Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ruger: Part II

After Ruger was signed over, it was time to figure out what was wrong with him.  Everyone knows K9 Justice League goes all out when it comes to saving the broken dogs.  Instead of being sent home with some dewormer and a few cans of A/D, we prepared to do everything we could to fix him.  He had radiographs.  Lots and lots of radiographs.  We did a barium series.  He had a fecal done in house, one sent out to the lab.  He was dewormed, put on different medications for various issues, poked and prodded by multiple vets.  Ruger had blood work done and fluids given.  But after everything, he was still sick.  He initially started with diarrhea and a very tender abdomen.  The brown baby was skeletal and hardly acted anything like a puppy.  He began vomiting.  It was extremely difficult to get him to eat or drink anything at times.  Then there were days that he'd have a normal bowel movement, start acting like he felt better, and began eating.  Then two days later, he was going downhill again.  I couldn't understand why he would improve, then decline, improve, then decline.  Was I doing something wrong?

It was love at first sight with Ruger.  I was already dreading letting him go to a new home when he got better.  WHEN he got better.  But he never did.  From the beginning, I was convinced that he had an obstruction.  It was just that motherly instinct, I guess.  Many of his tests weren't indicative of having one, though, and cutting open a 5-week-old, emaciated, sick puppy isn't exactly the first thing vets want to do.

In the end, Ruger was rushed into exploratory surgery after spending a little under 2 weeks with me.  Finally, my sweet boy was going to be fixed.  He was going to get better and grow up and be the amazing dog I know he would have turned out to be.  He'd hang on to that sweet, selfless personality... but he'd be adventurous and drive-y, too.  And, oh boy... was he going to be HANDSOME when he grew up.

But Ruger didn't get to grow up.

They found what was making him sick.  It was a nylon collar that he had eaten... but the frayed pieces had grown into his intestines.  The vets tried to think of every option, but there was nothing they could do.  There was no way they could remove every piece of thread and repair every hole in his fragile intestines.  So that was it.  I got the call from Jessica and had to speak the words I dread so much.  "I guess we don't have a choice.  We have to let him go."  I could hardly speak.  Bethany was working that night, and she gave him a kiss and told him that we all loved him before the vet relieved him of his discomfort before ever waking him up from the anesthesia.

My heart dog was gone.  My Little Ruger Boy was gone.

I still kick myself to this day for not insisting that he had an exploratory done.  But I'm not a vet.  He had every test under the sun done.  But I can't help from feeling like if I had been more assertive in my idea that he had an obstruction, that maybe he'd still be here today.  Perhaps it happened like it was supposed to.  That Ruger was only supposed to be in my life for that short amount of time before he left.  And maybe he left that way... because that was the only way he could.  He was meant to be my dog until the very end, even if that end was only within a matter of a couple weeks opposed to an entire lifetime.  I miss that puppy every single day, and I think of him often even though so much time has passed.  He was a very special piece of me, and he took a huge piece of my heart that will never be repaired.

He knew love from many people, and that's what's important.  He didn't die in a pen after starving and dehydrating to death.  Ruger was surrounded by love at all times, by every person that met him.  Because he was just that special.

Monday, April 13, 2015


It was December 5th of 2013.  My hands were full... as usual.  I had my own four dogs: Brody, Jackson, Lyla, and Paige... and a my basket case of a foster dog, Lu.  As if my own dogs weren't enough to handle with a full time job, Lu was icing on the cake.  Don't get me wrong, I loved her dearly... but she was a lot of dog., and onn top of that, Lyla despised her.

I was working at the vet clinic and loading rooms for Dr. Mapes that day.  We had a client we hadn't seen come in with a young puppy who was presenting with some sort of illness.  He was underweight and weak.  The owners couldn't get him to eat.  But he wasn't their pet.  He wasn't a family member.  The brown puppy was the product of their doing; a mix of a German Shorthaired Pointer and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.  Bred for some reason or another.  I'm not really sure.  Maybe to make some amazing hunting dog or something?  Or maybe simply to make $300 off each puppy after I discovered their "Puppies for Sale" advertisement on Craigslist.

