Monthly Archives: September 2012

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes

How do you measure a year in the life of fostering?

In tongue licks? In vet trips? In good-byes and happy endings?

In lake swims? In bath times? In laughter and tears…

Pop a cork, today is our one-year blogiversary!  We can hardly believe it’s been a whole year since we started this journey, but at the same time we can’t believe it’s been a year already…it seems like just yesterday I was typing “how to start a blog” into the Google-machine (yes, I really did that).

I started this blog primarily as a way to chronicle our misadventures as we navigated this world that was new to us, this world of animal rescue and dog fostering.  It seemed so foreign, and like such a huge undertaking.  We were wicked intimidated, but somehow the idea of writing it all down made it less scary. 

The other main reason I wanted to blog about our foster dogs was to help potential adopters get to know them. I remembered that when we were searching for Oscar, I scanned through hundreds of online dog profiles.  While I skipped right over the ones that had bad photos little-to-no information beyond age, sex & breed, and I found myself drawn to the ones who had detailed profiles that told a story about the dogs’ personalities, good quality photos and sometimes even videos.  So I wanted to write a blog that would make our dogs irresistable to me as a potential adopter, if I came across a link on a dog’s online profile.

Instead of summarizing the last year (which would probably take me another year to do), and after yesterday’s post that apparently left some of you in tears (sorry about that), let’s have some fun!  

I want to start with one of my favorite things to do when checking our blog stats – search term results.  WordPress keeps track of what people type into the Google-machine to get to our blog.  I’m pretty sure that even if our blog comes up in the search results, they have to actually click on the link and visit the blog for the search term to count.  So, even if these folks were looking for something completely different than a blog about foster dogs, perhaps they got a little chuckle out of a funny dog story before they continued on their way. Here are some of my favorite search terms that have led people to our blog over the past year:

himym dog pie (Not sure where the “dog pie” part comes in, but I’m pretty sure “himym” is from this post. Love that show! )

dogs running all over the world (Oh, if only the world was full of responsible dog owners, this wouldn’t happen!)

river of pee (Um, gross…but yep, I can see how that might have happened.)

why are dogs better than people (How much time have you got?)

i took all the dogs  (If you’re a Hyperbole and a Half fan, then this image is already in your head…)

can you take a dog who isn’t well behaved to the dog park (I hope that after reading this post, they learned that the answer to that question is NO!!!)

anal infection swag (I don’t know what they were searching for, but I hope this post helped answer their questions)

the importance of support from your friends (ain’t it the truth)

fostering through agape (Maybe one of you out there is considering joining the Agape family? Just maybe?)

dipping dogs for tricks in a hole (Huh??)

happy birthday donkey (Double huh???)

And my favorite search term result of all time….

why is fostering dogs important (We must be doing something right!)

OK, so now I have to know…have any of you stumbled on our blog “by accident,” and if so, what were you originally searching for?  Feel free to fess up down in the comments, and thanks for sticking around!

In looking through our search results, I deduced that the Google-machine must take comments into account as well as the text in our posts.  On that note, I thought it was interesting (thought not really at all surprising) that our top commenters all also happen to have blogs of their own (check them out over in our Blogroll).  Unfortunately WordPress only keeps track of comment statistics for the last six months instead of the whole year, but you get the idea…

Thanks to everyone who joined in the conversation by leaving comments.  I’ve learned a lot from your advice, and I feel like I’ve gotten to know some of you (and your fur-babies) quite well by reading what you have to say.  Also, you guys have absolutely cracked me up!   

And now for some “fun by numbers”!

Number of dogs fostered: six

Number of foster dogs we’ve wanted to keep furever: six

Number of happy endings (so far): five (Barney, Tucker, Kaylee, Roxie, & Molly Tamale)

Number of adoption/returns: one

Quickest adoption: two weeks

Longest tenant: eight months (…and counting)

Number of trips to the vet with a foster dog: six (never a dull moment at Foster House!)

Number of posts: 188

Total number of blog views: 33,199 (wow!)

