Saturday, January 22, 2011

Molly & Rootie

The local Humane Society did it's best. They had their own foster network and tried hard to keep up with then influx of abandoned animals, but there was only so much they could do. They developed a pretty good relationship with local rescue groups who would take the animals that would face euthanasia at the shelter.

As a foster home I've noticed a LOT of people think the dogs I take in must be quite the handful. I hear things like "Oh, does she/he bark/bite/have too much energy?" or some variation way too often. The consensus seems to be that all these abandoned dogs did something wrong to end up in the pound and that's total BS. I have never had a foster that wasn't adoptable. Sure sometimes they need to learn a few doggie house manners or they might be afraid of totally random things (like ketchup..?) but they didn't do anything that bad. Sometimes their completely innocent. Take Molly and Rootie.

I got a call saying the local Humane Society had found two small dogs wandering alone in a park. I was told they had been neglected but seemed friendly. The shelter didn't have the resources to care for them so I was asked to go pick up one of the dogs, and someone else would come for the second. I got there was saw two rather excited looking mops. They seemed to be a small long-haired breed but they had obviously never been to a groomer or had even seen a brush. Their fur was one giant mat, from the eyebrows to the tail. Shannon begged to take the little girl dog so we packed her up and went home.

She STUNK. Bad. Really bad. Her fur was stuck with twigs and bits of god knows what. But she was happy as can be and desperately wanted to snuggle. We decided on Molly just because it was a girlie name and she was a girlie dog. I booked a groomer for the next afternoon and we settled in. We noticed that Molly kind of walked a little funny and when I looked at her paws I saw even her paw hair had become matted. I spent a couple hours rubbing her belly and gently cutting her toes free. When I had finished and was completely covered her dog stink, I carried Molly to the yard and watched her walk around. She hadn't been paying attention to what I was doing and when she finally noticed her new toes she was over-joyed. I actually watched her wiggle her toes. We finally went to bed and thankfully Shannon had bonded with the smelly Molly so I suggested they share a room for the night. The next day we went to the groomer and got a call asking if we could also take the second dog from the shelter. Apparently no one came for him. When Molly was done my boyfriend drove her to a new foster home (I still had Lexi and couldn't handle three) and we picked up the little male dog from the shelter.

                                           Molly as one big furball

I had learned my lesson from the stinky night with Molly. One of the vet's we used was just around the corner from the shelter so I went in and begged one of the vet techs, who happened to groom on the side, to make this new dog more comfortable. Honestly I wanted to be able to pet the friendly little dude without gaging but I figured using his health as an excuse would appeal to her more. It did and he looked wayyy better when I picked him up. Since I hadn't named him and he also got his shots and microchip the vet tech decided to name him so he'd have a name on his vet records. She decided on Rutus (?) and for awhile I was calling him Rufus (makes more sense!) until I had a very confusing phone call to the vet office to get his microchip information. Rufus is a classic dog name so when she told me his new name I just assumed I heard wrong, what can I say! Rutus? What is that? We ended up just calling him Rootie because at least that was cute. He was a bit shy compared to Molly but a complete sweetheart and totally undeserving of how he had been living before. I still can't believe these little dogs managed to live with their hair completely matted for who knows how long - the itching and the pain - and still be completely loving. Dogs are like that I guess.

After Rooties haircut
Molly found a home almost immediately, and Rootie only took a little longer. He actually went to a new foster home for a couple days before adoption because I agreed to take on a puppy. I actually had the puppy, Lexi and Rootie for a day or two which was completely hectic. Before Rootie left he was kind enough to pee on pretty much every Christmas present under our tree, which we discovered after the holidays when we opened our roommate gifts. They always find little ways to thank you, don't they?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I already mentioned a bit about Lexi but now at least there's a picture to go with the name. She's kind of adorable right? With those giant radar ears and bull like body she was totally goofy, but in an endearing way. She was always cocking her head to the side too, like she was listening intently to what you were saying, and her ears exaggerated it. Like I said before, we got her not just because she needed a place to stay, but also because we thought she'd help Nibs, and she did her part well.

