Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Wild One

After our first foster dog, we took a deep breath and enjoyed life just the 3 of us again. That didn't last too long though as a few weeks later, we got another email asking if we would foster a golden that was found about 40 minutes away as a stray. He was staying with some people that owned a trucking company, but they were not able to keep him. They did not provide much information about him other than he was a stray, possibly around a year old and I did get a picture this time (and he was tiny!). Of course, we agreed and immediately began thinking of names - this was the first one we got to name so we went through every possibility there was for names. We drove by a local trucking company called 'Cooper' and almost simultaneously we both said 'Cooper, I like that'. Since it was a trucking company and he was found at a trucking company, we decided Cooper it would be. We were to pick him up the next day from the rescue lady who had given him a bath. When we got there, we saw the most adorable dog.

Cooper's first week with us - August 2010
She warned us that he had been 'marking' everything - now I knew what this meant, but I don't think I really KNEW what this meant. When we got home with Cooper, we had one of those 'what have I done?' moments (but thankfully Justin was home this time so we were in it together). It became very clear that this dog was never inside a home and most likely had very little, if any, interaction with people. He urinated on EVERYTHING, and he literally acted like a wild animal. That is the best and only way to describe his mannerisms. When we let him out in the backyard, he was a wild horse in a cage. He ran along the edge of the fence, just running back and forth and along the edge as if he were caged and needed to find a way out. He had a 'wild' look in his eye and though it was not one I was afraid of, it was one of a wild animal. Cooper marked everything in our home and the first week (if not longer), we had to keep him on a leash at all times. This included sleeping with him on a leash (holding the leash the entire night) so that we would know if he woke up and needed to go potty. Otherwise he would mark anything and everything he came near. The first few months with Cooper were very difficult as we learned about one another and he tried to learn about being a 'domesticated dog'. We also found out that Cooper was heartworm positive and we would have to get our first dog through heartworm treatments. This was scary to us and reading on the internet did not help our fears of whether we could even keep him calm because he was so wild and ran in circles almost all the time. In addition, he was very fearful and anytime we would try to pet him, he would be laying on the ground in fear. The first time he saw a tennis ball thrown he was a pancake on the ground. He was so fearful and out of his element.
Cooper thought being in the fenced backyard was like being a caged animal, we quickly learned that putting him in a crate would be very dangerous for him. He went CRAZY, now I don't mean he cried, barked and pawed to get out. He completely went crazy bouncing around -- and he got out somehow while we were gone. The dog was Houdini. I have no clue to this day how he got out of the crate but the door was open and he was out. Along with that, he chewed up a good amount of carpet in that room trying to escape. Okay, plan B - we had a plan B, right?! We tried everything - zip tying it, easing him into it, putting treats and all kinds of pleasant things, etc. It became very clear that being in a crate was dangerous for Cooper, he was going to injure himself if we continued to force it.
I'm going to back track a little - after realizing what a wild animal Cooper was I had many talks with the rescue lady about his behaviors and she was concerned. Very concerned. From the rescue perspective, he had a lot of red flags and strikes against him. He was heartworm positive (which is extremely expensive to treat), he would need to be neutered, he marked everything, he was not social and literally ran around like a crazy dog outside, he could not be crated and at this point, he could not be left alone either due to his marking. She said he was not adoptable in this state. People came to the rescue looking for well adjusted and 'typical' sweet, social Golden Retrievers. We had a very serious conversation about Cooper's future.
 Growing up on a farm, I was no stranger to animals and having several animals in my short lifetime that we had to have put to sleep (due to illness, old age, etc.), this was nothing new to me either. I'm not one to be overly emotional or squeamish with it comes to this, thankfully (though I probably have gotten much more emotional about it through my rescue days and learning what I know now about shelters). We saw something in Cooper - we knew that he should not suffer this fate because he was inexperienced with life and did not know love or the good things in life. We were dedicated to showing him those things and helping him. I told her that I saw something in him and just needed some time. She told me I had a few short weeks to make a decision because he needed to be treated as soon as possible, but that they did not have funds to just treat him if he was not going to be an adoptable dog through rescue. We knew we had to get with it - we worked day and night with him. We were fortunate to have Brooklyn, we knew that she would help tremendously because she is an amazing foster sister. She's very good about being the leader and showing the ropes with patience. In the next weeks, we saw a major change in Cooper. His eyes softened and he became more lovable. He stopped running in circles as much and we had successfully house trained him. He was becoming a dog. The only problem he had left was his separation anxiety. He had chewed up our entire house it seemed. This was extremely frustrating, but we did not give up. Cooper learned with time (and I mean lots of time) that we would come back for him and his favorite spot became on our bed next to the front window, he felt safe there and he could see us when we came home. He would lay on the bed looking out the window the ENTIRE time we were gone and would be down to greet us when we walked through the door. He and Brooklyn became best buddies. We knew we had saved his life.
In the months to come, he was treated for heartworms, neutered, and was still working on manners. We learned that he was a little picky about his friends and did not like every dog he met, but did like most other dogs. Cooper quickly found his way into our hearts and we knew he was very special. He became a true 'magnet dog'.
He had several applications, but we knew it would take a special person for Cooper and nobody seemed to have exactly what we were looking for, for his forever home. Cooper ended up being with us for 9 months. We had many talks about it being so long and he was certain to think he was already home. He fit in perfect with us at this point and we had so much invested in him. However, we decided that if we were going to continue to foster, we needed a dog that would get along with any other dogs, no question. We decided it would not be fair to keep him and we just still weren't ready to commit to another dog. Cooper found the most perfect forever home for him - it was a young couple that reminded us so much of ourselves. We knew they would love, spoil, and show him the life he so deserved (and we worked so hard to make sure he got). We couldn't have found a more perfect home for him, though I would be lying if even to this day, there have been tears shed over Cooper and how much we still love him. Cooper is a true rescue story and we're so blessed to have the experiences (and headaches) that he gave us. We would not be the home we are today without him and we learned so much from him.
After a 'difficult' foster dog, we were shocked that we were even more excited after this one than the last to get started again and our next foster dog could not get there soon enough :)
Please adopt a shelter pet and spay/ neuter your pets, this is a life changing decision - 'rescuing one dog may not change the world, but for that one dog, the world will be changed forever'
~ Sarah

