Celebrating our beautiful boy's anniversary

Happy Gotcha Day, Relay

A great family trip

Our trip to Amherst, VA was amazing.

An easy way to make your own jerky

A DIY project your pups will love.

Set up an email alert for your perfect pet

Use Adopt-a-pet's search saver to let you know when your right pet needs a home.

Let's here it for the boy

I was so happy and incredibly proud.

We do it for all the smiling faces

Dog overpopulation is growing problem in the US and I'm trying to find my way to help.

How Relay became ours

Every dog has a story, and this is how our perfect pound pup came home.

An easy treat

Find directions on how to make one of Relay's favorite treats.

January 31, 2012

Simple joys

January 30, 2012

Quick tip: "Adopt Me" Bandanna (over the collar)

I have to say that Holly was looking pretty good in her bandanna. More importantly, the amount of attention this little thing brought to her was incredible. This is one simple thing that can make a world of difference.

How I did it and how it should be done are two different things.One I'm lazy. Two I'm cheap. Here is a link to actual instructions on eHow and even better, here's a link to a whole slew of design ideas and often step by step pictures for visual learners on one of my favorite blogs: Doggie Stylish.

Now back to me being cheap and lazy.

Fabric stores in the area are few and far between, so I made a quick stop at TJMaxx and checked the clearance section. I found a 4 pack of napkins for $5. What you're looking for is a stiff cotton that can hold it's shape, feel free to use what you have in the house.

2012-01-29 14.10.49.jpgYou should take measurements of the dog's neck, length, and collar to come up with the size you need. I just winged a baseball home plate shape. The top part needs to be big enough to fold over and allow a collar to slip through. What should happen next is that all the seems should be folded over, ironed down, and sewn in place. Doing this will make your bandanna last longer. Yeah, I skipped that too. All I did was hand stitch the flap. You can then embroider or stencil your design. Me, sharpie. To do it right will take 15 minutes, do it fast in 5.

One tip though is have a spare collar for this; trying to keep the thing in line when your going to for a walk can be a nightmare if you don't. Otherwise you can get really crafty and make a hole where the ring sticks up to attach the collar. But if you're that good, you already know all this and probably laughed at my first project.

January 29, 2012

Holly over her first weekend

It has been a roller coaster. If it feels that way to me, it must be doubly so for the sweet Miss Holly.
2012-01-27 15.57.37.jpg 
Since Mt Trashmore we have knocked at least one walk a day. In addition to that there is plenty of yard time every few hours. She has been on her first lunch date, had trips to the dog park, went to a pet store, had her first bath... I'm running her through the gauntlet, with one new experience each day. While there was some unease, she is handling it all like a champ. And I have to say that everyone that has met her has loved her. Holly is a charmer, dainty, and sweet as pie.

Interestingly she flourishes outdoors. She loves, loves, loves the dog park. Meeting new people and dogs, being in a wide open space, that's where she shines. Indoors she is more timid, but that is improving day by day.

One thing she has a problem with is transitioning from one space to another. Not really sure if it is doors, walking past people, or something else, but she takes her time checking things out before feeling comfortable enough to move forward.

This little lady has also worked on new escape skills. After watching me walk through the door in the fence with Relay, Jeff watched her try to follow by digging under the door. Holly's other trick happened last night, where she managed to work her crate door open that had not been latched properly.

My favorite thing about Holly is how she works it when she is out and about. It was so funny to watch her mingle and network. It's as if she know that everyone she meets is a potential home and doesn't miss an opportunity to show herself off. My second favorite thing is her prowess as a cuddler. At home she just wants to settle in next to a warm body and cuddles up so sweetly to me, Jeff, and Relay. Holly is settling in nicely.

January 27, 2012

Introducing... Holly!

2012-01-26 14.20.52
Relay agrees Holly is as sweet as can be!
It was a bit of a surprise to take her yesterday, but these two just got along so well. Here's the video. They were just play play play and Holly just had the kindest personality. First impression was that she had an abundance of love and was very gentle.

When Rita walked off to get Holly's things, I saw her incredible escape talents as she almost successfully scaled a chain link fence after trying to squeeze around the door. So immediately I can tell you that a wooden, privacy fence is a must.

We actually had a play date scheduled at Mt Trashmore, so off the three of us went. What was apparent was that she had never been on a leash. The entire concept seemed lost on Holly. Thankfully there were two other dogs and Relay there to help show her the way. After a good hour and change of going around the park, she ended the walk like an old pro. When we finished the trek to get some water by the cars, she actually managed to shimmy out of her harness. Escape trick #2. Overall she has plenty of interest in people and pets of all shapes and sizes and her friendly manner was just infectious.

