Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Peace in ourselves, peace in the world."

Today was a day filled with both happiness and sadness.  As I drove to the K9 Justice League adoption event, I thought about how much I'd miss Lars when he's finally adopted.  Letting your foster dog go is a funny kind of thing.  Your heart feels so many emotions when the day finally comes.  You're sad because you're losing a dog that you've let into your heart for however long.  You're happy because you helped save that dog's life.  You gave that dog a home and the environment he or she needed to have a chance.  YOU made a difference.  What closes the deal for me - what makes letting these dogs go bearable - is the thought that I'll be able to let another dog into my home that needs just as much help as the one before.  All emotions aside, though, the event went well, and Lars had a lot of people interested him - some that fit... and some that simply didn't.  Lars had a good day and seemed to enjoy all of the attention!  How can you NOT love a handsome boy like Lars?!  I'm shocked that he hasn't been adopted yet... simply because Lars is my "dream dog".  Like the rest of you, I can't adopt another dog.  My house is full... and fostering is important to me.  If I could, Lars would have a home with me in a millisecond!  So... I just have to keep holding out for that 'perfect home' for my Brindle Boy Wonder.  Giving him up WILL be hard.  He doesn't make it easy.  Lars is all about snuggling and looking cute!  He's pretty damn hard to resist.

The other kids were excited to see Lars when I got home... but the poor bugger was so tired that he immediately decided to take a nap.  After everyone got their sillies out (excluding Lars), I decided it was about time for Lyla to have a bath since I had some extra time.  She's all about getting dirty!  Lyla likes sunbathing as much as Jackson does.  Maybe even more!  She heads outside and plops herself down in the dirt without a care in the world.  Lyla - well - she's crazy.  She's a Pit/Lab mix with a lot of energy and attitude... though friendly as all with other dogs... and even cats!  She's just hard-headed.  Anyway, it was time to give the princess a bath.  I placed her in the tub, wet her down, shampooed her, and rinsed her off.  Throughout this entire process, Lyla stood like a statue and cooperated for her bath.  After the bath was over... it was time for the blow-dry... which she also showed no resistance to.  It was then that I started to get all emotional and mommy-like.  That was just the beginning.  While Lyla is still wild and obnoxious... I wondered where the heck my insane dog went.  Whether she was flailing around and growling about having her nails trimmed or jumping through the screen to join the neighbor's party at midnight... I just couldn't believe that my little girl was finally starting to grow up.  I was planning on saving an entry like this for Lyla's first birthday... but it seems to have happened a little sooner.

When did my 4-week-old foster puppy become an adult?!  I remember falling in love with her so clearly.  Brody was a year old... plus some.  I had gone through hell with that dog.  The last thing I wanted was another puppy.  But then this little Pit mix puppy came into my life.  She was adorable, loved Brody, Jackson tolerated her, and I found myself spending a lot more time with her than her two sisters.  I loved them all... but there was something about this little lady that drew me to her.  I couldn't imagine letting her go.  I racked my brain over and over and over again.  Can I afford another dog?  Do I really want to go through puppy hood again?  What the heck am I thinking?!  But I truly loved her... and I couldn't imagine separating Lyla from Brody.  So I adopted yet another dog... and strapped myself down to deal with puppy hood again.  Honestly... it was crazy all over again.  I took some time off from fostering to deal with integrating my senior dog, less than two-year-old GSD mix, and my brand new Pit/Lab puppy.  Everything went well... because I believe that these dogs were all meant to be together.  It wasn't terribly long before I was fostering again.  I'm glad that Lyla grew up like that, too, because she was exposed to a lot of different dogs throughout her maturation.  Now... no dog is a stranger.  She loves everyone!

