Foster Fanny

The moment I saw your picture, my heart skipped a beat and I gasped at your wonderful, thick bulldog-ness.

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I knew I had to meet you and just as certainly I knew that upon meeting you I’d be compelled to foster you, which is exactly what happened.  What I didn’t expect was that you were small and scared.  Someone somewhere had crushed your trust, had made you spare your sweetness from being too present.  The click of a collar, the snap of a leash, both had you cowering, and trembling.  What monster in your past made  you afraid of these simple tools?

A Room of Your Own

We prepared your room and with a painting of the happiest dog in the world to watch over you, we eagerly anticipated the moment when I could bring you home.  We walked out of the shelter together (which never gets old) and I picked your 55 pounds of piggy-ness up and secured you in the car.  At home in your room you sniffed around to every corner, ever so slowly but yet giving me a glimmer of the nosey little girl inside.

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Settling In

The first few days you were still so scared and shy but eager to walk with Big Julius and slowly open to be given treats.

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We cuddled each night and I whispered to you that I would find you a family to love and care for you.  A place where you’d be safe and happy.  While I think you believed me, you and I both knew deep down how much I loved you.  I know you loved me too and we figured we’d be together for a long, long time.

After all, my fosters usually stay a couple of months and you, my dear, were still so afraid of people. People came to visit you and give you treats, but even still with your budding bravery, I was the only one permitted to let you outside. Slow and steady, we continued to work but as we did, the bond grew deeper.  I was hopelessly in love and wondered how much could you grow if I gave you wings with which to fly?  Would my love and protection keep you from growing into the sweet and affectionate little bulldog with whom I snuggled so closely?  What could you do in a home of your own?

Your Family Found You

They applied for a different dog, in fact they applied for two other dogs who weren’t you but after speaking with them I began to suspect that they were to be yours.  We talked about the others and cautiously I then mentioned you.  Perhaps your sweet, gentle, loving soul would capture their hearts and in their home you would blossom.  Perhaps they would sit and look into your expressive gray eyes and you’d paw at them and draw them to you for a Fanny hug.

Well, they wanted to meet you and with no expectations we drove you to meet them.  You were shy, scared, and you trembled, but still your sweet nature still glowed quietly and they saw it.  You took treats from them almost immediately and you approached your new dad.  I’ve never seen you approach a man so quickly.  Before I realized I was ready we were saying our goodbyes, but I don’t do that.  I must stay strong so that you don’t see me cry.  Adoption day is not to be sad and I refuse to let you see my sadness, only see the love.  Never think I left you but always know that I let you go so that I could let you grow.

How did only 18 days become so precious? How did they go so fast? How did you fill a spot in my heart that I didn’t even know existed?

This, my dear Fanny, is not goodbye, but farewell.  It is with a heart filled with love, and with eyes filling with emotion that I say to you that I’m honored to have been chosen to help you heal and I am glad to have been the one to partner with you on this journey.  You, my dear Fanny will have a wonderful life filled with love.

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What Gift Could I Give

In all seriousness I ask- what do you get for a dog who wants for nothing? I mean, I’m sure there’s some toy or treat that all the other dogs have that we may be missing out on, but for the most part these Peaceabull blockheads aren’t lacking much. I currently have a small stash of stuffies, bags of untouched treats and even a large bag of antlers held in reserve.

Ray and I have been talking all week, reminiscing about the day he was born. December first six years ago was a stark, snowless day hovering at the 32 degree mark when I received a call about a dog birthing her puppies exposed to the elements. By the time I arrived, three were alive and struggling for warmth while several others had already died. Two more pups would be born in the warmth of rescue while one of the original survivors would succumb to to much exposure. Of the two born in rescue, one was my little piggy. Arriving in this world covered in birthing gunk, my little green guy immediately stole my heart.

While I still had my heart and head set at that time on just fostering older dogs, fate would intervene and this little piggy would become mine.

But really, going back to the original question, certainly there be birthday treats and much celebrating- as much celebrating as this low-key family can muster. But at the end of the day, my gift to Ray and to Julius or rather their gift to others is the gift of time. When I’m home I make sure there is plenty of Mom and Pooch time. We snuggle, we practice our training and cues, we walk and we play. When I’m gone, these boys give up their Mommy so that other block heads can find homes.

So on December first, six years after the birth of my heart dog, I will be spending some time away before the celebration so that this December first can be remembered as another little boy’s special day. Adoption day for John Snow and a very happy birthday to my baby Ray.

As Told by Bryn

Life is pretty good for me now, but my Foster Mama says I’m in a “holding pattern” and that this isn’t actually my home, although it seems pretty darned good to me. It’s definitely better than where I was. This whole year has been full of changes for me and it took a long time before I felt like this place was going to work out. I was in “the shelter” and then I went to several different homes but kept getting returned just for being me and it was making me sad, but Foster Mama says I’m now at the Peaceabull place for a while and I can decompress, whatever that means. 


