New Love in My Life

This is a beautiful post about a dog recently rescued from a dog fighting ring. Please take a moment to read.

unraveledmelody

I fell in love several weeks ago.
I was afraid to tell anyone because it was so unexpected and he wasn’t my type.
But then I let him stay the weekend with Abby and me and I just couldn’t deny it anymore.
I talked about him all the time and I thought about him each and every day.
Here’s the picture that made my heart just melt.

Frodo&me
I have been wanting another dog for over two years now and after finally splitting from the person keeping me from adopting again, I really started to seek out another dog. I wanted a companion for Abby and simply put, I felt the desire to offer a home to another dog who needed one.
I had some ideas about what kind of dog I wanted…
I wanted a black and white, a black, or a white dog. (I REALLY love Abby.)
I wanted…

View original post 904 more words

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… and another everyday hero

Remember Xena and Johnny from my last post?  Xena was a severely abused pit bull puppy who was adopted into a home with an autistic child, and without any formal training became his best therapy and a way for him to connect with the rest of the world.  Xena became the 2013 ASPCA’s “Dog of the Year.”  Xena and Johnny have become pretty famous, and their family is doing fantastic work promoting both autism awareness and tolerance for pit bulls.

I also mentioned in my last post  that there are so many pit bulls out there who are everyday heroes, who don’t get the kind of media attention that Xena and Johnny have.  That’s okay…not everyone has to be famous.  But every time I come across a story that shows what amazing dogs pit bulls can be, I like to share these unsung heroes–because the more people who see these normal, amazing, loving dogs in action, the more people will understand that pit bulls are just, well, dogs, and there are some pretty special ones out there, too.

So here is a video about Lacy, a 6 year old girl, and Karma, a 9 year old, 85lb red nose pit bull, who was adopted by the family at 8 weeks old before Lacy was even born.  Like Johnny, Lacy is autistic, only she is on the more severe end of the spectrum and is completely non-verbal.  Like Xena, Karma has never had any formal therapy dog training, but the connection that she and Lacy have is undeniable and Lacy’s mother, Amanda,  tells us that Karma “instinctivly is understanding of lacys needs” [sic].  In the description of the video on YouTube, she goes on to tell us that Karma “is a blessing to my child and continues to be a blessing to our family” and she wanted to “share a REAL ‘Pitbull'” with the world!

Thanks, Amanda, for sharing the story of your amazing pit bull and your beautiful child!  I just had to post about this beautiful video put together by a mom who obviously loves her child and her dog very much.

– Pit Bull Foster Momma

Some More Hero Pit Bulls

I’ve written about hero pit bulls before.  Some are more well known than others.

There’s Elle the Pit Bull, who works as a therapy dog with senior citizens, children, and the police, and who is  the 2013 American Humane Association’s American Hero Dog.  Her Facebook page is here, and you can see a short video  about her here:

Xena, the Warrior Puppy  arrived at a Georgia  shelter so malnourished she was close to death, weighing only 4lbs.  She was adopted after her incredible recovery and has become an autistic boy’s best friend, bringing him outside of himself in a way his family had never before witnessed.  This won her the ASPCA’s 2013 Dog of the Year award.  You can find her Facebook page by clicking on this link, and here’s a video of her story here:

Then there is Lilly the Hero Pit Bull, who, after being rescued from a Massachusetts shelter, saved her owner from an oncoming train when the woman  fell unconscious.  Dragging her off the tracks, she sacrificed  one of her own legs to save her owner’s life.  Today, Lilly promotes the rescue of other pit bulls in need, and does much to work to alleviate the public’s fears about pit bulls.  Her website can be found here, and her facebook page is here.

Jeffrey, the Positively Peaceful Pit Bull, was rescued from the very high kill New York City shelter system (which I wrote about recently in a blog entry here) just hours before he was supposed to be euthanized.  Jeffrey has gone on to become a therapy dog and reading education assistance dog (R.E.A.D.) and has been helping the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut recover from the trauma they endured two years ago.  Here is Jeffrey’s Facebook page, and you can read his story in full and watch an amazing video about him by clicking here (just scroll down a bit to see the video).

There are of course, The Vicktory Dogs, the dogs that were viciously abused and fought by Michael Vick, and who were written off by the Humane Society of the United States at the time as unadoptable.  Fortunately, they beat so many odds stacked against them, and you can read an update about a few of them, Cherry Garcia, Halle, Handsome Dan (whose owners have founded their own rescue in his honor), Oscar, Georgia, Squeaker, Oliver, Mel, and Little Red here, and here as well.  Hector the Pit Bull, another Vicktory Dog, is now a therapy dog who visits hospitals and nursing homes  and has his own website and Facebook Page.  You can also read more about these dogs in Jim Gorant’s book, The Lost Dogs.

Speaking of Jim Gorant, he also wrote a book about another remarkable pit bull, Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls–One Flying Disc at a Time (a book I am actually just reading now).  Wallace the Pit Bull was abandoned at a shelter and nearly euthanized because of his misread behavioral problems before he was adopted by a spectacular couple who saw his potential.  He became one of the most successful “disc dogs” (a super athletic Frisbee sport for dogs) in the world, and was an ambassador for his breed in the midst of it all.  Wallace sadly passed away in August 2013 from cancer.  His website can be found here, and his Facebook page, which champions the Foundation that works in his memory, can be found here.  Below is a link to 2 videos which play one after another, the first being Wallace training and the second one including shots of him at competition:

Finally, one of my favorite pit bulls ever is Blueberry the Pit Bull Therapy Dog, a dog who was dumped by  backyard breeder at a Massachusetts shelter, and you can read about her amazing work on her Facebook page.  Blueberry’s owner and handler takes her to hospitals, nursing homes, and a hospice center, and writes the most moving posts about her work there.  If you ever need to be uplifted, pop on over to their page and read an entry or two.  Bonus: she and Lilly the Hero Pit Bull are best buds and often work together.  They visited folks at the site of the Boston Marathon Bombing to bring comfort, and recently were both at the dedication of a bench in memory of Puppy Doe.  For those who don’t know, Puppy Doe (whose original name was Kiya) was a poor pit bull who was given “for free to a good home” on Craigslist, and after being bounced around a few times ended up with a man who did such horrible things to her that I won’t link to any articles that describe his actions.  If anything good can come out of such a tragedy, it has raised awareness of the how pit bulls need to be protected, despite all the stigmas that surround them, from the true monsters: human beings;  and, as the memorial bench says, “Cruelty in any form must not be tolerated.”

Lily (left) and Blueberry at the Puppy Doe remembrance bench memorial.

Lilly (left) and Blueberry at the Puppy Doe memorial bench.  Courtesy of Blueberry’s Facebook Page

So these are some of the famous pit bulls out there that you should know about…many of whom  I have talked about before.  And if you want to read more from my blog about hero dogs, check out the links to these stories about amazing dogs like: Bruce the Shedd Aquarium Pit Bull, the Momma Pibble who adopted orphaned Shih-Tzu puppies, Cain the Pit Bull, who saved his owners from a fire, Villalobos’s Rhino, Murphy the Therapy Dog, and Kane of  “Kane’s Crusade“, Sugar, the Toddler Saving Pit Bull, and Booker, the Pit Bull Service Dog. Some of these dogs are pretty well known, but others aren’t.  And for every pit bull who becomes famous, there are hundreds of more who commit acts of bravery, and who lift of the spirits of those in need.  So check out the graphic below for some new stories that I haven’t shared here before (with the exception of Creature’s).  So here are some dogs you might NOT have heard about, but should:

Image courtesy of tickld

Image courtesy of tickld

untitled

Image courtesy of tickld

Know a hero pit bull?  Write about them in the comments below.  I’d love to feature more and more and MORE stories about these amazing and misunderstood dogs.

– Pit Bull Foster Momma

Nail Dates

Just a short post today, but one that I think reflects my new emphasis back on my own three dogs.

Our dogs’ nails have started to look like those old lady toenails that never get cut.  In short, scary.  My husband and I have been trying and trying to get them clipped back to a decent length, but we have failed because we never get into a solid routine getting them done.  It’s bad enough that people have commented on photos of our dogs that ‘it’s time for a manicure!’  And it’s not just aesthetically displeasing; it can affect how the dogs carries himself and walks, which is not good.  I’ve been a bit ashamed that we haven’t done a better job of taking care of our dogs’ nails when we work so hard on keeping them generally very healthy.

Well, thankfully we have found an AMAZING groomer who fosters for the rescue who is able to do our dogs’ nails.  We first took Ms. Celia to her because she was a jumper and getting adopted by a family with a young child, and was leaving horrible scratches whenever she jumped on us because her nails were so long and sharp.  The groomer had her in and out of the table  in 5 minutes, and she came home with the most perfectly manicured nails ever (and she got a bath to boot)!  So, although it is almost an hour away, we have started taking our dogs there to get their nails done.

For those of you not in the know, getting  a dog’s overgrown  nails down to the ideal length takes a lot of time and work.  As the nail grows out, so does the “quick,” a blood filled fleshy center of the nail.  If you cut the nails too short, you risk “quicking” the dog which is very painful, bleeds profusely, and can lead to a dog becoming very ornery about getting its nails done.  We have friends who have to bring their dogs to the vet and get them sedated to get their nails trimmed.  So anyway, an overgrown  nail must be cut every 2-3 weeks, and as it is cut back the quick retreats back from the edge of the nail.  Eventually the nails  will reach the right length.  Ideally, the dog’s nails should be cut short enough that you don’t hear that “click click click” on hard surfaces when they walk around the house.

trimming-dog-nails-286x300

What makes it tough for the average dog owner to do this nail trimming properly at home  is:

1) Dogs don’t stay still. They squirm, and pull their paws, and gently mouth the clippers, and generally do whatever they can (politely, in the case of our dogs) to get you to stop.  So it is a two person operation: 1 person clips, the other person distracts with treats.

2) While some dogs have nails that are easy to see the quicks inside, others don’t.  Willow’s nails, for example, are all light colored but there are 2 that are a bit more brown and so it makes it tough to see.  Most of Moto’s nails are black, and you can’t see the quicks at all.  There is a trick where you can hold a flashlight up to the nail to see where the quick is, but, squirmy dog, one hand holding clippers, the other holding the  foot, your “helper” person desperately trying to treat the dog…you get the picture.

3) Because of 1 & 2, most owners tend to err on the side of caution and not take a lot of nail off.  Which means the clipping has to happen more often to work down the nail length.  Which, because of 1 & 2, in our case anyway, just doesn’t happen.  Hence, driving an hour every couple of weeks to the groomer and letting the professional do her job.

So far our dogs have made two visits to the groomer to get their nails done.  On the way there, both Gilligan and Moto tend to be anxious whiners and make my eardrums nearly burst with their stress yawns (which are always vocal).  Gilligan also tends to make wavery “poor me” vocalizations and exhale sharply as he smells the air coming in the car vents, spraying the back of my neck with dog goobers.  Willow curls up and tries to pretend she is asleep at home on the couch.  So I look at this as an opportunity for some desensitization to car rides, and don’t indulge the “poor me” worries of Gilligan and Moto.