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What is this rescue stuff all about anyway?

Those who know me know that I am all about new adventures -- I believe this is something that runs in the family because my parents are definite 'new adventurers' and always looking for something new to do or try (mainly their big hobby is moving - we have moved more times than I can keep track in my lifetime, all in the same town for the most part, and everyone who knows them knows they are habitual movers. In fact they just moved again this past weekend). My husband, Justin, quickly learned this about me and I couldn't be more lucky that when I said 'Let's foster dogs', he agreed without hesitation.

We had always thought about adding a dog to our family, but Brooklyn was perfectly content being the only dog and even though I socialized her TONS when she was younger, she was never really interested so much in other dogs. She prefers her tennis balls and people. So it was a decision that was very difficult for us to make because we knew that she didn't really want a sibling and was perfectly happy being an only child. She is also (in our opinion) the definition of perfect so it was hard for us to want to change that, life was so easy with just her. Fostering gave us a perfect chance to have another dog around while saving them at the same time and knowing it was only temporary - it was a win-win for everyone and it gave us a chance to see how Brooklyn reacted to having another dog in the home. We decided on the local Golden Retriever Rescue because Brooklyn was our reason for doing this and we absolutely adore the breed. We applied, they did a home visit, and we were accepted to be able to foster - YAY! Much to our disappointment, however, several months passed and we didn't hear from anyone about fostering :( We attended a fundraising event for the rescue, with Brooklyn, in May 2010 and mentioned that we were waiting to foster -- I don't know if they were waiting to see how she reacted with other dogs around or if it was just timing, but within a couple weeks of the event, we were contacted about our first foster dog. Now I want to preface this by saying, Justin and I had many serious conversations about fostering and whether it was 'for us' -- in these conversations were questions like 'are we going to do this TOGETHER?' or 'I'm not going to be doing this alone, right?!', and 'Let's have a plan so we know exactly what we will do and handle 2 dogs vs just 1', etc. which were always met with an enthusiastic 'oh yes, we are doing it together and I will help with everything'. I'm a major planner so we had a plan put together for every situation possible. Great - let's do this!

