90 lbs of Unconditional Love








Sometimes when I get puppies and strays, I get to name them, which is fun. I like to assess a dog’s personality and pick an appropriate name. It makes is easier to remember. When I get a Lu’s Lab dog, it comes with an assigned name. In this case, I could not remember the dog’s assigned name, Ringo. No one in the family was getting his name right. That sounds pitiful, but he is foster number 12, so there are a lot of dog names…

I had to remember his name, so I started thinking of Beatle’s lyrics.

“Hey Bulldog”
You can talk to me
You can talk to me
You can talk to me, if you’re lonely you can talk to me

That did it. It stuck.

Ringo is actually a dog you can talk to. He listens. You could never be lonely with Ringo. He is both a gentle giant and a totally-unaware-of-his-size-lap-dog-and-couch-hog. Otherwise cautious, he was immediately affectionate when we brought him into The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs. It usually takes dogs a few days to decompress before they hop up on your lap and make themselves at home. This is day 1:

Ringo made himself at home.

I say that he is otherwise cautious because he tends to linger in the back of the pack. Let’s say I call all of the dogs to ‘go home’, which means come into the house from the yard. I often follow that up with a treat. The idea is to associate immediately coming when called with the treat – which is super useful when training dogs. We have a treat jar in the kitchen. All of the dogs will come to it and then we ask them to ‘sit’ for a treat. Every dog but Ringo is at my feet, wanting that treat. Ringo is a few feet behind them all, in the background, waiting patiently to get his treat last. I don’t know why? He also is last to go outside. I open the door, tell the dogs ‘outside’, and they all run out. Ringo is usually last. He does this thing where he walks a certain, indirect route to the front door and then stands behind the door until everyone is out, and then he comes around and out. It is almost like he has some OCD patterns. It seems like he is looking out for all of the other dogs. He leads from the back.

He is a very affectionate dog. He is gorgeous and quiet, and he cuddles. What more could you ask for from a big lab?  He sometimes even hangs with me on the frontporch when most or all of the dogs take off running toward the fence (for USPS, FedEx, UPS, and/or dog-walkers going by). Good boy, let the younger ones do the security. We don’t need every dog barking.

Black dogs can be tricky to photograph, but I do my best. Here are some photos and Ringo Starr quotes:

“Of course I’m ambitious. What’s wrong with that? Otherwise you sleep all day.” -Ringo Starr

I’d like to end up sort of… unforgettable.– Ringo Starr

I don’t mind talking or smiling, it’s just I don’t do it very much. I haven’t got a smiling face or a talking mouth. – Ringo Starr

Well, I’m getting happier all the time, which is very nice. – Ringo Starr

Ringo the black lab is ambitious, and he’s unforgettable, and he smiles with his constant tail wags. He will be leaving us soon for Virginia, he will be missed. Ringo is adoptable in the metro DC area through Lu’s Labs.

A cuddle-bunny named Sophie

If you stray, as we all do from time to time, and you end up at the shelter during Easter, they name you Bunny. When you get rescued, you get a name that suits you. Sophie it is. I’m not a fan of renaming dogs if they are already trained to a name, but this 8 year old beauty has a mysterious past. Along with a new start and a new collar, she gets a new name, an I’m not a pole dancer name.

Welcome Sophie. We’re glad you’re here.

One of my favorite things is introducing the new guests to the resident and foster dogs at our hotel. My dogs are very social. I love to see all of the tail wagging as they meet, circle, sniff, and hump the new guest (stop it Bailey!)

We are sort of like a Bed and Breakfast, but for dogs,so actually more of a Crate and Bowl. If we were running an ad it would say:

Welcome to our Hotel for Dogs. We are located in sunny New Orleans, just barking distance from a whole host of tourist attractions and excellent restaurants. If you are lucky, you will be asked to sit table-side at some of our outdoor venues. We are located just next to the Broadmoor walking trail and we have on-site exercise facilities with a personal trainer available. We serve 3 in-crate meals daily, have 24 hour concierge service, and training snacks and water are always available. Rest awhile on our spacious front porch, play ball in the yard, or, on particularly hot days, we offer a small pool and sprinkler for all of your cooling off needs. 

