Thursday, March 7, 2013

Balton the Brave

Over the course of the last several months, Balton has earned himself a series of nicknames that marry themselves to appropriate situations, or randomly materialize depending on my mood. These nicknames range (coincidentally, many with an alliterative B sound) range from Beebop, to Bubba, to Butthead. But in the last 6 weeks, our dear foster has earned himself a very special nickname, which, like a knight of the court, has been dubbed through great nobility and accomplishments: Balton the Brave.

Balton the Brave is what I can best identify as Balton's superhero alter ego. He shows up every time time Balton has a big moment, where he absolutely makes me well up with pride for facing the things that scare him and acting with poise and strength. Balton the Brave first arrived on the scene after we had been doing a good deal of practice in seeing new people on leash, not reacting, and getting lots of yummies. We then took our practice to a new level by walking several blocks in the busy streets of Georgetown, DC. Balton was a rock star, and handled himself very well among the commotion. 

Today, Balton the Brave once again emerged from his superdog phone booth crate. Since I switched from working at home to an office job, we've had to help Balton get accustomed to the idea of a mid-day dog walker. As you might imagine, this has been a rather tall building to take on in a single leap. Going from a consistent 5 months of having your foster mama home with you for walks and potty breaks, to having a strange new person come to take you out in the middle of the day, isn't easy. So we found ways to make the stressful event less of an event, and get together for social, fun, after work walks. 

Thanks to a very patient and persistent dog walker, and bringing a little outside help from his dog, Lucky Dog Alum Hank, Balton the Brave triumphantly dared to go where no dog...okay, well, where plenty of other dogs have gone before. 

I know that to some, a mid-day walk with the dog walker may not seem like a huge deal, but for Balton, it's another sign of baby steps leading to big strides, and I couldn't be more proud.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow Day (and where the heck have we been)

I've come to realize that it's been an extraordinarily long time since we've checked in here, and time to start writing a lot more regularly. We've definitely been learning and growing lots in the 6 months since Balton has come to our lives and hearts. He's the longest standing foster by a mile here at our house, and he's still looking for a home. He's still learning about the good things in life, and we're still learning how to help him along in his training, and how to show the rest of the world the amazingly sweet, loving, and loyal dog we get to see when he is unafraid and able to trust. And I am happy to say that while no changes happen immediately, we have learned to find joy in all of Balton's successes, great and small.

Today, Balton found some joy of his own in his first real snowfall. I've never seen someone love the cold, white, and wet quite as much as this guy. So, if you're looking for someone to take on the arctic tundra with you...he's your guy. 

It's not always easy, but Balton has been learning in this last half a year he's been with us, to trust in us enough that he can trust the people in the world around him. 30 minutes at a Petsmart parking lot, an hour at an adoption event, and since my job has changed so I am no longer working from home, making the acquaintance of the dog walker. 

Our journey, and our search for the forever home that can celebrate all the same successes that we have with a lifetime of love, continues. So keep checking back for more updates on our friend Beebop, and share his bio RIGHT HERE and all his fun updates from Social Media land RIGHT HERE.

Thanks to everyone who, though not in this space, has continued following Balton's progress and rooting for him and every baby step and big stride he takes. Our Lucky Dog family has been an incredible support, and we wouldn't be where we are today without you. 

With love and puppy kisses, and deeper thoughts to come, our search for happy ever after happily continues.

-Lynn and Balton

Monday, October 1, 2012

Baby Boy Balton (and a quick update on Cora Beth!)

Not long after the joyful departure of Cora Beth from the Heun Homestead, we brought in our newest temporary house guest. BUT while we're talking about her, a quick update from her adopter :)

Cora continues to progress.  In the mornings, she greets us, accepts a bit of petting, and wags her tail some.  When we come in the door at night, she comes trotting over along with Rosie.

We have resolved the barking-in-the-crate at bedtime issue:  she just wanted company!  So now when we crate her at night, we make sure Rosie stays in the room, too.  That has worked out well.

