I Am Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving again, which means taking a minute to make note of what we’re thankful for. The feeling of obligation to do something like this is quickly being replaced every year by a feeling of wanting so badly to acknowledge the things in my life that make it possible for me to do what I do.

Last year at Thanksgiving I did a run down of the people in my life that I am thankful for. Those people haven’t really changed, so I don’t want to be redundant with a post about them again (though I love you all and I am still extremely thankful for you!). Which leaves me here thinking about what to give thanks for in this post.

Rather than material things or specific people, I am going to write about experiences from the past year that I am thankful for.  I’m so early in my career that every new situation for me is a valuable learning experience. So much of what I know and what I stand for has been shaped in the last year. To think that just over fifteen months ago I was dogless, blogless, and somewhat clueless shows me how much I have to be thankful since then.

Fostering Baxter

Yes, I know this is an extremely broad experience – but I can’t leave it out. Fostering Baxter was a crash course in learning about training, behavior, dog-dog interactions, boundaries, teaching, compromises, responsibility, patience and love. Baxter was all mine to help grow and then adopt out. The amount that he taught me is immeasurable, really.  He helped me realize that there is a difference between just liking dogs and having the knowledge to really help them, and for that I am very grateful.

Buying a 50mm camera lens

I know I said I would stay away from thanking materialistic things, but this little lens changed my photography life as I know it.  The 50mm lens is affordable and can give you the most amazing photos if you’re used to the standard issue lens that came with your camera. After buying this lens I was inspired to take a photography course and invest in Photoshop, so my skills set has grown immensely. I have also since invested in a 30 mm lens (thanks to this gal’s growing skills as a photographer!).  Of course I still have tons and TONS to learn, but I feel so much more confident about my photography after all I learned this past year.  I am really falling in love with photography, and I am thankful I discovered this passion.

One of the first photos I took with my 50mm. I was in love with the shallow depth of field, but still didn’t quite know how to fully utilize it.

Taking Otis back

Yes, fostering Otis was an amazing learning experience as I navigated the waters of having a nervous, confidence-lacking dog. But the actual act of accepting Otis back as my foster was a big lesson learned as well. There is a lot to be said for the realization that adopting a dog out should not be where your journey ends with that dog. Every foster/adopter relationship is different after an adoption, but I feel like it is our responsibility as the foster or rescue group to step up and help a former foster dog who is losing their home. I wanted to help so many different dogs after Baxter, but I ultimately knew I had to take Otis back for his well being. I felt guilty taking him in over a dog whose future was uncertain, but it took me accepting him back as a foster to realize that his future wasn’t certain either, and I owed it to him to find him the life he deserved.  I am thankful that Otis taught me the full responsibility of having a foster dog.

Participating in Project Mickey

Project Mickey is a program started by Jasmine’s House to teach humane education to elementary school children in an under-served part of Baltimore. If that sentence right there doesn’t make it obvious why this experience was so impactful, then I’m not sure I can explain what would.  I only helped for two sessions in the program, but I still got to know some of the kids, how bright they are, and their stories. It is like an entirely different world than my own – one that I can really benefit from spending a little more time in. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach these kids about caring for animals, while learning so much more myself.

Adopting Otis to his new home

In the past year I’ve learned a lot about restrictions for adopters that make it difficult to adopt animals out.  When I was searching for a home for Otis, I had almost the exact mold in my mind of what I wanted for him in a forever family.  The person who ended up adopting him was the opposite of many things I thought I wanted for Otis, but they are perfect for each other now.  This was a blatant example to me that I should always be open minded when talking to potential adopters, even if they’re not what I originally envisioned for my dog. I am thankful that I learned this first hand.

Going to Animal Farm Foundation

Another one that should be pretty self-explanatory is my week-long stay at AFF (read all about it in its own post).  The amount of not only knowledge, but also passion and motivation, that I soaked up during that week truly solidified the path I am on to help animals. I learned lots about the basics of training and canine behavior, again building on the bits of knowledge I already had. AFF was fun, exciting, extremely educational, and eye-opening. I’d consider it one of my most influential experiences of 2012. I am very thankful for the opportunity to learn and interact with such a wonderful organization.

Me and Julep during our week together at AFF.  Photo credit to AFF.

Participating in B-More Dog’s Community Pit Bull Day

Another example of a world I need to spend more time in. I recently heard a speaker talk about how animal advocates spend too much time thinking they’re their own audience. B-More Dog’s CPBD really opened my eyes to the whole group of people that I can reach with spay/neuter advocacy, etc. I am thankful that I got the opportunity to see all the families who love their dogs and are trying their hardest to provide for them, and I look forward to helping as much as I can in the future.

