Older, Wiser We Are

DSC_7921So Galina is still here. I guess we assumed she’d have a home by now since she’s such a little sweet heart, even if she is a mischievous devil at the same time. For the past three weeks we’ve been treating her like an honored guest – feeding her as much as she wants, letting her sit on the good furniture, and fawning over her at every opportunity.

When you have a guest and they accidentally break something like your reading glasses or computer charger cord or your ottoman, you let it slide. You don’t want the guest to feel unwelcome. Maybe you joke about it, even blog about it.

And when a guest leaves a mess – like an entire deck of cards spread across your living room floor (a few half-eaten) or maybe the guest discovers an irresistible roll of wrapping paper under the bed and decides it would be a perfect snack. You let this slide also. It’s kind of funny, really. And cards are cheap and you never liked that wrapping paper anyway.

But now she’s been here long enough, she’s more like family. So we scold her and grumble at her and yesterday I snapped at her (granted she had just stolen the sock I was trying to put on my foot). It’s become evident that she’s getting awfully comfortable.

So this week it was time to instill a little order, a little discipline. Enough of the free ride.  For the past few days, Galina has not been allowed free reign of the house unsupervised. She’s spent much more time in her crate. I know that seems cruel, but the crate is full of toys and she gets a treat every time she goes in and, most importantly, she goes in happily. She never even whines when she’s in her crate. And yesterday when I snapped at her about the sock, she ran in her crate for safety from the loud woman. Continue reading Older, Wiser We Are

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My Little Debutante

11072537_10155242343030411_328043549526161166_nThis morning I took Galina for a run with me. We went without Gracie, who has proved herself to be a less than ideal running partner. G did great, keeping up with me for 3 ½ miles. I’m used to running with much larger dogs. Maybe the best thing about running with a little firecracker like Galina is that when the Asplundh trucks roared by and she set off for the hills, I simply held tight to her leash and she ran at warp speed in place like Wylie Coyote.

G has had several days of firsts recently.

On Sunday she was scheduled to attend her first OPH “Meet and Greet” in search of her forever family. It was to be held at a local pet store. I wasn’t going to be able to accompany her for big debut because I was already committed at the exact time (of course) to give a presentation on my new book about 30 minutes away. Although I’d love my fulltime job to be fostering sweet little puppies, it’s actually writing and selling books, so my event trumped Galina’s. Bummer.

All week I worried about her upcoming event. Many times when Galina meets new people, she is nervous and hangs back until the new friend either produces a treat or gets down on her level to greet her. I know G is a happy, adorable, lovable, super-smart, fun little beagle, but would strangers be able to see that in a busy pet store with lots of other dogs/people/toys/treats/activity around her? I worried she wouldn’t shine.

I was feeling like a mom who was going to miss her child’s little league debut, so we spent Saturday afternoon preparing her. Continue reading My Little Debutante

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is a powerful thing not only for us humans, but for dogs, too.

One of the reasons we decided to foster was so that our dog could learn some manners. Maybe that’s not a good reason for fostering, but there it is.

Our personal dog, Gracie, is six years old. In that time we’ve been unable to teach her to come when she’s called, refrain from jumping on people, respect her invisible fence, stop chasing the cats, walk politely on a leash, or do any impressive trick whatsoever. Still, we loved her because she’s so sweet.IMG_0813

My vet told me when we lost our beloved dog Lucy, who was the alpha dog to Gracie’s zeta (or whatever Greek letter is last), Gracie would probably step up and behave better. Well, as my favorite college buddy from the south would say- that dog don’t hunt. In other words, it’s a nice theory, but no. If anything, she was worse.

One of the expectations that rescues might have of a foster family’s personal dog is that she might set an example for the nervous, young, unsure foster pup. This seems logical. Except in our case. In my defense, I did lay out Gracie’s issues in at least one of my pre-fostering interviews, so they knew what they were getting into. And yet they sent us this delightful young impressionable pup.IMG_1069

In just a few short weeks, Gracie has taught Galina…

Vacuum cleaners are dangerous and should be attacked as soon as they come to life.

Cats are for chasing.

The mail lady is a formidable threat and it’s best to launch your entire body at the door whenever she approaches.

Stink bugs are for killinghunting stink bugs

and once dead, it’s a good idea to roll on them to be sure.rolling on stink bugs

All stuffed animals must be disarmed and disemboweled as quickly as possible – shaking can accomplish this. You can find these enemy fighters under the beds of the smaller two-leggeds.

Whenever you hear the neighbor dog bark – bark louder.

But thankfully, Galina has also had some influence, she’s taught Gracie that ….

Treats are a good thing. (Up until Galina’s arrival, Gracie refused all treats considering them potential poison. I’ve never been able to figure out why she won’t take them. She was also a rescue dog so maybe there are skeletons in her mental closet. Whenever I told would-be dog-trainers about my inability to train Gracie to do anything, they always told me – “Give her a treat every time she does what you want.” This is a great idea if your dog doesn’t consider every treat a potential threat. In that case, it seems to actually teach your dog not to do the exact thing you ask.)

