Bryncess

I guess it’s time to talk about how we came to foster the little Princess. It was just another Saturday and we were doing assessments of some dogs for intake. Most were dogs whose owners had contacted us about surrender but one was from a shelter in another town. She was either the third or fourth assessment of the day and Asia, my daughter, was meeting people in the parking lot and getting paperwork filled out while getting some of each dog’s story. 


Princess was on the E list at the shelter. We were told she was dog aggressive, had chased a cat and had busted through a screen (though no one could articulate why). Immediately I was on edge. Why would we waste a spot on a dog like that? Furthermore, she didn’t want to walk anywhere on her own, so there she stood with her head hung down mirroring her woebegone tail. No spark. She stood for all of the poking and prodding of the assessment with the stoicism of one who has seen it all and could no longer care about the outcome until the rawhide test. 


We’d found something that she was interested in and she caught a bit of a spark and seemed almost alive. Then during the parallel walk and brief interactions we were pleasantly surprised that she seemingly had no desire to attack the other dog. It was during this time that between looking at this dog who still had a small spark and the pleading face of my daughter that the word vomit erupted. “If she passes assessment, I will foster her.”  

Wait. What?

She obviously passed but some of her backstory was emerging and I hated the name Princess due to our own over use. I was thinking of Cecilia but I didn’t want her to break my heart or shake my confidence so I settled on Bryn which sounded enough like the beginning of her “old” name.

She was presented to us as four, but her paperwork said five and she looks to be closer to six, is heartworm positive, has some broken teeth, skin tags and some suspicious lumps. That, along with an unknown level of “cat chasing” was going to make her a trial foster just to see if she could remain peaceabully at the assembly.


Check back to read about the first full weekend.

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To My Sensei

One of Julius’s batshit crazy habits most endearing traits is his high-pitched terrier screech followed closely by his Chewbacca moan both of which he shares with us when he is overly excited.  This excitement may stem from people, or people and dogs walking past the house, seeing people, seeing dogs, or just wanting to go outside in general.  He also does it, though to a much lesser degree now when we go to class.  Last week as he was announcing his arrival, Jan observed that it could possibly stem from some anxiety which really set me to thinking.  Ray is my anxiety ridden dog that we coddle and have to work around special circumstances whereas Julius is my public dog who loves attention and affection, after all he’s my kissing booth bandit!

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But as the hour progressed and we got into our groove, I had a moment of enlightenment.  Julius probably doesn’t really have anxiety as much as I’m making him feel anxious.  I wait to be nearly the last one out of class and the first one in so that we don’t encounter others on lax long leashes, I triple and quadruple gates in my house when a foster is with us, everyone eats with a minimum of six feet and one human between them and mostly any other dog within my eagle-eye view is a potential threat to me.

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Wooo!  Stranger Danger!

So we decided to try a hands-free leash so that my anxiety wouldn’t travel the length of the lead and translate to Julius.  I have two and with all of those lovely D-rings I was in clip and carry heaven so after using it at the adoption event for Bryn, I loaded it with my gear for Julius’s pack walk.

So this morning I got Bryn up and down the street as fast as a scaredy hippo will go and then set off to the walk with Julius after promising Ray his turn afterwards.  For whatever reason upon arriving at our destination, I was immediately crabby, another dog was wound up, Julius was keyed up and I could feel my exasperation building.  As we started walking and I weighed my options I got more and more agitated as did Julius.  “I should probably yank him around and cuss at him,” said the devil on my shoulder and the weakling on the same shoulder laughed and said, “Just turn around and go home, you can’t do this.”  As I clutched my hand’s free leashes, I looked at Julius and said, “We are a team and we can do this, little man.” So I dropped my death grip on the leashes around myself and opened my arms.

 

Breathe in….get it ready.

Breathe out…let it go.

Breathe in….

Breathe out…

I consciously drew my arms up and in, then out and away…in….inhale…out….exhale…

And what happened?  My teammate relaxed.  We walked.  He pulled less and stopped whining.  We hit our stride and walked the walk.

We weren’t perfect, but we were working together as a team and at that moment in time that was all we needed.