The second year at my job

Again, another broad one. But I can’t pick out specifically one part of it that I am thankful for more than another.  You learn so much about planning events on the job as opposed to in the classroom (especially when you’re an Animal Sciences major…), so my first year was spent soaking up as much information I could. I learned best practices, I learned things to avoid, I learned what would make me the best events manager I could be, and I learned how to learn from my mistakes. Entering into my second year, I feel like I’ve taken these skills and ran with them. My confidence in my abilities has skyrocketed, and all of a sudden I feel more capable than ever.  I am thankful for all the experiences I’ve had thus far in my career that have set me up to be the best I can be.

A photo from our annual gala, The Love Ball, courtesy of Virgil Ocampo Photography. This was the second year I managed the event, and it felt 100x smoother.

I’m sure I forgot even the most major milestones of this past year – it’s hard to believe I can write so much about the ones above and still have more blessings.

I’m also extremely thankful for all of you who stop by every morning and show your support. I so appreciate you reading, commenting, following and sharing.

Happy Thanksgiving week (or day or month) of gratitude to you and yours – furry friends included of course :-) I hope you have a lovely Holiday among family and friends!


Thanksgiving Day Parade

There is no better way to get in the Holiday spirit than a festive Thanksgiving Day Parade! Our shelter participated in one this weekend and it was so much fun. It’s a great chance to interact with our community, and – better yet – get some adoptable dogs into the spotlight.

I brought adoptable “pit bull” dog Luna. I cannot even begin to describe how hard I fell in love with her in just the few hours we hung out. She is less than a year old, and she’s got so much energy that it’s rare for each of her four paws to be on the ground at the same time when you first meet her. But I love her. She immediately caught on to the fact that jumping on me was going to get her ignored, and that sitting politely would get her treats.  The transformation I saw in just one hour while we were waiting for the parade to start was remarkable and showed me how much potential she really has. She’s also great with other dogs. Awesome dog, no? Not to mention she is stinkin’ CUTE!

We also had adoptable Mystic on the route with us! She wasn’t too keen on all the noises and people, so she greeted fans from inside our van. You can see that she performed that job perfectly!

We invite shelter alumni to join us in the parade as well.  MCHS alum Taz come with his family, and he was dressed to the nines in his elf outfit. Here he is with his big brother.

As you can see, it was a great morning for shelter dogs in the community! Happy Thanksgiving week!

If you think you’d like to add Luna or Mystic and their adorable ears to your family, email me at peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Giving Thanks.

This is super cliché, but I’m going to take advantage of the holidays and spend a moment giving some thanks. I think it is always important to sit back and appreciate what you have, and who makes it possible.

Being a foster is not something you can do by yourself (and if you do pull that off, I give you infinite props). I’ve generally found that the more hands on deck, the easier it is. Between exercising and feeding and supervising and tucking into bed and training and loving… fostering is a lot of work. I would not be able to help any dog without a few people who make it possible. I want to thank those in my life who have helped me along the way and who still help me day in and day out with the pups who need us.

My parents.

My parents got us a dog as a kid so that we could have a dog to grow up with. Of course, as it has probably happened with many of you, Barley ended up being taken care of almost entirely by my mom. By the time his soft little heart stopped beating, Mom was ready to take a break from the dog world for a while. Little did she know three days later I was going to walk a wobbly little blue pit bull into our house.

My parents are extremely supportive of me, especially for things that make me so happy. Since my first foster Otis, they have diligently helped care for each dog I bring home, no questions asked. They alleviate the burden on me any time they can by letting the dog out while I’m at work or tucking it in at night when I stay out late or feeding it if I’m at work longer than usual or buying it extra supplies to make it comfortable. My parents go above and beyond when it comes to helping me with my fosters, and I absolutely could not help as many dogs as I do/will in the future without their help.

Daddy and his "bora bora"

Love and a Six-foot Leash.

Aleksandra from L&ASFL taught me close to everything I know about fostering so far. I could not have asked for a better person to cross paths with at MCHS. Co-fostering Zabora with Aleks taught me worlds on how to navigate through the waters of fostering, applications, and adoptions. She is always, and I mean literally at any time, willing to pick up the phone or type out an email to help me with anything I ask regarding fostering, pitties, or life. Her work is beyond inspiring, and her reach and impact on the community is something I aspire for someday.  I can 100% blame her blog for getting me interested in fostering, and her advice & words of encouragement for keeping me going.

Photo cred to Love & a Six-foot Leash. Love you guys!

My boyfriend, Mark.

I doubt Mark knew at all what he was getting into when we started dating a year and a half ago. He quickly learned about my love for animals, and watched as my entire world turned into rescue tunnel vision when I started my job in June. While he was skeptical about me fostering at first, Mark loves and has loved every dog I introduced him to. Not only is he supportive, but he has also made an effort to listen to and learn the things I come home blabbering about. He is now keen on dog behavior, is a pit bull convert, and is a rescue/adoption advocate. I adore him for how much he helps me out with my dogs, especially since so much of this was new for him.