Highest number of views on one post: 302 (The Return of the Tamale)

Least viewed post: Our second post ever, Officially Applied, and our first holiday post, Thankful, were tied at 27, followed by Tucker Sees a Ghost at 33 (Wait, seriously, only 33 of you saw Tucker Sees a Ghost?  Go check it out right now, that dog was hilarious!)

Most views in one day: 341 (A New Record – fitting, huh?)

Blog subscribers: 61

HBAMF Facebook followers: 390 (can we make it to 400 by Monday??)

Number of chewed-up pieces of furniture: three

Large-scale rescue efforts in our area: two (Operation Sweethearts and Operation Freedom)

Number of foster dog escapes: three (Tucker’s Big Adventure…never really mentioned the other two, have I?)

Number of successful recoveries: three (whew!)

Surprise fosters: one

Number of collars: nine

Training classes: three (Dogs & Kat, we are eternally grateful!)

Times I’ve doubted myself: more than I care to admit.

Times I’ve regretted becoming a foster mom: zero.

Would I do it all again?  In a heartbeat. 

Thanks for sticking with us during the first year of our foster adventure! 
Whaddaya say, shall we go another year?
Let’s do this…

~

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When the time comes…

Dear Cooper,

Today marks eight months that you’ve lived with us at Foster House. Eight months, kid! If your goal was to crush the record of every other dog that’s passed through our doors, well you certainly have succeeded, sir!  Far and away. You’ve even gotten lapped – twice!

Cooper’s first night at Foster House

There’s no doubt that you have been “my” dog from the start. Of course you love your Foster Dad, but you clung to me from the moment we left the shelter on your little temporary leash and generic nylon collar.  Well we’ve certainly improved your wardrobe since then,  haven’t we?  (Exhibit A, B, and C

When you were on your very first outing with us, I clipped you to the run in the backyard with Oscar and turned and walked to get something out of the car…you strained against your tie-out and barked in distress after me, terrified that I was leaving you. Of course, I returned, and you’ve been a momma’s boy ever since. 

 

You let us know right away that your stint with us would not be uneventful.  You’ve challenged us more than we ever thought a foster dog could.  We found ourselves completely out of our depth with you – between the potty training, the destruction, the separation anxiety, and of course your fear around other dogs, more than once we thought we had bitten off more than we could chew.   But no matter how hard it got, we never once thought of giving up on you.  You needed us to be strong and constant for you.  So we gritted our teeth and equipped ourselves with tools to help you.

Cooper graduates from Basic Obedience Class!

It is impossible not to love you.  That tail of yours never stops wagging, and that adorable brindle tushy it’s attached to has wriggled it’s way right into our hearts. You’ve slept in our bed with us since the second night.  Not just in our bed, but a lot of the time right up there on our pillows with us.  You’ve punched me in the face in the middle of the night, and have woken me up way too early on mornings after I’ve worked late.  You are the only one who could have possibly gotten away with that.  With your goofball antics and your infectious smile, I just can’t stay mad at you!

Coop, you’ve got your momma whipped!

As much as I love you, I know that the time will come when I have to tell you goodbye.  I’m not going to lie, it is getting harder and harder to think about.  Honestly, there are tears in my eyes as I’m typing this out, and you haven’t even been adopted yet!  Just the thought of you leaving us makes me so, so sad.  I think it’s because we’ve invested so much emotionally into you.  I’ve celebrated your victories with you, and I’ve cried behind closed doors when I thought we were failing you.  You have wormed your way so deep into my heart that I don’t know how I’m ever going to be able to let you go.

But, that’s what a Foster Mom does.  She falls in love a million times and sends a piece of her heart with each dog who leaves her in his rearview mirror.  When the time comes, I’ll hug you tight (and probably pick you up, because you let me do it – I love that about you), smooch your face and try with everything I have to hold it together until you’re out of my sight. Because when the time comes, it will be a happy day, because it will mean that I’ve done my job.  I’ll have made you into the dog who your Furever family can call “mine.”

I am both looking forward to and dreading that day.  But, until then…you will be “My Cooper.”

With love, always…
Foster Momma

…and in my heart, you’ll always be “My Cooper.”

