Family Reunion With Baxter

Yes, I said family. The group of people who worked together to save Baxter’s life two years ago is nothing short of a family.

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You might remember the post after Bax got adopted where I shared the Pandora charm I bought to remember him. It was a ball made up of dozens of little hearts. It reminded me of his rescue because, to me, it symbolized how many hearts were attached and dedicated to this little black dog. Big Bruno, the shelter volunteer who met him at the very beginning, Catalina, the rescuer who pulled him from the shelter, me, the foster who got him used to living in a home, Diane and Lali, his adopters, and then of course the hundreds of fans across the globe who rooted for him every day.

We are so lucky that the five of us live close enough so we can still see each other once in a while. The last time we were all together was last summer (which is crazy to think it was that long ago) and it was a joyous reunion. This time was just as sweet. Unfortunately what kicked us all into gear to see each other again was another episode of Baxter eating non-edible things. Yes, you read that right. This stupid little monkey underwent surgery #4 for swallowing fabric. Before you say anything about, “Well how in the heck did he have access to something like that again!?” – his parents are only human. Accidents happen. This occurred when Bax busted through the basement door to find a box of towels that was tucked away. You can only manage and prevent and plan for so much, ya know?

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After Baxter made it out of surgery okay, we all breathed a huge sigh of relief and decided right then and there that we’d have to see each other again. An afternoon date was set, and we all met up at Bax’s house.

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It never gets old, seeing this little guy. It’s like as soon as I see him my days as a novice (read: clueless) foster mom come rushing back to me. His big smile brings back so many memories of adventuring, falling in love and findings things out the hard way. You never forget your first, after all :-).

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Baxter was in great spirits despite his healing belly scars. Miss Piggy was also her usual happy self, bouncing her round self around to say hi to everyone. This video is from when we first saw Baxter that day.  If tails could make dogs fly, these two would lift off to China. I would recommend turning your volume off… lots of squealing in this video!

So many warm and fuzzies after a visit like this. I am so lucky that I get to see my former fosters so often, and to share that feeling with others who love them like I do is so special!

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A Trifecta of Former Foster Reunions

Sometimes the stars align just right to bring you a day you’ll never forget. That happened to me this past Saturday.

Somehow amidst the chaos of my working-two-jobs-and-still-trying-to-salvage-what’s-left-of-my-social-life schedule, three events found themselves in my calendar on one single day. Those three events were reunions with three of my former foster dogs.

Yes, three former fosters. Zabora, Baxter and Johnnie Cash. All in the flesh. It was, to put it simply, a perfect day.

I haven’t seen Zabora (now Medivka) in two years. I haven’t seen Baxter since his latest scary surgery. I haven’t seen almost foster failure Johnnie girl since the week she got adopted. Each of these reunions were sweet for their own reason, and I’ll write about them individually in the next few posts. For now, here is a reminder of the sweet faces I got to hang out with:

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I am one happy foster mama :-).


Throwback Thursday: The First Post

I don’t know if it’s the cool weather we’ve been having lately that reminds of Autumn and the first dogs I fostered, or the fact that it’s been almost exactly two years, or if I’m just missing all my foster dogs lately – but a little grey pup and the story that came with her to start my fostering career have really been on my mind lately.

Today’s post is a reblogged entry from the very first day I ever wrote in this blog. It’s awkward seeing the way I wrote back then, and how much of a baby I was when I posted that entry. I was only 21! I knew nothing! (I still know nothing!) I remember that it would take me so long to write posts back then because 1. I needed to collect my thoughts in their entirety before writing and publishing, and 2. I tried *REALLY* hard to make sure each post was written the best I could write it. Now I can generally crank out posts with ease. Even if it isn’t reflected in my posts, this blog has helped my writing abilities immensely. Learning how to put your thoughts on paper in a non-crappy way is a skill I’m not sure I would have learned as well anywhere else!

When I was looking back at this post I noticed it was indeed just about two years ago – two years and two days to be exact. So, for those of you who haven’t been around since the beginning, here you go. Here’s the ramble that started it all. If you want to get the full story, you can start on the actual post and keep clicking ‘Next –>’ to follow along. Please excuse the photography, too. I guess at least it is a way to realize how far you’ve come!

Every journey begins with one paw print.

Posted on August 20, 2011

It’s official: I’ve been bit by the fostering bug. It’s the kind of thing that happens slowly over time. For me, it started when I began working full time at the Montgomery County Humane Society.  I have been exposed to a lot since I started working there – some good, some bad. But it all gives you a realistic picture of what the world of sheltering really is.

