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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Foster Flashback Friday: Environmental Management

Managing a dog’s environment is something that can lead to great success and great fails (not in the cute happy ending way that Balton likes to talk about either). We’ve seen our share of both, and sometimes even good management can fail (so it’s often wise to have multi-management systems in place). Fostering has taught me there’s a human learning curve when dealing with many dogs, with many individual personalities and their own doggie learning curves for training progress.

Sometimes, you forget that with a new dog, you have to hit reset. This is true for adoptive homes and the perpetual revolving door for foster parents. Bear in mind that even though your last dog or foster dog may not have never chewed anything or required minimal exercise, for example, the new standard of living is going to be different with a new dog. Perhaps if more people went into adoptions with this one thing in mind, we would have fewer dogs being returned to rescues or being dumped at shelters (article credit Dogs Out Loud).

One lesson in environmental management that I often reflect on comes courtesy of one of my favorite fosters, Loopy the one-eyed Rottie mix.

Loopy - Adopted December 2012

There’s something incomparably lovely about a dog who always is winking at you.

Loopy liked to play, run, and cuddle.

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15 lbs of dog underneath 55 lbs of dog. Seems reasonable.

We learned pretty soon after her arrival that she also liked to chew. Her most favorite snacks were rolls of paper towels or toilet paper, and electronic cords. In the 3 weeks we had her, I said sayonara to one cell phone charger, one laptop cable, and almost one vacuum (fortunately we have a handy friend who was able helped us fix the vacuum).  All of these items could have been saved if I had been a little more diligent on management.

I knew it didn’t take long for Loopy to find something “delicious” to snack on – we came in from a walk on day one when she dashed into the kitchen and went to town on a paper towel roll that had been left on the floor. 2 seconds was all she needed to destroy stuff. And yet, I somehow was surprised when I took a short break from vacuuming later that day to do some laptop work at my dining room table while Loopy rested near me in the living room. Within minutes, the vacuum plug I had left unraveled on the living room floor was being chewed just outside my periphery.

She was IN THE ROOM WITH ME and I didn’t see it happening. But why did I think that it would be reasonable to just leave the vacuum plug lying on the floor with a known chewer? Well, maybe because I didn’t think she would have an appetite for plugs. So I’ll let myself slide on that one.

Later that day I had to take a shower. While I am a huge fan of crate training (and Lucky Dog requires it when foster parents are out of the home or sleeping), I somehow thought that this lovely dog who had already shown a predisposition for chewing non-food and non-toy items would be okay for the 10 minutes I was indisposed and unable to watch her. Thus, the demise of my laptop cable. What the heck was I thinking by not crating her?

Thankfully, a little collateral damage was all that came from this great day of learning, and Loopy was unharmed. I take full ownership of being a poor environmental manager, and became a lot more diligent about managing Loopy’s environment. I later had the good fortune of completing her home visit with her forever family, and spied a laptop plugged in on the floor. I cautioned they would want to pick that up, offering what I had learned the hard way as a preventative tip for the new adopters.

cb51d-loopyholly

Loopy (now Leela) in her new home with her Pomeranian mix sister (keep an eye on the laptop in the corner!).

It’s important to note that when something gets destroyed or impacted by the result of poor management, it’s not really the dog’s fault. Let me repeat that. When you fail as a manager, it is not your dog’s fault. It is your fault, human. I’ve seen more than a few situations of adopters getting mad at their recently adopted dog when he shows destructive behavior. Then I come to find out that dog was left unsupervised and uncrated (when the dog had been crate trained and was perfectly comfortable in a crate). I’m sorry, but there is no excuse for blaming a dog for the fact that you set up his environment to fail. Mistakes happen. Accidents happen. But we humans are the ones who control the environment and teach our dogs what behavior is appropriate under our supervision. Eventually, those dogs learn and can be entrusted to less supervision. But until they do, we cannot expect them to know what they have not learned, and have no right to get mad at them when we are the ones who screwed up.

Environmental management is obviously not a substitute for real, honest to goodness training, but it definitely can save shoes, cables, and other casualties of dog boredom (or in some cases, anxiety) as you work on teaching a dog appropriate behaviors and building trust in one another.

For a few more good pieces on management, check here (credit Paws Abilities), here (Fearfuldogs.com), here and here (Eileen and Dogs).  In dogs with more serious behavior issues (like our Balton), you can see a few more flashbacks of management in action herehere, and here.

How about you? Any management tidbits that have been helpful with your past or present resident dogs? Or hard knock lessons that resulted in improved management?

