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Archive for the ‘fostering’ Category

We fostered Peanut in July 2005.  We was about six weeks old when we first brought him in.  He was brought into the shelter.  It’s unknown why he was without littermates and a mom.  He was very small weighing under five pounds. 

We had him for about a week until he was placed with another litter Vicky had around the same age and size.  She wanted to make sure he didn’t come down with anything after being abandoned and at the shelter before risking the other puppies in her program. 

We were able to foster Peanut again about a month later.  He was the last of the group of puppies he was placed with so being a single puppy he was placed back in our care.  We didn’t have him for too long before he was adopted again. 

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Our current foster dog, Annette, is a beagle.   Many people are drawn to beagles due to their size.  They are also friendly, loyal, and like getting attention from humans, making them seem like the perfect family dog.  They’re also one of the most popular breeds found in shelters and rescue groups across the country. 

Beagles can sometimes be a tricky breed to raise.  They’re typically not happy-go-lucky dogs like Labrador Retrievers.  You have to be a beagle (or hound) person in order to understand them and experience to have one as a pet. 

The Nose 

Beagles follow their noses.  They were bread for following scents while hunting.  I always say that when outside a beagle’s nose turns on and the brain turns off.  A beagle will focus only on scent and ignore everything else.  Calling to a beagle that’s sniffing while outside in hopes of him or her coming back is often fruitless.  Fenced in yards when having a beagle as a pet is a must. 

The Howl

Another distict beagle (and hound) trait is the baying howl.  Beagles were bred to hunt.  When out in the field they bark and howl in order to alert people that prey has been found. 

Many beagles enjoy looking out the window of a home and will howl if they see something moving around.   For some this howl is cute at first but ultimately annoying when done constantly. 

The Wuss Factor

Some dog breeds have a high tolerance for pain.   Beagles are not one of them.   They often let out yelps in anticipation of something “bad” happening such as a vaccination at the vet’s office or getting their nails clipped.  Even though they are not getting hurt, they act as though some sort of torture is going on. 

Training

Beagles (and other hounds) can be difficult to train.   They often would rather seek out scents than listen to a human.   They are stubborn so teaching even basic commands can be a daunting task to a beagle owner.   A fenced in yard is practially a requirement.  Without it a beagle would be off following a scent and would not respond to calls from an owner trying to persuade the dog to return. 

If a beagle owner can find something that really motivates the dog “sit” may be able to be taught with some patience.   Overall training a beagle is like having a child in the terrible twos stage of life.

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If you’re looking to add a beagle into your home lots of research on the breed should be required.  They can be a fun and loving dog, but it’s important to know the challenges that come along with the breed.  If more people understood the dog perhaps there wouldn’t be as many of them in shelters and rescues in need of a new home. 

Andrew and I have fostered quite a few beagles of various ages.  All of them have had the beagle nose, which is on the ground most of the time when outside.  We’ve had different degrees of “beagle-ness” in our foster dogs.  Our current foster dog, Annette, is the most well behaved beagle that we’ve had. 

Annette will actually listen and come (for the most part) when called if she’s outside.  She’ll even chase after toys that are thrown for her and bring them back to you (most of the time).  She responds well to “no” when she’s getting into something.  And she’s very respectful.   The person or family that adopts her will have a great beagle find!

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Andrew and I have been fostering since March, 16, 2005. Our current foster dog Betty (left) is the 50th dog that has spent time in our house since then.

Clover (right) was our first foster dog, through the Humane Society of Kent County. The rest of our foster dogs have been through Vicky’s Pet Connection. We remember each dog through blog posts. Each dog has been different, yet they’ve all had a common background. For one reason or another they were all not wanted; adult dogs found as strays or given up by their owners at shelters or puppies born to moms that were given up all looking for a new home. We’ve had our share of fun times and adventures, but we’ve also had our share of work and problems.

