Foster superstar guest post: Two Pitties in the City

This is such a special guest post for us because Two Pitties in the City has been a long-time blog crush of ours. We love their photos, their writing style, and we are borderline obsessed with their two dogs, Miss M and Mr B. This family has been fostering on and off for a couple of years now — despite living in a small city condo and having two big dogs of their own!

So many people think it’s hard to own a dog in the city when you don’t have yard and live in a smaller space. Let alone foster. But when we realized how easily we could live with our two 75 lb pitbulls in our smaller space we decided we could add the occasional foster pooch.

After seeing how fantastic Mr. B’s foster mom was, we were inspired to ‘pay it forward’ and try it ourselves. We know fostering is especially important here in Chicago where we have a huge homeless dog population and so many rescue groups rely on foster homes to be able to save dogs from the shelter. Now we are on our 3rd foster dog.

I like fostering because it gives me my ‘dog-fix’. Plus, I see dog adoption a bit like the dating scene and we’re always trying to get our pooches ‘out there’ exploring the city and going to neighborhood festivals. It’s amazing how many people you meet when you’re walking around with 3 pitbulls, plus since our foster wears an ‘Adopt Me’ collar from Sirius Republic everyone knows their single status.

Our second foster, Bella, was even adopted by someone in our neighborhood who had met us during our walks.

Since we do have limited space, we make sure we get a foster who is compatible with our own dogs. While we originally saw Miss M as being bossy, we realized she is actually a talented drill sergeant, and she has been successful in teaching the pooches manners and tricks before they move on to their new homes.

A lot of people think it would be hard to see the foster dog leave, or that we’d get too attached. While we do miss our pooches, it’s more rewarding to see them in their new homes. Plus, we always know we have an open spot if we should ever need to foster again.

Foster superheroes A and E blog at Two Pitties in the City. They live and foster dogs in Chicago, and are currently sharing their home with not only Miss M and Mr B, but also lovely adoptable Levi, who is looking for his forever-home. Know anybody in Chicago looking for a sweet, charming, and energetic adult dog? Levi might be their perfect match!

Foster superstar guest post: Kate from Twenty-Six-to-Life

Kate is a fellow DC area pit bull foster mama, who also shares her home with three pit bulls (and until recently, one german shepherd) of her own. Her family’s commitment to fostering despite having a house full of dogs is inspirational to us, and Kate shows us every week how possible it is to maintain your sanity, your style, and your humor while living with three — sometimes four — pit bulls.

1. Why did you begin fostering dogs?

My husband and I accidentally rescued our first pit bull, Melanie, nine years ago when we found her running across a road only mere feet away from a busy interstate. She was skinny, missing patches of fur and obviously not well cared for. The only things we “knew” about the breed were the negative stereotypes that that the media blasted at us, but we took a gamble (what we thought was a huge gamble, actually) and brought her home.

Melanie (on the left) with her sister and BFF, Heidi.

Of course it turned out to be an extremely low-risk gamble, because Mel is an awesome dog. In a way, she was our first foster because our original intent was to privately foster her and find a home for her. After a horrible experience with one potential adopter, we decided to keep her ourselves because we loved her already and knew how great she was. We also knew that we didn’t have the resources to properly screen people who were interested in taking her home, and we didn’t want to risk her ending up in a bad place. We didn’t start “officially” fostering until several years later when we were both out of school and no longer renting, but I knew then that I wanted to be more involved.

2. Tell us about your first fostering experience. Who was your first foster dog? What was fostering him/her like?

My first official foster dog was Winky. She was a one-eyed pit mix puppy.

Fostering her was crazy! It was a fun experience, but it was a ton of work because she was still so young. We were used to our older, calm dogs and weren’t quite prepared for the amount of energy such a young dog would have. Still, it was a lot of fun, and fostering her made us realize how important it is to know our own limitations. We learned that puppies just aren’t our thing and that’s okay.

3. What has kept you going with it?

Now that I’ve gotten involved with rescue, I really feel like I’m part of a bigger community. I’ve met some insanely great people and it feels good to know I’m part of the community that they’re involved in. I honestly have a fun time volunteering and enjoy the time I get to spend with the different dogs and people.

