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.

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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.

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Fostering Without Even Fostering

Sometimes you don’t even have to bring a foster dog home from the shelter to find it a home.  I love when that happens! A few days ago my friend Jodi was at the shelter helping out and posted a picture of her daughter and this adorable pup that had been there a few weeks.

 

Bailey

I couldn’t believe he had been there for weeks. Usually, dogs that look like this are snatched up in a day. But it turns out this poor boy was limping and might need to have a leg amputated.

I thought about taking him home to foster after his surgery, but with upcoming travels, wasn’t sure I could commit to his recovery from an amputation. Still, I wanted to help, and was thinking about how when a woman named Heather sends me this message on Facebook:

I know you foster for CAA and they have dog listed on the lost pets page as in foster care. I visited the shelter last week and met him but was told he was pre-adopted. I left my information for them to call in the event he wasn’t picked up but didn’t hear anything and assumed he was picked up. I should have called! Can you help me find out if he really is in foster care and still available? I would love to adopt him if he is! Thank you for any assistance you can provide!

She attached a picture of a really cute little poodle. I told her I’d look into it and quickly found out the dog had, in fact, been adopted so I wrote her back with the news. I also sent her a picture of the pup above adding that he was currently available. Something wrong with back leg and may need it amputated. He’s only 9 months old and I’ve heard he is sweet as sugar. Needs a foster or adopter…

I figured she was probably pretty focused on the one that got away and wouldn’t be interested in a dog facing a possible amputation. But she wrote back that she would love to meet him. She had just lost her dog, Beau, an older fluffy guy, three weeks earlier and said the house was too quiet. (Beau had been a rescue who came to her with a total of five teeth and had spent his last 18 months in congestive heart failure). Heather said she knew Beau would want her to give another dog a great home.

I reached out to Jodi to find out the scoop on the leg. The shelter, it turns out, was sending the dog to an outside vet for a consultation to see if the leg could be saved. (Shout out to my friend Paula who created the shelter’s Sick and Injured Animals Fund, which often makes things like this possible through donations.) Jodi wanted to foster the dog but asked me if I could take him for a few days while she was out of town. YES! I said. And even better, I think I have an adopter for him. 

I connected Jodi and Heather via Facebook group message and Jodi asked Heather if she thought she was ready for a dog who needed to heal. You can heal together, she said, but I totally understand not wanting to commit to an injured animal. Just let me know what I can do for you. 

Heather’s response: I’m ready! I can’t wait to meet him! 

Have I mentioned that one of my favorite things about helping shelter animals find homes is people like this? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?!

Heather added that after Beau, she wasn’t phased by much. I’ll do whatever is needed to make sure he’s happy and knows he’s loved.

And so this happened today:

 

heather

And the best news of all, is that the pup, who Heather has named Bailey, is going to get to keep his leg after all. She picks him up from his surgery tomorrow and will bring him home to recuperate in a soft bed among toys and frozen Kongs stuffed with peanut butter and kibbles to keep him busy while he’s on kennel rest.

That is one lucky little scruffy dog.

 

If you would like to donate to help dogs at Companion Animal Alliance, the open-intake municipal shelter in Baton Rouge where Bailey has spent the past few weeks, please visit their donation page: http://www.caabr.org/#!donate/ctzx. And thanks!

 

 

 

 

Sugarbear Rose

Sugarbear Rose

It was 2012, I don’t remember the month. I think it was around Christmas, since there are only two seasons in Louisiana: Summer and Christmas.  What I do remember was a desperate plea from shelter workers to get one of their favorites, a dog named Sugarbear, out of the shelter. She had been there for months and her time was up.

A black chow mix about 7 years old, Sugarbear had been picked up by animal control in the summer. Someone had reported a dog chained up outside an abandoned house, baking in the hot sun without food or water. Her matted hair, which hadn’t been groomed in a long time, if ever, had turned to bleached dreadlocks. Here’s what she looked like on intake:

 

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With new dogs coming into the shelter every day that hadn’t had the chance to be adopted, it wasn’t fair to give Sugarbear any more time. She was heart worm positive. She wouldn’t go potty in her kennel and was getting urinary tract infections, possibly from holding it for too long (most shelter dogs are lucky to get one walk per day, and that’s only if staff are free to do it or if volunteers come in regularly). But she was such a love; mellow and sweet. She was like a big Zen teddy bear who hung back and didn’t get off her bed when prospective adopters came to check out dogs. Everyone at the shelter wanted Sugarbear to be adopted and have a Happily Ever After. Early on, a couple of volunteers spent hours cutting mats out of her hair and giving her a bath.

