Happy Dog, Warm Heart

Few things in this world touch my heart the way Otie does. I’m not sure what it is about him, but his big head and his worried expression have nestled themselves so far into the depths of my soft spots that I think I would do just about anything for him. He is such an anxious and worried dog, and it really breaks my heart to watch him worry about things many other dogs don’t blink an eye at. So when he is with me, I feel like it is my mission to make him comfortable. It is my job to find things that make him happy and let him do them as much as his little heart desires. Or else he makes sad faces like this:

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You might remember the photos from when I borrowed Otis from his dad over Memorial Day Weekend. We went on a grand adventure with our friends Kimmie and Nicky to the Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River. We had so much fun! It was such a care free day out, and I knew one of those hikes was exactly what Otis needed while he spent the weekend with my parents.

I dropped him off with my parents Thursday evening, so he was very happy to see me Saturday morning. We woke up bright and early to meet with Kim and Nicky before the trails got too crowded. The canal was crowded, but the route we took was actually very empty – which was great for our two cautious dogs! It was a fun, confidence-building walk. I love seeing both dogs so relaxed.

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I knew he was feeling good because he went into the water all on his own. Nicky was chasing after a treat and forgot about it, and Otis went right in! I turned around and he was on his way in, no encouragement needed. It was a moment of bravery for Mr. Otie.

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He had such a good time and was totally wiped out afterwards. What a fun way to kick off our weekend! Did anyone else spend fun time outdoors as the summer winds down?

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Guess Who’s Here!

I have a house guest for the week! Does this big guy look familiar?

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That’s right. Otie is hangin’ with us for the week while his dad is out of town. He’ll be bouncing back and forth between my house downtown and my parents house in the ‘burbs since it’s a lot of work to hide him from my landlord keep track of him while I’m running around all weekend. I was pretty nervous bringing him to my house because he can be barky and anxious and I didn’t want to drive my roommates nuts, but he’s actually done really well! And my roommates are enjoying having a dog around.

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It’s nice having him around again. I missed him! He’s also still perfect when I bring him to work (whew!). photo 05 photo 04

I’ll tell you guys about how the week goes. We have some adventures planned for this weekend (shocking)!


Frankie Finds His FOREVER!

I know there’s been some radio silence over here on the subject of my latest favorite pup Frankie – but there’s good reason for it! There have been so many different plans in the works for him: fosters, fosters to adopt, adoption prospects – and most of them have fallen through. Until now. Frankie has been adopted!

After Frankie’s big blog debut in June, my move made me unable to bring him home for any more sleepovers. He continued to have a tough time in the shelter, and even went through a couple failed matches for adoption (never by any fault of his own!). We began to scratch our heads – what the heck is keeping this amazing dog from getting adopted!? We even made a silly adoption video for him and uploaded it on YouTube where it has been shared over 500 times. We were doing everything we could think of!

Frankie finally landed himself in a really awesome foster home. This foster was able to take him to work with her and, not surprisingly, he settled right into her home and her active lifestyle. We all secretly hoped she would adopt him, but her work schedule wouldn’t allow it. That was okay though, because soon enough an interested adopter popped up. We thought it was a great match, but we certainly didn’t get our hopes up! We’d been to this point so many times, and we didn’t want another heartbreak for Frankie.

Luckily our apprehension was unnecessary because the adopters loved him and they were a great fit. He went home with them last week and so far, so good!

A group of us saw Frankie off as he left for his forever home. Even though he’d been to this point before, we all had a good feeling about these adopters. It was of course a bittersweet goodbye as it always is, but Frankie made sure to give everyone their own special goodbye kiss. Such a gentleman.

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Frankie005Here is a recent email – with photos! – we got from his adopters:

“I wish I could attach captions to all of these… the last one with the open door was particularly sweet. The weather was so nice this morning that we just left the back door open while we had our coffee. All he wanted to do was sit in the sunlight and look at the yard!

The first photo, where he’s just lying on the basement carpet, was taken a moment before he broke out into rolling around again.

Thank you so much for all your help and openness. He fell asleep and started snoring on my lap during a movie last night. He’s such a pleasure to take care of!”

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He looks so relaxed, comfortable and happy in these photos – we really couldn’t have asked for a better update. I sure will miss him, as we all will, but I am so happy he has finally found the perfect home he’s been deserving all along. Hooray, Frankie!

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Johnnie Cash is on a BOAT!

I have the privilege of following Johnnie’s adopters on Instagram, so I see her adorable little face every once in a while in pictures showing just how happy she is with her new family. It’s always the best surprise when she shows up in my feed, but this particular photo – as you can imagine – caught me attention and made me squeal REALLY loud.

01I haven’t chatted with J’s forever parents in a while, so I used it as an excuse to email them seeing how things are going. I got this glowing report, and some more photos!