Thank you for choosing to decompress and heal* at the Cecchine Hotel for Dogs. 

*2 of our guests, Henry the beagle, and Sophie the lab, will be undergoing heart worm treatment under our care. Last week, Sophie was on her third week of four weeks of the antibiotic doxycycline. Her tummy was upset; she wouldn’t eat. Even though she wasn’t feeling well, she was her regular, cheerful self. She was slightly dehydrated, so I walked her to the vet where she sat very calmly for 4 separate needle pricks to get fluids. She got some anti-naseau medication and we switched her from kibble to chicken and rice and she is feeling all better. She is done with this first step of treatment, hooray!

Miss Sophie is just a darling. She is the oldest guest in the hotel and she mothers all of the other guests. Here she is with our 8 month-old-tripod, Trey. Isn’t that sweet?

What can I say about Sophie? She is beautiful. She loves it when I scratch behind her ears. She likes to be brushed, which we do a lot, because this girl is fluffy. Sophie loves to take walks around the neighborhood. She likes to meet other dogs who are also out walking. She’s quite social. I have to be careful opening the front gate, because she would like to explore. She doesn’t run out, she ambles out.

I really love that when she smiles, she looks young!




I can’t imagine a forever home that wouldn’t love this calm, gentle girl.  Sophie is available for adoption through NOLA Lab Rescue here.

Sophie - fostered 22 April 2017 - 31 May 2017
Adopted in Covington, Louisiana

Uno, Dos, Tres…welcoming three more legs

Just another day ay The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs…

I was just saying to my husband, you know what this hotel needs? A three legged dog. (We have 6 rescue dogs and two 8-week-old puppies on the way, but what the hell…)
This is Tres. He is a tripawd puppy. (Get it? uno, dos, Tres)…This seven-month-old lab-mix was found caught in a hunting trap last April. The man who found him didn’t know how to get him out of it and so he cut off his rear leg with a hot pocketknife. I can think of a lot of things I would do if I found a dog in a trap, and that is not one of them. This poor puppy must have been in so much pain. Tres was brought to a rural shelter in Many, LA and a vet had to amputate the rest of the leg due to infection. To add insult to injury, they took his balls too. (Well, he needed to be neutered.) Tres is doing okay on three legs and no balls but he has a long road ahead of him.

The Sabine Animal Shelter is full, and when I saw his picture (above) and read his story, I immediately knew that I had to help him get out.  NOLA Lab Rescue agreed to liberate this sweetheart and I am going to foster him.  You can follow along with Tres’s story on Iffy Dog, on my Facebook and on Instagram @danielle_at_pithypen.

NOLA Labrador Retriever Rescue is a 501c3 nonprofit animal rescue that is entirely run by volunteers.  NOLA Lab Rescue is dedicated to placing Labrador 
Retrievers into approved, loving homes and promoting responsible pet ownership. We receive zero government funding and we save these babies with the help of donations from people like you. 

Our mission is to provide:

*permanent adoptive homes for unwanted, abandoned or abused labs and lab mixes

*medical care and foster homes for rescued dogs

*education to pet owners regarding spaying/neutering and responsible pet ownership

*public information about irresponsible breeding practices and animal abuse in an effort to end both

Days 1 and 2: We am so excited to have Tres as a guest at The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs while he gets healthy and we find his perfect forever family. The shelter assured me that Tres is doing very well on 3-legs, but, we consider ourselves a 5-star Hotel for Dogs and we must fully prepare for our guest. We work hard to ensure all of our guest’s safety and comfort. I am, of course, referring to Housing Accessibility under the Americans with Disability Act and the Fair Housing Act, (ADA Title II), Facility Access. I will spare you the legalese. We needed a ramp.
My house, in the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans, aka, ‘the Bowl’, sits 5 feet below sea level on the Mississippi River flood plain. Built in 1915, the year of a big hurricane (back before they named them), it was the same year that New Orleans’ first pumping station was built. You can walk to it from my house. Like many area homes, mine is elevated. We have steps up to the front porch and to the back deck. Trey is a young dog, and certainly will be capable of doing stairs, however, I am concerned about injury. Some of our guests crowd the stairs and do not politely take turns. Tres will be putting extra stress on his three remaining legs.
As a side note, my son James did an independent study in Geometry last year and his project was to design an ADA compliant ramp for a non-compliant building at his school. He was able to design, 3D print, and present his findings to the headmaster, who then took the opportunity to teach him about ‘grandfather clauses’.  So, I could have utilized my 12-year-old’s excellent math skills for this compliance project, but instead, I did what I always do. I turned to Amazon. We have installed a telescoping ramp of the sort that can also be used to allow dogs easy access to the rear of an SUV (that I need but don’t have).
Wondering what else I might need to ensure Tres’s overall wellbeing during his visit, I came across Tripawds, a user supported community for amputation and bone cancer care for pets. I have spent the morning learning about three legged dogs.

