The Kind of Post I Never Thought I’d Write

My friend Morgan, over at Temporary Home, Permanent Love, wrote a really difficult piece last week (here). While she struggled with sharing the contents with her readers, it gave me the courage to share with all of you something I have definitely been procrastinating. Usually when I begin to write a post, I am anxious to get my thoughts out on paper the screen, because it is clear to me what the ‘mood’ will be… sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes serious, sometimes silly. Rarely, is a post such a mix of emotions. And I don’t really know where to start. So I guess I will just say it, and hope that you, my readers, will be gentle and understanding… at the very least, I hope that you will read through to the end before you judge. Here goes nothing.

Georgia's first night in our home

Giving kisses

We. Are keeping. Georgia (. or ! or ? or ?!)

Where We are Now

We are thrilled! Georgia has become an integral part of our family, and of our pack. She came to us a worried little bundle of rolls and wrinkles, who didn’t know how to play, was scared of raised hands, and would rather be alone than in the company of others. She was so intimidated by other dogs, that she would snarl and snap if they came too close… but we learned pretty quickly that she really was all bark, and no bite. These days, it is rare to find her anywhere but cuddled up on top of you, and when she is not cuddling, she is wrestling and bitey-mouthing and tug-of-waring with our pups over toys. She is truly like an entirely different dog. While I always held out hope for her improvement, Georgia now possesses a confidence that I truly never could have imagined that she would acquire. She wags her tail when passing even strange dogs on walks, is friendly with other pups at obedience school, and is happy to do anything we ask.

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Once upon a time, many people urged me to consider placing Georgia as an ‘only-dog’. While I appreciated their guidance, in my heart, I couldn’t resign her to that fate. I felt strongly that if we took things slowly, she would be able to face her demons and overcome them. Most importantly, in the back of my mind, I even believed that she would one day learn to find solace and comfort in the company of other dogs. Not a day goes by, that I don’t feel pride and satisfaction in the outcome we have all achieved together. Still now, months later, I make Jonathan come running into the room each evening, when I see the dogs curled up in a puppy pile, or sharing their toys. We ooh and ahh, and bask in the glow of our little pack’s happiness and contentment.

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How We Came to this Conclusion

When we had our first meet-and-greet (back in November, I think?!) Jonathan brought up the idea of making Georgia a permanent member of our family. I know I sound like a crazy person, but each time we took her to meet an adoptive family, she was petrified. Although I tried to deny it, for the sake of our sanity, neither of us could ignore the signs. She would cling to us, looking worriedly back and forth between our two sets of eyes, and sometimes even refuse to leave the car… it was like she knew we were considering sending her someplace else. We would try to make it a happy and pleasant experience, and I certainly don’t think we were exhibiting any negative body language that would deter her from feeling comfortable. Finally when we got home, she would velcro herself to our sides, following us even to the bathroom, and keeping her eyes on us at all times… ever our lazy couch potato, her anxiety even prevented her from sleeping soundly. Worse still, her digestive system would take a cruel hit, and it would take a few days for it to recover.

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Nevertheless, I was convinced that once we found a family that was an ideal fit, it would feel right. We had a number of meet-and-greets, and they were all unsuccessful for varying reasons. One did not work out because Georgia was not friendly with their dog. In a few instances, the adopters backed out just before the meet and greets, for personal reasons. One adopter, whom I had my heart set on, felt that it was just not the right time for her to bring home a new dog. Jonathan would always give me a million reasons why each family wouldn’t fit, but I would quiet his fears, and I remained optimistic that we would find a family that could give her everything she deserved.

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Finally, we found a family that was perfect on paper, and ended up being even more ideal in person. Jonathan and I woke up early one sunny, Sunday morning, and drove 4 hours (one way!) to meet them. To say we were invested and hopeful, would be an understatement. We met them, and it was a great match. Georgia was, of course, sweet and gentle with their children. She still clung to us, but the mother had experience with force-free training and the two week de-stress. It was all so perfect, and yet something just did not feel right. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach, and literally experienced a moment of sheer panic. My head started to spin, my vision tunneled… I needed to get out of there. We politely said our goodbyes to the family and the people from the rescue, and got in our car to hurry away. We both sat in momentary silence. It felt like someone was trying to take OUR dog away. It was in this moment, that I knew we just couldn’t let her go. On paper, everything was perfect, and there were no excuses that either Jonathan or I could come up with. But somehow, we were panicked at the thought of saying goodbye.

