How Not to Fall in Love with Your Foster Dog

Any advice here people? It certainly is no secret… We all know I’m not good at this.

IMG_0469I can tend a bloody wound with stone-cold precision. I can cuddle the confidence into a scared dog, and train the structure into a wild one. I have soothed the fear from an aggressive dog and have mended the heart of an abused one. But what I have never been able to do is keep myself from falling head over heels in love with one. While hearing me wax poetic about all of the reasons I love our little K-man, Foster Dad said it perfectly, “Yeah, but I’ve never seen you meet a dog you didn’t instantly love.” Hmm. Well, that may be true, but Kingston is proving to be even more lovable than your average squishy-faced pup.

How do you not fall in love when your foster dog acts as though his world revolves around you? His dissatisfaction over short separations are marked with voracious naughtiness, while your arrival is celebrated with more joy than a little child hugging his parents after being lost in Disneyworld. Kingston’s is the exuberant greeting of a happy dog, twirling on two legs, reaching up to you for petting and kisses, happy beyond all measure just to see you at the end of a long day.

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How do you not fall in love when your foster dog is an expert snuggler? He hops up onto your bed with quick agility, perhaps not so much due to his coordination or athleticism as it is that he knows the sooner he gets settled, the more likely it is that he will be allowed to stay. He finds that perfect spot nestled up against you, like a missing puzzle piece. You snooze together peacefully, letting the rhythmic rise and fall of your hand on his ribcage lull you both to contented sleep.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog when you watch him discover the wonder of the world for the first time? Peanut-butter-filled kongs, squeaky toys, leaf piles, mud puddles and car ride adventures just to name a few, the way he delights in the simplest of pleasures reminds you to relax and do the same. The dog who came to you a sensible and reserved old man at only one year of age now displays puppy antics, complete with play bows, head tilts, and around-the-house-zoomies, his spirit as playful as a young dog’s should be.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog when he learns to have confidence by leaning on you? The world, once a scary and intimidating place, full of fear and pain, is now happy and bright since you have come into his life. Rather than reacting to the world around him, he looks to you for guidance and reacts with consistency, trusting without question that you would never put him in an unsafe situation. He becomes your shadow, latching onto you like velcro, in the very best of ways.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when the head that used to duck at your hand raised to pet him, eventually sidles up on your lap to lick away your tears? That head that used to duck in fear, now snuggles in under your neck during movie nights on the couch, letting out a deep and contented sigh. That head also holds his tongue, and boy, he knows just how to use it! He seems to know when I need to smile, and uses those precise moments to cover my face in slobbery love.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when he starts to forget the specifics of how he ended up so broken and tattered and abused and mistreated, and starts to remember only the new things you’ve taught him? When despite the past he has endured, his favorite pursuit is not a ball or some cheese or the cat, but is in fact making new friends. When although all he’s known is fear and pain, but he never resorts to aggression, even when it might be justified.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when he resembles a cartoon? Ears like swiveling antennaes, flickering this way and that, trying desperately to read the signals of the others in his environment. Wiggle-butt jiggling here and there in his best attempt at “twerking,” eliciting smiles from all who are lucky enough to meet him. He doesn’t walk anywhere, but constantly hops and jigs and skips and bounces along to his next destination, whatever it may be, his hind legs trailing along at a twisted angle. He has an uncanny ability to make the world fall in love with him, and that is something I could use a lot more of in my life.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog when they pass through the world with an accepting spirit that welcomes all they meet without judgement or exception? It is a trait I’ve rarely seen in a dog, and never seen in a person. He loves without restraint or restriction, and brings out the best in everyone he meets. How do you not fall in love with your foster dog when he believes that everything in life is better when shared? His kong, your bed, his dinner, or yours… it doesn’t matter. He knows that friendships are more important than possessions any day.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when they remind you of all the lessons you have yet to learn in life? Like the amazing power of putting your heart right out there and making yourself totally vulnerable to those you love. It’s something that we humans are so hesitant to do, but your foster makes it so clear that it’s the best way to live.

How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when they come into your world without warning? One day you are the happy leader of a 3-dog home, minding your own business, until someone tells you about a pup that needs help. You forget to put your guard up, or build a wall around your heart, and before you know it, a sad little guy with his deep brown eyes and comical ears has burrowed his way into your life, sure to leave a permanent hole when he moves on.

