My Tyrant Beast

Sometimes I envision it as a worm, crawling into my ear.  A mutated Pac-Man, eating every little circle known as common sense, reason and understanding.  The worm devours everything that everyone else understands and leaves me with nothing but the giant puppy dog eyes of my foster dog staring at me, asking for love.  The worm eats everything that I believe others see as normal – I am not concerned with a perfect house, clothes without dog hair, or children to pass on my name.  All I am left with is peace.  A calm, knowing that today, I did what I could for this one.  It is far from enough to calm the tyrant beast that lives inside my soul – the one that exists just to remind me that there are many I did not save.  But today, it must be enough.  It will be enough.  It is all there is.

Puppy Mania Encore

When the stork is generous, she is very generous.

Emma was surrendered by her owner to the shelter when he no longer wanted her.  The shelter staff soon recognized that her growing belly wasn’t just from over eating and knew they had to find a safe place for her to have puppies.  As long as we were making room for one mom, we decided to take her in as well.  Emma and Macy came from the same shelter on the same day.

Emma is a small Dachshund/Beagle mix, around 20 pounds.  She is young, likely around one year in age.  Birth is always a scary thing, but with a small dog and no idea how big her mate was, it can be even scarier.  So, we took her in for an ultrasound.  While it was difficult to say for certain, the vet felt okay about her delivering her puppies safely.

October 17 was an average Thursday morning.  I rushed around, making sure all of the dogs were let outside, everyone was fed and given a good scratch behind the ears before heading upstairs to prepare for work.  A short time later, I returned for a final check on everyone.  Emma was acting unusual.  She was nesting, shuffling blankets all around, asking for an excessive amount of attention.  So, I sat with her a bit.  She quickly curled up in my lap and let me stroke her long, soft ears.  A small amount of fluid started to drip from her back end and I grabbed my phone to call in late for work.  A very short time later, Emma let out a wicked cry and started to flail around, attempting to reach her back end where the definite form of a puppy was emerging.  After a complete exit, Emma’s body relaxed and she quickly went to work eating the sack surrounding the puppy, licking him clean.  Before she was finished puppy number two arrived with much less difficulty, a red little girl.  Puppy three was a tan and white little boy, followed by three more right in a row.  In the end, she delivered six little babies, three girls and three boys.  (Names are TBD.)

Emma and her puppies - Just Born
Brand New Mama

Baby Number Three
Stork Delivered
The First Born
Brand New Babies

The puppies are just over two weeks old now and starting to open their eyes.  So far, this is their largest accomplishment.  Walking is still a skill in the learning process.

Just Over One Week Old
Just Over One Week Old
Just Over One Week Old
Just Over One Week Old
Just Over One Week Old

Emma stole my heart the minute I met her.  She is extremely affectionate and actually cries if she gets close to me and I am not quick enough to pet her.  She waits at the top of the stairs for me to come and spend time with her when I leave her.  She loves to cuddle, is very well behaved and just adores everyone she meets.  Once she has safely seen her puppies into new homes, it will be a wonderful day when a family gives her the forever home she deserves.

Sweet Emma

Inviting you to Puppy Mania!