“Yes, we are loving everyday with Johnnie!  I love that you can see her pics on Instagram, and I get to see all of the dogs you help everyday. :)  

A couple updates!  Obviously she loves the water and boats!  We’ve been taking her to Obedience Classes at Woofs! She just had her 5th class on Monday we have two more.  We did get put in a separate space because JC gets overly excited around a few of the dogs.  BUT everyday she gets a lot better with her puppy manners.  In the mornings I take her to a few busy corners with kids and people to work on sits, downs, roll over (bellyspots), and basically not jumping on people.  
 
We run her a few times a week and that helps with her energy.  We had a play date with a friends dog on July 4th (a puppy lab mix) they love each other and have very similar energy.  
 
After Obedience Training is over we will probably sign up for a one on one training session and then go onto a more advanced training… then eventually agility classes :D I know she would really like those!! BUT I definitely want her mostly trained by then.
Ty’s family absolutely love JC and her positive energy!!  I know the family took tons of pictures on the trip!!  I was so focused on making sure she was okay; I only took a couple pictures.  I’ll ask Ty’s mom to send me some pics to forward to you to share.  
 
YES, Ty and I are learning so much!!  Especially how to set JC up for success while we are at work and while we are with her.  We have gone through two remotes to date but the great thing is everything has been replaceable :) 
 
BTW She wakes me up in the mornings now (licking my face)!  Bright and early 6:30AM everyday, sometimes after a big saturday she’ll sleep in but not as often anymore.  She is still a sleepy dog though, after breakfast she’ll lounge in the living room while I get ready for work.  
I know JC misses you and sends lots of love your way!”
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I literally have no words. Okay, maybe one. Perfect. Perfect perfect perfect. HOW DID JOHNNIE FIND SUCH A PERFECT HOME!? I mean, all my fosters are in the perfect home. But Johnnie Cash’s home is just so perfect. You guys, this dog was in the shelter for eight months. EIGHT MONTHS. No one even gave her a chance! I’m sorry I’m internet yelling. I just can’t get over it. It brings tears to my eyes and gives me goosebumps and butterflys and all those fuzzy things.  I am the luckiest foster mom in the whole world for having such wonderful dogs and such wonderful people to scoop them up and call them their own!
Cheers to JC’s family and the amazingly bright future ahead of her!

City Livin’: Here Goes Nothing

I’ve never considered myself a “city girl.” You’ll notice from this blog that I absolutely love the outdoors, the woods, wide open spaces, nature, etc. I don’t necessarily hate the city, I’ve just never envisioned myself going out of my way to live in one. That is, until the stars aligned and an opportunity arose that I just couldn’t pass up.

Upon getting my new job in Arlington, I assumed I’d find housing with some of my closest girlfriends who already lived there in Virginia. When that didn’t work out, a room opened up in one of my other good friend’s house downtown. At first I didn’t think much of it because why would I ever live in DC, right? But then I got to considering: did it actually sort of make sense for me to live in the city? Sharing a house with five other girls, that could be fun. I’d be downtown living the young, not-many-obligations lifestyle that was only practical at this age and that I’d secretly been jealous of others living while I was stuck in the suburbs. I’d be close to Mark, who just moved to DC from VA. I’d be only fifteen minutes from both my jobs. Wait, this is starting to make sense.

Fast forward two months, and I’ve made the move! I can say I have absolutely fallen in love with it; with everything. My new house, my new neighborhood, my new routine, my new running paths, my new easy access to the metro, me new food options at every turn, my new night life, my new culture, my new neighbors, my new mode of transportation (walking), and my even my new DC driver’s license.

At first I reserved this post to show you guys how I brought a little piece of my fosters into my new room, but after Yellow Brick Home’s recent digital house tour, I’m inspired to show you a bit more! Please excuse the poor photo quality. I used my fish eye lens to try and give you a better sense of the whole space, and the lighting was pretty bad – so they’re not my best pictures. But they’ll have to do!

The new house is a gorgeous row home located smack in the middle of three great DC neighborhoods. We have some great architecture features of a house built in the early 1900’s, including stunning dark wood, high archways and creaky, spiraling staircases. The house has so much character.

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My favorite area is the living room. It faces the street and has insane amounts of natural light, but there are so many plants in front of the windows that it still feels private. In the rare times when we’re all home at the same time, you can usually find us crowded on the couches around the tv watching some trashy show.  Oh, and those gorgeous sunflowers are compliments of the local Farmer’s Market – another city living perk.

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Our kitchen is just as compact and adorable as you’d expect it to be. It’s nothing special, but thanks to the extra pantry space and double fridges, we fit just fine. It leads out to an awesome deck and backyard, but there were too many mosquitoes for me to go outside and get great pictures. Our backyard is on our to-do list to fix up, anyway. Right now it is entirely under-utilized. Maybe I’ll post about it again as we make improvements.

