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Adventures in Rescue Fostering

thumb_DSC_7248_1024Today would have been Nittany’s 13 birthday.  Thanks to Facebook I woke up with a ton of memories of past birthdays.  Throughout this process I have realized the power of posting things on Facebook.  In the moment you are just sharing a quick memory or giving people a little view in to your life.  Years later when the memories pop back up it can transport you back to a different time in your life and it brings back a wave of memories and emotions.  After losing a pet they can be bitter sweet memories with lots of smiles and tears.  While it can hurt at times I do like starting each day with these memories.

The point of this post is not to spend more time grieving but rather give an update on what we’ve been up to lately.  After we lost Nittany we couldn’t even imagine getting another dog.  But, as the weeks passed the house was feeling empty without a second pup.  Paterno has adjusted to being only dog but we were afraid he might be a little lonely.  We didn’t want to jump in to getting another dog but we did start seriously talking about potentially fostering dogs for a rescue.  (We have fostered before and that is how we ended up with Paterno – so we totally know that fostering can be a slippery slope that could bring a second dog in to our family permanently but we are determined for that not to happen this time.)  We talked a little about what breed of dog we would want to foster and ended up deciding our experiences with Nittany were amazing and we wanted to help other labs and lab mixes find their forever homes so we applied to be a foster family for the Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue.  After a phone interview and a home visit we were approved!  I completely understand why they have to go through the process of the interview and home visit but the entire time I just kept thinking isn’t the fact we have kept two dogs alive for 10+ years enough of a track record?!  Yes, our lab had recently died but it was for something that was not our fault and we gave her the best life right up until the end.  Yes, our other dog has a neurological disease, but again, totally not our fault and we have been successfully treating his condition for almost two years.

So fast-forward from getting approved to agreeing to take our first foster dog.  We got an email last Sunday with the information about the dogs that would be coming in on the transport this week.  After all the anticipation of applying for and getting approved to foster I somehow had gotten cold feet.  I wasn’t sure if we were ready for another dog yet, even on a temporary basis.  So, I didn’t respond to the first request for fosters and hoped that other foster families would step-up and take the dogs that came in this week.  As the beginning of the week wore on the emails got more urgent the guilt set in and on Tuesday afternoon I finally pulled the trigger and said that we would be available to foster this week and selected a cute 4-6 month old black lab mix named Boogie.  Tuesday night I went to the store and bought some puppy supplies (it’s been a REALLY long time since we had a puppy in the house) and got ready for the pup’s arrival on Wednesday.

Wednesday night after work we headed east of the city to the drop-off, pick-up spot.  We had to drive to the DIA area at rush hour – it was a great way to start the evening.  Paterno came along because the pick-up time was at the exact same time he needed his medicine.  They told us that the transport van would meet us at the Petco parking lot at 6pm and we patiently waited for a passenger van to arrive with the pups.  At a couple minutes after 6pm a moving van pulled up and someone jumped out, ran around to the back and opened the door to reveal cage after cage of dogs that had been rescued.  There were probably 30 dogs on the van all coming from points east and going to all the different rescues in the Denver metro area.  There were huge dogs and tiny dogs coming down the ramp of the van and going to their respective foster families.  Some dogs were so excited to be off the van they bounded down the ramp and other dogs that were so scared and timid they had to be carried.  After what felt like forever they finally unloaded Boogie.  Boogie was so nervous coming off the van and tried to ran from every loud noise and sudden move.  From the beginning we knew Boogie had the potential of being a handful.  After we let Boogie get a little comfortable and used to being off the van we had to get him checked out by the amazing Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue volunteers.  The checked him over and gave him his microchip.  Boogie has some strange bumps on his ears and a scratch on his tummy that the volunteers requested we get checked out by a vet.  After the initial excitement we introduced Boogie to Paterno (who became fast friends) and headed to the car for the ride back home.