 Tips for three legged pets: 

 * Minimize activity during recuperation 

 * Do not over pamper your pet, they will do fine on three legs 

 * Be patient 

 * Use caution on ramps and stairs 

 * Provide non-skid surfaces to avoid injuries 

 * Ensure that your pet gets adequate pain control and keep your vet informed about how your pet is responding to 
   pain medication 

 * Consider a rehab therapy program with a licensed practitioner 

 * Keep your tripod lean and active. You want to avoid weight problems on their compensating joints 

 * Consider a quality joint supplement such as Cosequin

Tres is doing reasonably well. We will take Tres to the vet to discuss pain management. I do know that many pain medications cause constipation, so I’ve already looked into remedies for that.

You can add any of the following to dog food to alleviate constipation: canned  pumpkin (not spiced), steamed sweet 
potato, bran flakes, Metamucil, warm milk,  olive or fish oil (I use salmon and/or anchovy oil).  Works on kids too! 
(not the dog food, just the other stuff)

I’m assuming that this dog is going to have some pain. But wait, your dog can’t tell you he’s in pain, and pain medicine is complicated. Think about it, whenever you go to the doctor, you are asked to rate your pain from 1 to 10 by pointing to a chart of increasingly unhappy stick-figure faces. It’s not even close to an exact science. Some people are just unhappy and whiny, right? Dogs can’t put words to their discomfort, but observing their behavior can tell us a lot about how they are feeling. Is your dog acting normal? Does the dog sleep soundly, wag their tail, eat well, still beg for table scraps, and want to hang out with family. All of these habitual things indicate that your dog is doing well. When the dog is in acute pain, there is often an abrupt change in their behavior, and whining. Chronic pain, the kind that builds slowly over time, can be much harder to spot. Observe your pet. They will tell you in their own way when something just isn’t right. Watch for decreased appetite and or lethargy.

I’ve copied a chart used by professionals:

Back to Amazon. Tripawds suggests a special harness with a lift handle so that I can help Tres up and down the ramp and stairs. Got one. Hmmm…it says that rugs should be put down to keep him from slipping. This could be an issue. I do not like rugs. First of all, we have allergies, and it’s easier to keep hardwood floors clean. Second, the two areas that are carpeted in my house are pretty much the places that every puppy goes to pee (do they think they are hiding it in the carpet or something?) I needed an alternative. I kept looking… ta-da; Paw Friction applied to the dog’s pads will provide traction. Done. What else? A Rehab Therapy Program. Well that sounds awesome, and expensive. What can I do on my own? I can certainly get a book and learn a few stretches and exercises.
Kids are getting out school in a few weeks, what the $&*! am I going to do with them? (It hits me like a brick wall, every May.) I know, we have a wobble board. James used it with an occupational therapist when he was young. I’ll get a dog sized one and we’ll play catch. I can put a kid on one and a dog on the other. It helps with balance and all of the tiny muscle movements that are needed. I used  one in physical therapy when I tore the ligaments in my ankle. Good times.

How to use a wobble board:
 Place the board on a non-slip surface and sit your dog/child on the board. Use your foot to shift the board from one side to another while using a treat to ask your dog/child to look up, down, and from side to side. Work your way up  to having your child/dog stand on the board. Throw stuff at them. Fun, right? They try to balance and catch.

