The ones that are left

I don’t always know the background of the fosters that I get, but when I have found out the stories it usually breaks my heart. And not always for the dog, but sometimes for the owners. For many of my fosters, they were given up because the owner was very sick or died unexpectedly. I will never forget picking up my fosters Bear and Roxie at their owner’s home and seeing him cry as we took the dogs away. The owner was very sick and going to move in with his daughter for hospice care. When he died a month or so later, his obituary asked for donations to go to Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue. He loved those dogs so much that he made sure they were cared for even when he no longer could, the ultimate responsibility of a dog owner.

Part of dog ownership is caring for your dog for life, and that can mean knowing what you’d do with your dog if something were to happen to you. Rescue groups like Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue serve an important purpose to help out families who can no longer care for their dogs for whatever reason. Many individuals contact this group when they have to give up a dog, knowing that the dog will get a chance to go straight into a home and be cared for until his or her forever home is found.

In my mind, sickness and death are the only reasons to give up a dog and in an ideal world, rescue groups would only have to take in dogs from these circumstances. And in this ideal world, no one would ever drop a dog off a shelter, scared and alone. But sadly, that is not the case and rescue groups take in just as many dogs that have been abandoned at shelters. Because shelters are constantly overcrowded, groups like Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue, also pull dogs from shelters, like in the case of my recent foster, Boogie. Boogie was dropped off at the Cobb County Shelter in Marietta, Georgia.  I don’t know the circumstances of the family that gave him up, and I don’t want to judge since it may not have been an easy or thoughtless decision, but when I saw this photo from his intake record, my heart broke.

boogie

It’s the trusting smile that kills me. Boogie has no idea his family just dropped him off at a shelter, all alone never to see him again. When I see Boogie’s trusting smile, my heart breaks for him, but also all the other dogs who won’t make it out, or the ones who will spend weeks or months alone at the shelter waiting for a chance to get out. Boogie was one of the lucky ones, being young and cute meant that the shelter knew they could find a rescue group for him. It’s not always the case for the old, the fat, the slightly mean or aggressive ones who are stressed from being left at a noisy shelter. Those dogs deserve a chance out too, but too often don’t get it.

I am not familiar with this shelter (although I have been told it’s a high kill shelter) and I know that many shelters are filled with caring individuals who dedicate their time to make these animals feel safe and secure, but I think we can all agree a shelter is not an ideal place for a dog to spend any amount of time. And, the sad fact is, the more dogs that end up at a shelter means the more dogs that will be euthanized for being too old, too challenging, or maybe even just a certain breed.

So this is all I ask. Make a plan for your dog. If something were to happen where you could no longer care for your dog, do a little research on what would be best. Ask that one friend on Facebook who is always posting dogs pictures (because we all have one of those, like me 🙂 ), if they know of any rescue groups or organizations that might be able to assist. Rescue groups take the load off of shelters and give dogs the chance to decompress in a home environment which makes the life change a little easier.

And if you know someone looking to give up a dog, educate them about alternatives to an animal shelter. Ways they can keep the dog, or if they have to give them up, lead them to a rescue group that can help.

boogie1

And most importantly, know that when you add a dog to your family, you make a commitment to care for that dog for life.  You don’t give it up because the dog is too old, or sick, or having some behavior issues. If you aren’t willing to care for the dog as you would a member of your family, don’t get one. You are responsible for another life, don’t let your decisions lead to their suffering or the suffering of other dogs in the community.

And, just an update on Bear and Roxie because I love this so much. Bear, the younger dog, was one of my most fearful fosters. Because the owner was older and got sick when Bear was young, I don’t think he socialized him much. Bear was adopted with his sister Roxie by a wonderful family who has devoted their time to training and making, especially Bear, feel safe and comfortable. Now Bear is competing and winning in Rally competitions! This is my absolute favorite foster story, and just another example of the fact you can never give up on a dog!

 

Before and after Bear. On the left, hiding under my bed, on the right, winning Rally competitions!

