A Hamilton Birthday Party

Every time I have the opportunity to see one of my former foster pups, I always wonder if they will recognize me, and pretty much every time I go away both sad and glad that they don’t. Or if they do, they keep it to themselves.

I’m sad they don’t recognize me because I still love them and remember the bond we had. Some of them were with me for months. At the same time I’m so very glad that they are happy in their new lives and not pining for me. As I said to someone who asked me about it at the Hamilton puppy birthday party over the weekend, “If they did, there would be 70 dogs roaming around the mid-atlantic (plus one in Indiana and one in Massachusetts) feeling depressed.” I’m glad they’ve moved on. I’m grateful dogs are so resilient.

On this past Sunday, I had the immense pleasure of seeing Schuyler and six of her nine pups a year after they consumed my life and solidified my puppy addiction. When I agreed to foster Schuyler and her newborn puppies, through a simple miscommunication or perhaps an assumption on my part, I thought I was getting a mom dog and three pups. That seemed manageable and my husband was game.

Then, a day before I picked them up I discovered there were actually nine puppies coming. Luckily, my marriage survived it. And I do still wonder if I would have ever volunteered for that many puppies had I known. Either way, it set my course and explains why since then I’ve fostered 26 puppies in less than a year.

When they left my house, the Hamilton puppies weighed 10-12 pounds and now they are all between 45-65 pounds. They are still a happy bunch and took over the dog park where the party was held. The Hamilton pack was back in action. They wrestled over sticks, just as they had in the puppy pen last spring.

Continue reading A Hamilton Birthday Party

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Play by Play of the Foster Dog Circus that is our Life

I really like the Facebook feature, Memories. If you aren’t familiar with it – Facebook randomly sends you private posts with pictures from posts you made on the same date in history.

Recently, this picture came up –

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It’s from a year ago when we were still relatively new to fostering. Since our foster dog, Carla, had become part of the family, we’d agreed to babysit two other foster dogs for another OPH foster who was going away for the weekend. She could have put them in boarding but both dogs were sort of special needs. Hitch was incredibly shy and prone to running away (something we got to experience first-hand when one of our teens left a door open -twice! I got a lot exercise that weekend…) and Kylie who was…well Kylie was a little like our current foster Gingersnap – super sweet and VERY active, and maybe a wee-bit manic. It turned out to be a fun weekend and the first time we’d ever had four dogs in the house at once.

Now four doesn’t seem so crazy. In fact, as we watched our merry band of four last night, I said, “I like our little herd,” and Nick said, “Me, too.”

Let me catch you up on the comings and goings of our latest fosters. I think a timeline might be in order: Continue reading Play by Play of the Foster Dog Circus that is our Life

Introducing….Schuyler!

DSC_3351Every day reveals another layer of Schuyler. She’s no longer Mama dog – as we’d taken to calling her when she arrived with her brood of nine pups. Now she’s Schuyler or Sky. Her mothering duties are over and she’s even beginning to regain her girlish figure.

She’s ready to be a dog instead of a mama. This means she tearing up toys/stuffed animals/pens/pencils/egg cartons (plus the eggs inside them – who left that on that counter???). She is not just a chewer; she is a destroyer. So far, the saving grace has been KONG toys – she can’t make a dent in them and is happy to gnaw away for hours in her efforts.

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When we are asked her breed, I always say “dog” because other than her kind-of-lab-like appearance there hasn’t been anything to suggest a particular breed. Lab mix is the default breed for rescue dogs with short, dark hair and a medium-large size. We’ve had lots of ‘lab mixes’ and they’ve covered a range of personalities and sizes. I’m not suggesting she isn’t lab, but I could easily agree she’s nearly any breed you want to suggest. She’s a classic mutt. I happen to love mutts, so I see that as just one more of her many attributes.

All of that said, I’m beginning to think there could be some kind of border collie/shepherd in her, short hair and all. I have two pieces of evidence to suggest this.

First, she is devoted. I’ve read/heard that working dogs tend to fixate on one person and give their complete attention/devotion/affection to that person.

Schuyler loves me. Nevermind that Nick spends more time with her than any of the other dogs we’ve fostered, and suggests almost daily that we should keep her (we won’t). Schuyler likes him very much, even giving off a little squeal when she sees him pull in the driveway. She likes Ian, too, greeting him with happy wags when he appears. She even likes Addie, who takes loud offense at Schuyler’s friendly, snuffly nose.

But she has chosen me.

When I work in the kitchen, I can feel her eyes following my every move. When I go outside, I have to lock the door because she quickly figured out how to work the lever handle door so she could let herself out to follow me. While I do barn work or garden work, she waits at the kitchen door, watching, vigilant. If she catches sight of me, her excitement spills over. Here’s a video of Schuyler reacting to spotting me moving around outside: Continue reading Introducing….Schuyler!

