Applying for the Toughest Job You Will Ever Love

Applying for the Toughest Job You Will Ever Love

For those of you that may be considering becoming foster parents to a lucky shelter dog… first of all, THANK YOU! It is a wonderful gift to be able to assist the rescues, the shelters, and the dogs themselves. In a previous post, I spoke with you about how we are preparing our family and our home for our foster dog. I thought I might give you a bit of background on the process of becoming a foster family.

1. Research Reputable Rescue Groups

I was first introduced to the world of fostering by my friend Francine, whom I mentioned in yesterday’s post. She would share photos on facebook of dogs from the shelters in New York City that have a high kill rate, and I was desperate to find a way to help these highly adoptable dogs before it was too late. You can check them out here, and I urge you to do so if you think it might be the right fit for you. She has even fostered a few pups from there, with the help of this rescue. The problem with this process, is that the dogs have very little time between when they are listed on the website, and when they are euthanized. Added to that, you need to be able to pick the dog up in person at the NYC shelter, within 48 hours of reserving them. With a hectic personal life and work schedule, this was not an option for me. In that case, you can fill out applications through certain rescues that have been approved to pull from the shelter in NYC. These rescues will then typically pick the dogs up from the shelter, and hold them for you until you can arrange transportation. Usually, you will then serve as a foster family for their organization, so before you can select the dog, you must pass their stringent application process.

The problem with this process, for us, was that our applications seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle, even though we submitted them to 4 different approved groups. Knowing what I know now, I should have then gone to the extra effort of finding phone numbers or contact information for individuals within the group, and pursued the matter further. However, being new to the process, I assumed that the rescue would contact me if they had interest in our application.

We also visited a few large, well-known rescues in our area. We attended tours of the facilities, as well as meetings for volunteers and informational sessions for foster families. We were very impressed by their organization, funding, and sheer numbers. However, we felt as though we should search for a group that was smaller, and had a greater need for us.

2. Select the Right Organization for You

We will be working with LCPO, or the Luzerne County Pit Bull Owners, Inc. You can visit their website here, and check out their precious adoptable pooches here! You may be wondering why we would choose an organization in Northeastern Pennsylvania, when we live in Pittsburgh. I asked myself the same thing! I do not want to bash any rescue organizations on here. Every group does the best that they can, with likely limited resources of staff and finances. However, we were very disappointed in the lack of response we got for many of our applications. LCPO was one of the only groups that got back to us right away. Not only that, but they sent us a welcome packet of information, letting us know what their organization was about, important contacts, and what to anticipate when fostering a dog through them, as well as their expectations of their foster families. For a nerd like myself, this influx of information was exactly what I needed! They are a very well-run and organized group, and I feel very lucky to have not only found them, but to have been so warmly welcomed. You can also check them out on their facebook page.

The high level of communication and strong organization of LCPO is what most attracted us to working with them, but when considering the many rescue groups, there are a multitude of important factors to consider.

The financial aspect is vital, as it can vary between rescues. You need to ask yourself what you can afford to contribute financially. Most rescues will cover the animal’s veterinary care, at a minimum. In our case, we are electing to pay for all other costs, including the crate, collars, leashes, food, bed, toys, etc, although this is not a requirement through LCPO. We have budgeted this money into our financial plan, and feel that it is one more way we are able to give back to the rescue group. If this is the route you choose, it is important to save your receipts, as they can serve as a tax-deductible donation to the rescue. Be sure to consider all costs thoroughly, before agreeing to take on a foster animal. The last thing anyone would want, would be for you to have to return the animal because of financial constraints.

Another important consideration will be the time commitment. I am not just referring to how many hours per day of your time that the dog may require. Rather, you must consider how long you are willing to keep the foster. The stay can range from a matter of days, to many months. It is important to be up front with the rescue about what sort of time frame you are able to accommodate. Do not assume that if you can only hold a dog for a few weeks, that you will not be considered. This can be the perfect amount of time for a puppy to get out of a stressful shelter environment, learn some basic manners, and become house-broken. There is usually an ideal dog for every situation, so select a rescue that is willing to work with you to find a scenario that is mutually beneficial.