I avoided fostering large female dogs at the time because I was worried my two female dogs, Stella and Luna, would pick fights. But I couldn’t let Sugarbear go down. It just feels horrible when an easy-going dog with a great personality has to be euthanized because the shelter is full.

I didn’t have a plan exactly, and I didn’t tell my husband what I was doing as I left for the shelter after seeing “Last Call” for Sugarbear in a private Facebook group for volunteers. I figured it would work out because what I learned early on is that it always does, one way or another.  When I got there, this is what I saw:

Sugarbear Rose

 

Yes, that’s a smiling Zen teddy bear. The assistant shelter director gave me a huge hug and looked like she was going to burst into tears as Sugarbear and I left. As we got out of the car in my driveway, I dreaded the thought of setting her up in our kennel in the shed, which was what became my plan on the drive home. Sugarbear was on the older side and it was on the colder side. Even though we had a safe space heater out there, I didn’t like the thought of it.

But just as I started to head down the driveway, my neighbor from across the street came over to say hello. The next thing I knew, she was going to let Sugarbear have a sleepover at her house. Two fosters and a few months later, a man named George read about Sugarbear’s heartworm status and stepped up to pay for the treatment. What a guy! He couldn’t adopt her, he said, because he had a crazy beagle named Scout who was totally out of hand and George couldn’t manage another dog. But George loved Chow Chows and that’s what Sugarbear looked like.  He wanted her to be well and adopted.

 

Sugarbear2

One weekend, what seemed like a nice family did adopt Sugarbear. But less than 24 hours later, they decided she wasn’t active enough for them and returned her to the shelter. When I told George, he was very upset. I asked him a few questions about the nature of Scout’s craziness, recommended regular exercise for the dog and a great dog trainer and did my best to sway George into giving Sugarbear a try in his home. It was clear to me that George and Sugarbear were meant to be together, and after an overnight, it was clear to George too. He named her Sugarbear Rose and called her Rosie. Sometimes he called her The Dude, a reference to the laid back stoner character in the film, “The Big Lebowski.” Sugarbear Rose had a lot of fans, but nobody loved her more than George and Scout did.

 

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Rose at George’s house.

Rose playing with George's crazy beagle, Scout.

Rose playing with George’s crazy beagle, Scout.

 

“For three years and twelve days Rosie was a miracle in my life,” George says.

Sugarbear Rose passed away on Friday, at age 10, from complications related to her years of neglect. “I’ll not expect to see her kind again, animal or person,” George says. “She was the kindest, sweetest thing I have ever encountered. Having Rose was a great privilege.”

Meeting George has been a great privilege for me too.  I’m so relieved to know there are people like him out there. Thanks for giving this beautiful being three great years, George! Because of you, she got every shelter dog’s dream.

Rose in all her glory, photographed bye Jeannie Frey Rhodes www.jeanniefreyrhodes.com

Rose in all her glory, photographed by Jeannie Frey Rhodes www.jeanniefreyrhodes.com

 

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

If you would like to help dogs at Friends of the Animals in Baton Rouge, a rescue organization that holds offsite adoption events that Rose attended and now has an amazing Dog Adoption House in Baton Rouge, please click here: http://friendsoftheanimalsbr.org/donate.html

And if you are looking for a senior dog to call your own, be sure to follow Susie’s Senior dogs on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/susiesseniordogs/

 

 

Monsieur BaRU

Much time and several wonderful foster dogs have passed through our house since my last entry. Here’s the boy who came to our house next:

Monsieur BaRU

Rex6

 

When I met this fella at the shelter, his name was Rex. I was there to see the vet with my foster Teddy and while Teddy waited his turn, I cruised the aisles of kennels. If I set my sights on the next dog, I figured, Teddy would find his perfect home sooner. (I’d had him close to four months at the time – and it worked! Or I like to pretend it did.)

