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 29, 2013

Introducing... Nutella!

A 3 week old chocolate lab came into my life all of about 10 minutes ago and I really couldn't wait any longer to share the news. I am just gushing!
First off I want to point out how completely rediculous Jeff and I are for naming her Nutella. In total honesty that was the first name we both thought of when we learned that the pound needed a foster. I blame hunger. But whatever, she'll get a new name in about 5 weeks time anyway. That's how long we get this baby. Just old enough to get her spay and be put on the adoption floor.

Secondly, let me point out for all those out there that swear that there are never any puppies in shelters, :-p

Her story is a weird one. A special needs person just brought it home, saying someone outside of a supermarket gave it to her. The mother immediately brought her to the pound. Thankfully, she seems healthy and happy, but normally a puppy should never be separated from her mother at so young an age. I've never had a puppy foster this small before, all she does is squeak, pee, eat, and sleep. And for a few weeks she's all ours. Relay seems intrigued. Smokey seems unsure. I'm sure once Jeff gets home, he'll be in love.

January 28, 2013

Testing for food aggression

As a foster, I need to be prepared to answer questions about dogs in my care. One question not always thought of is "What can trigger an aggressive response?" Many of the dogs come with incomplete histories, so I often run the pups through a gantlet of scenarios to see how they react. Right now I want to talk about food aggression.

Even the best of dogs can have some food issues, so I don't typically consider it a deal breaker. However, it is vitally important that we can paint an honest picture of dogs available for adoption to make sure the match is forever. Food aggression could mean nothing to a family with no children or other dogs, or everything to a family with both. When we get a foster dog I end up checking their levels of food aggression and their triggers systematically.

Dogs first start out with meals in their crates. This actually ends up being very helpful to nervous dogs who are over whelmed with all the changes. From here I can also see the pace and interest in kibble. Some dogs inhale the food, others graze, some only eat when they see others eating. If I have multiple fosters in the house, my next step is to start each meal with pups in their crates. Then I will let them out, one at a time, directing them to their specific bowl, based on the speed that they eat. I always stay in the room to play referee. Invariably, one will try to wander over to another bowl. I just guide them back to theirs and pick up all the bowls once a meal is done. What I'm looking for here is which dogs try to muscle and how each dog reacts to the proximity.

From this baseline of kibble at meal time, I can test if different foods trigger different responses. We feed a variety of food and snacks here, and expose our fosters to them little by little. Biscuits, dried meats, can food, home made dog food, bully sticks, cooked meats, raw meats. Those last three are the ones to watch for severe reactions.

Before any snack I make sure that each dog is sitting. Once they are chomping away, I approach, and then walk away. A little later, I come back, this time a little closer, and walk away. Lastly, I walk on over, say "good boy/girl" and give them a pat. With Relay it doesn't matter what the food is, if I came over and took it straight out of his mouth, he would not react at all. Some of my fosters may growl a little until they figure out I mean no harm. Only on two occasions have I encountered an aggressive response.

It was actually our very first foster, Holly who bit me. We had never had any indication of food aggression up to the incident. I gave her a bully stick and she went over to the couch to chomp away. Both Jeff, Relay and I were in the living room, moving around. I sat on the couch and she growled. Thinking I would send her to 'time out' I motioned towards her, and snap. This sweet little beagle, loving as the day was long, clamped down on my hand and took out a chunk for good measure.

Looking back I can tell I took her sweet, submissive demeanor for granted. Also, I wasn't paying enough attention to her physical cues. But the good news was I now knew that there was a problem to address. I trained with her over the course of the next few weeks until I was able to give her that same bully stick, take it away and give it back, and sit next to her, petting the whole time as she enjoyed it. And before she was adopted, I made sure to inform the family.

I am by no means professional dog trainer, but a year of living with pups, smoothing out their rough edges, research, and good old fashioned trial and error is helping me become a better foster mom. As I figure things out, I'll be sure to share my two cents, but I'm always looking for insights. So, what about you? Ever encounter food aggression? What worked, what didn't?

January 22, 2013

Introducing... Smokey!

Our latest from Collie and Sheltie Rescue comes to us with a very similar backstory as Harley. An owner surrender, this time at Virginia Beach SPCA, Smokey could not cope with the shelter environment. A very sensitive breed, poor thing cowered in the corner and wouldn't let anyone come near. Thankfully they contacted CSREVA before they put him down. And wouldn't you know it, outside of the SPCA he was just your typical dog.