While we are at it, and since I’m on Amazon Smile and NOLA Lab Rescue gets a donation from every purchase I make, we definitely an ice pack. I used ice a lot for my pain. They make a dog fitting one. The delivery guys love me…

(If you aren’t using Amazon Smile, please pick your favorite charity and sign up!) Hey, pick NOLA LAB RESCUE! It helps Tres and others like him.

Look, he’s already smiling because you are helping him 🙂

Day 3: 

Day 3 is magic, and like all of our other guests, Tres has fully made himself at home here. The ramp is in place on the front porch office stairs. We started out assisting him. He would whine or bark at the bottom of the stairs and we would give him support on the way up the ramp. His harness has a handle for that. As of yesterday afternoon, Tres has not only learned to use his ramp, he has also managed to get himself up and down the stairs unassisted. He is determined not to be left behind, and he’s never far from my side. His determination makes me think that he will do well with physical therapy.

(Bailey, aka the Flying Squirrel, thinks the ramp is his personal trick ramp, and he does an amazing leap once he’s half-way down. It’s impressive considering his little legs, but he thinks he can fly.)

Today Tres had an evaluation at Southern Animal Foundation, one of New Orlean’s only low cost, non-profit animal hospitals. He was not happy to get in the car when I said vet. I’m glad he’s still easily liftable at 42lbs. When we arrived, he hit the tile floors and just splayed. He was intentionally going limp as I tried to walk him to the exam room. I wanted them to see his poor gait. After a very long stay in an animal hospital and shelter, he was not happy with the cold tile floors and the fluorescent lights. I don’t blame him. I’ll bet it smells a certain way to him too. He didn’t even want the treats I offered him.

Tres also did not enjoy the physical exam. I did my best to give tummy rubs while he was stretched and palpated. He was not amused, but submitted to it. The vet said that he has abnormal motion in his remaining rear leg. We talked about a local rehab option, SouthPaws, and she took him for x-rays.

Not good news.

Tres’s hip is not properly placed on his remaining rear leg. She shared the x-rays with an orthopedic specialist at SouthPaws on a phone consult. Trey is going to need hip replacement or specialized surgery on his remaining rear leg, and then physical rehabilitation. Good news, he is young and can live a full, wonderful life once we get him, err, straightened out. So, here’s the thing. I am in love with this boy. Look at him. He’s a doll. How can you not love him? He must be in chronic discomfort if not pain, but he is happy to be here his tail is wagging and he just wants to play with everybody here. He has endured the worst and still loves everyone and life. Tres has a really great life ahead of him. He was lucky. He was saved. Rescued twice. I am, therefore, going into full-on fundraising mode. We don’t know what the costs will be, but they will be substantial. I am confident that you all will fall in love with this boy too, and together we can give him the bright future that he, and every dog, deserves. I am happy to be his hotel and his foster momma until Tres gets back on his feet again, pun intended, but this boy needs a forever home. Please share his story, help me get him well, and then his hotel crate will be used to help another puppy in need!

I’m going to get him started on the pain meds and see if they help him out.

Update here: The Comeback is Always Stronger Than the Setback 

A Fluffy, Iffy Named Willa

This is one of my favorite rescues. When NOLA Lab Rescue asked for fosters willing to take a puppy, I yelled sign me up. This momma and her five 12-week old pups were in a shelter, and that was no place for her or her perfectly adoptable, gorgeous little puppies. I said, I’ll take one, and before I knew it I was antsy to get my hands on the puppies, to get them out of there. One problem. I drive a 4-door Mazda sedan. I don’t exactly have space for multiple dogs. If I had a winning lottery ticket, you could expect to see an SUV parked in front of The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs.  (Can you fit that on a vanity plate?) Well, someone stepped up to foster the momma dog, and was going to pick her up. That left 5 squirmy, delicious puppies. A rescue expert convinced me that I could in fact fit a 36″ dog crate into my back seat. Skeptical, I carried he thing out to the car. It wouldn’t fit through the car door. Not one to give up easily, I stared at it until the blindingly obvious solution appeared. Fold it up and then open it and assemble it inside of the car. It just fit. Just. I was ridiculously excited about this small feat. (I have advanced degrees, but none of them are spatial.)