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Foster Flashback Friday: Nina’s Potty Mouth

Nina was our very first foster dog with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. I had started handling dogs at adoption events a few weeks after going through Lucky Dog’s screening process and adopting Ollie. From there, I sort of fell into fostering. The story goes something like this:

I was hanging around at an adoption event, chatting about this old-ish Jack Russell Terrier I was handling named Rasmus. He had recently gone through Heartworm treatment, and also had bad skin, bad teeth, and no foster. I pondered out loud bringing him home, but he ended up with another foster…who ultimately later adopted him, so it worked out quite well for him. Meanwhile, I thought divine intervention had perhaps prevented me from going home with a dog that day.

Fast forward about 30 seconds to a lone dog who looked in sad shape at the foster check out table. Evidently this dog also had nowhere to go, and…well…I was there. So they asked if I would please take her. She had kennel cough, so couldn’t go to boarding, and I had effectively opened myself up to the possibility of going home with a canine friend. Saying no was going to be tough (okay, for me, it was going to be impossible), and so began my foster journey.

Following some questions about crates, food, just how contagious was Kennel Cough to my dog with his Bordatella vaccine, and some paperwork, I was putting a 36 inch crate in my car for a 12 lb dog (it was all they had), and soon after carrying a small black & white beagle with an old man whooping cough to my car (for she was too scared to walk). Her name was Nina, and she was going to be staying with us for a little while.

Scared as she was at first and on the car ride home, she came around rather quickly and she and Ollie almost immediately developed a love connection.

ninaollie2

We only had her for about two weeks before Nina was adopted, but they were eventful. We learned that keeping her crated in the bedroom next door, our initial action plan with the foster, was not going to be a super solid one if we wanted to get any sleep at all.

ninacrate

The crate wasn’t the issue, she actually slept beautifully in it – the sleeping alone was. Cried, cried, cried her Beagle howl until someone came in for her. So, since I didn’t want to sleep on the floor for an undetermined amount of time, we found ourselves with two dogs in our room – suffice it to say this pattern pretty much stuck with future fosters.

We also learned how challenging and rewarding fostering can be – especially when you’re still working on things like housetraining with your own dog and a new pup comes in who needs to start from scratch. There was also an occasional dispute over a toy, and I found myself taking a crash course in doggy body language and understanding play styles. Much of the time I thought the dogs were fighting, they were actually just playing.

Still, there’s just something lovely about starting with a dog who won’t walk on a leash and then passing the leash of a sassy little diva dog that saunters around and wins the hearts of the neighbors. Not sure if this is the case for all fosters, but as our first foster dog, Nina was definitely the one I cried most irrationally for when she left us for her family.

ninacouch

Nina also had a gross challenge that we thankfully haven’t had to address since her departure – she would eat, or attempt to eat, her own poop. To this day I am horrified to talk about it, and I felt like I was a terrible foster mom when I let it happen. Fortunately, most of the time she was leash walked and I would intercede as pick-up patrol before she could get to it. But man did she want to snack on it, I had to be quick.

But a couple of times, when I wasn’t paying close attention as I should’ve been, she would saunter up to me from a different room and her potty mouth breath would be a dead giveaway of what I had managed to miss while my back was turned. In fact, Nina’s potty mouth remains one of our final less-than-sweet moments together. I was packing up her stuff and getting ready to bring her to her weekend foster, where she would be going before heading off to her adoptive home the next day.

As I was packing up a few of her favorite toys to send with her, Nina came sashaying up to me and lovingly attempted to give me a sweet puppy kiss when it became apparent that while I was upstairs packing and not paying attention, she was downstairs taking care of business and subsequently having herself a snack. Feeling disappointed in myself, and equally worried and grossed out for her, I got the doggie toothpaste and quite literally washed out her potty mouth just before her sendoff.

On out way over to the weekend foster, Nina laid in the back seat – looking a bit sad. I suspected that of course, she was as irrationally sad as I was that she would be leaving us and not coming back.

ninacar

As it turns out, she was actually not sad, but somewhere between carsick and nauseated from her morning snack. Moments later, Nina hurled all over my back seat. It was the first of many foster brandings to be left on that backseat, and a hard life lesson that laying a sheet down on the spot for the dog is an excellent idea if you don’t have leather interior.

But, she did feel much better afterwards, and I heard no follow-up reports of poop eating after that event. And Nina and her adoptive family have been spotted at a few Lucky Dog events after her adoption too. So…I like to believe that maybe we helped her outgrow that phase in her life?

