Training Tuesday: How to Survive Separation Anxiety

…and not lose your marbles (or your spouse) in the process!

(Scroll to the bottom if you don’t care to read about our experience, and would rather check out our list of tips!)

DSC_0009It is no secret that Kingston has dealt with separation anxiety since he first came to live in the AFM5 household. Perhaps he had some sort of constant companionship where he lived previously, or maybe he just thinks we are so fantastic that the thought of being apart from us sends him into a panic. We can’t say for sure the origin of this issue, but panic he does, and our house suffers most for it.

If you’ve never dealt  with a dog who had issues with separation anxiety, then count your shimmery, shiny, (undamaged) lucky stars because it is NOT fun, not for anyone involved. And it’s not just the property damage, the expense, or the grumpy husband… it’s also the awareness that just your absence sends this animal into a state of sheer panic. Couple that with the fact that this pup is planned as only a temporary addition to your family, and you can understand why things get so complicated.

Some of you may remember that nothing about Kingston’s arrival was planned. I was contacted by someone who knew of his abuse, but couldn’t help or get him the medical care he needed. Of course there wasn’t much thought involved… I needed to do whatever I could to assist him. But when you are on emergency time, you aren’t exactly setting yourself up for success. When I finally got Kingston safeuly into our home, we were at a loss as to where to put him. We knew he wasn’t crate-trained, and we planned to practice a two-week de-stress, which would require that he stay separate from the rest of our animals. He seemed pretty quiet and lethargic, but we were told that he was a puppy, and we all know that puppies chew. So we set up our small, finished basement for him to be as comfortable as possible. We included a cozy bed, water, and plenty of toys. The first time we left him was for a few hours the day we brought him home. I know, not ideal, but remember that this wasn’t part of a ‘plan’ and we do have other commitments. We came home to a few ‘accidents,’ but no property damage, so we chalked it up to a house-training issue.

For the first few days, the worst thing Kingston did was panic DURING our departures, and force his way through the door as we tried to exit. Thankfully when he ‘escaped,’ he didn’t go far, considering that his destination was simply wherever I was. However, this repeated dance was anxiety-inducing for all of us.

To solve this problem, I worked on training a ‘stay’ with Kingston. He couldn’t ‘sit’ so well, due to the femur break, so it was a nice way for us to bond over some simple obedience.  This worked well for the physical act of leaving, but it was at this point that he began performing custom carpentry… see below for evidence.

IMG_2404Note: actual removal of  door frames

At this point, it became clear that I needed to dedicate myself to crate-training Kingston. In the past, we had always crate-trained our dogs, even in my childhood, and they had all treated their kennels as their ‘dens’. I had never had a dog that gave me an issue with relaxing in their crate. Nevertheless, I took the process slowly. At first, Kingston was only expected to eat his meals or treats in his kennel, and with the door open. Slowly but surely, I began closing the kennel door and sitting with him for short, increasing increments of time. He was always relatively calm at these times, but the second I walked away, he became a dinosaur.

dinosaur-rawr-dinosaur-club-15762329-480-313No, seriously.

The noises, guys. I wish I could relay them in picture-form. If we had neighbors, they would rank it somewhere between a puppy-torture chamber, and the return of Jurassic Park. Add that to the rocking-and-rattling of his kennel (he flipped it more than once) and you would have about 1% of the noise that this dog created.

It was at this point that we realized we needed to step up our game. We tried Kongs, food puzzles, Rescue Remedy, the Thundershirt, Happy Traveler treats, and DAP diffusers, all to varying levels of success, but nothing hit the ball out of the park.

Disclaimer: This happened while wearing his thundershirt, sniffing the DAPs, absorbing the remedies, and letting his foster sister out of her kennel...

Disclaimer: This happened while wearing his thundershirt, sniffing the DAPs, absorbing the remedies, and letting his foster sister out of her kennel…

As gradually as I tried to proceed with the crate-training for Kingston’s sake, at one point I was given advice that I was taking it too slowly.  It was at this point that I added 3 carabiner clips to his kennel, and left him. For approximately 30 minutes. When I came home, it was to a totally dismantled kennel and a very. outside of said kennel. Not fun, not for anyone. (I will not share those photos, you can thank me later.)

