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What Baci Taught Me About Fostering

14 Dec

Recently, we asked our friend Rennie if she would like to write a guest post about fostering for Bully Project. This is the result.

I’ve been a short-term foster mom for three of Bully Project‘s adoptables, and each of the dogs couldn’t have been more different from one another.

 First came Hunny, who I’m sure was part bulldog. She loved nothing more that long, loud naps on the floor. This dog could snore!

Then I had Ethel, easily the snuggliest dog I’ve ever met. Between her love of snoozing on me and her penchant for playing fetch in my one-bedroom apartment (not an easy feat), I’m convinced that she was part Chocolate Lab.

Finally, I housed Baci, who is clearly part cat. And I mean that in the best way – I’m not talking about the aloof quality of a feline … far from it. Case in point: this dog actually followed me into the bathroom once and sat at my feet while I did my business, with her back turned to me for privacy. Baci is nothing if not polite.

She also taught me a whole lot about what it means to foster a dog, for any amount of time. The first two, Hunny and Ethel, were exceptionally adaptable. Both made themselves at home in my apartment literally within minutes, plopping down for a nap and a cuddle.

Baci was a slightly different story.

Baci doing down at the vet

Baci doing down at the vet

Full of pep and puppy energy, she had lots to do the first night that Josh dropped her off. She rubbed her body across each piece of furniture in my living room, paced between the dining area and the kitchen, and sniffed every corner of my rug. After devouring a 12-inch braided Bully Stick in the short time before Josh left, I didn’t have much left at my disposal to calm her down.

A quick run-through of her behaviors (Baci was great at “sit” and “shake” and was working on her “down”) resulted in nothing but excitement.

Oh my gosh, we’re SITTING! Now we’re throwing ourselves DOWN on the floor. Ooh, and speak. I can SPEAK! Josh doesn’t like it when I speak but I can show you, new foster person. Listen to me SPEAK!

Maybe this wasn’t the best time to go through Baci’s tricks. I tried giving her a belly rub, always a favorite of the other two fosters, but that, too, was incredibly exciting for this one. Baci wiggled her way across my floor, rubbing her head (and probably her irritated eyes, poor girl) across my legs, rolling around like a nut.

After a somewhat relaxing chew on her antler to settle things down, I put Baci to bed in her crate. When all else fails, go to sleep, right?

The next morning I had a slightly more chilled-out dog on my hands. We went on an early morning walk and Baci was polite and sweet, checking in on me often and eagerly sitting at my feet for a training treat every couple of blocks. When an unexpected shower hit, she gave me that look.

Um, new foster person? It’s raining. Why are we outside?

I hurried us back to my walk-up, dried Baci off with a towel (no surprise: she loved it) and fed her breakfast while I ate my own.

As the next two days wore on, I saw quite a change in Baci: I watched her settle in. There was really no process like this with the last two dogs, and it was interesting to watch Baci relax and enjoy her downtime. I figured out a couple of tricks, too: petting Baci’s head made her much calmer than the belly rubs. Rubbing Baci’s floppy ears put her into a practically trance-like state, and then we could move on to a nice massage/belly-rub, with me whispering “shhh” to make it a calm activity, not an exciting one.

Worked like a charm.

Soon, I had a snoozing dog at my feet, and one who was eager for mini training sessions without getting overly excited. I discovered that she was confused about the difference between “shake” and “down.” Ever-willing to present her paw in greeting (see? Such a polite girl!), it took several repetitions for her to get that she didn’t need to shake before moving down to the floor. Her own particular version of “down” is perfectly Baci. It’s a swift drop to the floor, followed by a wiggly Army crawl. But she got it. I showered her with praise for that, and for everything she did that I liked, such as the naps and the sitting quietly with me at home!

Whenever I went into my bedroom and closed the French door behind me, Baci would wait patiently on the other side, her face (framed by a soft cone to protect her healing eyes) smushed against the glass. She sat like a statue waiting for me, happily greeting me upon my return just a couple minutes later.

When I had to bring Baci back to Josh after just a few days, I felt the familiar pang of sadness. Giving up a foster dog feels like losing a friend, no matter how happy you are that they’re moving on to a good place and a famiy to call their own

I loaded her into a cab and she tried to do her usual trick of crawling underneath my legs (again­—such a cat) to rub her back. When the cabbie gave us a sideways glance, I made Baci sit and had to correct her several more times to keep her from rubbing her head and eyes on me.

Finally, with a contented sigh, she rested that sweet, pretty head on my knees and sat quietly for the rest of the ride. I rubbed her ears and she closed her eyes.

And in that moment, I wasn’t sad at all. Quite the opposite, actually: I felt like I’d done my job as a foster mom. After being in two other foster homes before me, I helped teach Baci that new situations are OK. And laying quietly on the floor and taking a snooze is, too. I don’t know how a dog’s brain works any more than the next guy, but I’m pretty sure that’s a lesson that sweet Baci would take with her.

Not that she needed it—she was lucky enough to be adopted just days later. But I’ll never forget what Baci taught me about fostering a dog. As sad as it can be to say goodbye, giving an abandoned or unwanted dog a stable, happy, supportive place to live, for any length of time, is the best thing that you can do to help them.

Knowing that Hunny, Ethel (who I still miss the most!) and Baci will have warm, happy holidays in their forever homes is truly a gift.

And I have that sweet, goofy, thinks-she’s-a-cat pittie to thank for it.