How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when his presence in your life restores your faith and pride in humanity? When a little underdog needed a hand, a community of so many people we had never met joined together to offer compassion, prayer, kind words, financial donations, and even things like food and toys and beds and sweaters.

The answer? You don’t. You fall head over heels, b. spears-crazy,  irrevocably in love. Just like the rest of the world, you are hypnotized by his bouncy, carefree spirit. You give away little pieces of your heart in order to mend his. It is an amazing thing when a sad little dog teaches so many people about resiliency, love, dedication, and the power of second chances. All I know, is that Kingston’s forever family will be the luckiest people in the world. ❤

Fostering is Hard

I try to keep things really positive around here, but I have recently realized that in doing so, perhaps I am not always as up front as I could be. I wanted to take a moment to be really, really honest with all of you.

Fostering is hard. While that may not be something I want to share on a regular basis, because I wouldn’t want it to turn anyone away from trying to make a difference, I also don’t think it is something that many are unaware of. One of those things that is often unsaid, yet understood. It is hard to bring a dog who is at its lowest into your home and into your family, fall in love and nourish it back to physical and emotional health, only to have to say goodbye and trust a new family to care for him or her as well as you could.

But there is more to it than that. It is hard to give up date nights week after week, because it would make more sense to allot those funds to a bag of dog food, not to mention that the dogs have been kenneled all day while you’ve been working. It is hard to deal with extra fur and even sometimes ticks and fleas. It is hard to take time off of work to drive to the vet, and set aside time in your evenings for training and communicating with the rescue and prospective adopters. It is hard to see your own dogs upset or sad or even angry to be isolated from you in order for you to spend time with your foster dog. It is hard to have friends or family members or acquaintances ask you if they can adopt the dog, when you know it might not be an ideal fit. It is even harder when people criticize you for not keeping your foster dog, when you know it wouldn’t be ideal for anyone involved. It is hard to disappoint others when you have to cancel plans because you need to make sure your foster dog gets his medications on time. It is hard to feel judged by others for the way you choose to spend your time and money, in the hopes of making a difference. It is hard to balance all the guilt and sadness and anger and other emotions… guilt toward all of the dogs, and deciding which ones get your time and attention, sadness for your foster’s situation, anger toward the person who selfishly put this burden in your life, and everything else that goes along with this job.

It is really hard when you discover that your foster dog has separation anxiety. It is even harder when you see evidence of his tantrums. It is hardest when you imagine what could make a dog panic to the extent that he is so destructive when you leave him for just a few hours.

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But you know what makes all of that not only easier, but actually worth it? When your foster falls into a deep sleep in your arms, and you realize that this is probably the safest he has ever felt. It’s easy when you watch him play with another dog, bouncing and smiling and play-bowing, his antics showing a pup much younger than his age might suggest. It helps when you see the light bulb flicker on during a training session, and you see a glimpse of the perfect family dog he is becoming. It is easier when you see him greet a child, and he becomes a gentle, wiggly thing, giddy at the chance to kiss the fingers of a person right at his own height. When you proudly watch him share his toys with another dog or politely greet a new person, using the skills you’ve shown him. And of course, you can’t help but smile at the simplicity and clarity of it all when you remember that this dog exists, in no small part, simply because you chose to inconvenience your life in exchange for the continuation of his. Not such a hard bargain, if you ask me.

IMG_2398We love you, Kingston! No matter how much fluffing you scatter around our house. ❤

 

Luck is in the Eye of the Beholder

I interrupt our previously scheduled blog post for a momentary freak out. Seriously?! You guys are amazing. Which doesn’t even begin to cover it. I believed that one way or another, we would find a way to make this surgery possible, but I never expected so many people to care and donate and share. I am blown away, and honestly, a little bit speechless. Good thing I wrote this post on Sunday, when I had words to spare 😉 Thank you doesn’t begin to express my gratitude. You all are amazing.

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After a weekend of getting to know our little house guest, I posted this photo to facebook, with the light-hearted caption- ‘You guys are all: “Aw, what a lucky boy to have been saved by such nice people.” Meanwhile, I’m all: “How’d I get so lucky to have this handsome dude as a roommate?!”

