Walking the Line: Johnnie’s Name

If I had a dollar for every time someone gave us a funny look when we told them Johnnie’s name, I’d be able to buy her bully sticks for a whole month. We’ve gotten so good at spitting out “but she’s a girl!” afterwards that it’s basically just a continuation of her name. Most people say it’s cute or clever, but I think they have to warm up to it. For us, she’s Johnnie. She’s the most Johnnie dog ever and no other name would fit her – but we know that for others it’s not like that right away.


To be honest, there’s not a great story behind why we named her Johnnie Cash.  When I knew I was going to bring J (then Angel) home as a foster, Mark and I spent the weekend thinking of a catchy name for her. We were out at a show Saturday night watching one of our favorite bands The 19th Street Band and when they played a Johnny Cash cover I thought too bad she’s not a boy because I really like the name Johnny Cash! But then I remembered my dog crush over at Love & a Six-Foot Leash, Stevie Wonder, and how she was a girl who rocked a (mostly) boy’s name. Mark and I decided to hell with what people might think and decided on Johnny Cash (except we’re spelling it with an ‘ie’ because we like to be complicated :-)).

I like it because it’s unique just like her personality. Johnnie’s not much of a girly girl, so I think this edgier name fits her just perfect.  She might not have a ton of similarities with the real Johnny Cash, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun with the name! Check out this ‘girl in black’ as she rocks the guitar like her namesake.

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05 07Sometimes she even sings!

10To adopt Johnnie Cash the dog, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.

Why You Want Me Wednesday #6

Many of the past Why You Want Me Wednesdays have revolved around my love for sleeping. In a unique way, this week’s reason is along the same lines. Check me out:


I am one of the best car riders foster mama has ever had! Especially if the heat is on or there is a sun spot in the back seat – I fall absolutely right to sleep. Foster mama says I have great manners and that I don’t move all over the place or try to bug her while she’s driving or any of that nonsense – which, oddly enough, is a far cry from my behavior the first time she ever took me in a car back in October before I was ever a foster dog! For my own safety mama talks about needing to get me some kind of seat belt or something, but that she’s dragging her paws in getting it because I’m so good already!

car6 car5 car4 car3 car1

See – I’m either sitting quietly or snoozing away! Doesn’t get much better than that!

To adopt Johnnie Cash as your co-pilot, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.

When You Want to Foster Fail

Johnnie has been with us now for six weeks. In those six weeks, we have fallen in love.

02With every passing day, I find myself a little less able to ignore the “what if. . . ” creeping up in the back of my head. Both Mark and I have cautiously brought up the idea of keeping her because each day we find something new about her to fall in love with. The sleepy face she makes when she wakes up, the way she offers “sit pretty” like crazy now when she wants something, the way she catches on to new training cues extremely quickly, the way she falls asleep on your chest at the end of the night – Johnnie is a one of a kind dog, and I’m beginning to wonder if I will always regret letting her get adopted.

I won’t lie – I have pictured my future with Johnnie. Mark loves her, and I imagine us going on countless more adventures since we’d have all the time in the world. I imagine what she’ll be like when she’s old and lazy and probably a little cranky. I imagine all the things we could get accomplished with years to dedicate to training, including getting her certified as a therapy dog so she could create more smiles like this one:


Photo by Virgil Ocampo.

But then I snap back to reality. I remember that my future is up in the air. I have no idea what I’ll be doing a year from now, let alone five or ten years down the road. Rental housing that accommodates pit bull dogs is tricky to find, especially for someone on a tight budget.  I don’t have the long term stability that she deserves.  Plus, there are always others out there who need my help. Adopting Johnnie would be letting go of some of my flexibility to help the many more in need.

It brings me comfort to know that she will bring so much joy to someone else. Once we find the right fit, I know she’ll bring them the same happiness she brings to me and my family.  They’ll learn how to deal with her quirks and they’ll figure out how to set her up for success and they’ll build a positive, trusting relationship with her – just like she deserves. And for a long time I’ll think about my former foster dog Johnnie Cash and how she was probably “the one that got away” and I’ll wonder if I’ll ever meet another dog like her again – but I’ll know we did the right thing for her.


Until the day comes that we send her off to the perfect family, we’ll be fitting in as much snuggling, laughing, playing, adventuring and loving time as possible. Even though it will be hard to see her go, Johnnie will always serve as a reminder for why I have to say goodbye to my foster dogs.

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them, and every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” – Anonymous

sleepingTo adopt Johnnie Cash and experience how truly amazing she is, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

For a long time, this blog was a way for me to sort of “sell” my foster dogs – meaning I would share all the awesome stuff about them and then creatively touch on the areas they needed to improve upon in, hoping that it didn’t scare off potential adopters.

While of course I focus on Johnnie’s positives (I mean, she’s got so many of them!), I’ve gained enough confidence on this blog to share with you both the good and the slightly-less-than-good about fostering her (and any future dogs).  I’ve come to terms with the fact that any adopters who want to bring Johnnie into their lives will have to deal with these things anyway, so I might as well just put them out there – and I do this with the hope that it will help anyone in my audience having the same “issues” with their dogs.  I don’t want to ever give the impression that Johnnie is perfect or that I’m the perfect foster or that we live this perfect life – because who can relate to that? We’re a real family and Johnnie is a real (teenage!) dog who is learning every minute of the day.

So, with that being said, we had sort of a tough week last week. Around Wednesday, some annoying habits started popping up again from Johnnie’s days in the shelter – specifically leash biting and worse jumping up.  It started on a walk after a particularly rough day – Johnnie was worked up for some reason (if I paid better attention to what she was trying to tell me, I’m sure I’d know what was bugging her), and I had a stressful day at work. I wrote it off as “bad day syndrome.” But it showed up the next day as well, and the day after that.  I used the methods I thought I should to help stop it before it got worse, but nothing was working. Every time we went for a walk she went into “stressing up” mode where she would try to grab at anything in reach, including my clothing and the leash.