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Why We Ultimately Made this Decision

Over the next week, the topic of saying goodbye to Georgia was never far from my mind. A Christian at heart, I prayed daily for clarity in this decision. It was almost uncanny (or, as my mother-in-law would kindly remind me, perhaps providencial) but throughout that week, we took Georgia more places than usual; the vet’s office, local parks, the pet store, etc. Each time we went out, more often than ever before, people came up to us and asked to hear her story. By the end of every conversation, each person kindly and gently left us with words that were eerily similar… “But she looks like she’s meant to be with you,” “it seems like she’s already made the decision for you,” and “I think she is right where she belongs“. Before he left for work in the morning, when he called me around lunch time, and when he arrived home at night, Jonathan and I would always discuss her future and our decision. While he was adamant that her place in life was with us, I couldn’t shake the worry of disappointing everyone. A people-pleaser by nature, I didn’t want to think about delivering the news to the prospective family, my friends at the rescue, and of course, to all of you here on the blog. I had made a commitment to fostering, and I was going to stick with it. I was NOT going to be one of those ‘foster-failures’. I am not self-centered enough to believe that you all follow this blog with such loyalty that you would take our decision personally. However, with my dedication to fostering, and my previous “rants” against becoming a foster-failure, my pride had prevented me from considering this option all along.

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I reached out to a few people about my struggle. One of them was my friend Morgan, and the others were friends from the rescue, Alanna and Casey. Everyone reminded me that I needed to put Georgia first. But what does that mean? To me, that was my greatest struggle… It had always been about Georgia for me, and in my mind, it would be incredibly traumatic for her to go to another family. At this point, she was finally integrated with both of our dogs in the house, and I was so proud of the strides she was making. She was completely settled into our family, and the thought of putting her into a whole new environment sounded cruel. When I thought about dogs like Gaige, I thought about dogs that were hardy and resilient. Put Gaige in any situation and environment, and she was likely to come out unscathed and happy. Georgia just isn’t that type of dog. She is sensitive and gentle, and always worried about having approval. You could even go so far as to call her emotionally needy… at least when compared to our little spitfire, Gaige. Maybe I was anthropomorphizing, but I thought that Georgia would be sitting in her new house, missing Jonathan, Tonka, Gaige, and me, and wondering what she did wrong. I couldn’t get her sad little face out of my head.

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Where did we go wrong?

I’ve asked myself this question many times. I know some of you, particularly those hardened foster families, have been reading this post and are rolling your eyes. You think I’m making excuses for keeping our foster, when in reality, I just couldn’t let her go. Guess what? Maybe you’re right. I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you that my decision was 100% selfless. What I can tell you is that I did not want a third dog. I especially did not want a third dog that wasn’t always fond of other dogs. But when I thought about Georgia, and Georgia alone, I kept coming back to this decision. It was the only one that felt right.

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After having Georgia as a part of our household since October, perhaps the problem is that we kept her too long. Especially being our first foster, having her with us for 5 months makes her feel like one of the family. At the same time, it only took a few minutes for us to fall head over heels in love with her, so maybe the length of stay had little to do with it.

Georgia says thanks!!

Another possibility is the investment of time and effort we made in overcoming her struggles. I know from my years spent competing with horses, that achieving a lofty goal with an animal is the surest way to form an unbreakable bond. We spent so much time breaking down Georgia’s walls and building up her confidence, that I felt we had become a team.

With his girls

 

Worse still, maybe I am just not cut out for this lifestyle. I hate to admit that to myself, but perhaps I am not capable of loving and letting go. Finally, ome of you may have guessed that Jonathan and I experienced some unsettling loss this year, shortly after Georgia came to our home. I certainly would be naive if I did not believe that this had an effect on our attachment.

