Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

I spent a good portion of yesterday answering the question,

"I thought you were not taking any more foster dogs for a while?"

That was the plan yes. Late Sunday night I got an email from my friend Victoria at Canine Commitment http://caninecommitment.org/. All it said was "...she is ... boarding, sooo sweet and sooo very cute. I met her today. a doll. she should go fast and I already have an application for her. would you consider fostering her for one week? she is small... maybe 12 lbs. "

Didn't say how old, or where she came from. I mentioned it to my middle schooler who said as kids are known to and then never follow through,

"I'll take care of her. We can't leave her in a kennel, she is too little." And in a blink of an eye, and in a snap,  with pretty much no thought what so ever, during a commerical break while watching the Emmy's, we wrote Victoria back. It would only be a short term foster we told ourselves, what would be the harm? Stella is leaving today and taking a piece of my heart with her, I thought this would help to fill it back up.

When we saw the pup that we named Meggie, we both melted. She has that something something super sweet spirit that I have been searching for since my last dog Dina died. I meet a lot of dogs and most don't have it. We both looked at each other and said "She is like Dina."

First minute in the car

Now depending on how flakey you are, you may be like me and have read many books and stories of people who believe that animals of their past find their way back to you in the future.

Who wouldn't want to believe that?
This pup is so super cute and so special that for the time being she is not available for adoption.

Maybe not ever.
My best guess is Aussie x Spaniel

Out with the old - in with the new

Took this shot this AM. This puppy makes me go all melty.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

STELLA! Our 4th summer foster dog adopted

It has been a busy summer. Remind me not take 4 fosters next summer will you? Even our dog hair has dog hair. We cut a lot of outings short to come home and let puppies out, we cleaned up a few accidents, and I picked up a boat load of poop. On the other hand, it is a great feeling that we helped 4 dogs find their way. As I have written before, it comes relatively easy for us. After all, I am a trained professional right? We have a big fenced in yard and plenty of crates and know how. My kids were pretty much all in to. Kudos to them for putting up with early morning crate elephant noises from Mango, the world's loudest crated dog. She actually jail broke her wire crate with her butt, just from being happy in the morning. That is funny now, but it wasn't so much when everyone was woken from a sound sleep before  6 AM.  Mango was adopted last week and from all accounts it is a great match.

For those who have fostered before for any length of time, it becomes really really hard to say no. There is always a hard luck story just around the corner that pulls at your heartstrings, and people send me them All.The.Time. I have given some thought to the randomness of how and which dogs end up here even when my brain says no. My dogs are needing a break, so when Stella goes to her new home with my cousins next week, that is it.


I mean it.

Charlee deserves me back all to herself, and while she is doing excellent, the jury is still out on whether she has the Big C or not.

And Finney, well, he could totally do without Stella. Stella endlessly tries to french kiss Finney while on her hind legs with her front feet wrapped around his neck until he pins her. I have watched it so many times and I have decided it is some sort of weird worship.

Smackdown - after much warning I might add.

The more pissed off Finney gets, the more she tries to make it better. We have had Golden pups try the same with Charlee. The more she pushed them away, the more they were like "you must love me, you must love me." Both Stella and the Goldens never never quite got the concept NOT NOW.

Nom Nom Nom

Now that Stella is most likely in the 8 months range, with no other dogs here to play with, she has turned into a little demando dog. The past few days I was sick and it was rainy and the whining nearly did me in. Today we took an early morning off leash romp and thankfully she is sacked. out.

On more week and she gets to live with my cousins.

Perfect or what?

Last week she was a super star on Good Day Maine, her second time on Tv by the way, where she was a perfect and adorable hand target demo pup.

If she got on better my my dogs, she would impossible to give up.  It is somewhat amazing to me that Stella was dumped at a shelter at 2 months old, where she lived in a kennel and was let out 2 x a day for 10 minutes and turned up at my doorstep 4 months later a super star. What a fabulous poster child for rescue she is. Talk about resiliency!

My cousins tell me they will be taking her to training and can't wait to teach her more tricks. I hoping she leads my cousin down the path to agility. She would be great at it.