Andrew and I were recently talking about the breakdown of dogs we’ve fostered. The majority is what we call typical foster dogs and 70% (35 of the 50 dogs) fall into this category. It takes them some time to adjust and fit into our home. Beacon and Haven may or may not click with them right away and enjoy having them in our house. Some of these dogs may have some training issues that we work with but nothing out of the ordinary. Dogs in this group are fun to have in our house but nothing jumps out that makes us think that he or she would fit in well enough to be a hypothetical third dog in our family.

Next is the 16% (8 dogs) that are more work than an average dog. More work could mean a personality conflict with our dogs as was the case with Sally, John Boy and Fiona, which usually results in a swap for another dog or a longer break between dogs. This doesn’t mean that our dogs or the foster dog are necessarily bad, but as with humans not all dogs get along with all other dogs. Billy, a dog that needs work with food or toy aggression would also fall into this category. We haven’t had many dogs that have had more serious training issues or that are a personality conflict in our home but it does happen. Buster kept trying to mark inside our house so we swapped for another dog. Zoe, Susie, and Flipper were more work because they had special medical needs. We do our best to work with dogs in this category but know that some may have to be placed in a different foster home in extreme cases.

The last 14% (7 dogs) consist of “perfect” dogs. These are dogs that have little to no adjustment period before acting like they’re a part of our household. Ella and Bella loved hanging out with Haven. Beacon enjoyed playing with Eddie. And both our dogs liked exploring the backyard and local trails with Amber, Honey, and Joyce. Our dogs got along with dogs in this group from the beginning without any period of toleration before acceptance.

We know that the majority of the dogs we foster will need varying degrees of care but nothing extremely difficult. We also know that from time to time we’ll be up against a challenge or have a dog that fits like a glove in our home. Two an a half years and 50 dogs later, one constant among my fostering experience is that it has all been worth it.

For additonal perspective on fostering dogs, you might enjoy an article I wrote last July for the Vicky’s Pet Connection newsletter.

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Our latest foster dog, Kendall, was with us for a little less than a week.  It’s not uncommon for people to drive an hour or two to adopt a puppy from us.  Some have even driven from neighboring states.  The couple that adopted Kendall drove 10 hours one way to meet and take him home!  That’s the longest drive made for a dog that Andrew and I have fostered and the longest that I know of since we’ve been volunteering with Vicky’s Pet Connection.

This couple had been looking for a German Shepherd puppy for some time.   They had a 10 year old GSD that had cancer.  He passed away in February, although they think from a heart attack and not the cancer itself.  They have found some puppies but were always too late when they inquired or filled out an application.  The puppy they were interested in was already gone.

I received an email from the wife asking if we’d consider her application even though she was not local.  I explained that we generally adopt locally because it’s easier to set up adoption meeting.  A lot of time people that are just two hours away can’t make the drive until the weekend.  This isn’t bad if an application is approved near the end of the week.  But if it’s the beginning of the week we will continue processing applications and if someone is able to meet earlier in the week we do not hold a dog.  This way we’re able to adopt and rescue without having to add holding dogs for people as well.

The couple understood.  They filled out an application, which I was able to process easily on a Thursday.  The wife was able to take Friday off and made the 10 hour drive with her sister.  I met them Friday afternoon and they took Kendall on a long drive back to Pennsylvania.

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According to animal behaviorist Patricia Simonet, dogs most certainly can laugh.  She describes it as “hah hah hah” but without the “a” and she has the briefest of sound clips on her laughing dog page.  Beacon doesn’t make this sound much, but playful Haven dog-laughs frequently.  My impression is that this isn’t a funny/humor laugh such as laughing at a joke, but rather a fun/excitement laugh like how little kids laugh when you chase them or play peek-a-boo.