The first thing I saw as I walked those dimly lit aisles was an incredible, half blue eye. I walked to the kennel door, and Mssr. BaRu tip-toed up to me and gave my fingers a little lick through the chain link. So gentle. So tender. I picked up the kennel card and read that he had been a stray caught in a trap placed by Animal Control. Just then, a staff member turned the corner and told me Mssr. BaRu had a really sweet personality but was heart worm “smear positive” and didn’t have long there. (Translation: He would be euthanized if not adopted soon).

Let me take a moment to tell you that the staff at Companion Animal Alliance is among the most compassionate of all the people I know. In fact, the person charged with making the euthanasia decisions has 10 dogs of her own and told me when she makes the dreaded weekly list she vomits. Literally.

It’s for this reason that I cannot stand it when people demonize those who work at so-called kill shelters. (Read this fabulous blog on the topic by my friend Abby Knight who works at the shelter.)

The people putting these animals in the line of fire are not those who have to “pull the trigger” so to speak, but rather those who breed dogs for pets, those who choose to buy a pet from a breeder rather than adopt from a shelter, and those who do not spay and neuter those pets, who can unintentionally get out and multiply.

If you fall into any of the above categories, I don’t mean to be a jerk by telling you that. I’m telling you in the hope that you’ll just make a different choice next time, now that you know. I have a dear old friend and a dear new friend who just adopted their first dogs from a shelter rather than buying from a breeder after reading about my experiences here. I would love to hear from them – and anyone else who has recently done the same – in the comments.

But back to Mssr. BaRu, whom I was not able to take home while Teddy was still our foster. Fast forward a few weeks, Teddy had been shipped to his new Mama in Boston, and I was at the shelter choosing my next foster. I headed to the aisle of long timers to make my choice. I had put Mssr. BaRu out of my mind, as I often do when there’s a dog there I like who doesn’t have much time and I can’t take him. But there he was!

Rex at the Friends of the Animals Dog Adoption House in Baton Rouge

Rex at the Friends of the Animals Dog Adoption House in Baton Rouge

 

I brought Mssr. BaRu home and he was as calm and wonderful as he was beautiful. When I posted his first picture on Facebook, I said, “Look: I found a Border Collie who’s not nuts!”

This is an inside joke for dog people who know that the Border Collie is a working breed. Highly intelligent, focused and intense, if there’s no work to do, a Border Collie will often make his own work. (My friend Laurie was fostering a Border Collie when her iphone went missing. She had turned the house upside down looking for it when she heard a muffled ringing sound and found the phone in her foster dog’s kennel, tucked beneath the dog bed. There wasn’t a scratch on it. The dog had just had a ball stealing, hiding, and now lying atop the phone).

Not long after, I got a private message from Nancy, a Facebook friend I had never met in real life, but who is also a writer and a friend of my cousin’s. Nancy had lost her Belgian Shepherd to cancer a year earlier, was heartbroken, and yet she was really missing having a dog. She was thinking she and her husband Frank might be ready to love again. Could I tell her more about this blue-eyed boy?

Suffice to say, that Mssr. BaRu was the perfect dog for Nancy and her husband. And while his heartworm status concerned her, she later told me that being unable to save her beloved Belgian was so rough that in a weird way adopting a dog with a disease that was curable felt like it would help her heal.

I am truly at a loss for words over the Nancys I have met in this world since I began fostering shelter dogs.

Nancy, who lives in Pittsburgh, wanted to speak with her husband and think about it for a few days. Meanwhile, I asked my Facebook friends if they would be willing to donate to the shelter’s sick and injured animals fund so I could get Mssr. Baru stated on doxycycline, which helps to weaken existing heart worms. I was so grateful to the people who did that, and leftover funds were used to help other dogs at the shelter. And then a very generous Facebook friend who is a friend of my parents’ messaged me saying she would like to pay for the costly immiticide injections that are part of the fast kill heart worm treatment for Rex. I could not believe what was coming together.

A few weeks later, Nancy bought a plane ticket and flew to Baton Rouge to adopt a dog named Rex who Frank would rename Mssr. BaRu (BaRu short for Baton Rouge). I picked up Nancy at the airport with Mssr. BaRu in the car. He sniffed her then wagged, she smiled then patted him. Their first meeting was gentle and sweet, just like both of them. A perfect match, I thought. Then we went to the shelter so Nancy could fill out the paper work and pay the adoption fee. Then we got a glamour shot of Nancy and her new boy:

 

Nancy and Rex 3

 

Nancy spent the night at our house and the next day she picked up her rental car and she and Mssr. BaRu headed home.

