This is a Special Dog

In less than a week, it will be six months since Gala arrived at our house. At this point, she believes she is our dog.

She is not.

I don’t know why she hasn’t found her family. I keep telling people who ask, that her family must be pretty special people if she has to wait this long. But then again, she is a special dog.

Part of me questions whether I am helping or hindering her adoption effort by writing about her, but it would seem insincere not to share her stories. And there are many. Because this is a special dog.

“Latest circus trick,” I say to Nick as we watch Gala Continue reading This is a Special Dog

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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

The Pee Wars

I’ve had about enough of the pee wars. Unbeknownst to you, this quiet war has been waging in my kitchen for three days. I don’t know who started it. I don’t know how it will be ‘won,’ but I’ve had entirely enough of it.

So today I armed myself. I bought a doggie diaper. I’m not sure yet which dog will be wearing it, but I’ve decided to place blame on the dog who should know better, so here she is modeling it for you:

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Let me back up.

On Friday evening, I brought home two new fosters. Continue reading The Pee Wars

A Fixable Problem

WARNING: This is not a happy or funny post. It might bum you out, or maybe it will inspire you. I’m taking my chances sharing my grief and frustration.

IMG_3629Today is the day Ginger will leave. I feel unprepared. Every other time, when a dog was leaving that I knew would break my heart, I had a plan in place. A new foster on its way or already in our house, or I had somewhere to go or be that would distract me. Not today.

Because I’m still waiting to see a doctor who will have the answers, I can’t commit to a new dog/puppy. I’m not a good patient or a patient person, so my hurting knee is dragging me down. Lucy is still here, but we’re finding our routine and she’s ready to go to a forever home as soon as her people find her.

Today is different than other adoption days. Without my usual props in place, I already feel the tears gathering and I hate that. This is the hardest part of fostering. This heart-cratering pain that is so completely unavoidable- if I just didn’t foster dogs. It’s self-inflicted, preventable, and yet, I know it’s nothing compared to the pain of all the dogs that never make it out.

I’m currently reading Rescue Road, the story of a man named Greg Mahle, who drives a tractor-trailer full of rescue dogs from the deep south, to foster homes and adopters in the north twice a month. He’s helped rescue over 30,000 dogs and driven a million miles.

I’m trying to read it as fast as I possibly can because it is unbearable. Every time I have to close the book and move back into my world I feel sad, unmoored, frustrated. How can there be people in this world, in this time, who would dump a litter of newborn puppies in a trashcan or worse yet, set that trash can on fire?

How can there be state-run ‘shelters’ that are no more than concrete holding pens completely exposed to the elements where dogs are dumped all together (young, old, sick, neutered or not) to wait for no one (or maybe a rescue) to claim them before they die of preventable diseases or state mandated euthanasia? This book breaks my heart. Reading it this weekend, knowing it was our last with Ginger, made for a sad, sad few days.

Yes, I know, Ginger is going to a GREAT home. It’s the only happy thought available for me to hold on to. Only that great home isn’t mine. It can’t be. Technically, it could be, but reading Rescue Road this weekend underlined again for me exactly why it can’t be—there are too many dogs still down there. Too many dogs dying every day because of ignorance, cruelty, apathy, and lack of resources. This is a fixable problem. Maybe that’s what makes me most crazy. Parvo, mange, heartworms, overpopulation—these are ALL preventable or treatable.

All of my mixed feelings and sadness is complicated by the fact that my knee is not healing. It limits me. Just this morning, I fell, once again. Even though I had on my brace and my new super grippy shoes that my husband insisted I buy, my unstable let still slid out from under me on a stick that fell in last night’s storm as I made my way down the hill with Lucy. Ouch.

And then there’s Lucy.
Continue reading A Fixable Problem

The Grave Consequences of Being a Slow Learner

I’ve fallen down a lot over the past year and a half while we’ve been fostering dogs. I’m talking about physically falling down, though certainly I’ve mentally and emotionally taken my tumbles.

Carla was the first to knock me over when she darted in front of me while we were running. A 75-pound coonhound is not something you can hop over, so instead she took me out like a football player making a clean block. Luckily (for me) she broke my fall. I only suffered a few scratches and started running with a longer leash so the next time she’d have the leash length to clear me if she happened to notice a squirrel on my opposite side.