Lexi was really smart. She could escape from her kennel and even figured out how to open doors. She had crazy separation issues so her success as an escape artist was bad news. When alone she would find and destroy anything that smelt like food. This mean finding every garbage bag or bin in the house and spreading the contents out from room to room. We had her up until Christmas holidays. I had stayed in town a week or two longer then my roommates to work so it was just me, Lexi, and my foster puppy, Bruiser. Each day before work I'd take her for lllllong walks where she'd get to run and play off-leash and I'd end up carrying the fast growing puppy (who was gigantic to begin with) most the way. I'd then lock Lexi in her crate, which I had put in an empty room, and I'd shut the door behind me. Each night I'd come home to Lex greeting me at the door and a mess somewhere in the house. I'll admit to loosing my temper once or twice and I finally had one of my first moments where I thought to myself "Man I can't wait for this dog to find a home!" I tried locking the kennel with random objects I had around the house but she would figure it out. I cleaned up anything in the house that could possible be chewed but she always found something. The one  time I would be rushing and forget to close a garbage bin she'd take full advantage. While it was ridiculously frustrating she always manged to amaze me. Plus she'd make up for it with her adorable "I'm sorry, I just missed you!" face.

 The next day I came home to a torn up garbage bag that contained all the dirty wood shaving from my gerbil cage scattered across the basement and found she had also eaten an entire cinnamon scented candle that I'm still surprised she not only managed find but how she managed to get it off the dinning room table which was nearly inaccessible with all the decorations and some boxes I was bringing back home for Christmas. I finished cleaning and as if on cue I found an email in my inbox with an application for adoption. This became a weird coincidence. Every time I would honestly think to myself that I had had nearly enough, I'd get an application in my inbox right away. The families didn't always work out, but it gave me a renewed sense of hope. I had the next day off so the potential family drove two hours to meet Lexi and fell in love. When I mentioned the garbage eating and the cinnamon candle incident their reply was "Cinnamon candles smell delicious" and I knew it would be a perfect match. We decided I'd drop her off a week later on my way back home for the holidays. The drive was adorable, with the tired puppy falling asleep basically on top of Lexi the entire way. We met the new family in a parking lot off the highway and Lexi just hopped in the car without looking back. And from what I can tell from occasional updates she loves her new life and was even on the front page of a local paper! I told you she was adorable.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Nibs was one of the most rewarding fosters I've had. She was rescued from a puppy mill and was dropped off at my house the day after Beans left. I believe it was on Halloween or the day after because we gave out "Nibs" candies, hence how she got her name. That first night she was terrified, matted and was in desperate need off a bath. Since Beans had just been adopted and Tag was long gone she was the only dog in the house so I took the quiet time to just sit in the same room as her. She didn't seem completely terrified of me, which was a good sign, and after awhile she would even come right up to me. I wanted to reward her somehow so I searched the house for anything that seemed slightly appetizing to a dog. She wouldn't eat anything! By the morning I was a little worried. She was already underweight but she had turned her nose up at everything, including the three different versions of wet and dry food I had ran out to get. I was sitting on the floor a little frustrated, eating the left over Halloween candy and she walked up to me and kind of stared at me. I offered her a piece of candy and she ate it! After calling the roommates in to witness her accomplishing her first big step, we all decided to name her appropriately. And it worked considering our new food themed nicknaming routine.

After she finally had a name, Nibs got over her distaste for food and started eating evvverything. She ate all her food and soon took to sitting on my lap once I bribed her with treats. Her favourite activity was destroying paper. She would take anything, a notebook, a sticky note, a receipt, and rip it into as many little pieces as possible. One day I left my notes for a class project sitting on the coffee table and she climbed up and ripped it into shreds. She had managed to climb onto a table at least a few inches taller then herself and totally destroy my work in less then 15 minutes, which for a dog that couldn't figure out stairs was a big deal. I couldn't even be mad, but I must say my classmates had a hard time believing that my dog actually did eat my homework.

Notice all the tiny paper scraps? She also liked to sleep with my slippers.  
Nibs was different from what I had expected. I was told to take things slow and let her learn to trust. But Nibs seemed to at least want to trust me within 12 hours. She would let me touch her after an hour, would come up to me when I called within 3. She ate from my hand after knowing me less then a day. I decided I could push her. The second day I threw her into the bathtub and washed the years of dirt off her little body. My roommate and I gave her a haircut so we could see her face and she could see ours. I showed her her new collar and leash and spent hours following her around the yard until she kind of got the point. After a week we had made so much progress  I agreed to take on a second foster. I figured the second dog would be able to teach Nibs a lot of things I never could and I was right. Our new foster, Lexi, seemed to understand Nibs was a little different  and took the her new role as teacher right away. With Lexi's help we managed to take actual walks in the neighborhood and eventually trips to the busy downtown core and even the dog park. She took it all in stride and even her annoying habit of marking the house was getting better. Nibs taught me that owning a dog isn't all about obedience. Sometimes its better to just sit back and let them experience whats going on around them. I really took this to heart and with every dog since I try to find a happy medium between me making the decisions and letting them discover the world themselves. And I've learned alot.

