Fostering 101- What IS a dog foster?

A family adopting one of my foster dogs, a brindle dachshund named Papi, met me at their front door and said, “The dog social worker is here!” I smiled, I had never thought of it that way. I guess that is what I do. A child and family social worker protects vulnerable children and supports families in need of assistance. I protect vulnerable dogs and support adoptive families. Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. I help dogs cope with their emotional and health problems. Social workers address mental, behavioral, and emotional issues for vulnerable people.  I socialize, train, and bond with dogs, giving them the time they need and the skills that they need to be ready for adoption. So, yeah, I guess I’m a social worker for dogs. I’m on foster number 59.

We call our home The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs.

 

What IS a dog foster?

foster | verb | fos·ter: to give temporary parental care to; nurture  

A foster is the bridge between an animal shelter and a forever home. It is someone who offers up their home to a homeless dog and gives them the gift of time until they find the right forever home. A foster gives love, care and attention, until the visiting dog is adopted.  A foster family learns about their foster dog, trains them a bit, and helps the rescue place the dog in the best possible forever home.

Foster homes are the backbone of animal rescue groups—without an active network of dedicated fosters, rescue groups cannot fulfill their missions to save animals’ lives. Across the US, and particularly in the South, animal shelters are overcrowded and have to euthanize animals when they run out of available space. Fostering saves lives. Although fostering can sometimes be a lot of work, along with being a mother, fostering is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. By taking a shelter animal into your home, you are saving two lives, that of the animal that leaves the shelter, and that of the animal that can then take the newly vacant shelter crate. When you foster a dog and adopt it out into a good home, you aren’t just helping that one dog, you are making an entire family happy. People think it would be really hard to say goodbye, but actually, it’s a great feeling. It’s one of the best parts of fostering.

What does fostering a dog involve?

First of all, love. By opening up your home to foster dogs, you’re not only helping to save lives, you’re providing the individual attention and love these dogs desperately need.  Most have been let down by humans. They need your love. A foster helps a dog decompress from shelter stresses. Shelters are cold, noisy, scary places. Many dogs become depressed or anxious at the shelter. Fosters help dogs feel safe and recover from abusive or negligent homes, or from the stresses of living as a stray. A foster takes in dogs whose owners have passed away, or whose owners have abandoned them.  A foster home helps dogs get healthy, both mentally and physically, seeing them through vet appointments for immunizations, recovery and recuperation from more intensive medical procedures such as heartworm eradication, spay and neuter surgeries, or other illness or injuries. As a foster/dog social worker, you have to figure out what your foster dog needs. Some simply need a safe and quiet space. Some need extra love and attention. Some need basic socialization and training.

Have you thought about fostering?

Reasons You CAN Foster a Dog — Even Though You May Think That You Can’t

People are always telling me that they think its great that I am fostering dogs. I also hear sooooo many excuses and reasons why people can’t foster, don’t want to foster, have never even considered fostering a dog. Okay, it’s not for everyone, but it just might be for you. Let’s break it down.

I can’t afford to take care of another dog. This was me. Caring for a dog can be expensive, and its isn’t always financially feasible to add another. I started fostering after I rescued Ollie, my second dog, because I wanted to have more dogs and I couldn’t really afford to. That’s right, I started fostering because I felt that I couldn’t afford more dogs. The rescue pays the vet bills. The rescue will supply anything you need for your foster dog. All they need is your time.

I can’t foster because I have a full-time job. Actually, you can! A foster coordinator will do their very best to match you with an appropriate foster dog for your needs and your current schedule. If you have a full-time job, the foster coordinator will match you with a dog that may be OK alone during the workday. You will just need to provide ample exercise before or after you go to work. Many dogs need a mid-day potty break as well. It is doable, and many fosters work full-time jobs.

 

I can’t foster because I don’t have the space.  All that is needed is a corner where you can set up a crate, and it doesn’t take much space to do that.  Whatever space you have at home is definitely more than the dog has at the shelter. When the shelters get full, they are putting dogs together in crates just to save their lives. Some dogs have been living on the streets, with no shelter at all. If you don’t have much space, you can still foster smaller dogs or puppies.

 I can’t foster a dog because I don’t have a fenced yard. Again, a foster coordinator will do their very best to match you with the best foster for your needs and your current living situation. Some dogs really need a fenced yard to thrive, and others do not. And even if you do have a fenced yard, you should supervise all outdoor activities with your foster dog, and always keep your foster on a leash when you’re on walks. It’s nice to have a fenced yard if you have dogs, but you can live rather happily with a small breed dog and no fenced yard. Think of all the great exercise you will get walking your foster dog!