Boogie is up for adoption with Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue: https://www.facebook.com/pg/OhioPoms/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2201785316556883

And please check out all of the dogs up for adoption at the Cleveland Kennel. If you can’t adopt, donations, monetary and otherwise, are always welcome: https://www.petango.com/cacc

 

A letter to my foster Brody

Dear Brody,

This is a hard one. I mean, it’s never easy giving up a foster, but it does get easier the more you do it and sometimes the tears don’t fall when they leave. But, with you, it’s hard.

I just wanted to give you a place to crash until your forever family showed up. I thought we’d have some fun, get you more socialized and then your new family would show up. You are so cute, I figured it wouldn’t take too long. I’ve always said that being a foster is all about your mindset. If you know it’s temporary and you know you can’t have another dog because it would mean no more fostering, or if you know that every dog you successfully foster means another dog can be saved, it’s easier to keep it light. But I still knew that as a foster some dogs will test you and what a test you ended up being!

brody1

As soon as you walked through the door, another shy, scared chihuahua, I knew this wasn’t going to be so easy. Rescued by a wonderful woman, your guardian angel Laura Weitner (read about and see the pictures here:  https://www.facebook.com/pg/llpsinc/photos/?tab=album&album_id=373293723063174), you had such an interesting backstory.  I don’t know how you did it, living alone in that disgusting house for nine months after your owner died, but I am so glad Laura had the determination to capture you and work to rehabilitate you for so many months. She loved you so much Brody, but knew, like I do, that she was just a part of your journey. She let you go to grow and get stronger with tears in her eyes much like the tears in mine now. I think back to when I went to pick you up, how you wanted nothing to do with me. I could see how attached you’d become to Laura and I wasn’t sure how you’d handle coming home with me.

And then we got home and you jumped in my lap! From day one, you were nothing like what I expected you’d be like. Other than your fear of strangers, you were so easy and so affectionate. And so quirky! What a funny personality you have. Obsessing over your lamb toy, demanding attention and crawling into my wine buffet or under my couch. I knew I had to be picky with where you ended up because you were too special. Your new family needed to appreciate your sensitive nature, your kind heart and let’s admit it, your moody nature with other dogs. I didn’t intend to have you this long and get this attached; I just wanted you to have the best.

I know you loved me and trusted me so I felt like I owed you this letter, but I know that this letter is more for me than for you. You will be fine and you won’t miss me as much as I will miss you. And that gives me the strength to say goodbye.

Thank you for showing me that I am strong enough to love so deeply and let go. You’ve cleared the space for another foster, when I am ready (and it will take some time.)

And, please come visit since you’ll be in Cleveland.

Love you forever Brody.

brodyme

The Ones Who Seem to Have Given Up

I came across this photo recently on Instagram from a rescue group I follow and it really struck a cord with me.

photoMy dog Roscoe is one of these dogs. Sadly, had I not been lucky enough to foster him, I probably would’ve never considered adopting a dog like him. When I first took Roscoe in, he was extremely shy, fearful of being touched and cowered in the corner for the first few days. It took a long time for him to build up enough trust to let me pet him or put a leash on him. He still has issues to this day and will never be the type of dog that runs to greet me at the door (well, he does, but he also runs away as soon as I get too close) but I’ve learned that none of that really matters. Seeing the capacity a dog has to love, even after being through a traumatic event, is a remarkable thing that bonds you together like no other experience. Roscoe is such a special soul, I can’t imagine not having him in my life.

Roscoe
What would I do without this face in my life everyday?

 

As I learned with Roscoe, you don’t really know what a dog is like until they receive the love they deserve. Most dogs in shelters, or when they first get into foster homes, are shut down and stressed out. How they are acting is just a reflection of their environment, not who they truly are. Of course, you should know what you can handle in your own life before taking on a challenging dog, but if you have the time and love in your heart to take on a dog that needs a little extra patience, it will be worth it. For me, I think it helped that I had one dog already that was very much the opposite of Roscoe, so when Roscoe would run away from me or show his teeth when I tried to pet him, I could walk away and give attention to my other dog.