#TeamJulius

Geeking Out

Julius and I are four weeks into his first formal class.  When I took the Karen Pryor Foundations Class he was my practice dog but that is about all he has gotten in the way of any formal training whereas Ray has taken three series of classes.  What this new series of classes has done for the three of us is really astonishing to me although to many it may be just a “duh” moment.  I’ll tell you a little secret:  we always considered Julius a little on the simple side, especially compared to Ray, even though many of Juli’s responses are more like regular dog responses.  I began to realize that Juli’s simplicity stemmed more from my own shortcomings and impatience with shaping, and not at all from him so we decided to enroll in class.  Julius is my dog of the world and though I once hoped Ray would earn his CGC, I know that is more of Juli’s destiny so off to school we went.

Shared Learning

I’d say the biggest bonus was that once Ray realized what Julius and I were doing, he began to brush up on his own cues, so as we sit on opposites of the kitchen we sharpen our skills as a family.

I love getting both of my big guys engaged which just makes us bond that much more and although I may be anthropomorphizing a bit, I feel like their self-esteem is skyrocketing as well.  Since they have learned some of their cues differently I try to be very conscious about rewarding any blending that they may do.  I’m telling you though, I’m so geeked out with all of the things Julius is learning that I nearly shed tears of pride each week.  I think that tonight when he so quickly caught on to putting his feet on the squishy bone Jan, the trainer and I nearly started hopping up and down with glee.

Really Reliable Training

Tonight after class one of the “students” got loose in the parking lot and while her dad tried chasing her around frantically, we heard “pup pup pup pup” in a high-pitched voice from her mom and the little dog responded immediately and ran back to her mom’s waiting arms while the rest of us clapped our appreciation.  I’d like to say that got me thinking about a recent encounter, but the truth is, I was just happy for that family and drove home with an air of contentment.

A few weeks ago as I was walking Ray, I realized the neighbor’s little Yorkie pup was loose.  I’d never seen him before but I’d met them a week or two prior when they were combing the neighborhood for him.  Now my Ray-Ray is great on walks for the most part.  When dogs lose their shit bark from behind fences, doors, or windows he completely ignores them and often crosses to the other side of the street but coming head on is still more of a catastrophe.  I can usually lure him into a fairly decent ignore if I haven’t been able to change walking directions quickly enough but as far as his walks go, Ray has a pretty standard path he like to tow and he doesn’t often deviate, so the day the Yorkie was trying to engage him in play by bouncing in circles around us was a freaking disaster. I was trying to get Ray away, trying to keep the Yorkie away, cussing yelling at the kids to get their dog, yelling at the hubby who was yelling at me all while Ray was trying to have himself a nice Yorkie peppermint patty.  That we got in the house without any physical trauma to the dogs (other than Ray’s nails getting trimmed a bit) and without me falling down was a miracle.

Tonight as a reward for being so patient and sweet while Julius was in class, I decided to take Ray for a quick walk before tackling the search for some dinner for myself and as we rounded the corner what did my wondering eyes see but Barak the Yorkie strolling around the street.  “Ray, let’s go home.”  Blank stare. “Ray, let’s go the other way.” Blank stare.  Ray, danger!”  We immediately did an about-face and trotted as fast as my old and his lame legs would take us back to the front door of our home where I got his harness off and went back out to help wrangle the wayward Yorkie after which Ray and I resumed our walk.

Worth More Than Gold

I’m honestly astounded by the number of people who resist the thought of “obedience classes.”  I put that in quotations because that is actually the last thing I think of when I think of class.  Communication class may be a better phrase, or maybe Understanding Class or Bonding Class would work.  The fee you pay will be worth more than the replacement fee for your favorite shoes, your sofa, your drywall or your sanity and it will sure as hell help keep your dog in your home. Amortize the fee over x amount of weeks and add in the few minutes each day when you get to practice one on one (or two on one) with your dog and get to watch him blossom and you’ll realize it’s the best bit of change you could have ever spent because the reward is immeasurable.

Oh! And as Ray and I resumed our walk we ran into Barak’s mom who asked us about training classes, so we will be dropping info off to her tomorrow.

 

Many thanks to Janis, Margery, Jodie and Lesley .

Ready to Take a Chance Again 

Today two heart broken women began to heal and in two separate instances, two dogs found their forever home. Though the stories of the heart break are not mine to tell, I’m honored that I was able to be a part of the healing process and in one of the instances, one of my favorite dogs found his destiny.