Although Shetland Sheepdogs do come in black and white, I suspect this kid may have a touch of mystery to his makeup. Possibly border collie? He's still beautiful regardless. (You'll be able to see it better when that cone comes off ;-) And he's very much a young pup, they estimate him to be 1-2 years old, so I'm sure he will draw quite a bit of interest.

Smokey spent some time at the Rescue HQ (and by that I mean the home of the woman who runs Collie Sheltie), so we know that he's cat friendly. He's also dog friendly, doesn't mark, and isn't being territorial with his food, toys, or treats. He's crate trained and knows 'sit' which is always a plus. When it's loving time, he's all about it.

Now for the things we need to work on. This pup is definitely skittish. I'm sure it will take a full two weeks to get him comfortable with us.(The cone never helps this process.) He spends much of his time hanging out by the back door or in the front room. Outside he can bark and recently a fire truck went by sirens blazing and we heard Smokey howl back. (Jeff loves a good howl, so he would not consider this a negative.) Biggest logistics issue is that he has no idea how to go up and down stairs. This is a huge problem for us on the second floor. But overall nothing insurmountable that would limit his placement. We'll give him some time to sort it all out and then start some training.

January 18, 2013

This is a foster blog, right?

Where are the fosters?

When Relay was injured, we had to give up our two foster dogs, Max and Trixie. Because I wasn't being as strict about the bed rest as I needed to be, Relay took a long time to see improvement. To keep him company we had a kitten foster, Boots (really, because we can't help ourselves).

But I have some happy news. All three of these kids found their forever homes! I'm still waiting to see happy adoption shots of the two pups, but because Boots (now called Luna) was adopted by a friend of mine, I can share a little cuteness.

I think it's safe to say that she's settling in just fine.

And a little more happy news. Relay seems like he's getting back to his normal self. I'll still keep an eye on things, but we're going ahead and putting ourselves back on the available list for our rescues... And wouldn't you know it, there's a sheltie that needs some fostering love. More to come on that front here soon.

January 16, 2013

The Best of #BtC4A 1/15

Blog the Change for Animals is a time for pet bloggers to shine and put the spotlight on causes they are passionate about. Life got in the way a bit this time and I could only manage a link to an earlier post. Instead, I decided to show my support in a different way. I made sure to stop by all the submissions this today. Here are my favorite posts (in the order I read them) with links to the article and twitter handle of the authors. If, like me you are trying to play catch up, run down this cheat sheet and be sure to stop by and send them some pet blogging love.

Peggy's Pet Place: Dogs Deserve Better - I know that I've seen them. Dogs that seem perpetually chained to a post or tree. Abandoned and neglected... but not by everyone. There's a group of people determined to help bring these pets into loving homes. And you can be a part of it, too. +Peggy Frezon

NEPA Pets: So you think you want a Parot? - I would almost argue that owning a parrot is more difficult than owning a dog. My father is a bird whisperer so I love this post. Share this with anyone thinking about parrot adoption.

PupLove: Paws on the Shore - I love this concept. All dogs welcome to get some great exercise and socialization and help raise funds for rescue and wonderful animal causes. Makes me want to start one here.

I Sitll Want More Puppies: FOHA: Forty Years of helping animals - One of my go to blogs of course has a must read. Showcasing the impact a great rescue can have, how much it can accomplish, this post inspires us all to join the good fight.

No Dog About It: Help Fight Minnesota Puppy Mills Today - Another of my favorite bloggers, this post is a call to arms! Jeff's home state has an opportunity to help make a huge difference in the lives of countless pets and Mel for one is not going to let it pass.

Cindy Lu's Muse: Puppy Parlor Pet Shop - Not all irresponsible breeding happens on some factory farming scale. This post talks about how abuses are happening right in the back room. Scroll to "What can we do about this?" for your marching orders.

Rescued Insanity: My First Fostering Experience - I got such a kick out of reading the highs and lows with this first kitten foster, having had our own here and felt the same. This is an honest look at the apprehensions of fostering and all the joys that follow.

The Daily Dog Blog: Be the Change by Being Nice -  Utterly fascinating  and just the simplest of ideas... Be nice. This post looks at the mindset of pet hoarders and how a little love can go a long way.

Keep the Tail Wagging: Help Dog Rescue by Changing Attitude - Not a confrontational person, I err on politeness even when I'm not met in kind. But sometimes, making a statement, taking a stand for animals is more important than etiquette. Read this post and feel free to substitute your favorite four letter word. +Kimberly Gauthier

Bringing Up Bella- Saving Satos - Okay, so I don't really agree with some of the wording in this post. It's still a great adoption story, and if we can't look at a topic from all angles, then we can't ever hope to understand it. Besides... Bella is a cutie!

