Have I gone crazy!?

I live downtown in an itty-bitty apartment with not just one, but THREE children all under the age of 5 and my hubby. We have a cat. I work as a receptionist at a vet clinic seeing lots of puppies and kittens every day. You'd think I have my fix, right? WRONG! We end up opening our heart and our home to 2 rescues... and that's it! I must be dog-gone mad!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Dog Named Max

I know this is Pepper's blog. Generally, I write about my adventures with Pepper, although I've kind of fallen behind on that. Occasionally, I will foster a dog and will write about the foster dog and their journey to their forever home.

Max's story, however, is one that has taken me quite a bit to write...

I knew Max from work. His owner was an older lady who loved him deeply and visited us often. At one point this year, however, the visits were further and further apart.

The first couple of phone calls that built up to my decision were from his owner. She was distressed about finding a home for Max, simply because she was moving to another assisted living facility that wouldn't allow her to keep him. Now, don't be quick to judge this woman; these phone calls were hard for her to make. She rescued Max from the pound back around 2005 or sooner and he was her companion since! Communication was iffy; she had no phone (she would borrow one from a friend if she could), and her mailing address didn't seem to work.

Then, before Thanksgiving, I answered a phone call and immediately recognized her voice: "How much does euthanasia cost at your clinic?" I gave her an estimate, and she asked me if the cost included the chance to be in the room with the pet as they pass. Somehow I knew that this is not really what she wanted, so I drew the boldness to ask, "What's going on with Max?" She said, with a very broken voice, "They are moving me to a new assisted living facility this Sunday. If I don't find a place for Max by then, they will drop him off at the pound to have him put down. I don't know who would want to adopt an old dog like him, but I don't have the money to afford having him put down at your clinic and I just don't know what to do..." I put her on hold, confirmed with the honey, and came back on the line. I offered her the option of surrendering Max to me. I knew it was hard to communicate with her outside her calls, so I told her I would be more than happy to take Max until I could find a permanent home for him. And it would release her financially of having to make a decision either way. She was more than thrilled and she gave me an address where I could meet her on Saturday.

I went to pick up Max and as usual, he was happy to see me. Seemed happy to go outside, although both dog and owner were a bit stiff walking in the snow and ice. I lifted Max, all 83 lbs, by myself to the backseat of my SUV (and my back took it's revenge on me later), and dog and lady said goodbye. The lady signed Max over to me and left me with some food and some instructions for his care... mentioned something about me being "God-sent", although I certainly didn't feel it. As I drove away Max was obviously disappointed that the lady wasn't in the car with us and when we got home, he seemed too depressed to eat or move around much.

When he did move, he seemed very stiff, and he had a hard time getting around in our hardwood floors. I took him to his vet at our clinic, and after examining him she was very frank with me. She said she would've allowed his previous owner to make payments on Max's euthanasia because he was not in good shape. It was just a difficult call to make, as both vet and I are getting kisses from Max and he's doing nothing but wagging his tail the whole appointment! So we decided to give it a try...

A couple of hundred dollars later, I come home to hubby with old dog, new dog food to help him lose a good 10 lbs, glucosamine supplements, omega 3 supplements, and 2 medications to help with pain relief. He also needed antibiotics because his teeth were in atrocious condition, but his blood work showed questionable liver values so putting him under anesthesia at this point was not really an option.

Max was on a strict diet and regiment, although if he felt good enough he was more than happy to try getting left-overs out of the trash or eating Pepper's food. My husband and I even logged it on the fridge, to make sure he was getting everything he needs if he was to have a fighting chance at life. We both knew at this point he probably was not adoptable, but we were willing to consider becoming his permanent home as long as his health would allow.

The only thing he got freely and abundantly was love. He would hobble over to wherever you were sitting and lick your feet. The kids came by and gave him love and affection whenever they had to walk over him or around him. Paul and I frequently loved on him as encouragement and motivation every time he was on his feet.

You could tell he loved being outside and on the first couple of days after the new medications, he would pull you out the door and seemed to want to go around the block. We quickly discovered that although he wanted to go further, his body really couldn't make it past the Chinese restaurant across the parking lot from us; he would start panting, walking really awkwardly. His joints would lock at the shoulder and hip level and his gait would be so ... difficult. Still, we waited to see improvement.

After a few weeks we noticed he was actually declining. He couldn't stand up on his own at all, and eventually resisted Paul's help by laying on his side; his way of giving up. He really didn't want to eat, which was odd for Max to begin with, and as I observed him I noticed his legs would shake and give out on him while he was eating. I started feeding him on the floor wherever he was laying down.

I have to point out here that Alaska winters are harsh and unforgiving. While we had Max we went from rain with hurricane-force winds to fast, deep freezes. Walking for us and the kids outside was painful, insanely icy and slippery. Our apartment didn't allow for Max to empty himself anywhere inside, he had to walk out there. I had 3 kids under the age of five in a one bedroom apartment, giving Max a "potty" break inside was not an option, and he wouldn't have taken it anyways. He refused to pee unless all 4 paws were buried in snow - and snow itself was hard to find this winter outside when everything was frozen solid.

Paul and I decided it was time. And we realized that it was better now than to wait for a slip on the ice, a broken hip or shoulder, when Max would've been in excruciating pain. He didn't deserve that.

Those 3 days from when his appointment was on the calendar to when we were actually in the clinic with him were painfully long. I cried at almost anything. We had a good friend take some portraits of him. I made a ceramic paw print of his to put with his picture frame. I feed him beef stew and chicken nuggets (why not? His diet days were over). We made sure he knew what a good boy he was! He took care of his owner. He loved on us unconditionally. All the while I was waiting, hoping his previous owner would call soon, but it had been around a month already and I didn't know how much longer Max would hold on. He was in so much discomfort.

Pepper kissed Max's face good bye, as if she knew he was leaving for good when he walked out the door this time. I told the kids to give Max hugs and kisses good bye. Anakin, my 5 year old, asked me if Max was going to a new home. I told him that Max was going to be euthanized, and he asked me what that means. I explained, "We are taking him to the vet, where we are going to help him die peacefully and without pain. It helps them to pass away without suffering, which is the best thing for Max now." I can't lie to my kids anyways. Anakin put his arms around Max's neck and cried onto his face. Then he gave him a kiss on the forehead, wiped his tears, and got in the car. We dropped off the kids at day care and went to the clinic.

In the clinic, in the room, we got Max comfortable and the veterinarian administered the sedative - the last thing Max would feel. There was a cookie jar by Paul with dog treats. Max kept licking Paul's hand, and looking at the treats, then looking back at Paul... It was funny to see him try to signal to Paul. Then Max got treat, after treat, after treat. His veterinarian, Paul, and me kept telling Max what a good boy he was. He laid on that table, wagged his tail, as happy as can be. He gave Paul and me a couple of kisses, then the vet gave him the final injection. Midway through it, Max put his head into my arms and closed his eyes, peacefully going to sleep. By the time the vet was done with the injection, she checked for his pulse and let us know that he was gone. Then Paul and I started bawling.