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I live on the second floor (out of three). I have the smallest room in the house, and I don’t mind a bit. I can fit everything I want/need to, and, especially after decorating, it feels nice and cozy.

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So, here’s the thing. In the course of all my falling in love with the city, I’ve still really been feeling the lack of foster dogs. You never realize how much those happy bundles of fur impact your life until they’re not around at all. With so much change (albeit, good change – but still), I needed a way to have constant reminders of those little paws that stole my heart. I knew I wanted to make my fosters a big part of my room décor. But I am on a budget (helloooo, rent payments!), so I couldn’t do anything extreme or very creative (okay, let’s be honest, I couldn’t do anything creative because I am just not creative).  I did what I know best: printed some of my photos out at Target and stuck ‘em up on my wall.

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This is similar to the foster wall I made at my parents’ house, but without the frames. I also included pictures of my fosters with me instead of just by themselves, as well as pictures of even my temporary fosters like Joanie, Charlie and Sinclair. I specifically chose my favorite picture(s) of each dog, trying to use ones that really showed their personalities. I absolutely love it. Plus, with each dog looking so unique and the fact that I had them all throughout different times of the year, the wall adds so much color to the room. It ended up being just what I wanted.

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My room actually has a balcony attached to it, which Mark spent lots of time decking out in lights. It will be the perfect place to enjoy a cool summer evening with a class of wine and a good book.

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So, that’s my new digs. Thanks for coming along for the tour! I’m sure I’ll update you with other DC happenings over the next year considering this is all so new (and exciting!) to me. Stay tuned!


My Journey to Becoming a Dog Trainer: Part 2

As I dove into learning about dogs, I simultaneously learned about the culture of dog training. I learned that there are people out there who know so, so much and are a wealth of great knowledge because they’ve gone to school or they have certifications (yes, in my opinion you need more than just “experience”), and I learned that there are people out there who should not be working with the dogs that they do (nor getting paid the buckets of money that some do!). It’s an unregulated industry. Anyone can give themselves the title of dog trainer, or, even worse, a behaviorist. No one will call you on it, especially if you make it sound like you know what you’re talking about (or, in many cases, you truly think you do know what you’re talking about). I’ve heard so many scary and heartbreaking stories about people who try to work with dogs and behavioral issues that are outside of their knowledge base, and the stories often do not end well.

My point for bringing this up is that I want to be one of the people who knows what they’re talking about, who has education and credentials to back it up, and who knows when they’re at their capacity to help, as well as what to do when they do reach that limit. What this means is that I am going to start small. I am going to start by learning. A lot. As much as I can. Then practice. A lot. As much as I can. Then get a certification. As many as I can.  Then I’m going to learn some more.

Virgil Ocampo Photography

Virgil Ocampo Photography

In terms of learning and practicing, I’ve gotten very lucky. The shelter trainer I told you about on Tuesday, Beth Mullen of Dog Latin Dog Training, has sort of taken me under her wing. She seems just as excited as I am about my career in dog training. The amount that she knows about dog behavior and how to communicate with dogs astounds me every time I watch her work. I began helping her out a few months ago, and have officially signed on as a trainer now. Currently I am teaching puppy classes and helping with basic manners clients – two things I feel very comfortable dealing with.

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Because I’m not okay with just comfort level to back up my abilities, I enrolled in the Karen Pryor Academy Puppy Start Right class. I absolutely loved it! The course went over everything from the way a dog is built to how dogs learn to their developmental stages to how to manage puppy behavior. It was a great course (though I was actually pretty happy with the fact that lots of it was review!), and now I have more to back up my experience when I talk to puppy parents. Also, let’s take a moment to point out the fact that my job is to hang out with puppies. Life is hard.

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Speaking of puppies – did you know a dog’s brain at 8 weeks old has the same learning capacity as that of an adult dog? Just a shorter attention span. You can teach puppies SO MUCH!

So that’s basically where things are right now. I have been blessed with the opportunity to join Dog Latin Dog Training to learn more and practice my skills, and will hopefully one day get my Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed title (REMEMBER: being a member of an association is not the same as having a certification!). I’m not sure how far I’ll go into the “difficult cases” category during my long term career – or if I’ll ever even go there at all. I just know that right now I love teaching people how to better understand their dogs, and I can’t wait to improve my ability to do that!

Newly permanent additions to my "can't go anywhere without it" collection: treat pouch, hot dogs & string cheese, clicker, six-foot leash with knots in it, and front-clip harness.

Newly permanent additions to my “can’t go anywhere without it” collection: treat pouch, delicious treats, clicker, six-foot leash with knots in it, and front-clip harness.


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 :-).