Cage tucked in tight to my back seat, I set out on an hour-long drive to the shelter.  Athena, the Momma dog, was out front and waiting for her foster-liberator. She was thin and scared and I spent a few moments with her, wanting to take her with me too. I told her everything is going to get better now. I promised her. We hugged. I don’t know how they ended up there, but this momma did a great job nursing her puppies. They brought me 5 of the plumpest little fatties I’ve ever seen. These were big puppies, 13 and 14 lbs. They had blissfully just come from a bath. I was told that they had recently been covered in mud and filth. Some had visible sores, places where they were missing fur; possibly burn marks, who knows? Poor babies. They were brought out to me, two by two, and then the final one, a fluffy one, with a dark spot on its rear leg, another on its tail. I loaded them into the crate in the back of my car and regretted that I had to drive instead of play with all of them. How in the world was I going to pick one? I thought back to the day I picked my first dog, Pen, from her litter. There were three puppies jumping and yapping and one sitting quietly to the side, the runt. I’ll take the introvert, went through my head. Pen had parasites, worms, and wasn’t feeling good, but I didn’t know that. Even before I started doing rescue, I was picking the neediest dog! Anyway, I made it to my drop off point and I had to hand over four of the five puppies. I chose the calm, yawning little ball of fluff on the right; I named her Willa.

Willa was easy to love. She was a very easy puppy. Smart, easy to train, she got along with every dog and was fiercely independent. This girl did not need cuddles or reassurance. She was patient enough with us loving on her, but she preferred to go off on her own and lie in a sunny spot just a bit away from the group. Willa watched the older dogs and did whatever they did. My 4th dog, with her I started to realize the value of the pack. They welcomed her, reassured her that it was a safe place, and showed her what to do. One puppy, alone, is a lot of work. A bored puppy is a destructive puppy, but add a puppy to a group of confident, secure dogs, and that one puppy is actually really easy to train. Besides, the big dogs were all excited when she came. Mom brought us a puppy! Mom brought us a puppy!

Willa earned her keep at The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs as our wake-up puppy. She would be carried upstairs to the kid’s rooms at 630am and be placed in bed with a sleeping child. There is nothing as wonderful as waking up to a fluffy puppy in your face. Actually, we rotate this task, but Willa was particularly good at it. Some of the dogs will just try to cuddle up and sleep, which is not-at-all-helpful on schooldays. Willa would pounce and give tiny kisses. She wanted the kids to get up and play.

Here is another reason that Willa was one of my favorite rescues – Ginger. She was there for Ginger, who had lost her puppies. It was very sweet, the surrogate bond that I saw. They weren’t a bonded pair, but they were buddies, and Ginger loved little Willa. Willa came to us at just the right time to help sweet Ginger.

Willa was with us for 7 wonderful weeks before she, and all of her siblings, were transported to New York, where they were all quickly adopted. Look how much she has grown! (pictured below, after one month in her forever home) We are so happy for Willa and her forever family. She was even included in their engagement photos!  Not all rescue dogs are as drop-dead beautiful as Willa, (she was even in a calendar contest) but you might be surprised. People give up pure bred, AKC papered dogs as well as mutts. I see the most beautiful, homeless dogs everyday. I wish that everyone that bought his or her dog from a breeder could see what I see!

Willa - fostered 23 February - 13 April 2017 ; adopted in NY
Willa's mother, Athena (top left photo), is heading north this 
weekend to be adopted in Michigan. Happy Tails Athena!

Ginger: Loving is a risk we take, because its worth it








These are the first pictures that I ever saw of Ginger. Her uterus ruptured and she had emergency surgery; only one of her puppies survived. I still don’t know how Ginger ended up in the shelter. Sometimes we don’t ever get the story. It doesn’t matter though. Look at her. Defeated. Think about her in a shelter cage, her tiny puppy so exposed. I showed these pictures to my husband and we got in the car and I drove well over the speed limit to get to the rural shelter before it closed for the evening. He kept telling me to slow down. I kept saying ok, and going faster. I didn’t want them to have to spend another night in the shelter.