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Of course, my post was meant to be silly, but it was brought about by a serious perspective. So many people are commenting, thanking us for what we are doing and posting really flattering statements about what this must mean about who we are as people. As much as I appreciate the flattery, anyone who knows me will tell you that compliments and attention in general make me very uncomfortable and awkward.

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I want to make it very clear that I hope and believe that anyone faced with a similar situation would do the same thing. I cannot imagine that the people I love and admire and respect (and most of you are among that list!) wouldn’t go out of their way to help an innocent animal if they had the means to do so. So if you are reading this, I hope you know that I believe you would follow your heart in an instance like this. What we are doing does not make us saints or heroes or angels… in my opinion, it makes us normal people who want to make the world a little bit of a better place, in whatever capacity we can. That means that when I am faced with an opportunity to do the right thing, I will. And I believe that you will, too!

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Not only does this statement reflect on my perspective about our society, but can we talk for a second about this amazing little dog?! Talking about how wonderful we are makes it seem as though what we have done is endlessly selfless and, to some extent, a huge burden. Yes, we have had to alter our schedules and our lifestyle and our finances… but all of that is what makes it possible for this guy to LIVE. I’m sorry, but that is not a balanced trade if you ask me. The amount of affection and love and joy he has already given to us will not ever be repayable by anything we can do for him. It will always be an unbalanced partnership. I think that is one thing that makes dogs so irreplaceable in the lives of humans; their endless need to express their love and devotion, regardless of what we have done to deserve it. Let me tell you, every second of the time I have spent with this dog has been enjoyable. He is not the lucky one… that is all on us, I promise.

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Moral of the story is that while I appreciate the recognition, please don’t put us up on a pedestal. We are doing what is right, not anything exceptional, and we know in our hearts that all of you would do the same! Anyway, if you met this dog, you’d understand why we’d gladly PAY for the opportunity to spend some time with him 😉

IMG_2331There is nothing I love more than a blurred-pittie-tale!

He is scheduled for femoral repair and neuter surgery at Butler Veterinary Associates on Wednesday. They are an incredibly charitable practice, and at least per the original estimate, have given us a very generous discount. With their permission, we will post the bill when it comes in, so that everyone knows where their funds have gone. Please keep in mind that the dog will probably require a second procedure once he has healed in order to remove the pins. If the donations exceed the original cost of the surgery, they will be allotted to this later procedure, as well as the vaccines, etc that he will still be needing. Again, I wish there was a word for me to use other thank thank you… you all are amazing, and I hope this incredible act of teamwork and charity restores your faith in humanity as much as it does mine.

(In other news, I start a new job today. Eeek! A little crazy here in the AFM5 household, but why would I ever expect it to be any other way?!)

Good Deeds

Some of you may have been following our eventful weekend via social media, but for those of you who did not, I will try to start from the beginning.

Friday afternoon I received a facebook message from an acquaintance from high school. She told me that she had a pit bull that had been given to her because the owner was going to kill it for having pulled down the curtains. She said that it had been badly abused, and believed that it was suffering from a broken leg. She wanted to help him, but did not have the means to do so. She saw me posting about dogs all of the time, and wondered if I might be able to help. She said that he was less than one year old and endlessly sweet. I felt so much compassion of course for the dog, but also for someone who had put herself in harm’s way to help an animal, even though she knew she couldn’t care for it long term.

I’m sure I don’t need to give too much detail as to what happened from there. (Have I mentioned that I have the world’s most supportive husband?!)

Of course, I posted about it on facebook, to inquire if anyone might be able to help. I received probably 20+ offers to help pay for the dog’s care and veterinary needs, but no offers to foster. So what else was I supposed to do? I figured that if these people were so willing to help fund his care, the least I could do was provide a safe place for him to recover.

In spite of the hefty and unplanned medical bills they have been faced with recently, A Positive Promise Pit Bull Foundation, the rescue that brought Georgia into our lives, was eager to help us help this little dog. Especially when I shared with them the fact that so many people had already pledged their funds to help save his life!

