It Takes A Village

 *Update: Bentley got adopted today.  5/6/15.  I won’t pretend  that while I’m happy that I might have had just the slightest twist to my heart when I got the news.  

Sometimes the stories that mean the most are hardest to write; at least they seem harder to start. This one has been pinging around in my head for awhile and I keep trying and discarding the beginning, so maybe it will help if I just let it flow.

I’m wondering if this story is so hard to start because there are so many morals to it. Maybe it’s just not organized as well as I’d like it to be for the telling.

Some people shy away from adopting a shelter dog because they don’t know the dog’s history. In many cases, even if a dog winds up at the shelter because the owner surrendered it (rather than showing up as a stray) we don’t really know the history. We know the provided history only. I guess there are the people who have run out of resources and have to surrender and then there are those who just need to “get rid” of their pet. It can’t be easy and those people may or may not be aware that their words at surrender could possibly condemn your dog unfairly.

The first time I saw Bentley was in a picture that was sent to me on March 26th.

 

I had been an official Board member of the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition for a whole five days when a Board member from a neighboring shelter contacted me about an abundance of Pit Bulls currently at their facility. We set a time to come and evaluate possible candidates for our rescue and I was the first to arrive so the Warden’s wife took me on a mini tour and I met the 6 pit bulls in house. Immediately Bentley grabbed my attention. In a large, clean pole barn stood two long banks of double kennels which could be partitioned off in case of a full house. Amid all of the barking and jumping on kennel doors, sat a large red lump with an impossibly large head. As we walked along the line, I was given a brief recap of the little bit of info available on each dog. The majority of the dogs were known by the number on their kennel and not given names, unless they arrived with one.

Bentley and Trina were the only Pit bulls with names. Trina had become the Warden’s wife’s favorite and then there was the large red lump named Bentley. Apparently Bentley was surrendered with nearly the equivalent of a death sentence: “He’s great with people and kids, but tries to kill other animals, including horses.”

When the rest of the team arrived, we began bringing the dogs out to the yard for assessment. The younger dogs, the under one crew were about as expected and pretty much all fun, all the time. The young adult females were also good but with a few slight health issues and all the while we struggled a bit to find a “neutral dog” for the tests. We tried Trina as the neutral dog and she soon showed that not only was she not neutral, but she might not be a very good candidate for …anything. She was returned to her kennel and not evaluated. Finally after all five were seen, the Warden’s wife, turned plaintive eyes to us and asked that we just look at Bentley. Just try.

Long story short, Bentley quickly became the star of the day and left us all wondering about his true past. He and two others were selected for the Coalition-when space became available-but should be left to the adoption floor in the meantime, just in case.

Days then weeks passed and the Coalition, always short of Fosters, did not have space and the Pit Bulls sat.

Waiting.

 

One month later, I received another message that the same shelter was full and needed some relief and this came at the same time that our own shelter was able to pull some dogs, though with the abundance of abandoned Pit bulls in our community, that type of dog as well as Chihuahuas and a few others was rarely “imported.” However, since Bentley had specially touched me, I was hopeful that he might be among the chosen to come to our shelter.

“What is the benefit of pulling dogs from one shelter just to put them in another one?” the Warden’s wife asked. The Allen County SPCA’s kennels are full of enrichment and some training for their temporary guests. Generally when walking through the kennels, one is greeted with soft music and otherwise silence. Dogs learn quickly that sitting quietly buys treats while jumping and barking brings nothing.

 

Bentley was pulled (have I mentioned how much I love that Executive Director of ours?) and quickly became a staff favorite as well as a garner of compliments from the Veterinarian’s office staff while visiting for his snip-snip.  Even on his first day at our shelter, I got the sense that he was happy to be there and he recognized his good fortune and saw his bright future.

Had we relied solely on the surrender information, and without a good word from the Warden’s wife, Bentley might not have been evaluated and certainly may have languished in the kennel until his space was needed. His big, sweet face haunted my mind, but had we not evaluated him, I might have let him go from my mind. Had he not shown himself to be a huge cinnamon sugar cookie of a dog, he might not have had a champion pulling for him. I don’t know.

 
What I do know is that despite whatever may or may not have happened in the past and because so many people stepped up and gave him a chance, Bentley’s future is bright.

But it takes a village.

