On Being 22 and a Foster Mom

My decision to foster came in steps. It wasn’t a black and white “okay, let me go pick out my first foster now” thought. It started slowly with a shared foster, and has turned into two full time fosters since then. Those of you who have dogs, foster or forever, certainly know what I mean by full time. I am a parent to these dogs, as crazy of a concept as that is. Sure, it’s temporary, but that doesn’t mean the daily commitment to them during their time with me is anything less than if they were mine forever.

I am the only one of my friends who has a dog. I am the only one who has to factor a dog into my social schedule, who has to accommodate plans for a dog on weekend trips, who has to account for foster expenses in my “fun” budget. It’s a commitment that I feel like I’m constantly trying to balance with living my life as a twenty-something. Sometimes it feels like a double life – with one half being a life my friends can hardly comprehend. I don’t blame them, seeing as it’s a far cry from the life of an “average” (whatever that means) 22 year old. Rescuing and fostering dogs can be difficult, and sometimes I do wonder what the heck am I doing… am I giving up too much of the only time in my life I have to be young and care free and responsible for no one but myself?

This is where a few saving graces come in the picture, the first being my parents. While many college graduates move out of their parents’ house faster than you can say, “Congratulations,” I am beyond thankful that I am in a position to be staying with mine. I can very honestly say I don’t think I could handle – let alone particularly want to try – fostering a dog if living by myself at this age. My parents help me immeasurable amounts when it comes to balancing my dogs and my friends.  They will watch my foster dogs pretty much whenever I ask them to – regardless of whether it’s because I need to stay late for work or if I want to grab drinks with a friend. They are so much like grandparents in the giving-mommy-a-break category, and now I know why mothers to human babies relish that free time so much!

Dogs like Otis (so, relatively easy and low maintenance) help a lot too. This is where the importance of being picky about who you foster comes into play. As much as I would love to help the ones that need it most, I realize I am not in a position to give them as much training and special attention (beyond cuddling) as they might need. The best advice I’ve ever heard about fostering was something along the lines of, “Choose dogs that fit your lifestyle – take the easy ones if you want to; don’t take the problem cases if you can’t. This is your time that you’re volunteering and you are already saving a life no matter what dog you decide to take in, so make it easy on yourself if you want to.”

Choosing more “ready to go” dogs makes fostering better for everyone around me. Otis is nearly perfect at home when I’m not there, which makes it easy for my parents to watch him and puts my mind at ease.  On the other hand, if you like a challenge – good for you! I commend those that take in the pups who need a little something extra, and hope to some day be able to provide the stability and training a dog like that may need.

While fostering dogs at my age can often be exhausting and confusing and scary and overwhelming, it’s also instilling a deep, deep passion in me that I will carry for the rest of my life. I’m learning that helping dogs is what I was put here to do, and starting it this early is teaching me discipline, responsibility, critical thinking, compassion, practicality, rationality, communication and maturity – not to mention creativity, writing and photography thanks to this blog.

Fostering is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and I wish everyone had the opportunity and the means to do it at least once in their lifetime.  What I’m getting back from it through my dogs is worth one hundred times what I am putting into it, even if it seems like I’m making big sacrifices to some people. Hopefully if I’m starting now I’ll have it figured out by the time I’m all grown up, right? :)

Pennsylvania Pittie

I got to spend a lot of time with my two favorite golden furballs this weekend! You met Seamus and Profitta back in October and in FosterDad’s guest post. They’re my boyfriend’s dogs, and we hung out with them while visiting his parents in PA. They are, as always, beyond adorable.

Profitta – Age 11. Laid back, wise, and still mischievous.

Seamus – Age 6. Playful, happy-go-lucky, and Mark’s shadow.

In between snuggling with these two, I also got the opportunity to go check out a local rescue! I fell in love with the most darling pit bull named Everest. Can you guess why I took such a liking to this little guy, even before I met him? (Sorry about the iPhone photos.)

Yes, he is nearly the spitting image of Mr. Baxter! He’s a little stockier, but that big black pittie smile had me doing a double take. Everest is such a sweetie. When I met him he ran up to the fence of his outdoor running looking for ear scratches and baby talk. To my delight, we got to go inside and spend some quality time with him. I learned that Everest has an affinity for laps and TLC (what pup doesn’t?), and totally soaks up affection. He is happiest right here:

A self-proclaimed lap dog, Everest would make a wonderful companion for someone looking to give an amazing dog a new chance at love. He’s never lived in a home before so he’s got some manners to learn, but his potential shines right through in his dazzling personality. If you’re in the Philadelphia area and think you know of someone who might be interested in adopting this sweet boy, email me at peacelovefoster@gmail.com. I would scoop him up in a heartbeat if I could!

