Need to Rehome Your Dog? Here’s How. (Not Judging).

This boy could have been re-homed from the comfort of his own home rather than spending stressful weeks at a shelter, but the owner didn’t know how. Photo by Cheryl Smith Dispenza.

 

Ideally our pets are a life long commitment, but I believe there’s no shame in rehoming a pet if life throws more at you than you can handle.

People get evicted, lose jobs, develop allergies, get called for active duty, go into nursing homes and even die unexpectedly (and sometimes their grieving kids are in no position to keep those pets). The sad thing is, most people have no idea how to find a new home for their pet. This is one of many reasons why so many companion animals end up in overcrowded municipal shelters.

Several times each year people call and ask me how to re-home their dog. I used to tell them to post cute pictures and a great ad on Craigslist, screen prospective adopters carefully, meet in a public place, spay or neuter the dog first and be sure to charge a rehoming fee (because free dogs can meet gory ends as bait dogs in dog fighting rings). But not everyone knows how to write a good pet bio, is comfortable collecting a rehoming fee, or is comfortable posting on Craigslist.

Last week I attended the Humane Society of the United StatesAnimal Care Expo in New Orleans and learned about an amazing online service from Adopt-a-pet.com and the Petco Foundation. This service allows individual pet owners to re-home their pets in a safe and relatively easy way (it’s the same service to which only animal shelters and rescues previously had access). Not only that, the service collects a rehoming fee and donates it to the rehomer’s local animal shelter.

Companion Animal Alliance, the municipal shelter where I volunteer in Baton Rouge, took in 56 dogs in three weeks recently, so the need for this is enormous. Here’s the link: https://rehome.adoptapet.com/how-it-works. I hope you’ll share it on social media.

People in animal rescue have been known to get compassion fatigue, burned out by the sheer number of crappy, heartless people out there dumping pets for what seems like no good reason at shelters and by the side of the road. Sure, there are crappy, heartless people. But I have also fostered a rat terrier brought to the shelter because his family, sobbing as they let him go, had lost their home and was on their way to a shelter themselves. I fostered a shepherd mix whose owner got a job working on an offshore oil rig and would have to be gone for days at a time with nobody home . And I fostered a Pomeranian whose owner died. Her husband couldn’t care for the dog, so he dropped him off at the shelter where the dog had a total meltdown. Freaked out in his kennel and and snapping at virtually everyone, the foster coordinator was going to have to euthanize him but first called and asked if I would take him home to see if he would be different outside of the shelter. Fortunately, the dog took a shine to me in her office. A few hours into his stay at our house, he took a shine to everyone. Wouldn’t it have been great if the husband hadn’t had to put him through the stress of being at a shelter at all? Maybe if he’d known about this, he would have made a better choice.  Here’s the link again: https://rehome.adoptapet.com/how-it-works

Thanks for loving all the critters out there, like I do.

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She’ll Take the Old One

She’ll Take the Old One

 

Allie & Pops

Allie & Pop

Long before there was the wildly popular Susie’s Seniors Facebook page, in Baton Rouge Louisiana there was elderly dog advocate, Allie Kummerfeldt.

Five years ago, I met Allie on Facebook when she was a music student at Louisiana State University and we had both begun pulling dogs from the euthanasia list at Companion Animal Alliance. Despite our quarter century age difference, Allie and I became fast friends and dog rescue buddies. It touched me when Allie pulled Sugar, an ancient, white-faced chocolate Lab with a nasty skin condition. How on earth was Allie going to find a home for this dog? In short order, she did it and then quickly became obsessed with fostering labs, huge dogs and old dogs. Her favorite of all: huge old dogs.

Today, Allie is an elementary school music teacher, a teaching artist and a professional oboist. She is married to Ken, a computer programmer, teaching artist and professional trumpet player who shares her obsession with fostering huge old dogs. Together, they have fostered more than 100 dogs, many of them geriatric.