Indy Mutt Strut 2015

Although I’ve lived the majority of my life in Indiana, I’ve never attended nor visited the famous raceway in Indianapolis, home of the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard 400. In fact, although I do go to Indianapolis fairly often, I didn’t really even know on what side of town the track could be found. That changed when fellow dog mom, Lisa, suggested we attend the Indy Mutt Strut which is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

  

Billed as The Greatest Spectacle in Dog Walking, it promised to be a pretty cool event (over 7000 humans and 6000 pets attended in 2014 in support of the Indianapolis Humane Society)but the dilemma was that Ray is my usual “event” dog but I was pretty sure that walking on the 2.5 mile track would not be a go for him and if Lisa decided to bring Clyde, we would probably have to drive separately as Ray and Clyde haven’t yet met and that wouldn’t be any fun. I could bring Julius, since he and Clyde are besties, but I just felt that a 2 hour car ride might not be the greatest idea for Julius who sometimes gets car sick. We then talked about going dog-less, but that idea just made me feel sad. In the end, I decided to bring Titan, who is adoptable through the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition and Lisa brought Clyde.

  

Lisa and Clyde met me at my house and we headed down to Titan’s foster. The plan was to walk them a bit and gauge reactions and if it was a no-go then Titan would stay home but fortunately they clicked well enough and off we went.

  

Titan is just a year old and all puppy. He takes a significant amount of time to settle, so a very short distance into the trip Lisa decided to sit in the jump seat directly behind me in the Pittie Van and kept the two adolescent boys in check. Whenever he was told to lie down, Titan happily obliged by flopping down and offering an invitation to rub his belly and after only 80 miles on the road, he (and everyone else) settled in for a power nap.

Since we had had Titan out at Pet Expo, we knew he was solid with other dogs and Saturday proved to be no different. The venue looked very inviting and we were offered complimentary poop bags before going to the registration tables. (Who else but dog moms get excited over free poop bags?)

After registration we wandered around the booths collecting freebies and occasionally getting wet from the persistent rain before deciding to try walking around the famous track. We ended up walking an embarrassingly short distance before deciding that 2.5 miles in the rain was not a lot of fun so we did a bit more shopping before heading back home.

Back at the Pittie van, Clyde claimed the spot in the very back and hid behind the jump seat in an effort to proclaim that he didn’t appreciate being trapped in a moving box with a toddler, tortured by walking in the rain, then hustled (wet) back into the box with a (wet) toddler.

Fortunately the drive home was uneventful and we dropped Titan and off at his Foster home and left him with a new leash and all of the doggie treats we had collected to share with his foster sister.

If you would like more information about Titan, please visit the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition’s website or Facebook page.

Expo Time!

What a beautiful weekend it was here in Northeast Indiana. On Saturday the sun was shining, birds were singing and what seemed like the entire neighborhood was outside doing yard work. Sunday was warm but overcast and that lead to rain which lead to good nap taking weather.

 

I actually didn’t do either thing on either day because it was time once again for the Northern Indiana Pet Expo and as is my custom, I worked volunteered both days. Each year rescues and shelters bring adoptable animals and vendors bring their wares and we immerse ourselves in All! Things! Pet! for the weekend. (Because we clearly aren’t about All! Things! Pet! the majority of the time.)  

 

This year was a bit different because for the first year I split my time between two organizations rather than dedicating the entire weekend to one.  On Saturday I spent the day with the adorable handful of love named Benson who became also known as Benny Boo Boo Boo Boo Boo Boo Boo. (Recommend that his be said in your best Kate Hudson voice.)

Benson

Benson

The rap on him was that he was a handful, but staff had been working really hard with him on his manners and it really showed. He was a delightful companion who is probably resting comfortably on his own sofa right about now.

 

Recently, after a bit of soul-searching, I wondered to myself why I wasn’t involved with the local Pit Bull Coalition after all I live with and love Pit Bull-type dogs and am committed to helping them, so what was I waiting for? The truth is, the Coalition has had its ups and downs and until I met one of the Board Members on a Pack walk, I wasn’t sure how the mission was being carried out. After learning more and going through the interview process, I’m pretty proud to say that I am a new Volunteer and Board Member of the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition. As such, I worked at the Coalition booth on Sunday where we hosted the rambunctious but polite Titan (whom I’ve met and transported already)

Titan

Titan

and the very sweet and slightly shy Bug-A-Boo (with whom I clicked immediately).