3. The Application Process

The applications for each rescue we worked with were largely quite similar. One thing that stood out among all of them, was the sheer length! Our final submitted application for LCPO was over 7 pages. To me, this shows that they are thorough in wanting to find out as much as possible about their foster families. However, I did walk away feeling as though they knew more about me than my own employer!

It can be tempting to stretch the truth on the applications you submit. You have high hopes for your plans with the foster, and want to convey this to the rescue organization. However, it is vital to your fostering experience, and for the well-being of the animal they place with you, that you maintain honesty at all times. It is especially important to list the proper information about your own pets, as well as their compatibility with other animals, to ensure the safety of all involved. The rescue will then analyze all of the information that you provide, and match you with a dog that is best suited to your lifestyle.  For example, f you have young children and a busy work life, then a puppy may not be the right fit. Most rescues are not looking for the ‘perfect’ application. They should not turn you away simply because you work, or because you do not have a fenced-in backyard. However, they want to see that you have a knowledge of how a dog should be cared for, and priorities that are in line with their own.

4. The Home Visit

Our own home visit will be occurring this Monday, so I can’t offer much first-hand experience. I should confess that I am feeling a bit nervous about it! Of course, I think that our dogs have the best life any pup could ask for. With lots of room to run, toys to play with, ponds to swim in, and comfy beds for cuddling, it’s pretty much their idea of doggy heaven! However, it may look different from the eyes of our reviewer.

I brought my questions to some other members of the LCPO group, and they assuaged my fears by assuring that it is “to make sure you’re not a crack-head or hoarder“. Whew! After some NA meetings and a deep spring cleaning, I can cross that off of my list. Kidding!! But in reality, they have had instances where potential foster homes were denied, based on their home visit. The main point to keep in mind is that they are wanting to verify that your living situation reflects your application. If you followed my point above, and maintained honesty in your application, then there should be no cause for concern.

Amid the unnecessary butterflies, I am looking forward to our home visit on Monday. It will serve as a great opportunity to get an outside perspective on how to make sure our home will provide the proper shelter for our special pup. There is a precious girl we have in mind, and I want things to be perfect for her. She hasn’t had the easiest life, and she really deserves to share the love that I believe our family can provide.


In yesterday’s post, I promised to include a new highlight on our blog! Until our own little foster baby arrives, we will share a daily update with you all that will feature some really special adoptable pit bulls. Introducing….


You know you want me…

At a mere 14-weeks old, Lilo boasts a pretty impressive resume. His foster mama describes him as ‘calm, and totally sweet.’ He is a professional cuddler, and already successfully house-broken! By adopting Lilo, you get all of the puppy charm, with a head start on training and veterinary care, and little risk of stained carpets! Lilo is extra-special in that he is known as a blue-nosed pit bull. He loves his four-legged foster siblings, has been properly socialized, and gets along well with everyone. LCPO was able to pull Lilo and his siblings from a no-kill shelter when they were 10 weeks old, so information of his early life is limited, but his foster mama has been dedicated to making him a responsible member of the bully society ever since. She is doing a fabulous job of sharing his story, and he has had 146 views on his Petfinder profile this week alone!  If Lilo sounds like the perfect addition to your family (of course he does!) then check him out here. If you love Lilo, but aren’t able to add a pup to your home at this time, we would greatly appreciate you sharing his page and this blog to help him find the forever home that he deserves. Thank you for looking!

How could you say no to those eyes?!


If you are an animal lover, and especially a dog lover… or, more specifically, a lover of all things pibble, then you’ve probably heard the latest about PETA’s anti-pit bull position. If you haven’t, then I strongly urge you to head on over here, for the full story. It was published by Stubby Dog, a non-profit organization that ‘is focused on changing the public perceptions of pit bulls’. How cool is that?

If you’d rather just read my Cliff Notes version of the PETA vs Pit Bull face-off, please see below:

  • In 2009, when the gruesome details of a dog-fighting ring funded and controlled by NFL superstar Michael Vick were released, PETA announced plans to collaborate with him as their anti-dog fighting spokesperson. Might I remind you, Vick never released statements of sentimentality or sympathy towards the dogs he neglected, starved, and brutally tortured. He did, however, apologize to his fans, family, teammates, and the NFL for ruining their associations and his own reputation. He apologized for what he did, but was consistently featured in media reports for justifying his actions, blatantly lying about his involvement, and laying blame on others. He never cared about the dogs whose lives he ruined and ended. However, PETA thought he had served his time, and that Michael Vick deserved a fresh start. You can read more about Vick’s victims via the New York Times Best Selling book, “The Lost Dogs” but Jim Goran.
  • PETA sponsors their own ‘shelter’ in the Virginia area. Their adoption rate? In 2008, it was 5%. No, that is no typo. The ‘shelter’ euthanizes approximately 95% of the dogs that come in to their facility. PETA’s true policy is that 100% of ‘pit bulls’ that come into their doors are euthanized. They do not even attempt to find these animals suitable homes or foster situations.
  • Recently, the buzz in many counties in Maryland has been about Breed-Specific Legislation. In recent hearings on the subject, PETA, who are said to defend the ethical treatment of all animals, was present… on the side of the proposed legislation, which was enacted. PETA believes that Pit Bulls should be outlawed.
  • In the letter from PETA, they state, without any supporting data or factual figures, “people who have good intentions rarely come to a shelter to adopt pit bulls; almost without exception, those who want pit bulls are attracted to the “macho” image of the breed as a living weapon and seek to play up this image by putting the animals in heavy chains, taunting them into aggression, and leaving them outside in all weather extremes in order to “toughen” them.” I guess you’re right, PETA. Our dogs are pretty vicious, and we probably should keep them in better living conditions…

This image courtesy of one of our favorite blogs, Love and a six-foot Leash. Check them out!

The problem with these positions?

  1. The term ‘pit bull’ is widely misunderstood. Many dogs are mis-labeled as pit bulls, when in fact, they are not. Are those in favor of Breed-Specific Legislation, proposing genetic testing for all dogs that have similar physical traits? If so, who is responsible for the funding of said testing? And if not, who serves to label the dogs as being Pit Bull or not… who would be qualified for such a position?
  2. Enacting this legislation is not harming the delinquents, the people who own dogs for illegal purposes. These people will continue to display disregard for law enforcement. Unfortunately, it will hurt the families with loyal pets, who will be forced to relocate or give up their 4-legged family members.
  3. Many people who seek out the pit bull do so because of their enviable positive traits; their quick-learning nature, their need to please their human counterparts, and their affinity for cuddling and love. The other reason so many of us are champions of the breed? Because the misconceptions that organizations like PETA perpetuate, are contributing to an epidemic of family pets that are without loving homes. Don’t believe me? Talk to my friend Francine, who has trained her pit bull Rocket as a therapy dog. Or, visit any of the blogs we list here, to see the amazing work they do in defense of these wonderful animals.

Note: I promise that this space will consistently cover the happier side of what we do, but I felt that I would be neglecting the opportunity if I did not share PETA’s stance with all of you.


In brighter news, we still anxiously await our home visit from the rescue that holds our foster, but in the mean time, we spent some time exploring the farm with our pups last night. We took a leisurely quad ride back to the pond, with Tonka & Gaige blazing the trail ahead. Here’s a photo of them, with the quad in the background, resting under the shade of an oak tree at the top of the hill. It is one of the highest points in the surrounding area, and the view is spectacular.

Please stop by tomorrow, for your daily dose of cuteness! (Actually, maybe you shouldn’t. You might overdose…) I plan to highlight adoptable foster dogs in every post, until we get our own special pittie. I know you’ll adore tomorrow’s precious pooch, and I know the family he or she is currently placed with, would really appreciate you sharing the love.

Have a great day!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting… a Foster Dog

In case our first post didn’t clue you in, we are both SO excited to become foster parents to a lucky little (or big!) pup. Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to give Jonathan small doses of what we should expect. I want him to be just as much a part of this process, and for him to feel just as prepared, even if he isn’t the one filling out the applications and talking with the rescues. I have done a LOT of research when it comes to the subject of fostering. Jonathan also wants to feel ready, but he leaves the investigative research to me. It may be pretty clear what we will need to do once the dog (finally!) arrives to our home. However, how should a foster family prepare for the dog to make his or her grand entrance?