If you think you’re the right family for Cooper, please fill out an adoption application with Agape Animal Rescue.

~

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Adoptable Olive, still on the market!

…I know, I can hardly believe it either!

Sweet little Olive got liberated from her life at the end of a chain nearly six months ago.  She’s had a handful of applications and a few meet & greets, but nothing has really “stuck” – Olive is still searching for her perfect Furevers.  Her foster mom & dad even thought they had found them once…until an uneducated misinformed landlord put a veto on his tenants owning a pit bull breed. 

“But why? I is not so scary.”

Olive is now about a year old, but she’s still just a little lady under 40 pounds. Foster Mom Jen reports that Olive is wicked smart. She learned sit, down, and wait within weeks of moving into her foster house. Olive is also crate trained, she gets along great with other dogs and loves kids of all ages.

Who can possibly resist this adorable little puppy behind?

Fetch is Olive’s most favoritest thing in the entire world.  According to her foster mom, Olive recently also added “drop” to her arsenal of tricks. “Sometimes, instead of dropping the ball at my feet and waiting for me to throw it again, she’ll wait for me to say, ‘drop it,’ then she’ll sling the ball in my direction, immediately turn and run towards the back of the yard and then patiently sit there until I throw the ball again. Makes me crack up every time!  She is also really excellent at catching the ball. It amazes me how high she can jump for it sometimes.”

“Come on, take me home…you know you wanna!”

Olive’s foster family (and Agape, and Foster Dad & I!) are completely bewildered as to what is taking Olive’s Furever Family so long to find her.  Maybe they haven’t seen this video yet…

Is Olive the gal for you, or someone you know?  Please help spread the word about this little lady.  As much as she loves her foster parents and brothers, she can’t wait to find a Furever Family of her very own!

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

~

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The Agili-Coop, week four

As we shared last week, Cooper has started Agility classes with Dogs & Kat to help work on his confidence.  Coop is a total natural on the Agility course – he’s constantly upstaging Foster Dad and me and reminding us that we’d better be on our toes if we’re going to keep up with him!  Check out his latest video from our fourth and final class of his first round of Agility classes…

We’ve already got Coop signed up for the second round of classes, where we’ll focus more on training his handlers (ahem, that’s Foster Dad & me) what to do with our bodies to guide him better.  We think that whoever Cooper’s furever family is, they will have soooo much fun with him if they continue him in Agility classes.  He’s a pro!

If Cooper’s your man, please fill out an adoption application with Agape Animal Rescue.

~

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Support for One of Our Own

The one thing that has amazed me time and again since we started fostering is the overwhelming support I’ve felt from the rest of the rescue community.  Animal rescue, as rewarding as it is, can be tough, thankless and frustrating at times.  Knowing that all of you out there are standing right along with us has meant the world to us.  So this weekend, when I heard that one of our own was in trouble, it shook me to the core. 

Our second foster pup through Agape Animal Rescue was Kaylee – liberated from life on a chain by kind strangers, and accepted into the Agape program to find her change at happiness.  Kandice and Larry adopted Kaylee from us just before Christmas last year, and re-named her Kate

It was insta-love….Kandice and Larry were immediately taken with Kate, and Kate excelled under the love and guidance from her new mom, who just happens to be a professional dog trainer.  She loved playing with her new brother Ben, snuggling on the couch with her new mom, and even flying with her new dad in his plane.

 

Kate was firmly settled in to the best Furever Home that Foster Dad and I could have imagined for her.  It’s such a great feeling as a foster family knowing that one of the dogs who passed through your doors is safe, happy and loved.

Furever Day wasn’t the last time Agape heard from Kandice and Larry. Since then, Kate and Ben have become foster siblings to some of Agape’s toughest rehabilitation cases.  They took in Jake from Operation Sweethearts, and taught him how to trust and be part of a family.

Sweetheart Jake with his Furever Family.

Then, when Agape took in fourteen dogs this summer from Operation Freedom, Kate and her family brought Angel into their home.