Family pose at Jewell Falls. What a great place.

I am going out of my way to keep her busy and tired for just one more week until my cousins are moved into their new place. 
Wish me luck.
 Here is an interesting outtake. I didn't capture the dog's posing, or Stella frenching Finney, but Finn's body language is pretty clear don't you think?
Doesn't he look like he is saying "Not now, I am working."
All photos. except the one of Stella with her new family were taken with my Blackberry. I know it is not the best quality, but it sure is handy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happy 12th birthday Charlee

My girl Charlee is my best freind.She and I go  together like comfortable shoes. Not the slipper kind mind you, Charlee is more like the kind of shoe you wear on adventure hikes.

In my line of work, I hear a lot of sad stories of loss. People get new puppies and share with me tales of their dogs. Often times, my clients bring me to tears. There was even the time that I was in the home of a brand spanking new puppy, and I was corralled into watching the tribute video of their dead dog.  I can't even think of it and not cry. What a labor of love that was.

My Dad has a scrapbook he put together when my childhood Golden Ginger died. I can't even look at the cover. I did the same for my dog Dina.

The thing that I have come away with after seeing and hearing first hand so much loss is that yes we love the dogs, of course.

                                                          Our dogs are markers of time.
Dina took me through my late 20's into marriage and the birth of my first two kids. We moved three times, and she was my rock when my oldest son was born with a complex heart defect and nearly died. Dina was my constant and best friend, as I nursed Max to health for his first rocky years. Dina kept me sane and led me to the path of professorial dog training. To her, I am forever grateful.

When Charlee came along I was in a give back mode. I told the rescue " I can handle anything you have as long as the dog will leave my old sick dog alone, and can be OK with kids." I had no idea what I was getting into. I have never met a more reactive dog than young Charlee. Hindsight being 20/20, East Boston was the worst place that Charlee could have grown up. There was dogs everywhere. We had no yard and she was flooded by dogs constantly. Charlee was in well over her comfort level all the time. The things I learned from Charlee, came along way before the current reactive dog books did.

The knowledge I learned from Charlee about training and managing a reactive dog was priceless.

Charlee embarrassed me , and humbled me in public a little more often than I care to admit. With Charlee, I learned many lessons, most importantly the lesson of time, and when to back off. I learned that it was OK to help my  dog live her  life the best I  could, and not one that I had mapped out in my head. With Charlee
I learned to ask myself the question "who are doing this for, you or the dog?" With Charlee, once I backed off from expectations and listened to what my dog was telling me, everything changed for the better. A hard, but very important lesson it is.  Many people  never learn it.

We don't know Charlee's actual birthday, but August seemed likely. One of the reasons she landed at my house was that my last two dogs had August 19th birthdays. Dog people often (or always!) give random things meanings and look for "signs." Charlee came to us with "signs" that may or may not have held any water at all. We don't care, never have, never will. Charlee is my comfortable adventure shoe, maybe more my dog than any dog I have ever had. She and I have that special some thing --- that invisible thread that ties us together. I have no idea how it is possible that my wild child turned twelve years old. Time sure seems to move faster as we age.

Charlee and I have traveled a long rocky road. Charlee saw me through the birth of my last kid, a move to Maine, a failing marriage and divorce -- the rearing of my three kids. We all wonder how much time Charlee has left. Her tumor toe has not gotten any worse and her energy level and certainly her appetite (bad dog who steals things bad!) are excellent. If you didn't know she was 12 and didn't see her hair loss and poor coat, you would suspect she was about 6 years old. I have no regrets about not amputating her toes and if she continues to thrive, I will revisit the possibility before winter.

My kids and I have given Charlee a great summer (sans foster dogs which she could have totally done without) , and each and every time I see her joy at the beach or in the woods, I know I made the right choice.

Dogs after all do live in the moment, and her moments strung together have been wonderful.

Happy birthday best friend, and old adventure shoe dog. Thanks for the journey.

Top photo credit Jared Charney

Friday, August 13, 2010

Techno dog is techno?

Dear dog peeps,

Do you think this dog is mentally or physically challenged, or is the dog  really just a hip young dude digging the techo pop groove?