We accomplished so much it felt like we had Nibs forever, yet when her new potential family came to meet her I felt like we still had so much to do together. She had only just figured out the stairs! The day before she left she let me have one more special moment, the most amazing moment I have ever had. I sitting on the floor playing with Lexi and Nibs walked up and put her paw on my leg. When I looked down she had her little stuffed pumpkin toy in her mouth. She had never, ever, even looked at a toy with the slightest bit of interest no matter how many times we annoyed her with them. I thought she just didn't care, some dogs don't. But she chose this day, after watching Lexi and I for weeks, to try to do this "play" thing. I slowly went to grab the toy and she backed up and did her best, yet kind of goofy, play bow. Even Lexi was shocked into silence. Nibs dropped the pumpkin, so I tossed it a few feet away and Nibs ran and grabbed it. She did a little lap around Lexi and me, and then let me play a little game of Tug-of-War. I was stunned. Lexi was stunned. My roommates didn't believe me until they got to play with her themselves. It was a great send off on Nibs' part. The next mourning Nibs left with her little pink jacket and with the new name "Hana" - which may have been the biggest disappointment of our time together. I mean come on she had a great name, and to change it to Hana? 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


We only had Tag for a couple weeks. But she was the worst. Well that's not my opinion but my roommates at the time believe she was. To me she was a beautiful husky cross breed who may have inherited hip dysplasia - I'm not a Vet but given the way she ran and played I can only assume - but she was all for having a good time. 

And SO smart. After having Beans for so long (and we still had her) it was refreshing to have a dog who would actually seem to understand what you said. Sure she used her superior knowledge for evil most the time, but I never disliked her for it! My roommates did though, which only made Tag act out more.

I got her from a friend of a friend who had an acquaintance that needed to get rid of her dog because of a family health issue. Before then this women had been travelling from Nunavut to see her mother and back to our town a few times a year and was bringing Tag along but once getting sick herself it was too much. She asked my friend if she could help and low and behold she had just met someone involved with animal rescue.

So I took her. I actually informed my boyfriend and roomies this time. My boyfriend and one roomie may have thought I was joking but that's not really my fault now is it? My best friend, Shannon, also lived with us and was encouraging me so really I shouldn't take all blame. Then again it was Shannon's friend who convinced  me to take Tag so I may have been played. Anyways, I  took Tag in and was given a ridiculous set of instructions. Tag gets let out __times a day. Tag gets __ treats when she goes into her kennel. Tag plays with toys made by __ in the shape of __, __, or __. And my personal favourite.... Tag gets white toast with Cheesewiz before bed each night.

So maybe I'm a terrible foster home. I don't know. I gave the list of demands a big F You and treated her just like I treated Beans. After the first few nights she didn't seem to be distraught so I knew we'd do fine. I think people would be right in thinking that giving Tag her old routine would have helped such a tremendous transition and in many cases I'd agree. But that's just not my style. Cheesewhiz on toast? Seriously?! Ugh. I thought it was a joke. My poor dogs barely get dog treats. Hey, I'm not terrible! They get the odds and ends from the cutting board which is probably way better then processed treats anyways.

Tag settled in just fine. She was great with me and Shannon, a big sweetheart who was the most well behaved dog ever on walks. I'd say Tag was even great with my boyfriend but he always seems to disagree. Sure, he has ABSOLUTELY (yah that's right!) no reason to have dislike her, he did. My other roommate, Steve, on the other hand did. Tag seemed to actually HATE him. Each foster I've since had has occasionally done things like chew shoes, pee in the house, or steal items. Tag only acted out with Steve's things! I've had foster dogs that have taken a liking to my things before but this was different. I had never seen a dog with such actual intent before! She would bypassing everyone's open room and destroy only his stuff. She would pee on his clothes no matter where they were in the house. She'd bark at him like an intruder if he had to go for a midnight bathroom break. And I really believe she was doing it to get on his nerves. He never really tried with her like he did with other dogs or future dogs. And she didn't with him. It's like they both  knew they weren't compatible .


Finally, after a few death threats from Steve, we had good applicants for adoption. They were cute, young couple with good jobs who wanted someone furry to experience life with. After a long meeting they decided they liked her - even with my mention of possible hip dysplasia and her vengeance against my roommate. They adopted her a couple days later.

But I wish it was all good news. A few weeks later they decided to give Tag back to our rescue, for personal reasons that I may or may not have been able to fully agree with. Of course I wanted to take Tag back myself. It's never, at least in my opinion, good to let a dog bounce home to home, so coming back to familiar territory seemed like the best bet. After a lllllong talk with my roommates it was decided we couldn't possibly take Tag back. Although I was heartbroken, she has since found a real forever home out East where she's been completely spoiled since - Cheezewiz and all.