I had the honor of meeting Angel at the temporary shelter.  Well, that is, if you can call our interaction “meeting” each other.  More accurately, Angel cowered in the back of her crate while I gave her fresh food and water, and cleaned her crate around her.  She had patches of missing hair and sores covered her skin.  She was underweight and terrified of everything. The only word I could think of to describe Angel was “broken.”  But even so, it was clear that she had a beautiful soul.  I knew it would take a very special foster home to bring Angel back from the brink.   Enter Kandice and Larry…

Kandice getting medications and instructions the day she took Operation Freedom dog, Angel, home from the emergency shelter.

Angel went home with Kandice after a month at the emergency shelter. Kandice reports that as recently as a couple weeks ago, Kate has finally taught Angel how to play.

“Kate is the best big sister ever. She finally got Angel to play with her last night. Angel was having the time of her life for the first time.” ~Kandice

 Agape and the dogs in their program are lucky to have foster parents like Kandice and Larry on their side. They are amazing, wonderful giving people with enormous hearts. 

Last week, Kandice and Larry were in a bad motorcycle accident.  We’d like to respect their privacy and not go into too much detail, but I can say that although Kandice has been released, Larry remains in the hospital.  Agape is rallying the troops here in Nashville to find another foster home for Angel, so Kandice and Larry can focus all their energy on getting well.

If everyone could spare a few moments to send some positive energy their way, I’m sure Kandice and Larry could use it. If you would like to send some words of encouragement and support to these animal heroes, you can leave a note for them in the comments here, or you can mail them a card at the address below.

Kandice & Larry
c/o Agape Animal Rescue
P.O. Box 292766
Nashville, TN 37229-2766

~

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Dexter the Big Brother

Oscar’s buddy Dexter recently became a big brother!

“WHAT?!?! Imma be a big brudder?!?! OMG!!!”

You might recognize Dexter from this recent post.  We often crash their backyard because it is such a fun playground for the boys.   When Dexter’s parents were in the hospital this summer welcoming their little sweet pea into the world, I stopped by their house on my lunch break to give Dex a break from the solitude and let him romp around his backyard.   Rather than romp, he preferred to sunbathe – and did not care to go back inside:

(I finally had to stop the video so I could literally pick him up and carry him back in the house…Dexter’s mom fully admits that he is S-P-O-I-L-E-D, and it is true!) 

Once they brought their little baby girl home, Mom reports that Dexter has been very protective.  Every time she cries, Dexter runs to Mom and back to the baby, as if letting her know, “Momma, she’s crying!  Hurry!”  Welcome to the world, little lady! Your parents can watch you grow up not having to worry about a thing, because you have a very attentive big brother watching over you.

Oh hey, don’t forget to VOTE for COOPER!  What, you want to adopt him?  You can do that by starting here!

~

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Kibble me this…

There’s a great locally owned pet shop in Nashville called Wags & Whiskers.  They opened in 2004 as a retailer of holistic and premium dog food, natural treats and durable toys.  Not only that, but they also have a self-serve dog wash area in the back which Oscar has been none-to-pleased to utilize every now and again. 

..and since it’s right on the way home from the dog park, this feature has been very useful in certain situations:

(As if I need an excuse to share that picture of Oscar again.  Anywho….)

I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation on dog food ingredients at Wags and Whiskers’ newly opened second location .  We were bribed with offered wine and cheese and promised a free take home sample, so how could I pass that up?  I consider myself pretty ingredient savvy when it comes to kibble – I know to look for the protein as the main ingredient, and that corn is nothing but filler and should be avoided at all costs.  We feed Oscar a nice good expensive “premium” dog food, because while an obvious beneifit is that it’s good for him, I also know that less filler = smaller portions, which means that even though my bag of premium dog food is more expensive than the one next to it on the shelf, once you take into account portion size I’m actually spending less.  So I expected to sit in the back and nod along knowingly, collect my free sample and hit the road.

Well I should know by now that when it comes to dogs, I can always learn something new.  And what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t share my new-found knowledge?  Of course, I am by no means an expert on pet nutrition, so please do your own research or consult your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet.  And with that, here we go….

Where does it come from?