It's been days since and I'm still crying. But I know that he went loved and cared for, painless, and it was what he deserved. I'm at peace with our decision, but we miss him, and its altogether a difficult experience to get over. Paul still has a hard time looking at his pictures or seeing his things, even when we've already gotten his ashes back. We didn't even own him for that long and it still tore our hearts.

His previous owner happened to call after Max was put down, and it was painful for me to tell her that we did it. I apologized to her for it too, but when I explained that Max wasn't really doing well, she was appreciative of our choice. She shared with me that Max used to love running in the snow and swimming in the lake, and if he didn't want to eat or go outside anymore than it was definitely his time to go. She asked me if it was her fault for not taking better care of him, and I told her she took great care of him. Arthritis is a cancer; you treat it to live with it as long as you can, but you can't cure it. It got the best of Max's joints and he couldn't fight it any more. I got her new address, where I'm taking some of Max's pictures and his ashes to her this week. I still try to picture Max running in the snow or chasing ducks at the lake but I honestly have to say I didn't meet him when he was that young. He was still such a good boy...

So I wrote this blog for a purpose. And that is because every pet deserves Max's end. Not an end at a shelter, or in the snow, or on the street. But with the love and care of his owners. They love you unconditionally and see no fault with you, the least we can do is give them room in our home and in our hearts for the rest of their lives! And if you can't quite commit to that, then it's best to not have a pet at all. I know during the holidays many people get kids and spouses and girlfriends puppies and kittens... But what happens to the pet when the kids grow up? Move? or the relationship ends? It is not fair for that pet. It takes guts and a serious amount of selflessness to take care of a dog or cat until the very end. And that is my challenge to you with this blog: Not to go and get yourself a pet if you are not up for this kind of commitment and heart-wrenching end. But if you already have one, to love them and have them be a part of the family until this end comes to you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Long Time No Blog...

It's been a while since I last blogged. Probably because I felt I had little to write about. Also because it was so busy! I was exhausted.

But enough about me, now on to Pepper.

Since climbing Flat Top, Pepper has been doing good, not a whole lot of adventures. We settled down at home as the climate got colder up here.

She goes to doggy day care once a week, just to keep her social with other dogs and people. She loves the people there, and has made a few buddies. Which is good for her! She's a pain out in public. She feels the need to bark and act threatening towards all other men. This attitude is so annoying I'm considering a shock collar just to get her to quit it. But at least she's friendly towards little dogs and some women.

We also started dog training with Alaska Dog Sports. I'm hoping to build her confidence, maybe move on to cool things we could do together, such as agility or rally.

I'm on the verge of giving up.

She is insanely difficult to work with. If I have a treat in my hand and I call her to me, she cowers, runs away from me, and pees. If I stand upright, I can't get her attention at all, I have to crouch over, but that intimidates her sometimes. They suggested I train her up on a table, but she's too scared to focus and will spend all the time trying to get down. Her "sit" is optional, her "come" takes an extra 15 minutes of waiting for her to finish cowering in circles and peeing on herself. Her "stay" is non-existent. We are on week 3.

Most leash work involves her yapping and squealing because she'll tie herself up by spinning in circles around me in panic.

It doesn't help that I am normally short-tempered. I don't have patience. My natural self wants to smack her upside the head and tell her "Cut it out!" when she starts acting so afraid. And yet I know that when I get aggravated, it only makes her MORE nervous, and then she avoids me more.

AAAGH! Why couldn't I have adopted a more normal dog? With less issues? A more confident, happy dog!? It is just easier to leave her be for the rest of her natural life...

Then again, her natural life could be another 10-15 years. Do I want her being a little snot for that long? Nope.

All venting aside though, I know why Pepper and I get along so well. We are perfectly compatible. I am the same way! Fear cripples me, lack of confidence and low self-esteem often have me cowering in circles instead of doing the things I know I could be doing. I could be a lot more than what I've accomplished at 26 years of age, but I'm always afraid to try, so I never commit. I was the girl that never (and I mean, NEVER) played any sports. I was afraid I would never be any good at it, so I'd rather flunk PE and not even try than to put in effort and not be good at it. I've never done anything competitive - specially not physically. I've never tried to be the best at something for fear I'll fall short, so I'm always mediocre.

On my list of fears are even baking, following recipes, or cooking for more than 5 people. The expectancy of failure, the fear of criticism, keep me in the background. And it's ridiculous, even as a type this, but true.

Now we both have this fear obstacle to overcome if we're going to do any better than where we are. But how can we work together? How do I translate confidence in doggy language? How do I acquire confidence for myself?

Might be too deep of a thought before I can blog on this... But in the mean time, I'll just keep working on Pepper, short sessions at a time, high value treats, step by step. And possibly some yoga for me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Climbing to the top!

I had one of those experiences w/ Pepper that I know are embedded within my heart... which will make it so much more difficult to let her go when it's time for her to pass away - I know this, and though I don't have to think about this right now, I'm facing the reality that I'm investing my life into this dog and we are building experiences together.

My sister and her boyfriend came to visit for a week. Pepper was a little unsettled at home, though she warmed up to Valen and Ralfie pretty quickly. She was yappy, yappy, yappy! Obnoxious.

But when we decided to go to Flat Top on Tuesday morning, I brought her along. She had not been on a hike in a while, and she's a completely different dog outdoors. At home, she's afraid of strangers, and startled by everything. Outdoors, she greets everyone like long-lost friends, and tackles everything! I don't know how to explain it... I can't prove it. But I took her anyways.

The first part of the hike is basically a long walk uphill. Then there are steps. Pepper handled these in stride. Smelling every flower, going way ahead and then coming back to check on me. Smiling and sniffing every dog she sees.

Then the incline starts building up, as well as the rocks, and the hike gradually becomes more of a climb. She's jumping from rock to rock, working her way up. Still happy as she can be! A little bit more concerned for me. I'm having doubts. I'm terrified of heights, and I'm clumsy. I'm worried that even if I make it all the way up, I still have to face the descent, and I don't know that I can do it. I'm sitting on rocks, catching my breath... pain in my chest and on my knees. I'm so tired of being such a wimp!

And there she is, a few feet above me, wagging her tail with her head cocked to the side as if to say, "Mom, you're coming?"

We get higher still and now it's just a flat out vertical climb. Paul and I finally realize that we've left Pepper a little behind, she's running around in circles but can't really climb up to join us. At one point she tries to make a jump, and slips - a fall that could've taken her down 1,000 ft. Paul catches her by her coat and places her on a ledge. Paul climbs a head of me, I get to a comfy spot and then I pick Pepper up and lift her to Paul with one hand, who in turn lifts her up above his head where she can secure her footing and finish the climb.

Paul and I make it to the top. Pepper's never been more happy to see me! I feel victory. A little bit more confidence. I am stronger and more able then I give myself credit! All four of us (Valen, Ralfie, Paul and me) praise Pepper like crazy. Strangers at the top praise Pepper like crazy (not a lot of dogs make the climb all the way to the top. A few do, but not every dog).

She's checking out the view from every angle of that mountain top.