At this point, I was advised by that same person to visit our veterinarian for anxiety medications, and so we made an appointment with the vet. She seemed to be unfamiliar with medicating for anxiety issues, but prescribed Kingston with Prozac. The very first day I gave this to him, all was well. It didn’t seem to have any affect on his anxiety, but it is said that these medications can take weeks to work. However, that night I was awoken multiple times within every hour by a dog who would.not.stop.itching. I panicked that his fleas had returned, but closer inspection (light ON) revealed a dog truly covered in hives. We’re talking no less than one hundred red, inflamed, itchy bumps all over little K’s body, from the top of his head to his twinkly toes and his tail! Truly the ONLY thing that had changed in Kingston’s environment was the medication.


I decided that it was time to call in a professional trainer. The vet had been little to no help, and I knew that even if we were able to find a way to manage his anxiety, it would probably flare whenever he went to his new home. I wanted to be sure that the steps I was taking were correct, so that I could arm his new family with the proper tools to ensure success.

I will spare you the drama that ensued, but it was then outright stated that by me not immediately choosing a second medication (I didn’t know which one to pick, neither did the vet, and I was worried about another allergic reaction. ‘Let’s just spin in a circle until we land on one to try,’ is not my preferred method of veterinary treatment. Sorrynotsorry.) that I was neglecting Kingston and his condition. OH hailnaw, ain’tnobodygottimefo’that. Thankfully, I reached out to Beth McGonigal, force-free dog trainer extraordinaire, and I am so glad that I did. (Thank you to A Positive Promise and all of you who donated funds for helping to make this possible!)

The first thing Beth asked was for me to give her a detailed list of the ‘symptoms‘ of Kingston’s anxiety, or what I saw that, to me, equaled anxiety. This is the list I gave her:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Shaking, trembling
  • Strange vocalization (not barking)
  • ‘Velcro-dog’
  • Won’t eat
  • Destruction of doors and doorframes
  • Some urinating/defecating

Beth also asked what we have done to try to combat the issues, and you can see this list below:

  • Calming Music
  • Bach’s Rescue Remedy (natural herbal anti anxiety)
  • Crate training (panics more)
  • Frozen filled kongs
  • Thundershirt
  • Prescription anti-anxiety meds (allergic reaction)
  • Training (leaving him alone for short amounts of time, rewarding quiet behavior, extending the amount of time he is alone by small increments, etc)
  • Baby gates instead of closed doors
  • Leaving another dog with him (while both are crated)
  • Food puzzles/treat dispensers to burn off some energy

Of that list, the only one that had a notable impact on his anxiety level was when we left Gaige with him. However, he then directed his attention to breaking her out of her kennel, which he was successfully able to do on more than one occasion.

After coming to our home and evaluating Kingston, Beth gave us some great feedback on what we were doing right, where we could improve, and some new tricks to try. The most successful of those was to purchase an airline crate, in place of his current metal one. This has helped immensely, simply by Kingston learning that his attempts to break out are unsuccessful, and he is rewarded (by treats, praise, or freedom!) when he is calm and quiet in it. Beth also said that in her years of experience, she has only ever resorted to psycho-medications for ONE dog, and that pup would randomly attack inanimate (and also totally animate) objects to the death. So there’s that.

When in doubt, get a cat to keep your anxious dog company. That ALWAYS works.

When in doubt, get a cat to keep your anxious dog company. That ALWAYS works.

While we are not at a point where Kingston’s anxiety is ‘cured’ (and we may never truly get there!) we can safely say that it is being properly managed. Here are some tips and tricks we’d like to share with all of you, many of which were inspired by the things we learned from Beth. She was gracious enough to allow us to share them with all of you (have we mentioned, she’s the best?!)


