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.

Pit Bulls and Dog Aggression: Dispelling the Myth

If we hear the term ‘pit bull,’ in the media, it is not uncommon for it to be used with a negative connotation. If you are reading this post, you probably know about a million reasons that these stereotypes are untrue. In fact, perhaps your ‘vicious’ pit bull is curled up, sleeping on your lap as you read…

Regardless of the many facts and statistics we can spout in regards to our breed’s positive traits, even ardent supporters of these dogs can recognize that some pit bulls are aggressive to other dogs. Of course, we all know tons of pitties that live happily with other pooches. Usually, these dogs have been well-socialized and slowly introduced, and live with owners who are cognizant of dog behavior and management… as is typically the case with ANY peaceful multi-dog household, regardless of breed. As we have always shared on this blog, it is so important to judge each dog on a case-by-case, individual basis. That is the only way to be fair to the dog in question.

The question remains, are pit bulls unique? As a pit bull lover and long-time proponent of the ‘breed,’ the words I am sharing may sound contradictory to my self-proclaimed title. Some of you bully breed lovers out there may feel that I am doing a disservice to the dogs, and simply perpetuating the stereotypes we work so diligently to dispel. If you are in that category, I ask you to stick with me… While I do not want to perpetuate any myths, I also think that it is vital to be objective and honest with anyone when discussing our pitties, whether they are lovers or haters.

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Are Pit Bulls Unique?

It is important to note that dog-aggression is a completely normal canine trait, present in virtually every breed in varying quantities. The fact is, this is a very common behavior in numerous breeds, including and especially working dogs and terriers. To compare, the recommendations offered by reputable pittie rescues are mirrored in websites and books, and by trainers, that focus on any other breeds of working dogs and terriers. These breeds include Jack Russels, Akitas, Huskies, Boxers, Ridgebacks, Australian Cattle dogs, Shar Peis, Poodles, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Chows, Tosa Inus, Rottweilers and many others. We can all read this list, and probably come up with many dogs we know, in each breed, who are incredibly friendly and receptive toward other dogs. (Tonka, the boxer cross, anyone?!)

In some cases, those who dislike pit bulls have used this trait to condemn them and even to justify breed specific legislation, including bans. For me to get into all of the reasons why breed specific legislation is ridiculous and ineffective would take about 5 long posts, but it is important to explain that if we allow banning based solely on breed of dog, we are enabling these bans to spread to any other breeds, due to past precedence. If you have a problem with pit bulls, and vote in support of BSL for that breed, you are one step closer to legislation that will allow your Boxer or Cattle Dog to eventually be taken from you.

It is not how dogs are raised, but how they are managed, that matters most.

*It is not how dogs are raised, but how they are managed, that matters most.*

Additionally, dog-aggression is a trait that can often be managed. Many dogs that come from cases of neglect or abuse, will not display positive reactions to other dogs. However, through repeated positive exposure to other well-mannered dogs, they may learn that there is nothing to fear in interacting with other pups. It is common for even bully lovers to say that it is how a dog is raised that matters most in their dispositions. However, this is not entirely true, and can be downright dangerous when evaluating rescued dogs. A dog with an abusive past can still be successful with other dogs and people, even if their past would suggest otherwise, given proper training and management.

The important message that we need to convey to those that are unfamiliar with our baby bullies, is that there is nothing about the pit bull breed that makes them any more unsafe or unpredictable than any other type of dog.

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While many reputable pit bull rescues recognize the breed’s potential for dog-aggression, it is important to note that dog aggression is a completely separate genetic trait than aggression toward humans. Though it is unfortunate that some dogs may have been bred to be aggressive toward other dogs, even they have always been bred to be loyal to their human counterparts. 

Trials & Tribulations

Many of you that read this blog have either adopted a dog from a rescue, or currently foster dogs through a rescue. I have encountered a question through our experiences, and wanted to get the perspective from some of you who may have more, and/or different, experience. I have had a few adopters inquire about whether or not we offer a ‘trial-period’ when our dogs are adopted. While this is absolutely a reasonable question, I am really on the fence about this, and so I want some insight from other individuals.