Both times when we’ve finally made it to the groomer’s place,  I’ve actually been very impressed with their overall behavior.  I leave the car running with the air going and take them in one at a time.  It’s a pretty busy place with lots of big and little dogs (and some of the littles are allowed to roam…don’t get me started) but my dogs have done nothing more than polite sniffs on the way by, and Moto, who used to lose his mind whenever a dog was reactive, pranced past a tense barking dog who had fixated on him without even a sideways glance.  So as well as getting their nails done and an opportunity to desensitize 2 of my 3 dogs to car rides, it’s also  a good exercise in making sure that my obedience training works in the real world: that  “leave it” commands are being respected, that the dog keeps a good heel, that they respond to a “watch me” when they start getting too interested in anything, etc.  And it’s good dog socialization, not in the sense that I let them hang out with the other dogs, but it reinforces to them that they can do well and behave themselves around new and strange dogs without needing to meet them or play with them.

Of course, the second time, both Moto and Willow peed in the grooming room.  Willow because she was being submissive and nervous, Moto because, well, he just started walking around and letting things flow.  Little bastard.  I made sure Gilligan peed OUTSIDE before I brought him in.

And although Willow makes her “the world is going to end” body posture (tucked tail and hunched body), she’ll still take treats, so life isn’t all bad.  Moto makes his, “I am very concerned about this” tense face on the table, but is as usual a good boy.  And Gilligan is content as long as there are treats at hand.  Nothing better than a dog who finds treats more important than anything else in the world.  Eventually I’ll wean him off the treats, but this is good practice for his CGC testing.  When we did the mock test last fall, he didn’t like it when the trainer picked up his feet and gave her a very inappropriate correction.  She took it in stride, and she had been pushing him pretty hard with some wacky posturing right before it happened to see how well he could hold a sit, but it’s still something I’ve been aware of and so, this is good practice.  After all, that is what that portion of the CGC testing is all about anyway: good behavior in a grooming situation with intimate touch from a stranger.

The groomer we are using  trims the nails with clippers  and then uses a dremel tool, which spins and has a gently abrasive surface to it, to smooth down the nails’ edges and get as close as she can without quicking the dog.  She has been doing this long enough that she says she can feel the difference in the texture of the nail under the dremel when it gets close to the quick.  The actually process is: in the door, pick up the dog, loop a rope under their tummy by their back legs and front legs to secure them, slip lead over the neck, and go to the nails.  Then off the table and done.

Total time for all three dogs in and out: 12 minutes.  This girl is INCREDIBLE.  And the dogs’ nails are looking so much better already.  We still have a long way to go, but we are getting there.

Nail Date Time!!!!!!

Nail Date Time!!!!!!

How about the rest of you out there?  Any interesting grooming stories, or nail issues you’ve been dealing with?

– Pit Bull Foster Momma

 

Burnout

In the rescue world it is very easy to say yes, and very hard to say no.

As well as  fostering, we have three dogs, Willow, Moto, and Gilligan,  and our two cats, Velcro and Bandit:

Willow

Willow

Moto

Moto

Gilligan

Gilligan

 

Velcro

Velcro

 

Bandit

Bandit

Since we started fostering back in July of  2012, we have fostered:

– Kennah (a blue nose female pit bull, adopted after 10 days)

– Gilligan (a dark brindle and white pit bull/boxer mix, adopted and returned 4 times over the course of 10 months before we adopted him ourselves, and I am grateful every day that we did)

– Jordan (a black and white female pit bull/lab/mutt of all kinds mix, who was adopted after 3 months)

– Hoffa (a tan and white pit bull mix, short term foster whose adopters flaked and who was moved to another foster after 4 days due to his extreme anxiety, which we simply could not handle)

– Haven (a black and white pit bull/boston terrier/bulldog mix who was short term fostered at our home for a week before moving to her long term foster)

– Kaleigh (an apricot and white female pit bull, adopted after 3 months)

– Herbie (a black and white pit bull/boston terrier mix, euthanized after 18 months)

– Chloe (a blue and white pregnant pit bull, adopted after 2 months)

– Tank, Nugget, Sprocket, Fogo, Rain, Kenzie, Tink, Aria, Hali (9 blue and white/white and blue pit bull puppies, adopted after 2 months)

– Taxi (a black and white BIG pit mix, just under 80lbs, adopted after 2 months

– Samson and Delilah (2 red bone coon hound puppies, short term fostered for a day until long term placement could be found)

– Kennah and Scooby (yes, the same Kennah that was adopted after 10 days with us.  Just under 2 years later, in April 2014, we retrieved with her adopted brother, a black and white pit bull/mutt mix,  from an animal hoarder where their owner had dumped them after falling on hard times and lied  to us about what was going on. This is a whole post in and of itself, as is the Samson and Delilah story.   Kennah and Scooby  spent 2 weeks in our garage, then just over 1 month in boarding, where Kennah deteriorated dramatically due to kennel stress.  So, both dogs were taken out of boarding and came back to us.  Kennah was adopted right after she came back to our house by an amazing couple, and Scooby has spent 3 months with us in a kennel we built for him separate from the house as he is extremely  dog aggressive; this past Sunday we sent him for a three month stay at a rehabilitation center for dogs like him and we will see how things go from there)

– Celia (a blue and white pit bull, adopted after 2 weeks; this was a respite foster situation for a family.  Celia had been attacked by a dog in a different home, and then  after months of coexistence with the foster family’s dog in her foster home, went after the foster family’s dog.  They had been troopers and crated and rotated for months.  We had the opportunity to be able to care for her short term when an adoption opportunity came up so we took her on for those 2 weeks)

Now comes the “boarders” (that we didn’t charge for) that my husband wanted to do because he liked the idea of having dogs for a limited amount of time with a firm end date.  So we had, between May and the very beginning of September 2014:

– Bane (a lanky  brindle pit mix, 10 days)

Willow and Baney-Bane-Bane McBanerson (right).  Besides the fact that their coats make for a matched pair, Willow really liked Bane (one of the few dogs she felt totally comfortable with).

Willow and Baney-Bane-Bane McBanerson (right). Besides the fact that their coats make for a matched pair, Willow really liked Bane (one of the few dogs she felt totally comfortable with).

– Jake (a light brindle pit mix, 8 days)

Jake-a-Doo

Jake-a-Doo, who snored like an asthmatic pig.

– Bruce (a dark brindle stocky pit mix, 8 days, another respite foster situation as fosters were going on vacation, but we knew they were going to adopt him when they  came back)

Bruce the Moose.  I adored this dog.

Bruce the Moose. I adored this dog.  So much he gets two pictures.

Bruce's "that look would melt butter" look

Bruce’s “that look would melt butter” face

– Shiloh (a blue and white pit mix, one of the puppies that we whelped last summer, 10 days)

Shiloh after a day of play; one of the few times she pooped out.

Shiloh after a day of play; one of the few times she pooped out.

– Kenzie (a blue and white pit mix, another one of the puppies that we whelped last summer, 8 days)

Dear Kenzie.  She decided to be a door stop so we couldn't leave her that evening.  :)

Dear Kenzie. She decided to be a door stop so we couldn’t leave her that evening. 🙂

– Bane (again, 1 day)

– Jake (again, 5 days)

And in and amongst all of this I took care of a friend’s lab and blue pit mix for a total of three weeks over the summer.  Also Celia, Scooby, and Kennah all overlap with some of these boarding dogs.

Celia-Bedelia.  Mischief maker and love.

Celia-Bedelia. Mischief maker and love.

 

Kennah, a terrible photo but a very happy girl with her adopters.

Kennah, a terrible photo but a very happy girl with her adopters.

 

Scooby with his happy face on.

Scooby with his happy face on.

Yup, it’s been an extraordinary privilege to be a part of these dogs’ lives, whether it was fostering them or just looking after them for a short time while their owners were gone.

But I am EXHAUSTED.

I feel as if I have been juggling for the past two years non stop.  There were a few weeks there were I was taking care of 8 dogs at a time, two of which I had to drive (albeit a short distance) to let out, feed, and spend time with.  And during these entire past 2 years, I think we have had maybe 3 weeks where we only had our dogs and our cats. During that time, I’ve dealt with double ear infections (3 times, 2 different dogs), staph infections, urinary tract infections, allergies, dog-to-dog aggression, emergency vet trips (for fights, and sick dogs), had to work through shuffling this dog here so it doesn’t come into contact with that dog, I have cleaned up puke, drool, fountains of pee, and so much poop it’s overwhelming just to think about it.  I have heard dogs that bark like an old nag about to die, who jibber and scream like chimpanzees that are being tortured (separation anxiety), to just normal, loud, non-stop, pay attention to me, barking.  For hours.  I have worked on house training, crate training, noise desensitization, separation desensitization, obedience training, behavioral modification training, done the work of establishing pack leadership.   Over and over and over.

I do not have the stamina.  I am BURNED OUT.

In amongst all of the rest of this, I was working at a high stress job until the very end of June, I was working as foster coordinator for the rescue I volunteer with, I was helping with adoption events, we had to put a dog down, my grandmother died, and now I am in Canada helping out where I can with mom, who has been very sick.

So when the opportunity came for Scooby to go to this rehabilitation center, I said YES (my husband was more torn.  I was ready).

And, although I haven’t been there to enjoy it, for the past 5 days, for the first time since I can remember, we are down to three dogs and two cats.

I think, after sleeping for a week, I am going to disinfect my entire home, buy a new twin mattress to replace the one that one of our “boarders” pissed all over and I can’t  get the smell out of, turn the back bedroom (the “puppy room,” and then “Herbie’s room”), into the cat room.  They are old (12 and 11 respectively) and deserve some space and peace from the annoying dogs that bark at them every time they see them, like they’ve never witnessed a cat in their entire lives (Every.  Single.  Day.).  We are a home with multiple Berlin Walls (baby gates) separating our obnoxious dogs from our poor cats (still, the cats do sometimes just like to sit and stare at the dogs and get them going, innocent little buggers that they are).  In that back room I’m going to plunk down the litterbox (currently in my study), scratching posts, beds, cat trees and climbers, and have a nice cushy mattress for them to curl up on and nap in the sun.  And then I am going to reclaim my study (rid it of all the litter box dust that seems to have settled on every surface, and the cat hair that hides  in every nook and corner), disinfect that entire room, wipe down every surface, throw out stuff I don’t use anymore, and then have a study again and have “my space” again.  The cats are very welcome to visit, but they can use the litterbox in THEIR room.  🙂

Bandit (top) and Velcro sleeping in their cat tree...soon to be moved OUT of my study and into the CAT ROOM.

Bandit (top) and Velcro sleeping in their cat tree…soon to be moved OUT of my study and into the CAT ROOM.

And we need to work on our own dogs.  Willow has just been done to the bone with other dogs coming in and our of her house, and has started taking out her frustration on poor Gilligan, who does nothing wrong but walk by her at the wrong moment.  So (at least until I had to come home to help with Mom), we had been working on re-establishing authority in the pack, separating the dogs and giving them a break from each other, and changed up the feeding routine, which seemed to be a trigger.  Since I’ve been gone, dearest husband of mine has decided to reintegrate them without me there to help if a fight breaks out, but I can’t control what happens when I am not around.  So far, so good.  Anyhow, as we work on smoothing out the interpack tension, I also plan on just doing stuff with my dogs again.  Taking them on walks.  Taking them to classes.  I want Gilligan to finally get his CGC certification, which will take some work.  But we’ll get there.

This kind of peaceful harmony with our 3 dogs is my goal.

This kind of peaceful harmony with our 3 dogs is my goal.

 

So is this.

So is this.

And I will not be fostering again, or taking in another dog into my house, for at least a year.  How ironic is that for a blog entitled “Pit Bull Foster Momma?”

Don’t worry.  There will be plenty to write about in the meantime.  I have oodles to fill people in on, and new things are popping up all the time in my role as foster coordinator with my rescue, which means I can write about fostering from an entirely different perspective.

