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.

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