Nothing says “I love you” like a knucklebone . . .

If you are vegan, you know you love your dogs if you bravely march up to the meat counter at your neighborhood grocery to ask for raw cow bones. Foster mom has never done this before, but after much reading and convincing by various dog trainer and vet friends, I finally buckled. I went to our closest Central Market  and bought a six-pound femur bone. It was totally disgusting — covered in little bits of fat, meat, and other inner nasties — but in a weird way, totally satisfying, too.

The Dude got to come home in between his two back-to-back heartworm shots to cuddle up on the couch with his Chick and some blankets, and I felt like buying him a delicious and heroic treat to celebrate. Plus, it’s Valentine’s Day. And to a dog, what says “I love you” better than a six-pound raw cow bone? I had visions of the two boys being happily reunited for the night, and then peacefully gnawing on their bones in the living room, forgetting about all of their  troubles.

Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work out quite so. Chick was excited to see the Dude only until he realized that there was a cow bone in the house, in which case his mind went completely blank except for the bone – the bone – the bone – thebonethebone – THEBONE.THEBONE.THEBONE.

Dude, on the other hand, wasn’t excited to see the Chick OR the bone — the combo of the heartworm injection and the pain and anti-inflammatory meds have made him totally drowsy, mopey, and without an appetite.

All in all, we’re just happy to be together. Wishing you plenty of togetherness on this Valentine’s Day, too.

High five!

Well, it’s the big day. This morning we’re shipping the Doodlebug off to the vet’s office for a sleepover. But not a fun sleepover — this one involves two heavy injections into his deep lumbar muscle tissue — hardly your average dog’s idea of a good time.

But we keep telling him: six weeks from now — assuming all goes well — the Dude will be heartworm and trouble free. We’re already planning his adventures. We’ve been talking them up so much, in fact, that he’s been getting pumped up for his vet stay and heartworm treatment.

Giant needles in my spine? Game on! Bring it on, heartworms. I’m gonna destroy you! High five!

Chix-a-Lot Friday: Big brother worries

Yo, it’s me: Big Brother. You may be wondering: what am I doing here, sniffing this empty dog t-shirt that I got as a gift from my foster-great-aunt Margaret (thank you Aunt Malgosia)?

Well, I’m just practicing being alone. For what, you might ask? For next Monday, I will tell you. When my Foster Kid, the Dude, has to go in to the vet’s office for his second round of heartworm treatment.

It’s been almost four weeks now since the morning he woke up coughing blood and had to get his first injection to kill the evil worms that are trying to eat his heart and soul (go to hell little wormies, we quite like the Dude’s heart and soul and would prefer to keep them for ourselves, thankyouverymuch). And mama says that means he’s due for his next round. I’m not sure what’s so round about these special heartworm shots (all the shots I’ve ever seen are pokey and come in a tube and are most definitely not round). But anyhow, this next time he has to go to the vet on Monday, get a shot, and then stay there for a whole 24 hours and get another shot. After that, they’re going to keep him for even more hours so they can monitor him and make sure he’s doing ok.

I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds like an awful lot of hours for a dog to be at the vet’s office. I’m thinking about sending him a care package to keep him company, and maybe putting myself and his “Foster Kid” t-shirt in the package too. I wonder if we’d help him make it through ok!


Is it love?

Dog people love to anthropomorphize their pets. We have all done it.

Chick feels guilty for stealing the trash.

Doodlebug is proud of this new Sirius Republic bowtie.

People love to project our own dreams and emotions onto dog-dog relationships, too. We throw big words around — Love. Hate. Jealousy. In the case of our dogs, we do it too. We invent personalities and draw conclusions about how the dogs feel about each other, even though in reality we can rarely know for sure. In our own house right now, the Dude seems like the goofy, child-like little brother who is obsessed with his Yoda, Chick. Chick is older, wiser, too-cool-for-school, and tolerates the young ones with a stoic patience that only the most magical of dogs possess.

Of course, we wish with all of our might that he adored each of the dogs that come through our home, and actually preferred having another dog in the house. But does he? Hard to say. There is no doubt that in a choice between people and dogs, Chick has always chosen people. He learned early in adoptive life that people are the ones who control all the food, beds, walks, toys, and games, so we’re more interesting than other dogs. And fosterdad and I prefer it that way.

And yet, from time to time a dog comes along who Chick not only tolerates, but genuinely seems to enjoy the company of. When former foster Stevie Wonder would try to snuggle on Chick, he would tolerate it sometimes, and run away other times. But he never seeked it out. With other dogs, he has been more willing to cuddle, though I wonder if it was more that he wanted a piece of the prime real estate where the other dog happened to be sleeping, and not the warm furry body that he was seeking out.

