Friday, July 27, 2012

Help Them, Don't Hoard Them

The Lie You Keep Telling Yourself:
"I could never foster dogs, because I would keep them all!"

We have fostered five dogs for Project Rescue Chicago so far this year. I don't have the means to give back to my favorite rescue. I feel like I owe them millions of dollars for saving my doggie soulmate and giving him to me. Fostering dogs is something that I can do for them. It's how I can give back. We have a perfect household for showing the world that these dogs are not "damaged goods" and can, in fact, live and thrive in a home. We have a dog, two cats, a 1 ½ year old, a grandpa, and two adults living in our home. If a dog does well here, they can pretty much do well anywhere. And if we can foster dogs, I mean, come on. You can probably do it, too. Without a doubt, the sentiment I hear more than anything else is "How could you do that?! I could never foster dogs. I would keep them all!"

Tilda and resident dog Callen

Well, I think you're lying. I think you CAN do it. Here's what works for me and it may just work for you.

1. Be honest with yourself. Or lie to yourself. Whatever it takes to set yourself up for success. It's all IN YOUR MIND.

First, I tell myself, these are not my dogs. These dogs belong to someone and I need to help them find their families. I can give them somewhere to stay while their families find them. They are someone's doggie soulmate and I cannot rob them of that and stop helping the others that are waiting for my home to open up for them while they're in their transition phase. I am here to help them. Not hoard them. I know my limit and if I adopt one more dog, I will not be able to help any more. When I strike it rich, I'll consider adopting one of my fosters and donate money to Project Rescue instead of fostering. And probably foster a third dog... :)

Former foster Effie

Sometimes it's a matter of fooling yourself, as with any other thing that requires will power. I sure can't convince myself to exercise regularly (although walking the dogs does help!), but it's pretty easy to convince myself to help an animal in need simply by having a "doggie sleepover." My dog gets to have a buddy over for awhile. And that dog gets to hang out at my house until their house is ready for them. Pretty simple. It's not my dog. Gotta keep the B&B open and running efficiently. Each dog is going to be awesome and have tons of reasons to convince you that you should keep them. That's the point! They're awesome and SOMEONE should keep them. You can help find that someone! If you were waiting tables in a restaurant and the food on a plate looked really, really good and you really, really wanted it, you wouldn't just snatch it. You're the server. You take that plate to the person that the food was made for. Suck it up and do your job. ;)

2. Foster with a good rescue that knows its dogs, knows how to evaluate dogs properly, and will support you NO MATTER WHAT.

I will only foster through Project Rescue Chicago. Because they are REALLY good at dogs. Like, really, really good. They have always found us great fits, even though it's just temporary. You know how you see pictures of dogs whose "time is up soon," "please pull now," etc? Well, I'm not going to save those dogs. Not unless PRC pulls them, evaluates them, and matches them with me as a foster. Why? Because temperament testing isn't for everyone. You need massive amounts of experience with rescue and a whole lot of intuition and spot-on instincts to be a rockstar at it. Leave it to the experts. It will help ensure your fostering success. If a dog isn't transitioning well in your home, they should respond with, "No problem! We'll take the dog back and find the right fit." Also, if something comes up and you need to leave town, your rescue should have a plan for you. When my official "foster dog crate" was falling apart, PRC provided one. When money is too tight to feed an extra mouth, PRC gives me food for the foster dog. You are a foster mom/dad. You are amazing. There should be mutual appreciation and support between you, your rescue, and, of course, your foster dog!

Former foster Koorie
3. Imagine your foster dog in their perfect home with their perfect family. Or wait for the updates to come and be proud of yourself for helping that dog get there.

I LOVE UPDATES FROM THE FAMILIES! It's what keeps me going. Jubilee was our second foster dog. Each of our foster dogs averaged 1-3 weeks in our home. Except Jubilee. We had her for about 10 weeks. But it wasn't the amount of time we had her that made her a challenge to send out into the world. It was that she and Callen were like long lost siblings. They LOVED each other. And the cats...well, the cats transitioned really quickly with her. I won't call it love, because they never admit to loving anyone but themselves (unless they're hungry), but Jubilee had this absolutely perfect and gentle persistence. There wasn't going to be anyone in this house that wasn't going to like her and she was going to make sure of it. One night she slowly and carefully crawled into the papasan chair with our female cat. Jubilee was going to cuddle with that cat. She was determined. She paused, asking permission. When the cat said "no, thank you," but it wasn't "NO WAY," Jubilee moved in a little closer and popped herself right beside her, facing away, and laid her head down. Clearly, as non-threatening as it gets. The cat lay there for a bit with her head up, looking incredulously at Jubilee. Then she, too, laid her head down. Then relaxed. Then closed her eyes. Then they both slept. She was just so good with everyone. And so goofy and funny and cuddly.