Dog-laughing is more than just a nifty curiosity – it’s a form of canine communication just like human laughter.  Since we’ve “designed” dogs to interact with us, it’s important that we understand dog-laughter as much as we understand barking, whining, howling, and other canine vocalizations.  Ms. Simonet asserts that in a dog’s world, dog-laughing is used to initiate play, often in conjunction with a “play bow”.

Ever listen to the Bob and Tom Show on the radio?  Their morning show is quite entertaining and I’ve noticed that they heighten the jovial mood by laughing extra hard (or playing pre-recorded laughter) at key moments during their jokes.  Interestingly, even though I believe the laughter to be forced, I still find that it works – I find myself chuckling along to the entire comedy sketch.

I don’t know if Ms. Simonet is a Bob and Tom fan but apparently she had a similar idea.  One her site is a her research paper on using dog laughter in shelters.  She was able to show that dogs in a shelter exhibit less stress-related behavior if recorded dog laughter is being played over speakers in the kennel!  Does the sound of other dogs laughing help improve the mood of dogs in a shelter?  Perhaps this is analogous to long-distance airliner flights playing a comedy movie for the passengers.

Having fostered almost 50 dogs in the past couple years, my wife and I have noticed how the stress of a shelter environment can cause dogs to become what we call “kennel crazy” – a personality of high stress, high anxiety, lots of fear and shyness, etc.  Most dogs are able to re-adjust to our stable home environment within 48 hours, but some need more than a week to recover from shelter life, especially if they’d been kenneled for a long time.  Foster homes can allow a dog’s true personality to emerge, a necessity for making a good match with a future adoptive family.

Sadly, many dogs in shelters are so stressed out by their prison-like environment that when potential adopters come to meet them, they don’t get to see the dog’s true personality.  A fear-stressed dog may appear calm and quiet, but once adjusted to their new home it may prove to be too energetic for the laid back family that adopted it.  I’m happily intrigued by the possibility that broadcasting dog laughter in a shelter could relax the tenants enough that enough personality remains for when they meet the family that just might rescue them and provide a home full of love and laughter for both the humans and the dogs!

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This is Eddie. We fostered him from June 28 – July 2. He’s happy. He loves to play, especially fetch. He’s a laid back down to earth guy. Sounds perfect, right? The good news for Eddie is that he has been adopted. The bad news is that he is heartworm positive. Here is another article that does a good job of explaining heartworm.

Eddies about five years of age. His heartworm test came back positive pretty quickly. The test is similar to a pregnancy test in that time is allowed to elapse and if there’s no positive outcome an indicator will remain the same. The faster the test changes the more antigens are present, which means a more severe case of heartworm.

Eddie has likely had heartworm for years. Because the worms take over the heart and other vital organs slowly without a test it’s hard to tell that a dog is infected. Because a dog can be heartworm positive for year the symptoms can easily be mistaken for an aging dog.

Eddie loved to play fetch. But he didn’t have much stamina. Was this because he wasn’t used to playing with his previous owners and spent weeks in a shelter where he didn’t get much exercise? Was this because he’s starting to get a little older? Although the age of five for a lab isn’t old. Or is this lack of stamina from having heartworms for years? It’s hard to tell.

Heartworm prevention is much cheaper and easier than dealing with treatment. A pill that costs about $7 a month is nothing compared to a $500 – $1,000 bill (depending on how severe the case is) for treatment. If a dog lives to be 13 years of and is given a pill that costs $7 his entire life the total is $1092. Although the cost of “lifetime” prevention is the same or a little more than treatment, if a dog is left untreated there’s a big risk of multiple infections. There’s also recovery time. And of course all that a dog has to go through with treatment and recovery. I think more important than the cost is what the dog has to endure.

Being heartworm positive is a serious condition. If left untreated a dog will eventually have heart failure. Heartworms live in, you guessed it, the heart. They can live for years in there. Eventually they cause a dog to have a heart attack if they’re allowed to remain there. These worms are transmitted through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito bites a dog. Then the heartworms grow and reproduce.

