Faith, Trust, & Foster Pups

Helping dogs on the road to forever, forever finding ourselves as we walk that road with them.


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Dear Balton: One Year In the Life of You

Dear Balton,

It’s been a full year now since we welcomed you home for good. Unbeknownst to us we had made you part of our family well before we signed your adoption contract, but we had a lot of learning and soul searching to do before could make it official. I don’t know if you knew that something had changed when we went from being your foster family to your forever family, but I like to think you did.

There was a cautious uncertainty you came to us with, mixed with some (rather trying) awkward adolescent behaviors of jumping, mouthing, knocking down your food bowl with excitement before it could even touch the floor, and exploring the contents of my purse and attempting to eat my pens if I left you for a moment. There was the immediate love and want to trust and be protected by your people, but there was a scariness about the unfamiliar people  and what their presence might mean. There was the overwhelming sense early on that we were not the right home for you to be in long term (and sometimes, even in that moment). But then over time, there was the overwhelming sense that you were right where you belonged…one of the most surprising and delightful things that strikes me today.

The purse explorations and food bowl knocking (thankfully) came to an end, but we’ve still been through a lot this last year – hard work, exciting adventures, frustration, joy, and love. So much love.

Life with you Balton has taught me how to be a kinder, more attentive human. I’m so grateful that you have sparked in me a need to share in each moment so fully with you, and to know that our learning together will never be done. I am grateful for the time I have spent training with you, and that it has motivated me to give Ollie that same time so I could build a stronger relationship with both of you.  I have learned to be fully present and celebrate every little victory that may seem invisible to the outside world. I have learned how to set boundaries and to listen to your needs. To make sure you believe me when I tell you “it’s okay” and that you don’t need to be afraid. That I will protect you, and keep you feeling safe through and through.

I have learned how to be a better human to other dogs altogether, and you have driven my motivation to help other humans do the same. You’ve helped me to help other people with reactive dogs. To help them see that their dogs are good dogs, even when they share some bad moments. I only hope I can continue meeting the standard that you have so unwittingly set for me. When we started on this road together, I said we were doing so with the same cautious uncertainty you had when you came to us 8 months earlier, but always having faith. And so we walked, one step at a time, with a lot of treats, a lot of courage, and a lot of motivation to learn together.

Seeing you today, and enjoying in your snuggles and smiles each and every day, gives me one of the greatest comforts I have known. That those snuggles and smiles become more and more prevalent as your confidence and sense of belonging grows, reinforces my belief that we belong together. The path is still uncertain in so many ways, and sometimes it involves several emergency u-turns and detours, but the scenery along the way sure has been pretty and become a lot less scary. From quiet moments at home to wild moments of exuberant play, I am so grateful that we found one another and that the dance continues.

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I love you, sweet boy. So very much. Thank you for being you, and helping me to be a better me.

Love,

Mom

 


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The Kindness of Strangers

I spend a good deal of time celebrating Balton’s little moments of bravery. Making it through a walk without incident (or even with only one minor incident) usually is enough to make me proud. When most people think about what a “good dog” is though, Balton’s little accomplishments may not add up to much. I think if they got to be a fly on the wall at our house, maybe they would see what a lovely dog he is. But, let’s be honest, public opinion does matter, and B doesn’t always do his best out and about in the real world. He sure has come a long way, but most people don’t get the luxury of knowing that. Even at his best, greeting strangers and their dogs on leash aren’t things he can do.

When working with a dog who has fear issues, progress is measured in such tiny increments that it can feel like watching grass grow. When your reactive dog has a reaction after you feel like he’s come a ways, it makes you question if the grass has been growing at all, or makes you feel like you’ve lost the ground beneath you entirely. Maybe that’s why few things give me a greater joy than when I hear someone else pay Balton a compliment on his behavior. It’s one thing for me to see him doing well, but another quite entirely to get an outsider’s perspective. In those moments, I feel like the progress he’s made is something big.