The lady at the shelter slowly led her out to me on a lead. Ginger was exhausted, still recovering from her surgery. She had a long line of surgical staples across her stomach, and the tiniest little squirming puppy I have ever seen. Ginger allowed us to lead her to the car, because we held her puppy. She was lost. We brought them home and put them in a room separate from the other dogs. They were curious. Ginger growled at them, protecting her pup. She would’t eat. I tried a few different things. She would take a single piece of dogfood from my hand, but ignored the bowl of food. She just laid with her puppy; I named him Moose. He was so tiny. I wanted him to have a big, strong name to grow into. Moose was nursing and sleeping, his little eyes closed tight. He was the size of my hand, a little longer, not much. Just 9.15 oz.



I spent part of the night on the couch, and part on the floor next to Ginger and Moose. It reminded me of having a new baby, only this was in some ways harder. I was not the one nursing. I could not tell if Moose was latched on well, if he was warm enough, if he was breathing. I kept checking on him all night. I was worried that her milk wouldn’t last, because of the emergency spay. We had tiny baby bottles ready, and the nipples were too big for him, but he looked like he was nursing, and I knew that was best for both of them. Tiny Moose wriggled and squirmed his way up to his Mama. She kept him warm. She would lick him all over, pick him up in her mouth and move him. I was so worried about that, but of course that is how a dog moves her puppy.


You have to look closely to see him, but he’s there, snuggled.

I only had one night with little Moose. He passed quietly on a Saturday morning. I picked him up to check on him, that he was warm enough. He wiggled a tiny bit, and then he went still. We cried. A lot. Could we have done anything? Was it my fault? Should we have left them somewhere with a vet? With time and distance, I know that we did the right thing. We did all that we could. Moose got to be home, if only for one night and one morning. He was loved. And we treasure our time with Ginger.

Ginger is a gentle, kind soul. She grieved with us. She stayed by my side. Her favorite spot was on the front porch, sitting next to me, watching the world go by and napping while I write. She likes to be close, to be touching. After a few days, she stopped growling at the other dogs. She let them become friends. I watched her become happy and healthy again. The day we lost Moose, that was a really hard day. It was worth it though. As soon as Ginger was feeling better and finished with her pain meds, she found a ball. That ball was never again far from her. Although she was pretty sedentary in general, she loved to play fetch. We had to take it easy while she had those surgical staples, but we played fetch in the yard quite a lot. It made her so happy. It made me happy to see her happy.

Ginger came to us heartworm positive. She would have to go through treatment to be healthy again. We were thinking that Ginger, an older girl, was going to be with us a long while. I wouldn’t mind one bit. She is a gentle, calming presence. She is serene. I was surprised and delighted when there was an adoption inquiry. It wasn’t long before a local couple had come to our hotel for dogs to meet Ginger, to take her for a walk, to ask if they could be her forever home. It was a perfect match, happily ever after. The kids went with me, to take Ginger and her ball to her forever home. I was so happy to hear them say, I will miss her, but I’m so happy for her. Me too.

Ginger - fostered 10 February - 6 March 2017 ; adopted in New Orleans

Too Many Dogs? Managing Pet Overpopulation

When I adopted Ollie from a rescue, I started to read a lot about dog rescues. Why are we doing this? (Other than the obvious joy of saving a life and having another tail wagging at home.)

Pet overpopulation is a huge problem that you may know nothing about. Its not like there are packs of wild dogs and cats roaming the streets and scaring your kids, right? I have lived in countries where that is the case. I don’t suggest jogging along the Moskva River in Moscow. Even if the poor air quality doesn’t kill you, you will find yourself chased by a pack of homeless dogs. In the U.S., we have a pretty efficient system of Animal Control, catching strays and taking them to shelters. Such a nice word, shelter, it means to protect or shield from something harmful, to give sanctuary. The words animal shelter don’t give the full truth. Perhaps we should call them temporary animal shelters. They do give sanctuary, but there is a ticking timer.

How many homeless animals are there? Aren’t there enough shelters? I know someone who adopted their dog from a shelter. Are there really so many pets being put down? People love their cats and dogs, right? 

