Former foster updates!

Somebody must have told Santa that what we wanted most of all for Christmas was some updates from our former fosters — and boy did he deliver! Over the course of one week, we got updates on FOUR of our old fosters — Lollie (now Lily Fireworks), Gonzo (now Ozzie Bunny-Ears), Stevie Wonder, and Curious Georgia! Updates from our former fosters’ forever-families are one of our absolute favorite parts of fostering, and we’re thrilled to share these with you, too.

For those in DC or Austin who are on the fence about fostering, this is a great time to give it a try: The Washington Humane Society in DC is undergoing renovation, and is desperately in need of a few short-term foster families to care for dogs through the end of January while they fix up the kennels. Here is more info. At the same time in our new hometown, the Austin Animal Center is way over capacity, and is looking for foster families to help relieve some of the pressure on the physical space. The AAC fostering program places pets into homes for 2-4 weeks, while they grow stronger, gain weight, or recover from injury. Here is more info about how to sign up for one of these animals in this time of great need.

Now, on to the former foster fun!

Lily Fireworks (formerly Lollie Wonderdog)

“So we got Lily some doggles in hopes of remedying some of the squirrel/bird/deer chasing and pulling on our walks, and with a lot of hot dog bits and some coaxing, she wore them today — what a difference!!! She wasn’t too pleased with them at first, but over all did really well!!! She couldn’t see the squirrels and walked so nicely! We took them off at mile 4 and what a difference — 3 minutes later she lunged at a deer and almost pulled me over — Hot dogs came out and doggles went back on :) She’s so cute in them…

Have we told you,we adore her! She’s stretched out hogging up the entire carpet in front of the fireplacechewing happily on an antler….Love her!”

Further Lily updates — Thanks to Lily’s patient mama’s work and Lily’s new doggles, our girl has graduated from her Easywalk harness, and has just ordered her first Sirius Republic collar! We can’t wait to see Lily in her new outfit. She prepared for its arrival with a nice bath . . .

Lily got to go out on a date with adoptable hearthrob Baxter from Peace, Love, and Fostering a couple of weekends ago, and she and her new boyfriend are starting a pit bull hiking club in Maryland called Pittie Trails, inspired by HikeaBull in the Bay Area.

photo courtesy Peace, Love, & Fostering

Lily and Baxter got along so well, that Lily’s parents are now daydreaming about adopting another pit bull type dog so that she can have a live-in boyfriend/brother/playmate. Fingers crossed they find the right dog!

Ozzie (formerly Gonzo Bunny-Ears)

“Oz has been great as ever! He had a great holiday season (plenty of gifts from the parents AND the Grandparents) and there was definitely no shortage of kisses and dog zoomies to boot! We are predicting even more loveable antics in the New Year! The dynamic duo of Laila and Ozzie is as strong as ever. He still cleans her every morning (no small feat when you consider her size), they eat every meal together, play their favorite game (tug-of-war) and snuggle up for naps and bedtime day in and day out. When one gets startled and barks the other is right there to back them up. When dad or I leave the room they are both hot on our heels. Their isn’t much they don’t do together. In fact they have actually taken to dressing alike. Well.. almost. Momma is a HUGE NY Giants fan, having grown up in that area, so Grandma decided to get the two matching jerseys for Christmas. Ozzie’s was snug but Laila’s barely fit over her head! So she had to settle with a cute Giants bandana. Dad wasn’t too pleased with the choice of team, being that he is a Ravens fan, but I go pretty crazy during football season especially they way our year has been going so I need every bit of support I can get. AND now that we are in the playoffs they get to keep their pompoms out for a little while longer (maybe even till February *fingers crossed*)


Ozzie also went on the longest trip (as far as we know) of his life. He got to go to the snowy, cold state of Michigan to visit his aunt and cousins. One cousin in particular fell madly in love with Mr. Ears declaring he was “the cutest dog in the whole world!” I was a little nervous at first since I didn’t know how he would respond to the likes of a rambunctious 3 yr old but he was a champ! My niece pulled him this way and that, tugged on his ears, tried desperately to pick him up but he kept his cool. I was so proud and glad that I could see this side of him! All in all we had a great trip and great holiday!”

Stevie Wonder

“Dear Foster Mom –

I know that I haven’t written awhile and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been really busy at home. My mom AND my dad were both home for two weeks over Christmas break. That meant that I got to chase the tennis ball A LOT. That was the best thing ever. AND Santa brought me NEW tennis balls AND a huge bone AND a new sweater. PLUS, we had this beautiful tree IN OUR HOUSE and I liked to curl up underneath it. My mom and dad said I looked just a like a present under there.

