NEW BLOG, SAME US

Hi! Hi hi hi! Welcome back! I’m saying this to you all, but I’m also saying it to myself. Welcome to the new and improved Peace, Love & Fostering blog! (If you’re reading this in your email, that’s your cue to hop over to your web browser and check out our new layout... except maybe wait until you’re by a computer because mobile is nice but not that nice).

I know you guys watched me let PLF fall by the wayside over the past year and a half. I witnessed it too. I had so much else going on. I was too busy. I wasn’t fostering anymore. This site started as a way to get the word out about my amazing foster dogs – once I no longer needed it for that, what exactly was its purpose? Where was my inspiration? Well, sometimes it takes some time and space apart to realize you really were meant for each other.

So, darling blog, I am back for you. Whole-freaking-heartedly.

It all started a couple weeks ago when I got an email with an amazing new opportunity (which I’ll write about later). This person found me through PLF. After celebrating the offer, I immediately regretted not keeping up with posting here. What if this person had passed me over because I didn’t have recent content? Or they dug back into my early posts when I had no idea what I was doing because I didn’t give them enough good posts to read more recently? What if they took my lack of posts as a lack of commitment!? I could have missed this chance, and the thought of that really scared me.

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I immediately sat and thought about why I don’t post anymore (because the dog trainer in me HAD to figure out what was so aversive about it). There are a couple reasons, but one of the blaring ones was the feeling that the blog’s layout and style no longer fit me or my mission. It is very “me three years ago.” Don’t get me wrong – I loved my self-made layout and it served me well for many years, but it was time to grow up. It was time for my blog to reflect the person I am now, mid-twenties.

I contacted my good friend Dani DiPirro, blogger, graphic designer and positive thinker extraordinaire, and asked her for ideas. Turns out that rebranding is, well, what she does (among other things)! I jumped at the chance to use her creativity and expertise. The best part? She’s been reading PLF for years so she knows what’s at the heart and soul of the site. We started brainstorming, and all of a sudden the most amazing, perfect, I-couldn’t-have-dreamed-up-better PLF brand was created.

I’m armed with new graphics (seriously, Dani is a genius), I’ve taken new (real!) photos for my posts and I’ve written new menu pages (if you’re bored, go check them out!). I am absolutely head over heels in love with everything about the crisp new look. It’s so “me right now.”

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But on top of that, I’ve also got an improved outlook, voice and mission. Like I said before, the time I took away from the blog that I spent living and learning has left me with a new sense of self. I’ve got stuff to say! And I think I can say it in a way that will resonate with you! And the fact that I’m confident in that makes me really excited to WRITE! You might have noticed that I changed the tagline from, “The three ingredients to a warm heart and saved lives” to “Lessons learned from fostering, training and loving dogs.” Because that’s really what this space is about: living life, learning from it and sharing it with you – but luckily in a way that involves dogs so it’s not just me talking about myself, ha!

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The cherry on top is that I finally got my .com address. Yup, bookmark it: peacelovefosterDOTCOM. I love you, WordPress, but I just couldn’t live with you in my URL anymore. The site is still a work in progress (hey, life), but making this huge jump has been enormously refreshing and challenging and rewarding and so, so worth it. I feel lucky that I have this space in existence where I can brand myself outside of my training company or my events job – because, at the end of the day, I’ve got my own voice and I’m going to use it to make a difference.

Thank you SO much for sticking with me through all this. See you back here SOON!

MEJC


25 LESSONS IN TIME TO TURN 25

If you are reading this it means that I have made it to the big 2-5. Yep, last week was my birthday. Twenty five years old. There are a lot of intimidating aspects about turning 25, but one of them is the fact that this was birthday number four I am celebrating on this blog (22, 23, 24 – whoa what a time machine!). Time flies. What better way to jump back on the blog than to channel my inner BuzzFeed and make a list of everything I’ve learned up until this very day?

In all seriousness, I’ve grown up immensely between October 1st last year and October 1st this year. It’s been a crazy, beautiful year and it feels like a lot of different journeys came to a head. Dogs have taught me a lot. My relationships have taught me a lot. My job has taught me a lot. So here are 25 lessons that I’ve learned over the past 9,138ish days. I promise to make most of them dog related.