No More Dogs

Today a family of three adults stood before me, two of them barely holding in the tears that welled up in their eyes until at last they spilled over.  I held the woman who feared she’d never again have a dog to love but so quickly realized that the love she had to give would out-weigh any reservations so she and her family took that brave next step and opened their hearts and their home to a sweet boy named Phineus.

Phineus, thief of hearts ♥️

A New Beginning

Today a young woman strolled through a Farmer’s market with her handsome (and nearly perfect) dog in tow for the first time. I imagine a small yet quivering smile on her face as she basks in the moment as young hands reach out to pet her dog, who laps up the attention with such unabashed joy. 

This sunlit trip to a local Farmer’s market was probably being played out a thousand times through a thousand locations with a thousand people and their dogs but what made this special was that this trip sealed the deal. Upon returning home, Wilfred finally was home. 


Wilfred. Wilfred has a long and sad story full of allergies and skin issues. The pain and discomfort he must have been living with took months to figure out a solution for and after two failed adoptions which resulted in the return of a nearly hairless dog with angry, seeping, red skin we found him a great foster family who nursed him back to his handsome good health and we set down some rules for Wilfred’s next and last adopter. His care will cost x amount annually. The brand of food he needs to eat and the medicine he needs daily and weekly will not be negotiable. When inquiries came in, I’d lead with the dollar amount and I rightly scared away plenty of potential adopters.

And then an application came in. It wasn’t for Wilfred and I wasn’t going to pay it much attention. Because of the location I mentally counted how many dogs were sitting in shelters between here and there and I felt immediately pissed but then I asked a mutual and highly respected friend who gave a glowing recommendation, so I called the applicant. After hearing her story and chatting with her I became certain that not only was she meant to meet Wilfred but I believe I was meant to help her find her next dog. 

Rambling 

Much of both stories are really for myself. Without sharing the details, a reader (are you still there?) won’t really understand the significance of each story and like I said, they aren’t my stories to tell. The thing that amuses me about some people is how few understand why we have out process in place. We received a message one night at just after midnight – “I just filled out an application so when can I come meet dogs?” Ummm, well, not right now…. I want to ask these people if they fill out job applications and then just “show up to work” without he benefit of oh say an interview? 

I take my “job” seriously and am more than a little bit proud of the process. We don’t just give you a dog because you fell in love with the look in her eyes. We talk to you, we ask questions, we get to know you and by the time you’ve adopted we feel like friends and we are happy to have shared in the journey. We are certainly not perfect at it but with each day we learn and we get better.  Some days we are hugged by broken hearted people who are beginning to heal. Sometimes we shed a tear for a dog who deserves all the wonderful things in life and we know he has finally gotten the great life he deserves.

We are rescuers and we save lives…and heal broken hearts.

Rain Man Walking

With a break in the hair-raising humidity and torrential rains,  I sat out on the back patio after work to soak up some vitamin D and watch the boys play, which to me was heartwarming to see them playing so well, though the sound is certainly not for the faint-hearted.  After dinner I figured we’d settle in for some couch potato-ing but seeing them being so good and knowing that they’d enjoy it, I decided to take them each for a walk around the neighborhood.

Julius and I went out first and strolled down the streets I rarely get to walk on.  He is easy and our walk was silent and companionable.  He’s been rocking his Halti instead of his harness and it has been a game changer.  Juli is always good in his harness-don’t get me wrong- but the Halti like I said was a game changer.  He still rubs his head on my legs occasionally but there were several times I had to look to see if he was still with me because the slackness in the leash was so alarming…and gratifying.

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My Rockstar.

I love that we are getting to such a good place and that we can enjoy the quiet companionship together.

Awaiting me at home was Ray with his soft, hopeful eyes and his bouncy-cow hop.  Ray is normally fine just wearing a martingale collar for walks but Julius and I had seen Daisy, a neighbor’s dog, lounging off leash in her yard and since the said yard is on Ray’s walking route, we opted for the Freedom harness for Ray just in case we needed some extra control.

Ray is like the Rain Man on walks; he has a certain route and routine that must be strictly adhered to unless he decides it doesn’t.  Normally, we depart the driveway and make a beeline across the street to the lamp-post to leave some pee-mail.  We then recross the street and skim along our side yard to the neighbor behind us where we (Ray) pees on her corner lamp post, and continues to the American Bulldog’s house to …do more than pee.  We then retrace our steps back and walk around the next block, up the street and around the corner…past Daisy’s house.