My mom said that one of her goals was to get me to chill out a little more around her. The thing is, I love her so much that I just have to be where she is all the time if she’s in the house and my whole body wiggles REALLY furiously when she comes home from work. My mom thought that, maybe, if we practiced being in different parts of the house for the two weeks while she was home than she might be able to start doing her silly yoga DVDs down in the family room again.

That just hasn’t been possible for the last few months because even though I am a SUPER GOOD girl, I just want to get underneath and on my Mom when she is going yoga. She told me that’s not what they meant by downward dog. (Is that a joke? Mom says it’s a joke.)

It gets even tougher because she does yoga in the room with ALL OF HENRY’S TOYS. If she isn’t going to pet me and love me than how am I supposed to pass up taking all of these toys, one-by-one, out of bins and off shelves and throw them around like I just found the arc of the covenant?!?! It’s the only responsible thing to do, right? But, my Mom says no way. She says I need to remember which toys are mine EVEN WHEN we are in the basement and EVEN WHEN I am left to my own devices. I am doing really well at other times, but that is a serious challenge for me. I mean, look at this place!

But, guess what, foster mom: I can totally do it now! (Okay, I might pick up one toy, but once I realize that Mom is doing the yoga, I leave it alone.) I either curl up on the couch and look like this:

Or, I GO UPSTAIRS – away from Mom! – I am totally brave and strong now and I can go all the way up to the 2nd floor of the house when she’s in the basement. AND TAKE A NAP! We all thought that was super, totally cool.

Of course, it wouldn’t be any fun if I didn’t develop new quirks. So, since Mom and Dad were SO happy about my chill out training success, I have redoubled my efforts to protect them – and especially my brother  Henry – from all enemies that surround us; Like, the dirt devil, the food processor and – this is the most unsuspecting villain – a wet paper towel being used to clean up a spill. You might think it’s wacky, but I know I’m just protecting them. So, when these things come out – I bark and try to bite/eat them. Mom and Dad say that I just don’t see them clean enough (which might be true) and that they are going to show me that these things are not too scary, after all.  Whatever. I think they should consider themselves lucky to have such a vigilant dog. When I’m not napping, that is.

Love you! Hope you’re having fun – Mom and Dad said you and foster Dad and my friend, Chick, went to Texas!?!?

Stevie”

Curious Georgia

“It’s been a while since we checked in, and while everyone is winding down from the holidays, Georgia wanted to pass a few things along and let everyone know how she’s doing.
Georgia completed Basic Obedience with a great trainer.  I have to say that she was the shining star of the class.  We worked everyday on our homework, and she finished the class way ahead of everyone else. She’s now a great loose leash walker, sits and waits patiently while we prepare her meals, she can sit/stay like a champ (even with minor distractions), and has a secure verbal command for “come”, which we started training silently with hand cues.  We test that last one with dummy words to throw her off, and while she twitches sometimes, she does an excellent job of only moving on the correct command.  We’re currently working on laying down and “go settle” (on her bed), as well as getting some distance and duration on those others.  I think we’ve come the longest distance with “go settle”, and have moved from a slight disinterest in her dog bed, to sniffing it, to siting on it, to pretty reliably finding it and laying down completely.  I’ve learned a ton myself about patience and consistency, and the results are making it an easier lesson all the time.  G seems to genuinely enjoy our training sessions, and I really enjoy the feeling that we’re working together towards something.
Next on the plate is to work on her social skills and apparent leash frustration.  When she sees other dogs on our walks, she becomes a bit vocal and they become the focus of much of her attention.  I don’t think it helps that just about every dog in our neighborhood, whether on the leash, in the yard or in a house, is a barker.  I think things are getting slightly better, just with repeated exposure, but we have yet to tackle it head on.  Off leash (which we’ve only done in contained environments) is a different story, and over Christmas we spent a few days in Charleston, WV with three lively Corgis and a Golden Retriever.  She had great manners, and when the rest of the group would break into spontaneous barking sessions, she just looked at them like they were crazy.  New Year’s Day we were back in Baltimore with some of our closest friends and their three dogs.  She was a model citizen and we were proud parents.
G’s getting softer, shinier, and more muscular every day.  She had some thin patches of fur on her head and end of her tail that are almost completely filled back in, and she went from shedding what felt like a pound of fur a day to virtually not shedding at all.  She still bothers her paws a bit, so we’ll try and get her to the vet sometime this week to get that checked out.  She’s getting better in the rain and in the cold, and it turns out she loooves bananas, but leaves neat little piles of completely clean lettuce and carrots when I try to hide them in her peanut butter Kong.  I don’t know how she does it.  We broke down and finally let her on the people couch (before she was only allowed on one), and it feels so good, I think everyone is much happier.
All in all, we’re really proud of and thankful for her, she’s an immediate hit with everyone she meets (except maybe the cats), and all is well in Baltimore.
-R, G, and ML”