Recently, I spoke with Allie about the old dog thing:

Why old dogs, Allie? 

Hippo

Hippo

There is something extra special about an old dog. Maybe it is in the cloudy eyes or the grey muzzle. I see these dogs as I see senior citizen humans. They have so much to teach us but just a short amount of time left to do it. The senior humans I know are often smart, opinionated, caring, loving, stubborn, and respectful. Interestingly, the senior dogs we have fostered also shared these qualities. The other good thing about seniors is that almost every senior dog we bring home is already housebroken, crate trained, and used to being in a home environment. I choose to foster old dogs because I can’t stand the thought that a dog that has learned so much about the world and has lived a long previous life may end up spending its last days at a shelter.

Tell me about Sugar, the old lab you pulled from the e-list at CAA.

seniordogs15_sugar

Sugar, 7ish

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Sugar

When I saw Sugar’s intake picture it was just heart breaking. You could tell she had been a gorgeous dog but it had obviously been a while since she’d had some TLC. Sweet Sugar had no hair on her chocolate booty due to an untreated flea her coat was dingy and greasy and her grey muzzle gave away her age. My family always had labs, so seeing her so sad just broke my heart. It was also my second foster dog ever, and I was super surprised that there was a purebred chocolate lab at the shelter. I would later learn that this is very common. I decided to pick her up the same day, just hoping that the age issue wouldn’t be a big deal. I reached out to a local lab rescue (Labs4Rescue) and they offered to let me foster her through them so that they could spread her through their network and give her the best chance of finding a home.

Turns out it was not a big deal at all that she was already 7ish. I was convinced it would take a long time to find this aged pup a home, but after about 3 weeks of being in Labs4Rescue’s system, a wonderful lady in New York saw her picture and description and decided she had to have her.

The rescue transported her up north and she has been living happily in NY ever since. The most recent update I got was about two years ago, when the woman she told me Sugar had helped her through the death of her husband, and that she sleeps with her every single night.

Why would anyone want to adopt a dog they might only get to have for a few months or years?

Annie didn't make it, but she spent her last days cherished.

Annie came to Allie and Ken emaciated and full of heart worms. Despite their best efforts, Annie didn’t make it, but she spent her last days comfortable, comforted and cherished.

I ask myself this often. The best answer I can think of is that I believe everything has a purpose in life. Every person has a job to do, or something to achieve while they are on this earth. I believe dogs are the same way. A few of the old dogs we fostered passed away while they were with us and I think each of them taught us something in that time. It might have been a lesson on compassion, humility, love, or even just an understanding of our world through the eyes of another. A person may need a dog for even just a short time in order to teach them something.

Tell me about the people who are willing to adopt an old dog.

Old Girl

Old Girl

These people are amazing. They are all kind. It’s like they have some secret kindness oath that must be taken prior to adopting a senior dog. These folks know full well that the dog they are adopting has already lived the majority of its life with someone else, yet they have a heart so big that they welcome this animal and give them the best forever ending possible. It is magical.

What’s your secret to getting an old dog adopted? Is it different from getting any foster dog adopted or the same? Do you say a special prayer or something?

 

Cindy Loo Who

Cindy Loo Who, 15

Cindy Loo Who, 15

Wait, you don’t know about the old dog rain dance? It starts with two twirls, then “Oy, my back!” and finishes with a glass of wine. Just kidding. There is no magic wand for get the seniors adopted. The best secret we have found has been getting killer pictures. Old dogs tell you their lives in their eyes and face, and capturing that on camera goes a long way to helping them get a home.

Do you ever worry you’re going to “get stuck” with the dog because no one will want it? 

seniordogs5_bettywhite

If we take a senior dog, no one will ever be “stuck” with it, including us. Having a senior dog is an honor. For a couple of our dogs, we have been the last stop on their journey. I am not a crier, but I will always lose it when one of our seniors doesn’t make it. We assume when taking a senior, that they are with us until they find a new home, or until the end.