4. Why do you think fostering is important/what role does it play in the bigger animal rescue picture?

Fostering is truly a lifeline for many dogs, especially for the breeds that are harder to adopt out (like pit bulls). A rescue friend of mine once told me that there’s someone out there for every dog, it just takes time to find them. Fostering gives dogs that time. Foster homes free up space in shelters, so it not only saves the dog that’s being fostered, but it also saves the life of the dog that can be in the shelter for a little longer. It’s a vitally important part of animal rescue.

On a personal level, if it weren’t for someone fostering him, I never would have been able to adopt my dog Nemo. His foster mom practically hand picked Nemo for us out of all the dogs in the rescue, and for that I’ll always be grateful to her. The foster experience really does work to put the right dogs in the right homes.

5. What is the most rewarding part of fostering to you?

I love to watch a dog leave the shelter and start to feel relaxed in a home. While shelters do the best they can for animals, they are still very stressful places to be.  Each of our dogs has started out unsure and nervous  when we brought them home, and watching them turn into happy, confident dogs is so rewarding. I love knowing that I made it possible for them to express their true “dogness.”

6. What is the hardest part?

Obviously giving the dog up is the hardest part. So hard that we’ve even failed at it (jump down to question #9 to read about that). Still, it’s completely worth it. However much it hurts to part with a foster dog, it hurts even more to know that if I hadn’t come along that dog might not have made it out of the shelter.

7. Have you experienced any benefits that you hadn’t expected before you began?

The friends I’ve made. The people that I’ve met through my rescue group are just all-around awesome.  They really enjoy what they do and care about the dogs, and while it isn’t always easy, it’s always worthwhile.

8. Any advice do you have for individuals considering fostering for the first time?

Find a good rescue organization, and do it. I always tell people to start volunteering with an organization in other ways before they start fostering. It’s a great way to meet new people and learn about a rescue group’s policies with fosters. You can talk to the people that currently foster, and get a feel for how supported they are by the group. It’s also a great way to pick up tips on how to integrate a foster dog into your home and how to choose a foster dog that will thrive in your home. A good group will be open to telling you about their foster program (they should be eager to have you!) and provide you with the support that you need to take on a foster pet.

9. Who was your most memorable foster and why?

Haha, Heidi is definitely my most memorable foster – because I see her everyday! We foster failed with Heidi very quickly and as much as you’re not supposed to do that, I’m so glad we did. Heidi had been in the shelter for months before we pulled her. She was skinny, and the tops of her paws were stained and sore from excessive licking (from the stress of being in the shelter). She had obviously been bred a few times too. The poor girl didn’t have it easy, but she clearly had loads of potential and even more love to give.

I had been keeping track of Heidi since I first saw her in the shelter, and when I found out that the shelter was full and her time might be up, I knew we had to get her out of there. While we originally intended to only foster her, we quickly realized that she was our dog (or rather that we were her humans) and we adopted her. Since her adoption, Heidi’s become a canine good citizen and is working towards becoming a therapy dog. She’s such a great ambassadog for the breed that we still bring her to events just to show off how great pit bulls can be. She’s so amazing that I don’t know how anyone ever gave her up.

10. What is your favorite foster adoption story?

It’s so hard to choose! I love it every time I find out that a foster dog has found their forever home! I have to admit though, I love my own dogs’ stories. Melanie went from a scrawny stray to changing countless people’s minds about the breed, Heidi became a canine good citizen just a couple months after leaving the shelter, and Nemo has shown people that even the “mean looking” pitties with cropped ears and dark coloring can be a joy to have around.

Heidi (left) with her brother, Nemo (center), and sister, Melanie (right).
Kate blogs at Twenty-Six to Life about living with her three rescued pit bulls, volunteering, turning her house into a dog-friendly home, and learning how to use her camera (mostly so she can take better pictures of her dogs). Like her on facebook to see more photos of her dogs, and follow her blog to see what she’ll be up to next.

