PACO UPDATE

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.

photo 1photo 2photo 3photo 4photo 5photo 6photo 7photo 9photo 11photo 12photo 13It was so great to have another week with him, even though our partying walking was cut short. Hopefully he’ll be back sometime soon, injury free!


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.


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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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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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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