Learning to Trust


You are allowed to scream, you are allowed to cry, but don’t ever give up. It’s an important lesson.

Learning to trust is one of the most difficult things to do after someone that you trusted has let you down. Someone let Whit down. In the shelter he was shaking and scared. We know that he came from a hoarder. His shelter paperwork said abuse. When he got to us he was filthy. Needed-multiple-baths-filthy. But he smiled. He wagged his tail. He gave us a chance. I like to think that the other happy, calm, confidant dogs were telling him that this is a good place, a safe place. (I love how that works!) Everything was going great, for two weeks, and then my kids came home from their annual summer holiday at their Grandmother’s. We have had 20 different dogs here, and they all loved the kids. Whit was afraid of them. He barked at them, warned them to back away. They were a little bit confused. They didn’t understand. Whit may have been abused by a child. I talked with them about his unknown but abusive past. I reached out for advise on how to help him learn to trust them.

Here is what we learned:

  • Being barked at incessantly is really damn annoying. The kids were doing everything they could to be kind and loving towards Whit, but he wasn’t having it, not at first.
  • Whit is reactive. While we were thinking: We run this amazing Hotel for Dogs and Whit must be so happy to be here, and we love him, and so he’s happy now and everything’s great! Look at that tail wagging! Whit might be thinking: Who the hell are these people? I got used to the big ones and now there are two short ones. I don’t like this. The short ones can be so mean. Why are they looking at me? Stop looking at me. Oh no, here they come. They’re going to touch me. I don’t want them to. Why are they touching my head? I’m going to hold really still. Hands hurt. I don’t like stranger’s hands. I wish they would go away. They are so loud and they move so fast. I don’t like this. I’m getting out of here. Oh, there’s another one. Where in the hell can I go? Why the F$%k are they looking at me? Stop trying to give me food. I don’t want your damn treat. I don’t like you. GO AWAY!
  • Our house turns out to be stressful for Whit, well, only when the kids are in the same part of the house as he is. Otherwise, he is a happy dog.
  • The kids were going to have to learn to pick up on Whit’s stress and be careful around him. The absolute last thing we want is someone getting bit. That would be awful for the kids and the dog. When a dog is triggered by something stressful the ears go back, it might growl, bare teeth, snap or bark, retreat and hide. Most of the time Whit growled and barked at the kids. Then if they didn’t move he went a little closer and barked more (in case they hadn’t heard him). He barked and then backed off. Barking, retreating, barking, retreating. I can tell you that its super hard to get any work done while this is happening nearby. The kid couldn’t get their summer math done and I couldn’t write.
  • The first thing we tried was treats. If the kids gave him treats and fed him his meals, he would come to think of them as good caregivers. Whit was reluctant to take a treat from the kids, not even a special treat, which could be totally counter-productive for training.  He wouldn’t go near his food bowl if they were there. Damn. I was really counting on that working. We try to give him random treats when he isn’t barking and he seems approachable. That works … sometimes.
  • Okay, Whit needs calm. I instructed the kids to be quiet and move slowly around him. Try not to come up behind him. He would gradually tolerate them petting him if he was soundly in my lap and safe. Baby steps.
  • Let Whit take the high ground. I don’t typically let dogs sit at my desk or at the dining table. Whit like to sit in these places. A lot. I’ve decided that he feels more confident if he is up higher and so I’m allowing it, only for him, in total amazement that the other dogs are staying off these chairs. Wow. (The other dogs also look at him like he’s crazy when he barks at their wonderful kids. They think he rides the short bus. They love him. All good.)
  • One great piece of advice was to have the kids take him for a walk, with me of course.  Whit was super unhappy to go into a harness and leash, but once we were outside and around the block once, he was starting to like it. By the third day’s walk, he was cautiously optimistic that these kids don’t totally suck.
  • Another piece of advice was to ignore Whit. Basically, don’t feed the barking with more scary looking at him, or moving toward him or, god-forbid, touching. Sometimes, I advised the children to just walk away from him. That isn’t always practical though.
  • Patience. We have wanted to scream and cry from frustration. Loving anything who throws fear and aggression back at you takes its toll. We will not give up. We will vent. We will leave the room. (We will nod in agreement when our husband says ‘Too.Many.Dogs.’) We will then try again to be patient and allow Whit to learn to trust the kids. We will take cute pictures, because Whit loves to smile, and we will share our progress, because lots of people are rooting for Whit. He is totally worth it.