As I cradled him in my arms like a baby and stared into his incredible eyes, I could only hope that they would do right by this dog.  He was just a puppy.  He hadn't experienced hardly anything yet.  And it was at that moment that I was staring into his eyes that the woman spoke up, "You want him?"  Part of me was caught off guard.  The other part was laughing at the insanity of it all.  "I wish I could... but I have five dogs at home already."  The vet did the exam and offered some options.  My job was done, so I left the room before hearing the end result.  The wheels in my head were turning.  What would happen to him?  Would he get the radiographs and medication and care that he needed?  The vet came out and revealed that they didn't have the money to spend on expensive diagnostics.  He'd be going home with a few cans of A/D and some dewormer.  That was it.

This puppy was going to go home and die.  He'd starve to death... or something.  And they sure as hell weren't going to bring him back to have him euthanized if that's what it came to.  One of my co-workers told me to ask the owner if she had been serious about giving him to me.  And I honestly can't remember if I texted the rescue before or after the fact, but I walked to the front text and asked.  The woman handed the puppy over the desk... and that was it.  He was mine.

I named him "Ruger", and he was my soulmate.  That brown puppy took a huge piece of my heart with him.  Most of you know his story already, and I don't have the energy or heart to finish telling it tonight.  But I'll continue tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"Lost time is never found again."

So I spent the entire day hanging out with my dogs... and in my boredom, I decided that I needed to catch up on some blogging.  It's now that I realized how long it's been since I've written anything.  I have so many stories to tell... yet it almost seems impossible since I haven't written in so long.

Last time I checked in, I was fostering Posey... because the Lab mix I had originally wanted got adopted.  Since then, Posey got adopted within a couple of weeks into an AMAZING home.  She is an old Hound with a young heart again and living a spoiled and fulfilling life.

At some point after Posey was adopted, Hallie, one of my shy girls, was returned to the rescue due to her inability to come out of her shell.  I hope I have this all right?  After so many dogs, it seems to just run together.  One of our former K9JL adopters ended up coming down from Maryland to meet her.  She's now living happily in a home with another K9JL adoptee and an owner who understands her shyness issues and accepts her as she is.

Then came Avie.  I tagged along to Isle of Wight with NO plans of bringing a dog home.  I saw two shy kids that tugged at my heart strings... but they had to stay together... and there was NO way I was coming home with two.  Then I saw Avie... an adorable, spunky pup finishing up demodex treatment.  Who can't use a little puppy in her life?  I sure could.  So... despite my attempts to come home without a dog, I couldn't help myself.  It wasn't long before this spitfire of a pup was adopted by a young couple that was willing to put up with her puppy antics.  She's happy and doing amazingly well in her new home!  And I'm pretty sure that her parents are considering bringing another pup into the mix.

Funny how everything pans out... because around that same time, Jackson... the Lab mix that I had originally wanted to foster before Posey and before Hallie and before Avie... just so happened to get returned by his new owners around the same time.  It was meant to be... and Jessica didn't even make me ask.  "Go get the records... I know you're going home with him."  And that was that.  I renamed him "Parker" since there was already a Jackson in the house!  He's one of the sweetest dogs I've had... and such a special boy.  I'm happy to say that he found an incredible home with a young couple with no other dogs.  He gets his nails painted, plays dress up, has his very own bed, gets all the attention he needs, and I couldn't be happier with where he is.  His mom brought him to one of our adoption events to visit... and when I knelt down on the ground to give him a hug... I actually started crying.  Dogs come in and out of my life all of the time... and I love every single one of them.  Some of them, though, are just special... and Parker was one of them.  Everything in the universe kept that dog away from me fostering him at first... but we still ended up together.  I definitely believe in fate.  His owner's sister recently adopted another dog from K9JL... and they already seem to be best of friends!

Then Lu came into my life.  She's an all black GSD (maybe GSD/Malinois?) that is young and sweet and crazy.  My friend actually ended up fostering her for a couple months with the intent of adopting her... but her fear towards men made it impossible for her husband to bond with Lu.  Before Lu came back to my house, though, Lyla's littermate, Sadie, came back into the rescue.  One of the sweetest ladies I've met... and truly a wonderful dog!  I had her for about a month before she was adopted by a family who is related to another one of the littermate's adopters!  It was hilarious having Lyla and Sadie here together.  Sometimes if I glanced over at the sleeping pile of pups... I had no idea which one was mine... or the foster!  She's doing great in her new home, too, and they can't get over how easy she is... other than her leash manners!  Don't worry... her sibling, my girl, is no better on a leash!

