Thank you for your well wishes for Paco last week. I am happy to report that he is feeling much better! When I dropped him off with his family he was still limping, but he was definitely back to his old self, wagging non stop! It became quite the challenge to keep him calm as prescribed, but it was much better than seeing him the way he was just a few days earlier. Here are some photos of our time together from before and after his injury – mostly recovering, with lots of snuggling, just like the doctor ordered.
If there is anything I’ve learned about dogs from both living in DC and being a dog trainer, it’s that the combos of dogs and humans that love each other unconditionally are never two in the same. Now that the weather is nice, the dogs are out in full force around the city. I see dozens of dogs every single day.
Many people who love animals have a preconceived idea of what a dog owner should look like. I love the variety of dog owners I see here in the city. I have a friend who runs the Facebook Page Dogs of New York, a page that celebrates New York’s dogs and the people who love them. It was inspired by the blog Humans of New York and I highly recommend you check it out. The photos highlight everyday dog owners and help to open your mind about the people out there who truly love their dogs as family.
When I saw a gorgeous pup the other day at my favorite DC park, Meridian Hill, I decided to go up and talk to the owner. He told me her name was Storm and that she was the best thing to ever happen to him. Storm sleeps in his bed and goes everywhere with him. When I asked if I could snap a picture, he said, “absolutely!” and immediately grabbed Storm to pose. How stinkin’ cute are they!?
I was so energized by my short conversation with Storm’s dad that I am thinking I might start talking to more DC dog owners I find, just to learn more about who is out there loving their dogs. The folks of Dogs of New York have gone even a step further and created the “Brooklyn Ruff Riders” to support local pet owners. To learn more about the Brooklyn Ruff Riders and support their initiative, head to their website! I so wish I had the time to start a program like this in DC. Supporting pet owners is the first step to keeping animals out of shelters, and I know that’s where the need is greatest. Maybe one day!
Yesterday evening I headed back to Meridian and didn’t talk to anyone, but captured this pair doing some fabulous training in the park. I’ll be honest in saying when you work at a shelter and see so many animals without homes, you forget that the overwhelming majority of owners are out there loving and caring for their pets. I love being re-reminded of this on a daily basis. It helps me keep the open mind that I need in order to continue making a difference.
What made you decide to foster a dog?
The idea of fostering a dog came to me a few months ago. I grew up without a pet (dad had allergies), so I had to resort to playing with my friends’ pups. I told myself the first thing I would do when I get my own place is get a dog. When I moved into a row house in DC with some of my closest buddies this past November, I immediately stopped being all talk, and started walking the walk. One of my roommates, Brian (also a fellow Terp), and I would talk almost daily about how much we loved dogs. Ok that’s a lie…we definitely talked daily…and G-Chatted at work…and emailed each other pictures of dogs we wanted to adopt. It was a vicious cycle. The only cure? GET ONE OF OUR OWN.
Early on, Brian and I made the decision to foster over adopt. This was for several simple reasons:
A) There are too many dogs (and other animals) that never stand a chance without a foster home. We couldn’t bear with the fact that shelters have to face such tough decisions regarding any dog’s life. We were determined to help – one foster at a time.
B) Fostering, while definitely a time commitment, is not the 10 – 12+ year commitment that adopting could be. We also had to be realistic about our tight budgets. At this time, we can’t afford any major medical bills, pet insurance and other miscellaneous costs on top of the day-to-day necessities. Also, I don’t know what I will be doing 10 years from now. I don’t even know what I will be doing one year from now. Heck, I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner tonight! Life is so unpredictable, and too up in the air still for me.
C) Who out of the roommates would be the dog’s legal owner? Neither of us wanted to adopt a dog and then have to ultimately face the hardship of moving away and not getting to keep him or her.
D) Did I mention that every dog you foster is instantaneously given a second chance? Doesn’t every dog deserve that? I am repeating point A because it truly trumped the other two reasons. Fostering helps the dog…fostering helps open space in shelters for other animals in need…and fostering helps humans (more on that later).