My personal dogs won’t tolerate a foster dog. It is possible that your dog hates all other dogs, but not probable. It’s more likely that you will find that your personal dog has foster dog preferences. I have a Lab who has helped me foster many dogs. She’s been an awesome den mother to 59 foster guests in our home. I have learned along the way that she is best with dogs older or younger than her, and usually smaller. If you have a separate room and crate, having foster dogs shouldn’t be much of a problem. If the dogs don’t get along well, they can be separated. Sometimes after a few days of relaxing alone, a foster dog is ready and excited to make friends with your pack. If the problem persists, and the dogs just aren’t getting along, the rescue can step in and the foster dog can be moved to a better suited home. Along the way, you will be finding out what dog types, temperaments, ages, etc. work best for your home.

A foster dog might make my dogs sick. It is always a health risk to expose your animal to other animals, whether at the dog park or in the vet waiting room.  If your pets are current on their vaccinations, maintain healthy diets and lifestyles, and are not immuno-compromised, then the health risk should be minimal.

It is possible that your foster dog will have some illness.  A sick dog should be isolated to a separate room, and bedding and toys and kennels should be washed with bleach after use. Shelter dogs experience intestinal distress from stress and from new foods and so are likely to have bowel problems for a day or so. I like to add plain yogurt to their kibble, the probiotics are helpful. Dogs are usually treated for fleas before they leave the shelter, but it happens that you will find a flea on a foster dog now and again. I bathe my fosters when they arrive. Dawn liquid dish soap removes adult fleas. The rescue will provide monthly flea/tick and heartworm prevention. Some foster dogs arrive with runny noses or a cough. Often, it is just residual from the kennel cough vaccine, which is given nasally. Kennel cough, or Bordatella, is highly contagious in a shelter environment.  Sometimes just a little cough syrup helps them feel better. Sometimes it is a more serious upper respiratory infection and requires antibiotics. Your personal dogs should be vaccinated against Bordatella and should be up to date on all their shots and monthly medicines.

Generally my feeling is this, its like sending your precious children off to school when they are little. You know they are going into germ world, but you do it anyway, because it is the right thing to do. Vaccinate your kids, vaccinate your dogs, and care for both when someone else makes them sick.

Someone else will foster that dog, there are plenty of caring people out there. Nope They won’t and there aren’t. There are never as many foster homes as there are dogs in need. There are healthy, adoptable dogs being put to sleep every day. There are puppies being put to sleep for lack of space. But you can save a life, one foster dog at a time.

 

 

There are thousands and thousands of dogs in need of homes.  So, if you can’t adopt … foster!

 

What if my foster dog is not working out? Some foster dogs will have behavioral issues: separation anxiety, destruction of property, fear issues or aggression toward other animals. If you feel unable to manage any behavior that your foster dog is exhibiting, please contact the rescue foster coordinator to discuss the issue. They will guide you and help in every way that they can! While rescue foster coordinators try to screen the rescue dogs to make a good match for your foster home before they send one your way, this is not an exact science, and there is often limited information about the dogs coming into the rescue. There is a possibility that a foster dog’s personality or behavior is not a good fit with your home. Once the animal is placed in a foster home from a shelter, the dog cannot be returned to the shelter if the person fostering the dog decides it’s not working out. If you feel you can no longer foster a dog, a new foster home can be found.

The dog on the left (below) was terrified coming out of the shelter. She had to be kept separated from the other dogs in my home because she was growling at them. It took about a week before she was best friends with every dog in the house. Sometimes, patience, time and space are all that’s needed.

So, why aren’t more people fostering dogs? Ok, Here is the big excuse:

I will get attached. I could never say goodbye. I’m frequently asked as a dog foster parent  – How do you let go? And a lot of people tell me they don’t foster dogs because – I could never give them back. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this excuse irks me the most. Fostering isn’t for everyone, but the I could never give them up really stings. I smile and say, sure you could. On the inside I’m saying  – so you can’t deal with a few tears over saying goodbye to a dog, but you can handle the idea that the dog may be put to sleep in the overcrowded shelter because no one stepped up? I think that is selfish. If you are talking to a rescuer, think before you speak. Think about how much suffering a rescuer has seen before you say – I can’t foster because I would keep them all.  OK, yes, you can get very attached to your foster dogs. I love all of my fosters like family, but knowing that I am saving their lives and helping them find a forever family is completely worth breaking the attachment and letting go. It’s like extended dog sitting, you go in knowing that you are going to say goodbye. Have I cried? Yes, but they were happy, bittersweet tears. As the foster, you are called on to decide if a potential adopter is good enough. I know that the adopters I have chosen will give my foster dogs a life that is as good as or even or better than what I can provide. I tell myself, every single time, that letting go of this one means I can save another life. I can save many more lives.