In the meantime, it is time for me to breathe, and re-center myself, and heal from some of the hurts of the past two months (which I will write about, too).  It’s time for me to say, “No.”

– Pit Bull Foster Momma

 

Jackson

IMG_103776045075013

This is Jackson.  Jackson is was a two year old pit bull mix.  His intake number at Manhattan Care & Control in New York City was A1012114.  They called him a pit bull/dogue de Bordeaux mix, probably in hopes that the more interesting part of the mix would catch someone’s eye.  I doubt he had any dogue de Bordeaux in him, since they tend to be large dogs and Jackson only weighed 53lbs, which is typical for a pit bull (although he was admittedly underweight).  Somebody who volunteered at the shelter  dressed Jackson  up in a little blue bowtie so that when his picture was posted, it might make him look a little more approachable to someone who had only heard scary things about pit bulls.  Jackson had something called cherry eye, a problem with the third eyelid which is fixed with a simple surgical procedure, but it probably made him look a little bit less “cute” than some of the other dogs, and possibly made people worry that there was something significantly wrong with him.

Jackson showed up in my news feed on Facebook  just over a week ago.  When you are involved in the rescue community, your newsfeed tends to fill up with dogs that need help.  I hit the share button on some, and advocate for a very few.  Something about the worried look on Jackson’s  face caught my eye; I think it was because my own dog, Willow, used to have that worried look when she first arrived at our home.  Jackson’s worried look made me decide to advocate for him.

Since I last wrote in my blog, I have taken on the role of foster coordinator for the rescue that I work for, which is also a New Hope Partner with the NYC shelter system.  That means that we can put in requests to pull dogs and get them into foster homes.  When I asked last Monday  about helping Jackson, I was reminded that, as a small rescue, we currently have 2 higher cost medical cases in the rescue, along with a dog that has significant dog aggression issues who is going to a three month training program to help him.  I admire our director for giving this dog aggressive dog a chance, because one of her personal dogs was very badly injured by him.  She was able to look past her personal feelings and decide that this dog aggressive dog had never been given a chance, so this three month training will be that chance for him.  Anyhow, I was asked to wait until they got an estimate on Wednesday for one of the two medical cases.  I agreed to this.  On Tuesday, however, I called our regular vet to get an estimate on what it would cost to get Jackson’s cherry eye fixed.  The estimate, which was between $260-$300 (which included the surgery itself, the anaesthesia, and post-op meds), I passed along to our rescue.  I was told thank you, but we still needed to wait on Wednesday’s estimate for the dog already in rescue.  Again, I understood.

On Wednesday, at the end of my work day, I received a call from my father asking me to come home.  My mom had been hospitalized since Monday night, and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was going on.  On Tuesday, I had asked if I should come home and my father had said no.  On Wednesday, she started getting much, much worse instead of better, and I got the call to come home.  So, I started the 9 hour drive to Canada, stopping overnight in lower Maine to rest, not sure what I would find when I got here.  The good news is, Mom improved and yesterday she came home from the hospital.  For that, I am overjoyed and grateful.

But the same day she came home is the day that Jackson died.

I had been trying as much as I could to follow up with Jackson without pushing too hard and so becoming an annoyance to my director.  I waited a couple of days after Wednesday to inquire with one of our other volunteers  about whether or not the estimate for the other medical case had come in.  I was told they did not know for sure, but the first medical case (a dachshund)  had just cost us over $1,000 (an inguinal hernia repair during spay surgery).  Our adoption fee is $350.  On Sunday night, I sent our director Jackson’s picture again during a facebook chat.  A shot in the dark, with no words attached, but the thought was: “Here he is again…I have not forgotten about him, please do not forget about him, either, just because I am not home to advocate for him as hard as I normally would be.”

Yesterday, I found out that Jackson was on that day’s  euthanization list.  It’s actually called the “TBD” list, short for the “To Be Destroyed List.” What a callous, but accurate way of saying it.  I shared him on my Facebook page, desperately asking people to share him and if anyone in the wider rescue community, or outside of the rescue I work with, could help him.  I got 4 shares.  And sympathy.  And nobody could help.

I sent a group message to my rescue begging for them to help with Jackson. Ultimately, it is up to the director to pull a dog, but I got radio silence from my two co-volunteers. I felt very alone.

I sent a private message to our director, asking her if, when she saw the message, he was still alive, if we could pull him.  We had an open pit friendly foster who was begging for a new dog.  This NEVER happens.  The behavioral  testing, known as a SAFER, had been done at the shelter and Jackson was solid.  Our director works full time at a job that makes it very difficult to get messages during the day.  As soon as  she got home, she let me know she saw the message.  By that stage, Jackson’s status was listed as “Unknown,” which means that volunteers within  the Facebook community known as “Urgent Part II – Death Row Dogs” were scrambling to find out if he was still alive or not.  Usually, if a dog makes “the list” for the first time and is solid  behaviorally, he may be given a day’s reprieve.

I checked again.  Status unknown.

I checked again.  Status unknown.

I checked again.  Status unknown.

I checked again.  Gone.

With those four letters, my gut dropped to my knees;  my throat closed up.  I stared.  GONE.

I let my director know.  She said she was sorry and she had been inquiring about him for me.

I let the folks who had shared Jackson know.  I got two sad faces, one “OMG,” and one rant about the inhumane treatment of animals in this world.

I disconnected my facebook account.

There are five ratings that a dog can get during behavioral testing at the shelter: Beginner, Average, Experience, Experience No Child, and New Hope Only.  The testing goes through a “look” (head cupped loosely in assessor’s hands while looking at the dog), sensitivity (dog is petted), paw squeeze, tag/play response, food, toy, rawhide testing, and interaction with a strange dog test.  The best a dog can get is a 1, the worst is a 5.  Almost no dog gets a beginner (which would require all ones).  Jackson got Average, which is as good as it gets pretty much.  He got 1’s on everything except the look (a 2 for pulling his head gently out of the assessor’s hands, and a 2 for food, because he was hungry so it took a bit of pressure to lift his head from the bowl, but he showed no aggression).

So this gentle dog, who had hurt nobody, who had no aggression in him, who could have gone to any home, was leashed up yesterday afternoon and taken to the kill room.

Recently we had to put down our foster dog H due to serious human aggression issues.  She bit, and she bit to hurt, after 18 months of working with her.  It wasn’t her fault.  She was damaged during the first 9 months of her life by people who kept her locked in a cage and hurt her.  Putting her down was the most difficult thing I have done in my life, and I have done some hard things.  But despite her aggression, she knew love.  And when she died, it was in our back yard.  She was given a shot to make her sleepy (and treats to help with that little ouch).  My husband laid down next to her and petted her and told her how loved she was, and looked her in the eyes and was calm as she became sleepy from the drugs. When the second shot was given, it was quick, and she was gone.  And still it was awful.  And I hated it, even though I knew it was the right thing to do after so much work, after so many bites, after her confusion and withdrawal after each bite happened.

Jackson died in a room where thousands of dogs have died before.  He didn’t get to listen to the sound of the wind in the trees.  He wasn’t stroked and petted by someone who knew and loved him.  Maybe they give them a sedative there, but I doubt it.  When you only have so much time and so many to kill, and a sedative can take 15-20 minutes to work, I imagine it is skipped so things are  done as quickly as possible.  Did the person who put him down talk to him gently, and give him love in his final moments?  Or did they just have a job to do and he left this world confused and scared, with that worried look on his face?

 

GONE.

IMG_11837704862040

 

GONE.

GONE.

I am angry.  And bitter.  And heartbroken.  The medical issue dog that we were waiting on a quote for was pulled from the same shelter, and has the same issue: double cherry eye; but she is a highly adoptable English Bulldog mix.  So no inquiries were made into the cost of how much it would take to repair her cherry eye and get her spayed.  We got her, and the rescue  folks were thrilled to get her.  She was met off transport with squeals and a photo shoot and shown off on our Facebook page.  She has a ton of people waiting in line to adopt her.

And because she was pulled, I had to wait.  Wait to see how much she would cost us, so that we could see if we could afford the less adoptable dog, from the same shelter, with the same condition (although less costly, because he had single cherry eye).  If we had pulled him when I first asked, before he got sick with kennel cough, he would have come to us neutered, and vaccinated and microchipped, so that wouldn’t have cost us a dime, either.  We would likely have just about broken even on him when it came to cost, and cost seemed to be the deciding factor with Jackson and our rescue.  I understand.  I really do.  We are a small rescue and a few big medical bills could break us.

But I was asked to wait.  For a quote that I don’t know ever came.  For a dog that wouldn’t have cost us a third of this glorious cherry eyed English bulldog mix.

And I didn’t push hard enough.

And when I did, it was too late.

There are lots of places I could put my anger.  Many people involved with rescuing dogs from the New York City Shelter system place it with the people who put down the dogs.  They call them murderers.  They call for vengeance upon them.  They call them sick, twisted bastards who get pleasure in killing living things.  They hope they rot in hell.

Maybe there are a few sick, twisted bastards there.  I hope they were not the ones that put down Jackson yesterday.

Instead, here’s where my anger goes:

It goes to the people that don’t spay and neuter their dogs.  It goes to the people that want the experience of having a litter, or want their dog to be a stud, or who want to make a few bucks by breeding, or who just don’t care and let their dogs roam and do what dogs do.

It goes to every single person that hears someone talk about wanting a puppy from a backyard breeder, or who wants their dog to have the experience of having a litter, and keeps their mouth shut.

It goes to every person involved in rescue who doesn’t splatter the world with info about low cost spay and neuter clinics.

It goes to the fear machine that surrounds pit bulls and makes them into demon dogs that should be wiped off the face of the earth.

It goes to the New York Housing authority, and all the private landlords who have blanket policies saying “no pit bulls,” so when folks end up in a desperate situation with no options, they dump their dogs in the shelter, not realizing they have just given their pit bull a death sentence.

It goes to the insurance industry, who makes it so hard for responsible and caring dog people to own a pit bull.  I can’t tell you how many people have wanted to foster or adopt a pit bull from our rescue only to find out that they would have to lose their current home insurance to be able to do so.  That’s a big process to go through for a dog, especially when you can just get a lab with no hassle.

It goes to the people who get a dog for kicks, because it’s cute, as a puppy, and then it gets big and what was cute as a puppy isn’t cute in a 60lb dog, and so they dump it in the shelter.

It goes to the people that think that dogs can be perfect without work, and then are surprised when a dog guards the food bowl or knocks over their 10 year old and makes them cry.

It goes to the people that let their children crawl on, ride, poke, pull, and twist their dogs’ fur  and then the dog is the monster when it growls or bites their child.

It goes to the people that have a baby and then just don’t have time.

And of course, it goes to any person who intentionally has hurt a dog in any way, for any reason.  But that is a whole post in and of itself.

If you ever, EVER want to show someone why we need to change the culture surrounding pit bulls, send them here: Urgent Part II – Death Row Dogs – Gone But Not Forgotten 38.  [Side Note: This is “Gone But Not Forgotten” 38.  There are 37 other albums full to the brim of “gone” dogs].  As of this posting, the photo album “Gone But Not Forgotten 38”  lists the dogs killed in the New York City Shelter System from 08/23/2014 to 09/08/2014.  That’s 16 days. In sixteen days they have euthanized 65 dogs.  Of those 65 dogs, FIFTY-FIVE were pit bulls.  There were also 2 senior cane corsos, one senior Rottweiler, one senior lab, one boxer, one lab/chow chow mix, one German Shepherd, one senior toy poodle (euthanized for severe medical issues), and 2 Lhasa apsos (one put down due to severe aggression, the other due to a mammary mass that was ulcerated).  But let’s just look at that number again.  Out of 65 dogs killed in the past 16 days, FIFTY-FIVE WERE  PIT BULLS.