On the one hand, I absolutely want the best for Georgia, and also for the adoptive family. I want them to build a lifelong partnership, and be a perfect match for one another. Of course, it is our rescue’s policy, and my own personal policy, that any dog that we place, will always be welcomed back. We would first offer any resources available to ensure that the dog is able to stay in its adoptive home, but the dog in question will always be brought back to the rescue in the event that disaster strikes their family. In fact, it is written in the contract that the dog is never allowed to change families without explicit permission from LCPO. This ensures that our dogs don’t end up back where it all started… Basically, if Georgia goes to her home and it is not a good fit, or the family’s situation changes, of course she will be welcomed back into our home. I would never want her to stay in a family that doesn’t embrace her for the dog that she is. If it is a question of incompatibility with the other animals or children, I would never want to jeopardize the safety of Georgia or the other individuals involved. Furthermore, if she isn’t the right fit, we can probably work to match the family with another needy dog who might be.

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On the other hand, the term “trial period” just gives me the heebie jeebies. A few days ago, in a post called ‘The Vow,’ I compared dog adoption to a marriage. While some people out there may consider that to be a bit theatrical, that is truly how I hope Georgia’s family will view their commitment to her, and to us. I would imagine that if someone enters into a marriage with the idea that divorce is always an option if things don’t work out, they are probably a lot more likely to seek that outcome when things (inevitably) get hard. I see the commitment to a dog in the same way. Things with any dog, adopted or otherwise, are going to be hard at times. I promise. A puppy is going to chew your shoes and pee on your carpet. An adult dog may experience separation anxiety, reluctance in warming up to your family, or issues with other animals. If you know that the rescue is willing to take the dog back if when things ‘get hard,’ are you really going to be that willing to work through the issues?

If one of your first questions to us as the foster family is about the potential for a “trial period,” does that say you are simply taking a conservative and realistic approach for all involved? Or, does it suggest that you are looking for a ‘perfect’ dog, and an easy way out if the animal doesn’t meet your expectations?

If the rescue has taken the time to explain the process of the two-week de-stress (which we, and many other reputable rescues, require) and you ask for a weekend trial period, it is probably pretty clear that the dog’s best interest is not at the forefront of your consciousness. A short trial period would not allow the dog sufficient time to integrate with your family, other pets, and home environment through the two-week de-stress process.

Furthermore, experiencing struggles with your dog is an optimum opportunity to build your relationship and increase your communication skills together. Taking a training class or devoting time to getting to know your new pet can prove to be immeasurably valuable to your bond. Once you come out on the other side of an issue, and have conquered the fear or improved the communication, you will experience a stronger bond and deeper understanding of one another. To allow a new owner the flexibility of giving up easily and sending the dog back when they experience challenges, is robbing them of a potentially wonderful relationship, and of an opportunity to improve their dog training skills.

Also, many dogs in the rescue system have experienced traumatic lives in one way or another. Perhaps they have been abused, neglected, or bounced between homes. It is likely that at some point or another, they have known the chaos and isolation of a life behind bars. While we love dogs for their trusting nature and resiliency, any pup with some recollection of their negative past may take time to unveil their true personality in their new home. For us, it took almost a full month for Georgia to begin cuddling and playing with toys around us. Additionally, it took almost THREE whole months before she was comfortable around both of our dogs indoors. While this may seem like a big sacrifice on our parts, it was worth every second to see her laying on her back, tummy up in the air, snoozing beside Tonka & Gaige, without a care in the world. Not only will it take some time for a dog to truly let down their guard in your home, but the idea of bouncing them around between homes is literally petrifying to me. I know that were Georgia to go into an adoptive home that was not the right fit, it would be much harder for either of us (myself, and Georgia!) to trust that the next home would be. I can’t imagine how she would regress in terms of her training, and her comfort levels with people and other animals.

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Now that you know where I stand on this… well actually, I don’t even know where I stand on this. Of course, Georgia will always be welcomed back into our home and into our rescue, should an issue arise in her adoptive family. But the idea of a specified trial period just sets off all kinds of alarms in my head and in my heart. Where do you stand on this issue, personally? Does your rescue have a specific policy? Do you have stories of trial periods that were either absolutely successful, or completely detrimental? Did I neglect to bring up an important point on either side of the argument? I would love to hear your input!