I have a photo of each of my previous fosters, and I have a wall where I put them all.

I love looking at that wall.

 

I am so incredibly, very, very happy for my foster dogs when I see them with their forever families. I ask to stay in touch. I reach out to get updates. I love it. It makes my day.

And hey, it is not the end of the world to foster fail. Foster parents CAN adopt their foster pets. A lot of times people will foster to adopt. If the foster dog is a great fit with their family, they adopt, if not, the dog will be adopted by another family. If you want to make your foster dog a permanent part of your family, please contact the rescue foster coordinator right away. It is very stressful for a potential adopter to expect a dog to join their family and then be told that the dog is no longer available. Just consider that an adoption saves ONE life, and a fostering saves MANY lives.

Fostering is not for everyone. It takes time, love and patience. If you work really long hours, travel really often, have very small children at home, have medical issues, have a pet that can be aggressive around other animals, have a landlord that won’t allow it…well there are lots of things, and some people just shouldn’t foster. But, if you are a dog lover, and you have the time and the heart for it, fostering saves lives, dogs love unconditionally, and adopters are forever grateful. 

You can do this, if you want to.

If you have EVER thought about fostering a dog, please, try it once. Find a rescue group or shelter near you and contact them. If you live in New Orleans, Take Paws Rescue is an amazing all breed rescue to work with. Reach out.  Give a homeless dog a chance at life.

Check out my next blog to learn specifically about what fostering entails.

Fostering 101 – The Basics of How to Foster  a Dog

 

Tax season is going to be ruff…but fostering a pet is tax deductible!

I can deduct that?? Woof! Fostering a pet is tax deductible! …just in case knowing you are saving little furry lives isn’t enough.

If you were a rescue foster family this year, be sure to write off your foster dog or cat expenses. The expenses have to be directly related and solely attributable to the rendition of services to a qualified 501(c)(3) organization. You can deduct unreimbursed out-of-pocket spending on things like:

  • food
  • medicine
  • veterinary bills
  • crates
  • leashes, collars, tags, and harnesses
  • gas for mileage driven (for charitable purposes, you can deduct 14 cents per mile)
  • a portion of your utilities (as long as a a specific area of your home is only used for the care of the animals and nothing else)
  • cleaning supplies, even the paper towels you use to clean up after your foster while house training (we buy them along with Lysol Wipes by the case around here….) are deductible.

*While you CAN deduct expenses you incur while volunteering, you CANNOT deduct the time you spend volunteering. Trust me, the experience is reward enough.

So, if you foster a cat or dog for an animal-related 501(c)(3) organization, document all of your expenses. If audited, you will need to provide a list of itemized receipts. Save any and all receipts, and, if your unreimbursed expenses add up to over $250 for the year, obtain written acknowledgement from the charitable organization that confirms your volunteer or foster status. The written acknowledgement must contain a description of the services provided, a statement of whether or not the organization provided any goods or services as reimbursement, a description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services provided as reimbursement and a statement that the only benefit you received was an intangible one (if no reimbursement was made). This must be obtained on or before the date you file your tax return for the year that you made the expenditure or the due date for filing your tax return for that year.

If you are not yet fostering…this is just one more reason to save some furry little lives in 2018. Check out the animal rescue groups in your local area. There are both breed specific and general rescues. Love Labs? Check out Nola Lab Rescue.

This is the amazing group that I currently foster with  – we always need more fosters!  http://www.takepawsrescue.org/foster-form

Fostering is not expensive. Take Paws Rescue covers the cost of all vetting, and can provide crates, food, anything you need really. Some groups ask that you provide your foster’s food and or crates, collars, leashes, harnesses, toys/treats.

Can’t foster? Your charitable donations to a 501c3 rescue organization like Take Paws Rescue in New Orleans are fully tax deductible and help save furry little lives.

 

Christmas Hope

Recently, my 10 year old daughter was asked, what do you want for Christmas?A puppy! she replied.  The thing is, I’m not sure if she was serious, or if she has mastered the adult sarcasm in the family. We have had over thirty dogs here in the last year, and most of them would count as a puppy. We’ve even had a few of the newly weaned, just taken from the momma dog type. We love puppies. I tell people: they are a total pain in the ass. Because they are. They are untrained pee machines. But I’m like the puppy-grandma, I get to love on them and cuddle on them for a short time, all the while knowing we will be sending them on to a forever home soon, making another family very happy. Knowing they are temporary changes your attitude about the rough parts. Maybe the reason that I am good at fostering and letting go is that I have changed countries, continents, jobs, schools, and friends so often that my mantra is: I can handle anything, because soon enough everything will change and I’ll be starting over. You would be amazed at what you can deal with if you maintain this attitude. Pretty much everything in life is temporary in one way or another, so appreciate the good parts, the bad parts will pass.