Bug-a--Boo

Bug-a–Boo

I was bemused at how many people mistook Benson and Titan for Julius and Boo for Ray. Both received applications and will hopefully be in their forever homes soon as the waiting list for those waiting fosters in rescue goes on and on. In the meantime we do what we can for as many as we can. 

We hope your weekend was just as awesome.

 

 

Guest Post-

Quite a few months ago my friend, Lisa, and I were talking about her orientation at Animal Care and Control and about how even people who know that pet homelessness is a problem don’t quite grasp it like those who work “in the trenches” do.  I asked her to write about her thoughts and to be honest, I’ve held this for a few too many days hoping I could make a series out of it, but earlier this week Ray the Victory Dog and his mom had a very good post about just the same topic, so I thought now was as good a time as any.

 

I have volunteered with many animal welfare organizations through the years, worked for a spay/neuter clinic and a Veterinarians office. I have had a behind the scenes view at how all of these different entities work and the hardest thing for me to understand is how a lot of these organizations work against each other. One of the greatest divisions is in the words used to describe a shelter as “kill”, “no kill”, “high kill” etc. These words aren’t only misleading, but immediately label a shelter as good or bad. I prefer that we distinguish the shelters as “open admission” and “limited admission”.

 Open admission shelters are usually what people refer to as “kill” shelters. These are typically the government Animal Care and Controls or Humane Societies. Open admission shelters cannot refuse any animal brought to them. This means that every dog, cat, gerbil, rabbit, snake, goat, pig, cow or alligator.  My local Animal Care and Control is a public safety department and they are assigned the task of euthanizing for the city

“Limited Admissions shelters that pick and choose the pets they admit may sometimes refer to themselves as “no-kill” shelters, because they are not taking in the animals that are being euthanized in their community. However, in every community there are a number of pets (approx. 25% of the pet population in any community) that will NOT be candidates for re-homing due to major medical issues or aggression. So those “no-kill” shelters are simply shifting the euthanasia of animals in their community to another entity.” (Humane Society of Mississippi) Limited admission shelters are typically your non-profit or breed specific organizations. These shelters work solely on public donations and grants.

An equally important organization in the animal welfare community is the local, low cost Spay/Neuter clinic. These organizations are usually non-profits operating on donations, government and private grants. I feel that a spay/neuter clinic is the single most effective tool in raising live release rates (the amount of animals that make it out of a shelter) in a community. Communities without access to these low cost clinics have a difficult time raising their release rates.

My city, which has a population of approximately 256,000, has an average of 53 (last year’s stats of almost 12,000 take in) animals taken to Animal Care and Control every day. At my orientation it was put to us like this. If I dropped off 7 animals at your house tomorrow and asked you to find homes for them, how long do you think that would take? What if I dropped off 7 every day for the rest of your life? How well do you think you would do? The intake numbers were even down from prior years and those numbers have been close to 19,000 intake. This is one shelter is a small city. These numbers don’t include the other thousands that are in various rescues throughout the city. The amount of animals in need dramatically surpasses the availability of homes.

So let’s address the Elephant in every circle and every room of every rescue and shelter, the euthanasia of millions of animals every year in this country. We euthanize animals at an alarming rate because irresponsible people breed, discard, abuse and relinquish every day.  How do we change these statistics and why aren’t we working together to do so?

 There seems to be a huge division within the animal welfare community as to who the good guys and bad guys are. I’ve heard people say that they would never volunteer at a shelter that euthanizes because they think that it is a horrible thing to do to animals. I have seen small shelters essentially flip dogs and cats for profit and notability with little regard to the actual animal. I have also heard the heart wrenching decision made to euthanize a dog because he bit someone, most likely out of fear.

Why the division? I have theories that range from greed to prestige to ego. First of all, there are a lot of people that work/volunteer in rescue because they want to be acknowledged, not because they truly care. There is a mad dash for fund raising and anyone that “takes” money out of your hand is your enemy. There are people that like to feel righteous about their organization and spread rumors about others. There are even rescues that are in it for the money and lie to people about the money spent on care and lie about how many animals are even in the rescue. Veterinarians spread lies about inadequate care and safety to scare clients away from the low cost spay/neuter clinics because they think they are losing money. Humans are hopelessly flawed.