Cuteness Overload for Your Monday: Children & Pit Bulls Part 2

I know many of you have seen this video already, but I wanted to share it for those who haven’t. It’s a video that The Unexpected Pit Bull, an organization dedicated to supporting the rescue, education, and advocacy of pit bulls, created after a news station ran a story about what dog breeds don’t do well with kids, putting pits on the list.

The video is a compilation of photos sent in by fans all over the country of pit bull type dogs with children. It’s adorable and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. It is so heartwarming as it demonstrates that what matters is the individual dog, not the breed.

Definitely a nice way to start off Monday, even if you’ve seen it before. A picture I took of adoptable Dahlia even made its way in there towards the end. Enjoy!

Guest Post from Fosterdad

Mark and I started dating about two years ago, and at the time he had no idea what he was signing up for with my future as a foster parent. Being a college senior, I don’t think the responsibility of a dog is exactly his idea of the best way to spend his last few months before the real world, but he supports me and helps me out so much with all the dogs I bring home – definitely being a “fosterdad” to each one. I wanted him to share his take on the rescue world that I so lovingly forced upon him :-).

So Juliana was nice enough to let me borrow her blog for a day and write from a different view. First, to introduce myself I’m Mark. I’m the one you sometimes see at the other end of the leash in many of the photos from different adventures. I get to see the behind the scenes view of Juliana’s growth in the foster world, and at the same time I’m learning a lot.

You were introduced to my canine family in Doggy Pawlitics. My two goldens, Profittarollie and Seamus, gave me a passion for dogs, but I grew up with a very limited scope of what owning a dog meant. My perspective on dog ownership has completely changed and I hope to share my lessons learned.

Until I was 11 years old my dad was allergic to dogs, and conveniently when my mom wanted a puppy my dad was no longer allergic. Funny how that works…

I know many of you are true believers in adoptions and rescues, so bear with me as I tell you my story. My mom spent many months learning everything about Golden Retriever breeders all around Pennsylvania and neighboring states. She picked a reputable breeder and checked on the health history of the mother and father. Finally after the due diligence and waiting, we brought home 8 week old Profittarollie, Profitta or Pro for short.

It was amazing, and a lot of work, raising a puppy. We had her for eight years before I was leaving for college. During the month before I left my mom and I went down the street to a doggy daycare that we trust with Profitta when we are out of town. The owner, who is a family friend, told my mom about a young male golden that had been dropped off by a couple that could no longer take care of him. He had serious behavior issues such as marking in the house and chewing up all their belongings. The establishment was not a shelter or a rescue organization, but they still wanted to find this dog a home. My mom’s heart was sold quickly to help this dog in need. She brought Seamus into our house the day after I left for school (and may or may not have talked to my dad about it first).

Even though I left for school three hours away, when I came home for break the first time Seamus became my dog. Every few months when I make it home for a weekend Seamus is by my side the whole time and even lets me have a corner of my bed to sleep in with him.

He is an amazing dog, and Profitta is the perfect alpha female to break his bad puppy habits and show him how to be a family dog.

What is most interesting about my story is how my view of my own dogs has changed after being exposed to the work many of you do. I never really thought of Seamus as a rescue dog, and I never understood that a community like the one Juliana is involved with even existed.

The moral of my story, education is everything. Many people do not know the options that are out there to gain a best friend and help save an animal’s life no matter what kind of dog you are looking for. Breed preference is personal and we all have our reasons. Personally, I have grown to love pits, but I will always consider myself a golden person. In any case it does not make a difference because there are so many organizations out there for every breed.

There are many issues that surround the canine community. I believe the best way to really help people learn is to engage them in conversation and work to understand each others views. Juliana & I often have different views on adopting, training, and caring for dogs, but I like to think that by really talking about the issues we’ve been able to expand our views and improve ourselves as dog owners. You of course have to respect everyone’s opinions and choice about their dogs, but we can still help each other become better owners.

Being the Change: Jasmine’s House Inc.

Rescue groups are similar to the dogs we help: there are so many of them, all amazing in their own way – but there is always one that stands out to you; one that you connect with. For me, Jasmine’s House was this group. Their mission is so deeply rooted in a passion for saving pit bull type dogs that with every single dog they take in, they help make the world a better place. They have so much knowledge and understanding of what dogs need to heal, and time after time they give dogs a chance who may not have had one otherwise.  But their impact goes deeper than that still.