You are allowed to scream, you are allowed to cry, but don’t ever give up. 

Day by day, Whit is growing more tolerant of the children’s presence in his house. (He feels that he was here first.) He will sometimes take treats and allow petting. This morning, he jumped up between my daughter and I and we got the selfie just above. Progress!

The Pickup Line

I don’t often take my dogs to bars. It is important to socialize dogs. During the sports seasons, we take them to our kid’s soccer games in sets of two. During the academic year, I pick one to take in the car for the morning school runs. Outside of July and August, we take a couple out for a neighborhood walk. It’s too hot for that those months. While I would love to be a regular at a dog friendly restaurant, we have too many dogs and most of them are too young and excitable to settle at my feet through a meal. I daydream of having an older, calmer dog that can go anywhere with me. Someday. Labs are puppies for a looong time. Pen is just about to turn 2, and she is still a puppy. She is my oldest permanent resident dog.

A few days ago there was a fundraiser for Take Paws Rescue at The Bulldog, a local bar with a dog friendly outdoor terrace. It’s a great way to show off the adoptable dogs and raise money while socializing with other fosters. Whit is my Take Paws dog, so he got to go to The Bulldog. He was super excited in the car. I was pretty sure he would be a total pick up artist.


At the bar we met a very friendly Take Paws Rescue dog named Dodger, who is a regular with his mom at The Bulldog. Dodger moved around the terrace greeting everyone like it was his place. He made a really good impression. We felt welcomed.

If you are looking for a good wingman, Dodger is your dog.

A dog walks into a bar and says, I'll have a martini.................................shaken, with 2 olives. Sure, says the bartender, but, why the big paws?
                                                            *Mike Lynch cartoon

Whit, so full of smiles on the car ride, stayed firmly in my lap at the bar. He wasn’t sure about the music and the crowd. It definitely seemed like his 1st time in a bar. After a while, he settled into a relaxed people watching mode. We were waiting. That night we also had a date with Bruce, a 1-year-old Catahoula in urgent need of a foster. Bruce was rescued from a negligent breeder (a 19-time repeat offender, unfortunately). Think about that if you buy a dog from a breeder. Ask them what they do with puppies that don’t sell, and with the females that can’t have another litter. A lot of them get dumped. A lot.

Bruce was rescued and was recently adopted, but by the wrong person.

Bruce is an active, large puppy. He’s about 60lbs of puppy. People don’t expect puppy behaviors from large dogs, because they don’t look like puppies anymore. Bruce is a very sweet dog who still needs lots of activity and socialization. Unfortunately, his adopter failed him. She changed her mind and decided not to keep him. He was at risk of being dumped at a shelter if a foster home was not immediately found. She wa

s told that owner surrenders are almost immediately euthanized because the shelters are overly full. (Strays are held for five days to a week depending on space available). She said he had to go.

It takes a while for a dog to settle in to a new home. And not every home is the right home for a particular dog. So we met Bruce at a bar, and he asked me, do you come here often? Not really, I said. Occasionally I bring a foster dog here, decked out in a bright yellow Adopt Me harness, here, meet Whit.

No, really, he came over to us and was just as happy and friendly as can be. On the way back to our car, we met a tiny little Russian girl outside of Bayou Burger, maybe 3-years-old, and he sat very still and calm while she petted him. We met a waiter and found out that Bayou Burger has a pet menu that includes roasted chicken, bacon, and frozen bananas and peanut butter. We will have to go back and check that out.