Ouachita Parish Animal Shelter, Louisiana 1 May 2017

There are more than 13,000 shelters in the United States. In a study undertaken by Best Friends Animal Society half of those surveyed believed that approximately 500 dogs and cats are euthanized every day in American animal shelters. In fact, the estimated number is closer to 9,000 per day. The numbers are staggering, and unexpected. The ASPCA estimates just under 4 million dogs and 3 and half million cats enter American shelters each year. Of these, some are adopted and go on to live wonderful lives, yay! Nearly half of those surveyed believed that most shelter animals are either reclaimed by their owners, adopted, or rescued and waiting for their forever homes. Another prevailing misconception. In fact, more than half of these animals won’t make it out of the shelter alive. 2.4 to 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized every year due to lack of space. Those numbers are so big that they feel meaningless. Think about it this way, one cat or dog is euthanized about every 13 seconds in America. Now do you agree that we have a problem? Okay, there are no exact, official statistics. These are all estimations. That means, it very well might be worse. Too many healthy, playful dogs and puppies, cats and kittens are being euthanized every day because animal shelters can’t care for all of the accidental litters, strays and unwanted family pets that are brought to them. Yes, unwanted family pets. People abandon them because they can’t afford to care for them, because they “don’t have time” or don’t have enough space, or they are moving, or they are having a baby. You name the reason, its been given…It doesn’t get along with the cat, the new boyfriend, the expensive furniture…so many sad excuses.

We can’t rescue/foster/adopt them all. If we could, we would. Those of us that do are trying. So what can be done? Simple. Spay and neuter your pets to reduce pet overpopulation. That is the simple solution. So why aren’t people doing it? Perhaps the biggest reasons are cost and ignorance. People are not aware that humane societies and municipal animal control departments offer low-cost spay/neuter services. I had a foster lab spayed this morning for $60, which is a lot cheaper than caring for a pregnant female and then a litter of her puppies. Some places offer free spay/neuter. You just have to look.

Like the people surveyed by the Best Friends Animal Society, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of the problem. Over its lifetime, an un-spayed female dog can have more than 100 puppies and a non-neutered male can father thousands. The problem is exponential. According to Spay USA, over a 6 year period, a single un-spayed female dog and her offspring can reproduce 67,000 dogs. Cats are even more prolific. A single un-spayed female cat and her offspring, producing 2 litters a year, with 2.8 surviving kittens per year, could add up to 11,606,077 cats over 9 years.

Even if you don’t care about the big picture of overpopulation, and not everyone does, there are excellent reasons to spay and neuter your beloved pet. Neutered males have fewer problem behaviors related to dominance and aggression (possessiveness and food guarding, lifting their leg on everything to mark territory, and the dreaded humping). I have had two unaltered male fosters come into my home and neither stayed more than 24 hours before I had to move them to another foster home. They were lifting their legs all over the house to mark and they both showed aggression toward the largest male in the house. If you’ve never seen a chihuahua or a beagle pick a fight with an 80 lbs. lab-bloodhound mix…well, it wasn’t going to end well.

Altered animals are simply more docile and easier to train. They are also much less likely to roam and get lost or hurt. Pets roaming to breed are a huge part of the overpopulation problem. Bailey was one of an unexpected, unwanted litter of five and the momma dog was already pregnant again when I rescued him. The owner barely had the money to feed them and was unable to pay for the existing puppies to have their vaccinations.

Sophie came to us from the shelter in heat, and even the altered males at the hotel were humping away at her, poor thing. You could see that she was agitated and that they were ready to fight for the right to be her puppy-daddy. We had her spayed as quickly as we could. There is no telling how many litters she has already had.

Ollie, Lila, and Willa all came to us from unwanted litters of puppies that were dropped off at a shelter. Eliza was dumped over the fence at a daycare center with another unwanted puppy.

Ginger was a stray that came to us after her uterus burst in labor. She was lucky to survive, her puppies were not so lucky.

Bella came to us after the man that used her as a breeder brought her to the shelter because she couldn’t have any more litters. He is well known at the shelter. Any of his dogs that can’t breed are trained to hunt ducks, if they don’t pass their training, they get dumped at the shelter. He can’t use them anymore.