Tell me about your Pack. 

Mazal and Maggie Doo

Mazal (back) and Maggie Doo, Allie and Ken’s dogs.

Our pack includes Basset mix Mazal, 6, Great Dane Maggie Doo, 7, and Moo (aka: Cat), 8. Cat is

the world’s sweetest, dumbest cat, and he loves our new foster dogs. He greets them when they come home with us and likes to rub himself all over them. Mazal is the resident greeter, and the best dog for helping them adjust to our home. She shows everyone around and helps them gain confidence. Maggie Doo shows our fosters the best places to sleep and the best toys. As a whole, our pack really likes the old dog fosters because our pack is older. They all do a lot of sleeping and the roughhousing is kept at a low level. Overall our house stays pretty quiet and content with senior fosters in it.

Moo, aka "Cat"

Moo, aka “Cat”

moo3

How many dogs over the age of 8 have you pulled and placed? 

Bentley

Bentley

I totally lost count. I would say though that I consider a senior dog any dog over age 6, as lots of breeds, like Great Danes have an average lifespan of 8. We have definitely had over 30 elderly dogs in the last five years and they have been all kinds of breeds though my husband and I have a soft spot for large breeds like labs and danes. In addition to placing many of them locally in Louisiana, we have also found them homes in other states including Mississippi, Alabama Georgia, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Washington D.C.

Tell my readers about Sierra, the elderly Great Dane you kept for a family who became homeless after the Louisiana floods last summer. 

seniordogs14_sierra-flood-dog

Sierra

We took Sierra after seeing her picture on your Facebook Page. She was being held at Lamar Dixon after the flood, and was in a ridiculously hot horse stall with three other danes. She was 11 and struggling in the heat. After you sent me the little paper with the contact info, I called the owners and asked if we could help. Turns out Sierra belonged to a woman with four danes and her house flooded, and her mom’s house flooded, and they were all staying with her brother at his house. Between all of the family dogs, they had nowhere for Sierra to go. We had another senior great dane foster at the time, but after seeing how this dog was struggling in 100 degree heat, we had to help. The owners agreed to let us take Sierra until they could get settled. They were such nice people, and they just needed a hand. We kept Sierra for about 6 weeks, and then were able to reunite her with her family. Through the community and help from my mom in Georgia and her clients, we were also able to send the family home with several big bags of dog food, and gift cards to pet stores and home improvement stores.

Ken, Maggie, Sierra and Bentley.

Ken, Maggie, Sierra and Bentley.

Who was your most challenging old dog? 

Cindy Loo Who (OBSESSED) in her new home.

Cindy Loo Who in her new home.

We haven’t had a lot of issues with any of our senior dogs. They are so easygoing! Our most recent foster, Cindy Loo Who, 15, was probably the most challenging because she had bladder control problems, which we thought was going to make her unadoptable. Let’s face it, nobody wants a Pee Pee McGhee in their house. Fortunately, we found out this can be fixed most of the time with medicine the dog will take for the rest of its life and it worked right away on Cindy. She now lives in New Orleans, right next to Audubon Park with her new owners. The absolutely adore her. Bentley, one of our senior great danes was also a bit of a challenge with his intense fear of walking on hard flooring. We had to put rugs all over our house because he was terrified to take a step inside. A very lovely family with a home filled with large area rugs in Lafayette, La adopted him.

Bentley says, "Be very afraid of wood floors."

Bentley says, “Be very afraid of wood floors and always keep your hind legs on the dog bed.”

If you were allowed to say you had a favorite old dog, which one would it be? 

Cindy Loo Who, the former Pee Pee McGhee.  Cindy had been found wandering her neighborhood multiple times. At the shelter, they tracked down her owner and the owner said he didn’t want her back. I couldn’t believe how anyone could do that to an old dog! Still don’t get it. We took her home and she owned the place right away; found her bed, and snuggled hardcore with everyone and everything. She has so much spirit left in her for being her age, and we were so happy to have her.