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Yes, there are still times I feel immense guilt over our decision. Typically, that is when I am glancing into pleading puppy-dog eyes, staring out from behind bars, on my computer screen. But when Georgia was brought into my care, my commitment was to make decisions that were in HER best interest… not anyone else’s. I will always stand by the fact that I have done just that. This decision was not the ‘easy’ one. I didn’t make this decision because I needed Georgia in my life, or because I didn’t trust anyone to care for her the way we would. I made it because I believed in my heart, that this was meant to be, that she would be happiest with us. When Georgia faces a situation that is new or challenging, she always looks to me for guidance. Each day, she looks at me with grateful eyes, tail wagging gently against her sides, and I could swear she was thanking me from her heart. So while there are days that I wonder where we went ‘wrong,’ I can’t help by think that just maybe, this was part of someone’s plan all along… though whether that someone is Georgia or the Lord, I’m not sure we will ever know. Maybe there is a reason that God is dog spelled backward…

 

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Disclaimer: I wrote this all as it came to me… no editing or deleting or re-reading. I needed to be as honest as possible with all of you, and I felt that was the only way to do so.

(Kinda, sorta, not really…) Wordless Wednesday

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Don’t worry, we’re even comfier than we look!

If we fits, we sits... but always together.

If we fits, we sits… but always together.

Announcing the winners of our giveaway!

1) Little Bow Pup: Bow tie – Sandra S.

2) Yellow Brick Home: Paintings – (my girl crush) Morgan from Temporary Home, Permanent Love

3) Sirius Republic: Custom collar – Randi F.

4) Squishy Face: Toy Package – (Super sweet) Danielle from Mr. & Mrs. & Nola Kisses

5) Sew Olive: Custom Tags – Lynne S.

6) Tiennot Knits: Custom Sweater – Ellie W.

7) 2 Hounds Design: Collar, Harness, & Leash package – Aimee D.

8) {To be determined – prize package fell through} – Erin C.

9) Lulu Bug Jewelry: Smiling Pit necklace – Melissa L.

10) DawgArt: Paintings – Jessi K.

11) Poochie Heaven: Puzzle Toy – (Super Sleuth!) Hannah from Erie-sisti-Bull

Thank you ALL for contributing! If you made a donation or supplied a giveaway item, please expect a small surprise in your mailbox within the next few weeks. Your generosity means more than you know!

We also have some VERY exciting news to share with you all. We will be back later this week (Thursday or Friday) with the announcement. Expect it to be long-winded!

It’s a Numbers Game!

It is estimated that only ONE in every SIX-HUNDRED pit bulls finds a home. Animal control facilities in cities all across the US have pit bulls numbering 40 to 60% of the shelter population at any given time. It is estimated that 1 million dogs classified as a pit bull are euthanized each year (yes, this includes puppies!). The best (and sometimes only) chance a pit bull has at survival once admitted to an animal control facility, is by being pulled by a rescue. Rescues only exist with commitment from dedicated foster homes!

Our rescue partner is LCPO, or Luzerne County Pit Bull Owners.

In 2013, LCPO celebrated their SECOND birthday. In that short time, they have helped more than 150 dogs find their forever homes!

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In 2013 alone, SIX of the lucky LCPO dogs have already found their forever homes.

They have also pulled SEVEN precious pups from shelters in the new year. This brings the total current list of adoptable LCPO dogs to EIGHTEEN.

TWO of LCPO’s alumni have gone on to officially achieve their Canine Good Citizen Certification. Many more are in the works!

In 2012, LCPO took on some dogs with medical issues and/or special needs. Puppy Jora (who is still with the rescue!) required extensive mange treatment and other necessities, which totaled approximately $1,855. Next we have Miss Khloe, who is also still with the rescue. Her total is driven up by her high cost of boarding, spay surgery, and a few health issues, and has reached in excess of $1,215. Georgia was another needy lady (mainly due to the fact that her puppies also required care!) at $1,200. LCPO has also taken on SIX pit bulls who happened to hear only with their hearts! TWO of these deaf pitties are still available for adoption.

In 2012, at least 66 of the LCPO adopta-bulls found their forever homes! These are all dogs that would have been put to sleep in shelters without the help of a rescue.

The average cost for each incoming dog in 2012 was $450. The adoption fee remains at a mere $200.

Borrowed from

Borrowed from ARF.org

While they focus first on finding forever homes for their adoptable dogs, LCPO reaches out to help dogs in many ways. LCPO offers the ‘NEPA Pit Fix Program’. This allows owners to have their pit bulls and pit mixes spayed or neutered for just $50. This cost covers the expense of the surgery, pain meds, and a rabies vaccination. There is no limit to the amount of dogs that can be altered under this program!