The next morning I drove to pick the dog up. When I got there, I was instantly struck by how adorable this pup was! A small dog was jumping all over him, and he paid it little attention. He was wiggly and friendly, but non-weight bearing on his right hind leg. I noticed some swelling and bruising around the hip area. The girl and her grandmother talked about seeing him interact kindly with both children and cats. He willingly, yet haltingly, walked with me toward my vehicle, where we headed back toward home.

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Waiting at the vet. Practicing his yoga poses!

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Another high school acquaintance worked at a local veterinary office, and suggested that I bring him into the clinic for an initial evaluation. The facility is called Saxony Animal Clinic, and the doctor and staff there were absolute angels. Between them (though I’m not sure who specifically deserves our appreciation) our entire bill was covered. This included the emergency exam fee, radiographs, a rabies shot, a fecal exam, pain medicine, antibiotics, and (much-needed!) flea medicine. I cannot begin to convey the depth of my appreciation to them for being so kind, compassionate, and generous. Unfortunately, our worst fears were confirmed. The abuse that our little trooper endured resulted in a severely fractured femur.

1378643_10151900879292427_511742613_nThe vet who examined him advised that the break would absolutely require surgery, most likely to the extent of needing a plate and some screws. This was not a procedure that they could perform in their facility, and so she suggested some alternate clinics where we could be referred.

I made a few calls that day, but as it was a Saturday, I was not able to make much progress in terms of getting a quote. I have been told that surgeries of this capacity vary in cost between $1-$3,000, with our area typically being on the lower end of that estimate. I will be making some additional calls first thing Monday morning to hopefully get more information so that we can proceed.

Unfortunately, many of the people who initially pressured me to bring this guy home by offering to donate to his care seem to have disappeared. I am understanding that circumstances change, but am also hopeful that they will remain true to their word. We really can’t afford to cover the cost of his surgery, on top of his transportation, food and other needs, and the needs of our own pets. In spite of that, there are many generous people who have stepped up to help us, both in financial ways and in others. For those of you who have contributed in any capacity, please know that your selflessness means the world to me.

On a lighter note, we enjoyed spending the weekend with our new addition, in what we can only imagine have been some of the best days of his life. While he is relegated to our (finished!) basement due to his flea issue and our need to keep him separated from the other animals, he has a warm cozy bed, blankets, toys, and treats galore. He gets plenty of love and attention! We all enjoyed lots of time laying out in the grass while we soaked up the unique experience of the last bit of summery weather mixed with a vibrant blanket of fallen leaves.

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He already has some interested adoption applicants, and while we want to wait until after the surgery and recovery in order to accurately evaluate his temperament, preferences, and disposition (of course he won’t chase our cat… but then again, he’s not chasing much these days!) we are absolutely sure that he will make someone the most amazing family member. He is endlessly loving, affectionate, playful, and obedient. How someone could find ANY fault with this dog is still a mystery to me.

You may notice that we have left out an important part of his story… his NAME! While his previous owners called him ‘Ghost,’ we’d like to give him a new name to mark his new journey. A few top contenders include-

1) Kingston: It definitely fits his good looks

2) Tripp: the name suggested by our top donor

3) Bucco: to celebrate the Pittsburgh Pirates Pride in our area

We’d love to hear your input on what you think his name should be!

Thanks for all of the support and encouragement 🙂 If you are interested in helping this deserving little guy on his road to recovery, you can share or donate to his fundraiser. It is appreciated more than you know!

 

 

How to Become a Failed Foster

Hi there everyone. You all may think you know a lot about me, since my mom’s been clicking away on this shiny silver box thing here for months, but the truth is, you have NO idea. I’m in charge today, and it’s time you heard things from my perspective. I’m Georgia, and I have some things to say.

In general, I’m a pretty quiet dog. I like to sleep. A lot. And I like to eat. A lot. And really… well, that’s about it. I’m pretty easy. I will maybe run for like 30 seconds each day, and chew on a bone for about 10 minutes. These tall hoomans in my house try to get us to do activities and learn new things and work hard for what we want, but at the end of the day, I would rather just sleep on the couch with them. (By the way, don’t let all of those ‘cuddley’ photos fool you. I only snuggle with them because it makes for a nice place to rest my head. Seriously, that’s it.) But to be honest, all of this quiet and laziness makes my brain super bouncy, and so now I have a lot I want to share with you.