Rex&Nancy2 Rex&Nancy

From a heart worm riddled Louisiana stray caught in a trap by Animal Control, to a cherished pet living heart worm free in Pittsburgh in just a few months.

 

Rex at home in Pittsburgh surveying the wildlife out the window of his mom's study.

Rex at home in Pittsburgh surveying the wildlife out the window of his mom’s study.

 

How do you like that?

 

Rex in Pittsburgh looking beautiful and possibly up to something mischievous.

Rex enjoys a bone in Pittsburgh where he lives the good life.

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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Toshie

Toshie

Toshie

Today’s Guest Blogger is my friend, Lily, who works part time as a staff member at Companion Animal Alliance while attending college full time at Louisiana State University. She also has a huge heart and fosters dogs and cats for the shelter, including “bottle baby” puppies and kittens.

Here’s Lily’s story about her bottle baby puppies as well as her current foster, Bubbie (a big lug of an American Bulldog/Boxer mix who is the sweetest, goofiest thing around and also recovering from Demodex. See story on Halle Bear for more on Demodex):

Bubbie and Toshie

Bubbie and Toshie

A week ago today, four bottle baby puppies were brought in to the shelter. They were found on the side of the street by a kind soul that picked them up and called animal control. The officer that picked them up had taken them home for the night because it was so late and no one was at the shelter to care for them. He bottle fed them, dubbing one black and tan one “Hoover” due to his vacuum-like fervor for eating. Another close second in feistiness, a little black and white one, he named “Kirby.”

Working at the shelter, I have always had people ask me how I could possibly work there without taking them all home. I give them a one-word answer: foster. It is the closest thing you can do to taking them all. But I have always followed a very strict regime simply because I do not know how I could ever choose. I take the dogs that have been at the shelter the absolute longest. They are the ones that have been passed over again and again, the plain ones that typically have the best personalities. But my weakness, my only exception, is bottle babies.

When bottle babies come into the shelter, they need a foster immediately. Typically they cannot even survive the night without someone there to care for them. I usually take them for a couple of nights before we send out a desperate plea on facebook and they find their permanent fosters. This set of babies was supposed to be like any other. But each day, another puppy was lost. It was after the second puppy died that I knew I wasn’t going to let the babies go to anyone else. On Sunday I was down to my last two, formerly Hoover and Kirby. Hoover faded suddenly and quickly. My dreams of the pair growing up and getting adopted together were painfully dashed, but I know that all my puppies are in a better place now. There was no reason for their pain to last any longer than it did and their ashes are spread under a big tree at the house I recently moved into. So here is to new beginnings.

Kirby, now named Toshie, is doing wonderfully well. She sucks down her meals like a champion and is not afraid to let me know when she is hungry. Her brother, David, a 10 pound tom cat is perplexed by her presence, but will be ready to rule the house with a firm paw once she is of the age to be truly annoying. Bubbie, her foster brother, loves to watch me feed her when he is not busy playing with the other baby animals of the household. Their sibling rivalry will grow as they race to see who will get adopted first. I always knew my little Toshie was a fighter, so it made me smile to see, when googling the name, that Toshie Uematsu happens to be a famous female Japanese wrestler J.

Toshie and David

Toshie and David

Please follow her story and send those positive thoughts. I am looking forward to her growing into a real, hyperactive, destructive puppy that I will regret ever having taken home in the first place. Even though I know I will never really regret it. It is always worth it.

If you are interested in adopting Toshie or Bubbie or you would like to foster bottle babies or any dog or cat at the shelter at all, please email me at caalilyy@gmail.com

Thank you!

Cody: Husky/CataGoofball

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Cody is my weekend foster. I don’t especially have a thing for Husky’s, Shepherds or Catahoulas, all of which I think he may be. And I didn’t go to the shelter, lock eyes with him through the chain link and say, “Wow. That’s my boy,” as I have done with another dog or two (or 10). Nope.

I had just heard on Facebook that Cody was there the longest — since November when he was picked up as a stray — and that he wasn’t doing well. He was getting skinny and he had to be carried back to his kennel if someone took him out for a walk. And a whole bunch of us volunteers felt bad for him, including my friend, Sharon, who had taken him to some offsite adoption events, but couldn’t bring him home as a foster because her male dog doesn’t often tolerate other males.