After visiting a few facilities, Brian and I decided on fostering through the Washington Humane Society for our first go ’round.
What did you do to prepare for your first foster?
To prep for Rudy’s homecoming, I made sure to have what I believed to be the essentials – a crate, dog bed, leash, food, treats, toys, the wondrous Kong (and obviously peanut butter) and the white-carpet-saving baby gate. I have to admit, I believed I was pretty prepared given Rudy was my first dog! The only major items I learned about later that made life easier for me, my housemates, and Rudy was a harness and bully sticks (thank you, Juliana!!!). Oh, and we spent two hours puppy-proofing the house as best we could by moving wires, picking up anything he could fit in his mouth and moving food off the floor and counter tops.
What were your first impressions of fostering Rudy after the initial 24 hours?
I want to say the first 24 hours went exactly as expected…but I honestly did not have any expectations at all. We brought Rudy home on Sunday, January 5th, and that’s a day I’ll never forget. Rudy was a bit shy at first, but quickly learned his way around the entire main floor of our house. Not two hours into his homecoming, Rudy had claimed the futon as his own! He was very curious on his first two walks through Columbia Heights, and was eager to explore the news sights, sounds and SMELLS!!!
In my eyes, Rudy had a very easy transition into our home. He didn’t seem scared of anyone or anything (other than the occasional loud bang of a pot against a pan). He loved to watch ice come out of the dispenser on our fridge. He found the dishwasher more interesting than frightening. He did also enjoy performing quality control on the dishwasher by licking every last clean dish if we left the door down. Rudy took it all in stride, mesmerized by his new playground. Rudy’s first 24 hours did include a few accidents – perhaps the only thing I expected – but that problem was gone in three days!
What has surprised you most about fostering?
It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. I know, I know. Cliche….Gross. I will be the first to say I hate those cheesy lines. But this one rings truer than anything else I could think of. Rudy instantly became a 7th roommate, not just a house guest.
I also learned that if you are not patient…do not foster. Foster dogs come not only in all shapes, sizes and colors, but also from a variety of backgrounds. It is nearly impossible to predict how a dog will react in a new environment, around totally new people, and with a different schedule than one experienced in a shelter.
Fostering taught me how to be responsible for another life. Rudy’s face and puppy dog eyes could melt you, but he needed rules and he needed guidance. The best parents do not what their children want, but what is best for them. I learned that this is the best approach for fostering a dog. Give them love, attention and positive reinforcement…but never skimp on obedience training or setting up boundaries. Fostering is all about setting up the dog to be the best he can be – how else will he succeed in his forever home?
What is the favorite thing you have learned since fostering Rudy?
How loyal a pit bull like Rudy can really be. Talk about a people-pleaser!!!! I am one of those folks who thinks every single dog is cute in its own way, but I have a soft spot for pit bulls now. I used to ignore when people made stereotypical comments about pit bulls. Now I actually cringe when people deem them automatically vicious. Rudy wouldn’t hurt a fly!
My other favorite thing? That I want to foster again…and again…and again. And that when I am ultimately ready for a dog of my own, that I know I will rescue a dog in need. They have more love to give than you can ever imagine.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is fostering for the first time, what would it be? (So I asked for one and Eran decided to write more than one. All good advice though, so I left them!)
– Be prepared before taking your dog home. Have the crate, harness, leash, toys, treats and food bought beforehand!
– Set up and agree on guidelines, boundaries and rules to establish consistency if you live with other people.
– Know what human foods a dog can and cannot eat. Post it on your fridge!
– Know the emergency contact name and number at the shelter you are fostering through. Also know where the nearest animal hospital is for emergencies.
– Expect accidents (Nature’s Miracle is the way to go).
– You will have to make sacrifices in your social life to make time for the dog.
– When your dog ultimately goes to his or her forever home, it is alright to be sad about it. That is a sign you did something right. But also remember, you did the best thing you could – you gave that dog a second chance at life! Be proud, be happy, and foster again.