One year blog-a-versary: the stats

We still can’t find the words to express how powerful and meaningful the last year has been to us. We have learned so much about dogs, about ourselves, about marketing, about writing, and about friendship, and it has been a joy to share it with our online community. Rather than struggling to find a few eloquent words that would inadequately sum up our year, here are a few humble stats:

Posts written: 262

Post comments: 5,500+

Blog views: 153,000+

Strangest web searches leading to clicks on our blog: “cat climbs cherry tree;” “what dog behaves like pancho villa;” “does stevie wonder swim;” and “incredible hulk and his girlfriend”

Dogs who have shared our home: 7

Foster dogs we have fallen in love with: 7

Dogs who found their perfect forever-home: 6

Dogs we tried but could not save: 1

Dogs whose lives were saved by our foster dogs’ inspiration: 5+

Dogs who were returned to us or the rescue: 0

Dogs who we have missed after they were gone: 7

Longest foster: Lollie Wonderdog, 3.5 months

Shortest foster: TANK, 8 days

Dogs who kept their foster names in their forever-homes: 3

Most popular posts: Pit bull awareness: words do matter; and How to save a life through dog fostering.

Silliest posts: Gonzo’s breed report; and Giving thanks and a dance party.

Most difficult post: Goodnight, sweet Blue.

Favorite foster-written posts: Stevie’s summer vacation Part 1 and Part 2.

Walks in the cold rain taken with foster dogs: dozens

Walks on beautiful sunny days taken with foster dogs: 100+

True friends we’ve made in our own community through fostering: 10+

Friends we’ve made in the blogging community through fostering: dozens

Days we have wished we were not fostering: none.

Have any favorite fosters, moments, photos, stories, or posts from our first year? Do let us know in the comments. We’ve had so much fun reviewing the past year’s happenings, we would love to hear your reflections too!

And most importantly, thanks to all our readers and friends for your inspiration, your compassion, and your friendship. You have changed our lives forever and for better. 

Blog-a-versary! A celebration in photos.

It seems that today marks one year since we started Love and a Six-Foot Leash and brought home our very first foster, Lollie Wonderdog. When we opened this blog, we were envisioning just a little personal documentary project to help us chronicle and then remember our experiences fostering homeless dogs — nothing more. We still cherish this element of the blog, but have found ourselves trying to do a lot more — advocating on behalf of homeless pit bull type dogs everywhere, marketing our current fosters for adoption, networking with other foster families and dog lovers around the world, and coaching others on the ins and outs of fostering and integrating new dogs into the household. It has been such a thrill.

As much as we love writing, we are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to sum up everything we have learned and received from the seven dogs who have shared our home. So instead, we want to celebrate our blog anniversary in the way we best know how: through photographs.

Thanks to each of you who have been a part of this beautiful and life-changing journey with us.











A letter to Curious Georgia in her new home

Dear Georgia,

Do you remember the day we met? I walked back into the office at the shelter, where the rescue, foster, and marketing folks sit, and there you were. You were the saddest dog I have ever seen. Your honey eyes were so timid and uncertain. You had already come such a long way with the care of shelter staff who had saved you at your “last call.” It was difficult for me to imagine.  I tried to pet you, and your tail tucked between your legs a little. What did you think of me?

Moments later, you had started to come around, quickly realizing that my lap was a warmer place to nap than your dog bed, and I whispered in your ear “I think I love you.” and it was true. It still is true.

Georgia, it was a little crazy and a little impulsive of us to bring you home right as we were packing up our lives for our grand adventure and a big move across the country. But looking at you, and feeling your warm, tender, trusting body snoozing gently in my lap, how could I say no?

Georgia at the shelter, the day we met.

Georgia's world opened up once she came home.

We learn from each foster dog that we are lucky to share our life with. But Curious G, we learned something extra-special from you– something that we hope others see as well, and hold in their hearts and act upon when they have the opportunity. Georgia, we didn’t think we could give you everything you needed to find a good home. But we knew we could give you a part of it — a start, at least. We had no idea if it would pay off, but look at you — cozy and happy in your new home with your mom and dad and your two kitty brothers — it obviously payed off. If everybody took a chance now and then and did a little bit, even if they can’t do everything, how many lives could be affected? For us, it was a simple act– an agreement to take you into our home for just two weeks and find a transition plan for you. It changed your world for the better.