Anyway, Lu ended up coming back to me since she was having so many issues with my friend's husband.  She does have stranger danger issues with men... but it's totally manageable.  He was a police officer and would come home at 3am... so it was hard for Lu to ever spend enough time with him to bond.  She's all bark and no bite, anyway!  I've had my ups and downs with her.  She's extremely high energy... and with four other dogs in the house, it's hard to deal with that type of personality sometimes.  Lucky for Lu, she's one of the sweetest and most submissive dogs I've ever met.  She's still young and still needs to be molded into a model dog... but I'm confident that she'll get there with the right home.

So... five dogs in the house... and I'm at work one day when a new client brings in an 8-week-old puppy that is sick and emaciated.  I think part of me, subconsciously, wanted this woman to offer him up to me.  Well... she did.  As I rocked him in my arms and stared into his astounding eyes, I couldn't help from wondering what his fate would be...

I'm going to leave it at that... because he deserves his very own entry... and I'm not quite ready to write it yet.  So... note to self... don't let so many dogs come and go without updating!  I didn't realize how many dogs I've had since I first go Posey.  You guys keep reading, I'll keep writing.

When I'm ready, I'll spill the beans on the little brown pup that broke my heart... but for now... I'll leave you with the happy thoughts of all of the dogs that were adopted in the meantime.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The worst thing you can say to a foster parent...

People mean well.  They really do.  And while they don't think there's anything wrong with what they are saying - well - I know my fellow foster families know what I'm talking about...

Your friends see that picture you post - you know - of the new foster dog on the couch snuggled up next to the other dogs?  Or maybe the one of the dog curled up next to you?  They see your posts about how well Fido fits in with the rest of your dogs, and they see how much you love your new temporary addition.

And that's when it starts.  The comments come flooding in: I think you should keep him.  Fido fits in so well with the rest of the pack.  I don't think he'll be leaving.  How can you stand to let him go?

You know what?  You just said the worst thing possible.  I ALREADY want to keep half of the dogs that I foster.  I already fall in love with all of them.  My dogs fall in love with them, too.  So... PLEASE refrain from validating my adoration for these animals.  PLEASE don't tell me that I should keep this one.  Fostering is hard enough... but it gets even harder when you friends remind you how well a dog fits in.

So instead of reminding us how amazing it would be to add our fosters as permanent residents, remind us how important it is to let them go to a new family.  Yes, they fit in great... but tap us on the shoulder and remind us that Fido has the perfect family out there somewhere... and that once he's adopted, we can save another.  'Nuff said.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."

Not to sound cliche, but where do I start?

It's been a couple months since I last posted.  Not much to post about in my "Foster Dog Diaries" blog when I'm not fostering a dog.

Well, we all knew how long that would last.  Do you sense the sarcasm?  I can't remember the last time that I only had four dogs in my house.  What's one more?  I did not intend on acquiring another foster dog until I got word that PAWS of Hertford County had a shy dog that needed to get into a foster home.  So... I got that spark in my heart and started getting excited about possibly having a new dog in the house.  Paige has settled in as a permanent family member... and our days are quite simple.  I felt like I could open up my home and my heart to another dog in need.  Especially a shy dog.  I sure do love my shy dogs...

So I went to the adoption event and stopped by Jackson's (my prospective foster dog's) crate to visit.  However, he wasn't cowered in the corner like my other "shy dogs".  He clearly had some anxiety... but Jackson was nothing like Audrey or Hallie, my nearly feral dog fosters.  I gladly hung out with the PAWS volunteers and noticed shortly a young boy visiting with Jackson.  The look in his eyes as he stood in front of the dog's crate was priceless.  As jealous as I was that this kid was probably going to be taking MY new foster dog, I couldn't help from being in awe over the fact that you could just tell that these two were meant to be together.  And that was that.  The family had their German Shepherd meet Jackson, then they filled out the adoption form.  Just after a week of being back at the shelter, Jackson was back in a home - surely forever this time.