As usual, posting has been on my mind but failed to come to fruition until now.  You could say I have had my hands full, though.
Joey - One Week Old
One Week Old
Monica - One Week
Chandler - One Week
There is an event going on at my house that I like to call “puppy mania” – this event lasts for weeks and has an undetermined end date.  A distinct aroma of wet puppy food mixes with puppy breath in the air.  Decorations are elaborate and include paper towels, bleach spray and lots of towels/blankets.  The dress code is loose, consisting mostly of saggy nipples and fur – beads or anything else that can be choked on is strictly prohibited.  Hours of operation are flexible but include late evenings, early mornings and pretty much the whole day.  There is little time to relax, but the entertainment is second to none, featuring performances like learning how to walk, tiny barks and seeing a puppy open their eyes for the first time.  Honestly, I am not sure I could find any event more enjoyable.
Mama Macy
Macy is the “biggest” performer in the group, weighing in around 90 pounds with room to grow.  Believed to be a Great Pyrenees, she is an elegant, white, gentle giant.  As a stray, we cannot be certain, but she appears to be pure-bred.  Beyond the physical appearance and double-rear dew claws, her personality fits the breed standard perfectly.  She was staying in a local kill-shelter until she surprised everyone by birthing puppies.  With nowhere to keep her delicate newborns safe, the shelter contacted Stepping Stones for assistance.  Less than twenty-four hours after their birthday, Macy and her six puppies joined my foster family.
Macy and her puppies, Two Days Old
Macy and her puppies, Two Days Old
With three girls and three boys in the litter, it only seemed natural to go with the “Friends” theme.  So, please let me introduce… Monica, Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe.
Puppies – Two Days Old
Chandler and Joey, Two Days Old
Rachel, Two Days Old
As I mentioned, it has taken me some awhile to find time to post… these guys are now four weeks old and nearly five pounds each.  They are learning to walk and have discovered toys.  Before long, they will be looking for their forever homes.  With that in mind and Macy’s distinct personality, I have been eager to learn as much as possible about the Pyrenees breed.  I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Macy and spending time with her because she is unique from my other fosters.  It has taken weeks to develop a real bond with her.  However, my concerns have been completely put to rest after a bit of research.  After doing some reading, I am completely fascinated by this breed and can’t help by share a few things I learned.
Puppies - Two Weeks Old
Puppies - Two Weeks Old
Great Pyrenees are part of the “working dog” group.  Developed several hundred years ago around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France and northern Spain, they were bred as livestock guardians.  Their giant size, thick coat and agility made them perfect flock protectors on the steep mountain slopes, even taking on bear when necessary.  Trusted with such important duties, Pyrenees have developed into confident, stubborn and independent dogs with a propensity to roam.  Many of the sites I read suggested that they are not easy to train and require a great deal of patience.  While exceptionally intelligent, they are less eager to please than other dogs.  Instead of immediately responding to a command, they will take some time to consider whether they want to perform the act or not.  Contrary to popular training techniques, Pyrenees do not respond well to dominant leaders.  They have been bred to be leaders themselves.  Therefore, they will work better with a stern, solid and trust-worthy partner.  Since reading this, I have worked to make sure Macy and I have a regular routine and a great deal of consistency, in an effort to build trust.  It seems to be working.  This morning, she nuzzled in for a good head scratch. Once comfortable with someone, these dogs are extremely affectionate and loyal, preferring to sleep touching some part of their person, whenever possible.  They are generally rather lazy, but do require exercise and have a great tolerance for sustained energy all day long, especially in cool weather.  Naturally nocturnal, these dogs also have a tendency to bark.  Interestingly, the puppies started barking when they were just two weeks old and continue to bark regularly in their tiny little voices.
Beyond their personality, they also have unique grooming needs.  Their thick double-coat will be shed completely twice a year and requires weekly grooming to avoid matting.  A breed standard includes a unique double-dew claw on both back legs.  In most puppies, dew claws are removed to prevent future injuries.  This should NEVER be done to a Pyrenees.  Not only is it a characteristic specific to the breed, the dew claws are generally securely attached with bone and are used for balance and secure footing in deep snow.  Males can be expected to weigh in as much as 115 – 130 pounds, with females around 90 – 110.  Their thick coat makes extreme heat difficult to endure and they will seek out cool areas to rest in, even if that means digging a hole in the dirt to cool off.  Generally all-white in color, they may also come in various shades of tan (hello, Phoebe) or with a “badger” coloring around their face, ears and even parts of the body (think Joey).  With age, the dark badger spots tend to fade, spread out and become less apparent.  One color not recognized in the breed is brindle… Chandler and Rachel are clear indicators of another breed in these babies.