Pixel Blue Eyes: No Tail Left Behind Continued - I was always a fan of a happy tail wag, but had no idea of the possible health complications of tail docking. Let's educate ourselves that there are consequences to cosmetics. +Pixel Blue Eyes

This was a marathon reading session! 60 posts and I don't even know how many hours later... But all for a good cause. Big thanks to Be the Change 4 Animals for hosting, and I'll be sure to get it together for the next go around. And if you haven't read our submission, please do. It really is a beautiful story+Relays House

January 10, 2013

2013 Pet Blogger Challenge

Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10I just love the pet blogging community for setting up little gems like these. And just after my own first blogaversary! Even though I'm on the road (Jacksonville, FL is treating me very nicely I must say) I'll take a minute or two to answer some questions and will enjoy the rest of the week jumping around other entries and make some more friends.

1. When did you begin your blog?

2. What was your original purpose for starting a blog?

To use this platform to highlight our adventures becoming a foster family and to help homeless pets find their forever homes.

3. Is your current purpose the same?

I'm very glad to say that it is. I was surprised to add the occasional kitten, and more than a few misadventures. I've also been very glad to impart a few tips and treats along the way.

If so, how do you feel you’ve met your goals?

Well, I'm very happy to report that a few adopter families said the blog helped them make their decision. It's hard looking at a profile photo and make a choice on a new addition to your family. A few posts on their personality, some cute videos, and seeing how the dogs interact in my home help people better understand if it's the right fit.

4. How often do you post?

Not nearly as often as I should. I average about every three days or so... but I admit to going a week between because of lack of planning, vacation, or life hiccups.

5. Do you blog on a schedule or as the spirit moves you?

If I have enough forethought to jump on a blog hop awesome, but more often than not it is just as I feel I have something to say.

If you don’t publish on a schedule, why? How do you think your decision affects your audience? How do you know when a topic is “post-worthy?”

I don't always have fosters. We like to take a break in between to let us all come back to a sense of normal. In those lulls I will blog only when I think I have something "post-worthy" which to me is defined by the idea "can this post accomplish something." That could be as simple as making the reader smile or as serious as a call to action.

6. How much time do you spend writing your blog per week? How much time visiting other blogs? Share your  tips for staying on top of it all.

You know, I never thought to time how long it takes me to write a post. There are a few that I edit again and again trying to get the wording just right. Others where its just a furry of fingers on keyboard. Thankfully, Twitter, Facebook, and Google + help to keep me appraised of all the comings and goings of my fellow bloggers. I do have a few favorite blogs that I make a point to check on more frequently, but I need to be more diligent of spreading my blogging love.

7. How do you measure the success of a post and of your blog in general (comments, shares, traffic)?

To look at the comments or traffic can become obsessive, so I define each post's success by how I feel about it. Some of my most successful posts are ones that get the least amount of traffic. When I can feel moved by something, even after months of its' publishing, I am proud.

Do you look strictly at the numbers, or do you have a way of assessing the quality of those interactions?

Numbers are important, to a point. My best interactions come into play when another blogger reads my posts and thinks so much of them to include a link into their own blog. First time that happened I was acting like a complete happy fool.

8. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one issue you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

I suppose that now that I spend so much time doing this, it would be important for me to start trying to monetize. That is a whole subject on which I know nothing and that scares me witless.

9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2013?

It was a rough first year blogging, learning the ropes if you will. Now I need to streamline my process, and get these homeless pets as much exposure as possible.

January 8, 2013

Not a bad first year

My first blogiversary.

The entire things seems a bit surreal. And of course my family thinks that I'm silly. I think they expected this to be a fad that I would go through. [Well, to be fair, I may need to be a bit more diligent about my posts, there are some major revamps that I need to get through (so please be patient during the upcoming 'construcion').] But almost 20,000 views and 100+ posts, I find myself scrolling over to the Happy Tails tab and seeing the actual difference I have made in such a short time. Pets who were scared, untrained, starved for affection are now in warm, loving homes.

It was not a year wasted at all. I am a better person for experiencing all the highs and the lows of fostering. And I am richer for having such great blogging buddies to cheer me on along the way. To my readers, to the pet bloggers, to my friends, and of course to Jeff and Relay... thank you for a terrific year.


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More