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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Taking Your Dog to Public Events

The more I’m learning about dog behavior, the more large-scale dogs events make me cringe. I can now pick up on stress signals, signs of discomfort, poor social skills, warning signs, etc. – and I’m realizing that these behaviors, as you can imagine, are widely prevalent at events with lots of dogs and people.  Even though most of the dogs that attend these events are dog friendly (because they’d be kicked out in an instant if they weren’t), doesn’t mean that all the dogs present are having an easy time.

In order to keep dogs and people happy at big events, it’s important to stay in tune with your dog. I recommend reading up on dog behavior and stress signals before braving one of these big events. That will give you some tools to recognize issues as they arise, before they become a bigger problem.  After watching others attend these events and going to many myself, here are some tips I think are helpful for big public outings:

Come prepared with appropriate equipment. Make sure you bring everything you need to set you and your dog up for success. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you do not take your dog to big events using retractable leashes. There is hardly any control with these leashes, and in high activity environments you need all the control you can get. For the sake of all other dogs and owners at the event, I encourage you to stick to 4′ or 6′ standard leashes. Many events, especially if run by a humane society or rescue group, have policies against using retractable leashes.

Bring lots of TREATS!   I understand that shoving a bunch of treats in your dogs mouth won’t solve real problems, but it can sure help manage some when you’re out in a distracting environment. Often times when there is an overwhelming amount of stimuli, your dog will only pay attention to you if you’ve got something they want: yummy food. In new environments it is essential to be able to capture your dog’s focus. Treats will help enormously for this, especially if they are high value.

Don’t test at big events. An easy way to set your dog up for failure is bringing them into a high stress situation and having the “they can sink or swim” mentality. Socialization doesn’t come in the form of mass interactions with lots of people/dogs/things at one time.  Socialization should be controlled, positive experiences. Events can be so overwhelming for dogs – to the point that instead of learning proper social skills they just shut down. It is much better to work on your dog’s reaction to new people, dogs, etc. at a threshold where they will still be able to learn and progress.

Understand that dogs are dogs. I think the worst thing we can do for our dogs is to anthropomorphize them. This leads to all sorts of unrealistic expectations: Fluffy should like all the dogs, Fluffy should behave all day because this is fun, Fluffy should listen to me when we’re here just like at home, etc. We have to be understanding that these events are so high stress and different for most dogs that they might not act like they do normally, or they might act differently than we expect or want.

Know your/their limits. It does not help anyone to overdo it with your dog. Dogs are extremely sensitive and can go from being fine to absolutely not fine in a matter of minutes. It is essential that you stay in tune to how your dog is reacting to other dogs or people, and the minute things start getting hairy, you skedaddle (like I mentioned – don’t use these big, unstructured events as tests or “learn to deal with it” situations!).  Your dog might not necessarily need to leave all together, but a time out away from all the hubbub can really help a dog’s mentality.  Baxter behaved perfectly for over an hour at the Nationals game, and we listened to him when he told us he’d had enough. We distanced ourselves from the crowd and hung out together at a separate table. We knew that was the best way for Baxter to finish the afternoon off successfully, so we made it happen. We didn’t push him, and we ended the afternoon on a great note.

There are the lucky few out there who have dogs that are game for anything and everything. But there are also a large number of dog owners who don’t realize what they’re putting their dogs through when they bring them to these tough situations. I’m not saying your dog will never be able to attend these sort of dog friendly events, I just want dog owners to be aware of how their dogs are handling situations. That makes for a happier and safer environment for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Instead of these large scale events, I am always a supporter of smaller ones that are more controlled, like B-More Dog’s walks where the dogs aren’t allowed to meet each other, and Pittie Trails where we work specifically on skills around other people and dogs. I like to live a life of always setting my dogs up for success!