“Character cannot be developed in ease & quiet. Only through experiences of trial & suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

-Helen Keller

 

The Vow

As we approach February 14th, whether single or otherwise attached, it can be automatic for our minds to wander to the mystery of relationships. When a couple gets married, they are pretty clear on what kind of commitment they are making. (I consider myself an expert, considering it was only about 9 months ago that I said my own vows!) They know that they are agreeing to love, honor, and cherish, in sickness or health, and for richer or poorer. They commit to being faithful, all the days of their lives.

Photo courtesy of Jenni Grace Photography

Photo courtesy of Jenni Grace Photography

Somehow, some people seem a little bit confused about this, and 50% of marriages sadly end in divorce. (Stick with me here, dog-lovers, I’m not attempting to start sharing marriage advice on this page!) However, as much as some individuals in our society have a problem with loyalty in human relationships, there is an equal (or greater? certainly more deadly…) problem with our commitment to animals. I thought that perhaps, if we wrote out the commitment being made, both by the animal and the adopter, that it would be a bit more clear. It will certainly bring me some peace of mind in giving up our girl. In this case, I will define the promises I know Georgia is willing and able to make to her adoptive family, and, in exchange, the commitment that I expect the adopter to uphold.

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I am sharing my sweet baby girl with a family, giving them a big chunk of my heart, because I believe she will bring endless joy to them. It is a truly unselfish act, and because of its worth, it does not come without expectations.

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Georgia:

I promise to gobble up any crumbs you drop, before they even fall to the floor you try to clean up. I promise to protect my family from loud noises and dark shadows, including the scary, noisy, tall, moving box that tries to eat the floor and all of my crumbs.

I promise to try my hardest to remember everything you teach me, especially when it earns me treats or pets. Please try to be patient with me. I will try to be gentle when you are quiet, and playful when you are active. I will try to remember to play with my body, and not with my mouth, like dogs do. Even though off-leash walks are my favorite, I will try to remember that you are busy, and not always able to entertain me. In those times, I will learn to entertain myself.

I will always kiss you, especially if you have salty water spilling out of your eyes, or food on your face. I’m a good friend that way. I will always be able to tell when you are sad, or when you have had a bad day. I will respond appropriately with quiet cuddles and snuggles on the couch or bed… I’ll even let you choose which! When you tell me all of your deepest, darkest, secrets, I will never, ever tell anyone. Not even that nosy poodle down the street. I will love your human puppies just like I loved my doggy babies, and I will teach them how loyal the best dogs really are.

I promise to always look at you like you are the Best Person in the Whole Wide World. Because you are. And I will always love you more than anything. Even more than my elk antler or nylabone. Please remember that you are everything to me, and that when you are not here, my world seems empty. Please don’t leave me for longer than you really have to, or lock me up for long when I misunderstand. Know that I am convinced that my presence is necessary in the bathroom, but I will try to be patient if you disagree.

I will trust you to protect me, and to finally give me my real, honest-to-goodness, forever home. Please trust me, too. I am a good dog. I know because my foster mom told me so, every day. If you lose your temper with me, I will never retaliate, and I may not forget it, but I will always forgive. Please remember that when I make mistakes.

When I get old and gray, please don’t grow tired of me, or frustrated with the conditions age brings. Remind me that you love me, and of all of our fun times together. Carry me outside to enjoy the sunshine and green grass, and maybe even the water now and then… you know it is my favorite. I will join you on all of life’s journeys, as a willing and loyal partner… please be the same for me. Everything in life is better for me if you are there too.

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Adopter:

We promise to bring you into our home as our forever friend. We will never leave you for long, and will always provide for you as a member of our family, even if our lives get hard. We will always remember that your life has been hard before, and we will never again let you know hunger, fear, pain, or loneliness. We will always remember that our commitment to you is as important as any other we have ever made. We will teach our children how valuable your presence is in our lives, and show them how to be kind and caring toward you.

We promise to keep in touch with your foster family and blogging friends, and let them know how wonderful your life is with us. We will send pictures when we can, and maybe even arrange for reunions whenever possible. We will remember that were it not for an army of individuals, we may not have been blessed with your presence in our lives.

