16 HOUR FOSTER DOG

Holy moly do I miss fostering. I knew I missed it, but I didn’t realize quite how badly until I was walking through the kennels at work and saw this adorable little face staring at me through the wires of her kennel door.

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The funny thing is that I was actually heading back to the dogs to check out this adorable pit puppy we’d just gotten in, but this girl with no name caught my eye. She was just so mini and waggy! I cooed at her through the gate, which just made her melt into me more, which then made me melt… I was done.

I went to inquire about her. She was a stray, which explained why she didn’t have a name. I had had had to take her out. I had to spend more time with her! She was just so cute. I hadn’t felt this way about a dog in a long time.

She came and hung out at my desk and did wonderfully. Bringing a dog to my cubicle is a good test, and can actually give me a lot of information about the dog. Does she settle well? Is she super extra curious? Does she get freaked at the office noises she hears? Can I occupy her with a chew? This pretty girl, of course, passed her test with flying colors. So obviously I had to take her home for the night.

Yes, I would say this is one of the perks of working at a shelter: being able to have a foster dog slumber party whenever you want. I geared the little one up, and off we went for our 16 hour adventure together.

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At this point she still didn’t have a name, so I called her Penny. Because she can fit right in my pocket.

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I brought her home and obviously my roommates fell in love with her. I also obviously broke my very own #1 rule of keeping a foster dog’s world small during the transition, and out we went with Penny to Meridian Hill Park. I made sure to bring lots of treats with us so I could show her the behaviors I did want from her while we were out (attention to me, loose-leash walking, etc.). Turns out, Penny rocks. Here are some pictures from our adventure:

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So then of course she was so tired that she was extra snuggly in bed with me that night, which is my absolute favorite part of fostering. It might have only been 5 pm to 9 am, but the time spent with Penny was a nice glimpse of what fostering was for me at one time and what it will be for me again one day. For now I will just continue to enjoy the times I do get to steal shelter dogs and call them my own… for 16 hours.

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PS – Penny was of course scooped up right away. Watching her walk out of the shelter with her new mama brought back some crazy bittersweet feelings!


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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Round Two & Why It Ain’t So Bad

When someone makes the decision to foster a dog, the next step is usually to decide what organization to do it through. This can often come down to choosing between going through a rescue group or fostering for a shelter. Any organization has their own procedures and policies, but private rescue groups and local animal shelters usually run their foster programs quite differently. Both can have pros and cons depending on what your own individual wants and needs are as a foster parent.

When Eran’s house got Rudy adopted through the Washington Humane Society, they reevaluated their needs as a foster home. After looking at many different options, they decided they wanted to try fostering through the rescue group Jasmine’s House. WHS has an amazing foster program and gives great support to their foster guardians, Eran and his roommates just wanted to try something a little different this time around. Jasmine’s House is able to give very individual attention since they keep the number of dogs in their program low, and their adoption application process is a little more in depth than many shelters. They can do this because they are a private, limited-intake rescue group. This can mean they don’t always have the same exposure or attention for their adoptable dogs as a county shelter though, which is another example of how different programs can work better for you depending on your needs and wants.

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Fostering through Jasmine’s House meant that when an applicant came up for Lady Bug, we were all able to discuss the best option on how to move forward. Because there are no hard and fast rules for how an application must move forward in Jasmine’s House, we could brainstorm what would work best for Bug and her potential adopters. You see, Lady Bug and her adopter absolutely loved each other, but there was another dog in the house and Bug and this dog didn’t really love each other just yet. We decided to do a “foster to adopt” situation that could act as a trial for Lady Bug and her potential new family. We all know that transitions can take lots of time, and we wanted to set Bug up for success by not setting in stone what her future was going to be.

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It turns out it was a good idea that we did not have them sign the adoption papers, because the new home ended up not being the best option for Lady Bug’s final stop – and that’s okay! Since it was just a foster-to-adopt situation, Eran’s house didn’t immediately take in another dog and they stayed mentally prepared in the event that they needed to take her back.  Her adopter was sad to see her go, but we appreciated that such an open line of communication was kept between each party so that Lady Bug’s best interest stayed in the forefront of all decisions.

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So now she is back where she started, and she’s enjoying quality time with her boys again. They are training her to know all sorts of new behaviors and they’re getting some medical issues back on track, so she is happy as can be. Plus, now I get to spend some more time with her. Win win for everyone!

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If you’re interested in adopting Lady Bug, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Vicarious Fostering With Lady Bug

Back in January I wrote all about Rudy, my friend Eran’s foster dog. Eran even wrote a guest post on what it was like to foster for the first time. Since those posts, Rudy has been adopted and Eran and his roommates have brought another foster dog home. Her name is Lady Bug and she has proven to be quite the awesome little (not actually little) dog.