Roscoe, the first day. So scared.
Roscoe, the first day. So scared.

 

Happy Roscoe at the beach in Charleston!
Happy Roscoe at the beach in Charleston!

This is also why fostering is so crucial. Like I said, most dogs do not put forth their best selves when they are stuck in a shelter environment. Getting a dog out of that environment and into a home where they can receive love is key to unlocking their true personality. I was so glad to see that the Cleveland Kennel began a fostering program earlier this year. If you’ve ever considered fostering, my advice to you is to do it! You learn so much and play such an important role in saving the lives of so many dogs. And, maybe, you’ll be lucky enough to meet a dog like Roscoe and fall in love.

If you want to read more about my adoption story with Roscoe, check out Lucky Puppy Magazine: http://www.luckypuppymag.com/lucky-puppy-of-the-week-roscoe-the-long-haired-chihuahua/ Roscoe was the Lucky Puppy of the Week!

Do you have a story about a “challenging” dog you adopted? I want to hear it! I’d love to start sharing local adoption stories, so drop me an email (contact@dogsinthecle.com) or comment below.

 

 

 

The Champions

“The Champions” should be required viewing for anyone who works, loves, or comes in contact with dogs in any way. So basically, everyone. I saw it last night at a special screening hosted by City Dogs Cleveland and Best Friends Animal Society and was once again blown away by the story of the aftermath of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring.

champions

Although the movie focuses on the Vicktory dogs, it’s really the story of how wrong the misconceptions about pit bulls are. The movie shares the stories of the dogs who were adopted and how they recovered from the horrible abuse they endured. Many were severely scarred, physically and emotionally, but for most of them the damage made them fearful, not dangerous. As one of the women who adopted a Vicktory dog said, “They didn’t need to be rehabilitated, they needed to recover.” If you needed any more proof that most dogs do not want to fight or hurt others, the story of these dogs should be all the proof you need. Enduring dog fighting made them fear people in some cases, but it did not make them want to inflict pain on others. Many of the dogs moved on to become therapy dogs and lead normal lives as family pets with other dogs and kids.

The story of these dogs is remarkable in so many ways, but especially because it was the first time that rescuers were able to show that dogs from this type of situation could be rehabilitated and become family dogs. Since then, dogs rescued from fighting rings are looked at differently and not just immediately killed (no thanks to awful organizations like PETA, who wanted to immediately put all of the dogs down).

I highly recommend this movie. Best Friends Animal Society has made it available for download on their website: http://bestfriends.org/champions?utm_source=homepage&utm_medium=slider

If you’re interested in the story of the Vicktory dogs, you should also check out the book, “The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption” by Jim Gorant, as it goes into a little more detail on many of the dog’s stories.

Handsome Dan, one of my favorite Vicktory Dogs
Handsome Dan, one of my favorite Vicktory Dogs

I really wish we could sit the Lakewood, Garfield Heights, Parma and Warrensville Heights City Councils down and show them this movie. Breed Specific Legislation is a fantasy and all it is doing is killing pit bulls. It breaks my heart that innocent dogs are dying because of this law. It’s time for people to wake up and realize that each dog is an individual and they should all have a fair shot.

 

Photos courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

But I Want a Puppy!

I’ve been disappointed lately that the Northeast Ohio Pomeranian Meetup group I started has turned into a forum on where to get a Pomeranian puppy from a breeder. Although I am not anti-breeder – I know that there are reputable breeders out there that are not puppy mills – I am just so much more pro-rescue that it’s really hard for me to relate or understand why people want to go through a breeder, especially for a breed of dog that can so easily be found at a shelter or with a rescue group.

So far through the posts I’ve heard a few things as to why the people need puppies from breeders: 1) They want a dog that they’ll have for a long time 2) They don’t want a dog that’s been abused.