During the car ride Boogie was a complete angel.  He just stared out the window at the passing scenery and seemed to be a little more comfortable.  When we arrived home his nerves returned and he was very nervous about everything in the house (except Paterno). Because he didn’t really seem comfortable insider he spent some of this first evening in the backyard chasing moths.  He seemed to feel more comfortable outside and we wanted him to be as comfortable as possible.  After it was too dark to see a black dog in the backyard (and we didn’t want to be the people who lose their first foster dog) we came inside and got Boogie settled in to his crate.  Boogie really seems to like his crate and chooses to go there whenever he gets nervous or afraid so we just made his crate available to him and let him settle in for the night.  IMG_4432

While we successfully made it through day one of fostering we knew there was a lot more to come…Continue to check in for your adventures in adopting.

With a lot of rescue dogs they don’t come with any history so you don’t really know where they came from or what their lives were before they got to Colorado.  There are so many things that could have happened to Boogie to make him so fearful and timid.  It was our job to make him as comfortable as possible until he can find his forever home.

 

 

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Good Grief

good griefI am not known for being an overly emotional person.  If you ask anyone (other than my husband) they will agree that I am pretty even-kelled.  (My lucky husband on the other hand gets to see the good, bad, and ugly of my emotions.)  I never cried in front of people and it was rare that people knew when I was upset, mad, or sad.  That was until recently.  With the passing of our pup Nittany so much has changed in our lives from our routine to our conversations to planning for the future.  The one biggest thing that has changed for me personally is my ability to keep my shit together emotionally.  I have found myself bursting in to tears at work when I look at a picture of Nittany, in the car when a song comes on the radio that Nittany and I used to do puppy dance party to, and everywhere in between when I remember something about Nittany.  The tears are both happy and sad but they come so unexpectedly that I feel like a ticking time bomb.

Yesterday was my birthday and I was having a great day with friends.  Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with grief that I could not shake.  I would just burst in to tears and feel so sad.  At first I thought it was because I was growing another year older but age has never bothered me and I knew deep down that wasn’t the cause.  When I really thought about it, and with something prodding from my husband, I realized my overwhelming sadness was a memory I had from a couple of months ago when I said “the only thing I want for my birthday is for Nittany to be there.”  I think I said this when we first figured out what was going on with her health and she was still relatively healthy.  When I remembered this statement on my birthday I was thrown into a tail spin.  I felt so sad that Nittany wasn’t there and then I felt so guilty and angry for being selfish enough to wish she was here even knowing how sick she was at the end of her life.

Grief is such a weird thing.  It comes out of no where.  You are cruising along throughout the day, enjoying yourself, and there it is lurking around the corner.  You feel like you are feeling better and making progress and then is just smacks you across the face and reminds you about whatever you are grieving.  Time passes and you are starting to feel confident that the memories are only going to be warm and fuzzy and suddenly you are taken down to your knees with sadness and heartache.  Even with the grief I know I am making progress forward but I was just so unprepared for how much it would hurt.

RUNMy running has been a huge area where I have been struggling lately (see sometimes the Jolly Runner talks about running).  It started out being tough to run because Nittany wasn’t there to welcome my back, so I was avoiding runs during the week.  I was still running on the weekend because that was a different routine where Nittany wasn’t as big of a part of my return home. Because I am in a training plan for my next half marathon in October my runs have been longer which give you a lot of time to think.  I have grown to despise this time in my head.  Eight miles of just being in your own head can be healing but it can also be painful.  Running around town I see all types of dogs with their families and it is a reminder of what I’ve lost.  During and after runs in the past I have experienced the normal “runners high,” feeling strong, happy, and confident. Lately the “runners high” has been overly emotional and while I feel more energetic I also seem to be sadder too.   This time in my head and the sadness that follows makes me want to just take a break from running but I couldn’t even imagine what kind of emotional mess I would be in a cut out running all together.

People have given me great ideas on how to handle the loss of Nittany and I appreciate the ideas and words of encouragement but one thing I have learned is that everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.  The only think I have learned for sure is that it’s good, and necessary, to grieve.  If you try to keep all those feelings inside you might explode, but most importantly you are not letting yourself heal.  I want to thank everyone who has been along with me on this strange journey and especially my husband for being my rock and walking this road of good grief with me.   Thanks for listening to my ramblings and letting me grieve through my blog.