I have to say I watched it about 10 times, and I still can't tell.

Just hoping that it was ok to laugh.

shout out to @jdenkmire for the link

Monday, August 9, 2010

Perfect Moments

More often than most parents care to admit, so much of our time spent with our kids ends up falling into the "seemed like a good idea at the time" category. The picnic you planned to the place you read about in the newspaper turns into a trip to the ER with a broken bone. The late day spontaneous swim turns in to an epic "I'm cold" whine fest marathon. The surprise long  trip you planned in the car morphs into "this is the most boring day in my life so I will torture my younger sibling for revenge on you day."

In parenting as in life, we all too often have those "why did I bother and what was I thinking days."

I am on my third kid. She turns 9 next month, and with time, there has come wisdom. I am quicker to say "no", and less likely than I used to be to take risks on things that have a high probability of blowing up in my face.

Not that less likely I guess, because last night I allowed what was going to be a simple trip to Payson Park, morph into a 3 mile walk all the way around the Back Cove. In attendance was my youngest (it was her idea!!!), and Mango our latest foster dog. Mango is a 2 year old Greyhound/Lab/German Shepherd who was shipped up from the South for a chance at a better like in the North. We have had Mango for 2 weeks. One of my jobs as foster parent is to get to know the dog as best I can, and  to figure out what kind of home would suit the dog best and visa versa. A dog who can handle all the foot and paw traffic on the Back Cove Trail moves way up on the adoptability factor list. I suspected she would fine, but I needed to find out. The original plan was let Heather play and first work the dog in the field next to the play ground. When Heather got bored, I then planned to try her across the street and train a few minutes on the path.

There was no one in the playground, and Heather got bored in about 90 seconds.

She said "I wore my walking shoes, let's take a walk around the whole Back Cove." Followed by a chorus of sweet pleases that would melt an iceberg.

:"Really?" That had been on my list of things I always wanted to do, (see above), I didn't dare take the kids for fear of exploding blisters, or the all too well known epic whining. My biggest fear was that a child of mine would plant themselves down and say the two words parents are loath to hear.

"I can't."

I asked myself, what if "she can't", then what the hell will I do.

Just then then a big family with kids younger than mine passed us. They had no exploding blisters, or detached limbs.  They were not putting bees down each other's shirts. 
They had smiles.

"OK" I said, and off we started. It was already 7 o'clock and I told her it would take at least an hour to go the 3 miles. .

It took us 2 hours. In that time, I felt as though Heather was on a personal quest. Sure she whined, but it was only a little, and what I learned about Mango was priceless.

She is an awesome dog! She walks like a dream on a leash.  Mango didn't bother with any other dogs and the only thing she looked twice were Somalis with their billowing head dresses. I am sure she had never seen anything like that, and really all she did was rudely stop and stare. Nothing a stick of string cheese didn't solve. I had brought treats with me, but saved the stick of cheese for every time we passed a Somali. By the 7th or 8th one, she wasn't even bothering about them anymore.

The Power of cheese.

As for Heather, well sure there were a few "how much longer"s and "my legs hurt", but she was a trooper, and I was a proud Mom. We finished our walk after 9, and it was dark and getting a little scary. Holding hands for the last 3/4's of a mile was  a bonus as far as I was concerned. During one of our breaks, I snapped this shot on my Blackberry.

Perfect moments. I haz em.
That's all there is really,  strings of perfect moments.

You can read Mango's bio on Petfinder.com. http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/16490347?rvp=1 Mango  comes with a free 5 week group training session with me in the Greater Portland area. GooddogzTraining.com

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Passing of the Paws

I knew this day would come.  I knew the day would come when Finney took over for Charlee.   When we got Finney four years ago this past July, I had spaced out my dog's ages on purpose. I always feel so badly for people who have multiple dogs close in age, who hit their senior years together.

Finn has always been my great with other dogs dog, and Charlee my great with people dog. Finn's job from the day we took him home was as what I still refer as "bait" dog. The term "bait" dog is not politically correct. because it evokes images of fighting dogs, when in fact, Finn brings peace. Some old timers, like myself have a hard time breaking with tradition and using a more PC term like helper, or distance dog, or neutral dog.