LCPO currently operates with a dedicated team of 3 Directors, 7 Leadership Members, and many volunteers. Volunteers have logged well over 250 hours of service in the new year.

Last year’s 5k Race to Rescue raised much-needed funds for LCPO. Rachael L. was the top fundraiser, contributing $650 with her individual fundraising efforts. The 2013 5k Race to Rescue will take place on June 8th. My goal is to raise $500, and my total currently stands at $395, with only 17 contributors. With every entry given the opportunity to win one of 11 prizes, those are some pretty good odds!

My favorite number? ONE. Sometimes looking at the millions of dogs that are hurting and homeless, can make our work as animal lovers seem overwhelming. However, if we take it one animal at a time, before you know it, you will have helped so many. Our fundraiser is one way that you can help!

If you are still interested in making a contribution, thereby becoming eligible to win any of the prizes listed below, please head here! You have until Monday, February 25th to make your donations, as we will be selecting the winners on Tuesday and making the announcements later that week!

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#1- Sugar Skulls bow tie from Little Bow Pup
#2- 3 Paintings from Yellow Brick Home
#3- Custom Collar from Sirius Republic
#4- Flirt Pole & Super Tug toy pack from Squishy Face Studio
#5- 3 Custom ID Tags from Sew Olive
#6- Custom Sweater from Tiennot Knits Sweaters
#7- Collar, Leash, & Harness package from 2 Hounds Design
#8- Two Shirts from Pitbull Shirt
#9- Small Smiling Pit Necklace from Lulu Bug Jewelry
#10- 8×10 Prints from DawgArt
#11- Interactive Puzzle Toy from Poochie Heaven

Leave a comment on this post if you have donated, and let us know which product you are most hoping to win! We will be sure to put in a good word for you 😉

*Please note that all of the LCPO financial totals are approximations/estimations.

(Not Really Ever) Wordless Wednesday: What You’ve Missed!

Have you been missing our pups’ sweet faces?! I hope so, because today I will catch up with you through a photo montage, showing some of what we’ve been up to over the past week or so. You’re welcome 🙂

She loves him, but only a little bit ;)

She loves him, but only a little bit 😉

With his baby girls

With his baby girls

 

 

 

It is impossible to have a bad day, when you get to wake up to this!

It is impossible to have a bad day, when you get to wake up to this!

Our dogs know how to party... they make custom confetti!

Our dogs know how to party… they make custom confetti!

She fell asleep in the sunshine

She fell asleep in the sunshine

 

Sharing a stick

Sharing a stick

And just a few days later…

My favorite way to spend a day :)

My favorite way to spend a day 🙂

Those ears! Get me every time

Those ears! Get me every time

Thanks for stopping by everyone! Have a great day 🙂 Tune in tomorrow for info about the giveaway, including the closing date. If you haven’t donated yet (what, are you crazy?!) head here. Remember, every $10 increment of your donation, earns you another entry for one of 11 amazing prizes! Many thanks to all who have donated thus far. Your chances are looking REALLY good, which is great for you, but not quite as great for all of the needy pit bulls LCPO wants to help out this year.

Fundraiser: Prize #11 – Play Bow!

You may remember in a recent post (here) we talked about the important of stimulating our dogs mentally. We stressed that this is equally as vital as physically exercise! One of the quickest ways to exhaust your pup, is to work his or her mind. 1 tired dog = a happy dog & happy owner! This theory is catching on in animal shelters, where boredom and stress can run rampant. A tired dog will ‘show’ to potential adopters much better than one who is over-excited, mouthy, or jumpy. If we give shelter dogs a way to expel some energy through quiet play, we are helping them come one step closer to a forever families.

This interactive toy is Gaige's FAVORITE

This interactive toy is Gaige’s FAVORITE

Simple enrichment works wonders in shelters, but it is just as effective in our own homes! When we were expecting a large amount of company around the holidays, we were careful to think about all three of our dogs, but especially Georgia. While she had always been calm and friendly with strangers, we weren’t quite sure how she would handle excessive noise and foot traffic. Of course, she blew us away by displaying the best manners out of all three dogs, but it sure helped that we kept lots of ‘puzzles’ around for her to work on in case she became bored or anxious. For us, these puzzles were oftentimes just kongs with frozen ingredients inside, but rest assured that the animal market is catching on to the trend and need for such products!

