Pet Stuff...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fostering Addiction

Once you’ve fostered a few dogs, the addiction sets in. Instead of the, “I’m not sure I could give it up,” monolog running through your brain, you hear, “I can save one more.”

Thinking about the dog that just left your home sometimes hurts. I miss them. In the short time they lived here, they crawled into my heart. When they leave all the quirky little things they did, like running into the kitchen every time they heard the cheese being unwrapped, or cuddling next to me as I watched TV, or greeting me when I came through the door after work, suddenly seemed like big things. Big things that weren’t here anymore. And I think about them a lot! Are they okay? Does the family love them as much as I do? Will they remember me? Most importantly; Do they understand why I gave them away?

I think that last one bothers me most of all. I loved them, I fed them, bathed them, took them to the vet, tucked them into their little bed at night and made sure they were safe. Can they understand that I was just the bridge to their forever life? I hope so.

I haven’t fostered for a few years because my last foster was unadoptable. A hoarder dog, Cupcake was an incessant barker, resource guarder, and did not want to be touched. In fact, in her first 9 years on this planet, Cupcake had never experienced human affection. She’d been kept in a yard, over bred for cash, and never touched by human hands except when they were taking her puppies. She came into my home thin and scared. It soon became clear I couldn’t take her to adoption days because of her fear. No applications came for this 9 year old Chihuahua over the internet.

Cupcake just settled in here. Found a spot on the couch with her blanket and began to appreciate living in a house. Eventually, she learned to take treats from my hand and accept a pet on the head. Then she’d let me rub her back. I could pick her up if I moved really slow, but she’d be stiff as a board, as if waiting for something. I can only wonder what she went through before she arrived. I made it a practice to pick her up once a day; very slowly up, pets and ear rubs, then very slowly down. With lots of praise.

One day, after she’d been in my home for about a year, we sat at opposite sides of the couch. I reached over (slowly) and picked her up and placed her on my lap. She stood stiff as a statue while I rubbed her back and behind her ears. When I stopped she ran back to her corner of the couch and stared at me. For two weeks I repeated this once every night. One night I sat on the couch after dinner and she jumped into my lap, ready for the rub down.

Of course, this unadoptable dog had found her forever home right here in my arms. Because she still had a lot of fear and other issues, I stopped fostering. A few years passed and she developed an enlarged heart and went into heart failure multiple times. I would run her to the vet to sit in an oxygen tank, adjust her meds and hear the vet say it might be time to make that heart breaking decision. Working with my vet, we brought her back every time. The last time after oxygen and more meds, she never really came all the way back. Her breathing stayed labored and we couldn’t get the water off her heart. It was time to say goodbye. I held her in my arms as she passed and took a little piece of my heart with her. She was a good dog. Maybe she came into my home not knowing how, but she wanted to be good. All dogs want to be good. Some just need to learn to trust.

When you foster and end up keeping the pup, they are affectionately known as foster failures. Or maybe I’m the foster failure? My little foster failure taught me patience and the gift of time. Some don’t need that much time, some need extra time. Cupcake didn’t sit on my lap for the first year she lived here. By the time we said goodbye she would leap into my lap every night. I miss that. I miss her joy and affection and yes, even her little quirks.

Sometimes fostering gives you such a gift. Sometimes you foster and give that gift to someone else. Now, with Cupcake gone to the Rainbow Bridge, I’m ready to foster again. The rescue group I work with sent me this picture.

I stared at it for hours. This Feist/Chi mix is 8 months old and found in a shelter in North Carolina. I have a 12 year old Shih Tzu. I need a dog who will get along with her. Puppies usually love everyone so I’m hoping they’ll cuddle and play. One thing about puppies, they usually don’t spend that much time in the foster home. People love to adopt young pups.

Then the fostering addiction kicks in again. Once her health is cleared by a vet, this little pup will be placed on a transport and welcomed into my home.
Updates to follow…

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Do Something

Maybe you can't foster a dog because of work or family dynamics, but there's always something you can do. 

Big or small, every effort helps.