The Montgomery County Humane Society.

Working on the inside of MCHS has opened my eyes to the incredible things this shelter does.  We are county contracted, meaning a few things: we are required by law to take in any animal that comes through our doors, the county has complete control over our building (meaning changes, repairs, etc.), and only half of our budget is provided by the county – the rest comes from private donations and special events (my job!). With all this, we (not really me, mostly “they”) do a great job at keeping our animals happy, healthy, and adoptable.

Our adoption rates are extremely high, and our team is dedicated to the well being of every single animal. We just got a little kitten surgery for a malformed sternum, we recently saved an extremely emaciated dog and he is now recovering in foster care, and we do routine grooming and hygiene maintenance for all of our animals to keep them comfy (by we I mean our great kennel staff).  The people who work there are truly amazing, something I have discovered through working there and getting to know everyone. Every single one of my coworkers inspires me to do my best every day to help the animals.

Jasmine’s House.

This appreciation is especially relevant right now; as Jasmine’s House Rescue (JHR) just lost a puppy they put many many hours, dollars, and love into helping. RIP little Mickey. The first part of this situation is standard for JHR – the love, the compassion, and the care they put into their dogs. Aleksandra said it best to me once when she said, “Catalina would do anything to help a dog.” Both Catalina and Kate, the co-founders of JHR, would do absolutely anything necessary to help a dog in need. They pulled both Zabora and Georgia from MCHS when we asked, with no question – and they do that for so many other dogs from MCHS and shelters around the area. They saved sweet Baxter from his life of fear and neglect, giving him the TLC he needed to learn how to feel comfortable in his own skin. These women, and all those who work for their rescue, are incredible in what they do.

They are also a wonderful rescue to work with, making their foster homes feel welcomed, appreciated, and supported. Without them I would not have Baxter in my life (in fact, who knows where he would be right now) and I would not have been introduced to a whole new circle of compassionate, intelligent advocates.  I am constantly moved by what they do, and look forward to working with such an extraordinary group for many years to come.

Cataline (left) and Kate (right). Photo cred http://www.jasmineshouse.org

My Fellow Bloggers.

Your comments, your posts, your advice…. what a huge help! Having so many other foster parents and rescue advocate peers right at my fingertips is one of the best results of social media these days. I can’t even begin to count the things I have learned by browsing your facebook pages, your blogs, and your comments – not to mention the laughs, the bonds, and the relief of knowing there is someone out there dealing with the same issues. And it’s all real experiences and real outlooks! You all are invaluable when it comes to learning about this world – thank you!

Baxter says "thanks!" from the bottom of his little heart.

So of course that isn’t everyone, because the world of fostering is impacted by so many. I am so grateful for who I am surrounded by – I wish I could send everyone “Thank You” carrier pigeons or something.  Gratitude is one of the things I hold closest to my heart, I wish everyone knew how much I appreciate them.

I hope everyone has a great holiday and enjoys it with family, friends, and animals.

Baxter is excited that Thanksgiving means we get to start preparing for Christmas!

And again…. THANK YOU : -)

For more information on adopting Comeback Kid Baxter, click here or email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


For the Love of Muploads: Baxter Edition

I had so much fun sharing my Mobile Uploads of Zabora, I want to share some of the ones I’ve collected of Baxter over the last two weeks. Since both him and my iPhone come almost everywhere with me, I’m able to capture some pretty great moments that show off his goofy personality. Enjoy!

On the mall in front of McKeldin! Go Terps!

At the UMD tailgate helping Mark pick up chicks.

Bax loves Fall hikes!

Pretty pic Instagrammed.

"Mom. Are you suuuuure I have to wear this bandanna?"

The nice fluffy winter coat fostergrandma got him.

I am so happppyyyy!

The perfect tuck dive.

Job title: tail wagger extraordinaire.

MUG SHOT.

Look at me breakdance in my cool blue sweater.

This is how we feel about Mondays.

He ALWAYS finds the sunspots.

Monkey on the jungle gym! On one of our evening walks.

I took all the sheets off my bed to re-make it, and Bax quickly took advantage of the opportunity.

No bed is too small for Baxter to enjoy!

This is my life now. Dinner with myself and a dog at my feet. I'm not complaining.

THE RAINCOAT.

Could it be....? A SANTA HAT!? Why yes. Baxter sized. Tis the season, more to come.

Baxter and Charlie hangin out at work.

Getting ready for his debut in the Thanksgiving Parade!

The life of Baxter. Making me jealous with every hour napped.

I love him and his big nose!

For more information on adopting Comeback Kid Baxter, click here or email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.