and-out tackle. Watching Tex creep up on my horses, letting it go as far as I dared before calling him off, were some of my favorite dog-moments.

That night when the tears finally slowed, I was angry. One of the reasons I got into fostering was because I didn’t want to ever watch another dog die. Losing my beloved Lucy a year ago just hurt too much. I didn’t want to do it again. I’d rather suffer through a thousand goodbyes than bury another dog. And now that’s exactly what I was doing. I didn’t sign up for this. I was done fostering. No more.

But this morning, walking Tennessee and Frank I reflected on how risky love is. And not just dogs. If you love hard, you will grieve hard. And life wouldn’t be nearly as rich if you didn’t love hard and deep and honest. So that’s what you sign up for when you open your heart to anyone – dog or human. For the privilege of experiencing the beautiful, amazing, unconditional love of an animal you are signing up for the pain of an ending. Is it worth it?

I know it is. Nothing is more worth it.

I’m comforted by the fact it seems Texas didn’t suffer. Dying is inevitable, so a peaceful passing is more than you can ask for. He was a beautiful, amazing, sweet dog. I know by the way he cowered at loud noises and sudden movements that his life didn’t start out so peaceful, but I’m glad that in the end he knew safety and love and happiness. I feel blessed that we were able to give him that, but mostly I feel blessed to have had the privilege to love, even for a short time, such a good dog.DSC_0002

They’re Really Lovers, Not Fighters, Honest!

DSC_9994I need to find a way to harness all this dog energy to power my house. Two border collies, the Amazing Frank, and my own over-anxious, awkward personal dog, Gracie, have turned our home into something of a three-ring circus.

Lucky for us the boys are all super good at coming when they are called, so they can have regular romps outside. This is a video of the craziness…

It’s so entertaining that one of my new favorite activities is to retire to the top of our hillside in the evening with a glass of wine and watch the shenanigans. The only problem is, just like boy children, boy dog play can sometimes graduate to boy dog fights.

Usually this happens when somebody (the “senior” member of these musketeers) gets tired and has had enough. Texas, who has endless energy and can outrun all the others, just never quits, but since he is too speedy for Frank to grab him, Tennessee usually ends up on the bottom of the pile. Unlike Texas and Gracie who will both take their licks and slink away, Tenn hangs in there for a moment too long probably protesting with growls that say, “Hey! That wasn’t me! It was him! He did it! He’s the one you want!” but either Frank is color blind and simply sees an annoying black dog or he enjoys kicking a little Tennessee butt on occasion.DSC_0059

There’s only been one serious incident which resulted in a small cut on Tennessee’s face. It’s one more nick on his sweet face that was already covered with tiny tooth sized injuries when he arrived at our house, so I’m guessing he isn’t a stranger to these scuffles. I tended his wound and chastised Frank and kept them apart for a few days, but finally relented. They really, really, really wanted to play. And up until that point, they’d done well together, wrestling for hours without it breaking into bloody battles. Besides, Texas needed some relief as he was limping from one too many top-speed full-body slams with Frank. Continue reading They’re Really Lovers, Not Fighters, Honest!

Being Frank About Frank

DSC_9975I’ve been thinking a lot about Frank. He’s the first foster dog I’ve had who was returned. I feel partially responsible for that fact. I worry I didn’t present Frank as frankly as I could have. I wonder if I could have said or done something differently that would have made the situation turn out differently. Maybe, maybe not. I do believe that there are courses we are all on and we must follow them. So maybe Frank moving to Virginia and then back a week later was a lesson for me, for his adopters, and probably for Frank.

Since he moved back in, Frank has been my daily joy, showering me with his devoted affection and constant company, but he has also had a few episodes that illustrate why he wasn’t such a great fit in Virginia.

This morning, I separated him from the other dogs so that everyone could eat in peace. Frank has a habit of sampling everyone else’s food when it’s served and Gracie and Tenn are not sharers, plus Tex can’t afford to miss a meal. So Frank was left alone in the living room with his bowl. I was nearby, folding laundry.

Frank did not eat. Instead, he grew frantic running between me, the gate into the kitchen where he knew T&T were and the door to the porch where Gracie was. Panicked would describe the expression on his sweet face.

When he finally slowed down for a moment, he paused and peed on the dog recliner (the ugly, filthy blue recliner that we long ago stopped trying to keep the dogs off and now keep around just so they can rebel and sit on it). I was shocked! Frank hadn’t peed in our house since the first day he was here over three weeks ago. I yelled and reached for him, but he raced away and I followed him upstairs where he peed on the edge of the blanket on our bed. This time I yelled, but I was able to grab him. I dragged him outside, and left him there while I cleaned up his mess. He whined at the door, but I didn’t let him in until I’d located his male dog wrap and securely fastened it around him. There would be no more peeing in my house.

As soon as Frank was reunited with the other dogs, he relaxed. He spent a half hour wrestling on his humongous bed with Tennessee, his favorite playmate and his biggest advisory. Continue reading Being Frank About Frank

One Dog, Two Dog, Three Dog….Four?

imagejpeg_0Texas and Tennessee have landed! What sweet boys these two are. Couldn’t find better mannered guests. (Well, guests who were housebroken might be better…) They are gentle and eager to please. They watch my (and everyone else’s) every move. Sadly, they both cower when anyone raises a hand above their waist, moves quickly, or picks up anything large (Ian has to keep his baseball bat hidden). I am guessing not every human has handled them kindly. No matter, they seem ready to give just about anyone a chance, loving on every person who walks through my door.

Texas - isn't he a stunner!
Texas – isn’t he a stunner!

These guys seem grateful for every kindness thrown their way. They’re like that visiting relative who is always saying, “Please don’t got to any trouble….really, I’m fine.”  They still haven’t figured out what a treat is and Texas kept running into glass doors, so they seem a bit new to this living-in-a-house-and-being-loved thing. But they are both smart as whips, so they are picking up very quickly on everything, even the don’t-pee-in-the-house rule. We’ve outfitted them with “male dog wraps” which sounds kind of cosmopolitan but is actually a glorified diaper. Male Dog Wraps are my new favorite thing, ever.

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Here’s Tennessee modeling the latest in dog wrap fashion – a nice gray nylon number.

It’s very good that T&T are such model guests because the house is overflowing with dogs. T&T arrived late Friday night and at 8am on Saturday morning Frank returned to us. He could not make the adjustment to his new home and his wonderful family. It just wasn’t the right fit. I know it was a heartbreaking week for both Frank and his adopters. It was very hard to hear the stories from afar, only able to offer advice when what I wanted to do was run down there and move in and help all of them. In the end, they made the difficult decision to return Frank to OPH and Nick and I knew immediately he had to come back to us. We are wrestling with that decision – the one I said I wouldn’t write about again in this blog. I’ve thought all along that it was up to us to choose a dog, but I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t actually up to the dog to choose us. We shall see. Meanwhile, we are loving on Frank and he has happily assimilated right back into our world and is currently lying behind me watching every word I type (and hopefully not reading this and thinking his little plan worked…). Continue reading One Dog, Two Dog, Three Dog….Four?