1. Analyze His Behavior

The first thing you need to do is properly analyze your pup’s behavior, in order to identify their triggers. When are they displaying these behaviors? Is it only when a specific person leaves, or anytime they are alone? If the behavior occurs due to a specific person(s) leaving, this is termed Separation Anxiety. However, if it occurs whenever alone, it is actually referred to as Isolation Distress. In Kingston’s case, even in the presence of the trainer, he still exhibited mild to moderate anxiety when Foster Dad and I left the room. Therefore, his behavior can accurately be termed Separation Anxiety. However, as he is also more comfortable with Gaige in the room as opposed to being totally alone, he also has Isolation Distress.

While analyzing their behavior, write down the list of ‘symptoms’ you see, as I did above. This will help you or a training professional to identify the severity of the anxiety, and therefore an appropriate treatment plan. Our trainer identified Kingston’s SA as mild to moderate, and his ID as moderate to severe.

2. Research & Modify the Environment

Using our tips above, books, or even just the handy-dandy google search, come up with some approaches that have worked for other owners in dealing with SA and ID. If you have a dog with ID or SA, you have probably already modified the environment in some way. You should ensure that they are safe, even if they were to escape from their crate or kennel. This means putting up anything hazardous or dangerous.

One reason some dogs exhibit SA/ID is due to lack of enrichment in their environment. By providing them with various sounds, smells, etc you can sometimes relay the anxiety. In addition to the ones I have listed above, you can try these below:

  • Sound/Sight: Experiment with TV vs classical music, etc.
  • Sight: Having access to a window may help some dogs, while it may make the anxiety worse for others.
  • Sight: For some dogs, it is simply the element of the closed door that causes the panic. In this instance, try utilizing baby gates or other similar barriers. You may also try placing the dog’s kennel in an area where they are unable to see you leave.
  • Sight: Lights on vs. lights off or blanket covering the kennel.
  • Smell: Leaving the dog with a piece of worn clothing that smells like the owner
  • Smell: DAP (Dog-Appeasing Pheromone). These are wall plug-ins (diffused) or collars (concentrated) that give off pheromones similar to the ones a lactating female dog would produce, which calms dogs under stress.
  • Touch: Constricting jackets like the Thundershirt have been shown to calm some dogs.
  • Taste: Some dogs do better when left with food or other yummy treats like a Kong or special bone.

Other things to try:

  • I would personally always recommend enclosing an anxious dog in a kennel of some sort. This is as much for their safety as it is for the sake of your home. A plastic airline crate is not only more durable and escape-proof, but it also can offer a more den-like environment for some dogs, as opposed to the cage-like metal kennels. Try to make their kennel as comfortable and appealing as possible.
  • Burn off energy: this can be as straight-forward as a run or walk before you leave the dog alone, or more creative like utilizing treat-puzzles and other enrichment.
  • Medication: Perhaps for some dogs, medication is a necessary option. However, it can’t hurt to at least try herbal remedies, such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy or Happy Traveler treats. If conventional medication is the avenue you’d like to try, simply be sure to consult regularly with your vet on any changes in your dog’s physical or mental state.
  • Companionship: If you have another pet who is more calm and balanced, and if the two animals share a mutually-positive relationship, experiment with leaving them in some sort of proximity to one another. Note: I never recommend leaving any animals, even the most cohesive, free in a home when no one is there to observe. Of course this is just my personal opinion, but I think that doing so needlessly opens up the possibility of a scuffle, fight, injury or other issue.

3. Record the Results and Utilize Training

Experiment with the various options above, and others you may have gathered, first by utilizing them when you are home. This not only allows you to observe any changes in behavior, but also allows the dog to acclimate to the new modifications while in your presence, which may make them more relaxed and accepting. You can then proceed to ‘pretending’ to leave, while observing or listening from behind closed doors. Eventually you will be able to truly leave for short durations, and slowly increase the length of your time away from the home. Be sure to record what works in order to refer to it later, or share with your trainer!