“Take me out to the ball game” – Baxter

Some might say the perfect day would consist of a ball game, a beer, and your favorite dog. Last Saturday, I got the chance to live that perfect day. Every year the Washington Humane Society teams up with the Washington Nationals for a ‘Pups in the Park‘ event where people can bring their dogs to the baseball game. Yes, you read that correctly. People are actually allowed to bring their dogs inside the stadium to watch the game! Each dog needs a ticket (at a reasonable $8) and all the proceeds from the dog seats go to WHS! How cool is that!?  And would you guess who I went with.

I was able to go with Baxter’s whole family! Big Bruno, Baxter’s long time buddy who first helped him in the shelter, and I met up with Bax and company at the game and spent the afternoon there together. Since the last time I visited Bax, his family has added a new furry member! Meet Didi, a “pit bull” dog that seems to be mostly jack russell terrier judging by her spring board jumping abilities and her need to smell absolutely everything.

It was a good thing there were four of us, because these three pups are quite the pack together. They were all on their best behavior for the game though – I was very impressed.

There were a ton of people and dogs there, especially since the Nationals have been having such a great season.  Baxter, Didi, and Piggy all pretty much minded their own business when it came to other dogs, but the people were another story. The pups were making smiles every where they went – especially with kids!

It was a great afternoon, with the icing on the cake being the big win by the Nats.  Can’t wait to bring my own foster dog next time around!


Baxter and Otis!

Like I said yesterday: what could be better than getting a former foster and current foster together for a play date!?

Coincidentally, Baxter and Otis have actually met before. When Baxter was in the shelter a year ago and Otis was with me for the first time, we used Otis to dog test Baxter. Crazy, right!? I obviously had no idea what impact either dog would end up having on my life a year down the road, but that was the first time I ever met Bax. Baxter didn’t feel very well for that meet and greet, so both dogs seemed like they couldn’t have cared less about each other – and you know what? Not much has changed!

I was thrilled when Baxter’s mom was happy to accept my offer to bring Otis with me to visit and hopefully have a play date with Bax (in her words, “I hoped you’d say that!” – could they get more awesome?). Baxter has been getting a little pushy with male dogs recently, so we had to be cautious when introducing the two. Otis is so “whatever” about dogs (mostly just very submissive) that Baxter had no problem with him. Baxter didn’t even mind when Otis showed some serious interest in Miss Piggy!

Here is one photo that pretty much sums up how Bax & Otis felt about each other:

Total apathy. Baxter had a “too cool for you” attitude, and Otis, well, doesn’t have very strong opinions about many things so he was fine with whatever. It actually worked out really well, and was a victory on all accounts: Baxter was accepting of another male on his turf and Otis followed Baxter’s rules to prevent conflict and everyone was able to have a healthy socialization session. Though I think Piggy and Baxter seemed to find Otis’ antics a little amusing:

They did have bouts of playing when Otis was able to convince Baxter that running around in the heat was a good idea. They played so well with each other! Even all three of them together stayed within safe and appropriate levels of play. I think the heat helped a lot with keeping everyone subdued, but still – I was proud of each one.

For the most part, they spent their time ignoring each other in the grass. Aren’t they so stinkin’ adorable together?! So many happy tongues!

I am just as thrilled about this combo as I was about being able to hang out with all the humans. Everyone got along so well and each dog was on their best behavior. If that’s not cause for victory celebrations, I don’t know what is! I can’t wait until we do it again.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.


B-More Dog’s Pit Bulls on Parade: Part 1

Getting more involved with rescue and “pit bull” dogs over the last year or so, I’ve seen many great examples of advocacy through different platforms (see: Project Mickey). Most recently, in the light of this recent MD court ruling, I’ve become familiar with an amazing group called B-More Dog. They are an organization whose “mission is to promote responsible dog ownership in the Baltimore area through education and outreach programs,” (love it, right?) including things like Community Pit Bull Days where they provide opportunities for free and low cost vaccines, spay/neuters, and more. Among other things, they also host Pit Bulls on Parade at the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, and I got to finally attend one last weekend! (P.S. – Those last two links are media coverage, check them out!)