 

The New Norm

I want to start by thanking everyone for their kind words and thoughts last week as our family was grieving the loss of Nittany.  We were overwhelmed with how many people reached out to share with us their thoughts and memories of Nittany.  It did not take us long to realize that our family and friends may actually have preferred the company of Nittany over the company of us…and I really don’t blame you.  Nittany was by far the coolest member of our family.

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We’ve gone through a lot of the stages of grief and will continue to for a long time, if not forever, but there are more smiles and laughs than tears and for that I am grateful.  We are remembering the good times, the crazy antics and just trying to get used to the new norm of being a family of three.  The one that is probably taking the new family dynamics the hardest is Paterno.  Important Note:  Paterno is our epileptic, soon to be 10-year-old, golden retriever that we rescued from the Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue when he was going to be killed by his owner because he had a birth defect and one deformed paw.  Paterno is suddenly in the family spotlight and we aren’t sure if he is quite ready for that responsibility.  I will start the next thought by saying we were not neglecting Paterno in any way, he was always healthy and well fed, but for the past several months Nittany and her health have been an all-consuming part of our lives.  This allowed Paterno to sneak under the radar and a couple balls got dropped.  While going through medical records we realized he was a little late on some vaccines (not really the important ones) and he was possibly getting a little pudgy because he was (not so) secretly eating the food Nittany would leave in her bowl.  We also realized we couldn’t exactly put our finger on the last time he was groomed.  So, as the spotlight shifted we began “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever.”  Paterno was groomed within the week and vet appointments set to get him update-to-date on vaccines and get a good overall physical from the vet.  The last piece of “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever” was to work on his physical stamina.  Paterno is not the most athletic dog in the world (having three good paws on one mediocre paw keeps expectations low) but we decided that some sort of regular physical exercise would do him good.  So daily walks commenced.  For the last week and a half the family has set out on family walks every night (except Sunday because, you know, that’s the day of rest).  Each day we have lengthened the walk and we are proud to announce we might be up to a half a mile.  Paterno is actually much more excited about the walks than the first couple days and his stamina is improving daily.  We do have a small issue with his bad paw bleeding from where he rubs it on the cement, but we are working on it.  All in all I feel like “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever” is progressing very smoothly.

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As Paterno has transitioned to the top dog in the house we have noticed some peculiar characteristics that we may not have fully embraced in the past.  It did not take us long to realize that Paterno is not your average dog and, in fact, there are times when we question if he is actually a dog.   Apparently his dog like characteristics were just him mimicking everything that Nittany was doing and in reality we had never taught him how to be a real dog.  I suppose this is very similar to what happens to parents and their second child.  You spend all your time and effort on your first child making sure everything is perfect and by the time you get to the second one you are just too tired to really care and you just figure it will all turn out okay.  Paterno has never been a barker, in the past his barking was always instigated by Nittany.  In the past week and a half he hasn’t made a single sound.  It’s like he’s a dog mime.  The silence is a little creepy and it’s taking a little time to get used to.  He does not ask to go outside or let us know when he is hungry.  If he needs either of these things he just silently lays in the kitchen until one of us passes through and guesses what he wants.  He does not greet you when you come home or really acknowledge your existence at all.  His complete lack of interest in interacting with us actually had us Googling the symptoms of autism in dogs (on a positive note we think we have ruled this out).  He is not excited by the arrival of delivery food and just lays quietly until the food has been paid for, we’ve had a nice conversation with the delivery man, and we get the food on to plates.  At this point he may come over to investigate further, but if he’s really comfortable where he’s laying he probably won’t.  Paterno also has no interest in other dogs.  On a recent walk we must have passed 10-15 dogs on one block and he didn’t glance at any of them.  The dogs were barking and racing up and down their yards trying to get his attention and he just moseyed by.  A guard dog Paterno is not.  Nittany did not let anyone come within a quarter mile radius of our house without her alerting us to their presence.  If someone broke in to our house Paterno would simply leave us to join their family, all Dug style from Up.