Since we started his Relaxing Rowdy Rovers training class almost a year ago, we’ve seen a lot of dogs come and go while we’ve kept working, in an effort to give Balton a safe place to train each week. We’ve had stops and starts, and after seeing little bits of progress, we would hit road blocks and have to take a few steps back. Recently though, Balton’s been on a trajectory upswing in his training class. His quiet confidence has been shining through in his willingness to take treats from the trainers and greet them with cautious optimism, to settle with his back to the other dogs in the room, to walk about the room with a lightness in his step, to not feel the need to go on the offensive if his classmates bark at one another. To trust. To relax.

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Last week, as one of our trainers was working with another family who started class recently and is as anxious as Balton was when we first started, she commented on how well Balton was doing. Our classmate said something to her, and she smiled and said “say that so Balton’s mom can hear you.” He looked at me and said his wife last week commented on how “Thundershirt Dog doesn’t need to be here.” I looked at Balton (sporting his weekly school uniform of a Thundershirt) and smiling, joked that he puts on a very good show for class. But for me, it was all I could do to keep from crying happy tears in that moment.

Those words came from someone who really doesn’t know Balton. They came from someone who didn’t have to try to dig deeper to see Balton’s beautiful heart, to keep from seeing him as mean, scary, or broken. The words were unbiased by love, affection, or filtered through my eyes as people here see Balton. I think those words may be the kindest words an almost complete stranger has said about him.

As it turns out, that wouldn’t even turn out to be the biggest moment of class for Balton this past week. More on that tomorrow…


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Thirty Days of Thanks: The Lucky Ones

This Thirty Days of Thanks Series seemed like a really good idea at the beginning of the month. Signing up to complete my one or my BSN program pre-reqs in an 8 week Oct-Dec class also seemed like a really good idea when I registered for the class. Unfortunately, both were pretty ill-timed with an event at my day job I’d been tied up with and losing sleep over for awhile. So between that and then trying to get caught up on Stat studying and homework upon its completion, the typical snowball effect of losing some momentum, plus a couple sprinklings of petsitting and keeping up with my own family’s needs, I got a little bit behind on my notes of thanks. I promise I’ve been counting my blessings though and just keeping my thanks up in my head and down in my heart. Sometimes something’s gotta give, and in this case the blog had to take a backseat to life and other grown-up activities.

I guess I could even argue that it’s something to be thankful to have a life so full that you can afford the luxury of having to prioritize and take a break from writing. Nevertheless, I have a bit of ground to make up, and so over the next few days I’m going to try and offer up some multiple thanks on things while I celebrate this Thanksgiving weekend with my family.

Today, I am going to share some of the work of others to give thanks to the rescue world I hold close to my heart, and to promote something that will do the same.

So, it may already be abundantly clear that I’m a big fan of Jessica Dolce’s Notes From a Dog Walker blog. Her clever, witty posts are always enjoyable reads, and so very often are helpful to caregivers for DINOS, which I sort of signed on to become some time ago without entirely realizing what I was signing on for. It’s worth mentioning that I am SUPER thankful for all the resources I have found incredibly helpful and inspiring through her writings.

Anyway, this time of year, as many people are working to help give gifts of forever homes for the holidays, there are a special crop of people that  I want to acknowledge and say thank you to, who don’t often get the thanks they deserve every moment of every day. And because Jessica honors them so well, I want to credit her tributes and thank her for writing them. I have provided excerpts below from each entry, but I encourage you to click through to the original post to truly have your heart touched.

Each dog takes a journey on their way to forever, and has many touch points along the way. Their first touch point is usually at the hardworking and ever gentle hand of the shelter worker.

“They stand at the doorway each morning and take a deep breath. The dogs, recognizing that they’re no longer alone, have erupted in a cacophony of demands for food, bathroom breaks, attention. Overwhelmed by the noise, hearts pounding, trying to pick a direction to go in first, they say, “I’m coming just as fast as I can everybody. I love you all this morning.” And then they start running…

…They are a vital part of our community. The safety net for our pets. The beating heart deep in our collective hope for a better world for our animals.