Monica - Three Weeks Old
Ross - Three Weeks Old
Phoebe - Three Weeks Old
Joey - Three Weeks Old

Rachel - Three Weeks Old
Chandler - Three Weeks Old
In short, a Great Pyrenees will make a fantastic pet for someone willing to learn about these special dogs and patiently work to build trust and affection.  Once accomplished, their rewards are sure to be immense.
In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy “puppy mania” while it lasts, soaking in all of the snuggles and puppy kisses I can get.  But, don’t think this is the end of the mania… part two to follow shortly!  Until then… enjoy our little photo shoot:
Joey - Three Weeks Old
Joey - Cause he is so cute
Phoebe - Three Weeks OldMonica - Three Weeks Old
Puppy Pile

No more apologies.

The doors in my house are stained with smears of red mud, each one the width of a large dog paw.  It will not come off.  Not with bleach or soap or elbow grease.  The frame around the newest one has been chewed nearly in half, resembling a beaver’s mid-day snack.  Someday they will be fixed, but not when there is more to come.


I can't believe I am showing the world this.


This is after scrubbing.


As long as I am being honest

I keep a “pet roller” around and use it regularly to remove dog hair from my couch.  But, even on the slick surface of pleather, hair manages to find its way back.  I don’t expect that problem will ever go away.

Carpet… perhaps the worst invention for pet owners… ever.  Mine is ripped near the door, started during a small dog’s fit of anxiety and advanced by each one after.  It features at least one accident from nearly every dog visitor I have had.  Certainly, this adds to an already obvious “doggie smell” in my house that I have become accustomed to.  One day, when the funds have been saved, it too will be replaced.

Carpet, my kryptonite

This weekend, we are expecting visitors.  Family members are traveling over 2,000 miles in order to stay in our home for a week.  Normally, I would be panicking, scrubbing even harder than normal.  Every turn would cause my frustration to mount, as I recognize the overwhelming amount of work to be done and face the fact that some of it simply cannot be fixed right now.  Not this time.

A few months ago, I reached an agreement with myself.  I will keep a clean house to the best of my ability and I will stop apologizing that it is not perfect.  No longer will I see the damage, stains and fur as a source of embarrassment, but instead as a source of pride.  Every ding and dent is a battle scar, earned through sacrifice, hard work and dedication.

New, six months ago, battle wounds

I don’t expect that other people will understand it, much less accept it.  They don’t have to.  Only I do.

Freshly put up... I give it ten seconds.
A safe place to stay

My cupboards have scratches on them, my yard is full of holes.  My windows are smeared, floors in a constant state of needing sweeping.  Baby gates, spilled food and kennels make the house a constant maze.  There are permanent stains on the concrete floors and that is okay.  Because if they didn’t, these dogs and so many others would not be alive.

Gretal, Adopted


Jill, adopted


Major, personally responsible for a mud print or two


Molly, Adopted


Ash and Cuervo, Adopted

A perfect house would mean nothing to anyone else.  My imperfect house means everything to each one of the fosters saved under this roof.

Sequoia, safe in an imperfect house (adopted)

One look into their eyes eliminates my embarrassment and reminds me… I save lives here.

"I sorry, it was an accident." (Ash, adopted)

Not Always a Happy Ending

There is something so eerie about how it happened.  Last Wednesday, Scott and I went to dinner.  In an extremely rare event, Scott forgot his briefcase at the restaurant, causing us to retrace our path.  About a mile down a very busy road, he slammed on the brakes, nearly giving me whiplash and pointed to a tiny furry spot that had not been there just minutes earlier.  He watched for traffic as I dashed across and swept the tiny kitten up into my arms, bolting to the side, just as a truck barreled through.  The three of us headed out on our way, she nestled into my arm and let me pick burrs from her long black hair as we drove.  We would name her “Whiplash”.

On that day, she was a bit stronger, able to sit up on her own, perching herself like a parrot in the palm of my hand.  At four or five weeks of age, she should not have been small enough to fit there.  But, this is how she was emaciated, alone, eyes crusted shut, barely able to breath from an upper respiratory infection and covered in fleas.  I wrestled with what to do for a kitten.  A puppy I knew what to do with, but a kitten was a whole new ballgame.  Clearly, however, she was meant for me and there was no going back.