Enter Jax -- our first foster dog. Now when I thought of fostering, my na├»ve self, thought of the cute little goldens you see everywhere or think of when you hear golden retriever. The day Jax came to our home - all we knew about him was that he was an outside dog, around 6-7 years old, and his family no longer wanted him because he kept trying to get inside and they were afraid he would get their little Chihuahua that was an inside dog. It also happened to be a day that Justin was out of town for work. So much for being in this together, huh?! When Jax arrived, I was shocked to see he was a massive 130lbs and looked miserable.
Meet Jax (left)!
This poor dog was so overweight, he could barely move. After we got him inside, the rescue lady was going over his vet visit and what fostering Jax would entail. Aside from him needing to lose 35-40lbs, he had ear infections in both ears with medication to give him for that. He had a hot spot, which at the time I had never even dealt with those. There was medication to put on his hot spot and instructions for keeping it clean so it did not get infected (along with a cone for him to wear to keep him from scratching at it and making it worse). Finally, he had worms (of course) and medication that would 'help with' his diarrhea. WHAT?! This huge dog also has diarrhea?? I was almost in tears at this point - not only did he weigh more than I did, he has all this medication and health problems. This is not what I had in mind when I signed up. I wanted to say 'I can't do this' or 'Never mind, I change my mind', but I am not a quitter. I cried for a few minutes when she left (and I'm sure called Justin and yelled at him for not being home which keep in mind, we had only been dating for a year and a half at this point so this was a lot to take on early in a relationship anyway) and knew that I just had to get on with it. So that is what we did -- much to my surprise (and what made the situation even more sad), Jax LOVED to play. He was so happy bouncing around the backyard and chasing balls with Brooklyn -- I could not believe someone would let him get so large when he actually loved to play and chase balls. It was very clear nobody ever played with this poor guy. Now let me just say when you see a dog of this size and his little legs trying to run, you hold your breath in hopes that he can actually run with all that weight. Luckily, he did just fine with running -- and ran up and down our small hill in our yard after tennis balls and just because he was so excited that someone was paying attention to him. We had so much fun introducing him to 'the finer things in life' and even took him on vacation to the beach with us.

After only a week, a good diet, and exercise program, Jax had already lost 10-15lbs. We only had Jax for a month, but in that month, he lost a total of 30 lbs.
We could not believe the transformation of this big teddy bear, it was simply amazing -- he was the sweetest dog you will ever meet. He has a MAJOR love of stuffed animals and I am certain he had never owned one in all his life. He now has more stuffed animals than he can count and he takes pride in 'hoarding' them ALL. When he had a cone, he would put them in his cone and walk around with his head held high to keep them from falling out. It was the best experience and sight to see -- we could not be more proud of our big boy.

The day I got an email from the rescue saying they had a great applicant for Jax and to read over their application and let them know what we thought. A flood of emotions hit me at this point, during the fostering process, it just slipped my mind I guess that eventually he would be leaving us. At this point, I realized he was about to leave our home and have a family of his own forever. I was so excited for him, but so sad for us. We had gotten used to him being around and loved to see his smile waiting for us each time we came home, he is truly an amazing dog. All kinds of thoughts ran through my head - 'will he think we are giving up on him too just like his last 'family' did?', 'does he think we just don't want him or that he was not a good boy?', 'will his new family appreciate him like we do?', 'will his new family give him tons of soft places to lay and tons of stuffed animals for him to love on and carry around the house?'. I felt so many emotions, this particular family had another dog and they were very sweet. When they came to our home to visit with Jax, they were really great, but I had a 'feeling' and I just wasn't sure why. We explained all about Jax and that he isn't super energetic (obviously), what he likes/ dislikes, etc. and at the end of the visit, they were ready to take him home (a home visit had been done prior so everything was ready for him to be adopted). We had our reservations, but being our first foster dog, we knew they would be a great home and wasn't really sure why we had reservations about them, so we agreed to allow them to adopt our sweet Jax. So many tears were shed and we worried all night long about how Jax was doing and if he was happy. First thing the next morning, I had a missed call from this couple and I got really worried that maybe something had happened (did I mention they lived 2 1/2 hours away?). I immediately called back and they said they did not feel Jax was the perfect dog for them and their dog wanted to play, but Jax wasn't really a playful dog (as we had told them). Without hesitation, we said we will meet you halfway and get him, no problem. I was relieved, we were getting our Jax back and we could not have been happier to see him. At this point, I wanted to say okay let's just keep him - he came back, he's ours :) I knew that we weren't ready for another dog though so the search would continue for Jax's forever home.