I hope we will be lucky enough to foster some tiny puppies over the Christmas holiday.  The fact that grandparents are asking about Christmas gifts reminds me that I really need to stop procrastinating Christmas planning. This year we are having a very modest Christmas. I am seriously on a minimalist mission to get rid of stuff. Having a house with 6 to 8 dogs and their cages and dog beds is making me very happy, but all of the life clutter around them is stressing me out. What is the point of amassing more stuff?

I’m not a total Scrooge. I have a bad habit of overdoing gifts for my family. I love giving people things that make them happy! My family is getting harder and harder to shop for though. Now that the kids are 10 and 13, they just aren’t into toys. Ask them what they want and you get a blank stare, or nothing; my son actually said nothing. I think it’s great. I’m super happy that they aren’t materialistic to the point of having detailed lists. I still want to find them a gift that makes them smile though. Maybe our gift should actually be giving. Maybe it will make them smile if I give them each a gift card, and we go to the store and buy toys and treats to deliver to the homeless animals at the shelter, and toys and clothes for kids in need.

I want all the dogs for Christmas! If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I love beautiful dogs. I would like to foster one of every shape and size, I would like to love on them and cuddle them, photograph them, and send them happily off to their forever families. I want a St. Bernard and a Berner and miniature Dachshund. I love them all. I love the mutts too. My dog Bailey is a weird mix of Chow, Lab, Dachshund and English Bulldog. He’s funny looking. I think he’s beautiful. Ollie is a Chihuahua mixed with so many things that the DNA test was inconclusive. He’s funny looking too, like a hound/Greyhound.

 

My latest fosters are both beautiful. Otis is a gorgeous full blooded chocolate Labrador Retriever who is is only with us a very short time. He has an adopter ready for him.

The other new foster is Hope. I have no idea what breed mix Hope is. She looks like a herding type dog. She is a beautiful white. You wouldn’t look at her and see any kind of perfection. Hope was born partially deaf and partially blind. She has a milky, glass eye. She can see some movement. I’m not sure how well she can hear. Hope has spent her life living in an outside pen. Otis, on the other hand, is well trained and healthy and has been an inside dog. Hope is afraid just being inside of the house. It feels strange to her, the hardwood floors, the cushions. I’m happy to give Otis a place to stay between families. He knocked over a rambunctious toddler and was given up. That sucks, but this boy has lived a pretty good life. Hope hasn’t. She is kind of a mess. She has bad scars where dogs have attacked her. She needs to have several fractured teeth extracted. She has heartworms that have gone untreated.

Hope needs a forever family. First, she needs to learn to be an inside dog. She needs to learn to trust people again. She needs some serious decompression time. I’m so glad that Hope is with us for the holidays. I can’t think of a better way to spend Christmas than loving on her. She is so very beautiful to me. I told Hope that her bad parts have passed, they are behind her. The good part of life starts here and now.

 

Maybe I think they are ALL beautiful? That’s because of the joy they bring me. Look at that beautiful smile on Hope’s face as she hugs my daughter. I’m glad that I’m giving this sort of a life to my children. I’m proud of the way that they have stepped up and take responsibility for our many four-legged guests.

I have been given so much in life. I grew up in a nice house in nice neighborhood, and I’ve never been hungry or cold. I’ve been safe, coddled even. (Thank you Mom and Dad!) Now that I am all grown up and settled in a warm, safe home of my own, now that I have two healthy, wonderful children, and I have travelled all over the world, now I want to give more than I receive. That’s why I love rescue. These dogs give me so much day after day, that it’s hard to believe that I am actually  giving more than I receive. I think that’s why I am drawn to dogs like Tres and Hope. Dogs that have big needs, needs that I think I can meet. It feels really good to help them.

Still thinking about what my modest family Christmas is going to look like. I’ve ordered blankets and durable dog chew toys to take to the shelter with the kids. Of course, the freak snow days came and went and the blankets have not arrived yet. Ugh. Waiting…In the meantime, I’m not totally preachy and unmaterialistic…..I’ve come across these cute pillows. These all made me smile. Perhaps you have someone in your life who needs a gift like these? (You know, if they can’t rescue a puppy for some reason.)

ASPCA Pillows

https://www.pbteen.com/shop/girls-bedding/teen-decorative-pillows/

How cute are these?