Then we start working down. She's jumping from rock to rock. Then she gets stuck - there's a point where she loses her balance and slips, turns around, jumps back up. Now she's going around in circles, only every time she does a circle, she ends up back at the top and we are leaving her further and further behind. So we manage to coax her to our level, I grab her and balance her on my lap. She seems to know exactly what we're doing and stays on my lap as I spider crawl/slide on my rear down the crevice of the rock. Up until the can find her footing again and off she goes. One step ahead of me. Checking up on me every step of the way.

We make it home. She gets in the car. She sleeps on my lap the whole way home. She's such a GOOD dog outdoors. She acts so silly at home - specially when you know she can do better! But we're all happy with her. She did a great job!

I wouldn't have made it to the top of that mountain without her. I'm not saying she was my sole motivation. Seeing my sister at the top challenged me because I didn't want to spend time without her, knowing she'd leave home soon and we may not see each other again for years. My husband encouraged me and helped me climb the whole way - didn't give up on me, coached me every step of the way. But had Pepper felt afraid and refused to climb, I would've had an excuse to give in to my fear and stay down with her. And Pepper is usually afraid! But it was as if she was feeding off my need for motivation and motivated herself to go up there as well. She kept me from quitting because I had nothing and no one to quit to.

Up there it was so beautiful I felt even that God was speaking to me. Call me crazy, but I believe He does. There was a stillness and a peace that refreshed my soul. And God speaks to me through my interactions with Pepper - lessons of faith, trust, perseverance, and courage. She relied on her master the whole time. She was willing to go anywhere the master pointed her to go. I could learn a lot from Pepper if I keep my eyes, ears, and heart open!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bye Mocha!

I've fostered and had dogs adopted left and right. Usually I'm relieved when they are gone, maybe with the exception of Nova... with Mocha, however, it was completely different.

We were sad! Everyone at home moped around all day Sunday after she was picked up by her new owner. The kids even put themselves down for a nap (figure that one out!). The rainy weather didn't help the mood.

I had to ask Paul to help me because I didn't think I could hand her over by myself.

I guess if I look back, I always was happy to hand over the puppies because of the poop cleaning/potty training issues. I would foster them and devote my life to cleaning the floors and mopping, and avoiding puddles. They are cute, but then they chew on everything and eliminate everywhere. And I am eager to get them into their new homes so that they can start bonding with their owners and being housebroken the way their new owners want.

Then I had Genny, who destroyed my house at least twice over, left fur everywhere, pooped/peed everywhere, and knocked me on my face on the ice... I couldn't hand her over quick enough! She was EXHAUSTING! And she howled like a banshee (or a husky mix, which is what she was) every time she was in the kennel.

The problem is that I got attached to Mocha. I loved her like she was my dog. We all did. We pet her, played with her, treated her, walked her, and invested in her emotionally like she was ours to keep. And we had so much fun with her too! And she would love on you and look at you with a face that said, "I love you. And I'll be loyal to the end!"

So I wanted to find her a good home - and I did! And I handed her over to a home that would be better for her than the one I could provide. We may have loved her, but we couldn't accommodate her needs. We lived in an apartment. We don't have a fenced yard. She really didn't have the space that a husky/shepherd mix requires. And I knew that we weren't going to be able to commit, long-term, to exercising her the way a husky/shepherd mix with her energy requires. So the love that we all had for her also led us to make the decision: We have to let her go. We can't adopt her. We are fostering her until she finds her perfect "forever" home.

Even if it made me cry a little. Even if I miss her!

I think even Pepper misses her too. She's been needier than usual, just wanting to cuddle, moping around, not really eating. I think she feels she lost a buddy... I wonder if Pepper ever gets nervous that one day she'll be the one to go? Not happening. I couldn't give Pepper away even if I wanted to! And we don't.

I do feel a little better reading this update from her new family:

Things are going fine. She’s a lot easier than [my other dog]! They get along fine and she’s totally gentle with my girls. She needs some leash training so she stops pulling but I think she’ll pick it up quick. Today she seemed to be a little more relaxed with life; did a lot more exploring, and was wanting love and attention a little more, so I guess she’s starting to think I’m not so bad. She doesn’t seem to chew on things any more than [my other dog] does so we are already used to that. The cat is slowly getting used to her. Mocha is fine with the cat but the cat is not always fine with Mocha. Given some adjustment time she’ll be just fine. I’ll let you know if we come across any problems but so far we are doing good.

I know we are doing a good thing! I know it's good for us to continue to have our home open so we can keep fostering. I know Mocha will do great! I am at peace about saying good-bye to Mocha.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Day in the Wild

So we took the dogs camping with us... and 3 kids... makes me think "Yup! Definitely nuts!" But it was actually fun! Mind you, Pepper yapped all through the camp and probably got on EVERYBODY's last nerve (next time? Sedatives... maybe even a shock collar... I dunno... But I can't board her w/ anyone cuz she hates other people!). But the kids had a good time. Pepper had plenty of running time too, she got to explore and smell everything, go into other people's campers and check them out (like it's all good! LOL). Mocha? Not so much. We are one week away from having her adopted, I didn't really want to lose her! Not to mention she would run into the bush and not really come back... And we have to be in the look out for bears and moose... and I've seen what a husky that got trampled on by a moose looks like; it's not pretty! Excruciating, in fact. So around camp she hung out with us, on a leash.

Then we went hiking, and we felt so bad for her... cuz she wanted to GOOOOO and I remember feeling the same way with Pepper on her first hike. So we let her off the leash.... and she did good! She did go farther than Pepper (seeing as she's bigger), which was scarier, but always came back (no duh, I still have her!). She ran off to a lake and jumped in, drank her fill, and came back in less than 5 minutes... But it was nice to see Mocha get to run free for a bit before we "caught" her and put her back on the leash.

Pepper would just run and jump over dandelions. And when I watch her, I can't help but be happy. I don't know why seeing Pepper happy on our hikes makes me so happy. I can just sit down and watch her run around and it gives me joy. I think it's embedded in who I am: I love dogs, I love the outdoors, and I love hiking. I think I'm developing a new passion; photography! I want to capture what I see so others can feel what I feel.

I think as far as dogs go, Pepper has a pretty good life! She's lucky to be with a family that will take her on outdoor adventures instead of leaving her home. Mocha is pretty lucky too, and I know that she will be adopted into the right home where she won't be neglected or lonely.

Pepper is such a buddy to me. She's more than happy to accompany me anywhere... joins me in whatever I'm doing. Hiking is one of those things that we both equally love, and she seems to take in as much of the beauty (but a lot more scents) as I do. Who would've thought? I didn't know that she would be such a compliment to me when I adopted her. But she seems to have picked me - maybe she knew we were a match?

I've only owned Pepper for a few months, but we've bonded in so many ways... The things that are frustrating about her aren't so bad when I take into consideration the dog she was when she showed up to our home that first Thursday night. And she gets a little better, a little social, every time. She is still so willing to try, willing to please. And I guess what I love about being outdoors with her is that we are both in a more natural, relaxed state. We're not trying to please anyone, just being ourselves. And it's good enough out in the 'wild'. It's just good.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pepper's Foster Sister

So we have a new foster puppy, Mocha! Mocha is a husky (I think potentially german shepherd) mix, 9 months old. Brown and beautiful. She was brought into the rescue as a dog in the Montana Creek raid (if you haven't heard or read this story, click HERE!). She was a little puppy back then! Since January she has been adopted... and returned... 3 times. And I'm trying to figure out why!