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Eran fostering Lady Bug has been the closest I’ve come to the fostering experience since I handed Johnnie’s leash over thirteen months ago. Eran pulled me into the process as he and his roommates began to look for a new dog, so I have been working with them from the beginning. Knowing what his house’s needs and wants for fostering were, I hooked them up with Jasmine’s House. Jasmine’s House would allow them to pull a dog from a shelter and bring that dog into the rescue program.  Eran and I went to the Washington Humane Society to look at possible foster dogs – an opportunity I hadn’t really ever been a part of because my foster dogs always had a way of finding me versus me picking them. It was overwhelming to have rows of faces as options, each one wagging and saying, “pick me!” Eran and I would go over each dog and talk about their personality, the pros and cons, the potential that they would fit in with a busy house of six young guys, etc.  It was daunting. How could we predict the way these animals would act in a home environment? I, having worked with shelter and foster dogs for years now, know what could go wrong, and while I tried not to be too pessimistic, I felt like I needed to bring up the “what ifs.” The WHS staff and volunteers were wonderful in helping us sort through the options.

After lots of back and forth about what dog to bring home, Eran and his roommates ended up deciding on a three year old black pittie named Lady Bug. She was actually at a different shelter location than the one I went to so I never even met her, but he and I had had so many discussions about what to look for in a potential foster dog I was sure they made a good decision. It was their dog, not mine, after all! Eran reported that she was very outgoing and friendly, she wasn’t mouthy or too jumpy and that she had a BFF that she played with at the shelter named Oink. That’s about the best we can ask for, right? They were totally in love with her soft fur, stocky body and wonky eyes. I have to admit she is pretty endearing.

First picture at home!

First picture at home!

Just like when I brought Zabora, Baxter, Otis and Johnnie home, I held my breath with Eran the first few days and nights after they brought Bug home. What would she be like once she got into a home? What part of her behavior was her true personality and what was still hidden from the stress of the move? What challenges would arise as she settled in and decompressed? She’d been at the shelter since December, so it was anyone’s best guess how the stay affected her.

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As expected, it felt like something changed every day that passed with her. The first weekend she was had some episodes of fear-based reactivity. We immediately started counter conditioning. Luckily Eran and his roommates are fabulous at taking advice and they care deeply about Bug’s well being, so improvements happened quickly. Then Lady Bug started having episodes of hyperactivity where she would become barky and mouthy. We brainstormed endless ways to manage her and be proactive about curbing the episodes. Lady Bug got food puzzles and Kongs and long walks. When that didn’t really help, we decided to take her to the vet. After putting her on a careful chicken and rice only diet, her inappropriate behavior has practically disappeared. Maybe it was a food allergy or maybe she just settled down, but either way she has become quite lovely – and her skin and coat have improved tremendously! Amid all of these changes, she also started to dislike her crate. Like many foster dogs, the challenges felt like they might never end. We had to keep in mind that this transition is difficult and stressful for her, and that we needed to be understanding of her needs.  Talk about a refresher on being patient!

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I am happy to report that after being in their home for about five weeks, Bug seems have worked through most of her issues, and she is turning into one of the friendliest, snuggliest, happy-go-lucky dogs I’ve ever met. It has been so rewarding to watch her settle in and become more comfortable with her surroundings. Now she seems happy to just snooze the day away with her (six!) boys. She has learned sit, down, touch and mat through clicker training. Her fosters are so awesome and have taught her that she can feel safe where she is. No matter if they are hanging out around the house, having strangers visit, doing training, etc. – Bug knows that her boys won’t hurt or scare her, and they will keep her safe. There is so much trust among them, and I’m very proud of all the roommates for facilitating that!

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I didn’t realize how much I missed fostering until I became so attached to Bug throughout this whole process. It reminded me how invested you become when you worry so much about another creature, and they are not even yours!  I’ve enjoyed working with Bug’s fosters along the way and getting to use my new knowledge to help them help her. Though I’m not sure I’m looking forward to the familiar heartache of letting her go once she finally gets scooped up!

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Guest Post: Campbell’s Fostermom Gets Her Wings

This post was originally published by Kate, co-founder of Jasmine’s House Inc., on the 367survivors.org website. It is a wonderful write up of how our team has come together to help Campbell (the #367 dog you first read about two weeks ago), and how the foundation of that team effort comes from Campbell’s unbelievable Fostermom.  It’s been an intense and difficult journey, but Campbell is in the best place he can be. Read more from Kate:

I have put a lot of challenging dogs in foster care and championed their success – successfully.  I have also fostered a good amount of challenging dogs myself.  But when my darling (and I mean that) friend Heather at Handsome Dan’s said, “this is different; this population of dogs is different,” while I said I believed her – I’m not really sure that I did.

I know Jasmine’s story well, and I know what Catalina went through with her to get her to a place of peace. I know Dan’s story, and Cherry’s to some extent. I know Halle’s story and little bits about Oscar and Little Red, too (note: for those of you who don’t know, these are all dogs from the Michael Vick case in 2007). And I know a number of “non-famous” dogs who came off chains and struggled just the same. But I only know what chained dogs go through when they finally go home based on second hand accounts. I really only “know” what chained dogs go through from the vantage point of someone who has met them after they’ve settled and healed to the extent possible. What I’ve learned, of late, is this: To know their true process for recovery, the ones that struggle the most, is to know them very differently.