I have started click training her (although the click freaked her out, even in my pocket with my hand over it to muffle the sound - so I am using the click word "yes" instead of the actual click).  She quickly caught on to looking into my face in order to earn a treat.  It's so cool to see her learn!  I still work with her by being on the same level as she is (floor or bed), though sometimes I can sit on a chair.  She is still too nervous to accept click training work if I am standing.  But given the progress she's made in less than two weeks, I'm confident she will graduate to more advanced work.  I am just taking it slowly and working to build her confidence and trust.

Hooray happy endings!!!

So, onto new foster Balton. Allowing us to continue our run of Shepherds, Balton arrived to us the Wednesday after Labor Day. He has been with us just a smidge over 3 weeks. So, technically I guess he's more like new-ish foster. He was hanging out at Wagtime, a wonderful Lucky Dog partner who graciously boards foster dogs that don't actually have a foster home to go to. 

We had been made aware that there were some training issues he needed to work through, and it seemed he had become protective of his last foster. So Nick, Ollie and I went out there to meet Balton as a family unit, in a neutral setting, to make sure it was a good fit before we brought him home. Obviously, the meeting went fine, since he's still hanging with us. He has earned a few nicknames: B-man, Balthazar, Michael Bolton, Balto-licious, Yoda (for his adorable ears), the list is a work in progress and continues to grow.

This poor young lad was found as a stray down in South Carolina, with an embedded collar. So, maybe Balton had a family before he came to Lucky Dog, but until the shelter staff at Florence County Humane Society picked him up, nursed him and his neck wound back to health, and sent him along to Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, our best guess is he wasn't all that well cared for in his once upon a time life. But that hasn't dampened his spirits and enthusiasm for life. Balton is a goofball, and when he is in his element, you will find him trotting about the house, tail wagging in a circle, seeming to be without a care in the world. 

He loves to play with any toy he can get his hands on, thoroughly a enjoys a good romp, wrestle, or chase with his canine buddies, and when he is all tuckered out, loves to snuggle and be close to his people as he can be. And even though we weren't his first foster family, Balton took to us rather quickly and after an evening of sniffing, exploring, and attempting to mark our couch. He found a way to worm his way into our hearts (while attempting to worm his way onto our laps). You often find him close by, and he likes to find a soft spot on the rug while I work at home. When Nick or I come home from being out and about, he is there at the door with a very enthusiastic "welcome back". We've been working on trying to take the enthusiasm down a notch, since it can involve jumping or mouthing. But he's getting there and starting to mind his manners, and although sometimes he forgets is size and plays too rough with Ollie (1/5 his size), he respects and loves his older foster brother, and listens quite well when Ollie tells him he's had enough of playtime. 

But, like any good diamond, there is sometimes a little rough to muddle through. Balton, wonderfully loving and sweet as he is when he feels safe and secure at home, developed some pretty bad stranger danger somewhere down the road. We don't really know how or when it happened in this young pup's life, but our goal is to help him get past it. And this will need to be the goal of his forever family too. Fear of strangers is nothing new for us, but Balton handles his fear differently than our previous shy dog fosters. Our past fosters would deal with their fear by hiding behind us or a chair, under a car or table. Balton's fear response is one of barking and lunging to tell people to back off. For a dog like Balton, his reactions are based in fear, but can be just as scary for people on the receiving end. 

We've been working with a trainer (Toni from Anytime K9), who has been tremendously helpful in giving us tools to learn how to help manage these interactions and improve Balton's impulse control, so he can begin healing and his new family can know what to expect. In the time we've had him, he's coming along nicely as he gets more comfortable at home. He still barks at the cats, but is more easily steered away and distracted from them with some treats and lots of praise. He has learned "sit", "touch", "focus", ""down", and "wait". He sits and politely (though enthusiastically, and with a little bit of drool) waits for his dinner now. He is very food motivated, and we are using treats to show him that good things happen when strangers pass by. 

