Monthly Archives: June 2012

No People Food

We have a very strict “no people food” rule in Foster House.  This does not mean that the dogs never get food that people would eat – they get veggie Kongs, special holiday meals and recently in this heat wave, frozen yogurt-peanut butter & applesauce treats.  However these special treats are always delivered in their own food bowls, or out of their own toys.  It’s really more of a “no people food from people plates” rule.

It’s not so much the fact that we don’t want our dogs to have people food.  Even though a lot of times, that is the case – some people food can be very unhealthy for dogs, and we want to be able to control their diet to make sure they’re only eating things that are good for them.  However even more than that, we don’t want them learning where these yummy treats come from.  If they get fed from our plates, or from the dinner table, or from the counter top, they’re gonna learn real quickly that that’s the place to hang out.  They’re also going to figure out that if Mom or Dad turns their back for a quick second, it’d be really easy to grab a french fry from their plate. 

At Foster House, this is why we have the “no people food” rule:

Yes, that’s our dinner, yes it’s take out, and yes we’re eating on tray tables in front of the TV (don’t judge us, it was a rough week).  The point is, yes those are our dogs, laying quietly within easy reach of our dinner, while we were in the other room.  Didn’t even sniff at it. 

How do we accomplish this amazing feat?  The main thing is that they just never get fed from our plates so they know that begging is futile.  When Oscar was a puppy, we’d give him a Kong or an antler to chew on while we ate to keep him occupied.  Occasionally if they start sniffing towards the plates, a quick “No!” then a redirect (usually “lay down”) does the trick. As with any training, consistency is key. 

If you’re interested in adding Cooper to your family, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.



Filed under Our Foster Journey

The Movie Star

I may sound like a broken record, but have I mentioned lately how awesome our rescue is?  Agape really pulls out all the stops for their foster dogs.  A few weeks ago, I met up with our foster coordinator, Kirsten, to shoot some footage of Cooper, just being Cooper.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a gazillion.  Because how could you not fall in love with Cooper after seeing this??

Are you and Cooper meant to be together?  If you think so, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.



Filed under Our Foster Journey

Cooper’s Progress Report

When you plant a sapling in your front yard, it’s hard to notice as you walk past it every day just how much it’s grown over time.  Even if you water it daily and prune it’s branches to keep it healthy, one day before you know it you have a fully grown tree in front of you.

In much the same way, the humans at Foster House opened our eyes one day and noticed that our little Cooper-sapling has done quite a bit of developing over the past five months. 

It’s hard to imagine that the dog responsible for destruction like this is the same dog who now jumps up on the couch and settles in for a snooze when we start going through our “getting ready to leave the house” routine.

It’s hard to believe that the dog who couldn’t control his bladder for more than a couple hours hasn’t had an accident in months.  So how’d we do it?

Since I work so close to home, I’ve been able to come home in the middle of the day for a potty  break.  We found that this was the key to Cooper’s potty training success.  We think that when he realized he wouldn’t have to wait all day, it gave him the confidence to be able to hold it until mom got home at lunchtime.  And as the accidents decreased, so has the destruction.  We realized that when we would come home to a mess, there was rarely one without the other. 

The irony of Cooper’s choice in reading material is not lost on us here.

We would rarely find a chewed up remote control or dog bed without a puddle on the floor.  But there was never a puddle on the floor without some matching destruction of some sort.  Talk about a forehead slap moment – Cooper was only destructive when he was frustrated that he couldn’t get outside to do his business!  He knew all along where we wanted him to go, and when  he couldn’t get there, he’d redecorate.  Duh.

We’ve been so pleased with his progress that we’ve been experiementing with leaving him along longer and longer.  There has been some backsliding here and there when we’d come home to a shredded book or chewed up remote control, but Cooper has done outstanding with Holding It.  And as he continues to grow out of puppy-hood and we continue working on him, we’re anticipating more success in other areas as well.  

Cooper my man, you such an amazing dog, and we are so, so proud of you.  You are going to be the perfect companion for a very lucky family. I cannot wait to see what lightbulb will switch on for you next!  