We would keep her if we lived in a house and not an apartment. It's ridiculously hard not getting attached to such a beautiful big dog that is so good!

You see, Pepper was technically a rescue FAIL. Because she would've never gotten adopted. She is so "stranger shy" that no one would've come into our home, met with Pepper, and decided to keep her. One look at her growling like Cujo and they would be like, "Ew. Never mind." But she likes us, so I guess that makes her ok.

Mocha, on the other hand, is absolutely lovable (and gorgeous besides)! She is gentle with you, loves children and other dogs. She puts her head on your lap and looks at you with these gorgeous amber eyes and you melt. She is potty trained. She likes to chew but waits for you to give her toys. Or she'll bring something to you and stare at you to see if you tell her "leave it" or if it's ok for her to play with. When everyone is all mellow, she'll just grab a toy and lay down.

I mean, I live in an apartment. She's a husky mix. And we're doing great! That says something. Did I mention she's only 9 months old? So she's an adolescent husky mix (high energy gallore) and she's still very well behaved! She doesn't jump on furniture or on you. She rarely howls.

She does require daily walks, which are strenuous for me because she pulls on the leash... like a mushing dog. She just wants to haul all the time. So we go out for 45 minutes, only walk for about 15, and spend 30 minutes spinning in circles while she's training to loose-leash walk.

She deserves a fenced yard where she can bounce and frolic and play! And a home that will love her and work with her till the day she passes on.

Pepper likes her. I will put Mocha in her kennel for the night and Pepper will jump in and lie on her... and they cuddle for the night. Pepper grooms her (and it gets on Mocha's nerve). And they play tag all the time. Pepper still growls at her if she's going near her food dish or Pepper's cat (Leo, our actual cat. Which Pepper never gave a flip about, but she won't let Mocha near him). But she's more relaxed on our walks around Mocha. And I'm hoping that through this she becomes less and less shy. I want Pepper to be social enough to go to doggy day care and spend the day playing with other dogs and other people. I think Pepper is active enough, and she is a sweet dog, if she can get past her insecurities... maybe it takes a little buddy to help... or in Mocha's case, a bigger foster sister!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thunderbird Falls

So we went hiking again, only I was disappointed that dogs couldn't be off-leash at this particular trail. So Pepper didn't enjoy it AS much but she hiked 2 hours up and down hill to the waterfall and back. She's terrified of water though (LOL).

She did ok! She even let some kids pet her! They asked me, and I had a chance to tell her to sit and the kids approached her and pet her around the face and she was ok! (YAY!) and then she sniffed other dogs. There was a pitbull on a choke collar that looked like he wanted to eat her and the owners cautioned me that he was dog aggressive... which wasn't easy because the trail is wet dirt road, with a cliff on one side, and doesn't give you room to go AROUND people. So I picked her up and we single-filed past him. But otherwise did ok. Constantly went by the baby to make sure the baby was ok.

I think she enjoys going with us off leash more. She was pulling a little bit, trying to get ahead, and had a bit of a cower the whole hike... I think she felt she was in trouble or something! But man we got home, I let her off the leash while we cleaned out the car, and she was running and jumping and still came to us whenever we called her.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Food Journey...

Raw? Science Diet? Orijen? Natural?

I thought I knew the answer... now I'm finding it's more of a game of whatever Pepper will eat.

I want her to be healthy. I want her to eat the healthiest possible for her, as a canine, and I quickly figured out by the bouts of diarrhea that the grilled cheese sandwhich Caleb snuck into her kennel is not optimal.

So we have a 25 lb bag of Natural Balance and she won't eat it. Unless I make it a soup w/ some chicken broth. I don't know how often I have chicken broth available, specially unseasoned and unsalted. Not to mention giving her mushy food does NOTHING for her teeth and her breath. So I'm willing to go with whatever works on her teeth.

I got a sample of a Science Diet formula ("Healthy Advantage") that is available through the vet clinic I work at. The kibble is a lot bigger, but she seems to like it. She has been eating every morning and night without adding anything to it. She also gets really excited if I hold the kibble in my hand and I use it for treats in training. She gets as excited about eating this kibble on my lap as she did pop corn. It isn't the most natural formula I've scene but looking at the ingredients it's not that bad (primary ingredient is protein, not corn). I feel like it's going against my core beliefs (LOL) so to speak, but it's working. She's eating. And she's not scavanging for left overs or scraps off my kids.

I like the fact that the kibble is formulated to give her something to work on and to clean her teeth, and she already has horrible teeth, so this is a plus.

I still prefer more natural diets for dogs. I wish she just liked natural balance or wellness and made my life easier. But ok. So I'm thinking that perhaps, I can do half kibble and half natural materials. So I'm not opposed to the raw diet but I am concerned about how it translates; I don't want my dog to get E.Coli, and I don't have the mental capacity to prepare the scientifically appropriate quantities of protein, fiber, and fat out of home-made ingredients... for a dog that weighs 10 lbs and eats about 1/2 cup of food a day. I don't even worry this much about my KID'S nutrition...

... Then again, I should interject that I know how to feed my kids. I know too much carbs will get them constipated, I know how to balance breakfast, lunch and dinner so that they eat all the protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that they need. I can choose the kinds of cereal that they like and that aren't all sugar. I can offer them fruit instead of cookies as snacks, and replace their french fries at McD's with apple dippers... And they can always tell me when their tummy doesn't feel so good, or when it hits the spot...

However with Pepper, my furry child, it's not quite as simple. And her diet isn't just about her being fed, but it affects how much she poops (which I clean up), how much she SHEDS (aha! You didn't know that did you? With appropriate amounts of omega 3 & 6 fats your dogs should shed minimally), and how much energy she has. And other than her food bowl looking just as full 3 days straight, I have no freakin' clue what's going on with her!

Anyhow, back to raw... there is a co-worker that gets gravies and raw food frozen, and then you could thaw it and feed it exclusively as the only diet for your dog... or you can use it as topping or for special meals. It didn't sound that expensive to where I wouldn't be able to try it. Then again, I can probably find out these recipies for myself (except if I do that, her food wouldn't have pheasant or bison, LOL). I already tend to prepare "special" meals for her when I get a whole chicken. I'll boil all the chicken, the gizzards, with carrots and celery, but no seasoning at all. Then I take the chicken out, season it and bake it for the family meal. I give the gizzards (unless Paul eats them first), the broth, and the veggies to Pepper for about a week, every other day.

She loves raw carrots though... and that's something I can give to her AND the kids. The kids love carrots with ranch dressing. But they'll also eat fruit and bananas and stuff...

I guess my biggest worry when it comes to dog food is how much is marketing, versus how much is science and dog biology? I feel like every brand is just trying to sell me their food. In the human world, it doesn't work because I know what I want and what I need. In the dog world, how do I know they are not just lying to me to get me to spend money on them? Grrrrr....