We learned another big lesson about fostering, too. Lollie Wonderdog was with us 3.5 months. Gonzo Bunny-Ears was here two months. Stevie Wonder? Also two months. Little Zee was here five weeks. And you, Georgia? How long were you with us before you found your perfect dream family and went home? Two weeks and two days. Of course this trend will not continue.  And when we start over and set up in Austin, we will be starting from scratch in many ways. But taking you in and finding your family so quickly made us ponder — is there an economies of scale effect with fostering? Could it be that the longer we keep fostering, writing about it, making new contacts and meeting new friends, the more likely we will be to swiftly find homes for dogs in our care? We’re not certain, but we sure do hope so.

None of this is meant to discount how incredibly adoptable you are. You walked into our lives and we were amazed at how perfectly you behaved. No potty training accidents, no crying or barking, no jumping up, no stealing food, no escaping through the door or over the fence, no difficulty introducing you to kids, dogs, adults, new situations, nothing. You were — and are — perfect. It’s no wonder ML and R fell in love and adopted you as quickly as they could.

Curious Georgia, you have a dazzling life ahead of you. Seeing you so happy, comfortable, and steady at our visit to your new home was a rare pleasure in life. You had such a good time sniffing your new dad’s beard — I bet he didn’t even know that beards are your absolute favorite sniffing subject. And after 10 minutes of exploring, you hunkered down on the floor for a little nap. You melted their hearts just like you melted ours.

We know you won’t forget all of the things you learned in your short time with us. Where you used to flatten to the ground and whimper, you now take stairs with grace and ease. Where you seemed frightened of all dogs when you first came to us, you learned to love and snuggle with your foster brother Chick and sniff happily with our neighborhood dogs through fences. You weren’t sure what to make of strangers at first, but now you know the right thing to do: walk tenderly up to them and rest your face gently against their leg, requesting a hug.

Georgia, we wish you a life full of people to hug, dogs to snuggle, and beards to sniff. When we handed your new leash over to your new dad a few days ago, we felt as happy and confident as we possibly could that we were sending you off to the perfect, beautiful life you have long deserved.

With much love,

Foster mom, Foster dad, and Sir Chick (who already feels a little chilly without your sweet little head keeping his neck warm during naptime)


**Tomorrow is a special day for us — come back and help us celebrate!**

How TO SAVE a life through dog fostering

With Stevie on her way to her new home (we will write more about her goodbyes next week) and our big exciting announcement coming tomorrow, this seemed a good time to write about an often-asked question in our world: How do we pick our foster dogs?

So far we have picked each of our dogs individually and for unique reasons, and it’s interesting how each dog has been a good representative for a different, particular ‘category’ of good foster candidates. We always look for the ones who would not have good odds without us. Here’s a quick breakdown.

A dog that doesn’t “show well” – Lollie Wonderdog

Lollie may be the most charming girl in the world but at the shelter, she was getting passed up over and over. She was there for months, and although she was a favorite among staffers, there was no real interest from adopters. We think it’s attributable to her physical appearance — Lollie came in covered in cuts, scars, bruises, and sores — the girl had obviously been through a lot. People glanced at Lollie and saw not the beautiful, perky, friendly, head-stand-doing house pet that she was with us, but rather a stray dog with a lot of scars on her face who had experienced a hard and unknown life on the streets. By taking her in, we allowed potential adopters to see past her scars. Without the foster home advantage, Lollie Wonderdog might not have had a chance.

A pit bull type in a BSL town – Gonzo Bunny-Ears

Sure, Gonzo is the world’s cutest dog, but that didn’t stop him from ending up at the county shelter in a town that does not allow pit bulls or pit bull mixes to be adopted out. Gonzo was temporarily saved by being called a french bulldog mix rather than a pit bull mix, but those labels are squishy, and it only takes one complaint to put a dog’s life in jeopardy. We were able to grab him as out-of-county fosters through a rescue, thus making him safe from potential appearance-based breed profiling that rarely leads to happy endings. Without the foster home advantage, Gonzo Bunny-Ears might not have had a chance.

A lovely dog in a rural high-kill shelter – TANK

Lots of lucky dogs end up in “no-kill” shelters or other well-run, well-funded shelters with high adoption rates. But lots of dogs don’t. TANK was scooped up in rural South Carolina and sent to county animal control — an underfunded, understaffed, underadvertised facility where the only dogs who make it out are those whose owners come for them and those who are pulled by rescue. We came to know of TANK through a DC area rescue that pulls dogs from rural shelters and adopts them out up here, and after hearing about his personality and seeing that adorable mug, we knew we had to step up. TANK was only with us a week before his perfect owner found him, but if he had stayed at the shelter in South Carolina, his week would have ended much differently. Without the foster home advantage, TANK might not have had a chance.