Jasmine’s House is spreading their mission to the public by engaging strangers in thought: what change do you wish to see in the world? It’s a tough question to ask yourself, and an even tougher question to find the answer to. You’ll discover, though, that when you and many others start to think about it, an unimaginable amount of diverse and brilliant ideas come up. Jasmine’s House is really on to something with this, sparking inspiration and motivation every time they pose the question. See for yourself:

photo from facebook.com/jhrescue

photo from facebook.com/jhrescue

photo from facebook.com/jhrescue

Because honestly, what change do we imagine for this world? Everyone has a different answer to this, and of course none of them are more correct than the others. It’s just a question people should ask themselves once in a while to at the very least reignite passion for a cause. After all, “Nothing great in the world has ever happened without passion” (-Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel).

Remembering why we do what we do can help during those times we feel burnt out or we question our efforts. It can help when trying to convince others of the change that’s needed. It helps to focus our intent and better our efforts. So thank you, Jasmine’s House, for making me step back and ask myself, “If I could have this world any way I want, what would it be?” There are so many answers that come to mind that it’s impossible to choose just one. But for now:

What type of world do you imagine?

Read more about Jasmine’s House and the work they do on their website, and see more brilliant “I Imagine” pictures on their Facebook page.

Puppy Monday!

Here are a few pictures to give you a Monday morning pick-me-up.

These puppies are spoken for, but they’re still representatives for all the puppies in shelters and rescues awaiting forever homes. The myth that you have to buy a dog in order to get it during puppyhood could not be more false!

I’ll talk this week about some of these puppies and where we got to play with them. In the mean time, I hope you enjoyed that brief dose of excessive cuteness as much as I did.

Dear Baxter

Where do I even begin? I think I’ve deleted and rewritten these following sentences a hundred times, because I really have no idea how to say everything I want to. How do I possibly put into words the way you touched my life, and the lives of so many others?

I guess I should start at the beginning. I don’t want to dwell on it, because that’s not who you are anymore – but baby boy, you came from one of the deepest darkest places I can imagine. You were tired and hungry and sick – and I’m pretty sure you hadn’t known much love in your past life – but from the minute you were carried through the doors of the Montgomery County Humane Society that evening in June, love is all you gave.

That love is what got you noticed by the shelter staff and volunteers, despite how shy you were. It’s what helped you learn to trust the world, and also ultimately win over your many heroes, including Big Bruno and Catalina & Kate from Jasmine’s House. The love you gave out was returned to you tenfold, and with the help of these individuals and many more, you became a confident, outgoing, and happy dog.  In that short time you made so much progress – a feat that excited everyone, though nobody was surprised. We always knew what potential you had, Baxter. 

You continued to prove us right when you became a “house dog”. You walked into my home not knowing the rules, not understanding guidelines, and not being comfortable with a lot of “normalities” – but you left as a stellar example to house dogs everywhere. It was a pleasure to have you as you grew into an effortless part of our daily lives. You seemed to fit in just right – but the more you settled in with our family, the more we knew you’d make the perfect dog for someone else. That’s the way fostering goes.

Which brings me to my next thought… I miss you, Baxty. I miss you very, very much. I feel selfish talking about you and me, because there are so many others in the equation – but boy were we buddies. For four months, you were mine. We played together, we went to work together, we napped together, we adventured together, we spent lazy days together, and we grew together. You elicited a maternal part of me I never knew I had, bringing me pride & joy on countless occasions. I celebrated your milestones, worried at your weak spots, and tried to help you grow in any way I could.Then all of a sudden you left. I’ve imagined this day many times, but at the same time never understood how it would feel. And you know what? It really kind of hurts. But, I would take this heartache 100 more times if it meant the same outcome for you, Bax.

While I’m sad about saying goodbye, I am also absolutely overjoyed for you. You deserve perfect, and perfect is what you got. You hit the jackpot with your new home, your new humans, and your new furry sister. Foster parents want nothing more than to see their animals go to good hands, and these are the best I could have imagined for you. They’ll take you on long walks through the woods, they have a fireplace for you to sleep next to while soaking up the warmth, they understand what patience is and, more importantly, what unconditional love is. You, your humans, and your new sister Miss Piggy will live out a life full of happiness and joy – something that was once not such a sure thing for you, Baxter.

I love you so much, little monkey. I cannot express how proud I am of you for the dog you have become, despite so much. You showed the world what it looks like to overcome all odds. Thank you for the lessons you taught me, and of course for all the daily giggles and endless happy memories. I will never forget any of it.

Enjoy your new life, Baxty. You sure have earned it.