Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Back in February, I told you that our next-door neighbors adopted Mocha from the rescue (with Jack as a goodwill ambassador.) Take a look at this chow-mix today. She's looking more like a shepherd!

Small Dogs

This is Chloe. She sleeps on your lap. She fits in your purse. She doesn't pull you on leash. She gets lots of oohs and ahhs at adoption day.

I giggled when I first saw her run the length of the condo—almost exhausted by the time her little legs got her to the other side. It cracked me up to find that a tennis ball was bigger than the size of her head. I even oohed and ahhed at her cuteness myself.

But she doesn't make the bed warm and cozy. (Actually, she only makes it warm and not in the way you want it to be warm.) She hops from one pieces of furniture to another without regard for other living things. She yips. She yaps. She squeals at a high pitch just below what is inaudible to the human ear.  She can't possibly knock you over with hugs when you come home from work.

She is a small dog.

Growing up with golden retrievers, I was always of the mindset that anything smaller than 65 pounds was not really a dog. I thought taking Chloe in for the week might change my mind. I said, "How much trouble could be a 9-pound living thing be?" This is what people say who have never had a small dog or a cat or, worse yet, a baby.

Luckily, Chloe, or Piglet as we've come to call her, is going home to her adopters on Saturday. They probably don't want a big, drooling dog that sheds all over the place and takes up half the bed. But we do. We definitely do.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

SEMI-ADOPTED: What a Difference a Week Makes

If Karina made the case that people should adopt dogs based on their sweetness alone, then Jagger makes the case that dogs are flexible and adaptable. More humans should be like dogs.

Last Saturday, Jagger barricaded himself under the dining room table.

This Saturday, Jagger let strangers approach and pet him.

Despite his progress, I still thought Jagger might be a middle to long termer with the rescue because of his age and size. So imagine my surprise when Jagger's Petfinder listing caught the eye of a couple this week. They came to meet him at adoption day this weekend.

When they first approached, Jagger did his "I'm a five year old boy hiding behind my mom on the first day of kindergarten" routine. Once he showed his face, he warmed up to the woman, but was a bit leery of the man. They went to look at other dogs available for adoption, but really had their hearts set on Jagger. You can tell when people really want a dog. They keep looking back over their shoulders to make sure no one else might be interested in the pooch.

We explained Jagger's situation with being returned to the rescue and what he needs some work on. With a fenced-in yard, dog experience, and the willingness to work with him, the couple had a strong application. Because of our experience with him early on this week, we decided to do a trial period or a "foster to adopt" set-up. We want the couple to have a really good idea of what life will be like with Mr. Mick Jagger in their presence. They'll keep him for two weeks, and then decide for sure if they think he's a good fit for their lives.

I know some rescues do two-week trial periods as standard operating procedure before adoptions. I see the utility of these test runs; it helps people make informed decisions before making lifelong commitments. However,  it's not a usual practice for other rescues like ours. I would imagine many dogs could get returned because people might treat the trial period just as they do a rental from Netflix.

I'm curious to know your experience with trial periods. Do they work? Do they not work? In the mean time, cross your paws that it works out for Jagger!*

* But I will miss him like a mom sending her 5-year-old boy off to school on the first day of kindergarten.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Progress

Progress: Going from hiding UNDER the furniture to lounging ON the furniture

Progress: Not making eye contact to a full-on smile for the camera

Progress: The stairs...well, we're working on it. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

How Jagger Lost His Swagger

These dogs will break your heart in one way or another.

In August 2008, a litter of lab-mastiff mix pups was rescued from a high-kill shelter in SC and came up with the transport system. One of the puppies, named Riley, was fostered by a volunteer and then adopted out. He was renamed Jagger, and he grew up to be quite a big boy at 70 pounds. His family, which at first was just a mom and pop, began to grow too. Jagger did well with the first baby. In fact, he loved that baby so much that he wanted to protect him from any harm. The family began to worry because of Jagger's protective tendencies. With the family expecting another baby, their worries escalated. They decided Jagger had to go back to the rescue. With heavy hearts, they returned him on Saturday.

The truth of the matter is that failed adoptions happen for a variety of reasons—some more understandable than others. Every person may hold his/her our own opinions about the right and wrong reasons for giving up a dog. One of the volunteers says she tries not to judge when dogs are returned. And she's right. We're here for the animals. If we wanted to judge human morals, we're in the wrong business. We try to do our best in screening adopters to make sure that the dog fits the family's lifestyle because those are adoptions most likely to last. A very small percentage of animals end up being returned. In other cases, shit, as they say, happens. 

Back to the story...
Because of our schedule over the next two months, we agreed to take Jagger in as a short-term foster. We weren't too sure what to expect of him, but on Saturday, Jagger appeared to be more of a shy, undersocialized dog than an aggressive one. He cowered as people approached near him. He turned the other way if people tried to pet him.

Once we got him home, Jagger spent all of Saturday night shaking under our dining room table. He has eaten half of a meal since then. Instead of eating the food, he pushes "dirt" over it with his nose in an attempt to save it for a rainy day. (Remember how Jack did this with his bones?) It seems like a typical stray behavior, but this dog was anything but a stray. Is it a resource-protecting situation—just as the baby was? Here's a video:

The good news is that Jagger has come out from under the dining room table and explored other rooms of the house. He walks very well on leash and loves to be outside. In fact, when we take walks, his posturing suggests he's a confident dog. Jagger does better with women, so he's warmed up nicely to me. Jonathan spent the entire day with Jagger yesterday, and they seemed to establish a good bond. Until Jonathan came home from work today. Jagger cowered, then peed on his foot. Classic submissive urination? 4 paws forward, 2 paws back.

