Some Thoughts for Your Labor Day

Happy Labor Day everyone!

So the Princess left our castle last Thursday, and it was a little weird for a couple minutes. Her absence made me think about some things, so I’d like to share some thoughts on my mentality when it comes to fostering. But first of course, an adoption photo:

Look at how flippin' cute she is!

Look at how flippin’ cute she is!

Alright, so now for some philosophy. When I suggest that people foster one of the most common responses is “I would get too attached.” My primary motivations in fostering were to show Galen how to act with various different energies (and thus make him more balanced), to challenge myself and grow my abilities to read and respond to a variety of personalities and issues, and of course to help save lives and serve my community. So the thought of getting too attached didn’t really cross my mind.

The way I see it, my “job” as a foster is to get each dog as balanced as possible in the time that I have with them. So far (in my whole 3 fosters’ experience), none of my fosters have felt like “my dog,” but rather like I’m preparing them for their future homes. I’m kinda like purgatory between the shelter and a forever home- they’re not meant to stay! I have an idea of what energy and personality I’d like in my next dog, and if I run across that, I think it will be hard for me to let go. It’s a little quiet when they leave (now I know how my mom felt when school started) and my reflex is to dwell on that. But then I look at Galen, who just continues going about his business like nothing has changed, and it’s easy to move forward.

Now I’m preparing myself for our next adventure- more on that very soon!

Dogs Make it All Better

I had a weird day at work, and left not feeling my usual positive self. But I walk through the door and this happens:

This is the same way Garnet always greets me, but man I really appreciated it today. I think Bill Burr said it best, “It’s not until you’re an adult you appreciate how awesome a dog is. Your dreams start dying, somebody cheats on ya, bankers **** up your 401k, ya know? Then ya come home and that dog’s looking at you and [s]he’s like, ‘Dude, you’re awesome!’ It’s like No, dude you… You are ****ing awesome!'”

How can you not want to come home to that!?

All Quiet on the Home Front

It’s been a while since the last Princess/Garnet update, mostly because she’s been basically perfect! I’d forgotten what it’s like to have a dog without anxiety…it’s so refreshing and easy. When I leave, she waits for me to walk out of sight, empties her Kong, then sleeps on the couch or the cool dining room floor. I even left with Galen this morning and she responded the same. She’s also nice to come home to- no crazy frantic jumping and whirling around the house- she just wiggles up to you and rolls over like puppies do (one of my favorite things about the youngins). I found a food that agrees with her digestive system, and that rawhides give her cartoon-level gas (as in, I can almost see the green wavy lines).

Lovin' that couch life

Lovin’ that couch life

We’ll be at Petco in Waco this Saturday from noon to 4, if you’re interested in meeting this easy-to-live-with girl, stop by! If you’re a bit more serious, fill out an adoption application!

Princess Puppy

Looks like giving Garnet (or Princess, as I’ve begun to call her) more space was the answer to her anxiety. The only issues I’ve had in the past couple of days were my fault or not anxiety. The actual anxiety (my fault) happened when I had to run home to grab a couple of things and run back to work. I know I should have waited until she settled back down, but I let the rush get the best of me and my blinds paid the price. She only knocked out a couple of the little side pieces that Galen had previously started. This afternoon the only noise the camera picked up was her chewing on my nosework boxes and a book (I had to forget one temptation). The timing was just right in that she started a few minutes before I was going to be home, so I caught her in the act and was able to correct her. That was also kinda my fault because I forgot to put her Kong out. Usually she works on that and goes to sleep. Once the stupid weather stops being so hellish I can take them on a walk at lunch to decrease the energy remaining for bored puppy destruction.

These two are great together

These two are great together

I also found a food that she actually shows interest in and will take from my hand: boiled chicken. I’ve been stuffing her Kong with a little bit of chicken, some canned food and kibble, and sometimes topping with peanut butter. I’ve been working a little bit on desensitizing her to the door closing and locking, since that was the only part of my leaving routine that made her stressed. I just open and close it a bunch of times and leave it closed for varying short amounts of time (e.g. close-3 sec-open-close-7 sec-open-close-lock-5 sec-unlock-open-close and so on). Seems to be working like a charm, so if her adopter continues that, she should eventually be totally cool with the whole process.

This is Why I Should Trust My Instincts

So yesterday afternoon was a little rough. I thought I’d see what would happen if I let Garnet out of the crate for the night. I put her pad next to my side of the bed and left my laundry pile out (that was Nelson’s bed of choice).  She took a few minutes to find the best sleeping spots in the room and slept right through the night. This morning I crated both the pups as usual, and even with a full dose of Benadryl, Miss G was really stressed about being in the crate. She did pretty good while I was gone, but I started putting the pieces together…maybe it’s the confinement she’s stressed about. So this afternoon, I went to pick up more rice for her (she’s been on a bland diet for a couple days after her system didn’t respond well to a sudden diet change), and set up my place so she could have the whole front of the apartment. I baby-gated the back hallway so Galen could have essentially the same view as usual, raised the blinds (learned that the hard way as you can see) and put her pad by the window, and put up some cardboard to protect the front door in case she decided to try to dig out. *As much as I wanted to keep her crated for fear of my move out fees, I just had a feeling the lack of space was the issue. I was praying the whole time I was gone to come back to an intact apartment.*

Front door setup for my little experiment.

Front door setup for my little experiment.

I was gone for about half an hour and checked in on her a couple times while I was out (how great is technology, BTW?). In the first couple minutes, she stared at the door and did a couple laps from one end of her space to the other. She poked at the poor man’s door guard but didn’t bite or dig at it. I’m guessing she just laid on the pad and looked out the window after that, ’cause that’s where she was when I got home. So basically she was a normal dog. I’ll start teaching her “place” to go chill on the pad to establish a place where she knows to be calm when I leave. I’ll also probably do some desensitization around my leaving habits and the door closing so she doesn’t start getting worried about it (Galen could use more of that too). I’m really optimistic that what she was going through in the crate was 90% confinement anxiety, and a normal amount of separation anxiety. She might do even better in a place with a dog door. We’ll see how she does tomorrow.