We will bring patience to all of our endeavors together, and use training to improve our relationship. We will become careful students of your body language, and work to communicate on your level, not our own. When it is obvious that you are not understanding our requests, we will remember your want to please, and look first to our own actions for miscommunication. We will never use force or isolation in an attempt to convey our requests.

We promise to offer you as many cuddles and tummy rubs as you could ever want. We will let you snuggle up on the bed or couch, at least some of the time, or we will crawl down to the floor to join you for a cuddle session. We will never yell at you for the millions of kisses you might try to offer to us, even if we are on the way out the door and you are covering us in slobber. We will understand that you just wish we wouldn’t leave again, and want other dogs to know we are ‘yours’. Even when we are busy, we will remember that you have needs in terms of social interaction, physical activity, and mental stimulation. If we do not provide for you in these ways, we will be prepared for repercussions of chewed pillows.

We promise to speak to you like a friend, because you are that for us. All we ask in exchange is a wag of your tail or your protection by our bed. We will always remember that for what we offer to you in shelter, food, and water, we are more than repaid in your endless love and loyalty. We will always be indebted to you. When you remind us that we are your whole world… please remember that while we may fill our lives with other things, you are what makes our lives whole.

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“The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take the wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens . . .”

Top 10 Reasons to Add Georgia to your Family!

Want to hear something crazy? We are approaching Georgia’s ONE YEAR anniversary of rescue. Can you believe it? We certainly cannot.

It was a cold December afternoon, just a few days before Christmas, when LCPO heard of a little red pit bull with newborn pups, slated to be euthanized at a heart-sticking shelter in Georgia. After scrambling to bring them all to safety, the rescue has worked diligently to bring mom and babies back to good health. While all of her pups have found wonderful, forever homes, poor Georgia seems to have been overlooked. Honestly and truly, I cannot think of ONE reason someone wouldn’t want to adopt her. She is about as close to perfect as it gets. (Don’t tell Tonka I said so.) However, I thought I would be proactive, and deliberately tell you all just why we think she is so wonderful.

10. Grooming. Georgia has a shiny, sleek coat. What does this mean for you? She is a VERY LOW shedding pooch, so that means less vacuuming, brushing, and blanket washing! You won’t be carrying little ‘pieces’ of her (hair) around on all of your clothes and coats, either. She feels like velvet under your hands, and is a festive red and white! She also LOVES baths, and sits quietly in the tub for them.

Sitting patiently for her bath

Sitting patiently for her bath

9. Highly Trainable. Georgia is a people-pleaser, and is very motivated by food rewards. This, coupled with her intelligence, makes her a great candidate for easy training and obedience!

Training session with Foster Dad

Training session with Foster Dad

8. Low-maintenance activity level. A short game of fetch and one walk a day are more than enough to keep Georgia’s mind and body active, which is rare for a dog of her age and breed. This makes her perfect for a busy family or college student. She also walks well on her harness and leash without pulling.

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7. Cuddling. Georgia is a professional cuddle bug, who loves nothing more than a lazy Sunday spent cuddling on the couch. She does a great job of finding the perfect spot to snuggle in close beside you!

Cuddling with her favorite.

Cuddling with her favorite.

6. Cats. Georgia lives very successfully with cats! She doesn’t bother or try to chase them, but is content to let them lay down beside her, or even climb on top of her!

Cat's got your tail?

Cat’s got your tail?

5. Training. Georgia is already 100% house-trained and crate-trained. This will ensure a seamless transition into your family, without the worry of stained carpets and chewed furniture that might come with a younger pup! She has even had some professional training classes.

"Look into my eyes, and fall in love."

“Look into my eyes, and fall in love.”

4. Travel Companion. Georgia is very calm and quiet in the car, content to fall asleep in the back seat. She would make a great co-pilot for someone who travels often! At the same time, she has been great for our dog-sitters during extended trips.

Look at all of those smiles!

Look at all of those smiles!

3. Age. At approximately 2.5 years old, Georgia is of the perfect age, as she is young enough to still be spunky and silly, but old enough that she understands most of what is expected of her as a family pet.