Just as important as the ingredients in your dog food is the source of those ingredients.  There’s a 1-800 number on every bag of dog food.  After this presentation, the first thing I did was call up the number on our bag of kibble and ask them where they got their protein. According to the presenter, there is no reason a dog food company wouldn’t be happy to give you this information.  Is your salmon farm raised (ie, pumped full of hormones & steroids) or wild caught?  Is your chicken from the same farm every time, or do you get it from whoever can give you the lowest price (ahem, lowest quality)?

Good Protein vs. Not-so-good Protein

The first five ingredients listed on a bag of dog food make up 85% of the bag, by weight.  What this means is that this is what you’re paying for, so you want “the good stuff” to be up there in the top five.  The good stuff is, of course, your protein (chicken, beef, turkey, salmon, duck, etc).  All of that I knew already.

What I didn’t know was that chicken as an ingredient actually has quite a bit of moisture, something like 75%.  Remember how those first five ingredients are “by weight”?  That means when chicken is the first ingredient, a lot of that weight is moisture.  That’s OK, because that’s also what’s going to give the kibble its flavor, and what makes Cooper salivate in anticipation when he has to wait for his dinner…(watch for drool-age starting around the 0:50 mark)

Meal vs. By-product.  I figured “by-product” was bad, and I was right – “by-product” is exactly what it sounds like, it’s everything that’s left over from the animal after the meat is processed (think beak, claws, hooves, and other yucky things that only Andrew Zimmern would eat).  A kibble that has any sort of “by-product” listed as a top five ingredient should be avoided.

However “meal” is actually really good.   Chicken meal, for example, is made by grinding up good clean chicken meat (beak & feather-free) and removing most of the moisture so you’re left with a significantly higher protein content than just chicken.  So, if your first two ingredients are “chicken” and “chicken meal,” you’re in good shape!

Get Specifics.  Going back to knowing where your kibble comes from, make sure the ingredients are specific when talking about the protein – you want it to say “chicken” instead of “poultry,” or “salmon” instead of “fish.”

Variety is the Spice of Life. I love sushi, but I would get super sick of it if I had to eat it for every meal, every single day.  I’ve never asked a dog, but I imagine they’d get sick of the same kibble day after day.  So it’s not only OK, but it’s actually really good for your dogs if you alternate the protein source in their food.  Dogs aren’t meant to get everything they need from just one food – for example, chicken has different vitamins and minerals than salmon.  As long as you stay within the same brand of food, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to switch from salmon to chicken to lamb to duck and back again.   

Eat Your Vegetables!

If veggies are good for you and me, it stands to reason they’re good for dogs too.  I knew that already.  I knew that seeing ingredients like carrots and sweet potatoes in the list of ingredients on kibble is a good thing.  I also already knew that as an ingredient, “corn” is used as a filler and is not-so-good to have in dog food. What I didn’t know is that dogs cannot digest corn – at all.  It doesn’t matter if it’s called corn, whole ground corn, yellow corn, white corn or purple corn – it’s bad.

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs

I also learned a whole list of other ingredients that dogs can’t digest, that fall under the “carbs & grains” category.  These include white rice, rice bran, brewers yeast, wheat flour and rice flour.  Apparently though, not all carbs and grains are bad.  For example, oatmeal is one of the best grains you can include in a dog food.  It’s higher in protein and fiber than other grains,  and lower in calories.  Oatmeal is a good source of iron, fatty acids and antioxidants, and vets like it because it’s not likely to cause food allergies.  Other grains/carbs that are A-OK to include in your kibble ingredients are brown rice, millet, barley and quinoa. 

So there you have it, a few new tidbits I added to my arsenal of information when selecting dog food.  Of course, every dog is different and again, I’m no expert, so please make sure you check with your vet before you change-up your pooch’s feeding regimen.   There’s a wealth of information out there on this topic – type “dog food ingredients” into the Google-machine and see what happens.  The important take-away here is that not all kibble is created equal – make sure to do your research.  After all, these two can’t read labels, so they’re counting on us to do it for them.

Cooper is still looking for his furever home!  If Coop is the dog for you, please fill out an adoption application with Agape Animal Rescue.

…and don’t forget to VOTE for COOPER!

~

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