Relaxing with the Tonkinator

1) Prepare for changes & challenges

For example, I know that the first two weeks will be a really transitory time, which will require a lot of patience and hard work. We will need to keep the foster dog separate from our two perma-dogs, in order to ensure a smooth transition into our family, while still maintaining all of the animals’ quality of life. That means twice the walks, twice the training and cuddle time, twice the baths and meals… twice everything! It won’t be easy, but by taking the introductions as slowly as possible, we are showing our commitment to the dog. Remember, for many of the dogs in shelters, especially pit bulls, their experiences with the world may not have been good. Ever. Some have been abused or fought, some have mild illnesses like kennel cough, while some have been neglected. For many dogs, their only other experience will have come from inside the walls of a loud, cold kennel. While we don’t plan on taking a super challenging case our first time out, it is still important that they go through this next transition of life as seamlessly as possible, and learn that living in a house with loving people is an okay place to be.

2) Plan for Success

“They’ll never find me here…”

Not only will we be working on giving the dog a slow introduction to life outside of the shelter, but it is important to discuss our goals for this pup. While the level of training we will reach with him or her will ultimately be determined by the amount of time they are with us, it is not our goal to teach the dog ‘party tricks’. More importantly, we need to focus on teaching the dog how to be a happy member of a family. I’ve never heard of someone giving up a dog because it couldn’t figure out how to give paw, dance, or roll over. For whatever amount of time this canine is in our care, we will focus on house-breaking and manners, like walking politely on a leash, staying

“How ever did you find me?”

out of the kitchen while we cook, not getting on to furniture unless invited, and how to greet strangers, of both the 2 and 4-legged varieties. For me, I knew I would not be able to devote the time to all 3 of our animals, if I was still working a demanding job. I was able to make some budgeting decisions that would allow me to quit working full-time, while also taking on a few part-time opportunities to bring in additional income. We are lucky to be in this scenario, but it is not without sacrifice! Find out how other families do the work and foster thing simultaneously, by visiting my inspiration,

3) Teamwork


I would not be able to do this without the selfless support of my amazing husband, Jonathan. He is making many sacrifices to afford me this lifestyle. (Which include, but are not limited to, enduring my home-made cooking on the daily, and saying goodbye to eating out. Also more dog hair, and less clean laundry… maybe he should start a list!) It was vital that we were on the same page before we took this big step. I have been interested in fostering a dog for years, but it has been a serious conversation in our home for at least the past 3 months. This has given us a chance to voice our concerns, and work out all of the details.

For example, it is important to note that we will never be a 3-perma-dog family. Especially with children on the foggy horizon, we would not have the time to devote to a 3rd four-legged family member on a permanent basis, at least not in the same capacity we will with our foster. It was important to establish early on, that we will not be making this dog a permanent member of our family. For each dog we are able to foster, we are not only saving that dog, but also making room for one more to come in to the shelter. Giving two dogs better odds for a happy life is such a gift to us. If we took on a 3rd dog permanently, our opportunity to foster would certainly come to an end.

If you know Jonathan at all, you probably know him as a pretty tough, no-nonsense type of guy. He “gets things done”, especially at work, and has high expectations of those around him. If you only know him on the surface, then you probably aren’t privy to some of the (many!) things I love about him, which include his compassion (I’m guessing I owe that to the 4 sisters he grew up with, but that’s a story for another day!)

“Dad, please put down the computer and play wif me…”

Last night, while we were outside with our dogs and making some physical preparations for the foster (more on that later), he got kind of quiet and looked up at me. “What if we can’t give her up?” he said softly. Both by his tone of voice, and his choice of pronoun, I knew he was picturing his instant attachment to Gaige, and what it would have meant to say goodbye to her. This was one of those moments when I was reminded so clearly how lucky I was to have him as my partner in this journey. We talked about what it would mean to take on a 3rd dog permanently, both by the strain it would put on our lifestyle, and how it would defeat our purpose of helping unwanted dogs. By the end of the conversation, we were on the same page, but it was important that we both voice those concerns. It will not be easy to let this pup go, but hopefully he or she will one day capture the heart of a family that will make the transition that much easier.

4) Prepare Physically

No, I am not referring to bulking up at the gym, in preparation for

“Look at the stick I brought you, Mom! Please throw it.”

leash pulling and ball throwing. Although Jonathan would love the opportunity to spend more time lifting weights, I am talking about preparing our home for the arrival of our foster dog.