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2. People. Georgia absolutely adores people! Although her appearance might seem intimidating to intruders, she would only try to lick your guests to death! So while she probably would not excel as a guard dog, this makes Georgia a great candidate for an adopter that enjoys entertaining or has children. She loves all people, male or female, young or old, from the next door neighbor to the vet!

Georgia loves children

Georgia loves children

1. Mental health. A dog like Georgia is the perfect prescription for your mental health! With Georgia in your home, the stress of a bad day never lasts for long. She is such a clown, enjoying a quick bout of the zoomies each night, and even happy to dress up for Halloween. With her pittie smile and kissable-huggable-squeezable self, you can’t help but be happy when you are around this sweet girl!

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A Dog’s Life

I have a story to share with all of you today, that I am SO excited about! As in, I woke up in the middle of the night to type it out, because it just couldn’t wait any longer.

Some of you may be followers of New York’s Animal Care & Control Urgent facebook page. If you aren’t, you may be ‘friends’ with me on facebook, and have seen the posts I share regularly. Most states or counties have some sort of group like this, but essentially, the volunteers at the shelter run a facebook page dedicated to bringing exposure to all of the shelter’s residents. They will include lengthy write-ups, behavior evaluations, and flattering photos of each dog, in an effort to find them a home, foster, or rescue before it is too late. Unfortunately, this shelter seems to have more problems than most. Rumors of abuse, neglect, and poor management run rampant, and it is said that many of the shelter’s actual employees have no real interest in saving the animals in their care. While this may or may not be true, it can’t be denied that there is a serious problem of animal overpopulation in the city, and the euthanasia list is often extensive. A group of dedicated rescues also team up to help save most of the more promising dogs, but this time of year, funds and resources are limited. More importantly, even the rescues can’t offer much help without dedicated foster families stepping up to the plate.

With that being said, I still peruse the lists most evenings, my heart breaking with each click through the photos. These are mostly good, sweet dogs, that have had a rough path in life. In the stressful shelter environment, the behavior evaluations they undergo are rarely indicative of a dog’s true personality, but still, some rise to the top of the pack, with glowing evaluations and personal volunteer recommendations. Each night, I select a few, sometimes the neediest, and sometimes the most impressive, and share them on my personal page. It could (and has!) been argued to me, that this is a waste of my time. Sharing dogs on my page, every night… I’m exposing them to the same people, over and over. However, I have noticed a funny phenomenon; more and more of my facebook friends are taking an interest, and spreading the posts I share with them, exposing the pups to new faces across the internet, and around the country.

Regardless of the receptivity from the facebook community, this still often feels like a fruitless cause. While I can’t sit by and do nothing, more nights than not, the list suffers a few casualties each following morning. But this week, all of those doubts escaped me because we did it. We directly helped to save a life on the list, and I feel so blessed to have been part of this miracle.

While perusing the list on Monday, I was struck with the largest number (18!) of highly adoptable dogs that I had ever seen on the list at one time. One of these pups was Charlie.

Charlie at ACC

Look at that tongue, the wiggly body, bright eyes, his feet lifting off of the ground in anticipation, and of course, his striking markings! Nevertheless, the shelter gave him an ‘experienced’ rating, and described him as ‘nervous and tense’. Well, duh! Who wouldn’t be, given that environment?! As if that wasn’t enough, they consequently called him ‘extremely exciteable’…. what a conundrum! To me, it was almost like poor Charlie was being set up for failure. In spite of all of this, he scored all 1’s and 2’s on his SAFER evaluation, happily sharing his food and toys with the assess-a-hand, willing to play with the evaluator, and even displaying playful interest in the test dog.

In a rare stroke of luck, not only did Charlie catch my eye, but his post on my page also then caught the attention of my facebook friend K. K was an acquaintance from my Penn State days, as we had shared many of the same Animal Science classes. Originally from NYC herself, K was a regular follower of the ACC dogs, and had always planned to adopt a dog from there once her life was more consistent. The instability in her life was due to the fact that she is dedicating her life to these beautiful animals by pursuing a career as a veterinarian. K is currently in vet school in St. Kitts. So while she fell instantly and madly in love with Mr. Charlie upon seeing my post, she was desperate to find some assistance. Of course, I would have helped in a heartbeat, but our foster spot is (obviously) full.