A dog who is undersocialized and needs further assessment – Baby Blue

Baby Blue was our sad story. She was a dog who was shy, furtive, unpredictable, and not well socialized. She was not considered imminently adoptable, but it was thought that she might bounce back in an experienced foster home. She didn’t bounce back. In the end Blue’s pain and fear were too severe for her to have a joyful life in this world, and we had to tell her goodbye — a realization that still leaves our hearts aching. But many other Baby Blues — undersocialized dogs that are too risky to adopt directly to the public but can go to an experienced foster home — shine in foster care and go on to make wonderful family pets. Blue was not one of these happy endings, but without the foster home advantage, Baby Blue might not have even had a chance.

A dog that is does not shine in a shelter environment – Stevie Wonder

Some dogs do ok in a kennel environment. They are able to remain social, interactive, and by most standards, normal. They wag their tails and get excited when people come by, are happy to go out for a walk, and eat and drink without much trouble. People walking the kennel rows notice these dogs and fall in love. Not Stevie-girl. For reasons we will never fully understand, the kennel was just too much for her. She was visibly nervous all the time, and her introversion grew more intense as time went on. After a few weeks at the shelter, she would not leave her enclosure or go back into it without being physically picked up — she would just flatten on the ground. She was barely interactive at all, preferring to go sit in a corner by herself than spend time with people who wanted to love her. In her kennel, she would huddle in the back and not even look up as people passed. Looking at a few entries on our blog, it’s plain to see how seamlessly Stevie-girl came out of her shell, thanks to being in a home with a family. But without the foster home advantage, Stevie might not have had a chance.

The next frontier: an elderbull?

Stevie doesn’t yet have all four paws out the door, and we’re already dreaming of who we will save next. There are a lot of best parts to fostering, but one of my favorite best parts is picking out a new dog. It doesn’t quite cure the heartache of saying goodbye to a dog you have grown to love with great depth and tenderness, but it certainly helps.

With Elderbull month at StubbyDog and the passing of our doggie hero Sarge the Elderbull a few weeks ago, we have been swept up in elderbull fever and are dreaming of saving an older pit bull next. Just like dogs with physical and emotional scars, dogs discriminated against by appearance, and dogs who wind up at a high-kill shelter, Elderbulls and other older dogs have the odds stacked against them.

We have our eye on one in particular — a fetching, eight-year-old blue pittie with a white stripe down her nose who reminds us of Mr. B from Two Pitties in the City. She is cute as a button, sweet as can be, and despite that, she is all but doomed at our local shelter. Between her age, the rugged condition of her body after a hard life, and some kind of mild neurological condition that affects her balance now and then, her chances of getting out are very slim. But at the same time, our area rescues are full and totally cash-strapped, so pulling an elderbull– who is likely to take longer to adopt out and may cost more to care for — is too risky.

We have some ideas brewing, but nothing is certain yet. But we do know one thing: if our sweet girl’s life is going to be saved, it’s going to take a village.

a family affair

It turns out that at Casa Fosterfamily, Sir Chick is the only one who can resist Stevie Wonder’s charms. All week she’s been begging us to go swimming with her in her swimming pool, and in only took a few tries before we finally caved. She makes it look so inviting!

At first it was just a finger dipped into the water. Then maybe a shy toe, followed by a tentative foot. But before we knew it, we were coming home from work and diving right into the pool, still wearing our biking clothes.

Have your dogs ever peer-pressured you into doing things that you would not have ordinarily done?

For more info on adopting Stevie Wonder, click here or contact us at DCpetographer [at] gmail [dot] com.

Dog fostering – it’s infectious!

We realized something remarkable the other day: we know six families who have taken in their first foster dog since we picked up our little blog last fall. Six. And considering we don’t know very many people, that’s a big number! As a break from the Stevie Wonder cuteness, we wanted to take one post to pay tribute to a few of the wonderful and inspiring people in our life who have recently joined the dog fostering ranks, choosing to take the same rewarding, emotional, difficult, beautiful, wondrous journey we’re on.

