Maybe It’s About More Than Rescuing Dogs (or how I became one of those crazy dog people)

If you follow my other blog (about my writing life), you know that lately I’ve been reading extensively about the craft of writing. One thing I hear again and again is that the protagonist (main character) must undergo change for the story to have an arc, purpose, hold the reader’s interest, etc.

For the past nine months, I’ve been working on a memoir about fostering. I keep reworking and tweaking it, while I wait on word from several agents considering it. I’ve been trying to pin down how fostering has really changed me. What kind of transformation have I undergone through the fostering of well over fifty dogs? Continue reading Maybe It’s About More Than Rescuing Dogs (or how I became one of those crazy dog people)

Swimmer Puppy Syndrome Success Story

Fruitcake was one of four puppies born to Estelle, a pregnant dog rescued by Operation Paws for Homes from a sad situation in South Carolina. Estelle gave birth the day after she arrived in Pennsylvania at her new foster home.

In just over two weeks, all the other pups are sitting, standing, walking, but not Fruitcake. The vet diagnosis is Swimmer Puppy Syndrome in Fruitcake’s hind legs.

Therapy begins – slings, chutes, and hobbles, plus LOTS of volunteers.

In just two weeks, Fruitcake is sitting and standing on his own. He’s running in his chutes and walking just fine with hobbles. Oh, and he’s stealing lots of hearts!

Fruitcake is well on his way to walking and running like his siblings. Every day his stability, strength, and stamina grow.

For regular updates on Fruitcake and all my foster dogs past and present, be sure to join Another Good Dog Facebook group and if you’d like to know what else I write, check out CaraWrites.com.

This post is part of the Blog Paws Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop. Be sure to check out some of the other great blogs by following the link below!

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Team Fruitcake

What a week it has been for Fruitcake! He is making great progress. A week ago, I took him to the vet because he couldn’t sit, stand, or walk. Whenever he tried, his hind legs did a split and flailed around helplessly like flippers. The vet told me what I’d already guessed(thanks to google) – he most likely had Swimmer Puppy Syndrome. Luckily, he only has it in his hind legs, many pups have it in all four.

She encouraged me to try to make a sling to support his body and allow his legs to get under him. She also said that just moving his legs into the proper position as much as possible would help. We needed to build muscle and reinforce his muscle memory. She told me that we might also consider putting hobbles on his hind legs by tying the legs together so they couldn’t slip out sideways. And then she said, “Because of his deformed feet (he has six toes on each back foot), there might be something else going on in there. We’ll just have to wait and see and maybe take xrays when he’s older.”

I went home with my mind spinning. How could I fix this? I set Fruitcake down in the puppy box with his siblings and watched him flatten out like a pancake, with his hind legs out to the side and his stomach spread across the floor. I don’t think a normal puppy could put their legs in that position even if it wanted to, so maybe there was another way of looking at this. Maybe we could say that Fruitcake is very special – he has six toes on his hind feet and he can do a split! With those big boots and flexible legs, certainly he could learn to walk.

I spent a good portion of Friday night and Saturday morning sitting in his box repositioning his feet underneath him again and again and then holding my hands on either side of him to keep them from slipping sideways. By Saturday evening he was sitting up on his own. I decided this was HUGE progress. But what else could I do?

Here’s a video of Fruitcake after he mastered sitting up.

I wrapped a scarf under his belly as a sling and held him up so that he could get his feet underneath himself. This was awkward and he spent as much time wriggling sideways to chew on the scarf as he did standing up. Again and again he squirmed and then his top heavy front end slid forward and he landed on his nose.

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I took to the internet looking for more ideas and posted on the OPH family page to see if anybody else had ever had a swimmer pup. Ideas and sympathy flowed. The hobbles seemed like the best plan, but even with the vet’s instruction and the internet photos, I couldn’t figure out how to make hobbles out of vet rap and put them on my squirming puppy. Each time I attempted, Fruitcake screamed and fussed and Estelle grew frantic.

I texted my neighbors and Chris, who is also my vet, stopped by after work and brought tape and showed me how to make hobbles for Fruitcake.

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With the hobbles on, Fruitcake could stand and do a slow wobbly waddle across the box before spending the rest of his time trying to figure out how to get the hobbles off . Now I put hobbles on him in the morning and he is upright and easily able to tackle his siblings or wrestle a toy before successfully getting them off about mid-afternoon. I do think they will be key in his therapy.

The same day that Chris came with the hobbles, another OPH foster, Debbie, sent me a link to an article about bulldog puppies with swimmer syndrome. The breeder had built a chute that was just wide enough that the puppies could brace their legs against the sides and walk! It was amazing. I showed the article to Nick and he built a chute for Fruitcake. The first time we put him in it, Fruitcake was uncertain. He was cranky and complained about the confinement. Finally, he simply lay down and slept.

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The next time, I put him in the chute he walked the entire length of it—his tail wagging and a look on his face that said, “Wow! Look at me!” Continue reading Team Fruitcake

Enter at Your Own Risk (but I assure you, you aren’t missing too much)

Can we come see the puppies?

Ummm, you can, but…..

Estelle might growl at you.

They’re really not very interesting right now.

They might pee on you.

These are my three responses to the regular requests to visit the four little (relative term) bundles of fur in my puppy room.

This puppy litter is a much different experience than my others. Maybe it’s because these babes are so big and growing so fast, that they sleep so very much. There is decidedly little action in that room.

Even though they are now over two weeks old and their eyes have opened, they generally don’t move unless forced to. Continue reading Enter at Your Own Risk (but I assure you, you aren’t missing too much)

Estelle is a Rock Star Mom

Let me just say that four puppies is much less than twelve. And a 30 pound dog is much easier than a 60 pound dog. Sure, those are generalizations, but I do feel a bit like a marathoner who is running a 5K.

Estelle is a rockstar mom. The puppies are fat and shiny and eleven days old, but Estelle already seems restless. I think in human terms she’s one of those moms who has a hundred Pinterest boards and writes three blogs, while making all homemade baby food and teaching step aerobics.

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She hops in the box, does a quick clean up and lays down to let the pups nurse. And then she hops right back out of the box and takes a tour of the tiny room she’s trapped in, checking under the grow light table and in the buckets under the mudsink. When I toss toys in for her to play with, she inspects them and then carries them into the box and nestles them beside her pups. Then she stands guard by the gate, growling at strangers (which include my children) and barking at her reflection in the front door glass pane or the cats moving around on the porch. Each time Gracie barks Continue reading Estelle is a Rock Star Mom