DEAR LADY BUG

Dear Buggy,

Today, December 30th, marks the one year anniversary of me and your foster dad Eran adopting you. It also marks the one year anniversary of the day we took away your pain, gave you wings, and set you free.

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All of my foster dogs got letters when they left me. It felt like closure to the journey of loving them and letting them go. Even though you weren’t technically my foster, you still deserve a letter, Bug. But when we said goodbye to you I just didn’t have the words. I’m hoping that now, one year later, I can put words together in a way that will do your little soul justice.

You came into our lives during the snowy month of March. I remember the text your dad sent me. “I think I decided on one.” We’d gone to the shelter the night before to check out foster candidates, but no one really clicked with Eran. The next night, one dog did. That dog was you. He described the way you acted when he met you. Outgoing, wiggly, goofy, lovable. You sounded perfect. You were perfect.

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The first day with you was a whirlwind. Everyone was so excited you were home! You went on a walk, you met your six new human roommates, you enjoyed a stuffed Kong and even did some clicker training. You were fitting right in, and you loved being out of the shelter.

Then it happened. You growled at one of the roommates that first night. I think we were all a little unsettled, but we chalked it up to first night jitters. Transitions are hard, we get it. You’d been through so much, after all! We’d show you really fast that the world isn’t a scary place. We weren’t worried.

You opened up to us so much over the next few months. We learned all about your perfect little quirks. We learned about the rhino run you did when you were excited. We learned how far apart your eyes went whenever you worked on a frozen Kong. We learned how stinkin’ brilliant you were as you showed us how quickly you mastered new behaviors. We learned how food motivated you were when you figured out every single food puzzle your foster family diligently created for you. We learned how hard you snuggled, and how perfect of a couch buddy you were.

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We also learned that you were a sensitive soul. It turns out the world was scarier than we realized, and that you had some fears ingrained in you that we just couldn’t combat. What we wouldn’t have given to just be able to talk to you, Bug. We would have told you there was no need to be worried all the time. We would have begged you to just trust us, to know that we would take care of you.

If there was one person who helped you find some inner peace, it was your dad. The bond between you and Eran was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. He’s fostered other dogs before and after you, but he didn’t love any of them the way he loved you (even if he says differently). Eran spent some time funemployed while he and his housemates fostered you, and during those months it was just you and him a lot of the time, Bug. I watched you two go on daily road trips, sometimes to Campbell as you helped him overcome his own fears, and sometimes to a secluded hike so the two of you could escape the city for a little. Your dad would also bring you by my work for a midday visit almost every week, and those visits would brighten my whole day. He used clicker training to teach you an entire repertoire of behaviors. You turned him into one amazing trainer, you know that? He worked with you, sacrificed for you, and advocated for you.

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Despite his best efforts, and the efforts of everyone else in your foster home, we couldn’t make you comfortable. Your rescue group supported you every step of the way, working to find you a foster situation that might better fit your needs. You know, that quiet home out in the country with no other pets – the one everyone looks for that is nearly impossible to find.

You finally landed with a wonderful family. They were so dedicated to you and they loved you like we loved you. We got updates, and I even got to go visit you. I was so proud when I was able to show them all the behaviors you knew, especially since we hadn’t practiced in a while. You flew through them with ease. You never ceased to amaze me, Buggy. Everyone continued working together to try to ease your worries, hoping for a breakthrough.

I remember the phone call to this day. Your fears and anxieties finally got the best of you. I know you didn’t want to hurt that girl. I know you were reacting from a dark place, a place you didn’t know how to control. You finally showed us that you couldn’t take this world anymore, that you were no longer capable of handling the stress that came with simple, every day life. Hearing what happened, and realizing how deeply distressed you were – Buggy, that broke my heart into a million pieces.

Eran and I immediately got in the car and raced to pick you up that night. We were your happy place. The three of us together, in our blissful bubble where the outside world didn’t exist. If I could have realistically given you that bubble for the rest of your life, I would have. I think Eran and I both would have.

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When we came to the devastating decision that we were going to say goodbye to you, Eran and I made it official that you would leave this world with a family of your own. We signed that dotted line, Bug. You were ours. You were our perfect, goofy, block-headed, cross-eyed, black rhino. Gotcha.

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You were in our lives for nine beautiful months. What we learned from you, however, will stay with us for a lifetime. I see you in the animals I help at the shelter. Eran sees you in the dogs he continues to foster and help through his advocacy work. You’re everywhere, Buggy. Your impact will linger much longer than the too-short time you were here on this earth for.

We love you, Bug. Thanks for running full force into our hearts. We miss you every day.

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Staycation With Paco

My work with Paco might have ended a few weeks ago, but I have been lucky enough to have him back in my life recently. I am dog sitting him while his family is on spring break! Ten whole days of just me and Paco time – I am in heaven! I am grateful that he is super easy to take care of: he is okay home alone and with just about thirty minutes of exercise a day, he loves to lounge around and sleep. It’s been so fun acting like he is “my dog” the past six days. It seems to be good timing that last week I wrote about fostering Lady Bug without worrying about the actual care, and this week I am here caring for Paco without him being a foster. Here are some photos from the time we’ve spent together so far:

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I sure do love having a pup to adventure with again… though I definitely won’t complain when my life goes back to not being planned in eight hour intervals!


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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Girl’s Day Out

The temperature is slowly creeping up above freezing. The first day of Spring has officially come and gone. Teensy flowers are beginning to poke out from the thawing ground. The sunshine is lasting longer and longer. You can feel it… spring is in the air.

I’ll hike any time of year, but warmer weather makes enjoying time in the outdoors that much more appealing. I took full advantage of the slightly more bearable temps this past weekend by taking two of the my favorite pups on a hike at a local park called Scott’s Run. One of the girls, Lena, is a client’s dog. Her family was having a party so I offered to take her off their hands for the afternoon (twist my arm!). The other dog is Lady Bug, my friend Eran’s newest foster dog! Lena is on the left and Lady Bug is on the right.

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Are they not the prettiest pair? I’ve got so much to tell you guys about Lady Bug, but that’s going to be for another post. For now, enjoy some photos of these two on our adventure! Coincidentally, Lena was adopted from the Washington Humane Society (WHS) last spring and Lady Bug was just sprung from WHS last month!

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A great time was had by all, as you can see with Lena on the drive home:

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Who else is ready for the nicer weather with their pets!?