1. Everything is a work in progress. Like this blog, for example. If you’re reading it on the actual site then hi, welcome to my new design that I hoped to have finished weeks ago for a big unveiling. Oops. But you can’t let a little lag in progress discourage you from reaching your goal. I will complete this makeover… one day!

2. “You have to be well to do good.” This is my favorite quote from an awesome blog post the geniuses at Notes from a Dog Walker wrote about setting up boundaries for yourself to prevent compassion fatigue. Re: #1 – I haven’t been updating this blog because I’ve been working on, oh, just about one million other things. It’s not that I don’t love this blog and wish I could give it more of my attention, but it came to the point that for my own sanity something had to give – and that something was this sweet little nook in the corner of the internet. Luckily I know it (and you guys!) will always be here for when I have some extra time to breathe :-).

3. Science is a thing. Oh the world of dog training… whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about all of the debating, the arguing and the I’m-right-you’re-wrong-ing. Over the past few years my knowledge for animal behavior has grown to a point where I feel comfortable digging up the scientific reasoning behind why I train the way I do. I grew up loving biology and majoring in animal science, so in my adult life I’ve really valued knowing the why behind what I do with animals – it helps me not lose sleep over the arguing. I’m confident in what I know. As late Dr. Sophia Yin writes, “What does it mean to base your training on science? It means using the scientific method to work through the problem and possible solutions, as well as measuring behavior change and evaluating your methods based on results.” Swoon.

4. Treat yo self. Similar to #2, it’s important you look out for yourself in your busy life. I’m sure you have work priorities, maybe a family, probably/definitely dogs, and just remember that yes, they are counting on you – but you can’t be counted on if you’re not happy and healthy! Grab that crazy-expensive pumpkin spice latte before work just because it makes me happy? Don’t mind if I do.

5. Kindness is powerful. I swear by this phrase. I’m kind to my dogs and I’m kind to people around me, and I see every day how this impacts my interactions. I’ve learned that I can get those results I want by being kind (and, yes, sometimes direct!) and respectful.

6. We’re all different. So different. Guess what, guys – I’m not you and you’re not me, so I have no idea how you think or why you do what you do! Ground breaking, I know. But this has been one of the most life changing realizations for me lately. I cannot understand why someone did what they did… and still survive? I don’t have to rationalize or understand the way a person acts to get along with them? My love of kindness might not float your boat, and that’s okay! The simple understanding that I’m the way I am and it’s probably not the way you are eases a lot of frustrations. Try it.

7. Dogs are awesome. Funny lesson, I know. But I just love them! I’ve learned to, ya know, appreciate the smaller things in life – and one of those is a wiggling dog butt greeting you at an appointment or in a shelter kennel or at the end of a long day. As trainers and even shelter workers we often turn them into such specimens (especially when I don’t have my own), we often forget the value they have on their soul. Don’t ever forget that.

8. The definition of love/hate is the internet. Am I right?? Scrolling through your Facebook feed can be so uplifting and so heartbreaking all at the same time. Do yourself a favor and set boundaries if you need to (you see what I did there?). I promise that person will not find out if you unfollow them! And you will not go to hell for not wanting to see the **URGENT DOG** postings on your own social media time.

9. “Remember that time when…” REMEMBER THESE MOMENTS. I find myself reminiscing a lot lately, I think because I’ve had a lot of “pinch me” moments the last few years. Lucky me, I know. But you never know when you’re going to wake up thinking, “Man, I was really lucky.” The past few weeks I’ve been remembering my experience of going through KPA with Paco. Even though at the time it was stressful and overwhelming, boy did we have a blast. I truly miss it, and I don’t want to ever forget it!

10. Mom and Dad always know best. Shout out to the best parents there are! Nothing makes you appreciate your parents more than growing up. You know that Mark Twain quote? “When I was sixteen, my father was the most ignorant man in the world. By the time I reached 21, I was surprised at how much he had learned in five years.” Yeah, that.