K stayed up through the night, eventually scheming with our former classmate and her former roommate L. L graciously offered to drive from PA to NYC to rescue Charlie, filling out the appropriate paperwork and fronting the funds, all for a dog that we knew little about. As if that wasn’t enough, L also would foster Charlie until K could find a more permanent solution. It sounds like such a Cinderella story, but can you believe, that it gets better?

L picked up Charlie just in time, and secured him in her vehicle for the long trip ahead. The exhausted pup passed out in the back seat, and slept the whole way to Pennsylvania, seemingly recuperating from his arduous ordeal. Once they arrived, Charlie was a bit nervous and quiet, but L described him as intelligent and kind. He is settling in quietly, but quickly, and while Charlie is being kept separate from L’s female pit for a short adjustment period, he has already attempted to initiate play with her through their containment. He also does well in his kennel, and appears to be house trained. Really, he is a dream adoption candidate, and none of this would have been possible if K had judged him from his evaluation.

Settling in with L

Playing with a chew toy

Charlie will be renamed ‘Cash,’ to mark his new journey in life. His ‘moms’ are both already head over heels for him, and K is anxiously awaiting her return to the states later this month to meet her dream boy in person.

While Cash’s story might sound far-fetched and fantastic, the reality is that this is much more common than it might appear. Another example is a pit mix called “Lola,” now Mellie, who found herself on the euth list in the NYACC system, with a rating of ‘experienced- no child’. Essentially, this can be a death sentence for many dogs. Fortunately, a kind woman saw something more in this deaf little white pit bull, and brought her home to live with her family anyway. Mellie has since proven to be endlessly gentle with the family’s 2 and 4-year-olds, even spending the days of Hurricane Sandy curled around them in bed to keep them warm in spite of power loss.

Mellie

These are love stories. These are family stories. And these are pit bull stories. ❤ Please don’t hesitate to get involved, however small your contribution may seem. You never know what lives will be touched.

 

Smells like Thanksgiving…

When the Foster Gods giveth, they giveth in bounty!

1. Today, we are thankful for not just one, but TWO families who are interested in Georgia. 🙂 NOT that we are surprised, but it is great to realize that other people are seeing what we see in our lovebug.

2. We are thankful for foster siblings that are so willing to share; their toys, their beds & couches, their treats, and their time with mama. You two are the best foster siblings we could have asked for. Tonka, ever the kind & gracious gentleman, and Gaige, a little socially awkward, but always ready to wrestle and play. You are wonderful examples to Miss Georgia, and have welcomed her beautifully into our family. We would never have been able to help her without your enthusiastic cooperation. She is so lucky to have you both.

3. We give thanks for our Cat that Thinks She’s a Dog, Bella. From eating my slippers, to playing with tennis balls, and from sleeping sprawled out on the floor, to wrestling with Gaige… we can’t blame you for your weirdness in thinking you’re a dog. In fact, we love it. In a family that likes cats, but never considered ourselves to be ‘cat people,’ you fit right in. I guess we are cat-dog people, instead.

Didn’t believe me?

4. Every day, I count my blessings for a foster dad that loves our furries almost just as much as I do. No matter what crazy schemes I come up with, you are always ready; not just to cheer me on from the sidelines, but to jump right in and help me reach my goals and dreams. You came into this as green as can be, and now I catch you giving me advice. It warms my heart that you put so much effort into making all of our aminals productive members of society. Whether you are pooper-scooping, working on obedience (the dogs’, not your own!), bragging to strangers about our ‘kids,’ or cuddling with one of the many in our big bed, you can’t hide your soft side… and I love you all the more for that!

5. In the wake of the hurricane, it is easy to remind ourselves of our many gifts and blessings. We are SO thankful for a warm, dry home, with working electricity, clean water, plenty of nourishing food, and even some of life’s extras (like Tempurpedic dog beds, big fields for running, and new squeaky toys). It breaks our hearts to see all of the beings, both two and four-legged, that are going without. Worse still, are the dogs and cats on euthanasia lists by the HUNDREDS due to the aftermath of the storm. If you can give, in ways of time, physical donations, or monetary gifts, please do not hesitate. It will save lives.