Former foster Jubilee, sans her cat buddy

So. That was a tough one. And I was feeling a teeny bit of regret after she left. Ok. Maybe more than a teeny bit. It may have been a lot. BUT. Then we got an update from the family, along with a picture of Jubilee wearing a cap at her training class graduation. She's sitting there with her family and she has the biggest smile on her face. And they said, "She fit in seamlessly and perfectly, as if she had always been with us." I AM SERIOUSLY CRYING JUST TYPING THIS RIGHT NOW.

That update took away absolutely every ounce of regret I had ever felt and made my personal mission like, one bazillion times stronger. Ugh. It's just too amazing. Too perfect. I am so proud of that dog and happy for that family. And I'm proud of us for letting her go to the place she was meant to go and with the family she was meant to be with. After that update, we're pretty much invincible! (On that note, send updates on your PRC dogs! Even if I didn't foster them, I love reading them and each and every one keeps me going. Everyone loves a happy ending when it comes to rescued dogs!)

4. Fail. If it's right, it's right. Then find another way to help out.

I kind of hate the term "foster failure," even though I will continue to use it because it motivates me to succeed. However, if you can't bear the thought of your foster going to an absolutely-in-every-way-perfect-for-them family that isn't your family, then adopt them. If you don't want an update about how much their new family loves them, adopt them. Then recruit others to foster, donate time, donate money, walk dogs, hold a fundraiser, design a poster, write a blog, just do something else. There are a ton of ways to help out. I don't know how it can be failing when there're so much love involved, you know? But I will say, adopting one, versus fostering many.... But if that's what you gotta do, then do it and be proud. Don't call yourself a failure. Adopting a dog will NEVER make you a failure. If you are so attached that it is unbearable to think of giving that dog to another family, if you can't stand the idea that the dog's family may be out there and looking for your foster dog, than YOU are the family looking for that dog. You already found each other. If that's the worst thing that can happen from fostering a dog, well.... It really does't get any better than rescuing dogs, does it?

Mark, former foster Hendrix and resident Callen

Project Rescue Chicago is a truly amazing rescue. They are doing life-changing work and are a group of talented, inspiring individuals. I will continue to help in any way I can. Rescuing dogs, fostering dogs, promoting adoption, this whole dog thing is really pretty incredible. You can totally be a part of it. I believe in you. You can do it.

The infamous Svengooli, Amy (as Callen) and Callen (the original)

Amy (and Mark, Wayne, Tilda, Callen, KisseFace, & DragonWagon.... I only named Tilda and will not take responsibility for the other names, I swear! But I do love Callen's name. Thanks, PRC :) )

Disclaimer: I, Amy, sent this to Project Rescue Chicago, without prompting. Any opinions or views are mine and only mine (but if they happen to be yours, too, *fist bump*) and do not necessarily represent Project Rescue Chicago.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Meet Effie: She's breaking all the stereotypes - in a good way!

I love puppies. I love to snuggle and smoosh and play and squeeze them. And then I like to let them go home with someone else. I've always felt like they're just too much work. Puppies have crazies in them. They just have a lot to learn. And then there's the potty training. Uff. We adopted our own PRC dog, Callen, when he was around two years old. I REALLY like to skip the puppy stage.

"You thought you didn't like puppies - but that was only because you hadn't met me yet!"

And yet, I agreed to foster a puppy. And to be honest, it's not even fair. I haven't really put a lot of puppy time in, so I feel like we just don't deserve Effie. I haven't paid my puppy dues, but we won the jackpot. Effie is so perfect. She hasn't had a single accident and I don't know where she's hiding her puppy crazies, but I haven't seen them. I even tried to find them. Brought out some squeaky toys and everything. She plays, but she isn't insane. Effie is calm and fun and sweet. We love her. And she loves us, but she clearly prefers our 15-month-old human daughter, Tilda. And Tilda prefers dogs to anyone, so they've got a mutual love fest going on.

"I love my furry foster brother almost as much as my human foster sister. I even like the cats!"