Sunday, June 5, 2011

She's such a dork!

I guess I lost the muse to say anything else other than the fact that she's a dork! We haven't done much this week because of other activities going on this weekend. And we shall see how she does next Saturday at the Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue Picnic.

She is afraid of helium balloons.

I've been trying to catalog the traits that are uniquely "Pepper" versus the traits that are associated with the breed. I have to look more into the breed.

Pepper is ultimately a cuddle bug. She just waits for you all day so that she can jump on your lap and snuggle against you. She waits for you to wake up so she could cuddle with you first thing in the morning too.

When you walk out the door, she looks at you leave as if you may never come back... you may be going on deployment for all she would know! But if you offer her to come along, her expression immediately changes to one of sheer joy and anticipation.

As lazy as she is indoors, she loves hiking and walking. She can definitely out-walk me! I don't do her energy level justice. She is an athletic little dog, that's for sure.

She squeals and squeaks until you are about to lose it - over food on your lap (if you make eye contact with her and give her the impression that you'll share), and to get out of the kennel. And when you get home. Then she has this deep "I'll kill you!" bark if there's someone knocking on the door or if you bring a stranger inside.

I can't teach her to "sit" worth a lick. She did it flawlessly for me ONCE. Then it went downhill from there. She squirms and howls and whines because you are giving her attention. In any other setting she just won't do it. But she comes pretty well - unless you are in the bathroom and the water is running... or if you have a dremmel or toothbrush in your hand.

So at "obedience school" she looks like an absolute moron - and makes you look like one too. However, most of the time at HOME she looks at you and acts like she understands what you are saying. For example, if I say goodnight to the kids, she goes into her kennel and lays down - like she KNOWS! And she responds to "get off me" and "come on up" perfectly. Complex commands like, "Go in the room and get Caleb (the 18 month old) out!" she does like english is her first language. "Sit" is a concept way above her head. "Don't you eat Leo's (the cat) food!" is one she's pretty good at - and she'll stare at me while holding a paw out towards Leo's food as if to say, "This one? I can't eat out of this particular bowl right here?" But in obedience school, "stay" might as well be alien.

At home she's a total cuddly-licky-face ball of cuteness with bad breath. In fact, she has a diamond spot on the top of her head, and whenever my husband or I "push the button" it's her cue to lick you all over the face. If I say, "Go get 'im!" she will tackle with dog kisses whoever I'm pointing to. But in public anyone that tries to touch her gets growls, possibly teeth, and a very fearful and stiff posture that warns you "I'm not quite sure what I'll do to you, but I'm letting you know I don't like you!" No one else likes her, that's for sure!

I wish people out in public would see the Pepper I see at home. *sigh*.

Today I gave her a bath. It took me a while to get her to come to me in the first place. But I put her in the bathtub, got her wet, and lathered her up. Then I finished her, but I forgot to get a towel for her. I told her, "Stay right there!" I leave the bathroom. Make sure my kids are in pjs and in bed. Search for a towel among the linen. Stop to pick up something off the floor. I come back to the bathroom and she is in the exact same position I left her at, only shaking a little bit!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I found my new hiking partner!

I am so ecstatic! I think I needed this Memorial Day Weekend to show me all the good things about Pepper and not just the things that she needs workin' on.

She acts HORRIBLE when I take her to work. She is not social with strangers AT ALL. She growls and looks pissy all the time - its kinda' embarrassing. And so when I take her out for walks I have to be extra careful because she will growl at kids running up to pet her or other adults that walk a little too close. We're trying... But she's afraid of strangers and it's something that might take a while.

Well this weekend we went for a hike. We figured that Monday was the day when everyone was heading home, so it would be calmer out in nature. We picked a trail with some altitude and away from traffic. We put the baby in a stroller, packed a back pack, and brought our kids along.

Well Pepper was stoked to get to go with us. She was happy during the car ride. She was pulling ahead during the trail. There was such a free spirit about her that I started contemplating...

We're the only ones here. A few hikers have walked past and she could care less. She's smelling every tree and plant and picking up the scents of bears and moose and all the animals that have walked past on this trail. She's perfectly comfortable around my kids. What if I let her off the leash?

What if she runs off and never comes back?! We'd never find her up here and she can outrun anybody!!

I don't think she'll run away. I think she's attached enough to me to come back. She's "come" every time I've asked her without fail... I'm going to give it a shot!

So I let her off the leash. And off she runs! She's so far ahead on the trail I don't even see but the speck of her. Paul yells, "What have you done?!" I yell, "Pepper! Come!" And off in the distance I see her spec turn her head towards me - and run right back faster than she darted off! She gets so much praise for coming back, that this becomes her routine without me saying a word. She would get a little ahead of all of us, then run back and greet all of my kids (sniff them, make sure they were ok), then sniff the baby in the stroller, then sniff me and get praised (some treats) for coming back.

It was such a joy to see her soooo happy! And when we stopped to take breaks she stopped with us. She was glowing with doggy joy, the kind of contentment you see when the retriever has a ball in his mouth? Or when a rottweiler has a huge bone to settle with? That kind of... victory. Seeing her that happy (and that well behaved) made all of us happy to hike with her.

In fact, the trip was so enjoyable that we know we will probably hike every weekend now - just because we all enjoyed going with her so much! My husband and I like the excercise, my kids like the adventure... and I think Pepper finds in it a sense of adventure too.

I found a reliable hiking buddy. And Pepper found something that boosts her self-esteem, an activity where she doesn't feel afraid or threatened, but she can be the Pepper I see at home when we play fetch or I get home from work.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pepper's Progress

I have to say I'm baffled by Pepper every day.

She can be so difficult to work with; shaking, peeing on herself, running back and forth. The first step was to get her to take a treat from our hand without spasm. She's way past that now; she likes being hand-fed! Now there's the "sit", "stay", "down"... There are days where it takes her forever to settle down and understand what you are asking her to do, and days where she does it almost simultaneously as you are giving the command - without fuss or spasm! There are times when she meets a stranger and wags her tail, says hi... other times she goes mini-Kujo and won't let anyone touch her. Geesh. I've decided to celebrate the good days and ignore the bad days.

But there are other areas where there is definite progress. Despite the fact that her potty training is sporadic at best, she is doing a lot better at going for walks in the city, not freaking out w/ traffic, and holding it till her morning walk.

I sometimes wonder what I got myself into. Will it be worth it? Can she be rehabilitated? And then I wonder, why do I want a dog that I need to rehabilitate?

How much of her behavior issues is due to the big mystery of her previous life and upbringing? Or is it due to her neurotic predisposition because of genes and breed? And why do I want to be drawn to these projects of "fixing" these behaviors so that the dog is well adjusted? Well for one thing, to be able to function in society. Pepper will see a vet, possibly a groomer, other dogs, other people. She's not going to spend every day for the rest of her life inside my living room.