Now let’s look at how they ended up in the NYC shelter system in the first place:

– 36  of these “gone” dogs came in a strays.  While some are legitimately strays, most are dropped off by owners calling them strays because of shame, embarrassment, or worries about legal prosecution due to the condition the animals are arriving in.

– 2 of these “gone” dogs were so sick they were put down on intake.

– 12 of these “gone” dogs are owner surrenders because people were moving to housing that didn’t allow dogs (many would be  New York Housing Authority), or their private landlords told them they could no longer keep these dogs.

– The rest were owner surrenders due to personal problems (5), home size (1), owner died (1), owner sick (1), owner has no time (1), aggression toward other pets in home  (2, neither dog showed aggression during dog testing), dog bites people (2 – 1 did indeed bite people, the other showed no aggression during behavioral testing), and owner arrest (2).

Jackson was one of the two dogs whose owner was arrested.  I will not judge his owner, because I don’t know what their  story is or how they  ended in jail, and the dog they had to leave behind was a very nice dog.  Our own dog, Moto, was from the same shelter and ended up there because his owner was arrested; although we had to work on socializing him with other dogs, he was one of the only dogs that we have worked with who did not show signs of having been beaten, hit, or kicked.

Now, I don’t want to push aside the fact that many of these dogs that were put down were unadoptable.  I know this is a contentious word to those involved in rescue, and I used to be one of you.  But after having lived and worked for 18 months with a dog who resource guarded, and also had dissociative biting episodes, after having worked with 2 different trainers who specialized in aggression issues and sending her for an extended stay at a facility that prides itself on working with aggressive dogs, and following all their recommendations, and still having to live daily with the fact that that day might be the day my husband or I got bitten, I would never ask anyone else to do so and I have concluded that some dogs are so broken that we cannot safely fix them.  So, of the 65 dogs that died in 16 days, 19 bit or warned they would bite during assessment (most just bit).  By the time these dogs entered the shelter, it was too late for them.

Most of the rest of the dogs that were killed were labeled “experienced,” which I think scares off most people.  It makes them sound like problem dogs, but really, they aren’t.  These are dogs that are either hyper and need an active family and work on manners (like our dog Gilligan when he first came to us) or who are stiff, nervous, or plain terrified (like our dog Willow was when she first came to us).  With both Willow and Gilligan, we has ZERO “experience” with these kinds of dogs.  So we got trainers to help us and put in the time, just like anyone else with zero experience could.  Today, neither Willow nor Gilligan  are perfect, but both are good, solid dogs.  Willow is an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen and a registered therapy dog, and Gilligan is working on getting ready for his CGC testing.  My point is, “experience” rated dogs can be awesome dogs and you don’t need to be experienced to help them; you just need a trainer to help you help them be their best.

And then there are the “average” dogs like Jackson.  Of all the 65 dogs that died in the last 16 days at the NYC shelter system, 12 earned that wonderful rating.  And every.  Single.  One.  Was a pit bull.  The lab didn’t get it.  The shepherd didn’t get it.  The Lhasa apso didn’t get it.  But 12 pit bulls were rated average dogs, which means they had no issues and could go to a home without experienced owners.

Since I did my research last night, Urgent Part II’s Facebook page (which is not affiliated with the NYC shelter system but advocates for the dogs there and tracks each dog that enters the system) added 5 more dogs that were killed yesterday.  Thirteen dogs were put down yesterday in NYC; all but 1 was a pit.  Of those 13 dogs, 7 were rated average.  Seven dogs that have no business being dead.  Gone.  Because of overcrowding, overbreeding, mistreatment, and breed discriminatory practices.

At some point, I will write a post about what we can do to fight these needless deaths.  But this post is to grieve.  And to remember.  Not just Jackson, but the other 7 average rated dogs that died yesterday.

So, here are all seven “average” dogs who died yesterday, September 8th, 2014:

HAZEL.  4 years old.  Stray. A volunteer who met her said: "Hazel appeared so out of place when she arrived at the care center. A perfectly groomed, healthy looking gal who seemed to come right from her family home but nevertheless..a stray. She was anxious, showed wary eyes, cried a lot and came often for comfort onto my lap while we were in a pen together. Hazel now feels better after a few days spent with us. She comes when called, slightly wiggling her body and wagging her tail. She settles very close to me as I sit on the ground and even lays across my lap for bonding time. Hazel is quite a pretty girl dressed in a lovely light brindle coat, completed with white socks and gloves. She does not want my treats and prefers caresses and sweet words. She has very long nails and might have been kept indoors but it seems that she is used to people and welcomes other volunteers or staff coming to say hello. Hazel pulls only very slightly on the leash and eliminates as soon as we leave the building for a walk around the block. Hazel is a manicured four year old lady we have at the Manhattan Care Center. She seems very much like a family dog who shows shyness with us but will most certainly bloom in loving hands. Come and meet her soon. She might be the one, your new forever best friend."

HAZEL. 4 years old. Stray.
A volunteer who met her said: “Hazel appeared so out of place when she arrived at the care center. A perfectly groomed, healthy looking gal who seemed to come right from her family home but nevertheless..a stray. She was anxious, showed wary eyes, cried a lot and came often for comfort onto my lap while we were in a pen together. Hazel now feels better after a few days spent with us. She comes when called, slightly wiggling her body and wagging her tail. She settles very close to me as I sit on the ground and even lays across my lap for bonding time. Hazel is quite a pretty girl dressed in a lovely light brindle coat, completed with white socks and gloves. She does not want my treats and prefers caresses and sweet words. She has very long nails and might have been kept indoors but it seems that she is used to people and welcomes other volunteers or staff coming to say hello. Hazel pulls only very slightly on the leash and eliminates as soon as we leave the building for a walk around the block. Hazel is a manicured four year old lady we have at the Manhattan Care Center. She seems very much like a family dog who shows shyness with us but will most certainly bloom in loving hands. Come and meet her soon. She might be the one, your new forever best friend.”

 

Kim.  1 year old.  Stray. Her behavioral evaluation says: "Kim pulls on the leash and was sociable toward the handler during the assessment - soft body. She was excited during some of the handling items, but had soft body language. She engages in play, loose body, wags tail, mouth is open. Kim showed minimal interest in food, toys and rawhides and was relaxed when approaching the helper dog, but was not playful. Look: 2. Dog pulls out of Assessor's hands each time without settling during three repetitions. Sensitivity: 1. Dog leans into the Assessor, eyes soft, soft and loose body, open mouth. Tag: 1. Dog assumes play position and joins the game. Squeeze 1 & 2: 2. Dog quickly pulls back. Food: 1. Minimal interest in food, dog may smell or lick, then turn away. Toy: 1. Minimal interest in toy, dog may smell or lick, then turns away. Rawhide: 1. Minimal interest in rawhide, dog may smell or lick, then turns away. Dog-dog: 2. Dog approaches helper dog with tail at spine level, body not stiff, ears relaxed."

KIM. 1 year old. Stray.
Kim never had a chance for a volunteer to meet with and write about her, but her behavioral evaluation states: “Kim pulls on the leash and was sociable toward the handler during the assessment – soft body. She was excited during some of the handling items, but had soft body language. She engages in play, loose body, wags tail, mouth is open. Kim showed minimal interest in food, toys and rawhides and was relaxed when approaching the helper dog, but was not playful. Look: 2. Dog pulls out of Assessor’s hands each time without settling during three repetitions. Sensitivity: 1. Dog leans into the Assessor, eyes soft, soft and loose body, open mouth. Tag: 1. Dog assumes play position and joins the game. Squeeze 1 & 2: 2. Dog quickly pulls back. Food: 1. Minimal interest in food, dog may smell or lick, then turn away. Toy: 1. Minimal interest in toy, dog may smell or lick, then turns away. Rawhide: 1. Minimal interest in rawhide, dog may smell or lick, then turns away. Dog-dog: 2. Dog approaches helper dog with tail at spine level, body not stiff, ears relaxed.”

JAQUES.  3 years old.  Stray. A volunteer who met Jaques wrote: "Stunningly compact in his glossy black coat and white knee socks, Jacques is a pint size delight! Friendly, affectionate, easy to be with, he's playful in a low key gentle way. Likely housetrained he took care of his business as soon as we were out the door, and then off leash in a backyard pen found a tennis ball and was happy to settle down for a good chomp. He doesn't tear it, he simply chews on it  When offered a treat he drops the ball, eats the treat, and then grabs the ball again, back on the bench for more chomping. And, repeat. And, repeat! When I called his name, or sat next to him on the bench his tail started to wag, so happy for the contact and companionship. He poses for photos like a super model, his adorable ears at attention framing his handsome face. His eyes are lively and affectionate and meet mine easily. Jacques aced his behavior assessment indicating he'll be a good fit in just about any home. Certainly his compact size will be happy to curl up in any area of your home including your lap! Give him a toy or ball to chomp on and he's a happy doggie! Jacques playfully loving manner will warm your heart and he's hoping that you're on your way to meet him. Be sure to ask for Jacques when you visit."

JAQUES. 3 years old. Stray.
A volunteer who met him wrote: “Stunningly compact in his glossy black coat and white knee socks, Jacques is a pint size delight! Friendly, affectionate, easy to be with, he’s playful in a low key gentle way. Likely housetrained he took care of his business as soon as we were out the door, and then off leash in a backyard pen found a tennis ball and was happy to settle down for a good chomp. He doesn’t tear it, he simply chews on it When offered a treat he drops the ball, eats the treat, and then grabs the ball again, back on the bench for more chomping. And, repeat. And, repeat! When I called his name, or sat next to him on the bench his tail started to wag, so happy for the contact and companionship. He poses for photos like a super model, his adorable ears at attention framing his handsome face. His eyes are lively and affectionate and meet mine easily. Jacques aced his behavior assessment indicating he’ll be a good fit in just about any home. Certainly his compact size will be happy to curl up in any area of your home including your lap! Give him a toy or ball to chomp on and he’s a happy doggie! Jacques playfully loving manner will warm your heart and he’s hoping that you’re on your way to meet him. Be sure to ask for Jacques when you visit.”

NEO.  1 year old.  Stray. A volunteer who met her wrote: "All wiggly in her kennel at the prospect of going out, Neo's face lights up into a big smile as I leash her. Likely housetrained she goes potty as soon as we're out the door and then shows off good leash manners as we walk to the park. She pulls slightly from time to time, but is responsive and easily manageable. She's a little butterball, well wearing a deep, deep brown coat that is clean and well groomed. With a happy, sweet energy Neo wants to meet everyone she sees; to her a stranger is just someone who isn't a friend yet, and she's going to change that! She feels the same way about other dogs, wagging her tail in easy friendship hoping for a play date. She loves treats and will sit for them when asked, and nibbles them down gently. Off leash in the backyard, she lays down at my feet while I take some notes, then hops up on the bench for some hugs. A good game of fetch is next and she'll bring it back for another throw. I can take the ball right out of her mouth and she looks up expectantly waiting for the next throw. Neo is a little munchkin - an absolute delight who's ready to find a new home in which love, snuggles, treats and nice walks are on the daily agenda."