Former foster updates: Ozzie (Gonzo) the country boy

Here’s another great update on one of our former fosters, Gonzo Bunny-Ears (Now Ozzie Bunny-Ears). Thanks to his mama Joanne for sending us this funny account of his weekend and the gorgeous photos of him, his glorious ears, and his sister Laila living the good life!

“We went to my in-laws’ last week and the dogs came with us. Our family lives in the “country” on 5+ acres with just a few neighbors and fields galore. As soon as we got there we let Laila and Ozzie loose, and they had a blast.

We were a little nervous since we had never let Oswald off leash in an unenclosed space. We also knew that he ended up in the “slammer” twice for running away from his original owners. My guess is that he just wasn’t happy in his old home because he ran everywhere and after everything but when we called his name he always came running . . .

And man can he run! He ran circles around his new friends (other neigborhood dogs), their people, and even their homes. He also won the hearts of Chris’ family and earned table scraps galore with just one look from his adorable mug. Everyone wanted to take him home so I had to keep an eye on him at all times to watch for any would-be dognappers!

There are times when Oswald gets so wound up it’s hard to calm him down. He had one of those moments when the kids started shooting off fireworks. As soon as he heard the first one go off, he was a wild man. I’ve seen dogs run and hide in fear but Ozzie was the opposite. He went into seek and destroy mode. He patrolled the tree lines and shore, barking as he went. He investigated high and low but was never able to find the source of all the commotion!

When it came time to leave I figured he would be done for the day or even the week but I should have known better. Chris and I are saying our goodbyes when Chris yells. I turn around and see Ozzie has jumped out of our car window, leash attached, and is in hot pursuit of a flock of birds. He runs so far and so fast that in just a few seconds he is just a tiny speck in the distance. There are probabaly a few hundred birds and though he did his best the boy just could not compete. When he finally realizes there is no hope he makes a hard left turn, then makes a beeline back to us. I open the car door and without skipping a beat he is nestled under the dashboard ready for the long ride home.

It was a lot of fun!
Jo

How Gonzo’s new mom tells it

Gonzo’s new mom was kind enough to write us a letter after they adopted the little man, telling us about their experience searching for him, finding him, and knowing that he was their One (well, their Other One). She sent us photos, too!

“Dear foster family,

Thank you so much for everything you have done for us and our newest addition. It was so important to us to have a well balanced, well behaved dog because of our other “little one” and you gave us just that.

Since the first day we got our first dog, Laila, we knew we would never own anything but large bullies/mastiffs from that point forward. There is just something so special about them. For the past few months we had been casually surfing the internet for rescue dogs. We wanted to rescue this time but were scared by accounts saying that they were a lot of work and would really need a strong leader and plenty of experience with difficult dogs who had gone through horrible situations in order to get the pet we wanted. We were also nervous about our Laila. She may look intimidating but she is just a goofy, gentle girl and what we consider an ambassador to her breed since we can’t go a day without someone either asking us what breed she is because she is so nice and pretty, or because they are scared of her. We are proud to say she can change the image of what a “bad” dog is. The last thing we wanted was to add an unbalanced or aggressive male to the picture that could adversely affect our girl.

So we continued to search for weeks for dogs that fit our criteria… “bully”, “mastiff”, “extra large”, “male”, “good with dogs”, “good with kids” etc. and we just weren’t finding dogs that really fit the bill. So, much to the chagrin of my husband (who was looking solely at 100+ lbs boys!), I started to search for smaller dogs. He eventually warmed up to the idea of having a smaller dog as long as we could stay with the bullies.

Then it happened. One day, after looking at large dogs for an hour or so I decided to uncheck the “size” box and there they were. Those glorious ears. They truly do have a special power! He was the cutest thing I had ever seen! I couldn’t wait to show Gonzo to my husband.  I was so worried because a dog that cute would for sure we gone in an instant. We read your blog, saw the pics and fell in love. He definitely had everything we wanted in a dog and felt that he had remained available for so long because he was meant to be with us. And if it were just the two of us, he would have been ours in a heartbeat! But there was someone whose opinion mattered more than ours, and she would have the final say.  And after giving the two a few chances to meet and some careful consideration we knew he was the one for all of us.