At that point, I had prepared myself to go home with a dog.  I couldn't go home empty-handed now!  I'm always happy to take a dog from PAWS and free up some space there.  It's funny... because I actually ended up taking home the first dog I saw even before I walked into Petsmart.  Before I even walked through the doors, one of the volunteers was walking this old, washed up, sad-looking Hound.  Her name was Wynona... and she had a great story of her escape from the shelter to go with her!  Apparently she escaped from the shelter and was found running down the road, ironically, by a PAWS volunteer who was on her way to work.  I was actually looking at a younger Pittie before I decided on Wynona, but there was something about this girl that pulled at my heartstrings.  She actually reminded me of my old foster dog, Peaches.  Her mopey demeanor, her face, and so much more!  I had to have her.

Now she's got a new name and a new outlook on life!  I ended up naming her Posey... and she's been with me for a week and has been absolutely amazing!  She's extremely easy and is more like a couch ornament than a dog.  She's house-trained, crate-trained, good with dogs, good with cats, walks well on a leash, rides great in the car, wonderful with kids, and she's pretty much perfect.  Her only issue was that she'd possibly try to escape from a yard.  The first few days, I supervised her closely.  But, honestly, this dog wants to be outside, do her business, and come back in to sit on the couch.  I even left her out today with the other dogs... and when I got up to check on them, she was passed out on the deck enjoying some sunshine!  She went to an adoption event today, lasted about an hour, then slept the rest of the day.  She didn't even stand up when new dogs came into the building.  Yeah, she's perfect.  After today, I seriously can't picture her busting out of the shelter and running down the road!  Yeah, she gets playful for all of... 5 minutes... but that's about it!  She's great!  If all of my foster dogs could be like her, I could easily have five dogs in the house.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Letter to My Dad

Dear Dad...

Tonight, I texted you to come clean about the FOURTH addition to my fur family.  As you know, I'm not good with words... unless I can write them down.  You didn't respond to my text, and I'm worried that you disagree with my decision.

I just want you to know that I didn't make this decision without much thought.  I never thought that I'd have a fourth dog.  When one passed for one reason or another, I figured I'd add another needy dog at some point... not to fill the void... but to save another life.

My future dog... would be of mixed breed... and HE would be a dock dog.  I'm far too involved with the sport to adopt a dog that might not have dock dog potential.

But something silly happened.  A timid Shepherd mix came into my life shortly after a very special hospice dog left.  This little, nervous Shepherd mix... was a GIRL.  God forbid I ever adopted another female dog.  NO MORE GIRLS.  That was my demand... even for future foster dogs.  Lyla got along with males... but she was very particular about her female friends

After we sent Pager off to Rainbow Bridge... and off to a world much different than the one we live in, we went straight to animal control.  We were devastated and saddened as we walked up and down the aisles of homeless canines.  There were a few that caught my eye... and Paige was not one of them.  However, I walked into the kennel... and settled.  I settled.  I didn't look at her and say, "I want to save this dog."  But I knew that I needed a distraction... and I trusted Jessica's opinion.

Within days, I knew that this little girl belonged with me.  She was MINE.  Paige got along well with the dogs - even Lyla.  The cats?  They were great friends.  Toy drive?  Eh, barely.  The love of water?  Not that I know of.  So... as for her being a future dock dog... I have no idea.  I guess we'll have to wait and see!

To give up fostering to adopt another dog... that's a big deal.  I love this dog.  She belongs with me.  So... there it is... no more fostering.  No more dogs.  This is it.  I just hope that those who think I'm crazy for adding a fourth dog can find acceptance in this addition.

Peace, Love, and Paw Prints... Emily

Thursday, December 20, 2012

“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

Fifty-eight days ago I saw this very same picture, and I heard the story about a stray dog that truly seemed to have run out of luck.  His name was Pager, and he was homeless.  He ended up at PAWS of Hertford County where the staff and volunteers took the time to find out what his story was.  Pager was a big, sweet boy with a smile that could make anybody fall in love with him.  It was this very picture that I had seen posted on their Facebook that captured my heart - and my heart refused to let this image go.  The story that followed this picture was a sad one.  Pager's lymph nodes were swollen, and it was thought that he probably had cancer.

50 days ago, Pager went to the vet for a biopsy.  I was following his story like a hawk.  There was something about this dog that I couldn't ignore.