They are the magicians, the master jugglers, the contortionists, working endlessly to pull one more miracle out of their bag of tricks. One more life saved by their weary hands. They are the underpaid, overworked operators working the lines until there is a happy ending.”

Pictured here are just a few of the ladies who are the miracle workers of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, and the heroes I hold responsible for both Ollie and Balton coming to my my life. Stephanie, Tiffany, and Pam are three of the most dedicated ladies who work with two of Lucky Dog’s shelter partners, and countless lives are owed to their dedication down in the trenches (photo credits to Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, Cris Ghillani, and Virgil Ocampo).

The next touch point a shelter pup finds holding its leash on the road to rescue is the volunteer.

“They are the worker bees, absolutely essential to the bustling hive that is the shelter. They work together towards a common goal: saving lives.

They discover that they themselves have found a home among the temporarily homeless.

The work is tough, but they feel uplifted, empowered and proud. They are contributing to a cause, making a difference in every single life they touch. A community is discovered, new friends are made, a purpose is revealed, a fire is lit!”

Volunteers make their impact down in the shelters where Lucky Pups come from, and once they arrive here to the DC area, Lucky Dog volunteers come in many forms: drivers, handlers, home visit volunteers, adoption coordinators, event team members, weekly volunteer email composers, community members like trainers, groomers, boarding facilities, veterinarians, dog boutiques, and photographers who donate their services in order to make a difference for one lucky, precious life at a time (and as I write this, Lucky Dog’s volunteers and the 6,000+ lives they’ve saved are thanked in this lovely guest blog post featured in NovaDog Magazine’s blog!). We’re not kidding when we say it really does take a village, and there can never be too many volunteers. Below is a sampling of LDAR volunteers from all walks of life at this year’s Strut Your Mutt walk with Best Friends Animal Society, who collectively raised over $18,000 to help more even more pups, and had fun doing it. Many hands working hard, making great things happen. That’s what volunteering is about.

symteamphotoAnd in the world of rescue, the final bridge on the road to forever tends to be the foster family.

“They do their best to balance holding tight and letting go. It is a tricky dance to care so deeply for a guest, since dogs stay forever in our hearts. But when people tell them, “I couldn’t foster because it would be too hard to give the dog up.” They say, “How can it be harder than knowing a dog died because no foster home stepped up?” And that is why they do it time and again.

And while they worry they might not be strong enough to let this one go, something special happens: The right adoption application arrives!

They lifted a single soul up, out of the crowd and floating on their hands, their foster dog arrived in the arms of the family that has been searching for him. It was all worthwhile.”

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Fosters Angel and Allison with their now-adopted-former-fosters, Randy and Wilson

In the new year, tribute will be paid to the touch points that act as stepping stones on the Lucky Dog journey, thanks to a documentary being created by Creative Liquid Productions called “The Lucky Ones.” The film will premiere in January 2014 here in the DC metro area, but the trailer can be viewed on “The Lucky Ones” landing page now. Check it out, and stay tuned for premiere details as they become available!

PS – In case anyone is counting, this brings today’s not-too-shabby thank you tally to 6:

  1. to full life
  2. to Jessica Dolce/Notes from a Dog Walker/Dogs In Need of Space
  3. to shelter workers
  4. to volunteers
  5. to fosters
  6. to Creative Liquid Productions

By my count I still owe at least 7 extra thank yous to get caught up, but I will get there!


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Thirty Days of Thanks Day 9-10: Sleeping In and Silence

I realize I failed to give thanks yesterday, and so today I attempt to make up for it with two thankful fors which are sort of related.

I love sleeping in whenever I get the opportunity. For 7 years I worked in jobs that had me working every Saturday and sometimes Sunday, so weekends didn’t typically provide me sleeping in opportunity.