The people – the humans with wings (I think, literally) who are willing to share their homes and lives with these survivors while they heal – they are truly my personal heroes. Campbell’s Fostermom is at the top of the list.

Since the incident two weeks ago when the neighbors unexpectedly beat a piñata right on the other side of the fence while he was outside, Cam has had a slow road uphill. He was really leery of outside before the incident – afterwards, forget it. The following days were full of stress colitis (bloody diarrhea), utter refusal to go outside (lots of patient, patient floor cleaning), refusal to eat, and generally panicked behavior. Fostermom and his training team, Amy and Juliana, had been making amazing progress with his stress-mouthing, but it reared its head again in full force after that incident – to the point that Fostermom would have to go in the other room at times and just let him be until he calmed down enough that she could interact again without him completely losing his mind.

He stopped eating and drinking for days. We considered fluids a few times but weighed the stress of administering them against the urgency – fortunately he managed to get enough chicken broth in that he stayed out of real danger. He also lost interest in training and toys because he was so stressed – both things that help to appropriately direct his energy and build his confidence. He was really in distress.

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At one point, he became so disconnected that Fostermom was feeling incredibly sad and scared for his wellbeing. Amy and Juliana made it a goal for Fostermom to focus on his wins to keep above water. When they were there Cam-sitting last week they snapped this photo of his progress board because it’s just so freaking awesome. Maybe it gives some perspective? Things like “drank chicken broth”  and “walked out of crate for chicken” can be so monumental for this dog that they are the progress-board-worthy high points. Put that into perspective for a minute.

One of the things that helped him through his low was his series of play dates/training sessions with Meghan and her magical dog, Kyra. It took a few days, but Kyra managed to pull Cam back out of the lurch just enough that Fostermom was able to connect with him again and start making new progress. He’s since had play dates with Amy’s dog Meera, and has a walking date with JH Foster Lady Bug this weekend, too (this happened and went super well – more details on that later!). In moderation, Cam’s dog interaction really helps to build him up!

memeThe last few days have been the best, and every day this week there have been more positive updates than negative. He snuggled a bit yesterday and today! He met the cat through the crate and did really well! He’s eating and drinking chicken broth more regularly! He’s going outside more than he was before! He’s able to listen to soft music in the car again! He’s barely been mouthy in the last few days and his stomach has settled enough that it’s no longer bloody diarrhea! Just regular runs when he’s upset.

Everything about Campbell is finding the fine balance between too much and too little, and it’s a dance that Fostermom is learning to master more and more with each passing moment. His daily routine and all the tailored things that fill it are his lifeline. Those of us close to his journey live for his little progress updates throughout the day. He’s an amazing, resilient, brave little man.

And really, Super Cam, in case you missed the memo: Your Fostermom definitely has wings.

If you can donate to Cam’s medical and behavioral fund, here’s the link. Campbell say THANK YOU!

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Cheers to You, New Year

Did anyone else catch where January ran off to? It’s like she came and went without even saying hello… rude! But I guess it’s not all January’s fault – we were also too busy to notice how quickly the days were passing.

Looking back, I’m realizing that January was a month of re-centering. Even though it felt like a total whirlwind with all four weeks blending together, I feel like I am starting the second month of 2014 more focused than ever on what I love doing: helping dogs. Working with the HSUS #367 dogs sparked the rejuvenation of my passion, and since then I have been reminded again and again of where I am right now and where I am capable of going this month, this year and, most importantly, this lifetime.

I’ve never really been one for New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t have anything against them or the people who make them, I’ve just typically been the type of person who might set one here or there and then doesn’t exactly follow through. But 2014 has already proven to be influential despite the fact that I did not make any conscious resolutions. In the next handful of posts I’m going to be discussing in more detail the January (and beyond) happenings that have helped me realize 2014 is going to be quite an exceptional year:

1.  Working with the #367 dogs and helping with their transport to freedom. Here is Rudy, one of the three survivors that Jasmine’s House is taking in. This photo is from when we met him off the van after his trip from the HSUS temporary shelter. My friend Amy, who volunteered with me, and I will tell you guys what it’s been like to follow these dogs through their journey (spoiler alert: it’s been pretty spectacular!!!!).

Photo credit: Heidi Moore Trasatti Photography

Photo credit: Heidi Moore Trasatti Photography

2.  Hanging out with WHS Rudy (popular name, right?). I never realized how much I missed fostering until I spent more time with Rudy and his fosters. Stay tuned for a guest post from Eran about what fostering Rudy has been like!

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3.  Getting down to the wire with Paco and KPA. We’re less than two weeks out from the big weekend that will determine if we get our KPA-CTP certification or not. After all the work we’ve done, I’m getting pretty nervous that we are so close. It doesn’t help that Paco’s been a little under the weather lately (luckily nothing a little pumpkin can’t fix) and doesn’t want to do much more than what he’s pictured doing below. Will we be ready? We’ll talk about how the weekend goes as well as what finishing the course will mean for my career as a trainer. Please send all of your lucks to us February 15 & 16!

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We hope your 2014 has started off with as much fun and happiness as ours has! Thanks for being here with us as we head into year #3 for Peace, Love & Fostering :-).


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 :-).