As far as integration goes it is honestly going better than I had anticipated. Even though it has only been a few days, I am sure we made the right decision for our small family. Gonzo is really smart and he listens to us very well. He won’t walk off too far if we drop the leash and doesn’t go running around the house if we tell him to stay with us. He has been super affectionate and attentive and been following all our rules. I started the training on lead with him today and he had his eyes on me the whole time. So great! Laila was not like that at all, but she was very young when we started working with her.

Laila wants to play a little rough inside but she hasn’t been trying too often today. They’ve had a few short off leash play sessions and they went great! Gonzo was teasing her because she just can’t keep up with him! He is airborne half the time!  Seeing Laila chase Gonzo the rocket around the backyard, him holding his own in a WWE style wrestling match, and the two of them napping side by side is the greatest feeling ever! The two like each other a lot, and I hope that once Laila learns to calm down and be cool around him, it will turn into love. 

And lastly we should do a DNA test for him just because I am now sure he has bunny in his blood. He doesn’t run around the yard, he hops, leaps and bounds. If I didn’t know any better I would think we had a really, really big bunny. He is constantly flying around and poor Laila does her best to keep up but she is just no match! 

Thank you so much again for the wonderful work you do. Your blog really helped us get past a lot of insecurities about adopting a dog. You gave Gonzo and will give other great foster dogs a safe place to rehabilitate and the best chance at finding a forever home.

<3 Gonzo, Laila, and their people”

AND a very important announcement from yesterday:

“We are going to rename him “Oswald”! His nicknames will include Ozzie, Oz, Bunny Ears, brown bottom, and who knows what else!

The back story to the name is the character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit . They have a couple of things in common… of course the fact that both of them are bunnies and lucky is important, but there is one more thing that I think ties them together.  Like I told you on Sunday he was Mickey Mouse’s predecessor. Due to legal issues and money Walt Disney left behind Oswald and soon created Mickey Mouse who of course is Disney’s flagship character. Now after decades of being in obscurity and forgotten he has been given a second chance just like our Ozzie! He is back with his Disney family and Gonzo/Ozzie is in his new family too!”

A letter to Gonzo in his new home

Dear Gonzo Bunny-Ears,

Thank you for being such a good boy and barely whimpering when I left you at your new home with your new people. I was so delighted to learn that you were not only a brave fellow, but quickly forgot about us after I left, just as I had hoped you would. After all, your new parents, C and J, are so wonderful, and your new sister Laila — a 95 pound presa canario — well, she’s just a dream. And I’m sure the milkbones helped too.

When I first heard from C and J and started corresponding with them over email, I thought they were too good to be true. And when they came to the adoption show with sweet Laila to meet you? I just about died from the cuteness of the two of you together. You probably don’t realize how small you are or how big she is, but Gonzo. She is almost three times bigger than you! 

Later in the week when they brought Laila over to our house for a play date, since you never did like the adoption shows very much, we were all nervous about how things would go. Would you like her? Would her rambunctious, boxer-like play style be too much for your tiny self? We already knew that you far prefer big dogs to small dogs, and that Laila always seeks out the little guys at the dog park, but still . . . would you be a match? By this time their application had checked out perfectly, so this was the last step, and the stakes were high! Your co-walk went fine, and the two of you even got to bond over near-simultaneous pooping, do you remember? You probably didn’t notice that Laila’s poops are almost as big as your head, did you. We also learned that you share an affinity for pooping multiple times on one walk — something that drives me and foster dad crazy.

Once we let you loose on the deck together, you did great. It is difficult to describe the joy I felt as I watched you sail through the air — seemingly in slow motion — to give your sister a good love-nip on the neck, and watched you both tumble to the ground, only to writhe on deck, side by side, two backs on the ground, eight paws flailing, two mouths open, and two tails beating on the wood planks in a hyper happy rhythm.

Gonzo, I hope you don’t forget all the things we talked about before you left. I hope you remember how to be a gentleman, and to let your new sister win games of tug-of-war now and then. I hope you are a good snuggling partner and don’t hog the very center of the bed like you so often did with your foster-brother Chick. I hope you remember to always pee outside and never inside, not even a little squirt now and then when you are exceptionally excited. And Gonzo, I hope you remember us. Not as your parents, but as some nice people who helped you make a graceful transition from your former life to your forever life.