Because of his stranger danger, and because he is a strong dog, he will take a special family to be prepared to work with him and be a strong, loving leader committed to his continued success. And for now, he's sitting out from adoption events (since for a dog, they tend to be stranger after stranger after stranger approaching, which can be super stressful for a pup like Balton). Our next big goal in helping B get adopted is getting him comfortable enough to go to events to meet his potential forever family. In the mean time, keep following his foster follies here and on Facebook, and if you or someone you know think you might be the right family for him, check out and share his bio.

Adopt me please, I'm quite a catch! 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

CB 'n Me...'n a New Family

Oh me, oh my...have we really let it go over a month without an actual foster blog post for Cora Beth? I mean, sure, she's gotten plenty of activity and exposure on the Lucky Blog Facebook Page, but this is Cora Beth's first page to call all her own.

Part of this blog's purpose is to talk about what we learn about our fosters, part of it is to help them find their forever homes, part of is it to share valuable life lessons we take in through fostering. I think perhaps it's been a little more challenging this time around to write about Cora Beth because it's taken a little longer for us to figure each other out, but also because all this time, she's had a really great family waiting in the wings, that plans to make her part of theirs this weekend, and a part of me didn't want to jinx her by overselling her. 

Cora Beth arrived to DC July 22, and she waited quite some time to get there. Poor thing arrived at the shelter in Florence County, SC over a year ago, incredibly terrified and I suspect far more wary of people than she is today. After some time in foster care down in South Carolina, Cora Beth began to come out of her shell and start finding her way towards transport. 

After we lost Seth, I took a few weeks to take a step back and take some time to heal. Taking on a new foster was, for me, a way of finding my way towards acceptance, and finding a way to move forward. I was kind of banking on an easy foster, so as to get back on the bike with some training wheels. I inquired about a few local fosters, and then with a new transport on its way, I was asked if I would be up for taking a shy dog. If I would be willing to take Cora Beth. I knew how many transports had passed her by, and when called to the task, all I could think to say was "of course I will foster her."

As we prepared for her arrival, I got in touch with CB's last foster mom in South Carolina, who cared for her over the span of three months, until she left on transport. She was very kind in giving me lots of helpful information about her personality, her quirks, and what to expect. I have to say, lots of that information was spot on, and the most helpful advice she gave was "She may cringe and shiver and stop eating and make you feel just awful in the beginning. But time is her best friend." And sure enough, having that in the back of my mind kept my feelings from getting hurt when Cora Beth showed up at my home and really wanted nothing to do with me.

Cora Beth is a beautiful soul, but clearly that beautiful soul was broken by someone along the way. Someone somewhere in her life taught Cora Beth that people are not to be trusted. In her first days, she ran when I would come near her. She flinched when I would reach over to pet her while laying on the far end of the couch, and many times jump off, seeking out a dog bed or spot on the floor so she didn't have to be near me. When I brought her food dish to her, she backed away as if I was feeding her cyanide. Every act of kindness was received with suspicion. And still, some of those acts are still observed a little warily. Though in her defense, I didn't exactly get off to a great start by shoving off-transport meds in her mouth and putting frontline on her back.

But for her wariness of humans, Cora Beth finds comfort and guidance in her canine friends. For every time I would pick up the leash and she would keep a safe distance, if Ollie went towards the front door, so did she. On trips to the dog park, she would keep a close eye on her little foster brother, keeping a close eye and counting on him to find comfort amid the things that made her nervous.

Gradually, Cora Beth started to let her guard down. She would allow me to give her a little scratch behind the ears, and no longer flinched when I would lean over to pet her on the couch. On our walks around the lake, her tail would be raised and she would have a casual gait about her. She still backs away from me when I come to her with her dinner, but she rebounds more quickly. She would find new friends at the dog park to play with, and take her laser focus off Ollie. And tonight, as I write this from the loveseat that she would never sit on as long as I was seated here, Cora Beth is cozily curled up within inches.  And when I lean over for a pet and rest my arm on her body, she opens her eyes for a moment and then drifts back to a gentle sleep. Maybe she knows that this is our last night together, and is trying in her quiet way to tell me that she's all right with me after all. 