NEO. 1 year old. Stray.
A volunteer who met her tells us: “All wiggly in her kennel at the prospect of going out, Neo’s face lights up into a big smile as I leash her. Likely housetrained she goes potty as soon as we’re out the door and then shows off good leash manners as we walk to the park. She pulls slightly from time to time, but is responsive and easily manageable. She’s a little butterball, well wearing a deep, deep brown coat that is clean and well groomed. With a happy, sweet energy Neo wants to meet everyone she sees; to her a stranger is just someone who isn’t a friend yet, and she’s going to change that! She feels the same way about other dogs, wagging her tail in easy friendship hoping for a play date. She loves treats and will sit for them when asked, and nibbles them down gently. Off leash in the backyard, she lays down at my feet while I take some notes, then hops up on the bench for some hugs. A good game of fetch is next and she’ll bring it back for another throw. I can take the ball right out of her mouth and she looks up expectantly waiting for the next throw. Neo is a little munchkin – an absolute delight who’s ready to find a new home in which love, snuggles, treats and nice walks are on the daily agenda.”

REINA.  9 months old.  Owner surrender, personal problems. A volunteer wrote about her that: "She is a VERY NICE DOG!!! Reina went from a very shy damsel to a very popular girl as soon as she settled in the adoption quarters. I see her now often in the street, sometimes walked by two people at the same time…. Her owners who relinquished her because of "personal problems" disclose that she is "too friendly" …walks well, does not bark or destroy things and loves cats, birds and small critters with whom she lived. She would be house trained and lived with children. All together, a dream girl, a wonderful family dog who is still just a puppy at 9 months of age. Reina is unusual looking with her very long body wrapped in a well groomed caramel and latte coat. Her muzzle is also quite spun out with a silly underbite. Reina was quite scared upon arrival but she fell back quickly on her feet. She is great on the leash, heeling and sitting on command. She does not chase birds and respects other dogs, even the little ones. She welcomes people coming to say hello. She poses nicely for the photo session. She is a wonderful cuddler, spreading herself lavishly on my lap for caresses. And I forgot to say, she gives paw and appears to be house trained. Reina is a lovely puppy, a girly girl with good manners and a tender heart. I know (well her behavioral evaluation at the care center is top notch) that she will make an amazing forever best friend and family dog. Just come and meet her and fall in love…Reina is at the Manhattan Care Center."

REINA. 9 months old. Owner surrender, personal problems.
A volunteer wrote about her that: “She is a VERY NICE DOG!!! Reina went from a very shy damsel to a very popular girl as soon as she settled in the adoption quarters. I see her now often in the street, sometimes walked by two people at the same time…. Her owners who relinquished her because of “personal problems” disclose that she is “too friendly” …walks well, does not bark or destroy things and loves cats, birds and small critters with whom she lived. She would be house trained and lived with children. All together, a dream girl, a wonderful family dog who is still just a puppy at 9 months of age. Reina is unusual looking with her very long body wrapped in a well groomed caramel and latte coat. Her muzzle is also quite spun out with a silly underbite. Reina was quite scared upon arrival but she fell back quickly on her feet. She is great on the leash, heeling and sitting on command. She does not chase birds and respects other dogs, even the little ones. She welcomes people coming to say hello. She poses nicely for the photo session. She is a wonderful cuddler, spreading herself lavishly on my lap for caresses. And I forgot to say, she gives paw and appears to be house trained. Reina is a lovely puppy, a girly girl with good manners and a tender heart. I know (well her behavioral evaluation at the care center is top notch) that she will make an amazing forever best friend and family dog. Just come and meet her and fall in love…Reina is at the Manhattan Care Center.”

DIAMON.  3 years old.  Stray. A volunteer who met her wrote: "They say diamonds are a girl's best friend but poor Diamon is currently missing a BFF of her own and she'd love to consider you for this prestigious position! Qualified candidates should be fluent in the language of love, eager to expand their horizons with long, comfortably-paced walks through the park and keen to spend time with a well-behaved, soft and affectionate dog who demands very little from her human companions beyond a soft hand and a tasty treat or two. Diamon herself seems to be already house trained, she knows how to sit on command, likes to be near her people but isn't one of those micro-managing clingy types and is certainly no slouch in the looks department either! She aced her behavior assessment with great scores across the board but doggie socializing isn't her strong suit and Diamon quickly becomes very upset when other dogs show any kind of 'attitude'. Her ideal family would be one with only the most relaxed, docile and preferably small canine siblings with slow introductions being a must-have. Do you meet BFF requirements and have a big heart, a happy home and a lifetime of love to offer? Then Diamon would love to hear from you - please apply care of AC&C today and tomorrow you could be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime!"

DIAMON. 3 years old. Stray.
A volunteer who met her shared that: “They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend but poor Diamon is currently missing a BFF of her own and she’d love to consider you for this prestigious position! Qualified candidates should be fluent in the language of love, eager to expand their horizons with long, comfortably-paced walks through the park and keen to spend time with a well-behaved, soft and affectionate dog who demands very little from her human companions beyond a soft hand and a tasty treat or two. Diamon herself seems to be already house trained, she knows how to sit on command, likes to be near her people but isn’t one of those micro-managing clingy types and is certainly no slouch in the looks department either! She aced her behavior assessment with great scores across the board but doggie socializing isn’t her strong suit and Diamon quickly becomes very upset when other dogs show any kind of ‘attitude’. Her ideal family would be one with only the most relaxed, docile and preferably small canine siblings with slow introductions being a must-have. Do you meet BFF requirements and have a big heart, a happy home and a lifetime of love to offer? Then Diamon would love to hear from you – please apply care of AC&C today and tomorrow you could be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime!”

And, finally….

JACKSON.  2 years old.  Owner surrender; owner arrested. A volunteer wrote of this beautiful boy; "It was love at first sight with Jackson.....this gentle boy in his cocoa color coat, wagging his tail softly when I unlatched his door. His expression is soft, his demeanor is easy, and although he is in a situation he doesn't understand is doing what he can to adjust. Joining us when his person ran into some difficulties, Jackson is quiet in his kennel, but thrilled to make new friends. He peed for so long when we went outside I was waiting for him to topple over with exhaustion! His coat is clean and groomed, and the only thing marring his perfection is a cherry eye which can and should be fixed. It's a common surgery. Jackson donned a bow tie for his photo shoot and looks incredibly dapper. Sitting when asked, he takes treats gently, and every time he saw my hand near my bag he sat again! Smart boy! As other dogs approached our pen he greeted them with an easy wave of his tail. Gently in my lap for some hugs and kisses, Jackson stole my heart. He raises his head like a cat for an under the head scratch, wagging his tail gently with the pleasure of it all. He's an awesome dog waiting for his new home and some lucky person will gain a best friend for life."

JACKSON. 2 years old. Owner surrender, owner arrested.
A volunteer wrote of this beautiful boy:  “It was love at first sight with Jackson…..this gentle boy in his cocoa color coat, wagging his tail softly when I unlatched his door. His expression is soft, his demeanor is easy, and although he is in a situation he doesn’t understand is doing what he can to adjust. Joining us when his person ran into some difficulties, Jackson is quiet in his kennel, but thrilled to make new friends. He peed for so long when we went outside I was waiting for him to topple over with exhaustion! His coat is clean and groomed, and the only thing marring his perfection is a cherry eye which can and should be fixed. It’s a common surgery. Jackson donned a bow tie for his photo shoot and looks incredibly dapper. Sitting when asked, he takes treats gently, and every time he saw my hand near my bag he sat again! Smart boy! As other dogs approached our pen he greeted them with an easy wave of his tail. Gently in my lap for some hugs and kisses, Jackson stole my heart. He raises his head like a cat for an under the head scratch, wagging his tail gently with the pleasure of it all. He’s an awesome dog waiting for his new home and some lucky person will gain a best friend for life.”

These are yesterday’s “average” dogs who are now gone. Tonight, more will be added to the list. And tomorrow, still more.

What can you do to break the cycle, now, today, in your life?

Comments are encouraged and appreciated.

– Pit Bull Foster Momma

Taxi

I had sworn we were going to take a break from fostering.

Then, on December 11th, we got a call from the rescue.  We had been following a dog who was in a local shelter (a different one from the one we normally work with).  His name was Taxi, and he was one of those dogs who had no interest until right before his kill date, and then he went viral.  The ACO was getting calls from Florida and Maine saying that they wanted to take him.  Unfortunately, when dogs like this go viral they can also attract the wrong kind of person, and there was absolutely no way for the ACO to vet all the applications she was receiving.  So, she opted to go with a rescue.  But her own dog was very badly sick and there was no way to do a meet and greet until late the night before Taxi would be put to sleep.  The rescue came up with a foster, but the meet and greet with Taxi and their two dogs did not go well.  He is over a year old and probably had never mated, so all he wanted to do was mount anything that moved.  Their dogs weren’t very tolerant.  Meet and greet fail.

The call we got was not to ask us to foster.  But the adoption coordinator was very stressed out.  And we had a newly empty kennel area in our basement now that Herbie was adopted out.  So, we found ourselves driving an hour and a half at 9:30pm to go pick up a (Taxi)cab.

This is Taxi:

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Taxi’s story, like so many of these dogs’, is sad and predictable.  The ACO got a call about a stray dog.  She went to investigate and try to catch him.  People in the neighborhood tried to help her by calling them into their homes, but he wouldn’t come.  They told her that the person who called Taxi in as a stray was actually his owner.  When she went to their front door to talk to them about the call, he ran right into their house.  But she couldn’t force them to keep him, and they kept lying anyway.  If she had refused to take him, they would have just driven the next town over and dumped him there.  So that’s how Taxi ended up in a shelter.

And I know exactly why he did.  Taxi is a big guy.  He’s almost 70lbs of solid muscle.  He is the biggest dog we’ve ever fostered, and he is the only dog who is strong enough that I have to brace myself when I’m handling him.  Stairs are kind of terrifying to tackle when he is on leash.  Taxi also has a TON of energy.  Before we got him neutered, most of that energy went into marking things outdoors, throwing himself at you to say hi, sniffing out our other dogs’ pee spots and shoving his nose in them, then chattering his jaws like some kind of pee-addict, and mounting things, especially other dogs.  He has no understanding of how other dogs communicate.  We have introduced him to two of our dogs, Willow and Moto.  Besides trying to mount, he gets into other dogs’s faces way too fast and tries to play way too hard.  It’s not that he’s trying to start something.  He just wants to play.  But he just doesn’t get it when other dogs try to say, “Okay, I’m done now.  Please give me some space.”  So we’ve had to keep interactions (until recently) short and sweet and heavily supervised.  Taxi is just as enthusiastic with people.  He just wants to give kisses.  And get belly rubs.  But he doesn’t understand that jumping in your face and banging you with his teeth as he swipes you with his tongue just isn’t cool.  Finally, Taxi has no sense of his body in relation to the space around him.  When he is happy to see you, everything else in the room vanishes.  Which means if he crashes into the water bowl on his way over to say hi, he doesn’t even notice as water goes flying everywhere.  The other day when I let him out of his kennel, he jumped up to say hi, then jumped down straight into the bucket that we are using to mop his kennel area out.  He didn’t care one bit.  He was just excited to see me.

Taxi, Chief Investigator of All Backyard Pee.  This was taken a couple of days after he came into rescue.

Taxi, Chief Investigator of All Backyard Pee. This was taken a couple of days after he came into rescue.

So after all this, you may be wondering WHY exactly I love Taxi so darn much.  Why my husband and I looked at him a couple of days after his arrival and said to each other: “If we didn’t have three other dogs, he would never be leaving our home.  We would adopt him in a heartbeat.”