Due to our tight quarters, my Marketing & Events position landed me at a desk directly next to our foster and rescue programs. I not only get to meet the lucky dogs who go out to foster, but I also get to meet the incredible people who open their homes and their hearts to these animals. I experience first hand the amounts of love, patience, and knowledge that these people pour out to care for these dogs while searching for their forever homes.

One of the most inspirational things I’ve learned from observing the world of fostering is how much emotion and hard work these animals take. The humans that care for them put their hearts on the line and make countless sacrifices to give their foster pet a new life. I wish everyone could realize how difficult fostering is, and what kind of person it takes. Lots of people say, “I could never do it. It would be too hard to give them up.” And it is hard, but I learned it is also one of the most rewarding things you can do.

My first foster dog came along unofficially, but more about that later. That goofy American Bulldog named Otis changed my view of fostering forever. In the two weeks I had him, I fell in love. I was okay with knowing, though, that inevitably I was going to have to give him up. I knew I couldn’t make the lifetime commitment to take him in as my own, but more importantly I knew how many other dogs I needed to help. Otis couldn’t be the last.

With the passing of my family pet, a cranky 14-year old Wheaten Terrier named Barley (whom I miss terribly), my house is finally open to official fostering. I’m bringing my first home tomorrow. Her name is Zabora, she is an 8-year old pit bull whose odds of being adopted at the shelter were slim. I’m nervous, I’m excited, I’m clueless. But I am ready.

Zabora marks the formal start of my journey as a foster parent. I’m going to devote my entire life to fostering dogs in need, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I hope this account of my experiences helps to show a few others how rewarding fostering can be, and maybe even inspire them to try it out for themselves.

It takes a special person to foster, but fostering can also turn your life into something special.

This is my childhood dog, Barley, whose recent passing comes with the silver lining of now being able to help other dogs in need. Rest happy, little pup, your paw print will always be the biggest on my heart. 

Well. There you have it. The birth of Peace, Love & Fostering. The awkward, naive, totally clueless birth of PLF.  Thanks for sticking with us for two whole years. You guys rule.


All Good Things Must End… (Or At Least Slow Down)

It hurts my heart to write this post – but after nearly two years of posting on this blog every day of the work week, it’s time to cut back. From now on, I’ll be posting entries on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

It’s a very difficult decision to make that I’ve wrestled with for a long time, but I have a lot of exciting changes coming up in my life very soon that have (and will continue to) commandeered most of my time and energy. Starting July 1, I’m moving into a row home in DC (like, literally downtown, far far away from the suburbs I’ve lived in for 23 years – eek!) with five of my girlfriends. I’m taking a full time position at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and I’ve also officially joined the team at Dog Latin Dog Training! These exciting beginnings are all things I need to talk about in more detail later, but I hope it gives you a bit of a sense of what blogging is up against in my life right now.

So while I am closing a chapter on Peace, Love & Fostering, I am proud to look back at some achievements we’ve made since this blog was first created:

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Crazy to reflect back on all that, right? Looking at the numbers still truly stuns me. I cannot believe how many people have stumbled across PL&F.

To make it clear: I’m not going away, I’m just only going to be around twice a week. I hope you’ll understand, and perhaps even keep coming back? I’m actually a little excited about this change because it will free up some time for me to write better, more thought out posts. I’d rather give you guys two solid posts a week than five so-so ones. So thanks for sticking with me through all this craziness – I have YOU to thank for the past 1.75 years of complete and total success. Seriously, thank you!

See you Tuesday and Thursday :-).


Ask Me Anything Answers: How Did It Start

Last week I wrote a post asking YOU what you want to read about on the blog. I got a lot of great questions/topics to cover! I will be answering one question per week. As we move forward, please feel free to leave additional questions in the comments section of answer posts or regular posts. Today’s question comes from ilovecats:

“Are you involved with rescues or a foster program? I’m curious where you find the dogs you foster and how you got started.”

The cool thing is that this blog pretty much documents everything about this journey, including a lot about how it all started. Some of you might remember Zabora, the dog I co-fostered with Love and a Six-Foot Leash – but , as you can probably guess, it all started much before her.

I actually interned at this humane society when I was in high school to complete my senior year schedule of leaving in the middle of the day and heading to a science internship. The relationship I kept with my boss landed me the full time job I took after I graduated college (it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, kids!). It was during the time I interned in high school that I became interested in pit bull dogs. It wasn’t that I fell super in love with them at that point, I just started sticking up for them more because I couldn’t figure out why everyone thought they were so different. I guess I grew up with the value that beings shouldn’t be treated differently just because of the way they looked.