I get it. Those are reasonable requests. I had similar thoughts before I adopted Hunter. Most people don’t want a dog they’ll only have a couple of years and dealing with a damaged, fearful dog is definitely not for everyone. But, just as you should educate yourself about any breeder that you use, you should also educate yourself about dog rescue and the many available dogs that are out there for adoption. So here are some of the top objections to rescuing a dog and why they aren’t totally accurate:

“I want a puppy!”

Rescue groups have dogs of all ages. Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue just took in a bunch of puppies and I see puppies all the time at other rescue groups. The key is to get on their list early and let them know you are interested in a certain age so if they get one, you’ll be considered. Puppies go fast at rescue groups. Also, side note – have you thought about why you really want a puppy? Is it just because they’re cute? Puppies are so much more work than even a dog that is one or two years old. I thought I wanted a puppy before I adopted Hunter, but I am so glad I got him at seven months when he was mostly potty-trained and almost out of his chewing phase. And, adopting Roscoe at the age of 5 or 6 (I’m not sure how old he is) was even better. Roscoe is such an easy dog, just wants to snuggle and hang out. Although it’s sad to think how I may not have him as long, I am still so happy for the time we have together.

“I want a pure breed”

There is a rescue group for almost every breed of dog. You may not always be able to get their AKC papers, but what do you really need that for? Unless you are planning to enter your dog in shows or breed him or her, do you really need to know for sure it’s a pure breed? Hunter looks like a Pomeranian, so that’s good enough for me. I actually like to imagine that he’s mixed with all sorts of other breeds. Maybe he’s a Pomercorgian, or a ShiPomerinu. I think it’s fun to not really know for sure what your dog is.

Pomeranian or Pomercorgian? We’ll never know…
Pomeranian or Pomercorgian? We’ll never know…

“I need a hypo-allergenic dog”

No dog is hypo-allergenic, some just shed less than others. And since dog allergies are really due to dog saliva, if you have serious dog allergies, no breed is really going to work for you. Although designer dogs of the “doodle” variety are super popular because they are “hypo-allergenic,” there are many other dog breeds that don’t shed much and can be found at shelters. Terrier breeds, Schnauzers, Bichon Frises, Shi Tzus and Poodles, are low shedders and could work just as well in these cases as a ‘doodle. You can always set up an alert with PetFinder to find out when certain breeds are up for adoption or contact your local rescue group to discuss what type of dog you are looking for.

“They’ll probably have been abused”

I think this is on the biggest myths people outside of dog rescue think about rescue dogs. I know it’s something that I thought. Although it definitely happens, it is not as common as people think. And even if some rescue dogs may have been mistreated by their previous owners, you know the amazing thing about dogs? They are so resilient! If you give them love and provide a safe environment they can rebound from pretty much anything. All dogs need training and a period of adjustment, so you can never “guarantee” an easy dog no matter where he or she comes from. From my experience with fostering and meeting other rescue dogs, it’s much less common to encounter one that’s actually been abused than it is to meet once that is just really excited to have a home again.

Roscoe may have been abused, or he may just be fearful. I don’t really know. All I know is that he is the best snuggle buddy that ever lived.
Roscoe may have been abused, or he may just be fearful. I don’t really know. All I know is that he is the best snuggle buddy that ever lived.

 

All photos courtesy of Boots and Bee Photography

Puppy Delivery for Valentine’s Day!

It’s back…. tomorrow you can get a puppy delivered to your workplace to snuggle and play with! It’s basically a dream come true.

The #UberPuppy event was so successful last year, I’ve been keeping my eye out to see if the Cleveland APL would do it again. And what more perfect day to do it than the Friday before Valentine’s Day! There is no better Valentine than a new snuggly puppy!

Puppies will only be delivered to workplaces, so get your boardroom ready for a puppy party. The cost is $30 for 15 minutes with the puppies and all proceeds go to the Cleveland APL. (Columbus friends – this is going on for you as well, benefiting the Capital Area Humane Society).