If you’re interested in adding Cooper to your family, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.



Filed under Our Foster Journey

We Like to Party

Last weekend, about a dozen Agape Animal Rescue foster parents gathered at Foster House to share food and war dog stories.  Agape holds these Foster Socials every few months, and it’s a great time to get together to share training tips, adoption stories, and everything in between with like-minded dog lovers. Oscar was, as predicted, a gracious host, and Cooper even dressed up for the occasion.

We’ve talked about Cooper’s anxiety around other dogs, but it hadn’t occurred to us that this would be Cooper’s first time in a house full of people. Not just people, but strangers who he hadn’t met before.  We weren’t quite sure how he would react.  Fortunately, after some initial nervousness, he calmed down and realized that more people in the house = more attention!

Unfortunately for him though, it did not mean People Food for Cooper.  This was a great thing about having a bunch of dog people in our home, who all understand how important it is to respect House Rules – no matter how heartbreakingly adorable Cooper’s “please feed me” face is! 

If you’re interested in adding Cooper to your family, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.



Filed under Our Foster Journey

Two’s Company

Since Molly Tamale’s departure over the weekend, we’ve gotten this question a few times: “So are you going to get another one now?” 

Our answer:  HECK NO!

Our man Cooper is coming up on his five-month anniversary at Foster House.  And as lovable and charming as we find him, it’s no secret that he needs a little polishing.  In order to give him the attention he needs (and deserves) to help work out his quirks, we’re going to take this opportunity to refocus our training efforts and go back to being a two-dog household.

Don’t get me wrong, having three dogs was at times an absolute blast,and make no mistake – our doors will always be open to any of our former foster dogs who need us.  But, three was never “the plan.”  We’ve learned what we can handle, and what’s best for us and our dogs.  And what’s best for everyone at Foster house is two people, two pups.

If you’re interested in adding Cooper to your family, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.



Filed under Our Foster Journey

Molly Tamale – ADOPTED…furever!

I think we found it this time, girl!  The Furever you’ve really been waiting for.  We’ve searched high and low and finally came up with the best home ever for you – and you deserve it!

“Are you sure this time? Don’t tease me!”

Molly’s new People are Mike and Marla.  They lost their beloved family dog, Annie, to old age a year and a half ago.  They were understandably devastated, and needed to take some time before they added another furry member to their family.  This past winter, Marla saw Molly Tamale’s profile online, and that little spot in her heart that had been reserved for puppy love, that had been locked up tight since Annie’s passing, started to crack open.  Unfortunately, Molly got adopted before Marla could inquire about her any further.  Disappointed, she put her dog search on hold.

When Molly recently came up for adoption again, Marla took it as a sign of “meant to be.”  She filled out an application right away, and as soon as Foster Dad and I saw it, our hearts leapt up into our throats.  On paper, Mike and Marla were exactly what we had pictured for Molly!  But, having been wrong before, we wanted to make sure we got it right for Molly this time.  We held our breath and decided that the best place for Molly to show off her real personality would be in the house that she’s used to.  So we dropped the boys at daycare (to eliminate distraction) and invited Mike and Marla over to meet Molly. 

It could not have gone better!

Foster Dad and I have never seen Molly Tamale warm up to a “stranger” like she did with Marla.  As we’ve mentioned before, Molly has an independent streak.  She’s affectionate in her own way, but she rarely seeks out attention.  So when Molly chose, on her own, to go over and lay at Marla’s feet – I knew it was Right.

Molly Tamale showing affection in her own way.

Molly must have felt the puppy love pouring out of Marla’s heart towards her, because she was glued to her for the entire visit. Mike and Marla were both sold, and so was Molly Tamale.  We moved forward with the next step, taking Molly out to their home to we could see where Molly would hang out make sure they had a window.  Check and check!

Molly Tamale seemed as equally smitten with Mike and Marla as they were with her. 