 

 

I dare you not to smile at some of these…

Happy Holidays! I am very hopeful for a wonderful New Year, and many, many more guests at The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs.

A Refuge From the Storm

I joke with people that I am learning Louisiana geography through animal rescue. It’s true. I have driven all over rural southern Louisiana to visit animal shelters and spring dogs from doggy jails. A few weeks ago I drove up to Folsom, Louisiana, which is about an hour north of New Orleans.  It was a lovely day for a drive across the lake. Fun fact: with a length of 24 miles, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the world’s longest bridge over water. I have driven it many times this year while taking Tres, my former tripod foster, to his specialized physical therapy sessions. (If you have ever driven it in driving rain with very low visibility, you will know why I strongly prefer these sunny, clear days.)

Why Folsom? Prior to Hurricane Harvey, all of the Take Paws Rescue animals were housed in volunteer foster homes like mine. Last August, Take Paws Rescue,  partnered with The Inner Pup of New Orleans (TIPNO), to convert a 5,000 square-foot workshop on a 17 acre residential homestead in Folsom, LA into a temporary home for dogs that have been rescued from the flooded shelters of Hurricane Harvey in St. Landry, Vermillion and Iberia Parishes of Louisiana, as well as flooded areas of Texas. Originally purchased as a refuge from city life for the Goldring family (the founders of TIPNO) and their personal dogs, the family generously offered the space for immediate rescue use after Harvey. The heartbreaking truth is that already over crowded shelters would have to euthanize animals in order to make room unless rescues and adopters stepped in to take the animals.  Sadly, in this region, there are always more animals in need than there are rescues and resources to save them. Rescue organizations outside of the immediate area also offered to host these displaced companions if they had space, but this was insufficient to meet the overwhelming and immediate demand.

 

Why are there so many dogs in need? Sadly, as many as eighty percent of dogs in rescue shelters in Louisiana are euthanized.  This kill rate is one of the highest in the United States and unfortunately represents the culture of how supposed companion animals are regarded in the U.S. South. In search of longer-term solutions to pet overpopulation, Take Paws Rescue is partnered with TIPNO, whose mission is to create a network of accessible, affordable resources, enlightened attitudes, and accountability so that families embrace pets, and to end the cycle of abuse, neglect and overpopulation through community education and prevention programs.

In the short–term, Take Paws moves animals into foster and forever homes as quickly as possible, but there are always more dogs in need than there are open foster homes. The TIPNO Takes Paws refuge allows us to save the lives of more animals by pulling them out of overcrowded and underfunded animal shelters, getting them all necessary veterinary care, spaying and neutering, and listing them for adoption with fully vetted applicants. The refuge is a wonderful facility with plenty of room for the dogs to run and play outside. It is a place to heal on the way to their forever homes!

Look who I met at Folsom, Buddy and Boss, our latest guests at The Cecchine Hotel for dogs. Since August of 2017, the TIPNO Takes Paws refuge has housed 175 dogs and going forward we expect to house as many as 30 to 40 dogs per month. We believe it is important to maintain a surge capacity so that we will be ready for the next natural disaster emergency that our region will inevitably face.

Our team has many volunteers, but the demand to provide the best care for these displaced pets is nearly overwhelming. As well as fostering, I am currently seeking grants and writing funding proposals for for the TIPNO Takes Paws Refuge.

To help as many pets as we can, we are in need of: 

-A bathing station for pets – and a bathroom for the people staff!

-A vehicle to safely move animals to and from veterinary care, which is vital to them being healthy enough to be adopted

-Medical supplies(including heartworm and flea and tick protection) and funding for veterinary care

-Pet food (We go through at least 20 bags of dog food every month), treats, and toys

-Cleaning supplies

-Bedding and blankets to keep the pets safe and comfortable, as well as heaters and fans

 

We always need more short-term fosters:  http://takepawsrescue.org/foster/

 

Want to DONATE to Take Paws Rescue (via Paypal)?

or you can send checks to:

The Inner Pup of New Orleans
 5208 magazine Street, Suite 357
 New Orleans, LA 70115

I will happily accept donated items and drive them to our pups in need in Folsom. 
Just get in touch with me at: daniellececchine@icloud.com 

BOTH GROUPS ARE 501C3 NONPROFITS AND YOUR DONATION IS TAX DEDUCTIBLE

 

Boss (black and white) and Buddy(brown and white) are both doing really well. Boss has found his forever home and Buddy (with his free hugs) has found his way into my heart. He will be tough to say farewell to.