10 Tips for Entertaining Puppies

Puppies aren’t a tough crowd. Kind of like toddlers. In fact, many days I feel the same way I did when I had toddlers and preschoolers underfoot and needed to keep them out of trouble. Other than your constant love and attention, they really just need an empty box or something messy like play-doh (or the stuffing from that animal they just ripped apart). Here’s ten ideas I’ve gleaned from my repertoire of puppy entertaining:

  1. Novelty is good. The pups love new things. That said, I have to qualify the definition of new things as “something they haven’t seen for a few days.” Novelty is relative with this crew. And new things can also be items like an empty paper towel roll (see video), the tag on a towel, the spray bottle I set down for a minute, or the stink bug who happened into the wrong puppy pen.
  1. The box is always better. I remember plenty of Christmases when we thought we’d found the perfect Santa gift, only to have the recipient tear the gift from its box and then have more fun with the empty box. The puppies are big fans of cardboard and happily crush boxes for me in preparation for the recycling bin. Their favorite plaything BY FAR is an under-the-bed-box. Whenever I place it in the pen, they react as if it’s Christmas morning – big eyes, yips, major excitement. It’s still their favorite play toy and they can spend entire mornings shoving each other in and out of it. Eliza and Angelica seem to win the space most often, but as soon as it’s deserted Peggy and Alexander will claim it for nap time.
  1. Mess is inevitable with every good time. When the pups start tearing around their pen in one of their wild games of race-around-and-body-slam-each-other, I know I better be ready for the clean up. I know that in the course of this craziness, someone will poop and then EVERYONE will run through it. And all that physical effort means many of them will also pee and then during the next tussle, most of them will roll right through the waters. Unlike my teenagers, puppies have no qualms about puppy poo/pee.
  2. Change in scenery works wonders. I broke down and purchased another puppy pen so that we could set up a semi-permanent playyard outside for the crew. It’s a bit of a process carting all nine of them outside and up the hill to a relatively level spot in the grass, but once they’re all out there it’s party time. And the best part – no clean up!

Continue reading 10 Tips for Entertaining Puppies

Who Wants a Hamilton Pup?

This week my pups went from “on hold” to “available for adoption.” Of course, they can’t go home for 2 more weeks, but this is the beginning of the end for me.

The hardest part was writing up a little “blurb” on each for the website. They are all cute. They are all wonderful. They are all the best one. I would keep every single one of them. Truly. But we aren’t running a dog farm, here, despite what the cats tell the neighbors.

How do I write nine different descriptions of these little butterballs I’ve come to love, despite the enormous amounts of poop produced hourly?

Not easy. Because, take Peggy. Is she shy? That makes her sound less attractive. She’s careful, is what I wrote. When the other pups rush me each time I enter their pen, she hangs back. Is she scared, or is she just smart? She knows I will get to her. She knows that after I have greeted all the others who simply can’t wait as she can, I’ll reach for her. And I’ll pick her up and snuggle her under my chin, away from the flailing mob beneath.

What kind of dogs these pups become, will mostly be determined by their adopters. They need love, that’s the easy part, because who doesn’t love a puppy? But they also need careful, consistent training. And boundaries. And good food fed regularly. And plenty of exercise, socialization, snuggles.

Every one of them could be the best dog ever. All it takes is lots and lots and lots of time and intentional training.

Nick petitioned to keep Lafayette – tossing out names like Target, Targette (French pronunciation), Spot, Spanky, the list goes on. He is a great pup. He has a wonderful sense of humor and could easily be voted most popular in the puppy yearbook. I entertained the idea through one bottle of wine on a gorgeous evening, but later decided, that, no, I don’t have time for a puppy. And if I’ve learned anything from my sweet dog, Gracie, it’s that I am not a good puppy trainer. No puppies in my near future. Maybe once the kids are launched (and don’t come back).

So, let me take a shot at differentiating these nine glorious bundles of happy – Continue reading Who Wants a Hamilton Pup?

Weaning is Not for the Faint of Heart

I’ve been thinking a lot about weaning. Mostly this is because I’ve been helping Schuyler let go of her pups and reclaim her independence, but also because my 16-year-old is straining to wean herself from our cloying care. But, really, isn’t that what raising a parent is all about? Teaching them that you can make it on your own? (As long as you have a cell phone and they’re paying the bills?)

Schuyler’s much better at this weaning process than me. She began weaning her pups at 3-weeks. In dog years, what’s that? Like maybe the equivalent of four months? Kind of standard for the very beginning of weaning a baby, too, I suppose.

The puppies were just over two weeks old, when she began struggling to keep up with their demands for food and they began sharing her bowl of kibble. I wetted the food so they wouldn’t choke on it and once the puppies discovered they could eat solid food they doubled their weight in a week.

As the pups embraced puppy food, Schuyler seemed less enamored of them and preferred to hang with me when given the option. Continue reading Weaning is Not for the Faint of Heart

The Similarities between Life with Babies and Life with Puppies

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Caring for these puppies brings back so many memories of caring for my own babies.

For instance, everything looks like a potential choke hazard or a threat to their safety. I worry about them all day long – is it too hot? Too cold? Can that one breathe on the bottom of the pile? Is the water bowl too full – could one fall in it and drown? Was that a sneeze? It’s gotten ridiculous – I’m even examining the fringy edges of the older towels – what if a puppy started eating this loose string and kept going and going….

Sometimes when the puppies sleep, they sleep so hard I worry they’re dead. SPD – Sudden Puppy Death Syndrome – is there such a thing? I don’t know, so I lay a quiet hand on a belly to check if they’re breathing. Lafayette and Peggy sleep so deeply they don’t move, even when other puppies trample them or I lift their heads trying to get a reaction.

And the laundry! Just like when I had babies and toddlers at home, the laundry is endless. Non stop. Towel after towel after rag after blanket. Truly unending.

The sounds are also reminiscent of living with babies – there is crying and whining, but there is also that wonderful snuffly sound they make when they’re nursing. They’re just learning to work their vocal chords and the volume and repertoire is growing daily.

When they chase their own tails and then chew on them, it reminds me of my own babies discovering their toes and being so delighted they had to put their toes in their mouths.

Probably the greatest similarity is that my days now revolve around poop. Continue reading The Similarities between Life with Babies and Life with Puppies