I now work a job where I only work an occasional Saturday, but sleeping in practices were often rattled by a sound sensitive (and sensitive in general) Balton who would normally be content to sleep in, if not for some early rising humans out for a stroll or running happily down to the playground down the street.

Saturday slumber interrupted by frantic barking and whining, coupled by one of two barely woken humans yelling to quiet down or hiding under a pillow to muffle the noise.

Barking out windows has not been limited to early morning rituals, but often would continue through the day as Balton played the role of neighborhood watch, or “I think I heard something” turned into a dramatic tantrum to scare off the people who, really, would bypass our house anyway without the dog barking at them, but Balton was assured his scary self is what made them keep walking. And once one dog starts barking the other feels inclined to chime in, so, yeah, there’s that.

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A combination of training and management has since been implemented to help our house patrol feel less of a need to patrol the house since early days.  Window film from Home Depot has helped make a world of difference in curbing the downstairs window hysteria because even if he hears something and starts barking, he rushes to the window and sees a whole lot of nothing. When he takes a moment to ponder what he was so upset about, I call his name and he comes running to me, and he gets a treat. While the window film has helped quite a bit as far as managing the behavior, the calling and treating has helped to teach a better behavior. Snack and praise > barking at neighbor.

Previously, any rustling of noise would trigger a long-winded and intensely performed barking soliloquy, so I’ve started being more aware of those noises. Lately, on a Saturday or Sunday morning when I get the chance to sleep in, I hear a neighbor outside and brace myself for the barking to commence. History has taught me to expect it. But lately, the early morning barking has not been as regular an occurrence. In fact, it’s now more the exception than the norm.

I’m grateful that B has had the opportunity to learn that sleeping in and cozy blankets> early morning barking and rushing the window, and we’re all once again getting the opportunity to remember just how golden silence is.

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Sophia Yin Seminar Prelude: Fear, Aggression, Foster Dogs, and Me

In September, I had the opportunity to attend a two-day seminar with Dr. Sophia Yin, veterinarian, animal behaviorist, inventor of the Manners Minder/Treat & Train, and pretty cool lady. Dr. Yin began studying animal behavior after spending time in the veterinary field, after realizing during practice that more animals were being euthanized for behavior issues than for medical issues.

Since then, she has authored many articles and books, spoken at many seminars, and continues to provide resources to the pet owning, pet training, and veterinary community through her continued research and practice in the field.

I attended her September seminar on Fear and Aggression on behalf of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, in order to bring back what I had learned and present it to the rescue volunteers in a way that would be worthwhile for them. Since much of my personal life (and thus, this blog) has become dedicated to creating a better understanding of fear, reactivity, and how they affect dogs in the shelter and rescue system and the people they connect with, I wanted to share some of my learnings here over a series of entries. This is a really tough issue when it comes to rescuing dogs, and one I am passionate about.

Best Friends Animal Society reports that 9,000 dogs die daily in shelters across the United States.  And the infographic below helps outline a few important points:

1. One of those most common reasons is for behavior problems
2. Public perception of how many animals die in shelters on the daily: 5% of what it actually is
3. 90% of those dogs that die in shelters are adoptable, or can be with care and treatment.

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Image credit bestfriends.org

Save Them All. It’s a powerful idea, and one worth pursuing as a collective rescue community. But for those of us who spend any length of time in the world of rescue, we know it’s easier said than done. With limited resources (space, funds, appropriately matched foster and adoptive homes, hours in a volunteer’s day) and way more dogs going into shelters than heading out, “saving them all” isn’t so easy.

Coming up with clear points that identify the 90% adoptable vs. the 10% unadoptable is another issue that has many more layers of difficulty. Sometimes, a dog may pass all standard behavior tests in the shelter. They may adapt well (or well enough) to different living environments, over and over again, or up to a point. Well meaning volunteers or adopters may push that dog further than it can adapt to, or not recognize warning signs of behavior challenges until they escalate to a point that become more stressful or difficult than they could or should have been.  In fact, this issue is partly addressed by Dr. Yin in her article “Adopting a Dog: Some Dogs are Easier Than Others”  as she writes “passing a shelter evaluation doesn’t mean a perfect pet.”