This message is not for you fosters or owners. This is a public service announcement for all of those foster pups. I know who you are and what you’re all about, because I was once one of you. It’s time to talk about how you take the foster out of your name, and insert FOREVER. That’s right, with my charm and cuddles, I pulled one over on my family, and convinced them that I was here to stay. Because of this, they call themselves ‘foster failures’ but I don’t get it… I mean, how lucky are they to live with me for the rest of our lives? Pretty darn, I’d say… nothing ‘FAIL’ about it.

Let’s get down to the basics. I call it:

How to Make Your Fosters Fail

(Without even really trying!)

1)   Be adorable

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This includes posing for photos and making funny faces (ears like mine work well for this. But work with what you’ve got.) Photos are what happen when the big clicking box comes out. Sometimes it shines bright lights, too. They will then put those photos on here, for the interwebs to view your loverliness. Bonus points if you can stand little fuzzy animals or short, noisy hoomans long enough for the box to come out, because then your hoomans will REALLY want to keep you.

2)   Play hard to get

Works like a charm

Works like a charm

See, when the hoomans come home, I act SO EXCITED to see them. More on that, later. But I make sure to only wag my tail a lot when they come home, or when they have something I want to eat. This way, they think I am sad or depressed all the other times, and want to find ways to cheer me up. They will say things like ‘Poor, widdle, wonewy peeble.’ with upside-down smiles on their faces. This is typically followed by cheese or table scraps, or other things that are Not Allowed, like snuggles on the bed.

3)   Play not-so-hard-to-get, too.

Trust me, this was all for their benefit. I'm only pretending to enjoy this.

Trust me, this was all for their benefit. I’m only pretending to enjoy this.

Okay, so sometimes you need to throw them a bone. And I don’t mean you have to share your toys. I’m saying that sometimes, you need to make the hoomans think that they are your favorite. This includes cuddling and snuggling and following them around with big, wide eyes (you know, like when you look at canned food in your bowl, or smell bacon on the stove). And really, the snuggling is not so bad. Like I said, it keeps you warm and gives you a good head rest, if nothing else.

4)   Pretend to like the other animals in your house

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This was a hard one for me. At first I was convinced that all other animals in the world were out to bite me. But it turns out, the black dogs in this house just wanted to play bitey face and snuggle. I’ve learned to get along with these other dogs in my house, and it turns out that life is better with friends. Who knew? It was weird at first, but now it’s kind of nice. I get to boss around the little one. She can be very annoying, but secretly she’s my best friend. I’m not really happy unless I can see her or know she is nearby. And I take the best snoozes when she is with me. But don’t tell her that.

The taller one and I are still working things out. See, he thinks he’s in charge, so I let him think that most of the time, unless there is a toy I really want… and usually that just means a toy another dog already has and really likes. He is a goody two-shoes, always sniffing kissing the hoomans’ butts and pretending he’s The Best Dog Ever. We get along though, don’t worry.

And then there’s the cat. That’s what my hoomans call those oversized squirrels that live inside. Who knew that cats weren’t just moving squeaky toys? Not me. But apparently in this house, they deserve to live? Whatever. Just pretend you like it, and you’re golden. THEN and only then, you can secretly plot their demise. But throw in moments like this for good measure, particularly if there is one of those clicking boxes nearby for proof. Don’t worry, none of the other dogs will be fooled. We all know that dogs liking cats would be ridiculous.

I was there first. I swear.

I was there first. I swear.

5)   Become really good at things

My most adoring fans may remember this post, where my mom showed you all the things I was useful for, like helping out around the house. If you are a handy-dog, they will not be able to imagine their lives without you! They will need your skillz and worry how they would survive without them. Be useful to them, be it guarding their house from squirrels mice with wings intruders, or being a doggie vacuum.

6)   Be bad though, too

Here is where things can get confusing. But what I’ve learned, is that there are perks to being just a Little Bit Bad. See, for one, being naughty can be kind of adorable. As long as it’s not something that is too stinky. But just little bits of bad things make the hoomans smile. It’s even better if these things make them think that you just really love them a lot. Like jumping on them, giving kisses, or crying when they leave. This will make them think that they are your Favorite Thing Ever. Even if they’re not.