In the midst of my emotionally strange day, I turned the television to a channel in which Marley and Me was on!  That's NEVER a good idea.  I cried through the book.  The movie?  Even more traumatizing!  I was already all teary-eyed about my Lyla growing up... when I started to think about Jackson as I was watching the movie.  I really should have just turned it off!  Jackson is about 8-years-old - as best as we can estimate.  Jackson was the first dog that was really mine.  I rescued him and restored his health.  He was the first dog that I really saved.  When I say that I'll need to be institutionalized when Jackson goes, I'm not lying!  Don't get me started on how I feel while watching Marley and Me.  It involves bawling, hyperventilating, and clutching my hands over my heart - because the thought of losing one of my babies hurts that much - and it's inevitable when your dogs start to get older... or even if some terrible accident happens.  Either way, it's hard to lose these little four-legged friends.

So what's there to say after my night of tears?  Other than the ones who comforted me were my dogs.  My dogs and my foster dogs both sprung into action and licked my tears away.  Seriously... watching Marley and Me had me bawling like a baby!

Anyway, enough of that.  On a more positive note, I'm very happy to say that I met a lot of pro-Pit folks today... including a 69-year-old woman who had a Pit already... and recently adopted one from AC.  Today gave me hope.  I cringe when I have to say a dog is a Pit or a Pit mix... because seeing THAT look - the look that you get from people who don't know anything about the breed - is kind of hard for me to deal with... simply because I just don't get it.  However, I did meet a lot of people who didn't shy away from the word "Pit Bull" today... and that's more than I could ask for.  I only hope that people continue to educate themselves about the breed and spread the love rather than the hate!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Life isn't about finding yourself. It's about creating yourself."

Every foster parent has dealt with the inevitable.  The more you foster, the more likely you are to come across that dog that you really wish could be yours.

It was October of 2010 when three puppies came into my life.  They were Pit/Lab girls... and their mom gave birth to them in the heat of August all while greatly malnourished and tied to a tree.  There were ten puppies altogether, but one didn't make it.  While Hope was stuck in the shelter due to the court case, the remaining nine puppies were welcomed into K9 Justice League with open arms.  Once my first foster dog, Zoe, was adopted, I agreed to foster three of the puppies.  It was then that Sheba, Tiana, and Lush entered my life.  They were about four or five weeks old and a lot of work... but so insanely cute that it didn't matter if they pottied and got poo all over me in their excitement to see that I was home.  How can you be mad or disgusted when puppies that cute are that happy to see you?!

It wasn't long before I noticed Sheba spending more time with my dogs than her siblings.  She loved Brody... and Jackson didn't seem to mind her.  Jackson is a grumpy, old man... so for him not to mind is a big feat in itself!  It wasn't long before I noticed that I was spending more time will Sheba, taking more pictures, talking about her more.  I had no plans to adopt another puppy.  Absolutely not.  Brody was absolute HELL when he was a puppy... and I wanted nothing to do with them ever again.  But all of the signs pointed in the other direction.  Sheba stayed with my dogs, slept or sat in my lap when people came to look at them, and really seemed to have made herself at home... in MY home.  I racked my brain over and over again to decide whether or not I could handle another dog AND still foster.  In the end, I adopted Sheba (now Lyla) and continued to foster.  I'm not sure if I would have adopted her if I couldn't continue to foster, though.  Fostering is near to my heart and so very important to me.  It's almost been a year now... and Lyla has done her job by driving me insane... but being so incredibly cute that I can't stand it... or be mad!  How can you be made at that face?!

I can't believe it's almost been a year since I've added my beautiful girl to my family!  And,  almost a year later, I've come to the same problem.  Not so much a problem since I know I can't adopt another dog... but my heart aches over the fact that I can't adopt my handsome, brindle boy wonder, Lars!  Everything about the situation says, "Emily, you are his mom!"... yet every bone in my body is dedicated to continuing to open my home to foster dogs that need that special place to stay for just a little bit.  I am well aware that Lars will find his forever family soon... and they will be perfect for him.  Fate will be in charge of someone else for now.

For the time, though, I'll love him as my own... and keep my fingers crossed that he's adopted soon. The longer they stay, the harder it gets.  Fortunately I don't really have a choice in this matter... because fostering has become a very important part of my life as well as the people involved in the rescue have, too.

You remember what happened last time I saw a puppy sleeping on Brody like that?