I guess the second reason is because I see something in her. I know that her affection is a huge step towards trust and it's not easily gained - all the more why I'm proud of her when she's affectionate with our friends, or more importantly, my kids! I can't guarantee her that my children will never hurt her or scare her (at least, unintentionally) but she chooses to give them kisses and jump into bed with them anyways. And then, there are "lightbulb" moments... Where she stops trembling enough to show you how much she actually understands, and what she is capable of! I guess that's what keeps me going...

And she is impossible not to love when she jumps on your lap, squirms belly side up, and keeps pawing at you to rub her belly, or gives you kisses and rubs her head into your neck. Even Paul can't resist giving her treats when she does a perfect repertoire of "tricks" with a face that says, "Please?!"

All this time, she's never really played with us. She always cuddles, never really engages in a game. Never chewed on anything either. It was hard to reward her, to entertain her when she wasn't getting constant attention. And then one day, I tried a chew stick available at the vet's office where I work. She loved it! She was so happy carrying her treat around... until she brought it by me and dropped it at my feet. So I picked it up and tossed it across the living room. And she runs (what I like to call "skiddadle" because her nails tap across the floor and she seems to be stuck in place) to the chew, and brings it back to me. And I say, "Good fetch!" And we do it again... and again. Then I stop throwing the chew and pick up one of her toys, a plush bone. And we play fetch with it. Thirty minutes go by and we've had our first "play" session, after 3 weeks of being home! She's more and more excited, and so am I.

And this is the moment when the lightbulb comes on for me, when I say that it is indeed worth it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Grooming Tips

So I'm no longer working at a grooming salon as a dog bather. I decided to go for more of an office job, and was blessed with a receptionist position at a pretty busy vet clinic. One day I'll be a vet tech, but in the meantime, I thought of all the little nuances and frustrations in the grooming department and decided, since there's no conflict of interest, to share them with everyone. I hope that as you consider taking your dog to a grooming salon, you will keep these things in mind (from the other side of the counter!)

1) Start them as young as possible! Get the necessary shots, add the bordatella shot (treating kennel cough is more expensive than getting the vaccine once or twice a year), and get them in! You may not thing the grooming is needed when its only 16 weeks old and very cute and relatively easy to maintain - but that's not the point. If the dog is ever going to need serious grooming, its easier to teach the puppy and calm him when he's trying to jump out of the bathtub at 16 weeks than it is at a year! Breeds that require regular brush-out or hair cuts (huskies, poodles, golden retrievers, shih tzus, pomeranians, yorkies, etc) need to get acclimated to the noises, smells, and feels of being groomed. Breeds that don't really require regular grooming would benefit from being socialized, learn how to behave for nail trims, and reap the effects of good treatment options for their specific skin and coat. Start them young, and you will have less problems later in the long run when you need it.

I knew a woman who groomed her lab regularly. She came to us only one day because the dog was smelly and her arm was in a cast. The dog was about 6 years old. We could do everything but the nails. A nail trim by itself at Petco or Petsmart runs anywhere between $8-$12. A nail trim at the vets office (for dogs that misbehave at Petco or Petsmart) can be anywhere between $20-35 dollars depending on the difficulty and the amount of technicians required to hold the dog down for the procedure. You decide.

2) Obedience training is NOT just for show dogs!! I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to walk around kennels, other dogs, and other people being pulled by a lab, shepherd, or rottweiler that did not know how to behave on a leash! And if you think buying your dog a choke collar settles it for you, guess what - groomers can't use it! So obedience training, along with loose-leash walking, helps milestones in keeping it safe. I've had chunks of my feet ripped off, bruised, scratch, even busted my head because it was my muscle strength against a 90 lb creature and I could NOT let it win! Even with little dogs, teaching them to sit and stay keeps them safer and more relaxed on the table, leaving less room for injuries.

3) Do NOT bring us dogs to groom because they are too aggressive for you to do it yourself. If a dog has serious aggression issues you are putting a WHOLE lot of people at risk. Discuss with the groomer as far as policies, you may find individual groomers that can handle those difficult dogs on a one-on-one basis. But a dog bite from your dog to one of our groomers costs the company usually about $8500 in worker's compensation if she goes to a hospital (assuming it doesn't even require treatment! Prices goes up for disinfection, stitches, casts, etc)... The groomer can end up fired (I've seen it happen)... and your dog will be quarantined by the local Animal Care and Control center and have a record with them. Not good for anybody involved. It's not funny or cute if your little chihuahua acts like a demon on the grooming table and I've seen a boston terrier boarded at the local vet, at the owner's expense, for 14 days out of a bite that didn't draw a lot of blood.

Dog aggression isn't cool either! So think about these things as you first get your dog. Have it socialized. It doesn't have to interact with other dogs; most grooming places keep the dogs from socializing in the first place. But it is easier and safer for everyone involved to not have the dog lunge for an innocent 4-legged bystander's jugular.

4) Your dog is not the ONLY dog in the grooming salon! And you are not the only appointment for the 4 hours following your pet's check in. Expect it to be a drop-off/pick-up situation unless you make other arrangements with the groomer! And be patient, your dog is fine. If it wasn't, we would call you. You can expect a groomer's day to go like this: Check in dog 1, answer phone, check in dog 2, bathe dog 1, leave dog 1 kennel to dry for a few minutes, bathe dog 2, check in dog 3, answer phone, clean up dog poop from dog 2, re-bathe dog 2, disinfect kennel where dog 2 was, bathe dog 3, take dog 1 out and blow-dry, trim dog 1's nails, answer phone, brush dog 1's hair, answer phone, finish up dog 1, call you, blow dry dog 2... And groomers can do anywhere between 5-12 dogs a day (depending on the skill/speed of the groomer and how busy the grooming salon is!). Dogs with fuller coat require more time to dry. You cannot brush a wet dog - it is insanely painful and harmful to the skin. And your dog's temperament may require that the groomer move even slower with it because it may be nervous or shy.

So guess what? The more you call to ask if your dog is ready, the longer this process will take. Good grooming salons will call you as soon as the dog is done. Some may even call you 20 minutes before they estimate the dog will be done so you can pick up the dog just as it is finished.

5) Don't do "walk-ins" for full bath/grooming. Respect their schedule the way you would the vet's, or your doctor's office. Take the # and call before you stop by. Expect to make appointments, expect these appointments to be even up to a week out from when you call! The groomers are not blowing you off, they are balancing their time so that when your dog comes in they can give it the best attention and care it deserves.

6) Know the difference between Groomers, Groomer Assistants, or Bathers. Groomers can do anything on any dog as far as haircut goes. Groomer Assistants (or Bathers) can do everything but a hair cut. Some bathers have been trained in minor necessary hair trimming such as sanitary trails, feet and paw pads, and haunches - but that's it. A Bather or Grooming Assistant is not trained to take clippers down your dog's back or scissors to your dog's face. So when you call and make that appointment, be specific - don't expect for the grooming salon to be able to make last minute accomodations.

Another thing you need to consider is that groomers don't take scissors all over the dog's back to make the length shorter. They will use clippers. So just because you don't want your dog shaved to the skin doesn't mean it won't be shaved at all - it will, just with different extensions to leave the coat a certain length. So if you are expecting any kind of length off the dog's body - it will need a GROOMER, not a bather (even if it's just 1/2 inch off!)!