Finney will always be a bait dog to me.

Charlee looks like crap. She has lost a lot of fur, her coat is dull and her tumor toe looks yucky, but she is felling great from what I can see. She is eating and drinking well, and still has the energy of the younger dogs. Last weekend when I was working Finn on front and finishes over a jump, Charlee literally jail broke the house by bulling her way out the back door when one of my kids opened it a crack. Charlee did a go out over the jump on her own free will, and came at me at full speed. She sailed over the jump, whizzed past Finney, and came to a  Quarter horse like full speed ahead sliding sit front, followed by a big air flying swing finish left. She still has a lot of drive, that one and she loves to work. For those coming in late, Charlee may or may not have cancer. Her hair loss may be due to her thyroid issues, even possibly the flea issue we had earlier in the summer.  Or not.

It was with a heavy heart that I chose to leave Charlee home and take Finney on what would have been her favorite kind of job, a Safe Dog/Safe Kids demo for kids ages 11-14 at Strive   http://pslstrive.org/about   in South Portland. After conferring with my daughter  in the same age range, we both agreed that kids that age would not be able to get past "gross," and I had no desire to field public questions about her toe, or hair loss. My daughter Hannah came with me and we both agreed that Finney was awesome and far exceeded our expectations of him. Finney won over everyone in that room and he was really happy to get the gig. In one of the perfect life moments of "he knows", Finn lay down for the child who was most unsure of him and was a perfect statue when she approached him, while most of the other kids got licks to the nose. From start to finish Finney rocked the program.

The kids at Stride have special learning needs and were a sweet and wonderful group. When we were heading back to the car my middle schooler said "I didn't know doing something for free could make you feel so good."

The Safe Dogs /Safe Kids runs 30-40 minutes and is free to qualifying groups. The program  is suitable for all ages.
My fantastic dog Finney looks forward to many more demos. .

Charlee says don't count her out yet.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The fostering of Mango - she is ready for a home

Still giving fostering dogs a lot of thought, still due in part to my friend Mary's journey with Aaron. (See yesterday's post or click Mary's dog blog on the sidebar.)

Currently in our home we have 4 dogs. Our two dogs,Charlee and Finney and two foster dogs Stella (formally Evon) and Mango. Stella has been adopted by my cousin and she is hanging out with us while they get their new condo in order. I am planning a very special Stella blog coming up soon, but I need to get some old photos scanned first. Stella is a lucky dog!

Mango has turned out to be an easier foster than I expected. The info from the Maine rescue was that she blew through a "home" here in Maine pretty much over night, and when I met and evaluated her at the kennel, she was a bit shell shocked, and it was hard to get an accurate read on her. Mango was the first dog ever to spend a few nights in a puppy play pen in our garage. Safety first you know. After she had a few days to chill and after I heard from people who loved her down south, she got moved upstairs. She gets on fine with the three dogs here, although she can play a little rough sometimes.

The thing about Mango that makes her different from our foster dogs of late, is that she clearly has been loved.

So here is the thinking part. For the past year or so, we have had lots of shelter dog in our house. Many of these pups had starts similar to Stella. Unwanted pups who grew up never having known a home, or the love of a family. Mango's case was a bit differnt.  She knew what she was missing. The look she gave me when I closed that garage door was heartbreaking.

Mango  was clearly a loved, treasured family member and as such, returns love to my family. She is an equal opportunity dog and loves us all pretty much equally - a lot. Mango is "not my kind of dog", but it is through no fault of her own. We all love the dog, but she is not our dog. We are partial to the herding breeds over here. If you love Labs and the beauty of a Greyhound she is perfect for you!. Mango is having a photo shoot later this week and when her new glamour shots hit the web, I expect to get overrun with applicants for my sweet, lovable, foster dog. My pictures don't do her justice.

Check out her Petfinder.com listing, http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/16490347  and please pass her info along to your dog loving friends. Her bio says kids over 12, but she has lived with toddlers and for the right family I will  make an exception to this.