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.

Meet Margeaux

A couple of weeks ago, I did something I rarely do, but when I do it, it’s for someone special.  Often while working in a different town, I try to visit the local shelter and on this particular instance, I knew that there was a special dog in house.  I had seen Margeaux when the Executive Director of this shelter had posted her on the page of a private group.  She was special and the hope was that a friend or someone “in the biz” would adopt her. While I wasn’t in the market for a third dog, nor am I the intake person of our rescue, I couldn’t leave without her.  We had an adoption event just a few days following and I figured she would be gone by the end of the weekend.

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Here we are two and a half weeks later enjoying the company of a very special and happy house guest.  While she could probably walk right under Julius, she only weighs about 10 pounds less than he and Ray. She is quite the little piggy and snorts like one as well. She’s never met a stranger and truly believes all humans are set on Earth just to adore her, with our family being no exception.

If you follow either me personally or the boys on Facebook, you’ll have seen my Margeaux in the morning posts and undoubtedly seen the numerous declarations that we should keep her.  While it isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility it isn’t a done deal either.  After two and a half weeks, she and Ray have still not met.  They have seen each other but haven’t yet even taken a parallel walk.  While this separation is happening, we have learned to gate and rotate like pros.  Margeaux lives in the office behind a baby gate.  At the end of that hallway is a folding divider gate.  There is another wooden gate that we move to suit our needs and basically is just propped against whatever wall we need.  Ray is usually behind that gate and in his x-pen which he uses as his crate or safe zone and he is becoming more and more curious to meet the little foster gal.  I believe her family is out there waiting for her and I will definitely make sure she goes to the best home possible, so stay tuned to see more about Margeaux.

 

Twist of Fate

The sad truth about rescue-any rescue- is that as of now, try as we might, we still can’t “save them all.” The number of requests we receive on any given day far exceed the number of spaces we have available because we generally have zero availability. Generally the moment we have an adoption, we have some soul who is waiting to fill that foster spot. But fosters take breaks (as they should) and our intake might require a specific type of foster for the arriving dog or being a breed/type specific rescue we may not be able to take your Chihuahua or any other numerous reasons may prohibit us from a specific intake.  

That type of situation recently presented itself in that our feeds and messages began blowing up over a pair of dogs-(the owner says they are 100% full pit bull) who had been abandoned in a trailer due to an incarceration. Family members were aware so had been entering to feed the dogs but realized this couldn’t go on interminably.

 In such a small group as ours, we all help each other with our rolls but for the most part have our own “boxes” that we stay in and mine isn’t intake so when the “what can we do” messages began rolling in to my personal inbox, I gave the best advice I could. We first of all can’t break into the trailer to get them, so local law or animal enforcement would be a good start. Failing that, if someone could go to the jail and get the owner to sign over the dogs that would be helpful and even then a foster must be secured and then the dogs would need to be assessed behaviorally. Armed with that advice, things began rolling and the dogs were on their way to safety through another group and I all but forgot about them for a few hours as I went about my business.

Their living conditions


 

One of my “boxes” is that I facilitate the adoptions. I review and check applications, call applicants and set up meetings, so imagine my surprise when I called to let an applicant know she was approved and was told that she unexpectedly gained two foster dogs the previous evening. The trailer dogs had secured a foster with a potential adopter. She shared her worry about how to raise funds for the vetting that would be needed and how best to network these boys. In light of the new curve ball, the Pit Bull Coalition Board voted to help cover the cost of vetting and neutering, evaluate the dogs and if possible place them in our program. The only new snag is that these dogs are far from being very pit bull at all. They are sweet and friendly, good with kids and other dogs, but definitely your average mixed breed pit mutt.  


 Tanner is almost a year old, neutered, up to date on shots and housebroken. He’s sweet, gaining confidence and would thrive in a home with another dog. 
 

Rufus is approximately 3 years old, neutered, up to date on shots and housebroken but for an occasional oops. He too is sweet and seems to be the caretaker. His foster mom says he makes sure that her beagle and Tanner have food and are eating before he eats. 


 He and Tanner both take treats very gently though Tanner eats them Rufus generally drops them. In a perfect world, they would be adopted together but ultimately they need good homes and could be separated. 

 
If you think they may be a good fit for your home, please fill out an application at http://www.fwpbc.com or if not, please share their story.

#TakeAChance

Well, that was quite the cliffhanger, wasn’t it? I meant to finish out the Tale of the Blues and talke about “Iron’s” hashtag on Friday, but not only did scheduling not permit, but Fate intervened as well. Chance’s story was going to be about how Asia regretfully decided to let him go. She had told him during her visits that he would be coming home to live with her and ultimately with all of the newness, as well as a foster pup, she agreed to see if his true family would show up. She gave them 30 days.

August 15

On Saturday August 15th I had an urge to visit “Iron” at the shelter and as I was driving down there, I received a text that a wonderful couple were in and going to adopt Iron. As luck would have it, I was able to meet this couple and they were, in fact wonderful. 