Tomorrow we will be bringing Cora Beth to a weekend foster while we go out of town for a wedding, and it looks like we won't be having her come back to us when we get home. But it's for the best reason possible. After waiting a year to get to DC, Cora Beth ultimately found her family within the first 24 hours. 

The day after CB got to town, she came to her first Lucky Dog adoption event in Gaithersburg, MD. When she got there, we assigned her to a handler. Frances is a volunteer who, at the time, was on summer break from college, and on that particular day, was the person on the other end of Cora Beth's leash. Scared and shy as she was at her first event, something about Cora Beth was endearing to Frances, and perhaps reminded her of her own family dog, Rosie. 

A couple days later, an application came in from Frances' mother, Kate. And a week later, at the next week's adoption event, Kate spent two hours hanging out at Cora Beth's side. And two weeks later, she was back...having driven from Silver Spring, MD to Falls Church, VA to see her again. It was clear that this woman was smitten with Cora Beth, standoffish-yet-curious adoption event attitude and all. The only hangup - the family was going on vacation at the end of August, and knowing about Cora Beth's shyness, they didn't want to adopt and leave her with a dog sitter.  They wanted everyone to be home, and staying put for awhile, so they could get a start together on the right foot. I respected that, but I also cautioned there was a possibility that Cora Beth could be adopted before they get back. 

Nevertheless, Kate's family went through the adoption approval process and completed their home visit the morning before leaving for vacation. We also met the family at the dog park so they could see Cora Beth outside the stressful adoption event setting. And wouldn't you know it, she showed herself as a social butterfly with her canine friends and pranced around like a gazelle, so she could show the family how lovely she is in her element. It was official - the whole family was on board to give Rosie a sister, and they were hoping it could be Cora Beth. And hoping that she wouldn't impress any humans in the two weeks before they got back to town. They will be back on Saturday, and are fully ready to adopt on Sunday at our Labor Day eve adoption event. 

Obviously, Cora Beth didn't get adopted (in fact her new mom has so cutely been sure to check in after the last two adoption events to make sure she was still around), and I'm thrilled that this loving, patient new mommy who sees Cora Beth's beautiful soul through the guard she has put up, is going to give her the forever home she deserves. 

Cora Beth and I have spent the last month trying to understand each other, and while it's been challenging at times, time really is her best friend. In a way, I'm sad that we didn't get a little more of it, but this lady's happy ever after has been a long time coming, and I know when I leave her tomorrow, I am effectively sending her to a place where she will get lots and lots of time in the weeks, months, years ahead to be the best, happiest, most loved Cora Beth that she can be. 

I think a lot of puppy kisses are owed to the wonderful Florence County fosters, especially to Sharon for taking such care to help me know what to expect with Cora Beth, and to our amazing FAHS Lucky Dog ladies Stephanie and Liza, for giving this girl all the love and support she needed to get where she is today as a Lucky Dog. I have a hard time grasping where she started, but I know she has come a long way. 

While I didn't do much in our comparably brief time together, I am grateful that by opening my home at, what turns out to have been exactly the right time, I was able to open a new life for this wonderful, and now truly Lucky Dog. 

Eagerly awaiting the opportunity to share a post-adoption update,

Friday, July 20, 2012

Guest Foster Post: A Lucky Pauly In My Life

Hello Lucky Bloggers!