Once we got to my home all spunk came to a halt. I think it was all too much new and she became unsure. Last night and this morning there is a hesitancy and timidity that didn't exist before. Relay keeps trying to engage her in play, but Holly was having none of it. Her comfort zone seems to be in someone's lap. Which tends to make Relay a touch jealous.

Until she gets more comfortable, I don't think we can come up with a good schedule. No accidents in the house, but she has a very small appetite. These things are to be expected. All in all, I think it's going well. I hope to get her to personality to come out soon.

In the mean time, Relay has introduced Holly into the morning nap routine. I can't wait to learn more about this love.

January 26, 2012

Relay's story

Everyone loves my dog. He's good looking, well behaved, smart, has the puppy dog eyes, and when he is happy his whole body gyrates so fast that my family nick named him Wiggles. In just a few short months he has come such a long way.

The funniest part of his story is that I never wanted a dog. We never had one growing up, none of my friends had dogs, and when I was in service, no one I knew had a dog. I just didn't get why anyone ever would. Jeff on the other hand, grew up with dogs and felt like once we moved here to Norfolk, we had a house, and he was home more that it was time to have one again.

Initially the purpose of our visits to shelters and animal controls in the area was to give me some context. Each little ball of fur had a personality, a life, and a supply of love all their own. We toured these places for weeks meeting with all breeds and all temperaments. I was tender-hearted after leaving them, and I went from never wanting a dog, to wanting to adopt them all to get them out of those places.

When I first saw Relay, he was such a small little guy, about 12 pounds, and looked scared of the whole world. He was called Grunther then. We sat with him for a while, but he was intimidated by all the people and coward in the corner. I used some patience and treats, but made little headway. He just looked so sad, and so very scared and unsure. We were told that his boisterous brother had already been adopted. We came back the next day and sat with him some more. We came back the third day, and by then he had crept out from his safety zone. When someone came into the room unexpectedly, he ran over to me and hid in my lap. That was when I knew for sure and we signed the adoption paperwork that day.

On processing out I asked more about his background. Turns out he was an owner surrender. A military member had gone on deployment and left his puppies with his sister. She wanted nothing to do with them and left them in her backyard mostly, during a rather cold and wet spring. After a few weeks, she turned them in to the pound. I can only speculate about the abuse and neglect he underwent at the tender age of three months.

We had brought a blue towel with us that day to adopt him, and I wrapped it around his little shaking body and carried him in my arms. When we got to our house, I put the towel down and he was terrified to leave it. For days his safe haven was that towel, and it took us weeks to get him comfortable enough to explore our little two bedroom home. He was more accustomed to foraging for food and eating sticks than dog food. Any sudden movement or sound had him on edge. Everything was new for him, and most of it was scary. My heart just went out to that gentle and scared little face, and still does to this day.

We have had him with us now for about seven months. His confidence is up, his weight is up, and thankfully his fear has gone down, but it hasn't completely gone away. Will it ever? I'm optimistic. I learn more about him everyday, and interestingly I learn about myself as well. What I'm doing now, trying to help other dogs, is because of him. With a little patience and love, he has given me back ten fold. I could not ask for a better dog.

January 25, 2012

An Update: The Rescue Contenders

A few weeks into this, I'd have thought I'd be just a touch further along. Here's my update we are with our four rescue organizations.

ART: they have my application and I have gotten a call from Susan where we touched base. With my first foster, I was looking to keep the dog around the same size as Relay, but the bulk of the dogs they rescue are the ones in greatest need here in Norfolk, the poochies with a bad rap: pit bulls. I'll wait and see who they want me to look after, and I'm sure that I'll completely fall for the bright eyes and wide mouth grin.

BTTR: A great home visit yesterday with Myra, she called me immediately to tell me there was a momma and two pups needing help. I had all of 14 hours to be excited about that when I called back and they had found another home for the family. There is another female they are looking for a place for, and I will hear more about that later. While I like the organization and the people who work here, the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing.

MAPR: This is by far the most complicated group because they operate over multiple states. I have been in contact with at least four different people, all from different locations. None seem to be able to fit in a home visit, and we're going on our 4th week of rescheduling (last night I got stood up). One odd request is that they require the contract to be notarized, and have a 34 page foster pamphlet. We have to get the vet information ironed out, and of course lure someone over to my home for a check, but I'm still optimistic that this can work out.

