Two Girls Looking for Great Homes

Way back on February 17 when Darlin’ first began labor, I looked 8 weeks ahead on the calendar and thought, “These puppies will go home on Tax day, April 15.” It was solidly winter, with snow days still to come so I couldn’t imagine that day. And then as the adventure began its wild and tragic ride, it was even harder to imagine.

But come it did. It was a happy day for the adopters and I didn’t want my sadness to dampen their excitement, so I saved my tears until I was alone, clearing out the puppy pen, stacking the towels and washing the toys. In many ways it’s felt like I’ve been holding my breath for the last 8 weeks, just trying to get these puppies to this day. And they made it. They are out of my hands.

Darlin’ is either picking up on my emotions or is also missing her pups’ presence. She is more attached to me than ever, even crying (and baying!) at the door when I take Gala outside without her. She follows me from room to room and is underfoot, leaning against me, wanting my constant attention. Continue reading Two Girls Looking for Great Homes

Fostering By the Numbers

Nelson went home on Saturday morning.

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His story illustrates how the foster dog system works when all goes well:

  1. Nelson is selected from the dogs in a shelter in Virginia as an adoptable dog that just needs more time than a shelter has room or funds to provide. OPH pulls him and after a vet determines there is no medical treatment needed for his eye (it was an old trauma), he is neutered, tested for heartworm (he was negative), vaccinated, and microchipped. Then he waits in a local foster home until he can catch a ride north with an OPH transport.
  2. I pick Nelson from a list of dogs in need of fosters, but can’t meet the transport van, so other OPH volunteers step in to pick him up and house him for two nights until I can take him. (Thanks Karie and Evan!)
  3. Nelson arrives here and we assimilate him into our home, walk him, feed him, and get to know him.
  4. I write up a bio about him saying that yes, he is housebroken and yes, he is crate-trained, and no, he isn’t a threat to cats. I write that he’s an easy-going sort of dog who is very lovable to everyone he meets but can counter-surf despite his size. Information like this is something you can’t get when you pick a dog out at a shelter. (And not to discourage ANYONE from adopting from a shelter, I’m just pointing out that there is much good about the foster system that makes an adoption match more likely to be an informed one.)
  5. Nelson is with us for just under two weeks. He is adopted by a family who discover him via the OPH website and have already applied and been approved to adopt a dog. They bring their current dog with them to meet him at my house, adore Nelson on sight, and take him home.

Many, many foster experiences happen just like that. But a few don’t. Continue reading Fostering By the Numbers

One Super Special Pup

I knew Fruitcake was special the moment he was born.

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He didn’t look anything like his siblings. He was white with marvelous black patches. My little cow puppy! His eyes were ringed in black like a teenager experimenting with liquid eyeliner. And when I discovered he had six toes on each of his back feet, it seemed to underline his uniqueness.

Even the other puppies thought he was special and he was often employed as pillow or couch.

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He grew wide and then wider. Each day it became more evident that he was quite different than his siblings. I thought, “Maybe he had a different dad,” but didn’t really worry until the other puppies began pulling up on all fours and he remained flat like a pancake.

Finally, at just over two weeks it became clear that something was decidedly wrong with my favorite pup. Continue reading One Super Special Pup

Our Newest Star

received_1682280152102419On Saturday December 10, our newest foster will arrive! Her name is Estelle, which means star. I named her that for two reasons.

The first is because it’s time this dog was a star and a star is what she will be at our house. She was significantly less than a star in the home that surrendered her. They had not bothered to name her or even feed her, letting her eat from the trash.

Estelle’s owners surrendered her when their landlord decided to shoot Estelle because they were told they couldn’t have a dog. The rescuer in South Carolina learned all this when she went to the home to get Estelle. Before she left the owners also offered to sell her prescription drugs and possibly their children. The enormous heartbreak of this situation still has me stunned. Continue reading Our Newest Star

A Great Reason to Give

As many of you know, I was inspired to start the Edith’s Heart fundraising page by this amazing dog:

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Edith is a remarkable black lab who gave birth to 12 beautiful, healthy puppies despite the fact that she had been living on the streets, was severely malnourished and heartworm positive. Edith was a wonderful mother and all those puppies are now in happy new forever homes. Edith also has a forever home waiting for her after she is treated for heartworms this week at the vet, plus recovery at our house for the next two weeks.

On GIVING TUESDAY (tomorrow November 29), two BIG things will be happening. First, Razoo will be waiving the administrative fees normally subtracted from the gifts given via their site. This means that 100% of your gifts to Edith’s Heart on Tuesday will go to OPH to treat Edith and other heartworm positive dogs!

If that isn’t incentive enough, I’m offering another! Continue reading A Great Reason to Give

Pint Size Puppies and Gallon Size Hearts

“They are so much smaller than they look in the pictures!”

This is pretty much what everyone says when meeting the puppies for the first time.

To me, they’re giant poop-filled monsters compared to the little moles they were when they arrived five weeks ago. At that point most of them weighed less than a pound, with tiny George weighing just 10 ounces and Beatrix weighing the most at 1 pound 1 oz. Hemingway is now the biggest puppy. At nearly nine pounds, he’s four pounds bigger than George. According to the lab growth charts he could top out at 82 pounds! That’s a big dog. Whoopi-size.