Why do you do this? 

seniordogs6_cain

Because dogs do not have opposable thumbs – haha — and we want to help those who cannot help themselves. There’s a Jewish concept called Tikkun Olam; acts of loving kindness to help repair the world. Everyone should perform Tikkun Olam in their own way. We do it by helping homeless dogs and bringing them together with the people who need them.

Any advice for people out there thinking of adopting an old dog? 

seniordogs2

Do it, do it do it! The love from an old dog is so special. They need the love just as much as you do. Don’t pity an old dog, just adopt one.

Any advice for people out there thinking of fostering an old dog?

Big Red.

Big Red.

In my opinion, fostering old dogs is way more fun than fostering young dogs. It basically takes the stress out of fostering. Almost always, these dogs are housebroken, crate trained, and well mannered. That is fostering gold. You never have to worry about things getting torn up, or your dogs getting too excited. Plus the level of love these dogs give is so much deeper than that of a young dog. I highly recommend it!

Anything else you would like me to know?

Ken, Maggie and Parker

Ken, Maggie and Parker

Yes, I cannot do this without my husband, Ken. I used to do it by myself, and that was dandy. But having Ken’s help and support makes this doable today. He is just as involved in the whole foster process as I am, and is so supportive. I have been known to text him a picture of a dog, say, “I am on my way home!” and he always just rolls with it. He feeds and cares for our fosters as if they were our own dogs, and he shows so much care and compassion for the animals I bring home.

seniordogs12_lori

Companion Animal Alliance is building a new, state-of-the-art animal shelter in Baton Rouge on the campus of Louisiana State University near the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.  If you would like to make a contribution to help homeless animals in Baton Rouge enjoy a better life while waiting for their forever homes, please visit my fundraising page : Help CAA Build a State of the Art Animal Shelter. Even the smallest donation helps. Many thanks.

Only Connect

“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer.”

E.M. Forester

 

If you were my student when I was teaching Freshman Comp many years ago, I might have asked you to journal on this. Now I’ll just hurl my interpretation of it at you and then get to a great little rescue story that just happened.

Why are we here? Human love. (And dog love. Cat love. Love, love, love!)

What should we connect? The prose and the passion. (Work and passion! Living and passion! Whatever: Just live in your freaking passion.)

Why shouldn’t we live in fragments? Because our work, our passion and our love may miss the opportunity to be exalted.

So how should we work? Together.

Thanks for indulging me.

Very often, people who work in animal rescue do so because they love animals, but they’re really not crazy about people and sometimes they’re bad at working together. Having good people skills, however, means you will inevitably be able to place more animals in loving homes. First, the public doesn’t want to  deal with cranky animal rescuers who make them feel bad about themselves. Second, when people who work with shelter animals get along well with each other, they are able to network animals into many more wonderful, loving homes than they might otherwise.

Meet my friend, Jodi (she’s the one on the right, I’m on the left):

JodiGolden

Jodi and I are both Crazy Dog Ladies, Yankees in Louisiana and moms with three kids. We do not share hair type. We do not share politics. We have sparred on Facebook in the past about Big Issues. But we also crack each other up and we have a deep appreciation for each other’s good heart.  Jodi and I have each other’s backs —  not  including the time she almost cut off my finger at the shelter while showing me how to groom a matted Shih Tzu while we sparred about the upcoming Presidential election. We both actually think this is really funny, so we share a twisted sense of humor too.

So when Teddy arrived in Boston a couple of weeks ago and his adopter’s sister fell in love with him and said, “I want a dog like Teddy too!” All I had to do was look at Jodi’s Facebook page to see that she was fostering this guy, Rasta, who  had come into the shelter a dreadlocky mess with a terrible cold. The shelter vets fixed him up with meds, the assistant shelter director, Paula Shaw, did a beautiful job on him with the clippers, and he came out like this:

Rasta2

 

I asked Jodi what his temperament was like and she said calm, sweet and snuggly.