A monthly Heartgard (or other preventative such as Interceptor or Revolution) does not allow heartworms to develop and reproduce. And a yearly test done at a vet’s office confirms that monthly treatment is working properly. If a dog is given monthly treatments regularly the chance of getting heartworm is slim. Without it you take a big risk. Many people don’t know or realize how serious heartworm can be or how easily it can be avoided.

A dog will not show any adverse signs or change in personality or physical characteristics at first. In fact it could be years before heartworm positive symptoms are seen. This is why prevention and yearly testing is important. If a dog is heartworm positive the sooner treatment can be done the better. If it’s caught early on recovery is easier on the dog and owner.

For heartworm treatment a dog is typically taken to the vet in the morning and stays one to two nights depending on how severe the case is and how the dog reacts to treatment. The dog is basically given poison (arsenic), which starts to dissolve and kill the heartworms. After treatment a dog must be on limited exercise and activity for 4-6 weeks. During this time the worms are breaking up and they collect in the lungs where they are dissolved into the body. If blood gets pumping through the heart too fast these dissolving worms can break free and clog arteries or too many can go to the lungs causing problems. After a few weeks a dog is usually examined to check heart and lungs to see how recovery is going. In extreme cases a second treatment is needed and the recovery time starts over again.

In my research on heartworm positive dogs I was not able to find if life expectancy of the dog changed if treated for heartworm. I wondered if a severe case would weaken the heart of an adult dog. I’m not sure if lack of information on this is a good sign meaning that treatment is usually successful and dogs go on to live normal and healthy lives or if clinical research hasn’t been done or isn’t documented in places where I’ve looked.

VPC will be paying for Eddie’s heartworm treatment. Had he tested heartworm positive in a shelter he would be high on the euthanasia list because treatment is expensive. Thankfully Eddie will get treatment and continue on in life. Vicky currently has three, including Eddie, heartworm positive dogs! The adoption fee for these dogs is not raised due to additional medical that has to be done. The organization will absorb the loss.

If you have a dog and are not getting a heartworm test every year or every other year and using monthly preventative you should start. Some owners and vets recommend monthly preventative during mosquito season since this is how the worms infect a dog. This decision is up to you and your vet. Andrew and I personally use preventative every month of the year. Dogs should start on heartworm preventative around four months of age. Prevention will save your pet from enduring treatment and a lengthy recovery. It will save your wallet from being depleted hundreds of dollars. Heartworm is a serious, yet easily preventable disease.

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This past week we fostered two yellow labs.  Both have been adopted.  And both deserve a Why Dogs? post.  I’ll start with Daisy.

Daisy, as I posted earlier, loved to roll around in the grass as if she were happy to be able to play in it after spending a month in a shelter.  She spent the weekend being evaluated to see if she’d be a good fit as a therapy dog.

Vicky’s Pet Connection doesn’t usually allow trial runs for dogs.   But in this case we knew that the situation was different.  Daisy really had to fit in with and have a bond with the person who would be training and working with her.

The trial run went well.  The person that will be training and working with Daisy loved her and said she felt like it was meant to be.  Daisy was around older people, kids, in crowds, on a pontoon boat, had overnight guests in the house, and was tested a little on what she’d learn in therapy training.  She did well in all of these situations.

So here’s a dog that was found as a stray.  She was trained and cared for to an extent in her past.  She knows some basic commands and loves people.  She has a great personality.  Yet she wasn’t cared enough by her family to go looking for her if she was lost or even worse just left on the side of the road somewhere.   And now she’s going to be a therapy dog helping humans in need.

Andrew and I often wonder why people would give up the dogs we foster.  With just a little attention, direction, and care the dogs we’ve had fit into our home and adjust to our routine quickly.  Daisy has likely been through a lot in her around five years of life.  But things just got a lot better for her.  She’s in a loving home and will be used to help others.  Vicky’s Pet Connection helped make a difference in her life and now she can do the same.  Good luck Daisy!