Unsure that she would survive the night, I made her comfortable and hoped for the best.  The next morning, her condition was the same and we headed to the vet.  But, even after several trips and antibiotics she continued to decline.  Attempts to get her to eat soft food, even trying to turn it into a little kitten game, were completely futile.  Bottle feeding ended up in a chewed up nipple and days of feeding by syringe was completely wasted, as not enough nutrition reached her tummy.  Recognizing her strength was fading and her illness failing to improve, I knew time was running out and desperate measures were needed.

On Sunday, I ran my fingers along her long, thin fur and I could feel every bone in her body.  Her back bone protruded so sharply it felt like it would  break through her skin and puncture my heart at any moment.  I washed the crusty infection away from her little eyes, but she was too weak to keep them open.  Her nose whistled when she breathed, still congested.  Occasionally she opened her mouth to cry, but no sound was audible.  Every few hours, I sat with her like this before slipping a long tube down her throat in order to fill her tiny belly up with kitten formula.  The effort was extremely risky, a slight misplacement and her lung would be punctured.  Additional fluids were injected just below the skin to help her fight dehydration.  She needed around the clock care, far more attention than any vet could ever offer, even if funds were no object.  That is where a foster mom comes in.  Every feeding session felt like torture and I struggled with the dilemma of when the efforts have gone too far.  But, I promised her that I would keep up the fight as long as she did.

Yesterday morning, she was weaker than ever.  I whispered to her that it was okay to go, perhaps more as a note to myself.  I knew she was leaving me.  She fought so hard and for so long, but the infection was more than her weak body and medication could handle.  Curled up in a little nest of blankets, on top of her heating pad, Whiplash’s suffering ended.

My heart aches and I wrestle with a million thoughts, excuses and self-condolences.  I wanted a happy ending for Whiplash and it wasn’t meant to be.

I am an addict.

Every day, I think about you… people that may stop by and check in (even if you are imaginary).  I apologize to you that I  have been so negligent in my writing.  Between my full-time job, my new part-time job, remodeling a house to be doggie friendly, fostering five amazing canines  (photography, adoption fairs, vet visits, fundraisers), and this annoying thing they call “sleep”.  I continue to fall behind.  But there are a million things I want to tell the world about – things I feel like “normal” people just can’t grasp.  So I will continue.

This week a potential foster family (yay!) asked a great question… why?  Why do you foster dogs?  I have thought on this awhile.

For me… it is like this.

When the world is silent, even if only in my head, it wonders to only one place. That fuzzy gentle feeling of fur against my face, the warmth that encompasses my heart when I know they are safe for the first time or the look of joy in their eyes when they hear me call their name, that relief that I feel when I receive an update from an adoptive family, telling me that their dog has been the perfect fit for their family, it fills me up.  I think back to picking him up at the shelter – shaking, confused, scared, only hours left to live and I know I made a difference.  There is something about all of that.  It makes me who I am.  It creates my being and existance.  My purpose I prayed for years to find my purpose.  Then a tree fell on my house.  Coincidence?

Fostering is hard.  I started to write difficult, but that would be a lie.  It isn’t difficult, it is HARD AS HELL.  A hard-core foster deals with constant disappointment in people, urination on the walls, shedding, dog fights, muddy paw prints, disease, worms, parasites, death, overpopulation, euthanasia and perhaps the worst of all – the reality that we cannot save them all.  We may not even make a dent.