When it’s time to go outside, while waiting for the leash to be secured, jump directly up towards the ceiling, bonus points if you can make contact with the two-legged’s face.DSC_7918

Whenever a two legged tries to tie her shoes, lick her hands. This will help.

Eat all your food, the moment it’s served, as quickly as possible.

Follow your favorite two-legged person at all times, even when she enters a bathroom (there’s toilet paper there for the unrolling…).

I’m still not sure which dog is benefitting more from this friendship, but I am certain that they’re instilling life-long quirks in each other that may be hard to shake.

Dangerous, Life-changing Love

Here’s my dilemma- just how much should you love on your foster dog? Galina is such a mischievous little love muffin, that we all can’t help but return her affection. And that seems dangerous for all parties involved.DSC_7901

OPH offers all kinds of training for fosters, which has been super helpful, but it occurs to me that I haven’t asked the question I should probably have asked most – just how much affection should you shower on your little charge?

When Galina arrived, she was nervous and shy and we coaxed her to accept our touch. Now it’s been two weeks and she demands it. She snuggles up to us on the couch, races to greet us when we enter a room, jumps up on anyone who fails to acknowledge her enthusiasm.

Should I have withheld some of my attention, kept my distance? That seems like the smart move. But Galina has blossomed under our affection. It’s given her confidence. She stands taller; she’s napping more, and chewing a little bit less. So maybe instead of being a dangerous thing, it was the most important element of our care for her. As important as the food and probiotics and coconut oil that has brought a shine to her coat. Continue reading Dangerous, Life-changing Love

Snow Day to Chew On

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It’s been a big day! Not only has over a foot of snow fallen and Galina’s been doing plenty of swimming in it, but today, Galina got her first package! Of all days! Kudos to our mail lady – she’s the bomb.

Galina’s package came from a friend in Delaware, a dog named Peyton, who read about her penchant for chewing and her woefully unsupDSC_7853plied (and unsuspecting) foster family and sent her three mega chew toys.

These are heavy duty. She won’t be destroying these babies any time soon. In fact, as I listen to her this very moment working on the “Jr. Ring” I worry for her little teeth. She’s giving it her best shot.DSC_7862

The timing couldn’t have been better since this morning Galina finished off what another dog started and condemned our worn out ottoman to the curb.DSC_7842

I look at it as helpful. I’ve been wanting some new furniture, and she’s just moving the process along.

Gracie was equally excited to receive the toys and shared in the spoils, claiming the shark for her own.DSC_7875

Just in the past few days the two dogs have become bossum buddies. They wrestle for long periods of time and then sleep it off side by side. DSC_7836

A new transport of dogs is arriving tomorrow night and there’s a dog on the list I really, really want to foster, but I’m trying to apply some discipline to this endeavor. I do feel a little like a junkie, telling myself “I can handle it….just one more dog.” But we have only one crate and Galina has taught us a very important lesson about fostering – you truly don’t know what you’re in for. That said, I can’t risk my furniture or my relationship with my husband on another chewer.

Fostering is Bitter Sweet

Feeling very grateful this afternoon. Just made it home from Pittsburgh after having to extend what should have been a 2 day trip to a 3 ½ day trip thanks to weather.

I agonized about whether to stay safe in Pittsburgh or chance it through the mountains in a snowstorm to get home. I felt bad leaving my husband in charge of my menagerie. But good man that he is, he cleaned horse stalls, hauled buckets, took Galina for endless laps of the yard, mixed up her semi-complicated food concoctions, and vacuumed up all the exploded Beanie Babies. He said – stay there, I got this.

And still I hedged.

The kids would miss school I worried. Surprisingly, the kids were not at all concerned about missing a day of school.

Finally, I realized that the biggest reason I wanted to get home was Galina. I worried that she was confused by my lengthy absence. We’ve bonded quite well in the past week. I didn’t want to be yet another adult deserting her.

And I just plain missed her. It didn’t help that my husband was sending me adorable pictures via text all weekend while he was in charge of her….

Like her run-in with a roll of toilet paper….

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And her sweet face and wagging tail blur as he talked to me on the phone…. Continue reading Fostering is Bitter Sweet

The Hap-Happiest Dog in the World (sing with me)

I’ve heard it said, “I aspire to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”

Well, I aspire to be the kind of person my beagle is.

Galina is happy, happy, happy every day, all the time 24/7.

Is it dinner? OH I’M SO HAPPY!

I can’t chew on the toothbrush? I’M SO HAPPY NOT TO DO THAT!

It’s time to go out? OMG I AM THE HAPPIEST DOG EVER!

I have to go in my crate now? I’M STILL HAPPY!

It’s time to wake up? I AM SO HAPPY!

You came back in the room after being gone one minute? I’M SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU!!!

She’s ear-flopping happy in every situation. I would love to have her enthusiasm and sunny attitude for just a few hours, let alone, full-on constant. Continue reading The Hap-Happiest Dog in the World (sing with me)