Sounded like Teddy.

Looked enough like Teddy too. Am I right?

Rasta3TeddyEnRouge

I messaged Teddy’s mom, Claire, and shared his info with her. She shared it with her sister. We were honest that Rasta is not yet house trained, but that being recently neutered would help. As would a magical contraption called a “belly band.” Like Claire, her sister is amazing and this was a non-issue for her.

She adopted Rasta by phone. She booked him a trip on the Rescue Road Trips bus. Jodi is going out of town this week and needed  help, so Rasta is here at my house for the next 48 hours, and then he’s on his way to New England to be a Yankee who loves Louisiana. Like me. Like Jodi. Screw the fragments. Only connect.

 

If you would like to donate to help dogs at Companion Animal Alliance, the open-intake municipal shelter in Baton Rouge where Teddy and Rasta once lived, please click here: http://www.caabr.org/#!donate/ctzx 

And thank you! 

I Wish I Could Foster, But My Dog Would Be Jealous

Anyone see a photo- bomber trying to disguise himself using the wrong camouflage against my pajama bottoms?

Anyone see a camouflaged photo-bomber waiting his turn for snuggles?

When you foster dogs and bring them to adoption events, there are a few things you hear constantly from those who stop by to visit. One is, “If I could take them all, I would.” (Yes, so would we. But we don’t want to get arrested, so instead we do this.)

Another is, “I wish I could foster, but my dog would be jealous.”

Let’s address the latter, because sometimes it’s a legitimate concern. But oftentimes, it’s not. I mean, no dog ever died from being jealous provided he has a strong pack leader in the house.

I’ll start by saying that my dogs were absolutely jealous of foster dogs at first too. Three years ago when we brought home our first Companion Animal Alliance foster, Rosie, we kept her in the backyard and never even let her sniff our two female dogs unless it was through a glass door. Rosie was definitely a dominant dog — I could tell by her growling at my girls through that glass door — and both of my dogs would have fought back if she started something. Fortunately, Rosie was quiet and very easy going in our backyard and there was shelter out there for her and the weather wasn’t cold. When my husband took Stella and Luna out for a walk, I brought Rosie inside and carried her up the steep steps to my office where she spent a few hours a day with me while I worked. When my husband took our dogs outside again later, I brought Rosie back outside to our fenced yard. In two short weeks, Rosie was adopted by this lovely woman:

Rosie, our first foster for Companion Animal Alliance, with the beautiful woman who adopted her two weeks after we pulled her from the euthanasia list at the shelter.

Rosie, our first foster for Companion Animal Alliance, with the beautiful woman who adopted her two weeks after we pulled her from the euthanasia list at the shelter.

It wasn’t the ideal foster dog situation, but it all worked out. And Rosie has been living a great life for more than three years now.

As I trotted another 30 or so foster dogs through the house, I realized I needed to hone in on some criteria for who we would foster. This way they wouldn’t all have to stay in the backyard and could be integrated into our home, which makes it possible for me to tell a potential adopter whether a dog is house trained. And that’s a big deal for many adopters.

Unless you have a dangerous, dog-aggressive dog, chances are your dog will do just fine with foster dogs in the house. You just need to establish your criteria for which types of dogs you might foster most easily. Our criteria includes the following:

  • A submissive dog
  • A dog who will be mostly quiet if left outside
  • A dog who can’t or won’t climb our fence
  • A dog who is calm and happy in a crate
  • A dog who is ideally more than two years old and won’t run laps around our house and tempt our dogs to join in that fun.
  • Absolutely no puppies. A lot of people LOVE fostering puppies. We, however, are too cranky and we value our sleep too much.