What can we do to change this and reach what should be our true goal, no more homeless animals? We can take the lead from my city where our local Animal Care and Control, SPCA and spay/neuter clinic work as a coalition to save animals. We have introduced a TNR (trap and release) Community cat program that has raised the live release rate by 100% (plus) while ensuring that future litters are not being born. The local SPCA pulls adoptable dogs and cats from the city shelter opening up more space. Both shelters give information to the public about spay/neuter/vaccines at our low cost clinics. All three of these organizations support each other to reach the common goal.

I had become disheartened this past year about the work that was being done locally. I felt that not enough was being done to find homes for the local animals and simultaneously felt that animals were practically being given away to anyone asking.  I had to come to the realization that the demand is so high that sometimes the shelters have to decide to give people a chance or risk that the dog/cat will not be placed. Should we give them the less than perfect home or no home at all? I thought that a lot of these homes were less than ideal in my mind. I was judging too harshly. I realized that on paper, I might not look that great either.

I decided to focus on the good. Look at the number of homes being found. Look at the amount of dedicated volunteers that come in every week to help. Look at the employees that have back and heart breaking jobs, but show up anyway. Look at those faces as they leave the shelter and hop in that car.

If you are a volunteer or animal welfare worker, I ask you to do the same. Show respect for your fellow shelters. Be grateful for the help, discounts and goods provided through the community. Choose your words carefully when speaking about open admission or limited admission shelters. Acknowledge the difficult decisions that have to be made and respect the fact that you aren’t entitled to an explanation. Work hard because it isn’t about you, it is about that innocent life that relies on you to do the right thing.

Many thanks to Lisa Reyes for sharing her thoughts and for letting me publish them.

The Vicktory Dogs

If you know me, you know that I’m mildly obsessed an avid follower of the Vicktory Dogs but truth be told, back in 2007 when the Michael Vick investigation took place, I really didn’t give much thought to “those dogs.”  I’ve never been a fan of MV, but hey, whatevs.  This whole dog fighting thing was foreign to me.

A common question at Best Friends is “how did you hear of us?”  and the pat answer for me was through the Michael Vick thing, but really it was this article that set me on a path that has truly changed my life.  That was when this gal happily plunged down the rabbit hole of Pit Bull ownership, rescue, volunteerism and became not only a fan of so many dog blogs, but of all of the Vicktory Dogs who have a public persona.

Part of my collection.

Part of my collection.

(Side note:  technically “Vicktory Dogs” is the nickname for only the 22 dogs who went to Best Friends though the other roughly 28 dogs might be referred in a similar manner, I use this term both ways.)

So immersed am I in following the incredible journey of these dogs and their families that I often forget (or it never occurred to me) that some people go to Best Friends for reasons other than the Vicktory Dogs.  Still countless others are completely unaware of their existence.  That’s just crazy talk to me.  Until I read that article about Mel, I really never saw these dogs as the victims, even though I was a dog lover.  I just didn’t make the connection.  That article was to change my life for the better and as a part of that, it was my hope to someday meet one of these small heroes who endured so much to come out better on the other side and who have directly effected a change in how dogs from fighting busts are handled.

I knew that there are six Vicktory dogs still at Best Friends as well as one that “works” there so it would be a pretty good bet (I hoped) that I would get to “meet” at least one of them but not in my wildest dreams did I expect what actually happened.

Ray the Vicktory Dog

Earlier this week I mentioned that we “encountered a special surprise” at Angel Village.  Ray was once and always will be a Vicktory Dog, but he now enjoys not only a home of his own but he comes to work every day with his Mom who actually works at Best Friends.  I knew from his Facebook page that he and his Mom walk to Angel Village every day so on Friday, our first day at the Sanctuary, after our tour ended we headed over to Angel Village waiting for lunch to begin.  As we sat in the car, I saw from the mirror a familiar-looking woman walking an oh-so-familiar little dog.  I may or may not have squealed at Kevin, “There’s RAY!” and then proceeded to freeze in my seat.  As they completed their business inside Kevin said, “They’re leaving, you better say Hi,” and I quite literally spilled myself out of the car.  I flung open the door, dropped my camera out of my lap and into the dusty dirt, spilled my purse and caused enough of a ruckus that Ray and his Mom stopped in their tracks, presumably assessing the crazy lady.