11. People can disagree and still be friends. Whoa. This was a biggie for me. You and I can have different viewpoints and that won’t cause us to be forever divided? This speaks a bit to #6 as I’ve realized that the fact that I’m different from other people means they’ll have different view points. Go figure. This has also helped immensely being in animal welfare. Agree to disagree – or, better yet, agree to have a healthy, respectful conversation. Now let’s move on and save some animals.

12. Words matter. This has so many different meanings across so many worlds of loving animals, but as I’ve matured I’ve noticed that what I say can truly, 100% have an impact on the subject matter, no matter how big or small. From gossiping to spewing misinformation about animal training to trying to be an advocate for something – think before you speak.

13. Love wildly. Don’t need much explanation here. Don’t hold back. Love your dogs and your friends and your family as much as you possibly can, every day.

14. All dogs are individuals. See #6 and #11. Same goes for dogs. The more I learn about behavior, the more I am aware that no two dogs will ever be the same, even if they’re the same breed or litter.  I work every day at not generalizing about dogs, even in a lighthearted sense (“Ooookay, let’s not generalize you guys! xoxo your let’s-give-everyone-a-chance coworker”). When you shift to this mindset, you start doing more for the dog in front of you rather than the dog you’re assuming them to be. Makes life easier.

15. If it’s broke, fix it. Or should I say, “Quit your b*tchin’.” The only one who can solve my problems is me. Instead of moping, I’ve learned to take action. It can be hard, but much more with it in the end. Like with dog training: you can get upset about your dog’s behavior, or you can figure out how to improve it.

16. Life is about reinforcers. I keep thinking, “THIS is the best lesson I’ve learned!” throughout this whole post. But forreal, this might be it. The science of learning works across species. People (and dogs and fish and zoo animals) do what works for them. They will always do what works for them. Figure out what reinforces and motivates the people around you, and use that. Guess what: reprimanding someone for not calling you more often when they do finally call you will not increase their behavior of calling you. Telling them they’re a rockstar who made your whole day by calling them might get better results. Or giving them $5 every time they call, that might work too :-).

17. Give yourself victories. This ties into #16. Victories are what make the world go round and keep you feeling positive (they’re very reinforcing). I don’t know about you, but if I didn’t treat the simple behavior of getting my butt out of bed in the morning as a victory, I’d surely give up by 10 am. Okay maybe not. But seriously! Pat yourself on the back for those accomplishments at work. Do a little dance after you finish the dishes. Give yourself a quarter for making your bed in the morning. Acknowledging these little moments you did something right throughout the day makes ya realize that hey, you’re not so bad.

18.  It always gets better. Change is scary. Really, really scary. I remember when we were looking at housing this past summer and my roommate was panicking. I looked at her and said, “But Ash, think about it – it’s always gotten better, every time we’ve moved, even though it was always scary and hard and unknown.” Change is a good and necessary process in life. My favorite quote: “It’s always okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” If you’re having a really bad day with your dog, remind yourself that it can only go up from there!

19. Don’t be embarrassed. This mindset is tough for me because I’m a sensitive soul and I care way too much what people think about me. But lately I’ve learned… f*!k em. Excuse my french, but seriously. The majority of people I was worried about were people I didn’t know and would never meet again. Yikes, they’re seeing me with my treat pouch! (Just kidding I have never had ANY shame in my treat pouch game, ha!). But if I break out in a dance to this awesome song on my iPod right here on the sidewalk they’ll think I’m weird. Ugh, my dog is having a bad day and is trying to eat their perfectly well behaved dog. Guess what. You are a blip in their day, they probably won’t even remember you. And if they do? Well, you’ll never know, so who cares. Same goes for people you do know. If they’re worth knowing, they won’t judge you… (hopefully).

20. Never stop learning. Continuing. Education. Continuing education. I can’t stress the importance of this no matter what you do in life, and especially in the dog world. Studies are published every day about behavior and animal cognition. Do yourself and your animals a favor and stay updated on what the scientists and professionals are saying.

21. Put down your phone. Another toughie for me. This really inspiring video called “Look Up” was circulating a few months ago about how much we miss in life when our noses are in our phones. I am 100% guilty of this almost all of the time (hey, at least I acknowledge it). There are some situations I always try to keep my phone away, and one is definitely when I’m walking a dog. Yes for the safety factor but also to be present with him when we’re on this happy little nature walk together. Again, it’s the smaller things in life.