Well, first of all, Taxi has nothing but love in his big old gallumping heart.  He wants everyone to know how much he loves them.  And how happy he is to know them.  And how great life in general is when he’s around anyone and everyone.  That’s status quo for Taxi.  He just needs to learn how to show it appropriately.  So we’ve been working on establishing boundaries (jumping = no petting) and rewarding positive behavior (staying on all fours = loving!).

Taxi is also highly motivated to learn.  Within less than 24 hours my husband had taught Taxi how to play dead.  He knows “sit” and we have been working on “stay” and “wait.”  Taxi has also gone from flailing around at the end of a leash like a fish fighting for its life to a decent loose leash walker.  He just needs minor leash and verbal corrections to remember when he gets excited.  I wish there was a way to upload videos here because I just took one the other day of him walking from the backyard to our front steps, and I was so freaking proud of him.  We’ve also been working on him learning to be patient when waiting for treats and toys, and to take them more gently:

Taxi learning how to take toys gently and wait for them patiently.

Taxi learning how to take toys gently and wait for them patiently.

When he’s calm, Taxi is a big teddy bear.  This is one of my favorite pictures of him:

Taxi curled up between my husband and I in his kennel.

Taxi curled up between my husband and me in his kennel.

There is nothing Taxi wants more in the world than to cuddle.  And he’s a submissive cuddler.  His favorite thing to do is to flop onto his back and beseechingly show you his belly.  “Belly rub?  Pretty please?”  And look at those soft eyes!  How could you even think about saying no???

For many reasons, we are not Taxi’s ideal foster home.  We tried to get him into a more appropriate long term foster, who could better meet his needs, but they took him for a few days and then bailed.  Because of Taxi’s energy level and lack of manners, he is not a good fit for our pack who, like us, are a bit burned out from all this fostering.  We didn’t want him crated all the time so we have him in a large kennel area in our basement.  He has lots of room, toys, a doggy bed, etc., but he doesn’t get enough attention and companionship for a dog that craves being around people.  I mentioned being burnt out…we had decided to take a break because we had adopted out Herbie and needed a breather after all the fostering we’d done over the last year and a half.  Then Taxi’s urgent situation arose and we couldn’t say no.  Well, Herbie got returned to us just before Christmas due to not getting along with the resident dog where she was adopted.  Two weeks after returning to live with us and doing amazingly well, she severely bit my husband, the person she loves and trusts most, when he was simply petting her.  We have made the devastating decision to put her down.  I will write about that in a different post.  The important thing is, we have decided to wait until the spring so that she can enjoy warm weather and make we can make some special memories with her.  The decision has put us into a weird place of grieving for a dog that we are still caring for.  And trying to meet the needs of our other three dogs, including Willow who does not like Herbie and therefore needs to be kept separate from her.  So, we rearranged the back bedroom of our home after Herbie was returned.  Herbie now has the back bedroom space; our two cats have my study, our bedroom, and the laundry room; Gilligan, Moto, and Willow, have the living room, dining room, and kitchen; and Taxi has the kennel run in the basement.  We are doing the best we can, but we are stretched pretty thin and have been some days where I have just been able to handle the basics: food, water, bathroom breaks, cleaning.  We have been fortunate to have a friend volunteer to give him regular walks so he is getting most of his exercise needs met.

I don’t regret taking Taxi for a single second.  He’s joy.  Plain and simple.  I feel guilty that we can’t give him everything he needs, but I try to alleviate that by reminding myself that we have given him a place to stay until he can truly start living again.  And that he needed the time with us to get healthy.

You see, when we got Taxi neutered we also got him his vaccinations and tested him for heart worm and lyme disease etc.  He came up negative for heartworm, but he was positive for lyme and anaplasma, another tick-borne disease.  Lyme doesn’t have the same effect on dogs as it does on people.  At most, it can cause symptoms in a very small percentage of dogs after treatment.  Most dogs live the rest of their lives without any after-effects.  But Taxi still needed to go on a month’s worth of antibiotics (which he just finished the other day) to make sure that both diseases were properly treated.

Taxi on his way home after his neuter.

Taxi on his way home after his neuter.

He also had a small lump on his back from the day we picked him up at the pound.  We waited a while to see if it would go away on its own.  It didn’t.  So we took him to the vet, who said that there was no way to know what it was without him getting it removed and biopsied.  The rescue gave the go-ahead, so on the 17th Taxi had his lump removed:

Taxi post surgery.  You can see his incision site, as well as the sticky residue left on his fur from the bandages he had to wear the first couple of days.

Taxi post surgery. You can see his incision site, as well as the sticky residue left on his fur from the bandages he had to wear the first couple of days.

We got the results back on the 22nd, while I was standing at the reception desk at the doctor’s office.  It was a non-cancerous (benign) growth.  They got all of it.  And it’s non-recurring so he shouldn’t have any more lumps or bumps.

I hadn’t realized I was as worried as I was until I had to fight back tears of relief in front of the receptionist.  It felt like this huge weight I didn’t know I was carrying was lifted off my shoulders.

Best news: Taxi has adopters.  Officially, now.  These folks had met Taxi a few weeks ago, but had lost their last dog to cancer and understandably wanted to know what they were getting into before committing to a new dog with a lump.  They are coming to pick Taxi up next weekend, after he gets his stitches out.  In the meantime, his mom-to-be has picked up as many tough chewing toys as she can: elk horns, kongs, bones, etc. (he’s an epic chewer).  They’re getting their house Taxi-ready.  They’re buying him a special harness that should help with their control on the walks.  They’ve been asking about how he’s doing nearly every day.  They’ve got 2 kids who Taxi was remarkably polite with, who aren’t the least bit intimidated by his enthusiasm or size.  They ran around the yard together playing tag for over an hour during the visit.  Dad can manage Taxi just fine on the walks, and Mom is building up her confidence.  They’ve already talked to 3 different trainers about how to work on Taxi’s manners, so they are being proactive.  I think it’s going to work.  It reminds me a bit of when people were waiting to take the puppies home, so I think all this prep work is a good sign.

So…yeah.  I guess it comes down to this: I ❤ Taxi.  🙂

– Pit Bull Foster Momma

Elderbull Adopted By Nuns

You know me…I love good news, especially when it comes to pit bulls!

I just saw this article online and wanted to share: Nuns Give Pit Bull New Home.  These Sisters of our Lady of Christian Doctrine chose to go to their local shelter to adopt a dog.  They ended up bringing home a 9 year old pit bull.  I love this story for a few reasons:

1) The nuns didn’t care about stereotypes one bit.  It’s not even a part of the conversation.  This is how they described Remi, who is a female blue pit: “[She was] very friendly right away, and she just seemed like she belonged.  She’s a senior, and we’re seniors, and she’s a gentle dog, and friendly.”  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we reached a point where that was how we all talked about pit bulls?  If we could let go of everything else and just focus in on the dog?  I love the example these ladies are setting in how they talk about their elderbull.

2) The nuns picked Remi because they wanted to save a life: “I purposely wanted a dog that nobody else wanted.  I wanted to bring a dog home that might get euthanized if we didn’t take her.  And when I noticed that the sign said ‘Nine Years’ I said ‘Virginia, we want this one,’ because nobody else is going to want her…the fact that she’s older, I felt that whatever time she has left, she’ll have good years [with us].”  These nuns could have chosen to go to a breeder.  They could have picked a young dog, or a little highly adoptable fluffy dog, but instead they chose the dog that needed them most.  They worked to help the “least of these” (Matt 25:40).

3) They chose to do something positive in the midst of grief.  In the video it states that just the week before, they had lost the dog that had lived with them for about 8 years.  When talking about it, the nun’s grief is obvious.  But mid-sentence as she says it was hard to find a successor, she points to the Remi, smiles and says, “We got a good one.”  Many people who lose a dog choose not to get another.  And I can’t really judge them for it.  Their pain and loss is real.  But I have to say that I think it’s pretty special that these nuns were able to make the decision after losing a life to save another one.  And Remi has been part of their healing process.  As one of the nuns said, “She has given a lot of joy to our house.”

Finally, I think it’s important to note that the news video states that the shelter from which Remi was adopted is at capacity.  That means that animals are at risk of being put to sleep.  Dogs like Remi are typically the ones that are particularly at risk: the dogs that have been there the longest, and are the least adoptable (due to breed, age, and size).  So, anyone out there living near Pomona, NY area?  Head on down to the shelter to meet your new best friend!  You can check out their website here: Hi Tor Animal Care Center.

It doesn’t have to be a pit bull.  Really.  Saving a life is saving a life.  But for all those who do choose to save a pit bull: thank you from the bottom of my heart.

– Pit Bull Foster Momma

“It’s All Under Control”

It sucks to start off the new year with a sad post.

But one of the biggest lessons I have been learning about this fostering stuff is that you realize just how little control you have over things.  You can do your absolute best, give your all, try and try and try, and sometimes things turn out beautifully.  And sometimes they don’t.  You realize how silly the phrase, “It’s All Under Control” really is.  We humans have very little control over this world and the things in it.

A couple of days ago a rescue friend of mine private messaged me on facebook with a link.  It connected me to a post from a different rescue, which is based in a neighboring state and is MUCH bigger than the one that I work with.  They are a really good rescue, taking on a lot of cases with dogs that need vetting and emergency care (i.e. the ones that most rescues can’t afford to take on).  Anyway, oddly enough they were specifically asking for help with a momma dog that was being fostered in our town.  She had been pulled from a VERY high kill shelter the night before, and six hours later went into labor.  It had been a last minute pull and the fosters hadn’t had time to prepare for her to give birth, so now they needed a kiddy pool ASAP.

December in our neighborhood is NOT the best time to get a kiddie pool (we’re in that part of the country that is currently getting hammered by a big winter storm).

As I was looking at the photo of the momma pit bull and her pups, I suddenly realized that she was a dog I had been sharing all week.  I had even told my husband, “If I wasn’t in the middle of the school year, working full time, I’d be trying to get this dog to our house to foster.”  And now, despite being from a shelter in a different state, she had ended up in our home town with a different foster.  Who needed something we had: a kiddy pool.

It was one of those good “not in control” moments.  It felt like it was meant to be–I had wanted to help this dog and couldn’t in the way I had originally intended.  Now I had a different way to help!  I posted a reply to the rescue page and within a few moments a representative had reached out to me and was connecting me with the foster.  Within an hour of that conversation we were on our way to the foster’s home with kiddy pool and accessories in tow!

Sadly, this foster had not had the beautiful experience that we had had with Chloe giving birth to her puppies.  We got Chloe on a Tuesday, on the day her stray hold expired (which at that particular shelter is also their kill date…yuck).  On Sunday night into Monday morning she gave birth to 9 puppies: 5 girls and 4 boys.  We had had 5 days to bond with her and let her settle in, and we were fortunate that despite the stresses of being in a shelter and having contracted kennel cough, all her puppies were born healthy.  Even the two who started out a little weak and had trouble latching on soon got the hang of things and thrived.

I say fortunate, but the truth is, I had prayed like crazy as soon as I realized we were going to be taking on a pregnant momma.  I think that every single momma dog that our rescue has taken on who has come out of a shelter and given birth has lost at least one puppy.  One dog, Allie, lost her entire litter because they all contracted kennel cough from her after being born.  It was heartbreaking.  She was distraught and inconsolable.  I didn’t want Chloe to have to go through that.  And I also knew that if anything happened to the puppies, especially being the first time that I had taken on a pregnant dog, I would not be able to handle it.  At all.  So I prayed, every single day, multiple times a day from as soon as we decided we were going to step up and take Chloe on, through pretty much every single day the puppies were with us.  And I still pray for them.