  

In the back of my mind, I felt a little sad for “Iron.” He would be an “only dog” which may make him a little sad, but it might work out in the end. That is the story we would have published on Friday.

August 22

A beautiful day dawned full of promise and anticipation. Today our little Pets for Life team would finally be hitting the streets and knocking on doors to begin our mission of helping our neighbors retain their pets. We were going to be able to offer spay/neuter, vaccines, preventatives and food among other things all for free to this specific area. What nearly marred this glorious day was the message I received that “Iron” was coming back to the shelter. The funny thing about this, though, is that it didn’t upset me or even make me sad. It felt right somehow. 

  

The adopters were distraught to return him (along with the mountain of belongings he had amassed in just 7 days) but due to some neighboring dogs trying to fence-fight, he returned as they say “through no fault of his own” and with the feedback that he is, in fact, perfect in a home. I’m not sure why, but I just couldn’t feel upset about this return. I hugged the big wiggly lug when I saw him and I let him know that it was ok and I would always be around to look after him.

August 23

Another Sunday and another Pack Walk with The Bully Collective. As has been her custom, Lisa had arranged for a couple of volunteers to come and walk adoptable dogs. One of those dogs was meant to be Bitsy, Asia’s foster dog but as fate would have it, Bitsy had been on a two-night trial and on Saturday night we received the message that Bitsy had found her forever home. That allowed for her walking partner to be available for Iron/Chance.

  

Julius and I picked him from the shelter and left with the message that while I’d try to have him back by noon, I wasn’t going to promise. (Side note, Julius is the only dog I know who gets excited to roll up to the shelter as if we’re going to Disney.)

A nice long pack walk was followed by some impromptu Bro time as Clyde came over and the three boys had some quality play time in the yard. 

  

I loved seeing Chance waddle-trundle along after the sleeker Clyde and Julius. It was so much like a little brother trying to keep up with the big guys. As Lisa and I watched the adora-bulls play in the yard we agreed that someone in our large family of friends needed to adopt Chance. We couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing him regularly. I considered it over and over again. He and Julius got on well and Ray would be given all the time and space he needed and even the name could work. My boys are named after football players, so Chance might not work but Iron? Iron Mike, of course would be perfect!

After Clyde went home, I loaded Chance in the car and decided to make a pit stop at Asia’s house. Since she had company over everyone was in the back yard I text her to make sure Ms. Cranky (Sugar) was on a leash. 95% of the time Sugar is great with other dogs but there have been a couple that she wouldn’t tolerate so I wanted to be sure there would be no incidents. There weren’t. Asia didn’t receive my text on time and as Chance and I walked in the far gate, Sugar greeted him as if he were a long lost brother.

  

Chance played with Sugar, romped around the yard, followed the little (human) girls around and drank his fill from the water spurting out of the Slip ‘n Slide.

An hour before the shelter was to close, I called and got assurances that no one had come in to visit with him so I let them know he wouldn’t be back for “curfew” and since the shelter is closed to the public on Mondays, he wouldn’t be back until Tuesday.

There’s no mistaking the joy on Chance’s face when enjoying all of the activities of the day. Going from Pack Walk to a play date with the Big Boys, to a play date with Sugar, Slip ‘n Slide fun with three girls ranging from 1 – 5 years of age to all of the different locations in just one day back from another home would make anyone exhausted or even over-stimulated. Chance aced the day as if it was just business as usual.

Are you a believer in fate? Karma? Everything happens for a reason? The very evening that Chance was returned to the shelter Bitsy was adopted 

 

Bitsy and Bentley

 

and on Monday morning Asia emailed me, “I think he is meant to be with us. It’s been one month since I met him, I tried to let someone else adopt him, and it didn’t work. It’s a sign.” My response?

  

Okay.

#FreeLucky

#FreeLucky

There’s no denying that Lucky and Cujo were in fact two lucky dogs and oh my goodness, if a name was ever wrong for a dog, then Cujo was it. We began referring to him as Chance; he’d gotten several by now and yet The Blues still got other new names at the shelter. Ion (Lucky) and Iron (Cujo/Chance). I’ll admit, I really never called them by their new names much; Lucky and Chance they were in my mind and my heart. These two were definitely wiggling deeper into my heart, I mean, how can you carry a dog into a clinic, wear her blood on your shirt (like a badge of honor) and not feel like you are now somehow bound together? Can’t happen.

 

Lucky is about 10 months old and presumably Chance’s daughter. She’s a stocky little low rider who wiggles into you as if she’s trying to osmose into you to get that much more loves because she’s never met a stranger and is absolutely positive that all of humanity was set on this Earth specifically to love and dote on her. She’s probably right about that.

Soon after the weekend, the pair was sent to H.O.P.E. for their surgeries where Lucky’s lucky streak continued. There’s a fabulous woman (and friend) who loves Pit Bulls has been volunteering with the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition by walking foster dogs at our Pack Walks and we’ve joked that she is a lucky charm because the last three dogs she walked were almost immediately adopted afterwards. She also works at H.O.P.E. and though she was at the June Pets for Life clinic volunteering, it was at H.O.P.E. where she re- met and fell in love with Lucky all over again prompting a Facebook campaign that had me in stitches and tears.