A few weeks ago I invited some of my fellow fosters to take advantage of this space and take the opportunity to write about their own furry houseguests looking for their forever homes. I am pleased to introduce our first official guest blogger and guest foster here on the Lucky Blog....PAULY and his foster dad, Rudy! Pauly has been with Lucky Dog looking for his forever home for nearly 4 months now, which is just crazy given how handsome and sweet he is. But here I shall turn it over to Rudy to tell you all about his journey as a Lucky Dog Foster and why Pauly is so great. Enjoy, and THANK YOU Rudy for coming out to tell us a little about Lucky Pauly, whose adoption bio can be read at!

Duane and I adopted our dog, Luke, from LDAR on July 11th 2009. LDAR was then a few months old and that was my first month as an official Green Card holder. We live in a 2 bedroom apartment of 890 square feet with a roommate, and Inky, Duane's loyal cat for the last 13 years. Since decided to get involved with LDAR, one of the hardest parts has been saying good bye to our fosters. This is why (and call me a coward or call me French) I always made sure that I was not there when it was time to give my farewell.

Since 2009, we have probably fostered between 15 to 20 doggies. I could say that Pauly is our latest one, but in the 6 months he has been living with us, we have overnighted a few dogs (3 dogs and a cat in a 2 bedroom apartment--so much fun!). We started fostering him in late March; I picked him up from the list because he looked a lot like one of our previous fosters, the magnificent Charlie (formerly Snoop), whom we fostered for 9 months! He got adopted and was returned a month later and Duane brought him back home a second time. I have to admit: I have fallen in love with every single one of the fosters we have had, and Snoop, because of his breed, his personality, and his background grew on me pretty quickly--so much that after a few weeks, I asked Duane to adopt him, even though I knew while asking that we could not afford to have a second dog. You can imagine how I felt when he left ....and came back....and....left again....I reminded myself that I should not care about my feelings because it is all about the dogs and saving and taking care of them. I am aware I am not the only foster parent falling for one of the rescue dogs, and I immediately feel better when I picture the dogs on their way to an happy home.

However, with Pauly and his resemblance to Snoop, I know that I asked for trouble...and I am in deep trouble. Pauly is a beautiful Labrador/mastiff mix, probably 2 years old and proud of every single one of his 55 pounds! 55 pounds of flesh trembling with happiness, waiting at the door to greet you with kisses all over when you come back home. I was apprehensive when we got him because of the cat (she is not a dog lover; it took several weeks for her to get used to Luke) so I was quite relieved when Pauly sped in the opposite direction when he first saw her, even if he developed quite a fascination mixed with fear toward her. My heart skips a beat when I see him approaching her slowly like a spy and waiting for his daily sucker punch (she does not have claws on her front paws, so at least he never gets hurt).

It took him a few days to get used to our routine. We realized he was quite a fast learner--he got used to the crate within a week, but it took him a little longer to be fully house trained (though in his defense, he did show signs of wanting to do his numbers before actually doing them inside the house). He was crate trained within a few weeks. Duane, who is very good at it, taught him how to sit, although he knew how to give you his paw ( weird I know). Today he goes to his little bed in the bedroom when told to. One thing about Pauly: he is a professional jumper, which is one of the reasons  we would not recommend him to a family with young children as he is also not aware of his own strength. That does not mean he is not good with kids....Pauly is getting along with everybody and everything! He plays on a daily basis with Luke . He loves his time at the dog park. He is not quite a runner, as he will try to trip you, although I think with a shorter leash, he will do just fine.

His favorite hobbies? Besides following the cat, following Luke, and following us, his favorite thing is to come  behind your back, put his legs around your neck and proceeding to lick your face (even your hair!!!!) until you get into the ground or try to escape from him. I am, as an adult (I had to grow up I know),  aware that I can not afford to adopt a second dog and I have made peace with it. I know for certain that my life would not have been the same without Duane, Luke and Inky .....the same way my life would not have been the same without all those dogs we have fostered ....the same way it would not have been the same without LDAR ....and now Pauly, my Pauly-Doo ( his nickname).

