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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Weird Morning Rituals

All of us have different rituals for different parts of our day. Some of them are stranger than others. One of those strange rituals that has me scratching my head is Balton’s.

First thing he does as soon as a human is up and moving is take their spot on the bed. Not so weird, as he’s merely relocating to the warmest spot.

What IS weird is that every morning for as long as I can remember, he decides at some point after jumping on the bed that he needs to do this:

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I’m not sure what it is, but he absolutely has to give Ollie a full on sniff down when he discovers he’s there. As if he needs to check and make sure he’s still Ollie. Ollie just sort of lets him do what he needs to do, for as long as he needs to, and when B is done sniffing they both go back to sleep for a bit, or get up and carry on about their day (read: wanting to go outside and eat breakfast). Ollie’s head a little soggier, but otherwise it’s as if nothing ever happened.

It’s kind of sweet to watch, as it truly does seem to be a daily act of affection between brothers, but I still am puzzled by it. Anyone have any ideas why Balton might do this? Any weird morning rituals you observe in your fur kids that you care to share?


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Spring Awakening – How We Spent our Winter Vacation

With the winter weather fading away soon (though I think we’re supposed to have one more bout of polar vortex coming through the DC area) methinks it’s time to wake up and start trying to write once again. The boys and I have been busy, which is why there’s been some radio silence here on the FTFP airwaves.

As you may know from an earlier post, we had a foster pup in our care for a few weeks after the new year. Dash has since been adopted, and is doing quite well with his new family so far. Out in one of the further out DC suburbs, Dash (who got to keep his namesake with his new adopters) is now the youngest of four boys. His three human brothers adore him, and he is sharing affection in abundance with them and his new mom. Here he is on adoption day, and snoozing soundly in his new abode.

We miss his snuggles and smooches, but Ollie and Balton were ready to bid a fond farewell to their energetic foster brother and get back to their regularly scheduled programming.

The holiday season came and went like a flash, and involved a trip out to Ohio over Thanksgiving and a trip out to New Jersey out over Christmas. This was also actually the first Christmas Balton spent with us, because last year he spent it with an LDAR boarding partner. Based on the drips and drabs we know of Balton’s life before life as a Lucky Dog, I would venture to guess it was also his first Christmas. In both instances, we applied our learned skills for helping him be more comfortable at his grandparents’ house, and a lot of careful management. He wasn’t off leash if there were people in the home other than Nick and me, and we kept him basket muzzled. We rarely had him out and about for more than 10-20 minutes at a time, depending on what he could handle, and he had a safe zone away from all the action at both grandparents’ houses. Overall, he was a rock star. Here he is resting on his mat (and on a tiedown) by the fire over Thanksgiving.

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Despite his best efforts this year, Balton managed to earn a spot on the nice list (Santa seems to have a soft spot for fearful dogs, even the misbehaven ones). He brought him one new soccer ball for outside, and one for inside. The indoor one has been great for accompanying the polar vortexes, freezing rains, and recent snowstorms (speaking of snowstorms, Balton got featured on the Muzzle Up Project Blog last week for his arctic puppy playtime when DC got its big snow of the season two weeks ago – safe management for the win!).

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After the new year, the boys and I have been busy with our educational pursuits. Mine at community college are much less interactive than the ones at All About Dogs, and provide no snacks. Sometimes seeing Balton’s progress as a Rowdy Rover is sometimes equivalent to watching paint dry, but when I look back on this last year and see how far he’s come (and how far his trainers have noted he’s come) it makes me really proud and brings me more joy than I can say. We can see a clear and consistent improvement in his confidence in class, and although we still have a ways to go in keeping good Rowdy Rover behavior out in the real world, we’re seeing changes for the better there too.