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Last night Andrew and I went to visit Amber.  She was with us from March 5 – 11, 2007.  Although we did not have her for very long she was one of our favorite foster dogs.  She got along well with Beacon and Haven from the beginning.  She fit into our schedule and home easily.  Out of the 46 dogs we’ve fostered to date she’s one of just a few we would have considered keeping if we were looking for a third dog.

She was well behaved, learned quickly, and was fun to be around.  We even took her out to run off leash with our dogs.  We’ve only done this with two dogs.  The others we haven’t known well enough or felt comfortable with letting run without a leash.

Amber was found as a stray by our county shelter.   After being there for almost a month Vicky took her in.   She was very skinny.  So much so that you could see her ribs.  As with most of the dogs we’ve fostered we wondered why Amber was a stray.  Who let her go?  Or if she was lost why wasn’t anyone looking for her?

Amber’s new mom Sue is thankful that Amber was found and rescued by Vicky’s Pet Connection.   Of course she wishes that there weren’t so many dogs that need homes, but she’s happy that she was able to rescue a dog in need.   Andrew and I are happy that we were able to be a part of the process.

Sue was looking at another VPC dog that was available for adoption.  But after visiting with Polly, who was very shy and needed some work to build her confidence, it was determined that she and Sue wouldn’t be a good fit.  Polly was able to be placed in a forever home of her own so she was able to find the right fit.

Sue had seen Amber at an adoption event but was scheduled to see Polly the following day so she didn’t really look at Amber.   Amber was not adopted at the event.  And after Polly wasn’t a good fit Sue wanted to look at Amber.   And she took her home.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have kept in contact with Sue and Amber over the months.  We saw Amber once when Sue had some donations to give VPC.  But last night Andrew and I spent a couple of hours with Sue and Amber in their home.

We enjoyed chatting with Sue about Amber and seeing her.  Sue thinks that Amber remembers us and/or the smell of our dogs.  Amber was interested in getting petted and itched by us.  She kept giving me kisses.  Sue said that when Amber has met people she hasn’t seen before she doesn’t act like she did with us.  We wondered if she would remember Beacon and Haven.

It was great to see Amber in her home.  It’s quite clear that she’s well taken care of and spoiled.   She was happy, relaxed, and right at home.  There’s nothing more we could ask for when placing our foster dogs in forever homes.

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Andrew and I have fostered 42 dogs since April 2005! While a dog is with us we work on basic commands, house training (if needed), and treat the new dog like one of our own. We play a vital role in learning about a dog’s personality to help put the dog in a suitable home. But Beacon and Haven also play a part in fostering dogs.

Our dogs have developed different roles in helping out with foster dogs. Beacon is the discipliner. A dog quickly learns not to jump on us with Beacon around. He’ll bark at a foster dog that does not stay on all four paws.

Haven is the happy-go-lucky dog that will play. She’ll sniff and explore the backyard with foster dogs. She’ll chase them and let them chase her. She’ll even run slower for a dog that can’t keep up with her.

Both dogs teach foster dogs, especially those over three months of age, the rules of the house. A foster dog, being lower in the pack order, naturally follows our dogs around. Our dogs sit before they are given any treats. Most of our foster dogs have learned that in order to get a treat the sitting position is a must.

In this photo Beacon, Haven, and foster dog Ella wait patiently for a treat. Ella quickly learned what she could and couldn’t do in our house by watching our dogs. While Andrew and I can teach foster dogs how to interact with humans, Beacon and Haven teach them how to interact with peers.

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On this day 32 years ago I arrived in the US on a plane that left Vietnam. I was three months old and coming to the US to be adopted. My parents called this day my Gotchya Day. Every year my parents celebrate this day like a second birthday.

So what does this have to do with why dogs are cool? I feel a connection with those dogs that are in need of a home and have to wait to find one. I spent the first three months of my life in Vietnam waiting. Many dogs spend longer than that in shelters before being adopted.