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“The Look” gets me every time.

Tonight I’d like to sincerely thank the neighbor with the “doodle” puppy.  As Ray was preparing his poo spot I noticed they were walking toward us but still a good distance away yet also in the exact direction my Rain Man and I would be heading.  I knew the possibility of Ray losing his shit reacting to the puppy if it were coming head on toward us was a real possibility.  The next few minutes stretched on as I fumbled for a poop bag and scooped up after Ray all the while throwing furtive glances to the approaching pair trying to will them to turn away and still remain calm so that Ray wouldn’t pick up on my mood.  I began regaling him with the temptation of yummy treats in order to lure him in another direction while he stood, glancing between his suddenly crazy mom who wanted to go the wrong way and the approaching puppy.  The neighbor (thank goodness) realized what I was doing and slowed her approach and indicated the direction she needed to take to get home.  I ended up luring Ray to a yard to partake of some yummy snacks while the lady carried her doodle past us, “I don’t want him to slip his collar” she said with a smile, passing us by as if the entire interaction was completely normal. It was truly a nice change from “It’s ok…my dog is friendly” people.

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“Woooo, I say.”

As we continued on Ray’s favorite path and headed up the street towards where I knew Daisy was lying out on her driveway, my mind continued to spin thinking of ways to try to cajole my stubborn dog to make a detour I heard the sweetest sound.  Daisy’s “dad” had just turned on a dreaded leaf-blower.  Ray stopped and looked at me…”Let’s go this way,” I said, pointing in the opposite direction.  As we approached our house from the wrong direction and doubled back to another pee-mail location, I took a moment to bask in the warm glow of the realization that Ray trusts me to keep him safe from things like doodle puppies, leaf blowers and other random items of lawn equipment.  For that he earned a nice slice of dried sweet potato.

How does your dog let you know that you’re earning doggie thumbs up?

Margeaux

Three days. 

 When I walked you out of the shelter on a Wednesday, I believed that you would be adopted three days later at our adoption event. Apparently you and the Grand Scheme had other plans since you remained a Peaceabull for eight weeks before your family found you. We had a few applications which went down in flames and left me scratching my head in confusion; dogs that look like you get snapped up very quickly.

 

On your second day at the Assembly, you and Julius had a Peaceabull parallel walk followed by pictures in the back yard which lead to quite the big brother/little sister relationship. How could we have anticipated that while Julius was your special friend, all other comers would pale in comparison? Maybe it was his cool, aloof air that drew you to him. You’d prance and spin in front of him attempting to get him to play and on the rare occasions that he’d engage, he would invite you to chase him around the yard. I believe each time you “caught” him it was because he gave you some leeway as a big brother might do, but you were proud to catch him in all of is gazelle-like speed.


 

Your unshakable certainty that all humans were put in your path specifically to love, be loved (and slimed) by you was one of the facets of your personality that initially drew me to you. Being in a shelter did not inhibit your effervescence and your kind, forgiving spirit glowed in your soft brown eyes. Evenings I’d spend some one on one time with you and gently cup your big head and gaze into those loving eyes, I’d whisper into your nubby ears that you’ll always be my baby girl and I love you with all my heart. I’d promise to find you the best, most loving home just as you deserve. I’d bury a vow in your neck that you’ll always have a home with us if you ever need it, but a better one of your own is out there waiting for you and I would find it for you.

 

My resolve waivered often; I wanted to keep you so I could have my own little piggy-girl to take out in public and shop with. You were the perfect car companion. You LOVE car rides. Remember the East Coast trip we shared? You hopped (ok, lumbered) into the back seat and promptly set out to snoring as I drove along the stretches of highway. The funny thing about that trip was that while you were such a good rider, I still had the impression that you felt like you were going to be abandoned somewhere along the route. Is that what happened to you so many months ago? Were you bred and dumped when your perceived usefulness was done? We bonded on that trip; our all girl road trip was one that I’ll always remember with fondness. When we returned you went on a few more meet and greets which never really panned out and each time you returned my heart soared just a bit and then constricted at my selfish thought. 