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There is a ton of adjustment going on in our family right now and I think we will all get in to the groove of the new normal but I have my doubts that Paterno will ever turn in to a real dog, and I guess that is our new norm.

My Best Friend

Lazy LabWhen I moved to Colorado my husband promised me we would get a dog.  Less than two months into our Colorado adventure we were picking up Nittany and taking her home.  Nittany has been with me through everything Colorado has thrown at me…home sickness from moving half way across the country, a husband who was a full time PhD candidate (it’s kind of like being a widow), getting married, moving a bunch of times, changing jobs too many times, and finally settling in to a great life in Denver with a job I absolutely love.  She licked up my tears when I was sad and happily participated in puppy dance party when I was excited and happy.  But, in August we will have lived in Colorado 13 years which means Nittany is 12 and closer to 13 then I would like to admit.

 

I had never had a “real” pet growing up and Nittany was my first “real” pet (although the verdict is still out if I even consider thumb_DSC_7275_1024her a pet – she is a member of the family).  Everything I’ve gone through with Nittany has been a first for me.  Having a dog spayed, rushing a dog to the emergency vet because she had eaten a stuffed animal and got really sick, rushing to the emergency vet because she got stung by a bee and her face grew four times its original size, finding out that swans chase dogs when Nittany decided to take a quick dip in City Park Lake, having to put a dog under anesthesia because she somehow chipped her front tooth and it had to be pulled out, getting a call from a stranger who had found your dog downtown Fort Collins because she ran away and was mooching food off strangers at a sidewalk café….and this was probably just the first two years of her life.

 

That brings us to today and another first…finding out your dog has cancer and having to thumb_IMG_6041_1024make the most difficult decision of your entire life so that she doesn’t have to suffer anymore.  Nittany started getting sick shortly after the New Year and after several rounds of antibiotics and steroids and nothing really helping her get better it was discussed that that most likely cause of her illness was a nasal tumor.  Before that time, I never even thought that there was an end to Nittany’s life.  I was naïve and liked to think that she would be with me forever.  But, the reality was here and Nittany wouldn’t be in our lives forever.

 

 

 

 

 

We struggled with asking ourselves when was the right time to let Nittany go from our IMG_1847lives and we even came up with a plan for Nittany’s last week with us, but the pain of knowing our time was limited was breaking our hearts and making us question our decision every minute.  I think we were both looking for a sign to know that our decision was the right one but we both agreed that Nittany had always been there for us and we needed to be there for her and make sure she isn’t in any more pain than absolutely necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

As you can tell from this rave review Nittany has already won The Best Dog in thumb_DSC_7248_1024the Entire Universe Award and today she gave us one last gift for which we will be forever grateful and will seal her title for eternity.  As we struggled with knowing if what we were doing was right or not Nittany gave us a sign and we knew it was her time to go…to go and not be in pain anymore and to finally be able to sleep a restful sleep.   Nittany went peacefully to sleep on the morning on Monday, July 18, 2016 after over 12 happy years with our family.

 

 

 

 

 

I have her paw print etched on my skin and my love for her will be etched on my heart forever.  Nittany was the best dog in the entire world and gave us more than we could ever thank her for.   IMG_3578

 

 

 

 

Month 1 Resolution – Complete!

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As I started the New Year I decided to tackle a new resolution each month.  For January my resolution was to give up social media and I believe I was pretty successfully.  I had to stay involved with social media for work so I was on social media three times a week to post regular work related posts but that is where it ended…for the most part.  I will tell you that it is hard to stay completely away from social media when your spouse is still on social media. I will admit to getting pretty regular social media updates (wanted and unwanted) from my husband.  He may claim that I made him give me updates but he is over exaggerating…I wouldn’t call him my “life line” to the outside world, but he did keep my nicely informed!