When I began working at the shelter full time in June of 2011 (yes, a whopping ten days after I walked across the stage at UMD’s graduation), I heard people talk about fostering and I even worked next to the foster department desk, but I didn’t think of it as an option for myself. I had an elderly dog Barley at home and, to be honest, didn’t know too terribly much about taking care of dogs on my own past the experience I had with him and a few others growing up. FYI – as an Animal Science major they teach you about cows, not dogs and cats :-). Once Barley passed away, Aleks from L&ASFL was able to convince me to help her out with Zabora. I figured it was an okay gig since the responsibility to get her adopted wasn’t totally on me.

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Zabora’s story was a sweet and rather quick success. We pulled her through Jasmine’s House rescue, which was the first time I’d ever heard about Jasmine’s House. By the way – did you all know that Jasmine’s House was named after Jasmine, the little red dog who graces the cover of The Lost Dogs? Yeah, that Jasmine.

Once Aleks moved away, I was sort of on my own in this big wide world of fostering and advocacy that I stumbled into. By then the blog was kind of rolling, though I wasn’t posting five times a week at that point. I started to put my antennas up a little more at work, figuring out how this fostering and saving lives thing worked. Rumblings about a dog named Baxter needing a foster home began circulating – online I think is where I saw it. I remembered Baxter when I finally put his name and photo together: he was the scared, emaciated dog I had met briefly in our break room at the shelter just a few months prior. I made the connection that Jasmine’s House had pulled him and rehabilitated him to the point that his next step was moving to true foster home.

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Catalina, one of the women who ran Jasmine’s House at the time, finally stepped up and asked me to foster Baxter. A bona fide foster dog, all to myself. I thought it through – though, looking back, did I really think it through? Did I really think about the fact that I’d have this dog for four months, no matter what? And that a black, generic looking dog can sometimes be tricky to place, especially when they’re maybe not the most affectionate of dogs? I’m glad I didn’t think about that, because Baxter was the opening to so much of what my world is now.

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Jasmine’s House loaded me up with a crate, a kong and a big hunkin’ jar of peanut butter. Turns out, I didn’t need much more for Bax! Just kidding, sort of. More so, though, Jasmine’s house provided me with support and encouragement. So much of it. They cheered with Baxter’s victories, marveled at how happy he was in a home, and helped us through challenges. They are awesome. So, so awesome. It was because of how whole-heartedly they welcomed me as a new foster that I realized this was an organization I wanted to stay involved in. That and the fact that they’re totally not crazy, like rescue groups can sometimes be – in fact, they’re very much practical and responsible, two things I value in an animal welfare organization.

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After fostering Baxter through Jasmine’s House, Otis came back to me. We all know how that went – but, in case you haven’t made the connection yet, I fostered him through the humane society, not Jasmine’s House. There were a couple different factors in that decision, but ultimately he ended up as a county shelter foster dog. The humane society has a great foster program that helps hundreds of animals per year in addition to the ones helped at the actual shelter, and it was nice to be able to go through that experience as well. Honestly, every rescue group/shelter has a different way of doing things, and if you’re interested in fostering you should find an organization that you mesh well with.

As far as the dogs I choose to foster, Zabora, Baxter, Otis and Johnnie all came into my life for different reasons. When you have a shelter full of dogs needing your help literally every day, it is easy to just go back and pick one out and bring it home. That would do worlds of good. But I let my dogs choose me. So far it’s worked well, and we’ll see who else weasels their way into my heart and home from now on. Judging by the past 18 months, your guess is as good as mine!

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I Am Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving again, which means taking a minute to make note of what we’re thankful for. The feeling of obligation to do something like this is quickly being replaced every year by a feeling of wanting so badly to acknowledge the things in my life that make it possible for me to do what I do.

Last year at Thanksgiving I did a run down of the people in my life that I am thankful for. Those people haven’t really changed, so I don’t want to be redundant with a post about them again (though I love you all and I am still extremely thankful for you!). Which leaves me here thinking about what to give thanks for in this post.

Rather than material things or specific people, I am going to write about experiences from the past year that I am thankful for.  I’m so early in my career that every new situation for me is a valuable learning experience. So much of what I know and what I stand for has been shaped in the last year. To think that just over fifteen months ago I was dogless, blogless, and somewhat clueless shows me how much I have to be thankful since then.

Fostering Baxter

Yes, I know this is an extremely broad experience – but I can’t leave it out. Fostering Baxter was a crash course in learning about training, behavior, dog-dog interactions, boundaries, teaching, compromises, responsibility, patience and love. Baxter was all mine to help grow and then adopt out. The amount that he taught me is immeasurable, really.  He helped me realize that there is a difference between just liking dogs and having the knowledge to really help them, and for that I am very grateful.