CSRSEV: I'm convinced theses people are ghosts. I submitted an application. A month later I sent an email about said application. And now almost another month later I'm still waiting to hear from them. It's odd. They came recommended, they have an active facebook page, but almost no dogs to speak of, and at this point I think no staff either.

So I am left here wondering what my next step is.

January 24, 2012

The Home Visit

Although I am a bit nervous, (the kind of nervous you get with a first date) I'm really looking forward to today's home visit.
The idea is that this is the rescues chance to look over my home, having reviewed my application and references, and meet my family and I as a last vetting. The way I look at it, it's my best opportunity to look into how the organization is run prior to accepting a poochie.
They want a kind, dependable home, with people who will help facilitate adoptions. I want an organization that is well run, supportive, and puts the well being of the dogs first. Whether you're the foster or the rescue, both should know what the expectations are and most importantly review and sign contracts explicitly stating the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved.

January 23, 2012

Quick tip: My favorite homemade treat...Stock Cubes

My puppy loves ice cubes. Hands down the cheapest treat to give a dog. To bring that concept up a notch, this is my favorite homemade dog treat: Stock Cubes.

Here are the precise instructions, so make sure you pay close attention.

First, start off a scrap pile. After any roast chicken meal (here's my favorite) I put all the bones in a plastic bag. I like to cook with a lot of fresh vegetables which have odds and ends that would normally go in the trash. Put them in the bag. Keep this bag in the freezer until it is full. Once it's full, throw it all in a big pot, fill it with water. Boil.

Congrats!! You just made chicken stock. Let cool, strain, and pour into ice cube trays. Once frozen, throw them back in a ziploc bag and feel free to give them to your pet. (Check Relay's tail moving a mile a minute.)

Aren't you surprised you never thought about this yourself? Bones have the protein and calcium, the veggies have the vitamins, and it's all made from things you would have thrown out, so pat yourselves on the back for reusing. Compared to commercial stocks you buy at the store, this does not have all the extra sodium, preservatives, and ingredients you can't pronounce. They are mostly water, so low in calories and fat, you can give them to your pet without worrying about their weight.

Feel free to modify this in any way shape or form. Use what you have in the house. I even like to split the batch in half, and use one for my own cooking (where I can add some salt and spices) for just a touch more flavor than just using water.

**There are some foods you should avoid feeding your pups. Always check with your vet before changing your dog's diet. A good reference for foods harmful for pets is found on VetInfo.com. **

We are participating in Kol's Notes' Tasty Tuseday Blog Hop. Be sure to stop on by to check out more dog friendly bites and visit some terrific blogs.

January 21, 2012

SB 610, why it matters, and why Virginian dogs need our help.

Let me introduce SB 610. This bill's patron is Senator Richard Black (R) of Virginia's District 13. This is what worries me. 

Under the new legislation, hunting dogs, working dogs, and show dogs would be reclassified as livestock. By doing so, these animals would fall under the Department of Agriculture, and "The Department occupies the entire field of regulation of the care, control, and handling of agricultural animals. No political subdivision, locality, or humane society shall regulate the care and handling of agricultural animals. "

As innocent as this may seem, this bill opens up the entire animal rights debate, and particular to dogs exposes the constant struggle between animal rights groups and puppy mills, certain hunt clubs, on occasion the American Kennel Club, and others.

Let me begin by stating that supporters of this bill are already eyeing the potential ramifications of this legislation. They are also very well organized.

Dog overpopulation and the euthanasia of pets in shelters has become a nation wide epidemic. One of the principle architects of these problems are puppy mills. This bill would help to provide protections to a mass production of animal abuses.

Further, the inclusion of "Traditional Farm Practices" would potentially allow for dog mutilation for aesthetics and convenience. 

Ultimately, this bill decidedly hampers the ability of any intervention, and puts dogs in danger. From the groundwork of this bill will come a break down of the current limited protection of pets. 

January 20, 2012

Book Review: Cesar Millan's How to Raise the Perfect Dog

Trying to be a better poochie parent, I took some time to do some research on pets. I figure while I wait on the next stage of my fostering project I would take the opportunity to review some of the material I have read.

Not overly familiar with his show, The Dog Whisperer, I had heard of Cesar Millan. His book, How to Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond was the first book I had read on the topic of pets, and I was very glad that it was. Overall the book was easy to follow and had a conversational feel to it. There were plenty of cute stories and good advice to keep the book moving and helpful.