7) Matted dogs cannot be done by bathers. If you rub your hands over your dog's body and you feel lumps of hair, it's a mat. Mats are painful to brush out and take long hours of pulling at the dog's skin. A lot of grooming places will not even attempt to brush out mats on the belly, groin, legs, or ears because of the dangers. Mats aren't shaved through, they need to be shaved UNDER. So learn how to take care of your dog by brushing it appropriately at home and you'll be able to keep it cute and fluffy. Otherwise, don't expect a groomer to do a miracle. It will be a shave-down and start over thing.

8) There's no such thing as a "puppy cut". At least, not 85% of the time. A "Puppy cut" is literally, when you bring your puppy (under 6 months of age) to the groomer once or twice and they scissor a little here and there, maybe take clippers with an extension to the back, just to get it used to the grooming process. So learn to tell the groomer what you want - ears, face, back, legs, tail. No one can make your 7 year old dog look like it did when it was a puppy. That is impossible.

These are the things that will make us cry... and laugh through them. The best tool is education. Read up on how grooming is done for your dog even if you don't intend to groom the dog yourself - it will give you the knowledge so that you know what to expect and what to ask for. Communication is key in order for a groomer to take your instructions, translate them, do the work, and return to you the finished product you want.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Training Pepper

Nervous little yappy dogs are so much more difficult to train.

I have to say at least I don't need worry about her chewing... She has no desire to tear up my shoes or the kids toys.

But everything makes her so nervous!

Step one, I'm working on the housebreaking. She is the typical little dog that will hide and try to poop in a different room from where you are at. So we are working on crate training. There's only one problem: She will pee and poop in her crate. If you ask all the experts they will say that dogs don't eliminate in their kennel if it's small enough, it's their den and they will hold it. Not Pepper! She will go and then whine her head off for you to let her out and clean it up. Then comes the question of walking her? Outside? Litter box? Potty pads? Potty pads it is... at least to teach her to go outside her kennel. So we've set up an exercise pen around her crate, giving her just enough room outside of her kennel but directly on a potty pad. I don't know how long it will take or how it will work out. Just as long as its somewhere consistent and I don't have to look all over the apartment in the morning to make sure we don't step on something.

Step two, we're doing obedience training. We want her to learn "sit" and "stay", "down", "heel", but really... if she could just go out in public and sniff other dogs without growling or having a pee fit of fear, that would be great! The "sit" is coming along much better. "stay" seems like an impossibility. She's such a spaz! It's frustrating because I know she's smart enough and definitely wants to please. I think she would do great! But getting her past that insecurity and fear is going to take a lot of work.

Some people recommended agility training. They say that rat terriers are really good for it. But I don't even know where to start.

I read an excerpt from one of Cesar Millan's books and he says that an exercised dog (which is tired and released energy) is too relaxed to be anxious or phobic. Maybe that's where I start - going for long walks every day. She hates the traffic around our apartment, but she's going to have to work past that fear someday.

It's a bit harder when the chihuahua in her wants nothing more than to just cuddle on your lap. But for now we have to make her work for it. She doesn't need to be encouraged in her insecurities, she needs a firm hand of leadership to work past all these issues so that she knows it will be ok!

Monday, April 4, 2011

What I Needed...

When I dreamed of what kind of dog I would have, I always pictured a labrador. Big dog. Smart, trainable, loyal to the end. Old Yeller kinda' pet.

Then they drop off Pepper for me to foster - a 6 lb rat terrier/chihuahua mix.... I get this text on my phone, "u may want to keep the kids away from her for tonite".

Uh-oh. Sure enough all you hear is this growl from her travel crate.

I put her in the huge husky-sized kennel, still inside the travel crate. I open the door to the travel crate but close the kennel. She peeps out of the crate, to growl at us, and then goes back inside. A few hours later she has not come out.

Well, I don't deal with kennel shy dogs very well. So I use the force of gravity and completely dump her out of the travel crate, then leave her in the kennel. She spends all night pacing the bigger kennel and growling.

I lecture the kids - don't touch her, don't look at her, don't put stuff through the kennel, and above all, don't open that door!

The next evening I'm at work and I call home to check on the family. I ask the husband how the dog is doing and he replies, "She's doing great! She has given us all kisses and she's on my lap." (Are we talking about Pepper here? The same foster that we got originally?)

I come home and I'm greeted by the biggest pair of brown bug eyes, matched with ears completely back against her head, skippy little front feet, and a tail wagging a mile a minute. I sit down and upon the invitation for her to join me, I get kisses and all cuddles.

I never wanted a small dog. I don't like nervous, yappy little dogs. I can't really stand how they squeak at everything and everything is so scary! It doesn't fit with our personality and our family lifestyle. I can't have a dog that has me worried because one day the baby will fling his arms in front of her and the dog will bite. I don't want to have the demon little dog that no one else can pet or visit. I definitely can't have a dog that won't do well on walks, dog training, or out with the kids.

Minus the biting part, this is EXACTLY what Pepper is! So what's my response? I adopt her.

She decided we were her family. She peed all over the perimeter of our home. Would bark at anyone who came in that wasn't Paul, the kids, or me. Plenty of kissies to the kids. Plenty of kissies to me. Something about her complete turn around, her decision to love us and be a part of our family just melted my heart. Her day to day progress as she makes serious efforts to trust me and be a good dog is inspiring.

Walking her is a challenge at times. She hates traffic. Doesn't like strangers coming up to pet her. Really wasn't fond of other dogs. But as long as I have treats, she will lick and greet every stranger and dog she comes across - at least for a few minutes before we're on our way. She's doing so much better on walks that it's less of a "training" session and more of an enjoyable experience.

At doggie school... well... she flunked her first lesson. She can't sit worth a lick (why is it that all little dogs have "butt-monsters"?) A week into training at home she kinda' sits... after rolling on the floor, peeing on her self, licking her self, jumping in the air, rolling onto her back, and circling the floor. She's starting to figure out she doesn't get any lap time unless she's sitting on the floor first.

But its not that big of a deal when she's finally on my lap, has her head under my neck, and I'm petting her. All the stress of the day melts away. Her company and her cuddling is sooooo... maintenance free? It's like... I'm just loved for who I am all the time. There's never degrees of love and desire to please based on whether I was good, or she feels good, or the weather is right, or the house is clean... It's refreshing (and sometimes necessary) to just experience maintenance free, unconditional love with no fine print.

She definitely wasn't at all what we wanted, but for me, she seems to be exactly what I needed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

This is a dog, right?

The one thing that threw me off completely with the whole fostering process was the fact that not all dogs behaved the same. You see, in my head, dogs liked to play fetch and chew on things. They enjoyed walks and pooped everywhere if given the chance. Dogs that would bite would let you know right from the start. Even at my job, there were "good dogs" and "bad dogs" and there was the line, in black and white.

I never factored in the strange alterations that a dog's previous experience and time at the shelter would create. Dogs are indeed very complex creatures!