We will take dogs who are injured or sick, depending on the illness or injury. We will take shy dogs, because our confident dogs often bring a shy dog out of her shell, and shy dogs are usually really low maintenance. We will take pit bulls, because our dogs have never met a pit bull they didn’t like, nor have I. (I won’t take a male Rottweiler because for some reason Crespo wants to pick a fight with every big male Rottie he meets).  We will take 100 pound dogs. We will take dogs that we personally think are ugly (and I’ll never, ever tell which) because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Plus, a dog who unveils a beautiful personality very quickly becomes a movie star in our eyes.

We introduce the dogs through a variety of methods. Sometimes I put them in the backyard kennel and bring our dogs down to investigate:

Crespo, Luna, Stella and Kahlua (an overnight foster).

Crespo, Luna, Stella and Kahlua (an overnight foster)

Sometimes I’ll come home from the shelter with a new foster and have my husband meet me out on the street with our dogs leashed. We immediately go for a walk around the block together because dogs hunt in packs and going on a walk together is a dog bonding experience. If there is growling, we correct with a yank on the collar and pick up the pace. After about a half a block, we let them sniff, nose to butt, which seems to be less of an affront than nose-to-nose.

Crespo and Big Bear.

Crespo and Bear, a 100 lb. Lab. I was reluctant to take Bear home to foster because Crespo can be reactive to very large male dogs. But my friends at the shelter assured me that Bear was very, very chill. And he was. 

Usually it all works out just fine. Once Bear was back at our house, however, he began to shove my other dogs out of the way to get loved on first. But when Crespo reacted by going after him and pinning Bear to the ground, Bear was so easy-going about it I was able to pull Crespo off, correct him and put him in time out. (He has never bitten any dog, but he will make a big show of his machisimo at times). In fact, it improved my dog’s behavior overall, and I have Bear to thank for that! They got along swimmingly after I made it clear who was the boss: Me.

Crespo and Big Bear

Crespo and Bear

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Crespo and Bear

Crespo (again with the camouflage) and Kahlua, wet, stinky and on the way home from the dog park in my car.

Crespo (again with the camouflage) and Kahlua, wet, stinky and on the way home from the dog park in my car.

Sometimes, Luna’s not the most gracious hostess.

Luna telling Big Bear who was boss. Luna weighs 30 lbs. Big Bear weighed 100 lbs at the time. Fortunately, he agreed with Luna about who was boss and he didn't bother her.

Luna telling Big Bear who was boss. Luna weighs 30 lbs. Big Bear weighed 100 lbs at the time. Fortunately, he agreed with Luna about who was boss. With one tap on the butt and a look in the eye, I set Luna straight on who the real boss is though. 

Yogi giving Luna a little kiss. They got into it over a very delicious bone that she tried to take away from him once. I had put him outside with it and Ed unknowingly let her out to pee. Bam! Fortunately, Ed was there to save her life when she tried to rip it from his jaws. To be on the safe side, don't leave your fosters and your dogs alone unsupervised. And especially not with yummy treats.

Yogi giving Luna a little kiss. Once time, they got into it over a very delicious bone that she tried to take away from him. (I had put him outside with it and Ed unknowingly let her out to pee. Fortunately, Ed was right there to break it up when she tried to yank the bone away from him and he went back at her). To be on the safe side, don’t leave your fosters and your dogs alone unsupervised, especially not at feeding or treat time. We make every dog in the house sit, stay, and wait their turn before they get a treat. And we feed them in closed crates so we don’t have to supervise, which makes them associate that space with food and like it better than they might otherwise.

Luna, Crespo and Yogi

Luna, Crespo and Yogi

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Luna and Ty (formerly Tiger)

Luna and Bebop

Luna and Bebop

Crespo and Ty (formerly Tiger)

Crespo and Ty (formerly Tiger)

Crespo, Mattie and Noodle

Crespo, Mattie and Noodle

We do try to take breaks between foster dogs, and to give our own dogs a lot of individual love and attention too.