They approached and let us pet Ray who leaned against me (swoon) as I gushed we chatted a bit and then Ray’s mom said something magical and so generous to me.  If we finished with lunch early enough, we could come take Ray for a car ride. He isn’t so keen on leash walking with strangers but he will ride in a car with anyone.  Naturally we made sure we were done so that we could have the honor of driving Mr. Ray about the Sanctuary.  He definitely loved his car ride and effectively ignored his chauffeurs!

I’m sure you’re dying right now, right?

Meryl

Lucas and Meryl were court ordered to live out their lives at Best Friends.  Lucas was the grand champion and deemed to be of great value “on the street” so lived out a good life at the Sanctuary.

From Best Friends website:
“Meryl has worked so hard at Best Friends to overcome her painful past as a fighting dog rescued from the property of Michael Vick. It took a lot of effort, time and patience, but Meryl can now meet new people (staff members only) very politely. She can also allow new people near her octagon without having a panic attack. That’s tremendous success for a dog who once equated people with terrible pain and suffering. And now the student has become the teacher! She’s been paying it forward here at Best Friends. Because she has such good leash manners around other dogs, she’s been used as a model for others without the same grace. Meryl’s calm, cool and collected nature puts the other dogs at ease, so they no longer feel compelled to react when passing another dog. Meryl was court-ordered to live at Best Friends for the rest of her life.”

I was fortunate to volunteer at Meryl’s octagon and snap a few pictures of her.  I called her name and she faced me with her ears perked and a friendly countenance.

Meryl

Meryl

She is beautiful, fit and seems like a very happy dog..

Mya and Curly

Meeting Ray and being allowed to take him for a car ride was more than I had ever hoped for.  Seeing pictures hanging in tribute to Lucas in Dogtown’s headquarters was touching, spying Meryl through the fence of her run was very cool and all of those things combined could have been enough to send me home with an overabundance of the warm fuzzies.  But then, there was that one last volunteer shift.

Mya and Curly live in Dogtown offices during the week to help them with their social skills but return to The Clubhouse on the weekends.  The striking thing about all of the Vicktory Dogs was that they are all so tiny; none of them were taller than knee-height to me and I’m only 5’3″.

When I met the caregiver that Sunday morning and we talked about the agenda for the day and my slight obsession interest in the Vicktory dogs he said we would try to get me some time with them.  Just that glimmer of a hope was pretty cool and seeing them in their run was enough to make me happy.  Mya is short and stout with bowed legs and Curly is even smaller and more compact and together their presence could be mistaken for two little shy dogs of no notoriety at all.  When it was time, the caregiver, T,  brought them both out on leash.  His plan was that we would walk side by side and if the dogs didn’t seem too freaked, I would take a leash.  I waited outside with my back turned (non-threatening body language) and he stopped next to me.  Both dogs effectively ignored me as much as I struggled to ignore them so he handed me Mya’s leash and off we went for a walk.  The trail for The Clubhouse like all of the others I had seen have a short version and a longer one, so the caretaker decided we would let Curly and Mya decide which way to go and to my delight, they chose the long path.

I didn’t take any pictures of them.  These two brave little souls are still struggling with strangers and this big world and it wasn’t in my nature to disrupt them at all.  Throughout our walk, “T” and I chatted about all things V-dog while Curly cast backward glances at me as if to insure that I was keeping my distance while Mya stoutly refused to acknowledge that anyone was on the other end of her leash, so there was no need to look around.  I, on the other hand was on cloud 9.

Oh, how do I end this post?  How do I end this adventure?  Eventually our walk came to and end and we returned Mya and Curly to their area where they skittled away quickly and after about a 10 second try to coax them back, we respected their wishes and moved on.  I walked a few more dogs and too soon Kevin came back to collect me and though I shook hands with the caregiver and left politely, inside I was kicking and screaming and refusing to leave.

We were off to the next part of our adventure and  with but  a small exception were both wishing we were back in Angel Canyon.

 

In case you’re wondering, here is a list of V dogs Facebook or other sites to the best of my knowledge and in no particular order.

Ray the Vicktory Dog

Oscar

Cherry Garcia and Cherry Garcia 

Handsome Dan

Vicktory Dog Mel

Vicktory for Layla

Squeaky Jean

Little Red

Stella and Crew

Ginger Girl

Shadow 

Jhumpa Jones

Jasmine’s House

Gracie’s Guardians

Hector the Pitbull

Audie’s Journey

Hallie and Friends
If I’ve missed any, be sure to let me know!