There are two disclaimers with this book. In an attempt to ensure he was conducting a thorough approach to dog rearing, he uses a pack of puppies of various breeds, from various locations to illustrate his points; so, much is made on these dogs background and their personalities and growth. Some will appreciate this more than others.  Second isn't really about the book, but of the author. Cesar Millan does not employ a completely hands off approach to raising pups. There is no harm or violence condoned to pets; he stresses positive reinforcement, but distinguishes his approach with a structure and discipline with which some are simply uncomfortable. In this book it really didn't touch on those ideas and I read nothing I found out of line. However, I have since read criticisms of his methods employed on his show.

This book is geared towards people who are planning on bringing a puppy into their households. If you do not yet have a dog and are thinking of adopting a puppy, I would recommend this as a crash course. Or if you just like to hear stories about puppies, there is plenty to entertain. However, if you are looking for the end all be all of dog training, have specific habits or behaviors you need to work through, or already have a full grown adult dog, there may be other options better suited to your needs.  Overall, I would highly recommend this book.

January 11, 2012

Revisiting ART and my foster commitment

Back in October I checked out Animal Rescue of Tidewater after some recommendations at the dog park, and checking out a few of their events over the year. We were put in touch with a wonderful woman named Susan who came over spent some time with Relay and answered all of our questions. Not only are they a worthy organization, they are run well, and I like how they handle adoptions, taking the time to make sure the pets and perspective family are a good fit.

So why would I bother looking at other rescues, when I found everything I wanted in them? My hesitation can be summed up with one good looking hound mix. Meet Buddy.

The first time I saw his picture I smiled at how much he looked like my pup. I checked out his profile and the attached video and I really liked him. He was playful, sweet, young, in good health, easy on the eyes, and his foster family had children and another dog in the household, so he would be a perfect fit in anyone's home. He's a wonderful dog.

This wonderful dog is still waiting for his forever family. He's been listed for at least 4 months.

This is where I must admit to being a bit selfish. If my foster dog is a great fit here at the home, I would want him adopted before we get too attached. If my foster dog is not quite the perfect fit, I would want him adopted for his sake and Relay's. Ultimately, if I had wanted to have a dog for the better part of a year I would have adopted one. It is a bit heartless to say that my charity is only a few months strong, but I want to be honest here. Especially as this is my first foster, I want a positive experience so that we can continue to do this over the years to come and save more lives.

So that is my concern in a nut shell. Now this is where I try and psych myself into this.

I'm going to be a good foster parent. I'm going to be the best foster parent. I can do things like sew a little "Adopt Me" bandanna so that he can wear it on walks. I can take plenty of pictures, videos, and keep this blog updated. I can to take the dog to dog parks and promote him like crazy. I can teach the dog manners and tricks to win over anyone and everyone. I can show that dog love, and what it means to no longer be afraid, to feel safe. I can get him adopted.

January 10, 2012


Considering that I have been preparing this project for the last few months, now that I've begun to move with a purpose I'm frustrated that it should all come to a crawl.

I've applied to foster at the following rescues: Collie and Sheltie Rescue, Mid Atlantic Pug, Beagles to the Rescue, Hope for Life Rescue, the local animal controls and SPCA's. Not all at once mind you, but some as far back at October (with the annotation that I would not be ready to foster until my dog had finished puppyhood, eg now). So, I have sent out some "if in case you forgot, I'm ready to foster now" emails. I'm waiting for the representatives to look at my application. I'm waiting for them to contact my vet. I'm waiting for them to call my references. I'm waiting for them to schedule a home visit. And ultimately I'm waiting for them to tell me there is a dog in need. 

I'm waiting.

Patience is a virtue, rescues are all volunteer, they have a lot of applications to go through, etc. I know all that, but it doesn't make this easier. I shudder to think of how much time I waste checking my emails. (Like I needed an excuse to avoid the laundry.) The boys are handling this much better than I. Maybe I should just stick this picture as an attachment to the foster application. If they don't think this is cute, I'm looking for a new rescue.

January 9, 2012

When a rescue is not really a rescue

People who buy dogs from breeders or stores can have a hard time sorting out which are puppy mills. Adoption should be a simple decision to ensure that you aren't supporting any bad practices. Turns out there are good rescues and not so good rescues.