I used to make lots of babies and because of that my back and my belly were sinking low to the ground and I also had wormys in my heart that made me feel tired all the time. Those things made me do what Mama says is my Eyore pose and it was how I was standing when she met me. The day we met, there were a lot of strange people around and I didn’t know what was going on, so I just stood with my head and my tail dripping from each end toward the ground like the branches on a weepy tree. I let the nice people pet me and lift my feet and look in my ears and other funny things and then I went back to the place from before-The Shelter. I didn’t really like it The Shelter because I got into a fight with a big dog and then everyone said I wasn’t a nice girl anymore and that I was going to be on “The List.” 

 

But then a while later the nice lady who volunteers at The Shelter took me to the Vet and left me there and Foster Mama picked me up and brought me here to the Peaceabull place. I didn’t really know what was going on at first and I wanted to be with Foster Mama and Foster Daddy and I wanted to chase that mean fat cat and hang out with those handsome boy dogs who live behind the gate. I did sneak out and see that big handsome Julius but he just ignored me. I saw Ray too and the first time he made a mean face at me and made scary sounds but the second time he Woo-woo’ed at me like a cow. I don’t get to play with them but sometimes Mama took me to see Bentley. She says he is my Brother-Husband because I’m going to live with him some day but we won’t make babies together. I like Bentley because he licks my ears and one day he sent me a blankey to lie on that smelled like him. 

I love them

Bentley and I haven’t seen each other since before I went back to the doctor for more ‘jections. I didn’t like those. I had to spend the night and got a ‘jection each day and they hurt and made me feel sad and tired again. When I went back to the Peaceabull house I only wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep but after a few days I was starting to feel like my normal self again.

 

The whole time I’ve been here the really nice people have been coming to visit me each week. Foster Mama calls them “My Parents.” She says they’ve been waiting for all of the wormys to go away so that they can adopt me and take me to live with Bentley. They are so nice and I always know when they are coming. I sit and watch the street and when I see their car I get so happy because they bring me treats and give me lots of pets and one day they even brought me a brand new fluffy pink blanket. Brand new! I was so excited to have something of my very own that was so soft and cuddly that I immediately showed how much I loved it by beginning to shred it like I do with all my stuffies. I thought for a minute I was going to get in trouble but they just laughed and let me play. I sleep with that blankie every night. It means a lot to me because when I was homeless I didn’t have anything that belonged just to me. I had a hand me down collar and a rope for a leash. 

Rope slip lead


 

I didn’t even have a name of my own, because on my paperwork I was called Princess 2. But foster Mama says that is all going to change. I have my own name and after something called One More Sleep, I’ll have my very own home.

Bryn Moves In

It’s no secret to Facebookers that Bryn obviously lasted here past her ‘trial period,’ though it has been a bit rocky.  The first night we were so worried about all of the variables that we broke our own cardinal rule and Bryn slept in the guest room with Kevin.  He is a light sleeper and we figured that would be a better way to gauge her manners but we knew that wouldn’t last because of the amount of traveling Kevin does would necessitate a better plan.

A Rough Start

The second night it was just me and all of the four legged creatures in the house and I’d say it was eventful.  The Princess was not so much about the crate.  She busted out of a wire crate, (easy peasy for pretty much any pittie) an airliner, a tension gate and a stand up gate.  

I actually found her standing in the living room after this…actually, Julius and I found her there.  Luckily he was pretty neutral about the whole affair and she was close enough to the door that I just had to push her out. No kitties were eaten during this foray, so we figured out finally that while she was averse to confinement in one sense, she was perfectly content to dwell in her room with the door closed and thus we found a way for Bryn to live with us Peaceabully.

To say it’s been a challenge is putting it mildly.  Her prey drive is such that just to potty her, we gather the cats, put one behind closed doors because he will walk right up to her and shoo the other one, put my boys behind a gate, cover low windows where she may see a cat and proceed from there.  Every. Single. Time.

Decompressing

The upside is that as the days and weeks rolled on, her sweet spirit emerged.  She plays with toys, she wallows in the sun and has the biggest smile ever.  Heartworm treatment is never easy but I guess considering she is crated and rotated out of her very own guest suite, she is feeling pretty happy.


After all, she gets her own daybed with doggie stairs, my Amazon Echo, (as did Margeaux) and room service.

The Best Is Yet To Be

Very early in her stay with us, I had her at one of our adoption events, being handled by a “lucky charm” volunteer and wouldn’t you know; this woebegone dog who splayed out on the floor in the back of the action found herself a family to love her.  They spent time petting and loving on her as I told them the good, bad, and ugly of what I knew so far, what I had been told and what I had yet to verify. Not to be deterred, they filled out an application and after they were approved I set up a time for a meet and greet.

Bentley and Bryn

Meet and greet number one turned out to be great.  It may have been love at first sight, but due to the heartworms and presence of reproductive organs, the plan was to take it very slow and do multiple intros.  We’ve parallel walked, we’ve played on leash a bit and while Bentley is obsessed with Bryn’s ears, she seems so steady with him.  Unflappable is the word I would use to best describe Bryn. She is unflappable.

Bryn with her sugargface brother to be

Her family has been eager and yet patient, visiting Bryn, bringing her thing to let her know she is loved already and have spent time with her each week.  As much as I can tell that she is happy here, I’m excited about how much better her life is going to get and she doesn’t even know it yet…

 

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.

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 .