Buddy is currently accepting applications for a lifetime of free hugs at: http://takepawsrescue.org/adopt/

 

ADOPT DON’T SHOP

Room for one more…

It has been a busy, busy, house-full-of-dogs-summer. Gary has travelled for work, the kids have come and gone, travelling to see family as they do each summer, and I have stayed. Because, dogs. Last summer we had Pen. 1 dog. Now we have 8. There have been so many in need. I have said no to new dogs every week. We do what we can though! Meet 6-month-old Cocoa. Cocoa, along with her sister, was owner surrendered to Lu’s Labs. My Lu’s labs usually get transported to Virginia within 3 or 4 weeks, and I know they have potential adopters waiting for them. That makes it easier to say yes to one more.

Poor Cocoa. A car tragically killed her mother, and the owner found homes for two of her other puppy siblings. Lu’s has named the sisters Laverne and Shirley.  The owner had called her Cocoa. When I picked Cocoa up from the vet, she was scared and wouldn’t take a treat from my hand. I was told that she had not eaten, although she had been there more than 24 hours. She was stressed. She was afraid of the leash and had to be carried to the car. We had a 45-minute ride ahead of us, and Tres was already in the backseat. I had just picked him up from his physical therapy session. I put Cocoa in a harness and attached her in the front passenger seat. I made small talk with her. I sang, like I used to do to calm my resisting-sleep babies. Halfway through the ride home she sighed, licked my ear, and rested her head on my shoulder. It was a beginning.

We arrived home to the usual exuberant tail wagging welcome party, and Cocoa did pretty well. She got her much needed backyard bath without complaint and immediately latched on to Gary as her person. I tried, and failed, at not being jealous. I decided that training her to a new name (Shirley) would be unnecessarily stressful. we had enough work to do. Young puppies are re-namable, but the older the dog is, the more confusing it is for them.

Like Henry, our beagle foster, it was clear that Cocoa had not been an inside pet. Cocoa and her sister had been in a home near a freeway with no fence and they were allowed to roam freely, which wasn’t safe for them.

Cocoa did not come to us with any manners. This is where the pack comes in handy, they train the new guy every single time, and we step in to stop counter-surfing, inappropriate chewing, and that sort of thing. For the most part, we have been very lucky and this transition has gone smoothly with our fosters. The dogs are grateful to be here. They feel safe and loved.

Cocoa had a rough start.

She wasn’t sure of all these new rules, all of these new dogs, and where she fit in. She is a pretty big baby, only 6 months but the same size as my 2-year-old lab. We broke up a few scuffles each day until she settled down and knew her place.  The last thing we want is for one of the dogs to be hurt in a fight over food or a toy, or simply in a show of dominance.  Each dog has a crate that they can go to and be safe and left alone.  We feed them all in their crates, so they don’t have to protect their food while eating it. They need to feel safe. Cocoa did not have food or toy aggression, but she was getting all worked up and we couldn’t tell why. She wasn’t eating well either. We had to try different ways to feed her: in a crate, out of a crate, by hand. She was just stressed. She cried in her crate at night. It turns out Cocoa is a lay-in-your-lap-like-a-baby lab. This girl would love to sleep in bed with her humans, but we have too many dogs to even consider that. She cried it out a few nights and now goes to sleep in her crate without a fuss.

All dogs need to decompress when they go into foster homes. They often come from bad situations and they have had to deal with a lot of abrupt changes. We don’t always know what they need, what they have faced in their pasts. We give them space to relax and get healthy and become the wonderful pets that adopters are looking for. They have to feel safe and trusting, which is a lot to ask of a dog that’s been let down by humans. I am constantly amazed by their resilience. This amazing thing happens with dogs, they let you into their hearts and they love you unconditionally. It is one of the most rewarding parts of rescue and fostering.

I was so happy when we finally saw her playing joyfully with the other dogs. That is what we are all about. We want happy, healthy, safe dogs.

Cocoa has made a wonderful transition. She gets along with everyone. She still won’t eat in her crate, so she goes into a separate room and eats with Gary standing by. If he leaves, she stops eating and follows him. We don’t know why, but we are working with her. The important thing is that she is safe and happy.

She is beautiful and we are so happy that we got her through the rough days.

Is it just me, or is she possibly Scooby-Doo’s long lost daughter?

Could be. She is far more beautiful though. Cocoa has settled in and settled down and she is just the sweetest girl. She is going to make her forever family very happy.  Cocoa will be transported by volunteers to Virginia in a few weeks and will be available for adoption through Lu’s Labs.  Lu’s Labs adopts out within a 5-hour drive from the Washington DC area.