You loved us, of that I am sure. You loved your circumstances because you’re a girl of simple needs; two meals a day at your regular time, a bedtime snack, lullabies on Alexa at night and children’s music by day, a soft bed, fuzzy blankets and a few chew toys all made you happy. “Go to your room!” always found you waddling into the office where you spent so much time behind a baby gate and yet, you didn’t seem to mind one bit. You and Ray-Ray would gaze at each other and I have a feeling you would have become best friends eventually, but your family found you.

 

That they are your family I was always sure, even though I briefly tried to talk myself out of that notion. But they are yours. They love you and you love them, as it should be. As I loaded your belongings into the van, you didn’t seem sad or uneasy. In fact, you seemed to know. I was a wreck and I tearfully told Kevin that if this meet and greet didn’t work out and you came back, you would never leave again. In his manly (tearful) way, he agreed. I didn’t know if I could do it, didn’t know if I could let you go and leave you but when we arrived, I just knew. This was your home and your family had indeed found you. After overstaying my welcome and reiterating all of your likes and dislikes way too many times, I scooted out the door and you were so entranced with your very own human boy that you hardly noticed my departure. In the van, the van I figured I’d be crying my eyes out in, I felt nothing but peace and joy. I’d found your family and I had no qualms about the match. My little piggy, my Margeaux in the morning, my little love…the little foster dog who touched the hearts of so many and ignited a movement on Facebook in just 8 weeks and has now moved on to her forever home just as it should be. 

Remember you are loved.

 

Foster Flip-Flop

As the person who approves the adoption applications for our rescue, sets up and often does the meet and greets, I have a confession to make.  I get annoyed with fosters who get so attached that they make it harder for a dog to transition.  Granted, it doesn’t happen every time  but often enough that I’ve rolled my eyes a time or two.  Other than Margeaux, my longest foster(s) were the Sugar family; Sugar Marie and her litter of seven puppies. As much as I loved the puppies, by the time they were ready for adoption I was ready for them to go.  They lived in our finished basement which meant each time they needed to go outside we were transporting baskets of puppies up stairs, through the house and out to the back.  And then back to the basement.  Other than that, we’ve had guests for a night or two, but not much more.

I pulled Margeaux on a Wednesday knowing we had an adoption event on Saturday so I assumed she would be a three-day foster. Here we are now seven weeks later and with no open applications on her accompanied by lots of pressure from her Facebook fans for us to adopt her. Believe me, we’ve talked non-stop about the pros and cons of officially adopting Miss Piggy and while she is welcome to stay here as long as it takes for her to find a home and we haven’t completely ruled out being that home, we truly believe there is a better situation out there for her.

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So the Great Debate regarding Margeaux first and foremost begins with Ray.  Nearly two years ago Ray underwent a TTA surgery on his rear left leg and he will likely need a double surgery on his rear right leg this year.  Not only might he need a TTA surgery, but we’ve always known he may need to have a luxating patella repaired as well.  Margeaux requires very little time and attention but to decrease the availability of that wouldn’t be fair to her.  Furthermore, Ray is not a good patient.  His extreme anxiety dictates so much of how we live our lives that if Margeaux wasn’t completely integrated by then I fear she would suffer the lack of companionship and while she and Ray have parallel walked, they have not physically met yet.

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Then there is Julius.  Because Julius and Margeaux had such a successful meeting I became convinced that Margeaux was super dog friendly which has proven to not be the case.  Julius and Margeaux walked then proceeded to the back yard for pictures.  After the pictures were done, Julius in his Joe-cool-chicks-dig-me way, walked away from Margeaux and she has spent the following six and a half weeks trying to gain Juli’s attention. To say he’s fairly noncommittal about her would be an understatement.  He likes being in the yard with her as long as she doesn’t actually try to interact with him. When I was in my teens, my sister who is six years younger than I, used to sit outside my closed bedroom door hoping to hang out with me.  Sometimes I’d magnanimously allow her to enter as long as she followed the rules.  The rules were that she could sit in one small designated spot with her hands folded in her lap, not touch anything and not speak.  I see a lot of these rules in play as they apply to Julius and his little adoring foster sister.

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As much as we love her and as the debate rages on, we steadfastly tell ourselves that we are her foster family and as such we are doing our best to prepare her to transition her forever home.