17 Hours With The One That Got Away

On Friday night I had the privilege of watching Johnnie Cash while her parents were out of town (I know, right!). I picked her up after a long work day and dropped her off early the next morning, so I literally had her in my care for about seventeen hours. But it was sixteen and a half more hours than I’d spent with her since she got adopted almost exactly one year ago.

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After work I drove to Johnnie’s house and opened up her front door to find a groggy, sleepy-faced pup awakening in her crate. At first she was wary of this person entering her home that wasn’t her mom or dad, but then when I exclaimed, “Johnnie girl!” she immediately perked up and seemed to be excited to see me. I have no idea if she remembered me or not, but we spent a good five minutes rolling around on the ground giving and receiving kisses with exuberant tail/body wags from Johnnie. I forgot how wiggly she gets when she is excited!

Everything about her and our time together came immediately flooding back. Her happy greetings. Her amazing manners (she sat for me right away). Her gentle but excited face licks. Her general enthusiasm for just about everything. When she calmed down I petted that soft spot on the top of her head that I feel like I’ve petted a million times. It’s crazy how even though she hasn’t been with us for over a year it still feels like I know her so well.

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I harnessed her up and took her outside to go to the bathroom, and she immediately sat at the door and then checked in with me while we were walking. I was floored by her perfect manners. A year later and she has improved so much; it is quite evident how much work her family has done with her. With every learned appropriate behavior she demonstrated – checking in, sitting politely for her next cue, controlling her enthusiasm – my heart swelled. Wow, I thought, this dog is so special… how did we let her get away?

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A few months ago Mark moved to New York City for an amazing job opportunity, so unfortunately he wasn’t able to be with Johnnie Cash for our brief reunion. But I know that Johnnie means as much to him as she does to me, so I sent him pictures starting from when I first picked her up. With every photo we reminisced a little more about the ten weeks we spent with her. It seems that with Johnnie Cash the more that changes, the more that stays the same. She still sits like a goof ball, she still loves to sleep in the car, she still bounds around the house like a happy-go-lucky pup and she still trots along like her knees don’t bend. So much about her is still exactly what it was when we said goodbye twelve months ago.

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After just watching Paco for ten days, I am reminded again of why I don’t want to have a dog of my own at this time in my life. But being with Johnnie also reminded me of the bond I can have with a dog, and how special that can feel. It was nice to get that feeling again. I could not be happier about Johnnie’s family and all they do for her, and I don’t think I could have written a better outcome for her. At this point I am appreciative that she has continued to show me what it can feel like to make what seems to be a life-long connection with a dog. I know I have that with all my fosters, but Miss Cash is so much like what I envision in my “forever dog” that it’s nice to get that I can have this bond with my own dog one day feeling.

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I sure do love you, Johnnie Cash! Thanks for everything you’ve done for me, including turning me into the trainer I am today. I owe ya one, pretty girl.

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It Might Not Be Us, But It Sure Is Perfect: A Visit With Johnnie

Johnnie’s visit was the last to come about for that exciting Saturday of foster reunions. I knew we’d be in the area for Zee/Medivka’s visit so I cautiously asked Johnnie’s new family if they would be up for a get together. I hate feeling like I am pressuring my adopters to hang out, so I braced myself for them to say they weren’t around or even that they weren’t interested (which would have been fine!). To my delight they said they’d be happy to have us come by to see her. I could not contain my excitement!

Unfortunately I made it so that I could not share my excitement with the one other person who I knew would appreciate it like I would: foster dad. I decided to make our visit to Johnnie a surprise for Mark. After we left Medivka’s house, I told him we had one more stop. He was confused, but then so excited once I told him our final destination. That is when the butterflies set in… we were really going to see our little Johnnie again!

Her owner came out to meet us (love her) and brought us up to their condo. She opened the door and there was Johnnie, wiggly as ever! I think we both melted to the floor in a flurry of dog tail, human smiles and bouncy paws. Everything felt familiar: her bouncy greeting, her soft, spotted belly, that spot on her forehead between her eyes that I think I’ve kissed a million times. She kept ping-ponging between me and Mark, settling briefly in our laps before joyously running over to the other, sometimes even stopping at her people as if to say, “My old friends are here!”

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I soaked up her Johnnie-ness as we caught up with her owners. They gushed about her and told us how they have adjusted their lives to help her be the best dog she can be. They have play dates with friends’ dogs, they have taken her to training classes, and when they went on a 10-day vacation they found a boarding place that set up a playgroup for her with a few suitable dog friends. Her mom even takes her to work sometimes! They love her. It’s perfect. She’s perfect.

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This visit really (really) made me miss her again, but it also reminded me how lucky we were to have found this family to adopt her. They certainly love her like we love her; how we would love her if she had become our own. Seeing that in person is so comforting. Since she can’t be ours, we couldn’t be more thrilled about where she ended up. So good to see you, Miss Cash!

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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.


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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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!