Yes, we've had a lot of fosters around lately, Luna. Sure, you can try to slip me the tongue (but I've got these lips locked).

Yes, we’ve had a lot of fosters around lately, Luna. Sure, you can try to slip me the tongue (but I’ve got these lips locked).

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Hold still, gorgeous boy. I need a selfie with you.

I could hug you all day long too, Crespo.

I could hug you all day long too, Crespo.

Crespo, Luna and Teddy

Crespo, Luna and Teddy

Ultimately, working foster dogs into our pack has made them less jealous not more. It has also improved their training, socialization skills and it reminds them of their roots every time I have to refresh their memories and say that they were once foster dogs too.

DISCLAIMER: THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL DOG TRAINING CONSULTATION OR MEDICAL ADVICE ABOUT THE PETS YOU BRING INTO YOUR HOME.

Diego

I haven’t posted in a while, and apologize for that. I have two very happy stories to tell about my fosters Knightly (now Yogi) and Tiger (now Ty), who are living happily ever after in their forever homes. But before I tell you those stories (and I’ll have to do that another day), I have to tell you about Diego, my friend, John’s foster, and ask you to spread the word. John has a dog of his own, with whom Diego gets along very well, but John and his wife have their adult daughters coming to stay with them soon, each with a dog of her own (and one with a newborn human baby) and John cannot continue to foster Diego much longer. It will break his heart to have to bring Diego back to the shelter.

Here’s John, with Diego’s Story (please share this link on social media):

Diego was brought to our open-intake shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in June, last year. He was about 9 months old, dirty and kind of skinny. He had some scratches and we worried he might have been used as a “bait” dog. He had a great spirit, but he also was a big, mostly black dog that had the look of some pit bull. Things got even worse…he was put on the list to be euthanized.

We thought we found his savior; someone adopted him and he went off to a new life. A couple of months later Animal Control brought him back. It seems his savior had Diego and 40 or so other dogs. They were confiscated and Diego found himself back in the shelter.

I recognized him. I had taken some of his original pictures and I knew how much he wanted a home. I had another foster, but I kept my eye on him. He had gotten huge since we last saw him, then about 70 pounds. He also had developed some fatty tumors and was placed in a kennel where he could not be easily noticed. I went home several nights telling my wife about this poor guy who couldn’t get a break. She saw it was upsetting to me and agreed that we could at least get his tumors removed.

We arranged to have his surgery scheduled. Then we worried about him being at the shelter while he healed and decided we would also foster him, just for a little while, just till his wounds healed. When he came home from a local vet, it didn’t take long before he melted into our lives. You see Diego doesn’t want much. He wants food (and plenty of it), something to chew on, and to be on the couch snuggled up against you. He likes to play in the yard with our other dogs, chasing lizards and birds. But he tires of that quickly and just wants to be inside with you.

Diego went to off-sites adoption events every weekend for the next few months. We despaired of finding him a home until some simple folk from across the river saw him and adopted him. I expected he would have a good life with them. It was not the best situation for which I could have asked, but I thought it was good enough.

A couple of months went by and we had moved through a couple other fosters. Then I was “friended” by his owner. I thought about Diego and was glad that I might get an update on him. Sadly, the update I got was not what I expected. They said they had become worried about him. He was acting aggressive towards some workmen in the yard and they were going to bring him to their kill-shelter if I didn’t come for him. I had a number of suggestions but they weren’t interested. So, I took a drive to their house and found out what the problem was. Diego was being kept on a chain in the yard. It was winter, cold, and wet. There had been a fence, but rather than repair it after some damage, it was removed. I’m sure that Diego was just protecting his family, but like a lot of dogs, he gets snarly when not properly introduced to newcomers.

The man of the house tried to caution me not to walk up to Diego, but he knew me and strained at his chain to jump up and lick my face. I put him on a leash, walked to my car, and we never looked back.