As it turns out, poop eating, otherwise known as coprophagia, is considered a fairly common behavior, sometimes done as the result of poor nutrition or simply because they “like the taste” (seriously). Victoria Stilwell did a short piece on it in her “It’s Me or the Dog” training tips column – which addresses some of the stuff to do about it. At the time, we were feeding a high quality diet and picking up immediately when we could – so by all accounts I can feel good about how we tried to work with the odd behavior in our limited foster newbie knowledge.

Still, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t still haunt me a little today. Maybe my public soul (and Nina’s palate) cleansing can finally give me a little closure on this chapter of my life. Have you ever experienced any gross or strange habits with in your own dogs or former fosters?


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Foster Flashback Friday: The Fosterhood of the Traveling Adopt Me Collar

I am experimenting with a new blog feature that may inspire me to actually maintain one consistent weekly update. Call it my effort at self-motivation when I sometimes lose focus on things, but I think this will be a fun one.

Since our venture into foster failure, we are on hiatus from being able to provide the same level of  temporary housing as we once were to future Lucky Dogs. It’s true that I am not currently fostering, and look forlornly at the emails sent out on an almost daily basis by Lucky Dog’s Foster Coordinator. Though it’s been over 10 months since I agreed to take my last “full time’ foster, it’s hard to reconcile with the fact that I can’t help the next pup who needs it – especially those dogs who really could use a foster home more than others.

Tapping into the original purpose of this blog, while still hoping to add something for the here and now, I offer to you “Foster Flashback Friday.” Where I tap into some of the fun memories of previous houseguests, and some completely random experience I had with them and apply it to helping a dog today. Some may be funny, some may be a little sappy, but all will contain some useful nugget or call to action. I don’t know how long I may be able to sustain this, but it sure seemed like a novel idea in my head. With that, I encourage any fellow fosters out there who may have some “Foster Flashback” stories they would like to share in that spirit – email them along to me here or share them on Facebook. And, tell me what you think of the idea and posts in general, k? If you hate it, I won’t keep keepin’ on with it.

So, onto this week’s inaugural Foster Flashback Friday. Which frankly doesn’t flash back all that far.

Several months ago, I was introduced to Sirius Republic through the wonders of social media by way of our friends at Dirty Paw Photography. Their mascot dog, Oliver, was shown sporting one of their collars and I thought it was awesome. I also learned that Sirius Republic does beautiful handmade collars in all sorts of styles (including martingale, my preferred style and the required style for Lucky Dog fosters) and free “Adopt Me” embroidery for foster dogs on their collars when you order.

The icing on the cake: they also donate a portion of proceeds from their sales to local rescues all over the country. Sweet, right?

Fast forward a few emails and a credit card charge. Lucky Dog had their own rescue code set up, and Balton had an “Adopt Me” collar with shamrocks to give him EXTRA luck and get adopted. To a family that was not mine.

baltonadoptmecollar

Well, that didn’t happen exactly as planned. So after we signed the adoption paperwork in late May, we donated this collar to Lucky Dog Animal Rescue for use with future adoption efforts and I’ve now seen it on at least 3 dogs. I’m pleased to see it’s working it’s lucky magic a little better now that Balton’s no longer wearing it (although some people have argued its magic worked just fine for him too).

Not to be left out, we also bought Ollie a Sirius Republic collar just because.

ollie

But then we donated that one too after we purchased post-adoption collars in complementary argyle patterns.

 

“Yeah! We look good, but don’t photograph together all that well!”

I’ve seen Ollie’s collar on a few fosters as well, though admittedly it has a little less meaning since Ollie was never really up for adoption in our house. Still, glad to see it continues to make the rounds.

The Fosterhood of the Traveling Adopt Me Collar can, and should, be continued with more than one collar (this is where the call to action comes in)!  Consider donating a martingale collar for a foster dog (make sure you have them embroider it “Adopt Me” for good measure!) and have it sent to Lucky Dog. Or, if you would like to support Lucky Dog with some sweet Sirius Republic Gear for your own dog, you can do that too at www.siriusrepublic.com (start browsing and you’ll be hard pressed not to).

Whether you shop for you or for a dog in need, be sure to include the rescue code RPLD37 to make sure Lucky Dog gets supported in some way!

I would also like to note that I don’t receive any sort of revenue or free stuff for talking about how cool Sirius Republic is (or anyone for that matter, I’m not that important of a blogger yet). I just really love the quality and craftsmanship of their stuff, and love what they do to support animal rescues from coast to coast through their small business endeavors.