22. Listen to the voices. Yes, the ones in your head. No, I am not suggesting you have a disorder. Malcolm Gladwell has this great book called, “Blink.” It’s about listening to that gut feeling – something we ignore all too often. Most of the time, it turns out that that feeling was correct all along. You owe it to yourself to at least take them into account and add them to the conversation in real life.

23. Take a day off. Or five. Burn out is a thing, and you don’t want it. We live in a gogogogogo world, and our bodies are programmed to be a gogo-stop-gogo-stop creature. I always feel guilty for sitting on the couch and not running around doing this, that or the other thing. But then I remember my mental and physical health is just as important as my productivity. See #2 and #4.

24. You are enough. Stop comparing yourself to anyone else – whether it be at your job, in your relationship, etc. It’s great to have people to look up to, but remember that you are not them and you need to have your own standards for yourself. You can make tweaks here and there but you can’t change who you are as a person – and the good news is that you probably don’t have to. You’re awesome, give yourself some credit.

25. YOLO. Yup, I went there. “You only live once.” Don’t use that mentality to rob your favorite pet supply store, but DO use that mentality when you’re deciding about taking a trip, visiting your family, taking that class, whatever the choice may be. Life waits for no one!

Cheers to year twenty five. And thanks to all of you wonderful people for being here for four wonderful years!

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Where Has PLF Been!?

Honestly, that’s a really great question. We barely even know! Judging by how many of you nice people liked our Facebook status announcing this post, it seems like you’ve missed us? Have you noticed we’ve been gone?

I guess I sort of felt like I didn’t have enough topics of substance to write about that weren’t just me spewing my opinion at you. And for the instances I did decide I wanted to share my opinion, I wasn’t giving myself enough time to come up with a well constructed post.  My efforts felt incomplete, which I hate! I decided I’d rather give you guys well thought out, interesting posts instead of ones thrown together at the last minute (this is where I don’t tell you that it’s 10:13 pm on Tuesday night so clearly I still haven’t addressed that last point).

In addition to feeling torn about post topics, I have been extra busy – in the best kind of way! I’m falling so in love with life every day here in the city. I’m soaking up the sunshine and warm temps. I’m spending extra time with friends. I’m working late nights at the shelter. I’m filling my weekends up to the brim with new, fun activities. I’m bonding with shelter dogs. I traveled to Mexico for a girl’s weekend. I’m spending afternoons with Paco just because. I’m constantly looking around this beautiful city with stars in my eyes. I’m gaining hours and hours of training experience working with clients, celebrating behavior-related victories every time. I’m taking weekend trips to Deep Creek Lake with my best friends. I’m dogsitting Lady Bug (adopt her!) and enjoying tons of snuggles.  I’m journeying out to the barn to spend time in wide open spaces. I’m finding corners of crowded DC bars to watch the World Cup games in with fellow Americans. I’m stealing gorgeous neighborhood husky puppies and helping their owners get through terrible puppyhood.  I’m learning more about dog behavior every single day. I’m embracing chaotic, fulfilling happiness every single day.

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So, I apologize about being absent from this space. I think about PLF often, and it’s not something I’m ready to move away from yet. I’ll be here for years to come, it just might not be every single Wednesday forever and ever because I want to give you posts worth reading. I am still as thankful as ever to have this blog and to have your attention, especially as I commit my career to helping dogs more and more every day.  Thanks for being the best, ever. See you back here soon? :-)

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A Tribute to a Spunky, Wonderful Woman

Thanks for bearing with me as I use this space to gush about the amazing people and pets in my life. While I don’t enjoy writing posts about loved ones who have left us, it is nice to have this platform as another way to remember them. Plus, after I post these entries, your positivity always brightens my day. So thank you for understanding when and why I put these posts up. I appreciate it and I know my family does too.