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason.  Maybe Marla wasn’t truly “ready” for a new dog in her life during Molly’s first go-round at Foster House.  Maybe Molly Tamale wasn’t done exploring the globe yet.  Call it fate, call it destiny, call it divine intervention.  I call it Furever.

Congratulations, Molly Tamale!  We love you forever, and we’ll never forget you.



Filed under Our Foster Journey

Molly Tamale: Ambassadog

Molly Tamale recently had the opportunity to do some community outreach taking part in one of the coolest programs I’ve had the honor of being involved in.  This past spring, Agape Animal Rescue partnered with a relatively new organization called The Crossroads Campus

The Crossroads Campus, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was founded in Nashville in 2010 to save abandoned animals and transform the lives of disadvantaged people. Our mission is to offer hope and healing, provide jobs and job training, create a supportive residential community for at risk young adults, and find loving homes for abandoned animals by giving individuals who are at risk of poverty and homelessness the opportunity to care for homeless dogs and cats.

In a nutshell, their goal is to help people by helping animals.  Could it be more of a win-win??  Through training people how to train shelter and rescue dogs, the program participants gain confidence, marketable skills and a sense of purpose.  Meanwhile, the dogs become more attractive to potential adopters by getting training and socialization – valuable skills to have under their belt collar when searching for their Furever Home. 

Molly Tamale & Foster Momma

The program that we were involved with is called Caring Connections.  Launched in 2011, Caring Connections is a humane education and shelter-dog training program.  Volunteers take dogs into housing facilities for at-risk youth.  Over six spring Saturday afternoons, Molly Tamale and five other dogs visited the New Visions Youth Development Center, which is the only “hardware secure” facility for adolescent females in Tennessee.  The girls who stay here are 13 – 19 years old, and are basically on their last step before adult incarceration. 

This facility, and this program, are essentially their last chance.

Caring Connections volunteers pose outside the New Visions Youth Development Center.

Because it is a secure facility, we couldn’t bring our phones or cameras into the building, and I can’t share the names of the girls we worked with.  However, I can share a story about one girl who particularly bonded to Molly Tamale.  We’ll call her B.

B is a 15 year old girl who’s been through the ringer.  She didn’t open up a lot about what all she’d been through, but instead listened intently and wide-eyed as Foster Dad and I stood in front of the girls and introduced Molly Tamale and told her story.  We explained how Molly had been bounced around at least six times in her short three years on this earth.  We told them how she was shy, independent and cautious. and once she trusts you, is totally devoted. 

B never took her eyes off Molly Tamale, and when we broke into small groups, B made a beeline for us.  She sat down quietly about arms reach from Molly, and reached slowly and gently towards her, offering the back of her hand for Molly to sniff as the girls had been taught to do.  Molly accepted her hand, sniffed and gave it a little lick.  A smile broke out across B’s face and she said, “She likes me!”  As she reached her hand a little higher towards Molly’s head, Molly’s ears drooped ever-so-slightly and she lowered her head.  B froze and withdrew her hand.  “Someone hurt her once.”

My heart broke in two at that moment.  I don’t know if Molly Tamale has ever had an unloving hand on her in her life – I like the think she hasn’t.  But something in Molly’s behavior struck a chord in B.  I like to think that no one in this world wakes up one day and decides to be “bad” on their own.  The environment and people around us influence everything we do.  Whatever influence over B caused her to do whatever she did to land in New Visions…something hurt her once.

B and Molly Tamale were inseparable for the next five Saturdays.  B was the first of the girls who successfully got Molly to “down,” something even Foster Dad and I have trouble with sometimes.  At the end of the session, B wrote a letter to Molly Tamale’s future Furever Family.