This dog is home – Iffy Foster Fail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogs have big personalities. You can research a breed and get a general idea of their general disposition, but there are no guarantees. When you have a lot of dogs coming through your hotel, you realize that some dogs fit your family better than others. There are easy-going, chill dogs, high-maintenance, needy dogs, and everything in between. You never know what you are going to get, and you can’t judge a dog by its breed or its looks. I have met the sweetest, calmest pit bulls, and the meanest little yorkies.

Whatever kind of dog you think you want, there are certain dog faces that make you fall in love at first sight. You can’t help yourself. My Facebook feed is filled with rescue dog posts. I see a lot of dog pictures.  Did you know that some people sell and or/give dogs away on Facebook? It seems like a reasonable marketplace for dog lovers to find available dogs. One big problem comes to mind – dog-fighting. It is unbelievable to me that this is a thing, but it is. It involves fighting dogs and bait dogs and I’m no expert, but I have become aware that there are dog-fighting rings and they are looking for free or cheap dogs. That is why I am a member of several Facebook Groups for people who are looking to “rehome” their pets.  See that puppy up there, that picture in the middle. I fell in love. Mom is a lab-mix, she had an accidental litter, and puppies were being given away on Facebook. I NEEDED to save this one. I had to make sure that it got a good home, a great home. OMG, look at that puppy face. In love.

I drove out into the country to meet the owner and see if I could help her with her puppies. She couldn’t afford to keep them. They hadn’t had any immunizations. She was doing her best, but was worried that the momma dog was already pregnant again.  I talked to her about how to make sure the puppies all went to good homes. (Ask for a potential adopter’s vet’s phone number. Call them. Make sure their dogs are up to date on vaccinations and are well cared for. Ask for personal references that you can call.)  I gave her info on local low-cost spay programs. I brought home this gorgeous little foster puppy.

I named him Bailey.

Bailey is my perfect dog. He like to snuggle on my lap. He gets so excited about food that he bounces across the floor like a bunny rabbit. He has these super, short daschsund legs, but he bounds across the room and launches himself up on my lap. We call him a flying squirrel. He is an adorably silly-looking, iffy dog mix of Labrador Retriever, Chow, English Bulldog and Dachshund. (I know, because we DNA tested him out of extreme curiosity.) Bailey is my personal therapy dog. He drops my blood pressure and makes me smile so much that it hurts. It didn’t take me long to realize that he was home. Everyone who saw us together knew I was going to foster fail. I know, I know what you are thinking. 1. You can’t keep them all, and 2. how do you not keep them all?  So, here’s the thing. I love ALL of these dogs. I love having them here. I love watching them heal and I love seeing them go to their forever homes.  Some of them are easier to say goodbye to than others. Some dogs are fiercely independent, and they are easier to send off than the needy ones. Some are really needy, and it can get tiring giving them all of the attention that they deserve. A 90lbs lap dog is not so much my thing. Some of these dogs fit my family just right. Bailey was different from the others somehow. I got a message that he could be added to a transport to New York and I cried. No. No! I’m not okay with Bailey leaving, just no. I had to convince my family, who love him, but hadn’t thought of him as anything other than a temporary foster dog. We had, in particular, drilled the word temporary into the kid’s heads. I failed. I foster failed and I’m so glad that I did. We adopted Bailey and he is my little best friend. I cannot imagine my life without him.

All of my foster dogs wear a little bone shaped tag that says ADOPT ME on one side and has my contact information on the back. I let my family know that I was not giving Bailey up (after lots of discussion) by going to Petsmart and buying him a tag that says BAILEY. It was my $7 way of making him a permanent member of my family. He serves as our hotel butler. He buttles. He is at the door to greet you and will walk you out when you leave. If your feet get cold he will lay on them. If you are stressed, he will jump up in your lap and you will feel the stress melting away.

Some of the local rescues have programs where you can check out a dog like you check out a book. You can borrow them, take them home, see how they fit your life, and then decide if you want to make an adoption commitment. I think that’s great. If you don’t want to try foster-to-adopt, where you agree to foster with an option to adopt, then the next best option is to borrow a rescue dog for a weekend or a week and see if that’s your dog. You will know.  The difference between getting a dog straight from the shelter and getting a dog through is a rescue may seem minimal, but in some ways there are advantages to going through a rescue. A rescue will make sure that the dog is fully vetted, meaning its been to the vet, has all of its shots, has been spayed or neutered, and is on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention, and has been micro-chipped (invaluable for getting a lost dog returned to its owner). That is what you are getting when you pay an adoption fee . A rescue foster has also spent time assessing each dog and can tell you if a dog is well suited to a house with children, cats, or other dogs. Rescue volunteers take time to call adopter’s personal references, their vet, their landlord. We visit the home and make sure that it is safe and appropriate for the animal. I wouldn’t recommend a large, active 1-year-old Labrador Retriever for an older couple who have had hip replacement and have an unfenced yard, but I’m sure that everybody has their perfect dog out there somewhere. If you haven’t already, I hope you can find yours.

