Safe Harbor

Dug has arrived.

And it’s been a long time coming. (According to Ian.)

Not long after we started fostering dogs, maybe eight or ten dogs in, my youngest son began calling all our foster dogs, “Dug.”

When I asked him why, he said. “I can’t remember all the names, so they can all just be ‘Dug.’”

Dug-upDug is the dog from the movie Up. If you haven’t seen that movie – you’ve missed out. Dug is the ADD dog the main characters encounter on their journey. Dug is searching for the bird Kevin, but is easily distracted. You’ve probably heard people say, “Squirrel!” followed by a quick head turn to indicate how easily they’re distracted. They’re referencing Dug.

With each litter we’ve fostered, Ian has campaigned to name all the puppies Dug. (Dug 1, Dug 2, Dug 3, etc.)

So, when I told him we had the chance to name our next foster puppy, he insisted we name him Dug.

I agreed and he immediately tracked down his older brother and sister to tell them we were finally getting Dug!

Dug arrived Saturday morning and it seems he really did get here just in time. He is not what you would term a postcard-pretty puppy. Continue reading Safe Harbor

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

A Visual Tour of Nelson, One-of-a-Kind Dog

Our latest foster dog is one interesting canine. He is a hodge-podge of dog parts, scrambled together to create complete adorableness. Today I’m going to take you on a visual tour of Nelson.

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Nelson is listed as a 2-year-old heeler mix. That description is a bit misleading, but it’s the official line, so we’ll go with it.

First off, Nelson is not a heeler. Sure, he’s got gorgeous heeler coloring, but in so far as heelers are energetic, semi-neurotic, herding dogs, Nelson is none of those things.

Energetic is not a word I’d use to describe Nelson. He’s very ‘chill’ as my daughter says. He has a happy little jaunt and is perfectly pleasant on a leash, but the most energy I’ve seen him call up is when we pass the fox den at the top of our pasture. He would very much like to climb right down the hole and visit with the fox family (and he’d probably fit). I have to drag him away from the hole each time we pass it.

Neurotic, also is not a word I would use to describe Nelson. He is super easy-going, gets along with the other dogs, and while curious about the cats, he can’t be bothered to make a big effort to chase them. He spends his days lounging nearby and doesn’t even bark at the UPS guy (despite Gracie’s theatrical performance of “kill-the-guy-in-the-brown-suit” which she stages every time the big truck lumbers up the driveway).

As far as herding, well, although Nelson likes to be with people, he certainly isn’t going to nip at your heels and collect all the people in one place. He doesn’t even cast a second glance at the horses when we walk by them and only feigns a passing interest in the chickens (mostly because Darlin’ gets so excited at the sight of them).

So, let’s assume the heeler label is in name only as a nod to his awesome markings.

Speaking of markings, let the visual tour begin. Continue reading A Visual Tour of Nelson, One-of-a-Kind Dog

Dogs Coming and Going

Another returned dog. I won’t bore you with the details of why this dog has come back to OPH care after being adopted 8 months ago. Prior to that she was treated for heartworm in her foster home. Prior to that she was neglected and abandoned and left with the deepest, most horrifying embedded collar scarring I’ve ever seen. She makes Lucy’s neck look like a paper cut.

When Vera Bradley arrived, her adopter was apologetic, explaining that Vera was a little wobbly and confused because she’d given her a sedative for the two-hour drive. Vera’s nails were long and the adopter told me she had to have her vet do them because they’re black, plus Vera is sensitive to the sound of the clippers (we learned later in the weekend that Vera is terrified of snapping sounds – a neighbor’s nailgun sent her into a panic).

After she left, I took Vera to my local pet salon to have her nails trimmed while she was still in her twilight state. She stumbled in and stood for the trimming like a love. The technician was aghast at the embedded collar scarring and took Vera into the grooming area to show all the other employees. “I’ve never seen anything this bad,” she said. “Poor baby.”

And she’s right. It does feel like someone attempted to chop off Vera’s head, but more than likely her neck simply grew around a collar that was too small. Whether that happened when her owner wasn’t paying attention or while she was a stray, we’ll never know. I’m amazed she survived it.

When we got home from the groomers, Vera plopped down on the Frank bed and curled in as small a ball as she could, given her size (she’s about 60 pounds, but is easily at least 10 pounds overweight). She remained there the rest of the day, declining dinner until I sat beside her and urged her to eat. Even then she only finished half.

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The next day, Continue reading Dogs Coming and Going

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

Edith, the Slayer of Heartworms

img_4364-1I don’t know why I’m surprised that Edith is taking this whole heartworm treatment deal in stride. In fact, if you stopped by to see her, you wouldn’t realize anything was amiss. She would rise to greet you with her tail going a mile-a-minute and a big smile on her face. When you reached down to pet her, she would lean into you—her regular move which I have come to think of as Edith’s way of hugging you.

This morning I felt a bit cruel, but I didn’t give her a pain med. I opened her crate and she came bounding out, running for the kitchen to see who else was up. As I walked her, she pranced along and when we passed our cat, Crash, she assumed the play position to see if he might want to go for a morning romp. I tugged on the leash and told her to settle down. Continue reading Edith, the Slayer of Heartworms