But his relationship with Snickerdoodle has us wondering whether this is a different kind of thing for our grumpy old man.

Pre-Dude, Chick’s favorite resting spots were the bed in our master bedroom, the Stevie-chair in the living room, and underfoot in the kitchen. The Dude right away took to sleeping on The Dora in our guest room. Pretty soon, we started finding Chick in there, too.

Is this love? Maybe.

And there’s more. It used to be that Chick was clingy and needy to an unhealthy level. Wherever we were, he needed to be no more than four feet away. Now when we come home, if they’re in the middle of a particularly satisfying nap on The Dora, they will both come greet us, and quickly retreat back to their dogpile in the guest room. It’s new ground for us, and we’re trying to figure out whether it means anything at all. What we know for certain is that it is both unprecedented and oh-so-adorable.

How’s Snickerdoodle?

It’s been so peaceful in our home since Pocket Petunia moved on to her true foster home, that there are moments when we almost forget that we have an extra dog in the house. In the first couple of weeks, when the Dude was destroying crates, chewing up our headboards, and being tossed in the car for an emergency vet visit because he was coughing up blood, we didn’t think such a peaceful day would ever come. But here it is.

Doodlebug is still bravely battling the worms that are trying to eat his heart and lungs. He accepted the first heartworm injection pretty well, and after a few lethargic days, he got back to his normal calm self. We’re doing our best to keep him totally calm, which is hard for a young guy who loves long leash walks more than anything in the world and gets very excited at the sight of other dogs. Leash walks are short when they happen at all, which is rare. We walk at night. Around the block only. Not every night.

To battle the boredom and anxiety that come from physical inactivity, we’ve introduced kongs (both regular frozen kongs and kong genius toys stuffed with kibble and yogurt), tug-a-jugs, and other food-dispensing toys to keep Snickerdoodle from going nuts. He eats all of his meals out of these toys — never bowls — and they help soothe his need to be active. When he’s feeling particularly itchy for an activity, he wiggles around on his back in the grass — a pastime that is as cute as it is funny, and seems to help him get his crazies out in a relatively low-key manner.

His destructive anxiety is all but gone. We haven’t done much crate training since the first death-to-crates spree he went on weeks back, mostly because his heartworm treatment has put everything else on hold, and because he has proven to be trustworthy when left alone with his foster brother Chick. He is also taking anti-anxiety meds as an extra precaution, but we hope to start tapering those down once he is through his heartworm treatment.

We’ve got seven more weeks to go, but we’re already getting ahead of ourselves and planning big celebratory hikes and camping trips to mark the end of Dude’s bedrest. It’s a ways to go, but we’re feeling confident — the Dude is a remarkable guy!

Helping a Petunia bloom

Making the right dog-and-family match is one of the most challenging, critical, and rewarding parts of dog rescue work. We’ve been incredibly lucky to place our past fosters in great forever-homes, and last week we felt that same rush again, only when Love-A-Bull placed Pocket Petunia and her foster home.

After a night in our home (we played emergency foster), it was clear that Petunia needed something different. We knew we were not setting her up to succeed. The crate-and-rotate routine we had to enforce brought out Petunia’s less charming qualities. At the top of the list: some stress-induced dog-reactivity, and a compulsive desire to fingerpaint with her own waste after eliminating in her crate (which she did every time she was crated).

We knew right away that these issues were likely caused by the strict and stressful regimen we were imposing on the poor girl, who had just finished a long journey and had no clue what was going on. She needed more freedom and more space, which we weren’t able to offer under such time constraints.

When Petunia and I met Jenn, we had a sense that Petunia would succeed with her. Jenn has two other young, active dogs who play nicely with others and could (hopefully) show Petunia the ropes. She has two young kids who love to help out with enrichment activities for new foster dogs. Jenn was willing to work on the crating issue and has concrete floors in her house that are easy to clean up, plus the patience of a saint to deal with frequent clean-up.

Still, we prepared her for the worst. We told her there would likely be many crate accidents and that dog integration could take weeks to do successfully.

Boy were we thrilled when, after 24 hours, we got this email:

“Hi Aleks,

How are you?  We are doing great. I’ve never seen a dog smile so much.  Her little body is going to lift off when she gets going wagging and flashing that humongous grin.  The integration is done.  We took our first walk this morning.  I had a couple of friends help me walk her and my two youngsters.  We walked 2 miles on this great nature trail and by the end, I was walking all 3 of them with grins and wags.  No growling, no aggression of any kind.  They respectfully smelled, ran circles and then got into the walk.  Eventually, I let my two off leash to splash in the creek and even with just Petunia still on the leash, no issues at all. She had a great time and loved the water.  All 3 rode in the back of the car together and since then, they have been a threesome.  Oh!!! AND, she has only gone to the bathroom outside today.  I have her on a schedule and if I stay out there long enough, she will smell around, find the right spot and when I start praising her little tail wags so hopefully we are making new connections.