44 days ago, I heard the news.  Pager had cancer, and his prognosis was grim.  He was to be euthanized that afternoon.  His cancer was a death sentence.  On top of that, he was high heart worm positive.  Pager didn't have a chance, and it wasn't fair to make him live the rest of his days out in a shelter environment.  My heart sunk... and while I already had four dogs in my house, I had to do something.  Even though one of the PAWS volunteers was going to take him to the vet to be euthanized rather than having it done in the shelter, I couldn't stand to let it happen.  I frantically texted K9 Justice League, the rescue I foster for, begging for permission to bring this dog into my home.  Apparently I didn't need to beg.  The rescue understood how important this was to me.  I wanted to do something for this dog that otherwise didn't have a chance.

39 days ago, I met the dog that would change my life forever.  He was awesome - and we all the knew this the minute we met him.  One of my fellow K9JL foster parents/friends came and photographed our first meeting.  She has a hospice dog... so she knows just how important it is to have plenty of pictures of a life that might not last all that long.  After we went shopping with Pager in Petsmart, it was time to bring him home to the clan.  He was a little nervous with the initial meeting, but can you blame him?  With four dogs and four cats in the house, it's a little intimidating for a newcomer!  It wasn't long before he settled in, though.

Pager spent the following 8 days living life to the fullest.  We fed him whatever he wanted - whipped cream, bagels, bully sticks, and mass amounts of treats.  When he wasn't visiting pet stores, Starbucks, and parks, Pager was getting loved on at home by me and my pack of dogs and cats.

Pager enjoying a Puppy Latte at Starbucks!
Kisses for Aunt Bethany!
32 days ago, Pager looked me in the eyes and told me that it was time to go.  He had spent eight amazing days with me.  Eight good days... full of happiness, love, and anything he wanted.  That last night, Pager slept in the bed with me.  He had this option since I had brought him into my home... but it wasn't until that night that Pager decided to spend the night in bed... right next to me.

31 days ago,  I had to make a very hard decision.  While I'd like to say it was the hardest decision of my life, it wasn't.  The night before, Pager looked at me with these eyes that said, "I just lived a lifetime in eight days.  It's okay to let me go now."  I woke up the next morning with him next to me, and I looked him in the eyes and knew what I had to do.  It was an easy decision.  Pager and I gave each other what we needed... and it was only fair to release him from his pain.  Overnight, my happy-go-lucky boy had declined greatly, and I simply couldn't stand to see him in that state.  We had to do right by Pager, so we brought him in to the vet that morning to send him across Rainbow Bridge.  Pager was surrounded by three people who loved him very much.  His crossing was quiet and peaceful... though very sad.  In just a short amount of time, Pager had captured the hearts of hundreds.

That very day, we thought that it would be a great tribute to Pager to pull another needy dog from the shelter.  I already had a foster dog, but it only seemed natural to add another to the mix to help distract me from the sadness that ensued from the loss of Pager.  She was a Shepherd mix with a widow's peak similar to Pager's.  I had already sworn off female dogs in my house... but Jessica, the founder of K9JL, thought I'd like her.  She was a little timid and quite underweight.  I wasn't blown away when I first met her, but I did like her.  I took her home that very day, and she met the rest of the clan without an issue.  I had already decided earlier that day that "if I ended up with her", I wanted to name her Paige.  I was fostering her in remembrance of Pager, so I figured that naming her after him made sense, too!

Days later, I couldn't imagine life without this little Shepherd mix.  She was sweet and goofy and got along extremely well with my "difficult dog", Lyla.  Lyla's personality doesn't always mesh well with those of others, but she and Paige got along as if they had lived together forever.  Trust me, there were no plans to adopt a fourth dog.  Ever.  I love fostering.  I've been doing it for two years.  But... there was something about Paige that I couldn't let go of.  I kept thinking, "What are the chances that another dog like this will ever cross my path?"

I like to think that this all happened for a reason - that I brought Pager into my life for those eight days to learn what I learned from him - and perhaps to help me find my way to Paige... and to help Paige find her way to me.  Yes, it's official... and the paperwork has been signed.  Who knew that life would bring me in this direction?  I sure didn't.

Welcome to forever, Paige.

Peace, Love, and Paw Prints... Emily