The Profiteers:
One of the first rescues I looked into was All American Dachshund Rescue. Any potential surrender had to pay to get their dog vetted prior to turn bringing the dog up to date on shots, get them fixed, etc. Dogs would only be accepted when a foster home was available. As for the potential foster, they required an annual fee for the privilege and the foster covered many medical and associated costs. Finally, they could charge an application fee, a "Health Certificate Fee", and adoption fee often hundreds of dollars from would be adoptive parents.  This 501 "charity" is a very lucrative business. Not only do they have no overhead, they rarely incurred medical bills, and they receive money from the surrender, foster, adopter, donations, and the government. (Sometimes even re-selling a dog) This was no longer about rescue, but about finding out how much people were willing to pay.

Wholesale / Resale:
Certain rescues have been getting into trouble here in the tidewater area. Unfortunately, our neighbor North Carolina has a dog overpopulation problem they can't get under control. Kill shelters are found readily. They are desperate and just give dogs away to anyone who says rescue, whether or not they are legitimate. Some groups drive across the state border pick up the dogs for free or cheap, and then just drop them off with a marked up price. Here in lies the problem. These animals are often not vetted, are not spayed/neutered, and have had no behavior assessments. Adopters or fosters are left to deal with problems, and the rescue readily takes the adoption fee. There is a growing list of complaints against these groups and the business model of get dogs cheap, and get them gone fast.

The Puppymill lite
There are people refereed to as backyard breeders, trying to sell puppies advertising themselves as a rescue. I see them on Craigslist angling for the sympathy vote as well as the lucrative puppy "adoption" fees (often priced two to three times that of an adult dog.) There are also certain rescues who only pull pregnant females from pounds so that they can sell off the pups at 8 weeks. It tends to take the nobility from rescuing when the goal is to save a dog so that it can make you money. But make money they do, and in a very big way. So much so, that "rescues" are bringing in dogs from Mexico just to sell more puppies. Seriously. I recently signed a petition to reign in online pet sales and the White House Response included a note about the importation of sick puppies. I looked into that more and was simply amazed.

Please, please, please, understand that I still completely support my local pound, SPCA, and legitimate rescue groups. "Adopt, Don't Shop" all the way. I just wanted to express this minority of rescues are making the whole process of trying to help just a little harder on me, and I imagine on others as well.

January 8, 2012

Did I say Pug or Sheltie, I meant...

I meant to say that I should never take anything for granted.

Neither group has contacted me with respects to needing foster homes. Was it something I said? More likely there aren't any dogs to foster, but I can't help but feel a little cast aside, and more than a little naive to believe that I submit an application and the dog comes delivered the next day with the newspaper.

So... I could wait for a call that may never come or use this initiative to support another rescue in need.  But which one? As if to promote how good a foster brother he will be, Relay was great today at the beach and the dog park. Here's a shot of him sharing a "stick".

I'm looking for any good insight. I feel like a girl without a date on a Saturday night. Seriously, are there any good rescues out there that need a foster family? I really did like the idea of a breed specific organization so that I could do some research before on needs and traits. Is that unrealistic? If not, then... what breed should I try and help next?

January 5, 2012

The Rescue Contenders

The process of finding the right rescue is proving to be less than straight forward. Many facilities I looked into where either not registered as not for profit or I fundamentally disagreed with their practices and policies. Registering with the animal control and SPCA in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake got me nowhere. Their fostering programs simply aren't run well enough as the focus is predominantly on adoptions.

So, last year I began vetting various rescue organizations and here's what I came up with.

I liked Beagles to the Rescue. This may be partially due to the fact that my mutt looks most like a beagle, but the facility is nice and they seem attentive and engaged with all the dogs in their care. I just feel that they aren't too resourceful at getting the adoptable dogs much exposure.

Animal Rescue of Tidewater is another wonderful organization that works closely with the local shelters and handles numerous owner surrenders. But like BTTR their dogs seem to stay way too long with their foster homes, and I'm looking to make my first foster a positive experience.

So, here are the two main contenders:
Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue & Collie and Sheltie Rescue of Southeast Virginia.
The first has a favorite breed of mine, the second a favorite of Jeff's, but I anticipate either group being a success.

New Year and time to get some poochies into new homes!

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, but I did set one goal in motion.

I want to foster dogs this year to help them find their forever homes.

Jeff (the hubby) and I have discussed this for a few months now and it is the best option for us as a family and the best way we can be proactive in helping keep pets out of shelters until they find their perfect families.

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle our journey and help to create adoption success stories.



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