Sleepover Guests

As many readers here are already familiar with Best Friends, it won’t come as a surprise that while staying and volunteering we also brought home a sleepover guest each night.  As you can probably imagine, this was yet another area that we planned for but also were not 100% sure how it worked, so let me share a bit about the experience.

Before we left, the hubby and I poured over pictures of the beautiful dogs that we might want to bring for a sleepover but without knowing which octagon they were at or how this all worked, we just tried to keep a mental list of those we may have wanted to “meet.”  Basically, you do need to volunteer in your animal’s area, so if you are volunteering in dogs you can’t take a bunny home for a sleepover etc.  Caregivers pretty much assume you’ll want to do a sleepover and are very excited to get their fur friends out of the kennels for a night.  There’s usually a list in the octagon regarding who is eligible to go, who has recently gone, what activities are allowed, ect.  For instance, we were considering taking Tig one night but although he can do sleepovers, he can’t stay in the cottages near the horses, so he was not an option.  We later also discovered that Dogtown HQ has a list of which dogs really need to do an overnight for whatever reason.  For instance, just as we were meeting Roxanne, she was snatched right out from under us we learned that she already had a sleepover date scheduled.  Roxanne was at the “top of the list” to go so it was awesome that she not only got to do a sleepover, we found the the next day she got to go on an outing as well.  Too cool.

So anyhow, the first sleepover guest was almost a no-brainer.  Lester and Michael were top contenders but in actuality, the moment Kevin  saw Magnolia, he said “my wife is gonna love her.”

Magnolia loves to walk

Magnolia loves to walk

 

He was right.  Sleepover dogs need to be “checked out” from the Dogtown HQ by 3:30 so don’t sweat that a volunteer shift lasts till 4:00.  It’s part of the process.  Once we decided on a dog, we went to HQ and received a sleepover bag of provisions and a questionnaire to fill out regarding how the sleepover went.  The staff in the octagon also gave us an extra blanket, a coat and in Magnolia’s case, some meds she needed to take along with a can of moist food.

Magnolia

Magnolia is an old soul in a young body.  She loves going for walks and never seems to tire of them but in the cottage she was all about deathing stuffies which I happily handed over and cleaned up one by one.

DSC_0153

 

Being the pro that she is she also knew that the expectation is that all treats packed by the staff in the sleepover bag must be enjoyed and not returned, so again we were happy to oblige.

Although I invited her onto the bed a few times she quickly jumped back down and at bedtime settled on the sofa for the evening.  Knowing the sleepover is all about the guest, we left her to her preferred sleeping arrangements and wished her a snug goodnight.

IMG_2348

 

Dogs are returned between 8:00 and 8:15 in the morning so when we pulled up to Old Friends, Magnolia who had been eager to be in the car, seemed disinclined to depart, so we took a quick walk while Kevin waited for the caretakers to meet him and collect her.

A polite passenger

A polite passenger

Sidney

Sleepover night two went very similarly to night one in that one of us fell in love with a dog right away.  Surprisingly it was Kevin who fell and fell hard for Sidney  (Side note: if you too fall in love with Sidney but don’t live near Utah, a generous sponsor has prepaid her airfare to get “home.”) but like a kid in a candy shop who knew that of the hundreds of candies on display, only one could be taken, I couldn’t make up my mind.  In the end, it was the snuggle factor that won me over.  Going for a week without a dog to snuggle at night was way to long and though I respected Magnolia’s need for space, I really needed to bring home a “proven snuggler.”

IMG_2349

Sidney who rocked the agility equipment in Tara’s Run and seemed so happy to take long hikes and explore was just as happy to “turn it off” and snuggle in the calm of the cottage.  The way both Sidney and Magnolia collapsed onto the sofa reminded me of something Corbin’s mama said about when their fosters really settle in for that deep, safe sleep.  These dogs are sleepover pros and although their housing situation is pretty posh for a kennel, it is still a kennel and you can really tell that they know: when we go on a sleepover we can totally decompress and just relax.

IMG_2373

Sidney and I slept cuddled together (the cottages boast two double beds!) all night and on the occasion that I woke momentarily, she was happy to accept a brief pat or an ear scritch.  It was heavenly for both of us.  We all woke early the next morning and Kevin and I suddenly just didn’t want to take her back.  We just agonized over the inevitable and Sidney seemed to recognize our emotions and played to them.