CodyCrespo2

So I picked him up Friday afternoon, intending to have him only for the weekend and to keep him in my indoor/outdoor kennel, provided he wasn’t a barker. And Sharon offered to take him to another offsite adoption event for me Saturday, as I had to work. 

 When I picked him up from the shelter, he was kind of a nervous wreck. He was even afraid to get into my car, so I had to lift him in and put him in the kennel I keep in the back. I don’t like lifting strange dogs and putting them in places they don’t want to go. Call me a chicken, but I can only imagine them ripping my face off under the circumstances. I’m happy to report, Cody didn’t. In fact, he just slumped in my arms like a baby.

I got home and decided to throw my dog, Crespo, into the car too and take them both to the dog park, but I was a little concerned about how the introduction might go. Cody seemed very friendly, wrestling with a dog in the lobby of the shelter as we were leaving, but you just never know. And my dog is a huge hulk weighing in at 85lbs., so sometimes other male dogs find him intimidating and decide to go for a pre-emptive strike against him.

I kept Cody in the kennel and let Crespo sniff him through the bars. No ill will. In fact, both boys wagged tails. So I threw Crespo in the car and drove the five minutes to the dog park, where they had their introduction in the parking lot, both of them leashed and one in each hand. Yeah, maybe that was stupid. But it worked out fine with no growling or posturing.

The first five minutes at the dog park proved terrifying for Cody and I kept him leashed, just in case I needed to get to him right away. And also because I wasn’t sure if he was one of those dogs who would take off and try to elude me at all costs. The first thing he did was tuck his tail and curl his body into a big horrified question mark. But by minute six, he morphed into a racehorse/bucking bronco/kangaroo and had a ball. And when I say kangaroo, I mean, all four of his feet left the ground simultaneously more than once in a dog-on-dog mad dash. One time, Crespo stopped short and Cody wound up squarely on his back, as if they were horse and rider. Fortunately, Crespo thought that was hilarious. 

Cody reminds me a little of Napoleon Dynamite during the big dance scene...

Cody reminds me a little of Napoleon Dynamite during the big dance scene…

...or a kangaroo.

…or a kangaroo.

Trying to get in on a little tug-o-war with Crespo and his girlfriend, Dottie.

Trying to get in on a little tug-o-war with Crespo and his girlfriend, Dottie.

An hour later, Cody and Crespo piled into the car as if they were old friends. Well, that’s not really true. I still had to pick up Cody and carry him to the car. He doesn’t like cars. Even if one drives by us on the street, he’s really worried it’s going to run us all over. He’s very skittish. I guess if you spent the last four months of your life in a cage, you’d be afraid of everything too. 

Back at my house, he wasn’t thrilled to go in the backyard kennel, so again, I had to carry and deposit him in there. And he wasn’t even interested in eating a bowl of food sprinkled with frozen bits of brisket I keep in my freezer for special dog treats made of leftovers. He was really having none of my big time foster dog hospitality at first.

But when my husband went to check on him in the morning, the food bowl was empty. And our second trip to the dog park was instantly a good time for Cody.

There were five adoptions at that offsite Saturday, but Cody wasn’t one of them :{ He did have a delightful time, however, and seems just fine with all kinds of people, and even did well with cats. Sharon was planning to bring him back to the shelter for me if he wasn’t adopted, but my husband and I decided to give Cody a few more days here with us. At first, he barked on and off  in our outdoor kennel, and we can’t subject our neighbors to that. But he’s since settled down and if he continues to be quiet out there, we’ll foster him longer. Cody’s a very sweet boy. Please spread the word to help him find his Forever Home. If you’re interested in putting in an adoption application on him, please email me at reneebacher@gmail.com. It’s possible for us to ship him to the northeast on Rescue Road Trips (www.rescueroadtrips.com).

Cody10

If he goes back to the shelter, you can find him at:

Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge 

http://www.companionanimalsbr.org

2680 Progress Road | Baton Rouge, LA 70807
Phone: 225.774.7701| Fax: 225-775-6403
Shelter open: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday; closed Monday.

His impound # is #29293

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Wouldn’t you like to make this your permanent nose to kiss at home? I’ll tell you what, Cody sure would like it.