Galen got her to play tug-of-war for a sec

Galen got her to play tug-of-war for a sec

Not the Worst: a Detailed Account of Anxiety

After getting to know Garnet a bit more, and her settling into the house (not pacing and whining for literally 90% of my waking hours), it’s safe to say she has separation anxiety (SA) and some puppy boredom. This morning I gave her another half-dose of Benadryl since I was going to be gone for longer than I had been over the weekend. She was perfect until a couple hours after I left, at which point she chewed some duct tape off the crate (placed there to provide an extra layer to protect my $25 crate investment). It didn’t seem like she was trying to escape, just needed something to do and apparently the Nylabone and Kong weren’t hacking it. That’s easy enough to solve: make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy (i.e. make the duct tape spicy and the king more appetizing and challenging.

This afternoon I thought I’d see how much the Benadryl was doing. Turns out it was definitely helping. I went through my usual routine of leaving and made sure she was nice and calm before I left. After she figured out I was gone, she spent 10 minutes trying to escape (whining, tearing off duct tape, biting the bars on the door, and busting a zip tie I put on the door just in case), then settled down for almost 15 minutes. Then the cycle repeated, but lasted maybe 5-7 minutes and stopped when she hit the spicy duct tape. Then again 15 minutes later for 7-8 minutes on and off. About an hour later, she whined for about 20 minutes, worked half-heartedly on another zip tie and licked and bit at the bars for a minute or two. 15 minutes later, 20 more minutes of whining and some pawing and biting at the door.

In case this sounds really bad, I’ll compare her to Galen’s case: she didn’t lose control of her bowels and/or bladder (he did for a couple months), she didn’t actually escape (Galen busted an airline crate twice when I was home for Christmas and opened the bottom latch of his wire crate and squeezed out the door once), she didn’t howl, whine, or bark the entire time I was gone (Galen did when I tried letting him have the whole apartment and for several weeks after we went back to the crate), and she didn’t injure herself (Galen chipped a canine chewing on crate bars, and rubbed his nose to the point of bleeding during the great Christmas escape of 2014). Based on those things, I would gauge Garnet’s anxiety at a lower intensity than Galen’s, so hopefully the process will be a bit quicker for her.

My plan is to go back to low dose Benadryl for the time that I have her, because the difference is just so huge. I’ve dealt with anxiety myself, and having relief from that inescapable uncomfortableness and being able to rest is too much to pass up in the name of pride or anything else. If it helps her associate my leaving with calm and sleep, and keeps her from chipping teeth and cutting up her paws, then I can be OK with it. Obviously, this is in conjunction with behavioral modification (desensitization and the like), and will be phased out ASAP. I don’t expect to have her past tomorrow, but I want to make the most difference possible with the time I do have.

The face of a lazy puppy

The face of a lazy puppy

(Hopefully) the Quickest Foster Yet

It’s been quite the weekend here with Miss Garnet. Her first night it took about 50 minutes to get her from outside the crate to sleeping in it, and it was a light sleep at best (the one night there are people outside at my complex I have an anxious pup). Anyway, Saturday morning, as you know, is dog park day for Galen. I was pretty sure if I left Garnet she would not be able to deal, so I brought her along and kept her on leash. There were about 5 other dogs there, and they all did exactly what she needed them to- quickly sniff then walk away. She was unsure at first, but definitely submissive and not really tense, which surprised me.

I left to go to the grocery store, and this time it only took 30 minutes to get her calm in the crate. Once again, she surprised me and only made a couple of whines loud enough to trigger my camera to record (I love this camera, BTW. It’s been a huge asset). Because she had previously torn through a few crates, I put some duct tape around the edges and gave her a half dose of Benadryl. She did tear a couple strips of duct tape off, but there were no signs of chewing, so we’ll put that in the win column. Same thing when I went to church this morning. Last night it took about 15 minutes and 6 mg of melatonin for her to fall asleep and she stayed asleep!

Puppy pals

Puppy pals

She has 2 approved applicants, one of whom she met yesterday. She’ll need someone who is dedicated to working through the anxiety with her (which, trust me, is no small thing), so I’m being a bit picky. The absolute last thing we want is for her to be uprooted again. In the meantime, she and Galen have hit it off quite well!

Chewing after morning exercise.

Say ‘Hey’ to Garnet!

Name: Garnet
Nicknames: stay tuned!
Age: 1.5 years
Breed: Australian Kelpie x Shepherd
Garnet in two Words: Stay tuned!

A few weeks ago, MARC got a call from the Corsicana shelter that one of our dogs, Garnet, was there with no one to get her out. Garnet was adopted as a fluffy lil puppy about a year ago, and of course someone immediately went to retrieve her. The stories surrounding how she ended up in the shelter are pretty cloudy, and despite gaining a couple scars in her time away, she has retained a deep love for people, especially small ones.

She was a bit tentative letting Galen too close (any dog that can handle his overbearing, socially inept greeting is abnormally tolerant), but is comfortable with him on the other side of a baby gate. She’s a bit anxious about not being glued to a person’s side at the moment, so we’ll work on self-confidence and give some supplements to help with the stress (L-theanine and valerian were both a part of helping Galen manage separation anxiety and I use Rhodiola Rosea myself).

She’ll hang out in my kitchen for a couple days while I’m home to allow her to get used to how my house works and give Galen some time to adapt to having another dog around. When I first started fostering, I found this wonderful resource, and have had great success applying the outlined principles.