Here is how to request your puppy delivery:

  • Open your Uber app Feb. 12 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and request the “PUPPIES” option
  • Uber will let you know if they can get it your area, and then you’ll have 15 minutes to spend with the puppies.

Last year the event was very popular, so expect that you may have to wait or try your request a few times.

Here are some photos from last year’s #UberPuppyBowl that the APL did around the Super Bowl. These are from old coworkers of mine whose office had puppies delivered. (Sadly, my office did not participate, but I am trying to persuade them this year.)

uber uber1

All of the puppies from the APL are up for adoption, so make sure to spread the word!

More details here: https://newsroom.uber.com/us-ohio/clebuspups16

Can’t wait to see the photos!

Unexpected Ways Having a Dog Made My Life Better

I can be a bit of a dog pusher. I realize this about myself and feel bad sometimes after I’ve gone on and on to a friend or family member about how they should get a dog. I just know that I definitely didn’t expect all the ways that my dog would make my life better before I got him, so I sometimes think others may not know how great having a dog really is.

But now, I have a Harvard study to back up my claims about how beneficial having a dog really is! I will try not to let this make my dog-pushing worse, but come on, it’s a Harvard study backing up everything us dog lovers know to be true! That feels pretty vindicating.

I wholeheartedly agree with everything in this study. Having a dog has made me more active, made me more social and made me happier. I loved having a dog so much after adopting Hunter that I had to have another! And it’s true, having two dogs is even better than having one (that will be the next Harvard study, just wait).

Of course it’s not always fun and games and there are a lot of stressful times and sacrifices you have to make. But for me, the rewards are worth it. When you have a smiling dog so happy to see you when you get home and someone to snuggle with you on the couch, the sacrifice is all worth it.

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Photo taken by Leigh Demshar of Chewbone Studio. Leigh is also a pet sitter on Rover.com and took this wonderful photo for me when she was watching them this summer. Check her out at http://bouncinglightphoto.com

 

There are so many ways my dogs have changed my life, but some of them I didn’t really expect. Here are some of the unexpected ways my dogs have changed my life for the better:

I explore more

I remember telling a friend before I adopted Hunter that I didn’t want a really active dog, that I couldn’t picture myself playing catch with a dog at the park. Well, Hunter isn’t really into catch, but if he was, I would definitely take him to the park to play. I’ve realized that seeing my dog happy, makes me happy, so I will pretty much try anything to keep him entertained. We have visited almost every Metropark, tried bootcamp all the way across town, done trick training classes, gone to playgroups, taken road trips. My dogs have definitely gotten me out exploring a lot more than I expected.

Where to?
Where to?

I don’t mind staying in

I used to hate when I didn’t have plans on Friday or Saturday night. Now I can’t wait to get home and spend the night with my dogs. I just need more friends that want to just come over and hang out with my dogs, because most of the time that’s all I want to do.

I want to save them all

I didn’t know much about animal rescue before adopting Hunter. I knew about puppy mills, but that’s about it. Hunter wasn’t adopted from a shelter or a rescue group, but instead from a friend that had taken him in after her friend gave him up. As I got more involved in the dog community after adopting him, I realized that if a dog like Hunter could be given up, there must be lots of great dogs that need help finding a family. Last year I started fostering for Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue and it’s been one of the best experiences of my life. Not only have I met some great dogs and made friends, I met this little guy who has brought me so much joy.

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Photo taken by Brittany Graham of Boots and Bee Photography (http://www.bootsandbee.com)

 

I feel more settled

I used to be restless, always wanting to move to a new city or find a new job. Adopting Hunter and Roscoe has made Cleveland feel like home and I feel more settled than I have at any other point in my life. When you live alone, having a dog makes your house feel like home.

Untitled
Photo taken by Brittany Graham of Boots and Bee Photography (http://www.bootsandbee.com)

 

What ways has your dog improved your life that you didn’t expect?