And finally, Gonzo, you have touched our lives in an unexpected way. Just like the rest of the world, we have been hypnotized by your good looks and your bouncy, care-free attitude. We never thought we would see the day when a totally adorable, totally uncontroversial, tiny pocket-pittie would steal our hearts. We thought we were underdog people, and Gonzo, you are not and underdog. And to a large extent, we are still underdog people. But you have helped us realize that above all, we are dog people. Every dog has a story to tell and a special gift to share. Thank you for sharing yours with us. You have expanded our horizons, and we love you very much.

With eternal affection,

Fostermom and  fosterdad (and brother Chick, whose affection has surprised even himself, since he thought he could never love a dog smaller than his 50 pound self)

PS- here are a few photos of you, your sister, and your new parents — partly for you, partly for your fans.

PPS- the first photo is one of your foster mom’s favorite photos of all time.

Gonzo: ADOPTED!

Gonzo Bunny-Ears has been adopted!

On Sunday we sent Mr. Ears off to his fabulous and loving new family. It was a long journey for Gonzo — longer than we would have expected for the cutest, most adoptable bunny-eared dog we’ve ever seen. He was with us for nine weeks, and had been kenneled with the rescue group since late 2010. But it was worth the wait!

We knew it would be difficult to find his perfect family, because he is a demanding little guy with a long wish list. He wanted a family with another dog — preferably a big one, a house with a yard, a neighborhood with no BSL, a person who works from home or only part time, a family without lots of very young kids, a willingness to keep us up to date with lots of emails and photos, and most importantly, a family that is open to keeping “Bunny-Ears” as his middle name. We know what you’re thinking. Impossible, right? At most we would get five out of those seven, right?

Well Gonzo won the forever-family lottery big-time, we got all seven!

We can’t wait to tell you all about his new family tomorrow, but for now, a few photos of foster dad and me with the little Ears on the day before we took him home.

We admit, Gonzo was a hard dog to give up. He fit in so well in our family that we had a few moments of weakness where we thought about keeping him for ourselves. We loved snuggling with him in the mornings after the alarm went off, when both dogs would pounce on us in bed. We loved taking him for walks around town and getting zillions of compliments on how adorable he is. We loved how easygoing he was, and the fact that he got along with everybody. But in the end, he was not meant to be our dog. We have a special commitment to the underdogs of this world, and if there’s one thing Gonzo is not, it’s an underdog.

And for now, our commitment is to saving lives through dog fostering. Giving up a foster dog may be hard, I reminded myself as I kissed Gonzo on the soft spot between his eyes, and as I walked down the driveway away from his new home, but it’s not as hard as knowing that another dog will die in a shelter because we were too attached to let him go. We’ll probably flop to the other side some day. No doubt, a foster will enter our lives down the road that we just can’t let go of, and we will throw our theories out the window. For now though, this is our story and we’re sticking to it.

We will miss the sweet little guy, but we couldn’t be happier for him.

Come back tomorrow, when we will introduce you to the rest of Gonzo’s wonderful new sister, Laila!

Gonzo: big dog magnet

Big dogs — and big dog owners — love Gonzo. Especially pit bull types and their people. We think it’s because he is so pocket-sized but at the same time has the general look and feel of a bigger pit bull. He’s small but sturdy, adorable but tough. Fosterdad calls him a cinder block covered in fur.

Our hypothesis — and this is not very tested — is that many people own a big dog and would like another, but can’t quite picture their lives with two 60 or 80 pound pooches. These same good people sometimes cringe at the thought of a delicate little thing, seeing images of their big burly dog bowling their new adoptee over the first time they try to play. Enter Gonzo, the solution to both of these problems.

We have written much on Gonzo’s merits. He is an excellent picnic companion, a great car passenger, a superlative kitchen helper, and an ambassador for bunny-eared dogs far and wide. But we had not until recently calculated that he is the perfect small/large dog package, and therefore the perfect companion for a bigger pit bull type dog.

Gonzo has made several friends/possible siblings in his time with us. Each has been a pit bull type, and not one of them has weighed less than 55 pounds. Amazing? We think so.

Check them out, in order from smallest to biggest — from our very own darling 50-pound Chick, to beautiful 90-pound Laila, who is so big that she doesn’t even fit into the frame.

But wait! Could one of these gentle giants turn out to be Gonzo’s forever-sibling? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

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