If you have graduated to leaving your dog alone from any distance or for any length of time, only return when the dog is displaying appropriate behavior (no vocalization or destruction). This is their reward for behaving correctly!

Important: While some say that a schedule is crucial for dogs with anxiety, I could not disagree more. The best thing you can do for your anxious dog is vary your schedule and the length of time spent away from the home. This shows them that no matter how long you are gone, that you will always return, and they will gradually begin to become comfortable during your absence. Vary the time the dog is left in the crate, even in the beginning, from 5 minutes to 30 seconds back to 5 minutes to an hour.

One thing that worked well for Kingston was crating him in the same room where Georgia and Gaige were crated. If he began vocalizing or misbehaving while the other dogs were quiet, we would let the girls out while leaving him kenneled. He began to recognize that appropriate behavior was rewarded, and soon followed suit.

4. Stay Positive

As frustrating as it can be to deal with your dog’s anxiety, and the destruction that may follow, try to stay positive. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it does require the help of your vet or the assistance of a trainer. Recognize that his or her anxiety, while certainly unnecessary, stems from some sort of fear or trauma. Remember that by becoming angry with your dog, you will only exacerbate their panic. Try to make your departures as positive and enjoyable as possible.

carrie101 Things to Do with a Box was a REALLY fun clicker-training game Beth suggested that we play with Kingston. I had played it once before with our service-dog-in-training, Carrie. It can work well for a dog with SA/ID, or any dog who could use a little extra confidence!

5. Remember every dog is different

While it can be helpful to reach out to others for advice or support, don’t let anyone strong-arm you into trying something that you do not feel is right or necessary for your dog, especially if they aren’t there to witness the behavior firsthand. What works for other dogs may work for yours, but it is just as likely that it will not. No dog has the same genetics, cognitive abilities, coping mechanisms, early development, or environment. If you put your dog’s best interests first, you can be sure to identify a management program that works best for you and your family.

6. There is no ‘cure’

Remember that there is no magic cure for SA/ID. Rather, your goal should be to find a way to manage the behavior so that it inflicts the least damage on your lifestyle and environment, and of course, your dog. By setting up an environment in which your dog feels most comfortable (and I don’t mean a fancy dog bed!) they will begin to relax even in your absence, until you see the negative behavior regularly dissipating. This does not mean that the behavior is cured forever, so be aware that if the environment changes (move homes, go on vacation, etc) the behavior may reappear.

7. Reach out to a Trainer

If all else fails, please do not hesitate to reach out to a force-free trainer like Beth. Even if you have tried all of the above, they will still have a bag full of tricks  to try. Not only that, but dealing with SA/ID can be very frustrating. It is nice to have someone there who can remind you of all you have done WELL! The right trainer truly creates a partnership that will ensure success in your household, and we can’t thank Beth enough for having done that for us.

Kingston & Beth

Kingston & Beth

Beth McGonigal: North Pittsburgh Animal Behavior

Playing Nurse

Yesterday was the date of Kingston’s surgery in which they removed the pin that had been stabilizing his fracture. It is such a relief to know that he is one step closer to recovery. While he is, of course, uncomfortable, this surgery should have a much quicker recovery time. Before we know it he will be able to run and play like a little pup again! (Gaige will be thrilled!)

The original X-ray image

The original X-ray image

I dropped him off for the surgery yesterday morning around 8, but not before going in for the pre-surgery consultation. The good news? Kingston’s fracture site had produced a large amount of calcification, which should be helpful in strengthening the leg and protecting it against future breaks. The doctor (who was amazing, guys! So much better than our last experience…) was confident that Kingston should be able to live a relatively normal life, without worry of re-injury in the future.