Monday, January 3, 2011

And it starts - Beans!

It all started with Beans. Well okay, technically it started with "Athena" (her name given from the shelter) but during our time together Athena turned to Beans because of what would become an almost habitual nicknaming our poor foster dogs to some sort of food. Plus, Beans suited her.

After two lonely, dog-free years of university I was dying. It wasn't like me to not have some sort of fuzzy creature around, and although one of my pet gerbils liked his ears scratched I was getting restless. Mix that with a terrible pool of available student summer jobs and my live-in boyfriends long work hours and you got one bored as hell girl. It was time to do something.Without that much needed job I decided fostering was more in my price range and found a great local rescue who would pay for food and vet bills as long as I provided love, attention, and maybe a little training. Sounded great to me!

Jump to a week later. It may have slipped my mind to inform my boyfriend of my intentions. Okay that's a lie. It was on my mind, I dropped hints here and there but in the end when I told him we had to go pick up our new dog he almost died. A little pleading and he relented - although since this first time the "surprise!" tactic is now a favourite of mine so I'm sure he regrets that moment. Anyways we got in the car and went to the meeting place. She was beautiful. A new arrival from a over-crowded shelter in Kentucky who looked to me to be a red coloured Doberman in a skinny Labs body. All muscle, even in her malnourished state. We loaded her kennel into the car and my boyfriend opened the door to let her into the backseat. One look at the lonely backseat and she hopped into my open front door instead and sat on my lap. She fit right in!

But boy did she stink! And her fur was so coarse it felt like little needles in my legs and arms. First job was a bath which went off without a hitch. Then we went for had a walk, had dinner, and settled in for the night. She fit right in like she'd been around for years. That summer we walked for hours and hours, often ending up in a dog park near my boyfriends work and he'd pick us up on his way home. Every night she would sleep with me until I fell asleep and then headed out into the living room and hung out with my boyfriend till he decided to head to bed as well. She gained some much needed weight and her coat became softer and super shiny. I learned to cook and she learned the sound of the cutting board when veggie snacks for her. We discovered a lot of the town together and with her around I was more confident to take routes I never had before. We got along great although her leash pulling, bull headed-ness and just general dumbass-ness did test my nerves quite a bit. But on one particular occasion I was taken by surprise by her devotion.

She was always a friendly dog. Everyone she met loved her to pieces and she loved them just the same. I can admit that she generally read my moods really well and out walking if I was ever feeling a bit uneasy she was more attentive to me and those around me but this particular time was unreal. I was walking down a foot path to get onto a popular walking spot when a very sketchy man approached. I can be a little jumpy sure but this dude had all the wrong vibes about him. I was just going to walk on by but Beans had other ideas. She was off-leash and would generally be off doing her own thing but suddenly came rushing through the bushes and stood between me and aforementioned creepy dude. She wouldn't let him get within ten feet of me! She had never did more then mumble during play and here she was with her hair standing on end, snarling, snapping and lunging to within a few feet of a creepy stranger. I walked down the trail and called to her and she just went back to normal, greeting passersby with a tail wag. This moment really cemented in my mind the idea that however shitty a life a dog could have had before with a little love they will move on and fully devote themselves to you. And thats crazy stuff.

My favourite memory is from the day captured in the picture below. Once a year this pool would shut down for a day and they'd let you bring your dog to play. We signed Beans up and on one of the hottest days ever we stood in a ridiculous line with almost 50 over excited dogs waiting to be let in. Once finally inside Beans got so excited she ran around and around and met back up with us near the deep end where all the real water dogs were playing. She didn't think twice and actually walked, rather clownishly, into the deep end thinking it was like the other side (aka shallow and he feet would touch the bottom). I nearly died  when she went a few feet below the surface and came up with this look of utter shock on her face. We nearly had to dive in after her but my boyfriend and a kindly bystander managed to grab her collar and pull her to safety. As we were on the ground dying laughing she shook it off and ran over the the shallow side for the rest of our visit.

We had her until just before Halloween. I remember this because we had just got her this adorable neck tie that had little pumpkins and ghosts on it. A family applied to adopt her online and they seemed perfect. They were active, had a nice big house, two kids and lots of doggie friends nearby to meet. They came to meet her and immediately fell in love. A week later she was gone. She was one of my favourites and we threw around the idea of keeping her ourselves but one thing I've come to learn is you just kind of know when you and a potential dog are meant to be. Beans is this incredible mix of muscle, excitement and good humour that could make anyone love her she wasn't ever mine and I'm glad she found her family. A few fosters later I finally felt that meant to be moment and adopted one of my fosters for a reason I can only explain as "I just know." But that's another story.