Hi! My name is B__________.  I am a student at New Visions.  Molly was a dog that came with Laura to our doggy 101 sessions.  Molly is a very loving dog.  She is a little protective. She gets attached and she loves her parents. She is a really sweet & is willing to learn new tricks. She likes attention. She would be a good dog for a family. If you adopt her please take good care of her. Show her lots of love! She is a very dependent & smart dog.  Love her bunches. Best, B

I cannot say enough about the value of programs like Caring Connections and ones like it all over the country – especially the ones that work with youth.  Sometimes rather than confiding in a counselor, these kids find it much easier to relate to an animal who has been bounced around, mistreated or unwanted – because they may see themselves the same way.  They’re vulnerable and scared, yet they’re learning kindness and compassion towards animals.  They learn what it means to be a responsible pet owner, including the importance of spay/neuter, decreasing the chance of them being involved in animal cruelty and neglect in the future. They’re introduced to career opportunities in animal related fields, and teach them the skills they need to be successful these areas.

In my perfect world, ever correctional facility in the country would have a dog training program. Programs like Caring Connections, and programs like these:

Lee County Cell Dogs

CCI Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program

Dogs Trained by Prisoners Help the Disabled

Prison Based Dog Training Programs

The Crossroads Campus and their Caring Connections program are still in their infancy.  For more information on how you can get involved, contact their Executive Director Lisa Stetar lstetar [at] prodigy [dot] net.



Filed under Our Foster Journey

Special Paws Camp

Wassup, friends?  Momma left her computer laying around so I thought take this opportunity to hijack the blog again and tell you guys the real story of what happened when she and Dad had the nerve to go on vacation, and leave me to fend for myself!

So here’s what happened…

I was getting pretty used to our new routine.  First Mom & Dad started bringing home all these strange dogs.  They’d live with us for awhile, and then they’d load them up into the car and drive away and come home without them! I’ll be honest – at first, I was freakin’ out!  What if they decided to take me away and come home without me??  Ohmigosh I can’t even think about it.

But after awhile, I started to realize that all the dogs who were coming into our house needed my help.   That’s why Mom & Dad kept bringing them home, so I could help them!   I helped Tucker understand how not to be nervous all the time.  I helped Kaylee learn how to live in a house and that there’s more to life then living on a chain.  I helped Roxie learn important things every puppy should know.  Once I taught them all I could and they were Ready, Mom & Dad would take them off to live with their very own People.  I finally understood that they would never take me away, because they needed me too much!

Well, that was a relief!

So there you have it, I am the Furever Dog, and I am the Helper Dog.  I am totally cool with that Job! So anyway, now that I had that figured out, there I was, mindin’ my own business, hanging out with Foster Bro & Foster Sis…just, you know, doing my Job.  Teachin’ them stuff. 

When all of a sudden, I was whisked off to vet and before I knew it, I was rockin’ the Cone of Shame again!  Arrrrrrrg, woe is me!

The Cone itself would have been bad enough, but you would not believe what happened next.  Mom & Dad took both Cooper and  Molly Tamale away in the car, and came back without them!  WAIT!  They have more to learn, I’m not done with them yet – they’re not Ready!  I was very confused, but then again I was feeling all foggy from the vet so maybe I was just getting some time off from my Job so I could recover from whatever the heck that super nice Dr. Brown did to me.

Then things got really weird.  The next morning, Mom & Dad left without me.  That’s not the weird part, they do that every day.  The weird part is that they didn’t come back home to hang out with me that night.  Instead, Aunt Kari came over and took me to her house to hang out with my buddy Dexter.  This is still not the weird part, because I’m always going over to Dexter’s house to hang out, ever since I was itty bitty.

It got super duper weird when after a few days, I got loaded up into the car and taken to another different house!  I wasn’t sure where I was at first, but I recognized one smell right away: Bandit!

As you may recall, me and Bandit – well, we are besties.  He is my most favoritest friend in the whole wide world!  I knew nothing too bad would happen as long as I was with Bandit.  Even though I tried out my very best “sad and pathetic” impression on Bandit’s People (hey, I can work that Cone), they were not fooled.  They even brought some kids over to their house to draw a picture for me and Bandit to pose on.

We sat there and posed very nicely, and we must have pleased the People because they kept smiling and laughing.  They said they were running a Special Paws Camp.  Well I don’t know why Bandit’s so special, but I know that I am special because I have a very important Job.  I had tons of fun hanging out with Bandit, but I was super duper excited when his People took me back to my own house.  I was ready to get back to work!