She never left!

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen."

Where to begin?  It seems like so much has happened since the last update... though that wasn't that long ago.

Lonnie, my last foster dog, is now living the life with another foster family.  K9 Justice League arranged this situation so I could foster a dog from Paws of Hertford County when it was time for the pull.  Lonnie will be at his current foster home throughout the week... and another foster family during the weekend.  This will be good for him... because he needs exposure after the life he's lived.  It'll be good for him.

I still have Lars.  He had a meet and greet... and the current dog of the house wasn't really having it.  They got along well outside in the yard, but it was a different story once they were inside.  I'm in love with him.  He's going to be hard to let go.  First of all, I love brindle dogs.  I think they are beautiful.  Secondly, he's a Pit Bull.  Strike 2... in a good way.  Strike 3?  He's the best snuggler in the world.  Not to mention the fact that I had him his first night in the rescue.  I know I can't adopt another dog, though, so that makes it a little easier.  He's just going to be hard to see off.  I really do adore the pup... and I really don't like having puppies that much!

We made our trip to Paws of Hertford County on Wednesday afternoon.  I rode with my fellow foster mom and had a blast!  We got there and took a tour, and I realized how hard the volunteers worked with so little that they had.  While they have a few indoor kennels for the dogs, most of them are outdoors.  But... even outdoors in the heat... the dogs seemed happy.  They had baby pools to play in... people to pay attention to them, and seemed quite content.  We got to see the cat/kitten room, too, and they seemed quite happy.  It was clear that the volunteers were working hard to take care of the animals there.

We went to an outdoor yard full of about 10 dogs.  Those were the dogs that needed our help the most... some of which who had been there the longest.  I didn't realized that choosing would be so hard.  One of the K9 Justice League creators was there and in charge of who came home with us... but she was also counting on us to figure out which dogs we thought would do best in our houses.  Tessa was the first dog that caught my eye.  She was a sweet soul... but we soon found out that she wasn't good with cats.  In my house, it's necessary to be good with cats... considering the fact that I have four of my own.  I also really liked Theo, a mix that probably needs to have his eye removed.  Then came Perseus.  I had looked at pictures already... and Perseus hadn't been one of my picks.  I'm a black dog girl... a Bully dog girl... a three-legged dog girl... one-eyed dog girl... not a yellow Lab mix girl.  But little Perseus was thin and sweet and happy-go-lucky.  Perseus and I hung out for a minute... bonded... and that was that.  He came home with me as my new foster.  I didn't know the decision would be so hard... but I was truly picking a dog for my dogs... not for me.  If it were up to me, I would have picked some random Pit Bull... but when you have as many dogs as I do in a house, you have to pick your new dog for your dogs, not for you.  Perseus (now Bentley) came to my house nervous and not so sure about all four dogs in my house.  Soon enough, Bentley and Lars were best of friends.  I was proud of my three dogs... accepting my new foster without a blink of an eye.  Even my cats are used to new dogs coming into the house!

Bentley wasn't thrilled about spending the night in the crate alone.  Once I dragged the crate into my room... he was fine.  He just wants to know that he's with people.  He's been doing well with house-training.  He seems to understand that.  At first, I was worried about training him.  He really didn't seem to comprehend the idea of "sit."  He's just hungry... and wanted to jump up on me all of the time.  Tonight, though, Bentley figured out how to "sit."  I figured that I'd try "down" once he got "sit."  He got it!  It'll take some consistent work... but he knows what he's doing.  He's still young... so I can't expect much... and who knows what he lived through beforehand?  He's truly a sweet dog.  He doesn't have a mean bone in his body.

So... I've got a house full of dogs... and I can't express enough how thankful I am for the Paws of Hertford County and K9 Justice League for doing everything they can to save the lives of dogs.  I'm glad to be a part of it, too.  And I wish that more people would put their selfishness aside and try to foster a dog.  Yes, it's hard to give up a dog you've put your all into... but it's even better to know that you just saved a dog's life... and opened up a space for another once that dog is adopted.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does."