Plus, if you are a Little Bit Bad, they will want to help you Become Better. Becoming Better means going to places with other dogs and having some loud hooman tell your hooman what they are doing wrong. It’s actually pretty funny to see them being yelled at for once! OH, and you get to eat TONS of yummy food in the process. Anyway, activities like this seem to make the hoomans grow more attached to you. Something about being a team, and reaching goals and achievements.

The day I Became Better

The day I Became Better

Look, I’m no professional. I was bounced around between more than my fair share of homes. But the bottom line is that I landed one of the best. This means that I get all the walks and play time I want. Plus, there is enough food (I guess. I mean, I’m still here aren’t I? But certainly not as much as I deserve) and I get treats for doing the things they like. There are lots of fluffy places to nap, and I’m even allowed up on the hooman’s dog bed sometimes. And like I said, the other animals can be used to my advantage, so even that has its perks. What I’m trying to tell you is that if you have a foster home, it’s certainly better than the shelter or the streets. And if your family has decided to foster, they probably like dogs a lot, and maybe understand you more than the average dumb hooman. So find a way to make yourself adorable, good, bad, loving, independent, & useful, and they won’t be able to ever say goodbye! And maybe if you’re really good at all of that, they’ll even let you hi-jack the interwebs from time to time. 😉

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.

Fundraiser: Prize #2 – Pet Portraits!

As a semi-newlywed, I am still working on making our home a cozy and warm environment. We are lucky to have a home that is safe & sound, but I did move into what was previously my husband’s bachelor pad, so this has been no easy task! I don’t know about you guys, but some days it seems like the most visible ‘decorations’ in our home, consist of doggie-related items. I wish I were talking about things like custom portraits and signs, but I’m referring more to shredded dog toys, misplaced leashes, and food bowls… which is why I was so excited to make friends with Kim, who blogs at Yellow Brick Home. You guys are going to be over the moon when you see her creations…

Yellow Brick Home: The Pet Shop – Custom Pet Portraits

One of their (many!) commissioned portraits. Look at the detail!

One of their (many!) commissioned portraits. Look at the detail!

 

Kim personally creates one-of-a-kind custom artwork of your four-legged family members. You simply send in a few photos of your pet, as well as a brief description of their antics and personality, and Kim produces absolute masterpieces!

How cute are they?!

How cute are they?!

What started out as a portrait made as a gift for her hubby, quickly escalated into a full-fledged, thriving business! Through word-of-mouth, Kim was faced with as much work as she could handle. Inspired by their fur children, Maddie, Libby, Jack, who are all rescues themselves, 10% of the sales go to rescues. As if you needed another reason to love her!

Custom portraits make a great gift solution for those animal-lovers who are especially hard to buy for. Not only that, but they work really well for foster families that want a special way to remember their beloved foster pets, once they have moved onto their new homes. The portraits are done on 5×5 blocks, which can produce a great small gallery look for a wall in your home. Head over to their website to check out the special Valentine’s Day discount they are offering for gift certificates purchased between now and Friday! For most of us, our pets are our favorite topic of conversation… why shouldn’t the art work in our homes feature our four-legged family members? I have big plans for some prints I want to commission of our own pets! Stay-tuned…

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In the mean-time, The Pet Shop has graciously offered to contribute 3 of their Art Prints to our giveaway, to be selected by the winner. Head over to check them out… you will be blown away by the attention to detail and whimsical colors. The animals range from cats and dogs of varying breeds, to wild animals like giraffes and gorillas! I personally think they could make an especially adorable addition to a nursery.

 

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If you find yourself falling in love with some of these precious (low-maintenance!) pets, and think they would make a great addition to your home, simply head here to make a contribution to our fundraiser for our rescue, LCPO. You will be entered to win your choice of 3 prints from The Pet Shop! Remember, our goal is to raise $500, which will all go to helping LCPO save needy pit bulls like our Georgia girl. For each $10 donation you make, you will be entered once to win an array of prizes.

Remember, every day, we will be featuring another generous sponsor. Check back often to see what exciting new prizes we will be adding!