– Promote your dog on social media! It helps draw attention to him or her, and may even reconnect you with an old friend like it did in my case!
– Fostering is not easy. You will have ups and downs.
– EXPECT LOVE – I know not every dog will be the same or express their gratitude so openly, but many dogs are simply looking for someone who is willing to reciprocate the love they have to give!
Anything else you’d like to add about your experience?
I wouldn’t trade one second of it. I missed out on a few hangouts and events with friends, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. After I gave Rudy to his new owner, my Mom asked if I had any regrets about fostering (she knew how attached I was to Rudy). I don’t think I let her finish her sentence before I yelled, “Absolutely not!” Rudy did as much for me as I could have ever done for him.
I know I will foster again, and I know I will get attached to other dogs and then have to ultimately give them to their forever homes as well. But never, ever, ever, ever, ever, will any dog replace the soft spot in my heart for Rudy. He was an unbelievable first foster, and I wish him the best of luck in his home!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
. . . from some adorable adoptables at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington! All of these cuties are looking for forever homes!
Hope you all have fun today! But remember – this is a really scary holiday for a lot of pets. July 5th is a crazy busy day for animal shelters because of all the animals who get freaked by the fireworks and run away from home. Keep your pets inside!
Happy 4th of July!
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:
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 :-).
To say that Johnnie got adopted at just the right time would be an understatement. In the days and weeks following her leaving us, people would ask me, “How are you doing without her!?” The truth is that I barely had time to think about how sad I was. Of course I missed her, but life picked up to what felt like lightning speed and hasn’t stopped since. Johnnie Cash was a reminder of why I try not to foster during event season. While we all adored having her around, my understanding parents spent many evenings watching her for me while I was stuck at work for long hours. When she left it was a bittersweet relief to be able to be away from the house for days at a time (just call me ‘schlep’!!).
I know you’re all wondering what’s next. Well, I don’t have a good answer for you. Things are changing for me right now, and in fact there is a lot about life that’s up in the air. I’m finally moving out this summer, but that means my ability to foster is probably going to be limited. It’s likely I’m moving into DC and I just have no idea what my life style will allow.
I’m also in the process of switching jobs. I accepted a part time position at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington in Virginia at the end of March and have been juggling both shelters (and commutes!) equally since then. I’m officially leaving the Montgomery County Humane Society at the end of June – a change that is bittersweet, exciting and scary – and will then continue with AWLA and other adventures, hence why I am moving into the city. It’s been an exhausting challenge but I’m thrilled to join the AWLA team and officially “cross the [Potomac] river” as they say here in the DMV!
In addition to all this, I’ve started working towards becoming a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). I’ll tell you more about that as it progresses, but I’ve decided that I can no longer ignore how much I love learning about training and putting it into practice and watching the wheels turn in dogs’ brains as we work together. Johnnie got me so hooked on figuring out how to communicate with a bouncy dog. It’s going to take a long time – years, probably – but I’ve already kicked off my education. Not sure where it’ll take me but I am very excited about all I am going to learn.
So forgive me that I am not running to the shelter to scoop up a new foster. I want to, believe me – but I am simply not as brave as Love and a Six-Foot Leash who picked up a foster dog right before they moved to Texas! Because I can’t take a shelter dog home and I’m already falling in love with them right and left, I’ve thought up a few different ideas for helping them get adopted, which of course I will discuss on the blog in the coming weeks. My current crush is a pit bull/bull dog mix named Henny. I see Johnnie’s energy and happiness in her and just can’t get her out of my mind. So I will help her, just not through long term fostering.
It feels different declaring a “break” this time around than it did the last two times because I have so much on the horizon to look forward to and plan for. I’m at a completely different point in my life right now than I was after Baxter and even after Otis. It’s crazy to realize how much things have changed in just a year and a half. It’s also pretty nuts to think about the fact that you all have been with me literally every day during this journey! So we’ll keep moving forward and seeing where life takes us. Thanks for sticking around :)