As I write this message, I can see him in his bed sleeping and snoring, and I am more and more convinced that he helped in the process of rescuing me by bringing so much happiness in my life....sometimes when I am sad, I just have to cuddle with him and I'll feel better. Sometimes I think we need them maybe more than they need us. I am sure after reading (if you do finish reading) his story, you would want to meet the legend in person and fall in love with that cute fella just like we did, I feel happy that I get to be a part LDAR's beautiful mission. Until then, we will keep taking care and loving sweet Pauly until it will be time to say good bye....until it will be time for me to skip another farewell process (maybe the hardest yet) and go cry in the bathroom or in the backyard.

MEET PAULY THIS SUNDAY, JULY 29 FROM 12-2 PM AT KENTLANDS PETSMART (218 KENTLANDS BLVD, MD), where he will be looking for his forever home! To learn more about how you can adopt Pauly, email Holly at 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grace, Faith, Healing and Learning

Hello Lucky Bloggers,

I realize that things have been pretty quiet here for the last few weeks. I've come back to this space a few times trying to figure out how to tap into what I've been doing here and how to communicate with the community that has been following along our foster journey with us. The last few weeks have been challenging, and I have debated long and hard whether or not to talk about those challenges publicly. But in creating a public forum to talk about the wonderful fosters that come into our home while they seek their forever homes, I realize there is a responsibility to be transparent and honest with the people that come into this space in hopes that we can learn and grow together.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the line between loving and letting go of our fosters: loving them as hard as we can to provide them the best home they can get before they move onto their best home, their forever home. Never in my writings did I expect that letting go would come to mean something completely, unexpectedly, and horribly different in the days that followed, when Seth suddenly passed away in our care. When on a trip to the dog park with Ollie (our own dog), Ivy (a Lucky Dog recently adopted by my in-laws who we were dogsitting), and Seth, my husband had Seth securely tethered in the back seat and wearing his martingale collar, the window partially open. This was like every other trip to the dog park we had taken, and we had come to learn Seth liked sticking his head out the window during car trips and smelling everything outside.

On this particular day though, while driving down a local county road, something caused Seth to climb out the window. We will never know what it was, or how a series of freak events could happen so quickly and end so terribly. Seth's collar snapped, and though Nick pulled over immediately to get him back in the car, Seth ran into the next lane of traffic and an oncoming car, unable to stop quickly enough, struck him.  He rushed him to Crossroads Animal Care Center, our vet 2 miles down the road, who said there was a faint heartbeat and sent us to Woodbridge Animal Hospital, the emergency vet 10 minutes away (very kindly keeping Ollie and Ivy with them in the mean time). They conducted CPR at Woodbridge, but Nick was told air was not going into Seth's lungs because he had suffered trauma to his trachea. They could conduct a tracheotomy, but in all likelihood he would be brain dead. He contacted Mirah, our Executive Director at Lucky Dog, to find out what to do, and given the circumstances, it was determined that the most humane thing would be to let him go. 

I got the news while in the middle of my Saturday summer session class, and went into immediate shock and hysteria. As Nick recounted the events and told me what happened, I broke down into sobs and started pacing around campus, eventually finding a bench where I sat down and a million thoughts went through my head. The only one I can really remember is "Oh my God, we killed our foster dog". I felt lost and horrible, not knowing what to do or where to go. Feeling as though somehow we had ultimately failed Seth and the second chance he had been given at life, and failed Lucky Dog as volunteers.

I talked first to Mirah, then to Pam, who is our South Carolina volunteer who actually brought Seth up to DC. All I could think to do was apologize and take the burden of blame for what had happened. But both of them gave me a reassurance that I didn't expect, saying that they didn't blame me or Nick. Everything that is asked of us to keep our fosters safe was done, as was everything to get Seth immediate vet care after the accident. It was a freak accident, and there's just nothing we can do about those. They told me in his final days and moments on this earth, Seth was a happy dog who got to know love before he left it. He had come from a world where people were awful, where his previous people had moved from their home and left Seth behind in it. It explains so much about why people were so scary to him, and why when we went away for a weekend he was so excited that we came back for him.