Over the past month I realized that I don’t need social media but I did feel that I was missing out on what my friends and family were doing and I missed the ease of organizing events through social media.  I would often think that I would like to post some pictures or I would think of something super witty to post (at least I thought it was super witty) but I just kept it to myself.

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The month is over and I am ready to return to social media…and post a tons of pictures from our January adventures, and it’s also time to unveil my next resolution.  For February I am asking my husband to help my with my resolution.  We eat out a lot and so in February we are going to eat at home during the week.  We are defining the “week” as Monday-Thursday.  We can still go out during the weekend because to be honest eating out is a big part of our social life.  For me this means not going out to lunch and either myself or my husband cooking during the week.  I am pretty excited and already have some good recipes picked out for the first week of February.  I am hoping this will help in getting my eating a little more under control then just picking whatever I want off a menu every night.  I have also promised by husband that I will eat whatever he picks to cook…which can be a scary idea to a picky eater!  But, I am ready for a new challenge.

Day Five…Still Alive

It is coming to the end of day five without social media and I am happy to report that I am surviving.  It hasn’t been hard to step away from social media but there are a couple of things that have been eye opening that I thought I would share.

  1.  Having a family member on social media can be irritating when you have sworn it off.  I suddenly have free time and want to chat and there’s your family member with their nose in their phone catching up on their social media accounts.  And on several occasions my dear, dear husband has been talking about me on Facebook and there is absolutely nothing I can do to defend myself.  (Although I have logged off I didn’t turn off my notifications and so while I don’t know what’s being said I do know when I am mentioned in a post…which is beyond frustrating.)
  2. I think in Facebook updates.  I have a degree in Journalism and want to consider myself somewhat of a writer but I have found myself thinking in Facebook updates instead of complete sentences.
  3. I have found new ways to get my news.  I never used to read newspapers or news websites – I just read the updates from my local news stations on Facebook.  Now, instead of laying in bed catching up on Facebook when I get up I am logging on to the Denver Post and catching up on my local news.  I start the day knowing what happened over the last night and what new issues are affecting my city.
  4. I read a book!  In less than two days I read a great book about a woman climbing Kilimanjaro.  I can’t actually remember the last time I read a book and I totally enjoyed it.  I didn’t have to stop to check my Facebook or Twitter feed and just got engulfed in the story and found inspiration in an unexpected place…the pages of a book.

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I hope you are all doing well on your New Years Resolutions!  Please feel free to share your progress on your goals in the comments…since I won’t be able to see any of your updates on Facebook until February 🙂

New Year…New You?

It’s that time of year again.  Time for New Year’s Resolutions.  It seems so cliché to write another blog post about New Year’s Resolutions.  How many times have I written this same post?  Looking at the next year and coming up with everything I want to change about myself.  This year I want to take a different approach to my New Years Resolutions.  I want to focus on things that will make my life more purposeful and fulfilling. Instead of throwing out an entire list on January 1st of what I want to accomplish during the year I am just going to focus on one month at a time and each month I am going to focus on something that I feel is most urgent in my life.   At the first of the month I am going to come up with something I want to focus on throughout the month and give an update on how the last month panned out.

 

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January 2016
Walk Away from Social Media

Each day I spend far too much time on social media.  The first thing I do when I get up and the last thing I do before I go to bed is check social media.  Throughout the day I waste countless minutes scrolling through Facebook and Twitter.  So, come January 1st all social media apps are coming off my iPhone and my iPad and I am going to spend the time I wasted on social media doing other things I claim I don’t have time for like reading or knitting.  Most importantly I am going to be more present in my relationships and in my life.

***I do have to be honest about something.  I manage social media pages for my job and so I can’t deactivate my accounts because they are connected to my work pages and while I will continue to update my professional social media pages I will not be looking at any personal pages throughout the month.  I will also be posting updates on my personal Facebook pages and Twitter updating when new blogs posts are added, but this will done through WordPress directly and not through any other social media apps. 

 So, have a Happy New Year and maybe I’ll see you on social media in February…or maybe I’ll just walk away for good…