Then Frank pulled me over twice. Frank wasn’t huge, but he was 50+ pounds of solid muscle. When he slipped into the chicken pen as I was closing the gate, I chased after him and stupidly grabbed his collar while he was in full flight. You can imagine the rest. A skinned elbow and bruised knee were my penance for my bad decision. (Frank didn’t get a chicken, though, so perhaps it was worth it.)

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The second time I was walking down our steep hill in smooth-soled shoes and my feet slid out from under me. I’m not sure he had anything to do with that fall other than happening to be on the other end of the leash when I clumsily lost my footing. The result of that fall was only a few grass stains.

DSC_9923Tennessee took me out while running. He had been the perfect running companion, incredibly obedient and sticking close to my side for weeks. Until something behind us startled him and he slammed into me in his panic and sent me sprawling. I ended up with two skinned knees and one skinned palm on that one.

After that I had a long run of not falling over, nearly a year and then Whoopie yanked me over when her bloodhound nose picked up the scent of a cat and I couldn’t keep up. I did a lovely belly flop on the grass, but was no worse for wear.

And then this past Monday night, I hit the ground again, only this time I didn’t get up. I was walking Bambi and Lucy at the same time in wet grass, in the dark, in sandals, down the hill. So, you can already see all the mistakes I made going into this. The two of them both lunged forward at the same time and I’m not even sure why. I think Bambi was only excited, as she is a puppy, and I believe Lucy, who is not a puppy but has a puppy-spirit simply joined in the fun. Continue reading The Grave Consequences of Being a Slow Learner

Our Present Pack of Pups

My trusty co-pilot and helper (read: the only kid without a driver’s license or a job this summer) and I met the Lucy train in Hagerstown last Wednesday and picked up our latest charge. She’d been riding shot-gun for the last leg with a very nice person named Terri. When I opened the hatch of my SUV, she hopped right in, settled in the crate we’d brought and went to sleep. Obviously, she wouldn’t be a high-maintenance guest.

This poor pup has been through it—I can’t say exactly what, but she is riddled with scars, the worst one being a permanent necklace from where a collar was embedded and/or she was left chained up for a long period. Despite all that, she is a happy, friendly, easy-going girl. The resilience of dogs is something to behold.

Thankfully, she doesn’t appear to be pregnant. As exciting as that would have been, the last thing this sweet girl needs is puppies. Her skin is inflamed and hot and covered in some form of eczema that requires us to keep a cone on her 24/7 so she won’t chew herself bloody. It’s a testimony to her good nature that she handles her misery so well. She scratches at the cone trying to get to her neck and chest, where the rash is worst. She chews at her side, biting the plastic cone that prevents her from a reaching her itchy skin. It may not help, but maybe the effort brings a mental relief. I remember scratching at my riding helmet covering my itchy head when I was in the middle of a competition or lesson. It’s psychological; you feel like you’re doing something. I would shake my head, too, which I’ve seen Lucy doing.

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If you’ve ever had poison ivy or hives covering your entire body, you might have some sense of what this pup is going through. The urge to itch is all-consuming and yet—she can’t reach it. She’s headed to the vet on Wednesday to confirm that she isn’t pregnant and hopefully get a prescription for some serious drugs to help her out. The vets that examined her before she came north diagnosed a flea allergy. While there are no fleas on this girl now (I’ve given her enough oatmeal baths to verify that), I would assume at some point she was infested with them. Continue reading Our Present Pack of Pups

Whoopi Finds Her Family (and Ginger Claims Ours)

DSC_4109Whoop! Whoop! Whoopi found her forever family!

She left early Sunday morning for the 6 1/2 hour drive to her new home in Rhode Island!

We’re already hearing how well she is fitting in and how much she is loved! She has a big fenced yard near the seashore, two kids of her very own, and two fursiblings (weiner dogs! Can you imagine the trio they make?). It’s a great story that makes my heart very happy. Continue reading Whoopi Finds Her Family (and Ginger Claims Ours)