Rennie Dyball is a People.com editor and co-author of three books. She is a currently dog-less New Yorker who has been known to hang out in the occasional dog park anyway, just to make four legged friends. (That’s not weird, is it?) Follow her on Twitter: @renniedyball and check out her blog at renniedyball.com.

And Just Like That…

23 Oct

Ethel is adopted!

After less than two weeks, and really almost no work on our part, our very special Ethel has found her forever home. Sometimes, we just get lucky and rescue wonderful dogs, and then we get even luckier and perfect adopters appear out of thin air. Well, this was one of those times.

We posted Ethel as our Adoptable Pittie of the Week last week, and almost immediately after publishing that post, we listed her on all the standard online pet databases. And in less than 10 minutes, we had our first inquiry – a young, self-employed photographer living in Brooklyn who was looking for a new dog after his last one passed away from cancer. His email really didn’t show us anything very specific, but after checking with his vet, and references, we couldn’t have been more thrilled. Peter seemed like an ideal candidate.

So we arranged a meet & greet for later in the week, as Josh had to go out of town for two days for work. During that time, Ethel got some very special attention at a temporary foster home. She got individualized attention, lots of cuddles, great food and toys and a lifelong friend from her temporary foster mom, Rennie.

But her vacation there quickly came to an end, and the day after Josh returned, we had our meeting with Peter who, like everyone else who’d met Ethel, fell in love with her immediately. The papers were signed, hands (and paws) shook, and off Ethel went off to become the newest resident of Brooklyn!

We have to give a very special thank you to Deja Foundation, who helped cover Ethel’s medical costs to make sure she was as healthy as she looked. And the biggest thanks go to Rennie, who stepped up in our time of need to take care of Ethel for two days. To make room in your life for a homeless pet for even just two days is more helpful than anyone can ever imagine – and we are immensely grateful!

Cone Conundrum Part 2

16 Oct

Last week, I posted about a friend who was having trouble with their dog who’d just been spayed. Well, folks, you may have guessed this, but: “my friend” was me and “their dog” was Ethel. Whatever I would do, she just wouldn’t cooperate and wear her cone calmly.

So I reached out for your help. I had to fib a little because Ethel wasn’t yet officially adoptable, so I couldn’t write about her yet. But I was just at a loss. How could I leave her home, while I was at work, and know that she was ok?

We got some great feedback and everyone was really helpful. But our good friend Megan wins the prize! (To refresh your memory, Megan is one of Bully Project’s greatest success stories!) She wrote:

“Does the dog worry at her stitches without the cone on? I never had a cone for Dayzee when she was spayed and I didn’t see her mess with her stitches once. Maybe the cone is not even necessary.”

This simple statement reaffirms the idea that every dog is an individual, and that includes whether or not they need to wear a cone post-surgery. So thank you Megan, for yet again opening our eyes and helping us help Ethel. It actually worked out in Ethel’s favor anyway, as she got to tag along to Josh’s office for the week and sneak into a little Wordless Wednesday action!

 

Adoptable Pittie of the Week: Ethel

15 Oct

Have we got a special one for you today! Meet Ethel!

Ethel

So why is Ethel so special? Well, first and foremost, she’s Bully Project‘s newest adoptable, and secondly, she’s Josh’s new foster! And this girl is an absolute rockstar! Crate trained, house broken, obedient, dog friendly, people friendly, walks beautifully on leash, doesn’t bark or whine, comfortable when left home alone. I mean, this dog is as rock solid as a, well, a rock. She’s so special, that she was even featured on a jumbotron in Times Square!

American Eagle Outfitters

That’s real, folks – not photoshopped! We took her shopping for new jeans, and the staff in the store loved her so much, that they offered to put her picture up on their billboard! We are so proud!

Ethel

Ethel was found as a stray at the end of July and surrendered to a public shelter in New Jersey. She lived in the shelter for just over two months, and despite all that time in such a stressful environment, she’s so incredibly calm and well behaved. While there, she became great friends with one of the regular volunteers who even began working on agility with her:

Doing Agility

And she just loves meeting new people on the street – so much so that she just rolls over onto her back for belly rubs.

Getting a Belly Rub!

She also loves meeting dogs of all shapes and sizes:

Meeting a King Charles Cavalier

Ethel is already spayed, fully vaccinated and microchipped. She’s 100% ready for her new home. Any home. She’d be great with kids, adults, dogs, and most likely cats as well. She’d be perfect for the new dog owner, and great with an experienced one. So we’re calling all adopters: please email us at bullyprojectnyc@gmail.com to apply to adopt Ethel!

Ethel

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Wordless Wednesday

10 Oct

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Cone Conundrum

9 Oct

What do you do if your just-recently-operated-on dog absolutely refuses to wear a cone or other such device?

A friend of ours has very recently stumbled across this problem, and well, I’ve never had to tackle something like this, so I really just don’t know what to advise. Their dog was just spayed, and despite her grogginess, will do whatever it takes to remove her Elizabethan Collar, aka “cone of shame.” She went so far as to completely destroy it, leaving it in several different pieces.

I suggested they try Kong’s Cloud Collar. No go – the dog had it ripped off in a matter of seconds, and it was simply not reusable. The vet even gave them a flimsy, but sufficient, fabric cone to try. After some compliance, the dog ripped that to shreds, too.

So readers: any advice? What tips, tricks and products have you used on your cone-resistant dogs?

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