Tonka loves it, too

Tonka loves it, too

Poochie Heaven – Interactive Toys for your dog!

Although we originally only planned to offer TEN prizes, while searching for a dog toy company that specialized in puzzles, I was delighted to come across Poochie Heaven. I couldn’t resist including them in our giveaway! They seem to take their business a step further, by truly understanding how dogs play and learn, and providing products that enhance the bond between dogs and their owners. While they carry everything from dog beds to collars and bowls, their toy selection was most impressive. They share their approach to toy selection, below:

“Interactive dog toys typically have some element of a challenge attached to playing. The dog must move pieces around in order to be rewarded with a toy or a treat. Many of the interactive dog toys act as puzzles which the dog must solve in order to be rewarded. Interactive dog toys are available at different levels of difficulty as some dogs need easier puzzles, and some need more advanced puzzles. The dog puzzle toys can be as simple as moving a ball a certain way to release a treat, to arranging pieces of a complex puzzle. As the dog completes the easier puzzles, they will happily move forward with the more challenging interactive dog toys.

It can be a very fun bonding experience to play with your dog using an interactive dog toy. The dog begins to learn through the toy that when he or she completes certain tasks, they are rewarded. If the owner helps the dog with the puzzle, the dog soon learns that if they listen to their owner’s commands, they will be lead to a treat. Therefore, an interactive dog toy can help make your dog respond more positively as you teach it other commands and behaviors. Interactive dog toys are suitable for dogs at any age; they can also be a great tool to use when developing a trusting relationship with a new puppy.”

You can head over to the Poochie Heaven website to check out their vast array of dog toy puzzles. However, if you are feeling lucky, simply make a donation to our fundraiser, here! You will be registered to win the Poochie Heaven interactive dog toy shown below, as well as ten other AMAZING dog-inspired products.

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This toy may look unassuming, but it packs a powerful punch when combatting your dog’s boredom or anxiety! By hiding treats beneath the hollow blocks, your dog will learn to remove the blocks with their paws or teeth to enjoy the morsels hiding below. As your pup becomes an expert, you can increase the level of difficulty so that only some of the blocks contain treats. This way, your dog has to use their sense of smell to uncover their reward.

This toy, at a value of $57 + shipping, was generously donated by Poochie Heaven!

Fundraiser: Prize #10 – Sunshine & Pitties

When we got married, I was so honored to have Foster Dad’s (FOUR!) sisters standing beside me on our big day. It was really important to me to find unique and distinctive gifts for each of his special ladies, that applied to their respective interests. I didn’t want to go the route of gifts with our wedding date engraved for years to come. For J’s youngest sister, E, it was so simple. We both share a passion for animals, and a lifelong dedication to the world of competitive horse showing. Where I had my once-in-a-lifetime horse named Frosty, hers is also a gorgeous, tall, gray gelding, named Norman. I knew that for her gift to be especially meaningful, I would need to incorporate her first love and best man! After taking a few (amateur!) shots of her gallant steed, I sent them along to an incredibly talented artist who specialized in custom animal portraits. Of course, E opened her gift with an appropriate mix of speechlessness and tears, and I was so proud to be able to provide her with such a treasured keepsake, truly indicative of my appreciation for her role in our lives, and in our special day.

I share this story to illustrate just how sacred such a gift can be. Our animals grace our lives in a pivotal, yet heartbreakingly brief, way. Having their presence preserved in a work of art to display in your home, is a gift that is truly invaluable.

DawgArt –  Unleash Your Pet’s Colorful Personality!

The watermark will not appear on the print, it is just to protect the copyrighted images!

The watermark will not appear on the print, it is just to protect the copyrighted images!

Alicia is an artist that specializes in pet portraiture and animal art in vivid color. She created her company, DawgArt, in 2003. She draws inspiration from a former professor, who would leave his students with the message to “Use your powers for good!” Alicia believes that art has power, and so when she puts her brush to her canvas, she has two goals: 1) to communicate the soul of one creature to another, and 2) to make people smile. All it takes is one look at her work to know that she brilliantly achieves both goals! However, she also absolutely uses her power for good, advocating for no-kill rescue and working with many animal rescues across the country.