First, the inside of our house needs to be prepared. We have purchased a kennel for crate-training, and are acquiring the necessary blankets, toys, bowls, leashes, and collars. We will also be buying some sturdy baby gates, as these are the best way to do some of the final dog introductions, before the dogs are finally allowed to interact together. It will also serve to confine the

“We can share!”

dog to smaller areas during house-training. Finally, we have a spare bedroom that we will set-up for the dog, to serve as his or her ‘den’ for quiet time.

Perhaps more exciting, are our plans for the outside of our home. We are lucky enough to live on a large property, and this has served us well with our own dogs. Tonka, the ever loyal guy that he is, will never leave an approximately 50 foot radius of our house, for worry that he will miss me coming or going. Gaige, on the other hand, is certainly an adventurous little wanderer. Luckily, she loves her big brother, and usually won’t travel too far from him. We have discussed the idea of fencing in our back yard (usually on the mornings that Gaige made me late for work by taking a morning stroll through the horse pastures) but this time, we have real purpose. Especially during the early introductory stages, a large fenced-in play area will be invaluable for us, and for the happiness of all 3 dogs. Unfortunately, as ‘invaluable’ as it may be to all of us, building a fence is actually something that requires a lot of cashola, so I have scraped together my pennies, and have since been researching our options. Then, I realized that I needed to add even more pennies to my stash. 😉 We are still debating the merits of wood vs vinyl vs aluminum… please feel free to weigh in on the comment section below! We would love to hear advice from other puppy parents, foster or otherwise.

We do have the area mapped out, with lots of shade trees included. I told Jonathan that these trees just had to be within the fence… otherwise, where would the pups lay to munch on sticks and wrestle? So, it was decided that shade trees were a necessity. Also, the fence will be between 5 and 6 feet, to deter jumping / climbing.

Before we can have the fence installed, Jonathan laid the ground rule that we have a healthy layer of grass on the ground. Obviously bringing brains to the table as my better/smarter half, he reasoned that a muddy back yard would defeat the purpose of having it as a play and exercise area. So, we have been busy spreading seed, watering the lawn, and layering with straw. And by we, I mean mostly he. I spend most of the time playing with the pups and taking pictures, keeping him company while he sweats in the sun. See photographic evidence below…

Helping Dad water the lawn…

And pick up sticks…

Spreading straw…

And monitoring pests!
(No praying mantises were harmed in the taking of this photo.)

We will continue to keep you updated as we come closer to bringing our pup home. Future posts will include;

  • A new camera, to bring you better pictures of our antics!
  • The Foster Application Process
  • The Unwanted Animal Problem
  • PETA
  • Other Foster Family Blogs

Please continue to follow us on our journey, share this blog with friends & family members, and comment with advice and/or suggestions. We really appreciate your support and interest, more than you know!

Black, White and Naughty all over!

Anyone who knows me would quickly categorize me as an animal lover. And not just any animal lover. I’m the type to look along the side of the road for injured animals, volunteer at shelters, and offer my services as dog sitter to any of our friends. When I first met Jonathan, who is now my husband, I wasn’t so sure how this would work. Sure, he had a mother and sisters that were almost as animal crazy loving as I. However, he quickly made it clear that he was a ‘No Pets in the House’ kind of guy.

Don’t worry. I quickly reformed him 😉

Fast forward to a year or so later. We had both graduated from Penn State, and were living in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Our property had lots of acreage, and my dog Tonka (who was not only allowed in the house, but even occasionally onto the sofa or bed) needed a friend. Jonathan and I had been talking for a few weeks about getting another dog. A puppy, to be precise. We had a few qualifications;

1) We would get the dog in the fall, once things in our lives had slowed down a bit.
2) It would be a male, as we both thought females were more difficult to train.
3) Jonathan’s stipulation was that the dog be a large pure-bred, as he thought mutts & rescues were too unpredictable. (More on that later, I promise!)
4) The dog would be a young puppy, so that we were able to start from scratch with the training.