A week later, we were contacted again about a 'perfect application' for Jax and that this couple had been very involved with the rescue so those emotions all came flooding back again, but the minute I talked with his 'new mommy', I knew they were more perfect than I could have imagined. All those fears were laid to rest the minute I saw them with Jax (we told ourselves that they would be okay for him if they just got down on the floor with him and didn't care about anything but him - and that is exactly what happened). It was a match made in heaven. Jax even had a sister, Hailey, in his new home. Hailey has since passed on to the Rainbow Bridge and will never be forgotten.

The day Jax left our home, there were MANY tears shed, but I was so proud that we had officially fostered our first dog. Seeing him with his new family was a feeling I can't even explain - and something happened that I didn't even expect. His new parents are two of the most amazing people we have met and became two of our closest friends we have here in NC. They are heaven sent and I had no idea that we would keep in such close contact to this day. They puppy sit for us and have been there through the years with us - we are so lucky to have met them and to be able to see Jax all the time.

We knew that this was only the beginning for us and our rescue journey -- but I don't think we truly knew exactly what was in store for us in the future....

Please adopt a shelter pet and spay/ neuter your pets, this is a life changing decision - 'rescuing one dog may not change the world, but for that one dog, the world will be changed forever'
~ Sarah

Friday, July 5, 2013

Where to begin?!

I have been thinking about where to begin when I start my blog -- there is so much to tell and had I started this a year ago, it would have been easier, but so much has happened in a year. So, I've decided to just start from the beginning :)

6 years ago (almost to the date), I had just moved to North Carolina (from Indiana, yes that's a big move, but that's where life had a different plan for me - that's a whole other story and totally unrelated to this blog so we are going to skip ahead). I have always LOVED animals (in fact, it was a running joke in my family because I was super allergic to dogs, cats, horses, etc. growing up and my family laughed that God has a sense of humor for making me love animals so much and be so allergic to them - real funny!). I was so determined and wanted a dog more than anything so I researched and made up my mind - I was getting a golden retriever! Yes, I know, with allergies and I pick the dog with the most hair. I also lived in an apartment, but was committed to providing her a great life despite this with MANY trips to the dog park, several walks a day, and obedience classes. This was also long before I realized how important rescue was (I grew up on a farm and we just had animals all over all the time - most that we had acquired from other people and people we knew, I was 'sheltered' and didn't realize the importance of rescuing at the time) so I looked in the classifieds and found a sweet family with a litter of puppies (*cringe*, I know, but keep reading - I will explain the importance of this). I picked the only girl left and clearly the runt of the litter (eeeeee she was the most beautiful pup I had ever seen!)
It was settled -- this girl would be my first OWN dog. Now I had wanted a dog so badly for so long that I even had a name picked out for the year prior. Brooklyn - yes, she would make a perfect Brooklyn.
What I didn't realize is how she would change my life forever. She became my very best friend and at times, the only friend I had in NC -- she became everything to me. I can't imagine my life without her and though she was quite the terror puppy, she has turned into an amazing dog, perfect I must say. I also learned that after a year (and a lot of money later) that she had major stomach issues due to having food allergies and that she was born with cataracts. My precious baby (who I thought was just really clumsy) at one year old could only see at 50%. I was so sad for her - though now I know that she doesn't know any different and she can smell better than ANY dog I know.
Now when I said life changing - I could list SEVERAL reasons that she changed my life, but the biggest thing she showed me is a dogs love. She has been there for me through some of the worst times in my life and kept me company when I just didn't think I could go on. She has seen many smiles, laughs, and caught many tears in the past 6 years. She is the definition of loyal. I wanted so badly to give back after she had given me so much - I wanted to help other dogs that weren't so lucky. She made me want to help other dogs and lead me to rescue. Since the day Brooklyn came into my life, we met the man that would become her daddy (yes, we - we were a packaged deal, after all) and moved into a house with a yard for Brooklyn. This was the opportunity for me to begin my life with rescue (luckily my husband LOVES dogs also and was all for rescue and helping foster dogs). This is where it all begins -- I will get into more rescue/ foster stories and the main purpose of this blog at a later time so bear with me and thank you for letting me share my stories and experiences with you :) I will leave you with a picture from our wedding (just 9 months ago) and of course, Brooklyn was part of our big day!


Please adopt and spay/ neuter your pets, this is a life changing decision - 'rescuing one dog may not change the world, but for that one dog, the world will be changed forever'
~ Sarah