My Grandma passed away this week. She was a really awesome woman. I’m mentioning her on here (I have had a few family members pass away since this blog was created, but I haven’t necessarily dedicated a whole post to them) because she was one of my biggest cheerleaders for this blog. She loved reading my posts every day, and would often email me about them. She also enjoyed sending me newspaper clippings, and after I started the blog the clippings went from being about horses to being about animal rescue. She loved what I was doing and made it clear how proud she was of me – and I so appreciated that. Do you remember the note Otis wrote to her in January? That talks a bit more about our relationship and her love for my fosters.

It seems I was merely following in her footsteps, though. As someone who believed in sticking up for causes she was passionate about, my Grandma was quite a feisty lady. When her assisted living community began making the staff cover up their tattoos, Grandma, at the age of 78, went out and got one herself just to make a statement. How cool is that? If I had guts like her I probably would have gotten myself into a bit of trouble by now :-).

She lived in Oregon so this blog was often the way we stayed in touch in between phone calls and emails – and for that I am extremely grateful.  I will certainly miss her humor and wit, but I know she will be following this blog in spirit. Love you, Grandma!

MeGrandma3


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 :-).


It’s NOT a Pit Bull Problem

This blog has played many roles over the last year and a half I’ve been writing for it. It started as a way to share my fosters with the world, and now, during my fostering break, it includes stories about my own experiences in sheltering, my progress as an amateur photographer, stuff I learn about dog behavior and much more.  It’s pretty well-rounded in terms of what kind of information I like to cover (in my opinion, at least?).

Someone once said to me, “When I listen to you and your pit bull friends talk about dog stuff I feel like I can’t relate to anything you’re saying,” implying that for some reason we talk about special issues relating to just pit bulls and that they, even as a dog owner, couldn’t relate. At first I stopped dead in my tracks and I thought to myself, “Crap, do I do that? Do I alienate myself from the rest of dog owners because of my love for pit bulls?”

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized very little on this blog or what I focus on in my dog work and volunteering relates specifically just to pit bulls.  The more I considered what issues really matter to me, the more I realized they really don’t have anything to do with pit bulls at all.

When deciding what topics I’ve become hypersensitive about, I came up with the following: dog behavior, being able to communicate effectively with your dog, canine body language, enrichment, dog parks and play groups, keeping a dog happy and comfortable in a shelter, positive training methods, breed discrimination, keeping animals out of shelters, helping pet owners be the best they can be, preventing animal abuse and marketing adoptable animals  – among other things.

All of those items I listed can be applied to any and all dogs. They’re dog issues, not pit bull issues. In the same way that you can apply them to any other dog, I sometimes speak about them in the context of my “pit bull” fosters or pit bulls I know at the shelter – but I would do the same if I happened to spend a lot of time with spaniels or huskies or MUTTS.

On that note, yes – I do have a very soft spot for dogs labeled as “pit bulls.”  Therefore, I do surround myself with them and groups of people who also like them. When we’re together we talk about many of the topics I listed above. Sometimes specifically having to do with our dogs, and sometimes just in the context of all dogs.

I do hope this blog shows “pit bull” dogs in a positive light and maybe even changes some minds about them. But I think (hope) that almost happens naturally as people read my posts and realize that while yes, the dog I’m writing about happens to be labeled a pit bull, it is also just a dog living with a family doing family dog sort of things.  I don’t want to be on here pointing out every negative stereotype about pit bulls and then trying to disprove them because I feel like my dogs speak for themselves through their photos and their stories and their personalities. No two of them have been the same, despite their matching “breed” label – probably because they’re all just DOGS.

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Pittie Posse Secret Santa

Last year a group of bloggers started the Pittie Posse Secret Santa exchange where everyone received another blog to send a Holiday gift to. I enjoyed reading each blog’s entry that day and seeing who got each other what. This year I was honored to be invited into the exchange myself!

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Otis and I have been working hard on our gift all week, and finally have it ready to send out to our designated blogger today! We’re so excited for them to get it, and really hope they like it. Check out which blogs are involved this year to see who we might be sending our package to:

Our Waldo Bungie

Love and a Six-Foot Leash

Two Grad Students and a Pittie

Pittieful Love

Kate With A Camera

Two Pitties in the City

A Heartbeat at My Feet

That Touch of Pit

Two Kitties One Pittie

We’re all doing a big reveal on Friday, December 21st – so be sure to check back then! Happy Holidays everyone!