Dogs with certain behavior challenges and fear based issues can be placed, and I love seeing those hard-to-place dogs go home, to the right home. In my volunteer experience, Lucky Dog has successfully screened homes for and placed MANY fearful dogs, and they thrive in those homes with patient and loving adopters (even if they spend several months or more than a year looking for the right forever). But, as someone who has screened many adoption applications over the years, the #1 behavior issue adopters identify as a deal breaker is aggression. I can count on less than one hand the number of applicants that do not readily and adamantly admit that aggression would be grounds for a return. And I don’t blame them for that.

What I do ask is that we speak honestly about the known and unknown things about their potential new family member, in order to determine if it’s an appropriate match, and I ask that they make an honest commitment to understanding and training their dog as much as they commit to providing necessary medical care. I ask them how they will work with their dog to prevent aggression from developing, and explain the importance of taking a proactive instead of reactive approach to training. I get frustrated (or downright angry) when people adopt a dog with the promise of giving him the best life possible, and then break that promise by not supporting their physical or behavioral health. Adopters who do not address behavior issues early on, allow them to escalate, and then wash their hands of the promise they made frustrate me. But if someone determines prior to adoption that a dog’s overall needs don’t fit their lifestyle, or if after adoption they really, really try to give them that dog but are unable, I can only thank them for sincerity and honesty, and show support in compassion, problem solving, and identifying the right resources and next steps for them. In some cases, this means a dog doesn’t get adopted, or a dog gets returned, and it’s the best thing for that dog.

In a Dogster article by Sassafrass Lowrey on adopting “imperfect” dogs, her words resonate as we work to place dogs in homes where they will be able to stay and thrive. She writes, “I want people to rescue dogs, but I also want rescue dogs to get forever homes — not experience one more rejection. I believe part of that winning combo is transparency about what an individual dog has: their strengths as well as their struggles. Then, the prospective adopting family needs to do thoughtful self-analysis ensure they aren’t just falling in love with a cute face but can and will handle everything about this dog. Don’t judge yourself if the answer is no, this isn’t the right fit for my home/lifestyle/family/wants. It doesn’t make you bad to realize those things; it makes you responsible.”

If we ask adopters to be responsible, we as members of the rescue community need to ask the same of ourselves. And so, there is a delicate line that is toed regularly in the world of rescue: the line between saving all and assessing risk. Sara Reusche of Paws Abilities wrote a very good piece on Responsible Rescues  which addresses some important guidelines which outline the characteristics of a responsible rescue (if you haven’t read it, take a few minutes to…it’s very good). In short, these characteristics are:

1. Focusing on making good matches between animals and adopters
2. Not making excuses for their animals
3. Caring as much for the safety of the adopter and the community as they do their animals, and not placing dangerous animals
4. Working within their means
5. Improving the animals in their care
6. Following up

So, in following these guidelines, and the guideline of “Knowledge is Power,” I’m on a mission to offer some access to educational opportunities that will allow a volunteer-run, foster-based organization to follow these guidelines.

It’s important to recognize the very nature of being a foster dog is stressful, and our role as fosters or rescue volunteer is to “do no harm”. Dr. Yin addressed this in her seminar, and in her book to the veterinary community on Low Stress Handling, Restraint & Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats. Additionally, Debbie Jacobs of Fearfuldogs.com recently started a series on “Fostering Success” through her blog, and she explains, “The most important role a foster caregiver can play in the life of a dog in transition is to ensure that the dog, at the very minimum, does not develop new fears, concerns or reasons to distrust people. Every dog in the rescue system would have a unique tale to tell, were they able to do so…when these dogs roll the dice they may not be expecting lucky sevens…a foster home should prove to these dogs that their luck has changed, that betting on people being good to them is worth the risk. And there are the dogs who despite everyone’s good intentions remain wary and unsure.”