It seems quite fitting that Lars may be spending his last night with me - the person who had him for the first night after he was rescued.  The little brindle wonder has a meet and greet with a family tomorrow.  My fingers are crossed that they fall in love with him as quickly as everyone else has!

Brittni spent a little over a month with Lars and did an awesome job!  Puppies are difficult... so props to anyone who can foster a puppy.  He sits very nicely and waits for his treat!  He's definitely been raised for that month and some in good hands!  I've fostered quite a few puppies... and I feel like giving up puppies is harder than giving up the adults.  There's something about raising a puppy that makes that attachment stronger.  I love all of my foster dogs and have a hard time giving any of them up... but there's just something about puppies.  I honestly don't even care for puppies much.  They aren't house-trained, they bark, they have a ton of energy, you have to teach them everything, and they just about drive you insane.  But I suppose that motherly instinct kicks in... and that's that.

Lars spent some time on the other side of the gate while the other dogs sniffed him and checked him out.  They've already met... but just briefly.  It was the typical meeting.  The grouchy old man that he is, Jackson growled.  Lyla wanted to kiss him to death.  Brody greeted, wagged his tail, then headed back to the couch to sleep.  Lonnie was so insanely excited that he jumped up and down... vertically... for probably 15 minutes straight.  Once my crew calmed down, it was time to open the gate.  There was a lot of "talking", wrestling, and pure chaos.  Gloria, of course, was out and about.  I swear that cat thinks she's a dog.  Gloria showed Lars that she was the boss and chasing cats would not be acceptable.  Seriously, keeping Gloria... best decision ever.  She's been great with all of the foster dogs!  Such a good teacher!  Like I needed another cat in my life... but... they pick you.  When they fit in as well as Gloria did... you can't just send them to someone else!

Aside from adding Lars to the family... for perhaps just a short time... everyone is doing well.  I went on vacation for a week and left all of the dogs with different people.  All of their caretakers did a fantastic job with them!  Of course... everyone seems happy to be home.  Lonnie has been doing well.  He seems much more confident these days.  I think spending some time at other houses did him good!  Not quite as nervous in new situations.  Such a happy-go-lucky boy!  Lonnie even got a little media coverage while I was gone!  WTKR, our local news station, has an "Adoptable Pet of the Day" segment at noon daily... and I was able to get in touch with the reporter over Facebook and have Lonnie featured!  I do hope that he finds his forever home soon.  He deserves it.

After hours of playing and figuring out the pecking order, the chaos seems to have subsided.  The cats are all napping... Gloria on the coffee table, Cricket in my unpacked suitcase, and Cali on the bed.  Lonnie is asleep in the crate, Brody, Lyla, and Lars are all asleep on the couch next to me, and Jackson is standing here by the couch wondering why it's not a little bigger.  I need to buy a little chair just for him.  The couch only fits three dogs if I'm sitting on it, too!  Unless they double up... but Jackson is weird about that.  Hmmm... and as I typed that... Brody got off of the couch and is now sleeping on the floor with Gloria.  Cricket has changed his sleeping spot to the coffee table... and Jackson has curled up where Brody had been on the couch.  Compromise is good.

So... like I said... my house is about as chaotic as it can get.  But these quiet moments are moments to remember.  All I see are content dogs... and they are content because they spent the day playing and romping and being happy... and maybe even driving me a little crazy.  I just don't get how anyone could mistreat these sweet souls.  I wouldn't trade my life for anything.

Photo by Brittni Naylor

Let's not forget that K9 Justice League is heading to North Carolina to the Paws of Hertford County shelter to save some dogs!  I'm lucky enough to be tagging along!  How exciting!  I'm not sure if I'll be lucky enough to bring a new foster home or not... but at least some will be saved.  It all depends on the situation with Lonnie and Lars... whether or not I get to bring anyone home.  We'll see!  I'm just excited that I get to tag along and check the shelter out.  The Paws of Hertford County people are good people... so I want to get a taste of their world, too.  Time will tell... keeping fingers crossed...