By the time we got involved with this foster, though, three puppies were already dead.  It had been a huge litter, 14 puppies total.  The dog (because she’s not affiliated with our rescue, I’m going to be extra careful about privacy concerns and just call her Miss M) had been surrendered to the shelter because of the owner’s arrest.  While I don’t want to judge, I am guessing that probably her life before entering the shelter hadn’t been the easiest.  Her owner was a male, and Miss M was noticeably nervous around males (growling and barking) while she accepted the foster mom and myself without hesitation.  Making a few connections between her behavior around males and her owner, I doubt she got good care before entering the shelter, and shelters create an enormous amount of stress for dogs.  Then she had had a long drive and arrived in a strange home with people she didn’t know as she was starting to go into labor.

Given the large litter size, her probable past neglect, and stress from the shelter, it isn’t surprising that three babies were born stillborn.  What had sent the foster mom over the edge, though, was that Miss M proceeded to eat two of her stillborn pups, and would have eaten the third if they hadn’t been really quick about it.  Then a fourth puppy was born who was sickly–not breathing well and having a small pink growth on the right side of her muzzle.  And Miss M took the baby by the snout and tried to kill it.  She likely would have succeeded, too, but the foster mother heard the baby shriek, and when she ran in to see what was happening Miss M let go of the baby to protect her other pups.  So the foster mother was able to snatch the puppy up and get her away.

Obviously, it’s upsetting enough to have stillborn puppies.  It’s pretty horrifying to have the momma try to eat two.  And then to have to intervene to prevent her from killing a live pup…I can’t even imagine.

Foster mom was a nervous wreck.  She couldn’t stop crying.  I would have been a wreck, too.

So then I had to explain that Miss M had actually been doing her best to be a good mom.

In the wild, a dog giving birth to stillborn pups is left with very few options:

1) Risk leaving the rest of her newborn pups (perhaps while she is still in labor) to remove the dead puppy and bury it somewhere close by.
2) Leave the dead puppies alone and risk scavengers and predators investigating the smell of fresh carrion and discovering the rest of the litter.
3) Get rid of the “evidence” by eating the dead puppies (as she does with the placentas and afterbirth) so that her live puppies can be safe.

While very few dogs in domestic settings engage in the third option, poor Miss M had just been through a very disorienting and upsetting few days, and hours before her puppies were born was introduced to a brand new environment.  She did not know if she or her puppies were safe.  So she chose option 3.

And then she had puppy number 4 arrive, gasping for breath and with a growth on her face.  While for us humans it is incomprehensible, I think Miss M, having just had 3 stillborn puppies, may have sensed that something was horribly wrong with this one, too, and tried to hasten her death so that she could focus on the live puppies.

Either way, it’s not something a foster expects or is in any way prepared for.

Oh, and did I mention that they were like my husband and I: it was their first time taking in a pregnant mother dog?  Yeah.  So there was that.

And then the puppy almost died anyway.  They had to give it CPR, and then realized she was probably on her way out.  The foster mom put her on her chest underneath her shirt so she would be warm and wouldn’t die feeling alone.  Every time I tell people that I choke up.

But then we had Miracle# 1: the puppy didn’t die.  I have heard stories about human babies who have been on death’s door, and their mothers, saying goodbye to them, have laid them on their chests and held them, and somehow that skin against skin, the regular breathing, the sound of the heartbeat of their mother, brings them back.  And that’s what happened to this little puppy.  They even got her to feed from a syringe with some formula (the bottle wasn’t working for her).

Then after my husband and I arrived, we had Miracle# 2: Miss M accepted the little girl back into her litter.  The foster dad brought down the puppy to show us, and Miss M became very interested in the little cloth wrapped bundle.  The foster dad let her sniff.  Her interest intensified.  He took the puppy out of the cloth and laid her on the mattress (yup…with no kiddy pool the birth had happened on a futon mattress, which is now in their garbage bin!) close to her other siblings.  Momma walk in, sniffed the baby, laid down, picked her up gently with her mouth to bring her closer, licked her, and then moved to let her nurse.

It was beautiful.

And then…Miracle# 3: the baby girl actually nursed.  The foster mom had been nervous about handling the puppies, because Miss M got very tense whenever anyone came near them.  She didn’t growl, but she became watchful and still.  I realized after a few minutes that even though the baby girl was nuzzling around her mom’s teats, she hadn’t figure out yet how to nurse.  I sat down next to Miss M and waited a while.  Then I braced myself and went for it.  I picked up the puppy.  She immediately went to lick her.  I held her so she had access to the baby’s genitals, and was relieved to see we had some urine.  Foster mom had been trying to encourage the little thing to pee with a warm washcloth, but hadn’t been successful and had been very worried.  After a successful potty, I moved Miss M’s back legs so the baby girl could have access to one of the really “good” hind teats (they usually have more milk than the ones up front).  It took a lot of work (holding the puppy and the nipple and encouraging her to latch on), but she finally figured things out and had a good long nurse.

Miss M was incredibly tolerant with me moving her legs and picking up puppies.  I encouraged the foster mom to help so she would get over her nervousness.  She helped keep the baby girl’s siblings from pushing her off her teat.  I told the foster, “I still don’t know if she’s going to make it.  There may be stuff going on internally that we don’t know about.  But now that her mom’s accepted her, and she’s able to nurse, and get that colostrum, she has a way, way better chance.”

We left behind the kiddy pool, some towels, a warming pad to put under the blankets, and some formula–just in case.  We also left some advice: mom was having greenish discharge from her vagina and although it didn’t smell, I was concerned.  I told the foster mom to let the rescue know about it and to keep taking her temperature.  I also let her know about the local emergency vet where we had taken Chloe.  It was New Year’s Eve and I wanted to make sure she had a good contact in case they needed more help than I could provide.  I also asked her to call, day or night, if she needed us.

The next morning Miss M spiked a temp of 103.9.  By the time they arrived at the vet, she was 105.  And the sickly puppy had gone downhill.

I won’t go into the details of their vet visit.  I’ll save that for another post.  I’ll just say this: the regular ER vet was not there and there was different staff from when we went with Chloe.  And I had to double check to make sure it was the same place.  The incompetence with which they handled a stressed out momma dog, and the lack of care shown for all the puppies, but especially the sickly one, has left me aghast and furious.

What they did do was rule out an unborn pup still in utero.  After a bunch of ridiculousness, Miss M was put on antibiotics and discharged from the ER.  When they got out of the car at home and Miss M jumped out, a retained placenta popped out onto the driveway.  Since then discharge is now healthy in color and Miss M is doing very well.

But last night I got a frantic text.  The puppy was not breathing well and Miss M was desperately trying to stimulate it by licking.  I quickly called my regular vet’s post-office-hours line to find out the next nearest ER vet.

It was a 40 minute drive.

The fosters told me they didn’t think she was going to make it.

I got in my car and began the drive across town to their house.

While I was sitting at a red light at the bottom of the hill, three minutes away according to my GPS, my phone rang.

I couldn’t understand a word the foster mom was saying, but I knew what had happened.

The puppy had died.

I told her I was so, so sorry, and I was only three minutes out, and would be right there.

She met me on her front porch.  She had a cigarette in her hand, which was shaking.  She asked her kids to close the front door and go upstairs.  I told her how sorry I was.  And she burst into tears.  The kind of tears where your whole body shakes, and you can’t get enough air.  I am a big girl, and this foster mom is so slight, that when I hugged her I felt like she might break, she was crying so hard.

I didn’t cry then, in that moment.  She had had to be strong for her kids, and now I needed to be strong for her.

But I am crying now.

Her husband came to the door.  He was still carrying the baby under his shirt, as if to keep her warm from the cold air.  He asked if I wanted to see her.  I did.

She was so tiny she fit in the palm of his hand.  The night before when I had held her she had been that tiny, but she had been warm, and full of life and movement.  Now when I stroked her fur, she was so still.  And she wasn’t warm anymore.  Her little mouth was still open, and I could see the tiny tongue that the night before had helped her latch on and nurse.  She had died gasping for breath.  The wife had tried to do what she had done before: hold her on her chest, keep her warm, hoping and hoping that it would work the same miracle it had the night before.

It didn’t.

The husband told me as he held the puppy out that he had given her CPR repeatedly, bringing her back three times.  She had fought as hard as she could to live.  And then she couldn’t anymore.  After I stroked her little belly with two of my fingers, her foster mom bent down and kissed her lightly on the head.

Then he put her back under his shirt, protectively.  After a brief chat, he went back inside.

I asked the foster mom if she had a name.  No.  The little puppy, who was fawn colored like a teddy bear, with some white patches and a black spot over her left eye, hadn’t lived long enough.  When they have time enough in the chaos, they will name her.  They were going bury her that night, before the snow came down too hard, and later they will be getting little round stone markers and put her name and name the stillborn boy they were able to take on those markers.

I said a lot of things to try to help the foster mom and dad.  And I did a lot of listening.

They did it all right.  From the moment she was born to the moment she died they did it all right.  They even let Miss M be a part of her death, letting her smell and lick her after she died, still trying to help the puppy she nearly killed 24 hours earlier.  When the husband let Miss M out for a pee break while I was there, she was calm and her tail was out horizontally, wagging.  She wasn’t looking for her puppy (like she had earlier in the day at the vet’s when they were separated).  They had given her the gift of certainty and closure.

I won’t write about everything I said now.  Right now they feel like empty words with little comfort, even though I meant everything I told them from the bottom of my heart.  I was there for an hour an a half, talking and listening while my toes slowly froze and the first snow started falling.

Then I drove home.  I hadn’t cried then, like I have now writing this.  I just felt heavy all over.  I told my husband and he cried.  I let a few tears fall while I hugged him but…I just felt heavy.  I’ve been through a few losses, including the death of my grandfather in the fall, and I’ve had enough to know that every one is different.

You can do your absolute best, give your all, try and try and try, and sometimes things turn out beautifully.  And sometimes they don’t.  You realize how silly the phrase, “It’s All Under Control” really is.  We humans have very little control over this world and the things in it.

– Pit Bull Foster Momma

Chloe & Puppies Update

Chloe and her 9 puppies generated a lot of interest on this blog.  Of course it’s in large part because puppies are cute; I’d also like to think that it’s because Chloe and the puppies have a great story.

Even though Chloe was only about 2 years old, our vets said after they examined her that it was evident that she had been used as a breeding machine before she ended up in the shelter, pregnant, days before she was to give birth.  She came to us on a Tuesday and the puppies were born that Sunday night into Monday morning.

The rescue we work with had committed to pulling her, and after some last minute craziness (with two other fosters backing out) she ended up at our house.  My husband and I had never been interested in the whole “puppy thing,” since we enjoy working with adult dogs.  So we had a lot to learn, and felt an awful lot of responsibility for these tiny 9 puppies and momma.  I was sort of afraid to even hold the puppies at first.  I thought they might break.  But I had to get over that quickly since puppy number 9 (eventually named Tink) struggled to nurse at first and needed assistance staying on her mother’s nipple to feed.

And then Chloe and pups ended up going to the emergency vet not once, but twice, over a 24 hour period.  First Chloe was diagnosed with eclampsia (a potentially life-threatening drop in calcium levels due to poor body condition and the demands of milk production) after having her muscles seize up, and developing a soaring temperature.  She was sent home after treatment, and then rushed back the next morning when her condition degenerated again and she could barely walk.  The vets finally figured out that she had mastitis, an infection in one of her teats.  Antibiotics, intravenous liquids, hot compresses, and 24 hours after that she was ready to come home.