Effie is living in a house with three adults, a baby, a dog and two cats. She took NO time to transition, she just goes with it. She hasn't been nervous or needed any time to adjust. She's just ready to live life as a family dog in her very own home. Whoever gets to call this pup their very own is going to be one lucky family. Effie loves to hang out with you, but she's also crate-trained. And not just your normal crate-trained. She walks right in there and will hang out even when you're not crating her. She slept in her crate last night and didn't make a peep.

Effie is incredibly smart and we've been testing her sit and recall. She catches on so fast. She's going to be someone's little rock star. And while looks aren't everything, she's just ridiculously adorable. Like, SERIOUSLY beautiful.

"I'm trying to teach my foster momma that when I sit, she gives me a treat. She keeps forgetting and takes my picture instead but I know if we keep practicing, she'll get better at her trick."

I never would have thought a puppy could be so easy. I like to think I'm a person who will read the book before judging the cover, blah, blah, blah. But I wasn't living by that and you've proven me wrong.  Thank you, Effie.

"You're welcome!"

Thanks to Effie's foster mom Amy for this sweet introduction to our beautiful Effie. For more information about Effie and how to meet and possibly adopt her, please visit our website.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meet Koorie—She's Ready to Take You to a Whole New Level

So one of the first things I said when I met Koorie was, "Seriously. Are you kidding me? I hate her."
No you don't! You loooove me!!

 You see, I'm committed to being a dog foster mom. And Koorie is the kind of dog that sets a girl up to fail. I immediately started reassuring myself that I can do this.

The very moment you meet Koorie, you know her. She is 100% sugar. She loves absolutely everything, everyone, every dog. She is all goodness. That's pretty much all that needs to be said about her. So why would I give her up? Why not adopt her?

Because there are others out there that are looking for the dog love of their life and I have to be true to my own personal mission. She is an amazing gift. I have to let someone else experience her love. But I have some hopes and dreams for this girl. While she would be great with anyone, in any situation, I'd love to see her with someone who will be as committed to her as she is to them. Have you been looking for a dog that can show you how meaningful and special that human-dog bond can be?

Maybe you're thinking about trying out a therapy dog program? This is your girl. I'd love to see Koorie get to share her love in that way. She would be a perfect candidate. Or maybe you'd like to try agility or flyball? Koorie is the kind of dog that would love to have the opportunity to do some of those really rewarding activities that show a person and a dog exactly how and why we are made to not only cohabitate, but to share our lives and hearts with each other. Koorie might be your doggie soulmate.

Truthfully, she could go to anyone, anywhere, and thrive. But maybe you or someone you know is looking for a dog like her. Maybe you want to explore all that the dog world has to offer. I guarantee that whatever love and devotion you give to her, she will give it back to you ten times over.

Oh, and did I mention she's great with dogs, cats, and our one-year-old? Yeah. She's just awful. :)

I'm also very photogenic, in case you haven't noticed.

Many thanks to Koorie's foster mom, Amy, for this wonderful profile of one of our favoriate pups. We're also very pleased to say that Koorie has been adopted and is doing well with her fantastic new family.

Are you interested in becoming a foster home for Project Rescue? If so, please reach out to us at

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Indy: A Surprise (and Well Deserved) Happy Ending!

We are a happy, two-dog family, but our story wasn’t always so great.

In February of 2011, we adopted Indy (formerly known as Raef) from PRC.

We expected to have a few accidents in the beginning, but about a week after his adoption, the accidents were getting worse. Indy didn’t just poop and pee in the house…it was as if he would paint and grout the floor with his messes. The anxiety spread to tearing down every single curtain he could reach each time we left the house. He became anxious around doorways, hallways and stairs. There were times when we would be home and we would hear him crying from another room, simply because he went in the room and was too fearful to walk through the doorway to get out.

We took advice from everyone and we tapped into dozens of resources, but nothing worked.

After three months of this, I emailed Bridgid, feeling defeated. She mentioned that Indy might have isolation anxiety and that adding another dog to the house may help the situation. That’s when we decided to foster!

We fostered two dogs. The first dog, Foster #1, was young and adorable. The first day we came home, the dogs had torn apart the Sunday paper and made a huge mess, but there was only one accident in the whole house and the curtains were all in place! This gave us hope that Indy could be happy at home. We were so happy, we even took a photo:

One week later, Foster #1 was adopted and Indy reverted to his old ways.

At this point, our vet prescribed a medication called Reconcile for isolation/separation anxiety. Within the first three days, we saw a difference so we emailed Bridgid for another dog. That’s when we got Foster #2.