One of the joys we have in volunteering in animal rescue is fostering dogs. I’m sure I’ll be posting about some specific dogs we’ve fostered in later posts. I usually have the opportunity to process and approve applications for the dogs we foster. We get a sense of closure knowing where a dog we’ve had in our home ends up. We’re able to do our best to find a good fit for the people looking for a dog as well as the dog.

Andrew and I often refer to our dog fostering as a canine bed and breakfast. We have frequent visitors that stay for various lengths of time. While our guests are here we do what we can to make the stay pleasant and memorable. We see lots of different personalities and kinds of dogs. As innkeepers we remember each dog we’ve had in our home.

I wrote an article for the Vicky’s Pet Connection newsletter last summer about fostering dogs. Below is the text of the article. Since writing it our total number of dogs fostered has risen to 42 to date and will continue to increase.

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K9 Bed and Breakfast

It all started in April 2005 when Vicky asked if we could foster Jazmin, a young sheltie mix who needed a temporary home. Fostering dogs in our home has been the most rewarding and challenging task we’ve been given. I’m often asked why we foster, whether or not we get too attached to the dogs, and what the process is like in general.

 

At first I had the same questions. I was unsure whether or not I’d be able to foster a dog and then be able to give him or her up. I didn’t know how our two yellow labs, Haven and Beacon, would react to these canine tenants coming and going from our home. But I was able to quickly find a routine when it comes to foster dogs.

My husband and I have fostered 25 dogs for Vicky’s Pet Connection, each with their own unique personality. We try to teach them some basic manners and it’s always fun to see how much they learn during the time they’re with us. It has been a rewarding learning experience for everyone involved, including Beacon and Haven. Sometimes I feel like I’m learning more than the foster dog!

Foster dogs typically stay with us for 1-2 weeks. Being around people and other animals helps to socialize the foster dog. We’ll work on their education such as leash training, housebreaking, and basic commands. During this time we usually take quite a few pictures to help us remember all of the dogs that have spent time with us. Looking back at these photos brings back a lot of memories of running around in our backyard, playing indoors, and even sleeping when all of the fun has worn them out. To help remember them all I keep a journal filled with stories about our time with each dog. We usually take a break between foster dogs and Vicky has always been great about making sure we’re ready and not over-worked.

 

Foster dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. In February we had the opportunity to foster a special needs puppy named Zoe. She was with us for six weeks; our longest foster to date. We’ve had dogs like Jack, who was very timid when he arrived but had become more confident by the time he was adopted. Buttercup, Tinker, Willis, and Connie were full of energy keeping us (including Haven and Beacon!) on our toes. Peanut and Chip, being beagles, graced us with their howls as they played. Sally and Susie were black lab mixes so full of affection that they climbed onto our laps! Danielle followed her beagle nose all of the time. Bella was an awesome dog that fit right in. Although Flipper only had three legs, he loved to chase balls. We even had some short fosters of a day or less when it came to Buster, Bear, Betsy, Fluffy and Sue.

I hope that the dogs we’ve fostered have enjoyed their time with us. I often wonder how each dog is doing in their new forever homes. If we’re out at a pet store I find myself looking around, hoping to see a familiar face. At times it’s hard to say good-bye to a dog that has stayed at our home. But being able to talk with and meet those who have adopted the dogs we’ve fostered gives us the opportunity to appreciate their new family and home.

 

I feel like I have a connection with these animals waiting to find forever homes: as an abandoned baby I was taken care of for three months in Vietnam before coming to the U.S. to be adopted. Being a foster home for VPC means a lot to me and I’ll carry this experience with me for a long time. I’ve enjoyed getting to know various dogs and look forward to those who will be staying at our “bed and breakfast” in the future. Knowing that they will all end up in loving forever homes makes it all worthwhile.

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