I'm sure part of it is that, after 3 years in the same home, he just has no clue how he ended up here. That will just take time. Do you have any advice to share in working with shy and/or undersocialized dogs? We plan to boost his confidence with praise for just about everything he does and to practice greeting people with treats. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ADOPTED: Ciao, Bella!

Within three hours of posting Bella on Petfinder, I received emails from prospective adopters. The first turned out to be a less-than-serious inquiry. The second had a Lab that Bella did not care for when they met. But the third one was the charm. An animal-loving couple from a neighboring town fell in love with Bella. (How could you not?) And to think, she sat in a shelter for three months, and now she's on her to way to her forever home.

This adoption process was another one that made a strong case for home visits. You see, Bella chases squirrels and birds on walks like it's her full-time job. This made us skeptical of how she might be with the couple's three cats. Would she...

A) chase them and drive them crazy?
B) play too rough with them?
C) eat them for dinner?

D) None of the above, it turns out. When we did the home visit, she got nose to nose with one of the kitties. When the cat jumped, she had no interest in chasing it. She just whined a little bit. If anything, she seemed a bit afraid of the cat! But we're confident they can co-exist (or even become BFFs?) in the house together. Here's Bella's future sister, Button, warming up her crate for her arrival tomorrow evening.

Another part of the adoption process is the vet check. For those of you who don't know, the rescue will call the adopter's vet to see if their current animals are up to date with their medical needs. I'm curious to know—does your rescue have specific requirements for vet checks? Or, if you're not involved with a rescue, what requirements seem reasonable to you?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Nights

What do most twenty-somethings do on Friday nights? I'm not sure I know...

Last Friday night was Karina's home visit/drop off. This Friday, the rescue attended to a local Pet Parade. We got to show off our foster dogs, answer questions from the public, and collect donations. It was great to reach an audience we might not usually reach at our adoption day events.

Bella really hit it off with another foster, Hazel, a beautiful Shar Pei mix puppy.

We found out that she's not a huge fan of larger dogs, like Quinton the lovable Great Dane foster. It gives us something to work on. (That and her fear of stairs!)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hello, Bella!

Our new foster dog has arrived! She definitely does not respond to Chelsea. (Phew.) Something about this dog screams sweet, gentle, and beautiful, so we decided to go with "Bella" as a name. Thanks for all of your suggestions!

She was labeled a shepherd/husky mix by the shelter, but I'm not sure what she is. Take a look at these pics, and let me know what you think. She's about 35 pounds (fully grown.) I wish Petfinder would let me select "mutt" as a breed or just be happy with "dog" as the species, but that's not the case!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Meet Our New Foster, [Insert Name Here]

I think the foster coordinator knew we needed a rebound dog—and quick. After two long hauls with Jack and Karina, plus wedding day 9 weeks away, we also told her we needed a shorter-term foster. We went with our usual criteria—able to be crated during the work day, young adult, ideally under 35 pounds, and suitable for condo life.

As a result, we have a sweet, 2-year-old husky/shepherd mix headed our way this weekend. She was in a shelter in Virginia where she had a litter of puppies. All of her puppies have been adopted. Now it’s her turn.

But we need your help. Her current name is Chelsea. Don’t get me wrong, Bill and Hill, it’s a wonderful name for a girl. But I’m not so sure for a dog. [Yes, I realize Karina was no better. I know, I know.] As superficial as it is, I also know that names as they appear on Petfinder can make or break a dog’s appeal.  

The other problem is that one of the volunteers with the rescue is named Chelsea. Might adoption days get a little confusing? “How old is Chelsea? How much does Chelsea weigh? Oh no, Chelsea had an accident!”

Now, if the dog comes trotting through the door responding to the name, I don’t know if I’ll have the heart to change it. But if she doesn’t, we need to change it—pronto.

Do you have any suggestions? Please help!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Karina’s Last Hurrah

It’s Karina’s last night with us, and I’d be lying if I told you I’m not sad. Don’t get me wrong—I’m so pleased that she found such a wonderful home. But the selfish part of me wants to wrap my arms around this dog and not let her go.

She’s been such a constant and stable force in what has been a stressful few months. I had originally planned on not fostering during the semester—thinking that running from work to school and back home to take care of a dog would just be too much. It was just the opposite. We were able to work out our schedules to make sure we were home when we needed to be. (And my better human half picked up a lot of my slack.) No matter how crazy/stressful/tiring a day was, there was something comforting about knowing Karina would be at the front door, wagging her tail and flopping over for a belly rub. 

But it’s time to let go. Her upgrade is here, and she’ll give Karina so much love and attention for the rest of her life. That’s all that matters.

So we’ve spent the last week celebrating just that and enjoying our time together. We took her to the park for a Memorial Day picnic. She was so well behaved, sitting under our picnic table. We treated her to a celebratory Frosty Paws. (This seemed like a good idea at the time, but I'm not sure I would recommend them because they didn’t seem to sit well with her.)

We’ve let her run around the house like crazy with Jonathan’s soccer ball. We used to stop her when we thought she might puncture it. But this week our philosophy has been, “Go ahead, pooch, have a ball.”

And tonight, we’ll probably let her sleep on the bed, even if it means getting a horrible night’s sleep because that bed is not nearly big enough for the three of us. We’ll cuddle and tell her we love her and will miss her, but much better things are waiting for her. And, with those big brown eyes, she’ll remind us that other dogs are waiting for us.