Ironically I had just recently had a text conversation with her partner about her level of readiness for a “large” dog and how all of their friends, especially all of us crazy committed pit bull people would be there to support them but understood the reluctance since they are newly settling into a new home.

The campaign started with this picture

Photo by Cassie

and the caption, “This is Lucky/Ion/whatever I name her. I have absolutely fallen in love with her and need her sweet love in my life forever!”

Friends, ever supportive that we are began a very low pressure, reasonable show of support for Cassie’s campaign which became known as #freelucky.

 

Photo by Lisa Reyes and The Amazing Adventures of Clyde

Comments such as “Poster dog for PFL,” “Such a proud symbol of the PFL cause,” “If there was no Pets For Life in Fort Wayne, where would this girl be right now?” (Did I mention the other mom is the Pets for Life coordinator?) “#luckyneedstwomommies” and then there was, “Sarah McLaughlin called, she wants to perform at the #freelucky concert.”

Then the one that may have tipped the scale, “…I really do think it is time for me to devote my love to another dog. I miss Oscar and he would want me to love again….she just left to go back to ACSPCA and it made my heart hurt.”

Photo by Lizz (photobombing dog has already been adopted)

Ultimately,and in record time the campaign worked and Lucky’s fate rested in the paws of the two resident dachshunds.

Photo by Melissa and Cassie

Photo by Melissa and Cassie

Photo by Melissa and Cassie

Photo by Melissa and Cassie

All kidding aside, how fitting that this Lucky dog found her way to these lucky women. This little dog, who in less than one year of being had been bounced from home to home, been protected at two shelters, become a rally symbol of community hope, a symbol of two women who are passionate about saving lives and giving back to their community and has made her final stop with them. I’m sure that when they look at their girl now named Eden, they don’t see a sad little story, but one of success and love written on one kissable, squishy face. #LoveForeverEden

Saving the Blues

It’s hard not to be human.

By that I mean, we humans are so flawed, so imperfect and can be so judgmental but the very foundation of Pets For Life is to put aside our judgment, our prejudice and remember love isn’t measured by the riches you can bestow on your dog but it is our common bond between the volunteers and the public who will stand in line –in the rain- for hours to have their dog vaccinated. The majority of these dogs had never seen a Veterinarian, had not ever been vaccinated. Some dogs were filthy and smelly and were on leashes made of rope, but in they came with their proud and grateful owners. This series is not about blame. It’s about hope and caring and love.

Approximately a month after the PFL Clinic, I happened to be perusing the Animal Care and Control page of lost dogs and came upon Cujo’s picture. 

  

If you had come up to me on the street 5 minutes before that and asked the names of the two blue pit bulls from the clinic I would have known immediately who you were asking about but I wouldn’t have been able to remember their names. I knew it was “our” Cujo the moment I set eyes on the picture and immediately contacted our Pets for Life coordinator to see if she could get the scoop and the following day Lucky’s picture joined the website. “Our” blue PFL dogs were on stray hold at Animal Care and Control but their owners had been contacted and indicated that they would be in shortly to reclaim. Whew.

Then days passed. And another. And then the weekend.

“Our” dogs showed up at ACC during an especially heavy week of Pit Bull intake which decreased their odds. ACC already had two pit bull ambassadors and the third qualifier went to The Pit Bull Coalition who was beyond full, the SPCA was full and had at least two pittie types. The reports coming from ACC were that Lucky and Cujo were staff favorites, which was a plus. Finally on Monday I was in full on panic mode but tried to keep it together. Stray hold was up. I contacted our long suffering ED at SPCA and hysterically spewed rationally updated her about Lucky and Cujo. It turns out that the day they were called by ACC, one of the owners showed up at SPCA trying to reclaim both dogs and after the confusion in locations was straightened out, she left indicating she would head to the correct location.

So on D-Day, we were trying to piece all of this together. The dogs went stray, the owner came to the wrong location to reclaim, did not show up at the correct location but gave every indication that they would do so. On Tuesday emails began flying between SPCA and ACC: could the Blues just have another day or so to try and locate the owners again? If the delay was in the reclaim fee, we would cover that to ensure these dogs went back to their homes. We would do whatever it takes to keep these dogs in their homes, but eventually something had to give. Phone calls to the owners went unreturned then finally the phone line was disconnected. The Blues had both passed their evaluations and were now biding their time waiting for a break. As it turned out, on Wednesday I was pulling Bitsy from ACC to take to her foster home and upon inquiring about the Blues was informed that they had been “tagged” by SPCA. Regardless of how rational our conversations were and how much Jessica and I assured each other that we couldn’t save them all, she saved these two. 

  

By Friday they were ensconced in the SPCA and ready for the next steps: spay/neuter and adoption.

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.