After 2 months we were so excited when all nine puppies (with first vaccinations and dewormed) and Chloe (dewormed, fully vetted, and spayed) went to their forever homes.

But the best part is this: one of the adopters put together a closed facebook group where all the adopters could exchange photos, updates, and videos.  What ended up happening is that beyond sharing the fun stuff, it became a support group for all the adopters as they went through the typical puppy challenges like chewing, house training, crate training, leash manners, vet visits, and integrating new dogs with their existing dogs.  Adopters also compared notes: “How much does your puppy weigh right now?”  “Are your vets saying 70lbs fully grown too?”  “Has anyone else increased food to 3 cups per day?”  “Who else has started losing baby teeth?”  “How does your puppy like the snow?”  And there was a whole series of “crazy ears” photos as the puppies’ ears started standing up and flopping across their heads like they had Donald Trump combovers.

It’s also been neat reading posts where Chloe’s adopters see her in the puppies.  For example, one adopter posted a series of photos of how their puppy gets off the couch.  She stretches out her front legs, inches them off the front of the couch until they are supporting her weight, then slides off the couch as she walks forward with her hind legs dragging behind her until they hit the ground.  Chloe’s adopters immediately posted that this is what she does, too!

For the most part, my husband and I have only contributed our two cents infrequently as the adopters have stepped up, sharing advice that they had learned from past dogs as well as their current puppies.  All of the puppies’ adopters except for one have been regular contributors to the group, and it’s been heartening so see how encouraged each adopter has been after getting feedback from their peers.  It’s nice to know when your puppy develops severe diarrhea that there is a whole group of people rooting for you that she feels better soon…and who know what it feels like to clean puppy poop off the inside of a crate.

If there are any other fosters out there working with litters of puppies, I would highly recommend setting up Facebook groups like this one!  I honestly feel that there would be fewer returned puppies in the world if people did this consistently.

So here’s the latest on Chloe and her puppies:

Chloe: Chloe was adopted by a couple with a young daughter.  They had pit bull experience and had lost their previous dog of many years about 12 months before they found Chloe.  We knew it would be a good match when Chloe let the daughter “walk” her on leash around the back yard, stopping when the little girl stopped and waiting patiently for her to start walking again, not once pulling.  Chloe has settled in beautifully.  The trainer at the obedience class she attended and graduated from had nothing but praise for this sweet girl.  In October, we got to see Chloe again at a Pit Bull Awareness Day event, and she was a dog who had absolutely transformed.  Her coat, which had gone through something called a “blow out” due to all the hormonal changes in her body and was several different shades of blotchy blue, is now glossy and uniform in color.  Her eyes were now bright.  You’d have never known from looking at her physically that she had weaned 9 puppies just the month before.  The nicest part was that she remembered us, and I have some pretty special pictures of her and my husband being reunited.  The latest with Chloe: she decided the Christmas tree her adopters put up was the perfect back-scratcher.  They even got video.  I couldn’t stop laughing.

Tank (now BamBam): Tank is our one puppy whose adopters haven’t kept in touch directly.  He was adopted by an engaged couple with a young son.  The future husband ended up getting into a car accident days before the puppies were going home, so life has been a little rough for the family.  We are hoping that in the New Year we will start hearing from them.  However, the little that they did post showed that they were starting off strong: the wife-to-be took Tank to visit with some friends who have two very well socialized pitties the day after he came home.  There were some really sweet photos of him cuddling with them on the couch.

Sprocket: Sprocket was adopted by a married couple with an eleven-year old son.  They also have an adult female pit bull, who looks like she could be Sprocket’s mom.  She was a parvo puppy whom the couple adopted when she was still sick and nursed back to health (so we already know how cool these folks are!).  Friends of their family had adopted two puppies about 6 months ago and this adult pittie had already proven her mothering skills with those babies.  Sure enough, she has taken Sprocket underneath her wing, and the two are completely bonded.  The (human) mom is also a professional photographer and keeps posting the BEST photos of the two of them hanging out together.  Sprocket hasn’t gone to an obedience class yet, but his adopters are excellent trainers.  He was the first pup potty trained and has never even been crated.  They hope that when he is mature enough they can train him to be a therapy dog.

Nugget (now Ruckus):  Nugget was adopted by a wonderful couple who have two teenage kids.  She had tons of dog experience, having fostered 6 rottie/pit mix puppies for a local shelter and adopted one as her own, and he had written his senior thesis on the how pit bulls consistently prove wrong the negative stereotypes associated with them.  Their adult male dog is extremely tolerant of little Nugget, who is a bundle of energy.  They have posted adorable videos of them cuddling together (as well as videos of Nugget trying to chew on their feet).  Nugget has already taken his first obedience class and graduated.  He’s one of the biggest puppies, consistently weighing in about 5 pounds heavier than his siblings at vet checkups.  Already having a 100 lb dog, they’ve kindly requested that Nugget stop growing–although they’ll love him at whatever size he winds up!

Fogo (now Rocky):  I knew I loved the couple that had adopted Fogo when they told us his new name would be Rocky, after The Rock–because of his eyebrow (check it out in the photo at the bottom of the page).  I literally laughed out loud.  At first, though, we weren’t sure if the family would be a good fit, as they had 4 year old twins and an elderly small dog, with no breed experience.  But they quickly proved to us how committed they were, finding a local trainer before even taking Fogo home, educating themselves about pit bulls, breed stereotypes, and BSL, and quickly establishing boundaries with the excitable puppy and their twins and small dog as soon as he got home.  Fogo has already completed his first puppy class and the family has committed to raising him to be a breed ambassador.  We love them–and Fogo couldn’t have found a better home.

Aria and Halli (now Cali): These two siblings were another pair who ended up in a home where the family had recently lost a beloved dog.  The family, who have adult children, had owned a pit mix for many years who had finally passed away from old age.  Ready for a new puppy, they were torn between Aria and Halli, and it took them a couple of days after meeting the puppies to decide on Aria.  They told me, however, that if anything fell through with Halli…  Well, Halli was picked by a couple with a 4 year old and a 6 month old baby.  At 6 weeks of age we had the puppies behaviorally assessed by a trainer, and she confirmed what we had already known: Halli was a puppy that was naturally prone to shyness and timidity.  She had shown fear based behavior (cowering, tucking tail) when she heard loud noises, and also lost all her confidence when apart from her siblings.  After we contacted all the individual adopters with the trainer’s assessments, this couple had concerns because of Halli’s extreme nervousness and shyness.  I think they rightly assessed that their home, with two very young children, would be too much for a dog like Halli.  So we got in touch with Aria’s adopters, and they jumped at the chance to take Halli, too.  And what we hoped would happen, happened.  Aria is a very even keeled, confident, but low-key girl and has shown Halli how to have confidence in herself.  Halli has blossomed into an outgoing, self-possessed pup in her new home with her sister.  Halli and Aria will be starting obedience classes in the new year after they are spayed, but they have a jump start, already knowing “sit, wait, paw, down, come, and look.”  And they were recently featured in a local promotional flyer which discusses the importance of not chaining your dogs, and goes over new state anti-chaining laws.  Their picture shows the two pups happily cavorting in their fenced-in yard, off leash.  Five months old, and already advocates for pits (and other dogs!) who are not so fortunate!

Keji (now Kenzie): Keji was adopted by a couple about our age with a lovely little boy, and a grumpy old man dog who is some sort of pure bred small terrier dog (I have a horrible lack of knowledge concerning small dog breeds).  The couple had adopted a pit bull mix from the south several years ago, who died suddenly after developing a rare immune system disorder.  It was a devastating loss: she was literally fine one day and passed away the next.  When they arrived to meet the puppies, we could tell that the wife was keen and the husband wasn’t really into the idea of a puppy.  Then he picked up Keji, and I literally saw him fall in love in front of my eyes.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my entire life.  By the time they left, he was ready for his new puppy.  Since going home, Keji has done well with the grumpy small dog and is adored by their little boy.  Well, adored by the whole family.  We get pictures of the mom and son all the time with Keji, but I have to admit it’s the ones of her and the dad that make me smile the most.

Rain (now Shiloh): Rain was adopted by a couple who just happen to have another set of twins (also a boy and a girl!), although these are older children.  This family is headed by two wonderful women: one is a retired paramedic, and the other works in the medical field.  Of all the pups that we adopted out, we were the most concerned for Rain.  She was a high-energy, headstrong girl from the get-go.  The trainer who assessed the puppies felt Rain would need adopters who were really on top of their game.  As the 8 week mark approached, she was also the only puppy left without a forever home.  Finally, we had the meet and greet with these potential adopters.  Although they had pit experience (another family who had recently lost a dog), it sounded like their previous girl had been pretty low key.  They also had two small dogs who were not at all thrilled with a new, rambunctious puppy coming to live with them.  But I give these ladies full credit: they did feel a bit over their heads at first, but reached out to the facebook group, got a trainer right in to help them integrate Rain with their existing dogs, and had the trainer come back several times to teach them skills to establish leadership in their home.  They also got her into a puppy class (she is a successful graduate!) and are planning to have her get tested to become American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen as soon as she is old enough to be eligible.  We couldn’t be happier for Rain!

Tink (now Ryder): Tink was our little runt of the litter.  Now she is a happy, healthy puppy whose adopter is also going to have her get tested to become an AKC Canine Good Citizen as soon as she is old enough.  Tink was born the day after her adopter’s female American Bulldog of 9 years had passed away.  As she was grieving, this adopter saw Tink’s picture online, and was immediately drawn to her.  Then she realized that she was named “Tink,” which was what her A.B. female had been named…who had also been the runt of the litter.  It seemed like it was meant to be.  The most beautiful part of this story, though, is the adopter’s surviving male dog, who I’ll call H.  H had been the littermate of the female who had just passed.  They had grown up together.  They had done everything together.  After she passed away, he became depressed.  He stopped eating, and nearly stopped drinking any water, too.  He lost weight: over 30 lbs.  Even for a big boy who weighed over 100 lbs, that is a LOT of weight to lose.  The adopter was terrified that she would lose her boy H, too.  Then Tink came home.  The adopter had been worried that she had moved too fast in getting a new puppy, that maybe she was in some way betraying her female dog by having a new girl come into the household so quickly after her passing.  But now she says that Tink saved H’s life.  Within 24 hours of her arrival, H was becoming himself again.  We have pictures from the first little night of that wee little puppy curled up sleeping next to the massive H.  Within a day, he started to eat.  Within a week, he was engaging in play behavior with her–ever so gently.  H has taken it upon himself to teach Tink the ropes: he has been her role model for all her learned, good behavior.  She has watched him listen to her mom when she says “sit, stay, down, wait, paw, heel, fetch, bring back, release,” and mimicked him perfectly.  And, in turn, she has helped a dog who was lost find his way back to life.

Couldn’t ask for anything more.

We recently did some "Then and Now" updates on Facebook for dogs we have fostered.  Here's Chloe's.

We recently did some “Then and Now” updates on Facebook for dogs we have fostered. Here’s Chloe’s.

From left to right, top to bottom: Tank (BamBam), Kenzie (Keji), Aria, Sprocket, Rocky (Fogo), Cali (Halli), Ruckus (Nugget), Shiloh (Rain), Ryder (Tink).

Recent pictures of the puppies, from left to right, top to bottom: Tank (BamBam), Kenzie (Keji), Aria, Sprocket, Rocky (Fogo), Cali (Halli), Ruckus (Nugget), Shiloh (Rain), Ryder (Tink).

– Pit Bull Foster Momma