Dr. Yin said at her seminar, “every time we interact with a dog, we learn something and the dog learns something.” The question then is what are we learning, and what are they learning? In our lessons with dogs, are we teaching them we humans don’t listen to them, and therefore can’t be taught or trusted, or are we ultimately helping them learn the crazy human world we’re asking them to live in is a good one?

Even if we provide positive experience in a foster home, it’s also important to consider many foster based organizations also rely on weekly adoption events to showcase dogs in their care, since they don’t have shelter visiting hours. These events can be super stressful for dogs who are greeted by would-be adopters and random people on the street who can’t resist the cute factor, but may be clueless/rude in the way they greet dogs. This can lead to the development or exacerbation of fear issues in dogs. Dr. Yin says fear is a precursor to aggression, and most dog bites are attributed to a fear response (which we’ll address in some more detail later). Aggression is a normal fear response for a dog, but in our human world, it is inappropriate. A dog who bites, regardless of reason or emotional state, is considered a liability.  Volunteer and public education on recognizing signs of fear and how we humans make fear worse is critical by virtue of this fact alone, as improper greetings and failing to recognize early signs of fear can literally put dogs’ lives at risk.

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Image credit drsophiayin.com

It seems fairly obvious that animal rescues want to rescue animals, and that rescue volunteers have kind hearts and good intentions. Unfortunately, kind hearts and good intentions aren’t enough to prevent or resolve behavior issues, as I came to learn with Balton. I had to get smarter to learn how to work with him and address his fears, and I did (and continue to). Unfortunately, while I was learning how to address his fear, he was learning that behaving aggressively makes scary things go away, and practicing that behavior. Sara Reusche addresses the “practice makes perfect” idea in this post on reactivity, stating “the more your dog engages in any behavior, whether you approve of that behavior or not, the better your dog will get at performing that behavior.”

Seeing how good Balton was with the people he trusted (namely, my husband and me), I was his biggest cheerleader for adoptability to the right home for many months. Then we had a behavior assessment done, and the professional assessment told us otherwise. Our trainers told us in kindness and honesty after observing him “you’re great with him, but you’re not normal.”

They further told us they felt great confidence in my ability to provide him a full life and keep him and others safe, but if asked would they be comfortable with their next door neighbor adopting him, the answer would be no. His social drive was low, his warning system was poor, and despite his tolerance,  acceptance, and eager-to-please affection for those he trusted, he was too quick to bite the people he didn’t. He would require a lifetime of training and management, and our assessment report stated “management is very hard and most people don’t have your level of skill…he is sweet dog, but a project, and likely will be for life.” If we couldn’t adopt him, it would be understandable, but the kindest thing for him would then be euthanasia.

When I first set out to foster Balton I was adamant that we were an okay home for him in that moment, but not for the long haul. He was doing well in our care, and so I while I knew full well his adoption window was small, I thought his love for “his” people would eventually triumph over his challenges. Well, it did, but not quite as I had thought it would. Ultimately, when faced with the decision on how to move forward, I believed Balton had not reached his full potential. I believed there was more for him than months and months of hard work together, scratching the surface of progress made, and a young life cut short. Continuing to be his cheerleader, I believed he deserved better, and I adopted a dog who had been assessed as unadoptable.

My admission of adopting an unadoptable dog is simply that: an admission of a fact. It’s not a bragging right, nor is it a confession of some sort of sin. Some people might celebrate it, some people might condemn it. I’m sure there are a number of good points to argue either. The point is I knew who this dog was, what he needed to be successful, and how to offer it to him. After a series of early mistakes while fostering Balton, and learning from those mistakes, I wanted to do right by him, and felt capable of doing what was necessary. He is so much better than he was a year ago. Our relationship, and the way he and I partner together to handle his fears, has improved by leaps and bounds and taught us both so much.