6. When counting our blessings, we could never forget our wonderful rescue organization, LCPO. They stand by us through everything from adoption questions to health issues and training techniques. You brought us into this journey, and have stood by us every step of the way. We are so thankful to have found a strong organization, run by individuals that are truly caring and endlessly dedicated. This goes out to Julee, Casey, Kaelyn, Christine, Kate, & Patti, just to name a few! If you are interested in adopting a pittie, but for some crazy reason don’t think Georgia is the right fit for you, please check out LCPO’s other adopta-bulls.

7. The most surprising, or at least the most unexpected, thank you, goes out to our blogging family. Really, when I started this journey, I thought that my only reader would be my mom (actually, I’m not sure that she even reads this regularly). However, we have been welcomed by a community of people who have been in our shoes. The guidance and support you all have offered us is so refreshing and inspiring. I am so glad we are all in this together!

8. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my most heartfelt thanks goes to Georgia. You have been the sweetest, easiest pooch we could have asked for in a foster. Really, you’ve spoiled us. We were prepared to take on stained carpets, chewed shoes, and terrible manners… the worst you’ve ever offered were enthusiastic greetings and hundreds thousands millions of kisses. We have enjoyed every step of this journey with you, and while we have tried our best to make you even more adoptable than you already were, we want you to know that we are the lucky ones in this relationship. You have changed us so much as individuals and as a family. I had myself convinced that I would not get too attached, that this giving up process would be an easy one… but even thinking about a morning without your kind eyes, warm kisses, or soft tummy, makes me teary-eyed. You are such a special girl, and you are going to continue to do special things in the lives of the family who is lucky enough to end up with you.

Our cuddle bug

Dog Pack

“If you don’t own a dog, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.”

I have always said that people come into our lives for different reasons. Oftentimes if we look at the people we choose to surround ourselves with, they may represent a spectrum of personalities. Maybe these people encourage us to display varying aspects of our identity, or simply serve distinctive purposes in our lives.

For example, most of us have that friend from our childhood. The person with whom you share early memories and silly stories, inside jokes that no one else understands. You grow up spending as much time with their family as your own, and maybe even become something like siblings.

Some of us have friends from college, the people that are there to support us and help us grow, as we go through one of the biggest life transitions. You cram for exams, spend late nights together, and hold each other during heartbreak.

We have friends that are there for the fun times, to grab drinks or go for manicures. They are our good time friends, with whom we share wild stories and lots of laughs, but maybe nothing deeper. And that’s okay!

Then there are the friends that hold a part of our soul. For me, this person shares a passion for the same sport, but she is also always there to pick me up when times are hard. She never hesitates to set aside her own issues when I need her. She is the epitome of selfless. Her advice is boundless and always offered without criticism or judgement. She always offers me the benefit of the doubt, and knows that although I certainly don’t always get it right, my heart is full of the best of intentions for others.

While all of these people hold a vital place in my heart, as well as in the story of my life, today’s post is about a different type of person. A person that I bet all of you know, and value… the person we trust to watch our dogs when we are away.

It must be someone who will treat our dogs with tenderness and compassion, yet maintain our structure and discipline. This person must understand our neurotic tendencies as pet parents the canine nature, and have an idea about training. You must trust that they are good under pressure, and can stick to a routine. Finally, and perhaps most hard to come by, this person must be willing to give up a portion of their time, usually sacred nights and weekends. For me, these people are almost as scarce as working squeaker toys in our home, but I am lucky to know a few. From my perspective, no amount of compensation or thanks will ever truly portray my appreciation.

I met Ellie when I was working as a manager at an equine veterinary clinic. After a stellar interview, I recommended that she be hired for a position as a veterinary technician. Ellie was the person who always showed up on time, if not early, and consistently stayed late. She was willing to do any job, from monotonous stall cleaning to assisting with complex medical cases. She completed every task with a willing attitude and a smile on her face, and was always seeking out new projects to fill idle hours. She could manage criticism from her superiors, even when it was not necessarily constructive, without letting it negatively affect her performance. Perhaps most importantly, Ellie maintained an understanding for our clients, while handling the horses with the perfect combination of skill and compassion. As she embarks on her path to vet school, I know that she will make an incredible veterinarian. Not only do I feel safe when she is watching our pets, but I feel blessed to have such a trustworthy, caring, and responsible person that is willing to devote her time to allow us some freedom.