  • Organize a Fundraiser. Set up a box where you work and collect food, blankets, towels, or Toys for dogs. Call up a local rescue and see what they need. A sign and a box and you're ready to go. 
  • Find your local rescue and start a Facebook Share-a-thon! Go to their Adopt-a-Pet or Pet-Finder site and share the dogs that need a home. Encourage your Facebook and Twitter friends to do the same. Share those pups right into a new home!
  • Volunteer to help out at adoption days. Join your local rescue and let them know how much time you have to spare and take part in events and fundraisers.
  • Show up at an animal shelter and offer to take a dog for a walk. An exercised pup is a happy pup and you just might find yourself a new best friend.
  • Got a few extra $bucks$? Donate a grooming for a dog in need. Some dogs come into rescue in deplorable condition. They need baths, nail clips and sometimes to be completely shaved down. 
  • Set up a recurring donation. Tag a small amount from your weekly paycheck to go to a rescue or animals shelter. Even small amounts add up if enough people do it. 

Step up! Your small effort can make a big difference in the life of  a homeless pup. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dog Adoption & Fostering

Whenever someone decides to try fostering a dog there's going to be a family member, coworker, or friend who will think they're crazy.
My advice? Go with your heart.

Fostering is work. You have an animal to take care of and that includes feeding, bathing, cleaning up after, and taking to adoption days or the vet. (Some rescues will do the vet visits for you.) Most rescue volunteers will pitch in and help each other with adoption days and if you have a dog that requires professional grooming, the rescue should pay for it.

Choose the right organization to work with for fostering. 

This can be your local shelter. Most accept fosters due to the over crowding. Check out their website, visit, or make a phone call and find out what they're looking for in a foster family.
Check out your local rescue. Look them up online. They should be a verifiable non-profit. Go to your state's website and there should be a place to look them up to see their non-profit status. In New Jersey that would be at the Directory of  Registered Charities   Making sure the rescue you choose is a non-profit helps to ensure all funds and donations will go to the care of the animals.

Once you find your rescue ask about their policies for fostering. Who pays for what? A good rescue will supply all the supplies (food, leashes, medical needs, flea prevention, etc.) and host adoption days in your community. Ask about what happens if you can no longer foster? This sometimes comes up if the dog you're foster doesn't get along with another pet in your home or if you have a family emergency and can no longer keep the dog. There should be policy in place for emergencies.

A good rescue usually gives a first time foster an easy dog. By that I mean one that is calm or maybe a puppy. Most puppies have no issues and just want to play. Good choice if you have kids. Some in the rescue I belong to only foster puppies and others only want to do the older dogs. I've done both. Puppies can be fun and older dogs are usually already house trained. There are good points to any age dog. Puppies are usually adopted faster than older dogs.

If you can't foster there are always other volunteer options.
Most good rescues run fundraisers and the more hands to help the better.
Processing paperwork for adoptions.
Calling references.
Doing home visits.
Transporting dogs.
Collecting donations.

Check out your local shelter or rescues. Their website should have a list of volunteer opportunities.

Volunteer and save a life. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hurricane Safety list for Dogs

With hurricane season upon us and a storm surging up the east coast, don't forget your 4-legged furbabies! Here's some quick storm tips for keeping your pups safe and calm when the weather gets wild.
  1. Make sure your dog is tagged and chipped in case you get separated. It can help you find Fido after the storm. 
  2. Find out in advance where the pet-friendly shelters are or ask a friend or relative who lives in a safer area if they'd board your dog for the storm. Make sure it's someone you know and trust. 
  3. Make Fido a Go-bag. Just like that emergency bag you may need in case you have to evacuate, have one for your dog;  any medication they might need, a copy of vaccinations, water, dishes, food, and a favorite blanket. Don't forget a toy or two! Keep the leash handy and put their harness on in case you have to get out fast. 
  4. If you're riding out the storm at home; Keep them indoors! Aside from going crazy with fear of the wind, rain, and possible lightening, flying debris can injure your dog. If you won't send your child out into the storm, don't send your dog. 
  5. A box of Wee-wee pads can be your best friend's best friend. Place them by the back door so they know it's okay not to have to brave the elements. If you have a bigger dog and they stress about getting out to eliminate. Stay by the door and get them right back inside. (Only if there are no flying objects-branches, lawn chairs, trash, etc.) 
  6. Get Cash. Take some cash out of the bank in case the little card machines go down and stores only take cash. You never know what you'll need, so be ready. 
  7. Stock up on dog food! One thing New Jersey learned from Superstorm Sandy was stores might not open for days. There was one store around here that got generators in and their stock went fast. Everything flew off the shelves in record time. Get in two weeks worth of dog food and treats so your dog can maintain a normal diet during this stressful time. 
  8. If the noise and pressure changes are freakin' your dog out, try putting a t-shirt or thunder coat on your dog. Play calming music and pet them often to reassure them. 
  9. Put a photo of your pet in your wallet. If you have to search for them after the storm you'll need a picture to show shelters. 
  10. If you must evacuate take your pets with you. If it's not safe for you, it's not safe for your dogs. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Training a Dog at 5 a.m.