 

Bailey - fostered and adopted - 2 March 2017 - forever

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!

 

 

In need of forever – Bella and Homer

Why do people give up or abandon their dogs?

Not enough space. That is why Homer was taken to the Mississippi shelter by his family. Not enough space. Homer is a great big puppy for sure, and he has no idea how big he is. His family let him down. They kept him when he was cute and little and then gave him away when he got too big. (Did they think that he would stay small forever? Didn’t they plan ahead?) I think that Homer was probably kept in a crate all day and then got wild when he was finally let out. Homer was chill for me, but he loves to play. He is a very social lab-hound.  He came to me with Bella, a beautiful black lab who had been used as a breeding dog and given up to the same shelter when they were done breeding her. Bella acted like she had never been an indoor dog before, like she had never received much in the way of affection. Her owner (I won’t even call him family) was known at the shelter. He brought other dogs there, once they were no longer useful to his business. Think about that. This guy might be considered a “reputable breeder”, but do you want to support him? Would you like to buy one of Bella’s puppies knowing that after she has given birth to three or four litters she will be dropped off at a kill shelter?

It was the 3rd week of March, 2017 and I had gotten to the point where my eyes had been opened to a lot. So many things that I never knew about the world of dogs in the southern US. I was at the point that when Lu’s Labs asked me to foster a dog  I said yes, then they asked if I could take two, and I said absolutely. Not long before, I would not have done that. I would have thought it was too hard. It isn’t really. Because I work at home and I’m not fighting deadlines, I have time to give to these sweet dogs. They need the same unconditional love that they give us. Some need to learn to feel safe again. Some need to learn to be pets, because all they’ve ever done is breed puppies for someone else benefit. Bella needed to learn how to be loved as a pet. She was calm, shy and sweet. Homer was gregarious and needed to be touched and rubbed and snuggled. He needed to run with the other dogs and wear himself out playing. He needed to be a puppy. I guess his first family thought that  he needed those things and they could not give them.

I don’t think my neighbors could fully appreciate Homer. He has a bark that makes you stop what you are doing. It is the best guard dog bark I’ve ever heard. He is a big, dopey hound, but he sounds fierce and he has the size to back it up. If you spend any time at all with Homer, you fall in love with him. He has these eyes. You can read him through his eyes, and he exudes happiness. Where Homer was the life of the party, Bella was my wallflower. She was low energy, she would play fetch, but mostly just lay and watch the world go by. Every day that she spent with us she got a little more relaxed until she was just absolutely zen.  It was a little hard to say goodbye to these two. Homer was such a big personality, and Bella had made so much progress. I knew when I handed her over to the second transport driver (of the dozens that took her north) that she was scared. I knew that it would take her some time to settle again once she got to Virginia. Before a dog leaves the state, we have to go to the vet and get a Health Certificate that lists the dogs vaccination record. I told them her ears were bothering her. Bella had chronic ear infections and was undergoing treatment. I had detailed notes about her food and medications. I was worried about her.

You might wonder about the logistics of transporting dogs from the south all of the way to Virginia or New York. We do it with a lot of volunteers. There are these angels that drive transport and that organize the whole thing, One leg at a time, with sometimes as many as 20 legs. I pack several days of food in individual portioned ziplock bags with their names on each bag and instructions about when to feed them. (Abrupt changes in diet can cause undue gastric stress.) We also send along a blanket and/or a toy and a bag that contains all of their medical records, rabies tags, and pertinent information. All of this and the dog get passed from transport angel to transport angel, people who give up a few hours of their weekend to help these dogs make it to their new homes up north. Why you ask? Why not just have them adopted in the south? Because up north dogs are indoor pets, and there are more adopters than available dogs. There are even waitlists to adopt a dog. In the south, dogs are too often kept outside, and un-spayed and un-neutered, they roam. The result is so many strays and unwanted litters of puppies that the shelters are overly full and there are never enough adopters.

I had no idea.

Homer and Bella were not meant to be used and then given away. They were meant to have wonderful, loving forever families, and that is what they got. I am always so happy to see and share Pupdates, updates on my foster dogs with their forever families. Look at these pictures. You can feel love pouring off of them. They are getting the forever they deserve. That is why I do this.

 

Bella - fostered 22 March -  1 April 2017 ; adopted in VA
Homer - fostered 22 March - 22 April 2017 ; adopted in VA