One of the most fascinating things about this juxtaposition of stories is that each person’s motivation and satisfaction in fostering come from such different places. For us, the goal is to help individual dogs find redemption and elevate the image of pit bull type dogs in our society by presenting them as normal, loving members of our family — but that’s just us. Read on to learn what makes these other amazing fosters tick.

Our friends Kelsey and Shaun stumbled upon fostering while attending an adoption event in Southern California, pondering their first dog. They were intrigued by the concept, and after a series of serendipitous occurences that they call signs (including an encouraging comment from us on their blog!), they decided to give it a try. Their first little darling, Buddy, was just as cute as can be, and now they are hooked — not only on the cuteness that fostering brings into their home, but the chance to learn and grow: “We welcomed our first pup at the end of May, and in a few weeks he’ll be living in Northern California with a loving and compassionate couple with a huge yard for him to play. He’s been the best part of our summer, and we can’t wait for more lessons and growth with each new dog we plan to foster in the future.” Check out Kelsey and Shaun’s beautiful photography, poignant writing, and yummy whole foods recipes on their blog, Happyolks.

We met Josh through our blog after he became a new foster dad to a sweet but fearful little mutt, Suzi. He reached out to us for advice on how to navigate the rescue world and how to do right by Suzi while staying sane (challenging at times to be sure). His reasons for fostering were totally different: “I initially chose to foster for mostly selfish reasons: I wanted a second dog, but couldn’t afford one – so fostering allowed me the second dog at no cost to myself. But during my first foster experience, I realized that a lot more comes with it than I initially expected – and now I do it to help give each dog every chance it truly deserves to have a happy and healthy life.”

Adoptable foster Suzi and Lucy

Our blogging buddy in Alaska, Alana, actually foster failed with her first foster dog Molly. Alana and her hunny had been planning to adopt a dog and thought they might foster a few in the meantime, but Miss Molly walked straight into their hearts and curled up into a little marshmallowy ball, never to leave again. There was no going back. And yet, they haven’t given up. Through a program at their local shelter that is meant to give dogs a break from shelter life by placing them into homes for a short period, they brought in GI Jane, a darling brindle puppy who looks a lot like our Stevie Wonder! In Alana’s words: “I started fostering because I saw what a great impact bringing a shelter dog into my home and loving them as my own had on the dog’s overall well being and on the people willing to adopt them.  I specifically seek out bullies to give them a better chance of finding their perfect forever home by teaching them manners and showing them how to be a part of a family.” Read more about the adventures of Miss Molly, her occasional foster siblings, and her dear parents here.

Adam, Alana, Molly, and foster Janie (courtesy

For another friend of ours, Emily, becoming a foster was kind of accidental:  “While volunteering with a local humane society, I met Ginger Rogers, a beautiful pit mix who was condemned to be euthanized if no one was able to foster her. Looking at her beautiful but nervous eyes, I knew that she deserved better than to spend her last days alone and scared in an overcrowded shelter. I brought her home that day and have watched in amazement as she has blossomed into this beautiful and confident creature.  I am so thankful to be a part of her story, which thankfully, is far from over.” Want to read more about little Ginger, her two canine siblings, and Emily’s adventures? Check out their blog.

Beautiful foster Ginger Rogers (courtesy

There are more — our friend Susan who rescued a stunning blue pit bull off the streets of Pasadena and agreed to take her home when she was deemed “unadoptable” just because she was shy (Susan is still trying to figure out which way is up. Is she fostering? Is beautiful Louise hers for good? Is she just harboring her until another stable solution comes along? Sue isn’t sure but Louise sure is pretty . . . ) The list goes on.

Fostering is hard work, but it pays off, and we’re proud to be in such good company. Thanks to each of you for reminding us every day that the reasons for doing this work are as diverse as the people and dogs who benefit from it.

Our guest post on SHINE

A few weeks ago, a wonderful writer whose blog I love to read approached me about doing a guest post for a new feature on her blog called SHINE, which she described this way:

“In an effort to continue on my path to living more deliberately, I’m starting a new section of the blog.  The  germ of the idea came to me when I was volunteering for a non-profit organization by writing articles for their website. All of the articles were positive stories featuring kids or adults who were making a difference in their communities. Each interview left me inspired and humbled.