But when someone feels it… really feels it, they cannot ignore it.  The feeling starts at the bottom of my toes and eases through my body one nerve at a time.  I push it aside, rationalize why I cannot help the one I just read about on email, knowing that I am at my limit.  Eventually the stimulation reaches my brain and I can no longer ignore it.  It is like a drug, impossible to live without.  Withdrawal starts shortly after adopting someone to their new family (sometimes before)… I have an empty space and need to fill it.  Sometimes there is no empty space, I just need to save someone, period.  Fortunately, there is never a shortage.  Unfortunately, I think a drug addiction may cost less! Bringing a new one in is my temporary high.  Knowing that I somehow improved the life of another, someone that would have faced devastation, fills me up and pushes me through – overlooking the wretched stench that fills the air, the matted hair that will  consume hours of grooming or the midnight feedings that bottle babies will require.  None of it matters, I have my fill, I can be at peace for awhile.

Yes, I am an addict.  I am a dog-rescue addict.  I have told myself I can live without it – tried many times.  Sometimes life changes force you to give things up for awhile – but even that didn’t work.  Dogs make life changes really difficult and there have been many in mine.  But even living in a rented 800 square foot house, with a small fenced yard, in the middle of town, I still found space for five foster dogs (plus my three dogs).  Space may have meant that they lived on top of me, but it was there just the same.

I have fought it, told myself I can live without it.  But, why?  Why fight what I am certain I was put here to do?  Not to mention that I always fail when I try to pretend it isn’t who I am. Nothing fills me up and pushes me forward like this.

Sometimes, I get jealous.  I hear co-workers at the Bank talk about new furniture.  I have had new furniture – for a week.  After that, the dogs claim it, make it their own, take over, and I regret spending the money.  They don’t care if it is new, matches or from a garage sale!  Sometimes, friends talk about trips they take.  Finding a pet sitter for eight or more dogs isn’t easy.  Possible, yes.  Stressful, oh yeah!  So, I like to avoid those.  People show up for work in pristine suits and shoes, no teeth marks, no fur… just like they came off the rack.  All of my money goes towards heartworm treatments and paper towel, there is no off the rack for me.  But I am not complaining, just asking for understanding.  Secretly, I know something they don’t – the feeling of knowing a soul that is full, if even for just moment.  That is something not many people get to experience.

I hope the new foster family doesn’t read this and find discouragement in it.  Just the opposite.  I hope they understand that fostering is not easy, but it is worth every sacrifice.  It will change who you are, maybe even create an identity you never knew before, show you value where there was none.  It can open your eyes to a world other people cannot see.  It has amazing power.  Personally, I have seen it have the power to create a successful new rescue group, develop impenetrable friendships with every kind of person there is, save dozens or more lives and even fuel human souls.

Even if all they become is a “normal” foster and not find this crazy addiction, they will make a HUGE difference to that one or two or three!  The numbers never matter (or they shouldn’t), it is the kindness that matters.  It is opening one’s heart to the unknown.  Scary and limitless.  Just as the saying goes, we may not be able to save the the world, but we can save one from the world.

Bad, Bad Blogger

Okay, so I am a bit behind in writing – as usual.  I am ready to roll again!  So, here goes:

Since I last posted, many things have happened.  We had a HUGE Saturday awhile back.  Max, Gator and Allie all found their forever homes, so I went from four fosters to one in just one day!

Max’s new best friend is a 10-year-old boy who created a “Welcome Home Max” poster for his home visit.  It melted my heart and it was completely obvious that he had found his perfect match.  We recently received an update that he has made himself right at home and that he couldn’t be a better match for them.  Of course, that left me in tears of joy!

Allie and Gator were equally fortunate to find amazing homes.  Gator now has a new mom and dad, both teachers.  We recently heard that he has upgraded to a “big dog bed” and was enrolled in doggie training school.

Allie has an adorable human sister and a recent photo that they sent in suggests that she is being spoiled, just like a dog should.

Ever since that big weekend, we have been enjoying Major as our only foster.  Of course, there has been lots of babysitting going on.  But, Major has definitely been enjoying being spoiled! (Sorry for the poor photo quality, I am in the process of transitioning cameras and my phone is the  best one I have for now.)



Outside of spoiling Major, we have been busy, busy with fundraisers, parades, social events and everything else you can think of that rescue demands!

And that ladies and gentlemen is the quickest update ever!