A bit of a side note: I used to be an extremely emotional person. Growing up riding horses, I had a tough time not taking it personally when my horse and I couldn’t communicate well. Looking back, it’s clear I just was not conveying to Marley what I really wanted from her – but at the time I would dismount from a ride almost in tears because I was so angry with her and our performance.  I very much matured through college and once I started working with dogs I realized I was able to keep emotions out of it. In fact, I think my ability to keep emotions out of training my dogs helps me be that much better at communicating with them. That is, at least until last Thursday night.

Johnnie was particularly obnoxious, frustrating and embarrassing on our Thursday evening walk, and, after an upsetting conversation with someone about how I wasn’t doing enough to stop the behavior, I totally lost it. I knew Johnnie’s behavior wasn’t acceptable, but I didn’t know what else to do to stop it in the deadline that seemed to be conveyed by some people around me. What was worse was that she had been doing so well for so many weeks. What did I do to make this behavior pop up? After all I’d learned about working with dogs in a positive, force-free way, what was I doing that enabled this behavior to continue? Was I being a bad foster for not “disciplining” her like many people would want me to be if they watched the situation unfold, even though it went against everything I’ve learned about science-based training? I felt like a failure.

My frustration continued over to our walk Friday morning.  She displayed the leash-biting again, but only a little bit. As she settled down and we walked through the woods behind my house early that morning, I got lost in my thoughts. How was I going to solve this? Am I being stupid for trying to think I can do this on my own? If even I’m worried about it, what will I tell potential adopters? I began making a mental list of who I would reach out to for help. I become so absorbed in my thoughts, I didn’t even notice that we came across an off-leash dog until they were right in front of us. Luckily Johnnie was amazing and just wanted to play, but it caught me so off guard that after we passed them I broke down again. For the second time in only twelve hours, I’d failed Johnnie – it turned out okay even though I wasn’t paying attention, but what the heck was I doing?!

That morning was sort of the turning point. It was like I got out all of my frustrations and fears and emotions about working with Johnnie, and was finally able to look at it with a clear mind again. She was great for my parents while I was at work all day, which always makes me happy, and I arrived home that Friday afternoon promising her a clean slate.
I set us up for success for our walk that evening. I packed high value treats, a clicker and strapped two leashes on J. As we started walking, she began to get excited. As soon as she looked like she was about to jump up on me in excitement, I asked her to sit. I’d done this before, but not until after she was jumping – it was preventing the behavior that was helping this time. Also, when she sat and I clicked her behavior, I rolled the treat on the ground in front of us so she got herself going again. Previously, she would use my moving forward as a trigger to jump again and we’d spend time sitting and dancing around trying to avoid jumping. This way, she got herself started and was distracted from jumping by looking for the treat. The combination of preventing the behavior and setting her up for success helped her get past the excitable jumping phase much quicker. Also, when she wanted to playfully bite the leash, I just dropped it – which is why I had her wearing two. This way it never turned into a game for her and she decided it wasn’t worth it very quickly. The entire process only took us about three minutes and we were able to continue our walk normally again, versus the frustrating 10 – 15 it had taken on the handful of previous walks. Once she gets out of that mental state she is fine, it had just been difficult getting her to a better place – until that breakthrough.

As we trotted along together for the rest of that walk, I finally felt accomplished in what I wanted from my relationship with Johnnie.  I had thought harder about what I needed to do to help her understand what I wanted, and I was able to stay patient while we both worked it out.  I felt a sense of relief that I wasn’t a total failure and that I didn’t need to believe anyone who told me my methods wouldn’t work.  She still hasn’t completely gotten over the habit, but I trust that I’ll be able to stay consistent in my message to her that there are better decisions to make instead of getting too excited. I also trust that we will be able to work through other little speed bumps like this again in the future, using ways that will strengthen our relationship, not break it, as we both continue learning.


To adopt Johnnie Cash and build your own positive training bond, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.

Big Ears Big Fun?

Foster Mama uses a saying for those rare exciting occasions that she goes out with her girlfriends:  “Big hair, big fun!” I think she uses it as an excuse for why her unruly locks come out looking like a lion’s mane – but don’t tell her I said that. Anyway, she was talking about that for this weekend, so I decided to try it too (since I LOVE having fun) – but I don’t have big hair, I only have ears. Big ears, big fun? You bet!!!


Happy Friday, you party animals!

To adopt your very own “Big Ears, Big Fun!” gal, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.

Why You Want Me Wednesday

There are SO MANY reasons why you should want to adopt me! Last week I told you about how I’m a fabuloso lap dog. This week, the reason why you want me is:


I’m especially partners in crime/adventure with Foster Dad. We do all sorts of fun things together, like investigate new places, practice our tricks in front of invisible crowds, spend some time chillin’ just us two and of course horsing around.

partner1 partner2



These are all the things you and I will be able to do together, when you adopt me!

To adopt your very own partner in crime, Johnnie Cash, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com!

Will U Be Mine? – The Johnnie Edition

Johnnie Cash is borrowing almost this exact same post from Baxter’s search for a Valentine last year because it is just so perfect. Bax wrote this poem, and now Johnnie wants to know the same. . . will you be hers? See for yourself:


violetsareblue ifyouadoptme foreverloveyou

Couldn’t have said it better myself, J girl!  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Take this day as an excuse to tell EVERYONE you love in your life – parents, friends, significant others, pets – how much you appreciate them. I sure do love y’all!