Having said that, he will always have challenges, and I will never force him to be a dog that he isn’t or fit a mold that others may expect he should fit as a “good dog”. I know he is a good dog, but I also know it would be irresponsible to pass the leash to someone else, given the level of training and management he would require. I was prepared to provide him that training and management, but if I was not, it would also have been irresponsible for me to adopt him.

With Balton’s adoption, I am currently one less available foster home, which may have helped to provide shelter and development to countless other dogs. However,  I also have a much greater knowledge and desire to learn about dog behavior than I had or could have expected before he came to me. I don’t take for granted how little I knew when we started off together, nor do I consider myself an expert today by any means (you can find some experts on my resources page though). Still, I continue to believe Balton came to my life to teach me things, and I don’t want to keep those lessons to myself if they can somehow help other rescue volunteers and the dogs in their care.


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Ups and Downs of the Last Ten Days

All’s been quiet on the WordPress front – it’s been a busy, exhausting, and emotional week and a half, so I haven’t had a lot of time to process and write as I would like – I started and stopped a few times. Much of our animal experiences will require their own page, so, more to come I guess.

Here’s what’s happened this past week and a half:

  • We traveled out to Ohio to visit family (and friends along the way at Penn State) – another experience in our travels with dogs with more learned along the way, and a feeling that while not always perfect, it gets a little better each time as Balton becomes more worldly.
  • We experienced the sudden and heartwrenching lesson in what Feline Aortic Thromboembolism (Saddle Thrombus) was, which quickly took the life of our 11 year old cat. My body hadn’t been so utterly exhausted from tears shed in I can’t remember how long before she crossed to the rainbow bridge.
  • We started up week two of agility class with Ollie – where he continues to excel and seems to have fun, whereas I continue to develop my own coordination skills…but I also do have fun.
  • I attended a weekend seminar with Dr. Sophia Yin, who provided an excellent presentation on fear and aggression in dogs, and gave me a lot of great knowledge that I am currently working on processing and presenting to Lucky Dog Volunteers.
  • We are embarking on our first petsitting experience through Rover.com as part of their “Sit a Pet, Save a Life” program – it’s like fostering except we know exactly when the dogs will leave and they already have a forever home, which makes it more workable with our current household dynamic (though, I’m not sure if watching someone else’s dogs is more or less pressure  than the act of fostering!). The “save a life” piece comes into play because 10% of our petsitting fees will be donated back to Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, which is pretty neat.
  • Finally, we celebrated one year of life with Balton this past week – and I took some time to reflect on all the smiles, tears, stress, love, and learnings he’s brought into our lives.

Each of these points have a story in themselves, and I’ll get to sharing them in the coming weeks. In the mean time, I encourage you to do a little blog hopping while I work on getting myself, and with that, original content, together. Here’s a few things I read this past week and affected me in some way, so wanted to share them with you too.

  • Like this very wise and relatively short piece on all-to-important lessons from dogs and grandpa, by Oh Melvin.
  • Or this not-so-short, but very powerful piece on how Self Care is Not Optional, and the effects of Compassion Fatigue, by Notes from a Dog Walker.
  • Or get your foster fix with an update from our friend Katie at Maryland-based Of Barks and Bones, who is caring for her first full time foster, an adorable beagle named BJ (sharing his story and helping him get adopted would also be pretty awesome).
  • Or, finally, break out the tissues and read this beautiful tribute from Reactive Champion about a beautiful dog named Dobby, who was given a gift of love and kindness without compare by his mom of Paws Abilities. I don’t know Dobby, or the people in his life, but I do love both of their blogs – and his story is one of great beauty.

More to come soon, but please hang with us until the next post at Facebook or on Instagram. It’s really the best way to catch us in “realtime” and play virtual soccer with Balton. Because, really, who doesn’t want that?

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