Nervous Nelson…

The bad news? Most likely a mix of his past, as well as the traumatic visits to the vet for surgeries and other uncomfortable procedures, has resulted in a dog who is displaying fear-reactive behaviors when at the vet. Can you imagine having suffered a traumatic life, and then meeting the only people who have ever cared for you? Then these people leave you in a scary place, with strange people and new smells, where you are locked away. Those strange people do things to you that make you nauseous and cause you pain, and you have no idea why! Now, as soon as we arrive at the vet, poor Kingston becomes a trembling mess, and then growls and barks whenever anyone but me tries to come close to his hideout in the corner. While he never tries to aggress or snap at anyone, this behavior is still something we want to resolve for everyone’s comfort. Thankfully, the doctors and staff were incredibly understanding, gentle, and cautious with our little guy. When I left him, his tail was wagging as he walked away with an awesome technician who remembered him from past appointments (where he’d been fine!). When I asked if I could make an appointment once he had healed, simply to allow him to come ‘hang out’ and ensure a positive experience, they were more than willing to make it happen. Do you have a dog that is fearful of the vet? Try asking if you can schedule a few appointments with the technicians! Most likely they will be more than happy to oblige you in puppy cuddles during their lunch break! Kingston is an endlessly loving and affectionate dog, and so I have every confidence that this behavior is nothing a little bit of positivity can’t remedy.

What’s crazy about all of this? When I went to pick him up, I spoke with the manager. I asked her how Kingston had been for the staff, and she looked at me like I was crazy. She laughed and told me that in fact, she really needed me to get him out of there, because none of her techs were getting any work done! She said that every time they passed his kennel, every one of them had to stop and have a quick snuggle. She said he was the most affectionate and popular dog she’d seen come through the clinic! So that leads me to wonder if his antics weren’t more in defense of me, since they seem to disappear when I’m not around…


I feel so blessed to be a part of this little dog’s journey to happily-ever-after. He really is a special one, friends. As always, thanks for joining us on his adventures 🙂

Blinded by Love


One of our most important tasks to accomplish during Kingston’s time with us is working on his socialization. He is a pup who really, really wants to love everyone, but who also has some (totally justifiable) fear of the unknown. Especially when the unknown is a tall, shadowy figure. Most of you who know his story will see this as no surprise. So we have been doing our part to help him have positive experiences with lots of new people. But what we’ve recently learned?


There might be more than expected that is shadowy to Mr. K.


In the photo above, taken last week, Kingston met with an AMAZING force-free trainer who came to the house to help us with his separation anxiety. We had a phenomenal session, one that armed us with some new tools to approach his issues with being alone (don’t worry, we will be sure to share our knowledge in future posts!) But we also got more than we bargained for, when the trainer did an assessment of his vision.

I have always had my doubts about his vision, and had brought it up at one of his veterinary appointments. Kingston seemed to be more hesitant in low lighting, relied much more on his nose and ears, would often miss things that caught the attention of the other dogs, and was not able to even follow food when tossed in his direction. The vet unfortunately brushed off my concerns without assessing him or asking from where my suspicions arose. However, my worries were confirmed during our training session… the trainer recognized his trouble before I even mentioned it!

The good news is that his eye issues are very likely minor. While we will, of course, pursue further medical advice, his eyesight certainly does not seem to interfere with his daily life in a negative way. We have no way of knowing whether this is something that is a genetic issue (he is an all white dog!) or something that occurred as a result of trauma (we know abuse was a regular part of his early life) or some other type of developing medical condition.

What does this mean for his future? Well, not a whole lot. It may mean that his adoptive family should be prepared to approach his training via primarily oral cues, as opposed to relying heavily on visual hand motions. More importantly, it will mean that they need to be diligent about managing his interactions with new people and children.

We love Kingston just the way he is, and want to find a family who feels the same way. We are prepared to help equip his adoptive family with all of the tools they need for a successful life together by being transparent and up-front about all of his many amazing qualities and also his challenges.

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for our first installment of Training Tuesdays!


It’s Getting Adorable Around Here

If I had a dollar for every moment Kingston did something outrageously adorable… well, I would have a lot of dollars. And I would be able to save a lot more animals! I don’t have a dollar for all of those moments, so I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it. But, a picture’s worth a thousand words, right? So there ya go…

Photo 3

He loves to come out of nowhere and jump up onto my lap for snuggles while I’m working on the computer. Best work break EVER.

photo 1

Sometimes he tries soooooo hard not to fall asleep, for fear of missing out on all of the fun…

photo 2

And then he fails, but of course he does so adorably.