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Alicia has worked with almost every breed of dog imaginable.

 

While she works primarily in acrylic on canvas, Alicia also dabbles in photography, dry media, and writing. The inspiration for the color splash in her portraits comes from her youth in the desert Southwest. Alicia was born in Germany and raised in sunny Arizona, but now lives in Utah with her husband Tyler, their rescued cat Kiko, and their shelter dog Toby.

Alicia's work includes, dogs, cats, horses, and even wild animals!

Alicia’s work includes, dogs, cats, horses, and even wild animals!

 Please visit Alicia’s store (here) to purchase any of these prints, but of course, she also embraces and encourages private commissions of custom portrait work. Can you imagine how impressive it would be to have a portrait of your own pet done in her bright and sunny style?! She captures the personality of her subjects so truly and eloquently, that you can’t help but smile.

Alicia has graciously offered a donation of 8×10 fine art prints. Please make a donation to our fundraiser for LCPO’s needy pit bulls, in increments of $10, to earn an entry! The bigger your donation, the more chances you have to win and one of our fabulous prizes!

Fundraiser: Prize #9 – Frost Yourself in Inspiration

Anyone that knows me in ‘real life’ knows that I have a thing for quotes. (I’m talking to you, Ticki Nhoma) I think that finding a few well-chosen words, uttered by a powerful individual from another time, can provide strength and courage when facing a new or challenging situation. It can bring comfort to know that someone else has been where you are, and gotten to the other side, mostly unscathed. I have always loved jewelry that can be symbolic of treasured quotes, because it serves as a physical reminder of the things that inspire us. My favorite quote in the world is “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” So it’s no surprise that the Best Gift of all Time is the snowflake necklace my husband got me for my birthday last year, in remembrance of my beloved show horse, Frosty.

(Side note, my second favorite quote is “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi)

(Side note, my second favorite quote is “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi)

Lulu Bug Jewelry – Animal-Inspired Designs

While doing a search for wearable pit bull designs, I came across Lulu Bug Jewelry, where the masterpieces are all entirely hand-made and designed by an artist named Sue. While she says that her career choice was motivated by the fact that she comes from a long line of crafty women, her sweet Shar Pei, Lulu Bug, inspired the name. I knew instantly that I had to feature her work on the blog, as it fits perfectly into the jewelry requirements I listed above. Her work is truly meaningful, capturing memories and serving as a talisman of your inspirations and emotions. In her own words, Sue’s artistic process is defined below:

“I sculpt, inlay with tinted concrete and use my own illustrations to create original, meaningful pieces in .999 fine silver and .925 sterling silver. Fine silver is different than sterling in that it has no copper alloy, it’s pure silver. After the piece is formed, it’s fired in kiln at 1650 degrees for 2 hours. The binder burns off and the particles fuse, forming a pure silver object, also known as .999 fine silver. It’s quite magical! The majority of my pieces are made with fine silver PMC. ”

Sue's work features almost every breed of dog imaginable... you are sure to find a piece that reminds you of your own special pet!

Sue’s work features almost every breed of dog imaginable… you are sure to find a piece that reminds you of your own special pet!

Lulu Bug Jewelry has been in business since 2007, and Sue has been focusing on her personal creations full-time since 2009. All of her designs are eco-friendly, as they are made with reclaimed silver. The illustrations on her pieces are all created by Sue, and so you won’t find them anywhere else! She even makes the tools she uses to create these masterpieces.

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You can purchase any of the pieces above, as well as many more, at Sue’s etsy shop, found here. You will be amazed at the quantity of work she offers, from ancient dinosaurs to whimsical recreations of wild animals, and of course many breeds of dogs, cats, and horses. She has a variety of necklaces made to feature motivational quotes, and other symbols that may be uniquely inspiring to your life story. Sue has graciously granted a discount to And Foster Makes Five, which has enabled us to provide one lucky winner with the Tiny Smiling Pit Necklace, shown below. To be eligible to win, simply head here to make a donation in increments of $10, which will earn you one entry for each $10 you pledge! As always, 100% of the funds will go directly to helping needy pits rescued through Luzerne County Pit Bull Owners in Pennsylvania.

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