This is Gracie. She's my 5 a.m. alarm clock. This is the time my husband gets up for work. Gracie hears that alarm and she's on her feet pacing around the bed.
We have maybe 10-15 minutes till the barking starts.

If the power ever goes out, we're set. Our furry little alarm clock always goes off at 5 a.m no matter what. Even if the regular alarm is quiet, you know, Saturday, Sunday, holidays, this little fuzz-ball still goes off right on time.

I've tried to explain the difference between weekdays and workdays, but she's not getting it. She refuses to relent until we're out of bed. Gracie would make a good Drill Sargent.

What happens once we're up and moving? Gracie goes back to sleep....

Saturday, June 20, 2015

How to Foster a Dog

Did you always think you wanted to do something to help homeless animals, but weren’t sure what? If adoption is out of the question, you might consider fostering. Although being a foster family for a homeless dog can be very rewarding, you might have some concerns. Stay calm. It’s easier than you think.

The foster family opens their heart and home to a dog from a shelter and agrees to work with the pup on basic house manners. The dog you foster might come with a history of abuse or neglect and will need a lot of patience to assimilate to a home again.  Other dogs might be very easy and quickly become acclimated to your family.  Each dog is different, but don’t worry. Here are a few tips that will improve your fostering experience.

  1. Find a good dog rescue organization to team up with. Every area of the country has animal rescue groups. Look online or in your local paper and call a few in your area. This is your chance to interview them to see if they are a responsible group. Ask questions such as: “Will the group pay to have the dog spayed or neutered? What if the dog doesn’t get along with my dog? What if he has a medical problem? Who will take the dog if I go on vacation?” Getting answers to these kinds of questions will give you a good insight into the type of people you will be working with and how much support you will get if a problem arises.

  1. Be prepared for a variety of behaviors. Most dogs are good and want to please, but shelter dogs need a little time to come out of their shell. The dog may cower and hide when he first arrives in your home. This usually isn’t a problem. Give him space and let him come to you. The little fellow has probably had a rough few days of arriving at the shelter, being transported to the rescue organization, and finally to your house. He doesn’t understand why he lost his home or why he keeps being moved around. Show him where the acceptable bathroom place is, give him food and water and soon you’ll see a wonderful personality emerge.

  1. Know a few accidents are normal any time a dog moves to a new home. If your foster dog has an accident gently correct him with a firm, “no”, and show him the proper place to potty. When he does potty outside praise him so he knows he did it right.

  1. One of the best tools to get a dog adopted is photos. All good rescue groups have accounts at places like and When the dog is in your house take some cute pictures of your foster. Send them your rescue group as soon as possible so they can put the photos up on the website. You could even take a short video of your little guy so everyone searching for a new pet can see how precious he is. You should also let your rescue know if there are any behavioral quirks such as chasing cats, resource guarding or marking.

  1. The hardest part is saying goodbye. You’ve given him love and affection and watched him go from a frightened little pup to a wonderful family dog and now it’s time to give him up. You’ve read the adoptive family’s application, checked references and decided they would be a good forever home for your foster dog. When you hand the dog over to the new family your heart may break. You’ve fallen in love with the little guy and now he’s leaving. It can be a very emotional time for the whole family, but remember there’s another dog out there that needs a loving foster family so he can find his way to a good life.

With so many animals being dumped in shelters every day, fostering one dog might not seem like much, but remember you’ve saved a life. Now that your first foster is adopted into a good family, you’re ready to save another homeless dog. You are the bridge between a scary shelter and a loving home. Be the bridge that gives these dogs a happily ever after and discover the magic of unconditional love.