The first dog we got to foster was named Nova. She was a Whippet looking husky/shepherd mix. She came to us at about 30 lbs, all skin and bones. My kids could count her vertebrae and her ribs from a distance. She was very sweet but very afraid.

The first three days she would not move from her corner in the kennel! I would get on my knees, carry her out, hand feed her, and then let her go only to see her walk right back in there. I would take her for walks and she had the permanent expression of, "I'd rather not do this!"

This is a dog, right?

With time and patience (and locking her out of her kennel for a few hours so she'd be forced to walk around), she just buttered up to us. She started approaching Paul and me for us to pet her head. She started wagging her tail and showing interest in our kids' food. In fact, one night she walked away from us in the living room and pooped in the bathroom - and I celebrated! (She is a dog after all, folks!) I remember commenting how at least now that she's "behaving like a dog", I can work with her. She got adopted to her forever home within 10 days of being with us, and her mom called me to let me know she comes out of her shell more and more every day.

Then we got a lab puppy with no name. She was nicknamed "Sweet Pea" here in the house after the "spa package of the month" at my job (for lack of a better name). She was about 6 weeks old and just spayed, so it wasn't one to take outside for walks or carry around too much.

I had no idea puppies were that gross.

Pretty soon we thought we'd change her name to "Squirt". That's all she did - walk, walk, squirt! walk, squirt! Then run back around and step all over it and slide with poop across our living room floor... So I could chase the puppy with puppy wipes and Paul could clean up after her with disinfectant. We put puppy pads all over the play pen. She tore them to pieces. Walk, walk, squirt! She's howling all night. The kids aren't sleeping. They are waking up in the morning and she's biting their pijammas and they were dragging her around the house. "No! Please don't chew up my flip-flops!" She got adopted quickly too.

I asked for a foster I could walk. Our apartment was way too small for that kind of mess and my kids were still too small, making me a slave to our floor. That's when I got Genny, a 4 month old husky/golden mix.

Genny was nuts!

On the list of things she destroyed it includes our blinds, the padding on our balcony floor, my laptop charger, my daughter's carseat, and numerous toys. Her howling would bounce off the walls and pierce your ears. She would try to jump on your lap, jump on the sofa, jump into the crib. There was no "off" button with her, constantly trying to eat stuff out of the kitchen. At one point I chased her down and extracted a chocolate brownie she had snatched right from the kids! Knocked the kids over constantly like bowling pins. Paul and I were on her 24/7 under strict training ... because we had no other choice!

She was the foster that showed us exactly what we DIDN'T want in a dog.

By the time she went home to her forever home (in about 15 days) she had stopped howling through the night, learned to chew only on her toys, learned the sit command, and stayed off the furniture (for the most part). She also had knocked me on my ribs and face on the ice because she wanted to pick a fight with a moose, and scarred my daughter's face from her forehead to her cheek across her left eye.

My daughter and I recovered just fine, by the way.

Genny's Mom shared that she was soon to start obedience school. She goes for 3 mile jogs, and they love her high-energy. Perfect fit!

I totally needed a break from fostering and dogs. After Genny, we weren't even sure we wanted to OWN a dog. For a whole week. And then I got a text message on my phone, "Hey can you foster a rat terrier we are picking up from the shelter in the valley?"

Paul says, "No!" I'm like "Sure, for the rest of this week." Paul says, "Why?!" I respond, "Well, you haven't even taken down the kennel. All the dog stuff is set up - we might as well!" Forgot to mention sarcastically that I just loooove to go for walks at 6am when it's about 10 degrees F outside. And that I consider it yoga to bend over and pick up poop from our hardwood floors.

On a serious note, there's something about an animal in trouble that I can't say no to! The shelter is not the place for dogs - it does psychological and emotional harm to keep ending up back there time and time again. The more time these dogs spend time in a home resembling a "normal" doggy life, the more they show their true personalities and attract their "soulmates".

So we sat around and played poker while we waited for the phone call that they were in town and ready to hand this little dog over...

The Odyssey of our Dog Fix

I have been a big-dog lover all of my life. We used to live on the mountain side in Venezuela and my mom had a purebred German Pointer that practically raised me. Then she made friends with an Old English Sheepdog and a Doberman that I guess must've been strays because those two lived on our property for years. When "Sifrina" (spanish term for "Stuck-up" or "Snobby") had puppies I would get up in the middle of the night and sleep with her and the litter... scaring my mom half to death come morning when I was nowhere to be found but the basement.

Since then, I didn't really get the chance to own a dog, specially since moving to the States. We fostered dogs, found strays, re-homed them, but not one "stayed". So I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was dying to get married for the big bonus to be on our own and be able to have a dog!

Sure enough, Paul and I got married. We adopted a lab mix puppy from the pound and it was stolen from us while we were living on-base and he was on deployment, and I was 37 weeks pregnant with our first child. I tried searching for him and he never turned up. But from there the pound contacted us and offered us Sweetie, another lab that was up for euthanasia simply because her time was up.

Sweetie was THE perfect dog. She made Lassie look like a mangy mutt. She taught Anakin (our oldest) how to walk. She was completely housebroken, understood all her commands, and we had NO behavioral issues with her from the day we picked her up at the pound! But when Paul seperated from the Air Force, after a year of unemployment, we were forced to have re-home her and move back to our hometown. Our prospects there were unknown for us, let alone a 60 lb. animal.

Fast-forward a few more years and we find ourselves in Anchorage, Alaska. We've moved in to our itty-bitty apartment (second one since we got to Alaska) that allows us pets under 25 lbs, and if over there is a rent-increase. Yippee! Doggie, here we come!

Or should I say, here I come.... Paul wasn't too crazy about bringing one home just yet. And where do we start? What dog? Three kids later, what do I have the energy and time for?

First thing I did was look on craigslist. That was overwhelming. I saw a lot of older dogs being 'rehomed' for 'small fee' and the dogs were described as perfect angels - so why were they being dumped? It made me suspicious.

Then came my big pet-peeve (LOL, "pet"-peeve... hahahaha)... I see this ad for a litter of "Pomapugapoos" with a "rehoming fee" of $450. You've got to be kidding me?! Poma-pug-a-poos is not a breed. Not even a "designer breed". I'm not a big fan of dog breeding because of our pet overpopulation and the stress it puts on our local shelters to begin with. But that was ridiculous! And the "rehoming fee"? Like, I understand if it was the cost of food and some supplies, shots and medical bills that may have been run up and you're trying to cover some of that expense. But when I contacted this person, she said it was just for the unspayed, unvaccinated puppies. Woman, you are trying to make a profit off the fact that your mutt got loose and came home knocked up!

Even though the puppies looked adorable, I just couldn't endorse that. But we were too afraid to just bring home a dog from the pound and not know what its personality would be like. So with the help of a coworker we came up with the BRILLIANT idea to foster dogs/puppies that our local rescue organization would evaluate and pull from the pound. Then the dog would be adopted to its forever home. In the meantime, we would gain valuable experience in dog training and housebreaking, and the kids could learn appropriate doggy manners... and if a dog didn't fit with our home, it would be moved on to another foster family better suited and I could sleep well at night. Right?

Oh, we had no idea.