IMG_2383

We anthropomorphized all morning about how miserable she must be to go back but actually upon arriving back at her octagon, Sid jumped out of the car and into her waiting caretaker’s arms with an almost palpable air of “Oooh!  Breakfast!”   (Someone whose name rhymes with Shmevin may have gotten a bit emotional over the course of the morning while I remained a rock.  Or maybe I didn’t.)

Recap

Overall, if you enjoy the companionship of a dog (or cat or bunny) I heartily recommend doing a sleepover when you visit Best Friends.  It gives the animals a break from their routines, gives the caretakers a bit of insight on how the animals react to various situations and it gives you someone to love on while your own furbaby is at home.  Win-win-win.

Best Friends-Volunteering

At last!  Time to volunteer.  We signed up for three shifts, the afternoon of arrival and both shifts the following day and planned as well to do sleepovers both nights.  As it turned out, knowing we wouldn’t be able to check into our hotel in Las Vegas for the final leg of the trip until late in the afternoon I was able to grab one last shift on Sunday morning, which became yet another highlight of the trip.

Friday

After lunch, we drove to Dogtown headquarters in time for our first volunteer shift.

Pictures of Lucas hang in the Dogtown lobby.

Pictures of Lucas hang in the Dogtown lobby.

 

Since we were first time volunteers there, were offered three different “octagon” areas of Dogtown Heights; The Fairway, The Garden or Old Friends.  Puppies?  No thanks.  Young adults?  Eh, we’ll pass.  Older but bolder?  Yes!  Old Friends was definitely an area we wanted to be in so we proceeded to the octagon buildings named Homer and Dolores after some very generous donors and after meeting the two dog caretakers there, set off walking some pooches and doing some general tasks in between.

There are set paths outside of Old Friends and the dogs definitely know their way around.  There’s a junction and you can take the shortest, the longest or the one in between but all are pretty clearly marked and trod, so you won’t loose your way.  When you return, you wait outside until the caretakers see you and they retrieve the dog from you and bring you another one.  It’s pretty simple and relatively taken for granted that making sure each dog is walked is the first priority.  All dogs in this area are “green collars” and for the most part really easy to walk.

 

Saturday Morning 

Upon arrival at Dogtown Headquarters on Saturday morning, I requested Conrad and Leopold’s in Old Dogtown because I especially wanted to meet one of the dog caregivers in that area.  Old Dogtown differs from Dogtown Heights in that it’s larger and also older.  In Dogtown Heights there are actually 4 octagon areas consisting of two octagons each.  The three listed previously house all “green collar” dogs-the dogs who can be handled by anyone.  In Old Dogtown, there are purple collars which can be handled by anyone over 18 and red collars which are staff -only in addition to green collars.  Conrad and Leopold’s was a total blast!  Not only did we get to take dogs on regular trail walks but we got to take Sydney to Tara’s Run which you might recognize from the Dogtown Series as the training facility and we got to help with a training walk.  This area was not only hands on but just more challenging in the best possible way.  I loved it!

Sydney and Kevin

Sydney and Kevin

Saturday Afternoon 

This was also spent in Old Dogtown in the octagons called “3 and 4” though they actually had real names as well.  Hermosa’s Hideaway was one name but the other escapes me.  For this shift, Kevin decided he would rather do an “outing” so he and Bolt went back to the Cottage to hang and chill.  Bolt is a tripod and you almost want to say “thank goodness.”  If Bolt had four legs there might not be a human who could keep up with him.

This area was similar in that the caregivers brought me a dog to walk on the trails with after giving me the run-down on any particulars or triggers.   Upon completing the walk we would wait on a bench within view to have the dog retrieved.  This area seemed pretty busy and I didn’t walk too many dogs, but I did get to see a “celebrity.”

Meryl was one of the (only) two Vick dogs court ordered to live out their lives at Best Friends; Lucas was the other one. Today rather than be a victim of her past and circumstances, Meryl shares a run with another dog, Buddy Arnold. Meryl will remain at the Sanctuary not because she is dangerous, but for her own protection as her value as a “trophy” is still thought to be very high.

