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

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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

Edith

14915185_10210231496135073_2127436741205755890_nEdith’s road to heartworm recovery began this week. Yesterday I persuaded her to swallow the first of 48 pills she will need to take in the next two weeks. Three a day. Not my favorite job, but she is a good sport, so far. I finally found a use for the odd sausage shaped dog treat that came in one of my foster dog bags at transport. It looks just like a people sausage. Up until now, I hadn’t been able to fathom how or why I would give it to one of my dogs. Edith is a fan. And so far, she hasn’t noticed the little green pill lodge inside the second bit of sausage I feed her.

She also got 2 heartworm preventatives to kick off her treatment. She was hesistant, but in the end she ate the preventatives when nothing better appeared. They’re reputed to taste great (but this is debatable, just ask Gracie and at least half of Edith’s puppies – it must be an acquired taste).

Edith’s energy has grown every day since weaning the puppies. She is always anxious to get out of her crate in the morning and takes at least two slippery runs around the kitchen island before we head outside for her constitutional. Outside, she attempts to engage the kitties in a little game of you-runaway-and-I’ll-chase-you. Crash indulges her on occasion, but Hermoine is old and wise and instead looks at Edith with great disdain and if Edith leans a little too close with her invitation, Hermoine swats her across the snout. Continue reading Edith

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

The Real Poop, I Mean Scoop, on Fostering Puppies

Each time I think about what I should write in this update on Edith and the Dastardly Dozen (or Darling Dozen depending on the moment and the audience), I can’t seem to begin anywhere but with the poop. I’m not trying to scare you or discourage you from fostering puppies yourself, but there truly is no way around the poop. (I know there are several other OPH foster mommies who will back me up on this.)

My first litter of six shocked me with the sheer quantity and variety of ways that puppies can poop. But I survived it and the puppies more than made up for their messes with their sweetness and puppy breath.

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I was ready and knew exactly what I was getting into when I volunteered to take half of Lily’s litter off Chris’ hands last winter. I think that month with just five in the pen was oh-so-manageable.

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When Schuyler’s supposedly three puppies morphed into NINE puppies I was decidedly overwhelmed at times, but again I survived and lived to tell. Plus those Hamilton puppies were something special.

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But, can I just speak frankly here? Continue reading The Real Poop, I Mean Scoop, on Fostering Puppies

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

A Real Rescue

Where to begin? The cuteness? The adorable sounds? The AMAZING mama dog who has completely stolen my heart? So much to tell you!

We’ll start with the obvious. If you’ve joined the Another Good Dog Facebook page, you already know the 12 pups in my kitchen are addictively cute. I can spend WAY too much time just watching them ‘swim’ around the box.

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Their eyes and ears haven’t opened yet and they can’t support their weight, so they swim around, much like seals on land or fat snakes with appendages.

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Continue reading A Real Rescue