I was on my way to work, one early Saturday morning in the summer. Rushing down the highway, I was anxious to get my day started, when I saw a little black tail wiggling above the high weeds beside the busy road. Of course, I immediately pulled over, no doubt angering the driver behind me. As I got out of my car, another vehicle stopped to see if they could help. As I stood, still holding on to the open door of my SUV, a little flash of black launched itself into my car, and promptly made itself comfortable on the passenger seat. The other driver chuckled and said, “Well, looks like you have this under control!” I got in my car and began down the road with my new co-pilot, wondering what I would do with this pup during the work day. Of course, I immediately called Jonathan. Our conversation went something like this…

Jonathan: “Hello?”     Stephanie: “You’re going to kill me.”
J: “Why, what did you do?”
S: “No, you’re really going to kill me. I found a puppy.”
J (ever-practical, problem-solver that he is!): “Ok, well what does it look like? I will start calling the shelters to find its home.”

We hung up, with the agreement that we would not, under any circumstances, be keeping this dog. I looked ‘it’ over, and quickly came to the determination that this dog was everything we had decided against. She was, in fact, a she. She was also on the smaller side, obviously not pure-bred, and had some influence of pit bull. She was young enough to be a hand-full, but of age where she was not still dependant upon her mother. She was stinky, skinny, and obviously neglected, due to a skin infection and fleas. What did this all add up to? She needed me. Still off the clock, I gave her a quick bath, to which she offered much protest, a bowl of water, and some makeshift ‘toys’ to keep her busy (plastic bottles, etc). I placed her in an empty stall at the equine veterinary hospital where I worked, and set about my morning chores.

As I worked, I heard some strange noise coming from the back of the barn. These sounds could not possibly be made by a dog… something must be attacking her! I ran to the stall, and found the puppy stalking her prey… a piece of baling twine. The ferocious noises she made seemed incompatible with her size, and I couldn’t help but laugh at her. She would definitely be a challenge for whomever welcomed her into their home…

Sure, the picture of innocence. But don’t believe it!

Throughout the day, this puppy gave me my fair share of trouble. Nothing was easy with her around! I touched base with Jonathan before I left for the morning, and he told me he had spoken with a number of shelters that were willing to take her. He had also looked on craigslist, but found nothing relating to a missing black puppy. I was expecting that to be the case, as unfortunately, she didn’t look as though anyone who might have had her, had cared enough about her to miss her. My guess was that she had been dumped along the side of the road.

Her seat for the first 5 minutes…

I made the trip home, which normally takes 45 minutes, with the little puppy beside me. Or, should I say, rarely beside me. The commute ended up taking over an hour, as the dog would. not. sit. still. If she wasn’t trying to crawl under my feet, she was launching over the back seat into the trunk, climbing into my lap to lick my face, or digging through my designer purse to find something to play with. Shortly after we departed, I made the smart decision to pull over, and carefully harnessed her safely, so that she could not hurt herself. This lasted all of about 10 minutes, until she had wriggled out of the leash and plopped herself down… right here…

Convenient spot, smelly dog.

When we finally got home, I was exhausted from the trip. I opened the door to my car, planning to walk around to the other side and make the puppy wait to get out of the car. She launched herself over me, leapt out the door and….
Ran. Right into Jonathan’s arms.

He picked her up, looked down at me, and said…
“We’re keeping her.”

Needless to say, the rest is history. The big, tough guy fell for the little, tough girl. She has flourished after ….



routine vet care…




Daddy loving on his sick little girl…



A quick and easy spay, for a pathetic patient…




Photo courtesy of Pictory Productions



Play-time with her big brother and best friend, Tonka…



No pups on the couch, huh?



And some good, old-fashioned cuddle time…




Gaige has since become the bright spot in our lives. For every bit of mischief she causes (and believe me, there is a lot!) she is right there to lick you in apology for her transgressions. She has taught us so much about raising not just a puppy, but a pit bull puppy. Like, when you buy brand new, $400 insulated steel-toe work boots, do not leave them in the basement to dry, Dad. Puppy will chew them to an unwearable state, the same day they were purchased.

On a serious note, we quickly realized that dogs like Gaige are commonplace in shelters across the U.S. We strongly believe that had Gaige not ended up in our loving home, she would have found her way into a bad place, either of neglectful or frustrated owners, life in a shelter, or even worse, euthanasia. She was a handful to raise, and easily misunderstood. We know that by giving her a chance and raising her with strict but positive guidance, she has repaid the favor to us ten fold. We want to spread that knowledge to others, and maybe make a difference in the lives of a few shelter dogs just like Gaige. We love our pit bull for so many reasons, and we know you would, too… at least now that she’s trained!

Copyright Pictory Productions