Buying a 50mm camera lens

I know I said I would stay away from thanking materialistic things, but this little lens changed my photography life as I know it.  The 50mm lens is affordable and can give you the most amazing photos if you’re used to the standard issue lens that came with your camera. After buying this lens I was inspired to take a photography course and invest in Photoshop, so my skills set has grown immensely. I have also since invested in a 30 mm lens (thanks to this gal’s growing skills as a photographer!).  Of course I still have tons and TONS to learn, but I feel so much more confident about my photography after all I learned this past year.  I am really falling in love with photography, and I am thankful I discovered this passion.

One of the first photos I took with my 50mm. I was in love with the shallow depth of field, but still didn’t quite know how to fully utilize it.

Taking Otis back

Yes, fostering Otis was an amazing learning experience as I navigated the waters of having a nervous, confidence-lacking dog. But the actual act of accepting Otis back as my foster was a big lesson learned as well. There is a lot to be said for the realization that adopting a dog out should not be where your journey ends with that dog. Every foster/adopter relationship is different after an adoption, but I feel like it is our responsibility as the foster or rescue group to step up and help a former foster dog who is losing their home. I wanted to help so many different dogs after Baxter, but I ultimately knew I had to take Otis back for his well being. I felt guilty taking him in over a dog whose future was uncertain, but it took me accepting him back as a foster to realize that his future wasn’t certain either, and I owed it to him to find him the life he deserved.  I am thankful that Otis taught me the full responsibility of having a foster dog.

Participating in Project Mickey

Project Mickey is a program started by Jasmine’s House to teach humane education to elementary school children in an under-served part of Baltimore. If that sentence right there doesn’t make it obvious why this experience was so impactful, then I’m not sure I can explain what would.  I only helped for two sessions in the program, but I still got to know some of the kids, how bright they are, and their stories. It is like an entirely different world than my own – one that I can really benefit from spending a little more time in. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach these kids about caring for animals, while learning so much more myself.

Adopting Otis to his new home

In the past year I’ve learned a lot about restrictions for adopters that make it difficult to adopt animals out.  When I was searching for a home for Otis, I had almost the exact mold in my mind of what I wanted for him in a forever family.  The person who ended up adopting him was the opposite of many things I thought I wanted for Otis, but they are perfect for each other now.  This was a blatant example to me that I should always be open minded when talking to potential adopters, even if they’re not what I originally envisioned for my dog. I am thankful that I learned this first hand.

Going to Animal Farm Foundation

Another one that should be pretty self-explanatory is my week-long stay at AFF (read all about it in its own post).  The amount of not only knowledge, but also passion and motivation, that I soaked up during that week truly solidified the path I am on to help animals. I learned lots about the basics of training and canine behavior, again building on the bits of knowledge I already had. AFF was fun, exciting, extremely educational, and eye-opening. I’d consider it one of my most influential experiences of 2012. I am very thankful for the opportunity to learn and interact with such a wonderful organization.

Me and Julep during our week together at AFF.  Photo credit to AFF.

Participating in B-More Dog’s Community Pit Bull Day

Another example of a world I need to spend more time in. I recently heard a speaker talk about how animal advocates spend too much time thinking they’re their own audience. B-More Dog’s CPBD really opened my eyes to the whole group of people that I can reach with spay/neuter advocacy, etc. I am thankful that I got the opportunity to see all the families who love their dogs and are trying their hardest to provide for them, and I look forward to helping as much as I can in the future.

The second year at my job

Again, another broad one. But I can’t pick out specifically one part of it that I am thankful for more than another.  You learn so much about planning events on the job as opposed to in the classroom (especially when you’re an Animal Sciences major…), so my first year was spent soaking up as much information I could. I learned best practices, I learned things to avoid, I learned what would make me the best events manager I could be, and I learned how to learn from my mistakes. Entering into my second year, I feel like I’ve taken these skills and ran with them. My confidence in my abilities has skyrocketed, and all of a sudden I feel more capable than ever.  I am thankful for all the experiences I’ve had thus far in my career that have set me up to be the best I can be.

A photo from our annual gala, The Love Ball, courtesy of Virgil Ocampo Photography. This was the second year I managed the event, and it felt 100x smoother.

I’m sure I forgot even the most major milestones of this past year – it’s hard to believe I can write so much about the ones above and still have more blessings.

I’m also extremely thankful for all of you who stop by every morning and show your support. I so appreciate you reading, commenting, following and sharing.

Happy Thanksgiving week (or day or month) of gratitude to you and yours – furry friends included of course :-) I hope you have a lovely Holiday among family and friends!