The event was so fun. We were all there to have a good time and spread a positive message about “pit bull” dogs. I took so many pictures – too many to fit in one, two, or even three posts. So I’m going to put some up today and tomorrow, and you can find the rest on Peace, Love, and Fostering’s Facebook page in the next few days. These photos capture the event way better than I could ever describe with words (which is good, because I’m so brain dead from editing them all).  Enjoy!

To be continued tomorrow. . .  stay tuned!


Play With Me

I’ve had dogs with all types of personalities. I’ve had dogs that are snugglers, and dogs that like space. I’ve had dogs that solicit attention, and ones who could care less if you give them a behind-the-ear scratch or not. I’ve had dogs who get annoyed when you try to play with them, and I’ve had dogs who love all the ways you spend your time together.

Otis is that last one. He really likes to play, and he’ll put up with anything.

And I LOVE it.

In fact, I totally can’t get enough of it.

Playing with this pup makes my whole day better. I can’t wait for him to brighten someone else’s life as much as he has mine. But until then, I’m going to soak up every bit of happiness, love, and playfulness Honey Bunches sends my way.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.


The Crate Debate

Just like pretty much every other part of dog ownership, there are lots of opinions out there regarding crating dogs. Some people swear against it, some people swear by it, and some people just don’t care. Similarly, some dogs love it, some dogs hate it, and some dogs can be trained to tolerate it.

I love crating. Responsible crating, that is – i.e. in a crate suitable for the dog’s size and for an acceptable amount of time. There are some parts of my fostering life where I’ve found it’s a total life saver to be able to crate a dog – mostly being any time I need them to not have free reign of whatever space they’re in (duh). It puts everyone’s mind at ease when you don’t have to worry about the dog getting into any trouble, and knowing that they’re happy while staying secure.

Something I’ve started doing with my fosters is crating at night. I believe that it’s best to keep my foster pups away from my room for bedtime so that they don’t get too used to sleeping in “my pack”. Who knows if it actually makes a difference, but since this is not their final destination I don’t want them getting too comfy with me at night.

It also helps me to be able to crate dogs when I, well, need them contained. This was very important for Baxter because of his affinity for eating things. That meant any time he was home alone, he was crated. He would get kongs and other indestructible things to keep him occupied, and he seemed pretty fond of his little house (after the first two weeks).

Regardless of the arguments one way or the other (dogs should never be caged vs. dogs love having something resembling a “den”), I choose to decide if my dog is happy to be crated simply by how they act. Do they resist going in? Do they whine? Do they bark? Do they try really, really hard to get out? While these are all things that can be worked through with a dog, it still helps to determine a pup’s initial feelings on the topic.

Otis’ last owner said she didn’t crate him because she knew he had probably been in a cage most of his life. While I understand that when translating this to human emotions you might not want to continue to “put him through that”, but in Otis’ mind the crate is his safest place. When I brought him home the first night, I walked him straight into his crate and closed the door while we hung out in the kitchen (the crate is right there in all the action), and he settled in nicely. I wanted to show him that this could be his happy place while at my house, and it’s continued to be that way ever since.

Since Otis doesn’t have the same eating problem that Baxter did, he gets the run of the house when we’re gone (so nice to have a dog like that, I know!). Honey Bunches only stays in his crate at night now. I’m okay with it because 1. He walks in willingly when it’s time to call it a night 2. He doesn’t whine or bark when he is in there and 3. He settles right in when I turn off the light and say goodnight. He seems to like it.

I also always make sure he isn’t in there for too long. If I want to sleep in, I often wake up super early to let him out to go to the bathroom and then I’ll let him sleep in my room for the next few hours since it’s technically just a nap, and it’s not every night.

So for us, crating works well and can be a total blessing for those “special cases” that need a little more supervision. I know that a lot of people don’t believe in crating, but – like most other things – I like to just look at it from a dog to dog (and situation) basis. Perhaps the next dog I get will hate crates. After whining about it myself for a few hours, we’ll figure out an alternative. We’ll work towards crate acceptance. We’ll adapt. That’s what you’ve got to do. But for now, we’ll revel in our crating successes.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.