Ollie is now going through the All About Dogs Levels Program, which allows dogs to progress through different skill classes at their own pace. We’ve been in the program for a month and will continue through to the end of June, then see if he needs to re-enroll when we get there. If I’m being honest, I sort of expected Ollie to breeze through his basic skills class (attention, sit, down, and sit-by-side, or heel are the ones to know in order to advance). But my dogs are always full of surprises and unexpected challenges. The trainers had seen Ollie had the skills needed to move up a few weeks ago, but he was definitely a bit stressed out at school and I was told he work on his confidence in order to move up. I found myself having to find some solutions to working through Ollie’s car anxiety and classroom nervousness (while silently having a “oh no, not you, too!” moment about the prospect of having a second worrier on my hands).

Fortunately, Ollie’s nervousness was much more isolated and far less severe, so with a little creativity, a little extra positive reinforcement, and complementary management methods like keeping a bed in the car and wearing a Thundershirt, we’re doing much better and having a much better time. If nothing else, troubleshooting for Balton definitely has made “calming your nervous dog” one of my new ingrained skill sets, and Ollie responds so well to just a little extra support and motivation.

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This weekend, Ollie showed he had the chops to move up from Level 1 to Level 2, so while I’ve been hibernating, he’s well on his way to earning his doggie PhD. Or so he says…talk about a confidence boost.


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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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Thirty Days of Thanks Day 2: Warmth (by Ollie)

Today my thanks goes out to warmth.

I don’t remember much about life before leaving the shelter. But I remember the floor was cold. Then I took a long ride in a van and it was warmer. Then when stepped out, the ground was cold again. Colder than the floor even. And wet. And white.

They called it snow. I didn’t like it.

Luckily I didn’t have to stay in the snow very long, and soon made it to my new home and immediately got to looking for something warm to lay on. And I found it!

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But then I found a warmer spot, so decided to lay there instead.

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Mom and dad quickly discovered that I need to always find the warmest spot. And I’m proud to report that I continue to have great success in finding it. Sometimes brother Balton tries to take the warm spots, and sometimes I let him share.

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Other times…well…I do what I have to do to stay warm.

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I try not to ever forget or take for granted how glad I am to have found my warmth, and I try to always give warmth back whenever I can.

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This time of year it starts getting cold. And so this time of year, I am especially thankful to my Lucky Dog friends, and to all the people who rescue pups like me to help us all find a warm beds, blankets, and humans to cuddle up with.


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Ode to Ollie

While I love to share moments of great success and interest from Balton, Ollie is my little ray of sunshine who always makes me laugh with his playful and bouncy enthusiasm, and love for pretty much all people and dogs. Last Thursday after class with Balton, I came home, let him settle in, and took Ollie for a walk alone and experienced a “Treat Yo Self” (credit Notes from a Dog Walker) inspired moment.

I love both my dogs, but I think Balton’s level of need tends to overshadow Ollie a little bit. Sharing love is  something I have to do more consciously when one dog demands so much more attention to achieve a sense of normalcy than the other. There’s a lot of internalized guilt in my efforts to show outward displays for both dogs in a way that is equitable.  Last Thursday’s peaceful stroll around the lake was a gentle reminder about how blessed I am to have a dog like Ollie, and how for all the love he has give to me, the many foster dogs we’ve looked after, and the world beyond is not to be taken for granted. In that walk, I discovered a new Thursday night ritual, and I am excited to start a 6 week agility class with him next Tuesday and spend some alone time with my little guy. He deserves it.

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And agility class apparently can’t begin too soon! Those of you who follow us on Facebook may have caught this video that I took of Ollie, just delightfully being Ollie. I’ve rewatched it several times and it continues to make me laugh, so in the spirit of all the joy Ollie brings us regularly, I hope that in less than two minutes he’ll do the same for you, in case you missed it.

“Jack Russell Terriers are bred to go underground, following scent to locate and bark at quarry until they are dug down to or the quarry bolts. If they do not have an outlet for their natural instincts, they will invent new and fun jobs for themselves.”
-Jack Russell Terrier Club of America