Then just a few short hours later, guess who walked through the door?  Mom and Dad!  Oh man oh man, was I happy to see them.  Then, Cooper and Molly Tamale came back home, too, so I resumed my Job (see, I knew I wasn’t done with them yet).  Then, I ditched that stupid Cone.  All is right with the world again.

What a weird week it was….I think I deserve a raise.


Filed under Our Foster Journey

Calming Cooper’s Quirks: Reactivity

While enrolled in the Basic Family Dog Manners class, it became clear that Cooper was going to need some specialized attention to help with his reactivity.  On the first day of class, Cooper got pretty vocal with another dog.  What we thought of as “reactivity,” our trainer, Kat Martin, immediately recognized as fear. 

Cooper’s behavior was especially confusing  to us because it was a new behavior – he hadn’t always acted this way.  When Cooper first joined us at Foster House at the end of January, we went on walks at the park and around the neighborhood…

We attended adoption events at pet stores…

…and as recently as April, we were regulars at the dog park. 

However recently, encountering another dog during any one of these activities has been enough to send Coop into a tail spin.  Naturally, since we follow our own rules about dog park etiquette, our trips to the dog park are a thing of the past.  Our neighborhood walks have to be strategically planned to avoid any off-leash dogs.  And adoption events?  Not recently.

Now suddenly, when Cooper gets nervous, he immediately lets other dogs know, “Hey back up!  I don’t know you and I don’t like you in my space!”  And he does this vocally.  Cooper’s not a big dog, but his bark is definitely intimidating.  As soon as Coop started exhibiting this behavior we knew it had to be addressed – STAT. 

So after Cooper graduated from his basic obedience class, we promptly enrolled in Relaxed Rovers.  The main goal of this class is teaching Cooper that when he gets scared or nervous, he needs to look at his People for reassurance instead of going bananas.

We learn to read our dogs’ behavior, and watch them for signs of stress and how to redirect them before they react. We learn about calming signals and how to recognize them.  Calming signals are universal dog language, physical behaviors that they show to calm themselves down or to calm dogs around them.  Some examples are blinking, licking lips, and yawning (more examples and explanation here).  Exhibiting calming signals in class earns Cooper LOTS of treats!  

The “shake it off” – the mother of all calming signals!

One game we play in Relaxed Rovers is called “Look at That.”  In “Look at That,” Cooper is rewarded for looking at another dog and not reacting.  We stand at a good distance from another dog, and as soon as Cooper looks in the other dog’s general direction, we click and treat.  Eventually, we start withholding the click/treat a little longer when Cooper looks at the other dog.   Since Cooper is used to getting a treat now when he looks at another dog, when he doesn’t get the treat right away, he looks at us.  As soon as he looks at us, he gets a click/treat.  Looking at us combined with a calming signal earns extra payoff. This teaches Cooper that good things happen when he looks at another dog, then back at his People.

Cooper has been doing pretty well so far, but the key to his continued success is going to be practice, practice, practice.  We’re still a few classes away from graduation, and of course taking his skills out into the real world and more distracting environments is going to add another dimension to his training.  For now, Cooper remains a “work in progress,” but he is workin’ it every step of the way!

If you’re interested in adding Cooper to your family, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.



Filed under Our Foster Journey

Sleeping Beauties

I love sleeping dogs.  There’s something about them that is just so peaceful. 

And at times, downright hilarious.

I’m Cooper. I sleep sitting up.

Our first foster, Barney (more about Barney under “Why We Foster”). Photo credit: Barney’s Furever Family

I can only think of one thing better than a sleeping dog….multiple sleeping dogs!

I’m pretty sure Molly Tamale and Cooper are both dreaming of the day when they can lay their head on a comfy pillow in their Furever Home.  And Oscar – he’s just happy to have a snuggle buddy or two, for however long they’re around.

If you’re interested in adding Cooper or Molly Tamale to your family, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.



Filed under Our Foster Journey