Have an ADORABLE weekend, friends 🙂 I know we will!

Sweater Weather

{Push play and turn up the volume!}

Enjoying a gorgeous fall day with one of my favorite boys. Thank you, thank you, endlessly thank you, to our amazing friend Emily, the genius, heart, and hands behind both Our Waldo Bungie and Tiennot Knits Sweaters. She graciously offered to send Kingston his very own custom sweater. Knowing Emily, and that she is not the kind of person to do things halfway, we had pretty high expectations of this gift. However, when we received it, we were blown away. It was very clear that hers is a labor of love, and her products are of absolutely impeccable quality. They would make a fantastic gift for your own pups, or any pet lover on your list! Kingston truly adores his, and now waits at the door on chilly mornings until we put his sweater on.



Do you know how difficult it is to take a photo of a dog who tries to be your shadow?







if you are chilly

here take my sweater

your head is aching

i’ll make it better

’cause I love the way you call me, baby

and you take me the way i am

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. ❤


Adventures with Kingston

While I was working out in the cold and mucking horse stalls this weekend (can you tell how badly I felt for myself?) Kingston and Foster Dad got to enjoy a Man Date. A local student was completing her senior project, in which she held a benefit truck show to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House charities. Of course, J couldn’t ignore an opportunity to have some fun with his truck while raising money to help those in need, so after spending approximately 16 hours washing, waxing, and polishing his truck, he set out early Saturday with a raffle basket in the back and Kingston as his copilot.


While the truck may not have won top honors, Kingston was definitely the crowd favorite. J said there was a steady stream of people throughout the entire day, waiting patiently to meet our little royal dude. Apparently he was friendly with all he met, but most especially the littlest visitors… it was clear that kids were his favorite, by his wiggle-squiggling anytime he saw a little one!


Conveniently, the truck show was located right near Butler Veterinary Associates, the clinic that performed Kingston’s surgery. Saturday was the 10 day mark since his procedure had been performed, and so it was time to take out the sutures. Kingston is doing well, but some swelling at the location of the pin suggests that we need to do a better job of helping him to lay low.


Thanks for all of the well-wishes and continued support. We feel so lucky to have been able to be a part of Kingston’s road to recovery and happily-ever-after, but we could not have done it without all of you.

When the Fosters are Away…

The foster puppy plays!

Some of you may know that we traveled out of town over the weekend. I know what you’re thinking… how could you leave that adorable little injured pup, fresh off the surgery table? Please understand that we had paid for the trip months prior, and couldn’t get our fees back if we cancelled (trust me, I tried!) In spite of all of that, I was still planning to cancel the trip in favor of nursing Kingston back to health, much to Foster Dad’s (understandable) chagrin.

Believe it or not, our marriage is still intact all thanks to a friend of mine (I hope I am accurately conveying the sarcasm!) In all seriousness, my friend N. totally saved the day. Did I mention that she is a vet? So of course, she is about the only person I felt comfortable caring for Kingston so soon after his surgery. Did I also mention that she is due to have her first baby in a mere 6 weeks? Now is the part where I mention what a saint she also is. THANK YOU N!!!

Here are a few adorable pictures from their weekend together. My only requirement for leaving the state was knowing that I could have constant contact which would verify his progress. Thank goodness for iPhones 🙂

Helping Nadine and her husband prepare their nursery for the impending human-puppy arrival!

Helping N and her husband prepare the nursery for the impending human-puppy arrival!

Enjoying some light exercise

Enjoying some light exercise

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As much as we appreciated their caring for Kingston, it was also invaluable to get another perspective on his personality. We got rave reviews of his behavior all weekend, as he met cats, other dogs, and lots of new people. Even with all of the changes soon to come in their lives, they seriously considered bringing little Kingston into their home on a more permanent basis… he is that awesome, friends!