She continues to eat like a horse.  I got one of those training meat logs and we just had a session.  No big training, just a little sit and focus on the treat.  We do this with all three dogs and they all line up and sit still to get a reward.  I like this because it showed me that even with high value treats, she does not have food aggression in close proximity to the other dogs.  I’m still trying to help adjust her tolerance.  You can see that she is still trying to figure out what she should react to but it is coming along wonderfully.  

I can’t thank you enough for the wonderful support system you guys have.  Please let me know if I am missing anything.  Thanks Aleks!


Two days later I hopped in the car for a visit to little Petunia and her amazing foster family. I got a little teary meeting this brand-new Petunia — happy, confident, playful, with not a care in the world.

Thanks, Jenn and Petunia, for reminding us of the power of the right match!

Stay tuned for more updates on the adventures of Petunia as she looks for her forever-home . . .
For updates on the other recent cross-country arrivals into our rescue program, subscribe to our Love-A-Bull blog!

Farewell to Knox

Just before Christmas, a young, healthy Knox sent a special holiday package to Chick and then-foster Dora the Explorer.

Today he is gone.

This weekend, our pal from Maryland Knox succumbed to a mysterious illness that grabbed hold a couple of weeks ago, drained his health, left specialists with no answers, and ultimately took his life. Jess and Brian said goodbye on Friday.

It always leaves us a little empty inside when a dog we know passes on to the next world. But Knox left a different, even bigger kind of void– the kind you feel when a young, vibrant life disappears with no reason, little warning, and no explanation.

Please visit Knox’ facebook page or blog and share a few kind words today.

Knox, you were a perfect foster brother, a champion ball chaser, a dapper ladies man, a pit bull ambassador, and the center of your mom and dad’s world. Rest in peace, sweet boy. We’ll never forget you.

Another flash-foster: Pocket Petunia!

Those who read our other blog know that Snickerdoodle’s rescue, Love-A-Bull, has agreed to take in nine survivors of cruelty from three dog fighting operations on the east coast. And those of you who follow us on Facebook  got a little peek at an itty bitty teensy tiny pit bull type dog snuggled up in our crate over the weekend.

But most folks probably hadn’t put the two together, since we’ve been so very cryptic with our hints.

So without further delay, we are proud to introduce Pocket Petunia!

This pocket pet is so little that the beautiful Sirius Republic collar we had picked out for her — Barton Springs — couldn’t even be adjusted to fit! But at 26 pounds fully grown, Petunia does NOT let her tiny stature limit the size of her giant personality and heart full of love.

When she arrived by caravan from Dolly’s Foundation in Florida on Saturday afternoon, she was a quivery little thing. Wouldn’t walk on a leash, wouldn’t make eye contact, certainly didn’t want to play.

But a few hours later she had sniffed every square millimeter of our fenced yard and transformed into a little jumping bean. We haven’t had such a playful dog in the house since Chick was a kid!

Petunia couldn’t get enough of our flirt pole, wanting to play until she was positively pooped. Even just following us around the house and yard seemed to make her little feet dance. It’s like she knew that after a long journey, she’s finally safe.

Unfortunately, we just couldn’t provide the environment that little Petunia needs to flourish. Chick is easily annoyed by puppy-like energy and the Doodlebug is on strict rest due to his heartworm treatment. We agreed to take Petunia in for a few days because the rescue was in a pinch, but once we got her home we knew she couldn’t stay more than a couple of nights. Some dogs do well immediately with a crate-and-rotate routine, while others don’t. Petunia didn’t.

She dealt with the stress of isolation by eliminating in her crate and making a big ol’ mess every time she was left in there, and howling and growling every time our dogs passed by the room with her crate. We suspected that it wasn’t aggression she was displaying, just extreme frustration and fear of being isolated — or so we hoped. Understandable for a dog who had probably lived her whole life in a small enclosure and had just gotten her first taste of freedom.

After a long weekend of moving the crate outside six times a day for a thorough scrubbing and what felt like loads and loads of laundry on the “sterilize” cycle, we were exhausted. Just as we were about to throw in the towel and beg for relief, a miracle happened — we were contacted by the most remarkable woman, looking to foster a dog just like Petunia.

Cautiously, I talked her through all of the great things about her. Then, I slowly unraveled the challenges — “dirty dog syndrome,” some potential dog-reactivity, fear of anything new. I held my breath. “I would be honored to take her,” the angel said. Only it wasn’t an angel. It was a real live superhero– Petunia’s new foster mama.

Stay tuned for a Monday update on how Petunia is faring in her new foster home . . .

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