 

Sunday Morning 

Scheduled to leave that morning, I convinced Kevin that I really needed to take one more shift and he agreed to finish the packing, loading and checking out while I worked.  Boy was it worth it.  I asked for and was assigned “The Clubhouse.”  Although The Clubhouse is in Dogtown Heights, it is run and feels more like Old Dogtown in that there are red, purple and green collar dogs.  I met the caregiver outside and we chatted about what the needs would be for the morning.  Breakfast had been fed, so bowls needed to be washed, dogs needed to be walked and Sunday was deep clean day at Amra, one of the two octagons.  I mentioned that I had requested The Clubhouse knowing that Mya and Curly were there and the caregiver worked an interaction into our schedule.  That morning after washing breakfast dishes, I walked a few dogs and this time actually accompanied the caregiver into the runs to collect my walking buddy.  Upon returning, it was again to a waiting bench, but this time waiting was minimal.  We swept and mopped kennels and then finally I got my chance to see Mya and Curly up close and personal.  Well, as up close and personal as was possible with them.  I’ll tell you more about it later this week, so be sure to stop back.

Things I was pleased to have: comfy jeans and wellies!  The terrain is very sandy and a bit hilly, so comfortable (close toe) footwear is a must.  Since I knew the temps would vary from the 30’s to the 50’s I was happy to have my boots.  Good traction and sand resistance was a must.  Layering the tops with a lightweight jacket was a good idea as well.  One of the things I forgot, much to my chagrin, is that I forgot to activate my Walk for a Dog app.  I’m sure I racked up some serious mileage because I actually was able to pull a pair of jeans off without undoing them by the end of the week.  WOOT!

The Big Trip-Anticipation

It was a “bucket list” item that I thought I’d never get to experience.  Actually, in the back of my mind, I thought there was a better chance that most of my list would go un-accomplished.  I’m like that.  Plus, in the nearly 15 years that the hubby and I have been married, we haven’t traveled together to another state unless it bordered our home state.  We’re homebodies, so when I began broaching the subject that I really, really wanted to do this and that I was going to do it regardless, I think we were both surprised when he agreed to accompany me.

I began planning for real in October.  I began making plans, scouring sites for hotel and airfare rates and making lists.  And keeping secrets.  Deep in my heart I believed that this trip would be derailed in an epic manner.  Our prepaid flight would be cancelled because of a snowstorm the likes of which no one had ever seen before.  Our volunteer slots would be filled and we wouldn’t be able to visit.  Something would happen here at home to prevent us from leaving.  You name the scary scenario and I lived it in the depths of my psyche.  I loaded the weather for every city we’d be visiting and checked the forecast every day.  Surprisingly, the night before our flight I slept like a rock.  No bad dreams chased me and I calmly boarded a plane that I knew wouldn’t fly.  Not until we landed did I begin to think this trip, #TheBigTrip, would happen.  The nerves really and truly didn’t dissipate until we arrived on morning two of the trip at my ultimate happy place destination.  The night before that was riddled with nightmares of too many adoptable animals and missing shifts, but the morning dawned bright with all the promise of the fulfillment of so many of my dreams and the chance to make an impact and to give back.

This trip was so packed with bucket list items, that the recap will take several days and I’ve decided to break it down into digestible chunks, so I hope you’ll check back for all of the adventures.

Gotcha!

I see from my TimeHop that today is Ray’s Gotcha Day and truth be told, I knew it was around now but I’ve let the exact date escape my consciousness. You see, because I was there to witness his birth I would have always considered him “mine” in some way. Connected.
I don’t feel the need to celebrate the day he came to live in my house as much as I celebrate and cherish the day he came into my world and into my heart.

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So while I might not be able to cradle him in exactly the same way, you can be sure that if we are in the house together, chances are we’re near each other.

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I know that my life course has dramatically altered since my little piggy came into my life. There are things I do and think and want and feel just because of him so with that inspiration, after just one more sleep, I’ll be leaving my Gotcha boy in the very capable hands of his human sister while the hubby accompanies me on the fulfillment of a dream.

Dogs as Art

While I do have some dog-centric art in our home, I don’t feel like there’s too much or even enough yet. (The hubby might disagree). The thing is, until recently I had lots of photos of other dogs in our home.

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Recognize any of them? This is a portion of a collection I’ve gathered from participating in fundraisers, whether it’s been for Handsome Dan or Strut Your Mutt or even smaller fund raisers for blog dogs.

Well, I finally found some frames I like and made some prints of the Peaceabull boys to adorn my shelves and will be planning to commission some more art this year.

Hmmm…is this post s hint of some sort?