I had seen the progress that Seth had made in the six weeks he was with us, in learning to trust, love, and find out that strangers aren't so bad. It continues to break my heart that his progress was cut short. I've been trying to make sense out of everything, and still find myself grasping for answers as to why this happened. While I think I am going to be searching for answers for awhile, I have found comfort in my Lucky Dog family and the kindness they have offered. We talk about the human side of fostering, but I've seen it in full force with the outpouring of love and  support offered. I was worried that people would judge and blame us in the way that I immediately took self blame, the way that Nick has replayed in his head what happened that morning over and over again. But instead I have found empathy, love, and grace. I have been reminded that this bad situation doesn't make us bad fosters. In fact, we received flowers and a card from all of our past fosters telling us they loved us (whichever pup coordinated that effort effectively turned the waterworks on hard for me). I have rediscovered a lot of faith in the human spirit amid what I can only seem to describe as a foster's worst nightmare.

I have been told by many of my foster friends that this could have happened to any of us, and as I keep thinking about it, grieving, and letting go little by little, I know they are right. And maybe that's a part of the reason why I am writing here about it.

With most things in this life, when I don't know where to turn I google search to point me in the right direction. But when I googled "what to do when your foster dog dies" I was met with articles, blogs, and rescue sites that talk about what happens to dogs when they don't find a foster. How fostering is the thing that helps save well-deserving pups from "doggie death row". They don't talk about the 2-shot puppy whose delicate immune system, despite taking all precautions and working to keep them safe, contracts Parvo virus and doesn't make it. They don't talk about situations like what happens with Seth. Or the dogs that have behavioral issues from their pre-rescue life that, despite all efforts, are too far gone to be saved and present a threat to the world around them, and the kindest thing may be to humanely let them go (an interesting and reasonable article on this is on behaviorist Jim Crosby's blog).

The hard side of rescue is knowing that we can't save them all from the shelter, at least not yet. The longer we keep educating the public about the importance of spay/neuter, why to opt to adopt rather than shop, and how to be responsible pet owners, we will hopefully continue to see progress. But with 9,000 animals dying daily in shelters across the country, we still have a lot of work to do. 

The last few weeks have come to teach me about another hard, but less visited side of rescue. It involves that tiny population of the dogs saved from the shelter, but for whatever rare and unforeseen circumstance, are unable to be fully saved for a long second life beyond its walls. So you have to make peace with believing and knowing you gave those dogs the best life you possibly could for as long as you could, so that they do leave this earth knowing they were loved. I believe Seth knows that. I believe the other fosters and volunteers out there, who have loved and lost in a similar way, know that the moments spent with those dogs, while maybe too brief, were precious.

And because we still have so much work to do, I owe it to Seth to not lay down in grief when I have been given so much grace.  I owe it to him not be too sorry and sad to help any more Lucky Dogs, but instead to do more in his memory. I picked myself up that weekend 3 weeks ago and went out to coordinate our Sunday adoption event, finding strength in those around me to not be a puddle of tears for three hours. 

This weekend, I will take on a new foster, who has been waiting to come up from South Carolina for a year but has not been able to because of her shy dog needs and being unable to find an adopter willing to adopt her off transport. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified, but maybe welcoming Cora Beth into our home with that fear will help us understand each other a little more, and together we can move forward into brighter tomorrows. I don't know what's ahead (other than that we'll be driving with the windows shut and child locks on indefinitely), but when I think of the importance of what we're doing, and why foster homes need to step up, I believe it's something I need to do. I'm very grateful to Lucky Dog that they trust in us to keep moving their mission forward, and want to do all that I can to honor that trust the best I know how.