Then we brought Bruce to The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs and the fun began. All of our dogs came out to the yard to meet Bruce. It was around 7 in the evening. Around 9 or 9:30 they finally stopped joyfully zooming around the yard and came in to collapse in their crates for the night. They started running again at 6 am the next morning. The whole pack ran, all together. It was great. Bruce, we learned, gets along really well with other dogs, and he has a lot of exuberant energy. He would do best with someone who works from home. I don’t think he likes being alone, or being crated for long periods. I can imagine that his last brief owner got home from a long day of work and was overwhelmed by Bruce’s energy level. Maybe it would have worked out for her with an older, less active dog. This puppy wants to run and play. He will sit and go into his crate and he will come when you call him. He tries really hard to please. He loves attention, but doesn’t jump up in your lap for it. He has settled in nicely here. For a dog I picked up in a bar, he’s a good catch.

Road Trip: Nola to Cincinnati

stray |strāverb [ no obj. ] move away aimlessly from a group or from 
the right course or place: He strayed a few blocks in the wrong direction 

A vacation in the Marigny — home of Jelly Roll Morton, brightly painted houses, and the occasional stray dog…

I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes dogs choose their people. It can happen with a single look, even from a photograph. They grab your heart and won’t let go. Sometimes a dog just appears on your doorstep. Sometimes it follows you home.

It was a quiet morning at home, and my phone screen flashed on a message via Facebook to New Orleans Lab Rescue. A stray had followed a tourist back to her Airbnb and she didn’t know who to reach out to, The Shelter was closed and the humane society has a wait-list for taking n strays. They needed help.

I was thinking, yeah, its summer, the shelters are all full. Someone must be missing their puppy. She needs to get it scanned for a microchip. So, I started messaging about where she could do that.  Gary and I drove over to the Airbnb to help. The poor puppy was exhausted and dehydrated. It had no collar, and it turned out no microchip. She was willing to keep him, but she was flying back to Ohio the next day. She tried to figure out a way to take him on her flight, but he was too big for the allowable under seat carrier. Well, I’m from Ohio, and I was planning a trip home this summer anyway, so we decided to foster him until I could get him to her.

She named him Nola.

It turns out that she has another rescue dog, Bentley, from The Greater Dayton Lab Rescue. She is a social worker, and Bentley is a therapy dog that goes to work with her. How awesome is that? How could I not help her?

How cute are they? You can follow Bentley on Instagram @rufflifeof_bentley 

So, we brought Nola to The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs just in time, because a Tropical Storm was heading towards us, and it rained, and it rained, and it rained. All I could think was this poor puppy would have been soaked and hungry and miserable.

Instead, he joined the ranks of the not yet potty-trained puppy guests. He became one of the pack. It has been a joy having him with us. He is an adorable little Catahoula-Pointer mutt with a fierce independence. He likes affection, but doesn’t ever ask for it. He has the biggest bladder, and the least control ever (well, since Ollie, who was also going for some kind of pee volume record.) Nola loves to play with the other dogs. He loves to chase toads and shred banana leaves. He hunts butterflies. We adore him.

We are going to miss this boy, but we are so excited for his future in Ohio. So, ROADTRIP! Here we come LA-MS-AL-TN-KY-OH!

This is my first puppy delivery. It coincided with the return of Bernie. Bernie’s new family are traveling and I volunteered to puppy-sit while they are away for a few weeks. Nola and Bernie were buddies, so I decided to bring Bernie along. It was a great idea. They kept each other company in the back seat and probably made the trip a little less stressful for one another. We had fun playing at every rest stop along the way. Bernie and Nola were excited to meet every single stranger at every single stop. We even met a woman whose name is Nola, and then saw her again at the next state rest stop – small world!


We made it to Ohio and back to the one he followed. We think he chose well. Good job Nola!

Darling Aria, (daughter of my big sister’s daughter) loves puppies. Puppies love Aria. Win-Win. (My son said that I should have brought more dogs for her.)


I love to see people’s faces light up for a dog. It is totally worth the drive.


Nola is happily playing with her new brother, Bentley, and we are so happy for her happily ever after ending. Love you Nola! Keep in touch!