Foster #2 was the perfect dog. We contacted Bridgid right away to see if we could foster-to-adopt.  Once we brought Foster #2 home, Indy had the same positive reaction. Indy loved her, we loved her, she loved us…but she did not love Indy. We thought she would grow to love Indy like we had, but unfortunately, she became aggressive towards him.
I cried the day we made the heartbreaking decision to return Foster #2 to PRC, so that she could find the right family. But due to our situation, we couldn’t leave without another dog. This is when Tessa came into our lives.

Tessa was a big girl, and she had no problem playing with Indy. She was awesome, but this time we put our guard up. We couldn’t fall in love with another dog, only to give her back again.

Things weren’t smooth at first. There was definitely an adjustment period where things weren’t so great. Bridgid explained that this is the way siblings are at times. They fight, they steal from each other but they still end up loving each other. And as the weeks went by, they did learn to love each other.

BFFs in the making!

They started to get more playful; they napped in the yard together, started having sleepovers in the same bed and even cleaned each other’s lips after meals. I started asking Joe, “Can we adopt her?” but he kept giving me a line about needing to be sure that she is our dog before we made that commitment. That didn’t stop me from asking at least once a week.

She kind of hogs the blankets, but I still love her.

On Thanksgiving Day, three months after taking Tessa into our home, I walked into the kitchen and saw a PRC adoption contract sitting on our stove, signed by Joe. I cried again that day. (I later found out that he and Bridgid had been emailing, setting up Tessa’s adoption as a surprise.)

It’s been 10 months since we adopted Indy and it has been a crazy journey of ups and downs. There were times when we wondered if we were doing the right thing. There were days when we seriously considered giving Indy back, but we knew he would do the same thing for another family, and who knows how many times someone else had given up on him. We were determined to make it work.

Although Indy’s adoption was grueling for the first few months, and things still aren’t perfect (Indy still gets stuck in rooms at times, items get eaten and we still find the occasional accident) we couldn’t imagine not having him in our lives now. He’s constantly making us laugh and taking us on new adventures. And through fostering (and medication), he is truly happy! And because we made the decision to foster, we met Tessa! She’s the sweetheart of our home, giving unconditional cuddles and kisses. But none of this would have been possible without the help of PRC. For any new adopters out there, we would strongly encourage you to reach out for help from PRC when you are feeling discouraged – they will go above and beyond to help you determine the best solution for everyone.

Thanks again, PRC!
Laura, Joe, Indy & Tessa

A big thanks to Laura and Joe for going the distance for Indy and Tessa, and for sharing their story with us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wow! We're Overwhelmed!

We've been posting about this year's Shelter Shiver fundraising event since November. First launched in January of 2011, we thought this would be a fun, unique way for us to raise funds for our rescue work. In our inaugural year, we had about 18 people who joined us on New Year's Day to brave the Chicago winter and jump in Lake Michigan to support Project Resuce and ALIVE Rescue. We had a lot of fun and we raised a few thousand dollars—we decided to make it an annual gig.

So this year we set the stakes higher. We challenged our friends and supporters to join us. We set the bar for dollars raised at $10,000—not sure if we could do it, but sure hoping! We talked up the mild weather and encouraged people to rope their friends into jumping with them.

This past Sunday morning, we were overwhelemed to have over 200 people join us as we headed down to the chilly sands of Lake Michigan! Groups and individuals; costumed, bare and bundled up; young at heart and just plain young—we even had a few furry spectators.

A special thanks to Busy Bee Productions—their team raised $2,000!

Temerpatures hovered just over 40 degrees!

None of this would be possible without the dedication of Kristen (ALIVE Resecue), Lindsay (Project Rescue Chicago) and Bridgid (Project Rescue Chicago).

Go time was 11 o'clock sharp—no exceptions!

It wasn't miserably cold, but it was certainly cold enough to ensure that no one lingered!

Afterwards, we all convened at the Old Town Ale House to commiserate, raise a glass to the weather gods in thanks for the mild temperatures, and warm up.

And here's the most amazing part: We didn't just meet our goal. Between our individuals lake jumpers, our team jumpers and some corporate matching donations, the event raised over $40,000—and $21,000 goes straight to Project Rescue! We still can't believe it!

We've always known our pups are very special pups. Yesterday's turnout and the amazing fundraising support just shows us that we also also have very special people backing us up. To those of you who helped make Shelter Shiver 2012 a raging success, we can't begin to tell you how much it means to us and how grateful we are to have your support. To those of you who weren't able to join us, consider some of the reasons we dreamed up this crazy fundraiser—and then consider joining us next year!

To view more photos, visit our Facebook photo album.