Foster Dad indulged me this weekend by taking me on a trip to Ohio for a large annual horse show. While we took our two perma-dogs along with us for the ride, we left Georgia and our cat, Bella, home with Ellie. We are so happy to share Ellie’s account of her weekend with Georgia. Enjoy!

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Georgia got to make a new friend this weekend! In order to let foster mom and dad take a weekend trip, I was called in as backup.  An avid animal lover as well, I jumped at the opportunity to meet this sweet girl that I had been reading about.
I was super excited to meet her, but nervous at the same time, as I was worried she would be anxious with foster mom and dad leaving. She was quick to prove my worries wrong, greeting me with hundreds and hundreds of kisses. (Yes, hundreds. I’m not exaggerating or complaining!) She was an all star the entire weekend and was up for whatever it was I wanted to do,
whether that be long walks on the farm…
watching TV… (Bella too!)
studying…
playing tug of war…
or sun-bathing.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised with her patience and willingness, as well as how quiet she is (no whining or barking from this girl, not even after being kenneled for bedtime!!) and I think we had a pretty great weekend together.  Hands down, anyone would be lucky to have a dog as great as she is.

Georgia (and her ears!) napping after a long day of fun!

 

If you think you might know someone who would be interested in adopting our sweet girl Georgia, please share her story! Any questions about Georgia or the adoption process can be directed to me (Stephanie!) at sel1490@gmail.com.

A Dog by Any Other Name…

One of the best things about working from home, and having a husband who works for a family business on the same property, means that we get to have breakfast or lunch dates some days. 🙂 This morning over a yummy breakfast of egg sandwiches, fruit, and cheesey hashbrowns, we happened upon today’s blog subject. We were laughing over how many nicknames we have for our dogs. It’s actually pretty embarassing. (Jonathan may or may not have started rapping to Gaige on his way out the door. More on that later…)

Even more strange? As I prepared to type this for the morning, I checked some of my favorite blogs for additional inspiration. It is no secret that one of my favorite blogs, and the one that inspired our journey of fosterhood, is Love & a Six-Foot Leash. Their blog post for today? “What’s in a name?” They talk about their two precious pooches, and the origination & evolution of their names. Theirs was actually the title I had already typed up for today! Too cool… if it is true that great minds think alike, then I am feeling extra bright today 😉 (PS: If you like my blog, please don’t read theirs. You will love it so much that you will feel no need to keep up with ours! I have major blog-envy.)

Anyways, back to the main subject. I am a nickname person. It’s like a ‘thing’ of mine. People, pets, foods… you name it, I probably have some weird name for it. They tend to start as a variation of their given name, and continue to deviate to the more ridiculous. I even call my own parents Mambo and Daflop, and my brother Trevor is T-Bone. Jonathan is J, or Skin, or Bear… I think you get the idea. It is actually one of the first things Jonathan and I had in common. He called me Gwen (as in Stefani) for a solid few weeks before I knew he ‘liked’ me! 😉 As for the dogs? See below…

Handsome Tonka-Tue!

Tonka: Tonka Tue, Tue, Tonkinator, TMan, Tuka. If he is in trouble (which is SO rare, as he is the wonder dog!) he has always been Tonka James. No idea where the middle name came from, but I highly recommend the trend.

Gaige: Jeejer, Weeje, Louise, Weezy (So what if Jonathan stretches this to include “Fo’ sheezy my neezy keep my arms so breezy…”? You didn’t hear that from me. Maybe his new nickname should be J.Z.)

No, he doesn’t love her at all!

It is a wonder that our dogs don’t have split personality disorders! In reality, they come to any name we call them… as long as we are happy when we say it! Jonathan disagrees with my theory, and insists that the more names you have for your dog, the more ways they know you love them! He is such a silly doggy dad.

Do you have nicknames for your pets? If so, what are they? How did they evolve? We’d love to hear your thoughts! As always, thanks for stopping by.

Yeah, he’s a tough guy…

Misconceptions

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

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

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

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

The problem with these positions?

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

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

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

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

Have a great day!