There will be more. A lot more. I will save those that I can, but I can’t save them all. I have to say no to quite a few.

Be responsible, spay and neuter, ensure that every pet has a family to love them.

Spay USA provides referrals to low cost sterilization programs, call 1-800-248-SPAY

We say neuter is cuter!

Why I Foster – Meet Lila

Grand Opening of the Cecchine Hotel for Dogs

Finding our second dog, Ollie, opened the door to the world of rescue. I am a one to go down rabbit holes on the Internet, and this was no exception. I was fascinated to learn about the local rescue organizations and the work they are doing here in New Orleans. I first stumbled across NOLA Lab Rescue on Facebook last January. NOLA Labrador Retriever Rescue is a volunteer run, nonprofit organization dedicated to placing unwanted, abandoned and abused Labrador Retrievers and Lab mixes into approved, permanent, loving homes and promoting responsible pet ownership. I looked around and latched onto a single post seeking fosters for puppies. This particular tiny, needy puppy looked a lot like my yellow lab. Our first dog was a lab because my husband has a lot of experience with them. Labrador Retrievers are consistently among the most popular breeds in the US. They make wonderful pets. They love exercise, playing fetch, and swimming. Labs are loyal and kind, gentle and patient with kids, great with other dogs, and they are intelligent and easy to train. So, I’m looking at this picture of a lab puppy. I like puppies. OK, I love puppies. I could get one, like immediately. I impulsively volunteered, filled out a foster application, and impatiently waited to get my first foster puppy. I named her Lila.

Its just temporary, I told my husband. Many, many times I told him that. (I don’t think he believed me yet). Lila stayed with us from January through March 2017. She was transported to upstate New York for adoption and is now living happily ever after in her forever home. She was my training puppy, (as far as rescue work goes). I learned a lot through my rescue experiences with Lila. There are an amazing group of volunteers in place to get the word out about dogs in need, to pull dogs from high kill shelters and get them in foster homes, and to coordinate adoption (from phone interviews, to vet checks, to home checks). There are people volunteering to transport them across the country to get to forever homes. In Lila’s case, all the way from New Orleans to upstate New York. We sometimes have drivers going long distances and sometimes have 20 drivers each taking a short leg. It amazes me that people do this, and at the same time, it is such an easy and rewarding thing to do, it surprises me that more people don’t.

I’ll admit it. I started fostering for selfish reasons.  We can’t afford the vet bills for more dogs, but I want more dogs, so fostering is a good option. By becoming a foster parent, I am not only gaining a fluffy guest, I could be saving two dog’s lives. I am taking one dog out of a stressful, high-kill shelter, and I am also opening up a cage for another dog in need. NOLA Lab Rescue is a no-kill dog rescue where dogs never run out of time. NOLA labs live in caring foster homes for anywhere from a few days or a few months while waiting to find their forever homes. As a foster, I provide a safe home and food, and the rescue pays for all of the vet care and can supply crates and other necessary items as needed. Is it hard? Nope. (Like having kids, only the first one is hard.) Do I get attached? Absolutely. I love these dogs. So, how do I send them away then? It’s actually simple. I’m more happy for the dog that is finding the right forever home than I am sad for me. Also, one dog checking out of the Cecchine Hotel for Dogs means we have room for another guest, and we get to save another life. That is why I do this. It feels really, really good.

How can you help? Animal rescue runs on volunteers. If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, you can volunteer at adoption events.  Rescue groups near you could use your help in the following areas: fosters, adoption screeners, animal transport volunteers, public outreach and fundraising, social media, dog training, and photography. No time at all? Rescue groups will very thankfully accept donations of dog food, crates, leashes, and tax deductible donations to pay the vet bills. Many rescues have an Amazon Wishlist. 

Why are we moving dogs from Louisiana to NY or VA or Maine? Why does the world need more rescue volunteers? Well the euthanasia statistics are depressing, I’ll get to that. I’m going to go cuddle a puppy now…

Lila - fostered 27 Jan - 10 March 2017 ; adopted in NY

Please spay and neuter your pets!