In September, I will lead a team of walkers striving to raise money for Lucky Dog Animal Rescue at Strut Your Mutt Baltimore and am personally raising as much money as I can for this organization with Seth in my heart as my honorary strutter (to donate or to see my progress, visit You can also join our team at  to walk with us on September 22.

This whole experience has made me really want to believe there is a heaven more than I ever have before, and that the Rainbow Bridge does in fact exist. I'm grateful to Seth for all he did to help me find the better parts in myself when he came into my life, and I am grateful for the grace, faith, healing and learning that has come through his leaving it. But until that happy reunion in the next life I'm praying for (hopefully my childhood dog Lady is looking after him in the meantime) I intend to make each moment count for each Lucky Dog that comes into this one now.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Fine Foster Line Between Loving and Letting Go

Now before you go and jump to conclusions because of the title of this, Seth has not been adopted.

However, I have been pondering this general theme: loving and letting go. Quite possibly the two key components to successful fostering. I think I started thinking about it quite a bit last week, when I went to Cape Cod for the weekend to attend my nephew's baptism and left Seth with a temporary foster from Friday-Tuesday. I actually missed the big guy when I was gone, and when I came back our reunion was a bit emotional. Maybe more for me than the dog. But he was excited to see me and upon happily leaping into my car, I got choked up and for awhile was thinking that I never ever ever wanted to leave this dog again. For the next few days I deeply pondered taking that plunge into what the Lucky Doggers call "foster failure".

When I first started volunteering with Lucky Dog, I first thought Foster Failure was the term coined for fosters that had been blacklisted from volunteering because they did something that was unforgivable to a dog, or something otherwise egregious. Turns out all it means is that a foster fell too hard in love to let anyone else adopt their temporary house guest, thus adopting their foster and "failing" on the letting go piece. It's a term of endearment, but in a number of cases, foster failure is bittersweet. Part of you is happy for the new human/canine pair, and part of you wonders if the foster failure will be able to foster again. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes it's no. I tend to think that our fosters are responsible people who know their limits, and the number of resident dogs certainly plays a role in a foster's ability to invite another into their home.

So when I was deeply considering having a begging conversation with my husband to keep Seth, I considered it again. And while I love having his big silly self around, and I am overjoyed to see the progress he has made in his short time with us, I don't know that we are in the right place to have a second dog, and all that comes along with it to be truly responsible pet parents, not just in the short term but in the long term. And I also consider the impact that a second dog would have on our ability to foster in the future...again, I don't know that we could have a second dog and feel confident in being able to help more dogs in the long term.

I assume this is an internal struggle a number of fosters have, and ultimately, that something clicks with that foster that is the one that didn't get away. I feel like I have had probably that clicky feeling with a number of my fosters (I think of the last 5, I considered adopting 4 of them), but then something sets in that allows me the ability to let go. For now.

But I do completely understand why some fosters have chosen to adopt the ones they initially set out to get adopted. Seth and Suga are two dogs in particular that I have said "so help me, if their adoption doesn't work out, I won't have the heart to let them be up for adoption again." Thankfully, Suga is still very much loved and in the home of her adopters, and we haven't yet gotten to an adoption with we're still good.

I have read that there is a great likelihood that at some point, you will "fail" as a foster. I have also read about how when someone says "I could never foster, it would be too hard to give a dog up," the author responds  that it's not harder than thinking what would happen to that dog (or another dog in the same shelter) if no one steps up to foster. I think of these two things a lot, and then, before I can think about either of them anymore while I still have a particular dog, that pup goes and gets adopted. And I know it's okay to be sad, but I also know that they are on their way to a lifetime of love and happiness with their new forever family.

So we love, we let go. We love, we let go. We love, we let go. And while I can't help but wonder if it will stop hurting to love with the knowledge that letting go is inevitable, in a way I don't ever want it to. Because with each foster life that touches my heart, I am reminded by these wonderful dogs what it means to be human.

And frankly, if it's wrong feel as much love as I do for a giant lab head in my lap while we seek out his future forever, I don't want to be right.