I was constantly blown away by what average, everyday people have done to make their corner of the world a better place. I loved writing the articles. Then I thought that you might like reading them. So why not keep it going? This section is meant to be just that: a repository for uplifting stories about everyday people who are following their dreams. Maybe you’ll be inspired to follow in their footsteps or share their stories with your friends. That’s why I’m calling this page SHINE. I hope it will spread some light and warmth.”

Naturally, I was flattered. But truthfully, synthesizing my ideas on a big topic has never been my strongsuit, so I struggled for days to write this post. It was not easy, but it was good exercise.

So to those who wonder — why are we doing this? What’s the point? How does it make the world a better place?  This is for you.


In October 2004, I walked in to the Town Lake Animal Shelter in Austin, Texas, as a volunteer looking for a way to contribute – a mission. In November, I walked out with so much more.

His name is Chick, and he is a pit bull. Something about the enthusiasm in his tail wag and the emotion in his eyes just called out to me, saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I’ll love you forever. Please love me too.” As I watched other dogs leave the shelter for the homes of happy families, he was overlooked, time and again. On the last day before his time ran out, he became mine.

. . . to continue reading, click here or copy this into your web browser:

the art of being

In our little dog fostering world, there are very few steadfast rules. When we picked up our first foster (Lollie Wonderdog), we kind of made it up as we went along, trusting our intuition to help us be good foster parents. We haven’t read much instruction or philosophy on good dog foster parenting so we can’t say for certain that our approach is the best one, but it feels right to us: first, teach the dog how to just be.

When a new dog enters our home, the only thing we can be sure of is that its most recent experiences have been new, stressful, and probably a little bewildering. These animals have been removed from any stability they once knew and have no idea, when they enter our home, that it will be a good, friendly, safe, comfortable place. So our first task is to help them learn how to just be. And we take this simple little primary mission very seriously.

Just be. It’s hard to explain what we mean by that. But there is definitely a bit of magic that goes on during the first few weeks of a dog’s time with us. In truth, there isn’t a process. And yet, those magical first few weeks set the tone for the rest of our time together. Somehow, it’s the time in which our foster dogs learn how to be house pets.

We spend no time on tricks and very little time on basic commands, but we do help them learn how to function in a household. By being around us in a low-pressure environment, they first learn how to relax. Period. Then, they learn how to not panic if one of us leaves the room. They learn how to eat in our presence and without our presence. They slowly begin to learn which furniture is dog-friendly and which furniture is not. We help them understand what a toy is and isn’t. They learn to get excited at meal times and when a person grabs a leash off its hook. They learn that barking or mouthing gets you no attention, but a nice, calm presence often does. They learn how to appreciate a good round of chase in the yard or a nice snuggle on the couch. They learn that begging for food is futile.

They learn how to politely initiate a game with a person. Just this weekend, Stevie learned how to properly return a ball to us to play fetch. This involved no formal training and no commands, but a consistent pattern of reinforcing the good behavior (dropping the ball at our feet) and ignoring the bad behavior (teasing us with the ball, running a few steps away when we look at her). That’s the beauty of this important, formative time. None of it involves commands or training. Just simple, no-pressure, consistency. Lots of patience, lots of rewards, and lots of love.

Of course. No dog is perfect, and most dogs have had a hard time with some element of our basic concept of how a good house dog behaves. Still, after a few weeks (and the length of time varies from dog to dog), we usually feel pretty good about a dog’s ability to just be, and we sometimes move on to obedience and commands. But truth be told, we didn’t teach Gonzo a single trick or new command during the entire 3 months he was with us. We knew there would be time for that later. But we did help him better understand how to be a good dog. After his time with us he knew not to get up on the furniture unless invited, he knew where to lay down to wait for his dinner, he knew not to steal shoes and run around the house, and he knew that climbing up on a person for a movie was likely to gain him a nice snuggle and some ear rubs.

And here’s the deal: I would be willing to bet that few dogs get returned by their adopters because they don’t know how to shake or roll over, but that many do because they don’t know how to interact with humans and behave acceptably in a house.

And avoiding that tragedy is the business we’re in.

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