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.