So, to give you some scale, I took a few pictures of the puppies with random items. I used Virginia in the first two pictures because she is one of the average size puppies. In the third picture (you’ll note my attempt at free advertising in this one), I used Beatrix because in my absence there had been a rumble and she had the least amount of poop on her. Beatrix is one of the largest puppies, generally trading off second place with Zora. Continue reading Pint Size Puppies and Gallon Size Hearts

Caring for YOUR Dog’s Heart

Sitting with Edith last night while she panted and panted next to me on the Frank bed, I wanted to do more for her. She’s exhausted. Her pups are growing like little monsters, doubling in size and energy. As I ran my hand over her protruding ribs, I glanced at the pups. I want to resent them. But they are cute, and she certainly loves them. Edith is doing as well as can be expected. She’s strong despite her gaunt frame.

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As I sat with Edith, though, my mind and heart were on another heartworm positive dog who gave birth five days after Edith did. Hera’s Hope is also being fostered in York County. She gave birth to six gorgeous puppies who are twice the size of my pups, as they are American bulldogs. Hera’s heartworm is advanced. She’s fighting for her life right now, because in addition to being heartworm+, she is suffering from Bordetella—a common cold to many, but life-threatening to a dog with compromised heart and lungs. Her pups are being bottle fed and also have Bordetella so must be treated with antibiotics. It breaks my heart. Again and again and again. I’m grateful that Edith is doing so well, but I look in her sweet, trusting eyes and I worry as I follow Hera’s story. Mostly, I wish there was more I could do to help Hera and Edith.

So I’m writing about her and I’ve started a fundraising campaign to help Edith and Hera and more heartworm+ dogs whose big, beautiful hearts and lungs are infiltrated with these cruel and ugly worms. Worms that are completely preventable.

Heartworm isn’t something I thought a lot about until recently. Maybe I didn’t understand how AWFUL it is or how CRAZY it is that people don’t do more to prevent it. But now I do. I’m learning firsthand how awful it is, but it wasn’t until I joined OPH that I realized how crazy it was that I wasn’t doing much to prevent it in my own dog.

I’m making this confession, knowing full well that judgment may rain down on my ignorant head, but knowing it is worth it if it causes another dog owner to realize that it is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY to prevent heartworm in their own pets EVERY MONTH.

I’ve never quizzed my parents in regards to my childhood pets, but once I became an adult and had my own pets I truly did not understand the risks I was taking by not giving heartworm preventatives to my dog. I could argue that my first dog lived with me in a house trailer on $125/week and even getting her to the vet was impossible. I watched for the free rabies clinics, and somehow lucked out in terms of her staying remarkably healthy and living a long healthy life.

cropped-100_1584.jpgBy the time my second dog rolled around, I was married with a kid and much better about getting my dog to the vet. I gave the heartworm preventative when I remembered, but honestly, and I’ve racked my memory hard on this one, I don’t remember my vet ever telling me how important, in fact, critical, it was that I give my dog her heartworm meds EVERY month, not just when I remembered.

Again, I was lucky and she stayed healthy. We moved to the Eastern Shore of MD, where it should be noted that there are LOTS and LOTS (and LOTS) of mosquitoes (mosquito bites are how a dog gets heartworms). And once again, the new vet did not lecture or insist or smack me, when I told him that I gave the heartworm preventatives most months.

035When we moved to PA and got a new puppy, she was a bit quirky. She wouldn’t take pills of any kind, no matter what they tasted like. When she was little, we could wrestle the heartworm preventative into her, but as she got bigger and snarlier, it got tricky. I tried hiding them in treats, so she refused all treats (still does). I gave them to her in hot dogs and peanut butter, but she quickly caught on and ate around them, spitting them out or hiding them. I was frustrated that we wasted so many pills as they turned to mush or I found them a week later under her dog bed.

I just didn’t get it. I think we in the dog rescue world who are dealing with heartworm and understand its devastation, take for granted that everyone else gets it. We assume all good dog owners give the preventatives because they know their dog’s lives depend on it. But here’s the thing—they don’t know. And it’s not because they don’t think heartworm preventatives are important, it’s because they don’t realize how important. It’s not neglect, it’s ignorance.

We need to keep talking about it and vets need to insist loudly that their clients give their preventatives—explaining the danger and what heartworm will do to a dog. And meanwhile, we need to take care of the animals who suffer because of our ignorance.

I’ve started a fundraiser called, Edith’s Heart. I’ve set a lofty goal of $6500 because that is the approximate conservative rescue cost of treating Edith and 12 more dogs in honor of her puppies. It is only because of generous veterinarians treating our dogs at significantly reduced rates, that $6500 can cover so many dogs.

I hope you’ll consider giving to Edith’s Heart. I plan to send periodic updates to all donors to let them know how Edith’s treatment goes. It won’t be quick or easy. Edith’s Heart fundraiser will run through the end of December because that is the projected time it will take to successfully treat Edith.

We don’t know her outcome, just as right now, we don’t know what will happen with Hera’s Hope. All we can do is tell the story of these dogs and hope it raises awareness about how very important it is that we prevent heartworm before it comes to this.

To donate to Edith’s Heart Click HERE.

Note: Gracie still won’t swallow pills, but I learned that there are other ways to prevent heartworm in your dog. There is a topical treatment, which is what we’ve given Gracie for the past two years. Today she went for her annual checkup and heartworm test. I no longer take her negative test result for granted.

Weigh the costs