Diego got out of the car, went around to the dog door not waiting for me, and went looking for my wife. He found her in the kitchen and gave her a huge hug (“Mom, I’m home”). It was like he never left. He was still house-trained. With a few reminders, he remembered his basic commands to sit, get in his kennel, etc. We were so excited to have him back, we forgot a few things, such as that he still wasn’t much older than a puppy. We trusted him in the house when we went to work but we probably should have been more cautious since he had been gone a while. We paid for that when we came home from work to find he had eaten our sofa cushions. Live and learn, right?

Minor adjustments were in order. Number one was that he had to spend the day in his kennel when we went to work. Number two, we had to keep more appropriate chew-things around the house. That was an expensive lessen, but it did not diminish how we felt about him. He was a good boy, we loved him, and he still needed a forever home.

It was back to weekends at off-sites, posting pictures, and placing ads. We were still determined to find the right home for him. He did get a little interest, but I couldn’t see letting him go to live in an apartment or house without a yard after what he had been through before.

The Friends of the Animals Dog Adoption House opened and we were optimistic. My wife and I started bringing him every morning. It was a little out of the way, but we wanted him to find a good home and thought this new venue would be the ticket. Day in and day out, Diego went to the house. Other dogs came and went, but not Diego. One day I got a call that someone was coming back to look at Diego a second time. I left work early, got to the house with plenty of time, and perched Diego and myself on the couch and waited. But, she was already there. She was looking at another dog. She didn’t even say hi to Diego. Was he upset? Not Diego, he was lying with me on a couch. What could be wrong with that? I was the one who was devastated. My boy had been passed over…again.

The months have gone by and we’ve gotten used to the fact that Diego is not for everyone. He’s big and meaty. He’s black and white. He’s not pure bred. He’s got heart-worms. He’s protective. But he’ll climb into your lap when you both know there’s no room. Or he’ll sneak into bed and lay with his head on your shoulder while you listen to him breathing softly, in and out. He gets so very excited at mealtimes, like it’s his birthday again and again. And so very hot and tired when he’s been playing in the sun too long.

Diego has to find a forever home and we need everyone’s help. Please repost, copy, and share this as much as you can. If you want to adopt Diego, please email: jnosacka@gmail.com

Thanks!

p.s. Diego is enrolled in a six week obedience class at “Fleur de Lead” dog training in Baton Rouge. He comes with a lifetime of free dog training in Fleur de Lead’s classes for whomever adopts this big, beautiful fella. Also, he is spectacular with little kids and small to medium sized dogs. He also gets along with large dogs, but needs a proper introduction, which John can tell anyone who is interested about.

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Thanks, ASPCA!

 

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Thanks to a generous $4,000 grant from the ASPCA, Friends of the Animals in Baton Rouge (FOTA) has been able to spay/neuter 50 dogs at the shelter. Thanks to FOTA volunteers, these dogs have been placed in loving foster homes where they are safe and secure until adopted.  FOTA has $643 left, but it must be spent by November 1 or we lose it. And we need more foster families to make that happen so we can help save another 6-12 dogs with the ASPCA grant. Won’t you please consider fostering a dog for FOTA? They make it so easy, especially with their beautiful, new dog adoption house on Highland Road near Staring Lane. Here, you can drop off your foster dog on your way to work in the morning and pick it up by six if it’s not adopted. And if it IS adopted, well isn’t that nice? What do you say? FOTA can find the perfect foster dog to fit in your home, whether it’s a chihuahua, a pit bull, a great dane, or maybe even a hilarious mixture of all of the above. Please email Paula Schoen at pbschoen18@gmail.com for more information. And thanks!

Oh, p.s. See that cutie on the bottom right? That’s right, it’s my foster boy, Knightly (now named Yogi) who was adopted last month and is living a wonderful life in a wonderful home with a mom and a dad and two little girls who adore him, as well as a lovely chocolate lab for an older dog brother.