Happy Endings

At ARLP, we know it takes a village to not only match the right dog with the right forever home, but to provide ample support after the adoption takes place to ensure that each 'match made in heaven' lasts a lifetime. The hard work of our volunteers that goes into our adoption process is SO worth it when we receive emails like this one from Tom and Kerry:

Dear ARLP,

Today is the 1-year anniversary of us adopting Lucy from ARLP (her gotcha-versary?). We wanted to send a thank you for matching us with such a great dog. Rachel, who generously spent time with us to determine if another available dog was the right fit and, months later, responded that they'd heard about a dog that might be The One (she was the one!).

Lucy gotcha day

Susan and Amy, who took Lucy in as your first foster, gave lots of loving and care for her crooked hips, and still managed to let her go. And have continued to share the occasional play date with their own dog, Beau.

Laural, who coordinated us meeting Lucy, offered expertise and reassurance, and who we look forward to seeing on Pack Walks.

Lucy3

Jen, who provided tons of guidance through multiple Rott n' Pit Ed classes, not to mention visits to our house to help us work with Lucy's challenges at home.

We are such better dog owners, breed ambassadors, and advocates for ARLP because of each of you.

Thank you! Keep being awesome:)

Tom and Kerry

Lucy2

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It wasn’t ever my intention to keep him. Really, it wasn’t. If you go all the way back to the beginning, he was going to come to my house for just a week or two. Because he had had such a traumatic past I said that I would take him for the short term, ‘to feel him out and decide whether we want to place him with a foster (and who that foster would be) or do a compassion hold.’ Some dogs can recover from being starved, beaten, and neglected. And some can’t.

Squish

I stretched those one or two weeks to a month. Once we made the month, I negotiated with Brian that since we’ve had him for a month, why can’t we just keep him until he’s adopted? For some reason he agreed with me. This was a major thing as in his heart of hearts Brian really only wants one dog. It says a lot about this little white dog, he was special right from the beginning.

When I foster, and subsequently adopt out my fosters, my standard is that I want my foster dog to go to a better home and a better life than I could give them with me. No, that’s not some sort of impossible standard where by default I get to keep all of the dogs. I know my limitations, I know the limitations of the dogs who already occupy my home.

The little white dog received a lot of adoption applications. There were even a handful of good applications. There were people who could have easily loved him and given him a good life. We did a few meet and greets with these people. And as we moved forward, I kept coming back to the raw fact that no one out there could love him like I did. The simple reason being that no one knew him like I did. The world may see an outgoing, bouncy white dog that occasionally shies away or startles at loud noises, but for the most part he recovers quickly so it’s hard to see that he’s not ‘normal.’

What no adopter could ever see was:

  • The little white dog that had to be carried into my home because he was too afraid to walk in on his own. The little white dog who sat on the floor next to the three of us that afternoon as we talked about him, dog rescue, and life in general. And when he had an accident, Brian went to get the paper towels and the floor cleaner. Upon using the last paper towel, the little white dog was handed the cardboard roll to shred. The little white dog took off at a mad scamper across the room to crouch in fear of being hit by said cardboard roll. Humans were not to be trusted and sticklike objects were items that humans used to hit the little white dog.
  • The night about 3 weeks in, when we took him upstairs to our bedroom to sleep in the bed with us. If you’d seen him that night, you’d have thought that he had morphed back into the terrified little white dog that he was the day he came to us. Any progress that he had made over the last few weeks vanished. He froze at the top of the steps. The ceiling fan was certainly going to come down from the ceiling and eat him. The bed, well he had no idea what to expect when we lifted him up and set him on the bed. We made it through that night with the little white dog curled up (or frozen in fear) on the pillows between the two of us. And when he did finally fall asleep, we smiled at his little snores in our ears.
  • The first day at doggie daycare….By the time I made it to work, sat down at my desk and brought up the webcam after leaving him off, he had shutdown. The little white dog was huddled in the corner, next to the gate. I had tears running down my face. What was supposed to be a happy, fun, socializing experience was too much for him. I wanted to leave work to get him and take him back home where the world was safe. I called another ARLP volunteer for support and reassurance and to talk me out of running to save the little white dog from his day at doggie daycare. I wanted, and needed to hear, that I was doing the right thing by leaving him there. That if he never leaves the comfort and safety of our home then he will have no opportunity to grow.
  • Then there were the dates. The little white dog was terrified of entering new places in the beginning – new homes, new shops, new offices, and any dog friendly place that you’d want to take your dog. So we set up dates to go visit ARLP volunteers’ homes. We’d spend about an hour going in and out the front door, checking out the house, exploring each room, making our way to the back door to go in and out. Once the little white dog was comfortable, or as comfortable as he was going to get, we’d call it a day and head home. When we had (mostly) mastered the concept of going into new places then we turned the dates around and had people visit us because for a while, new people at our door were very scary things for the little white dog.
  • And finally, there was the month or so at the beginning when the little white dog was actually more of a shedding stink bomb with four legs. It took him forever to work the crap of the first 18 months out of his system. The results of this process were white hair everywhere and a stinky stinky dog. I’d sweep and the next day we’d hair white hairballs scattered throughout the house. We’d find white hair in places that we had no idea how it’d gotten there. And if you touched him you’d have to wash your hands as the stench would then be on your hands. We’d give him a bath, put him to bed in his crate, and the next morning his blankets would smell again.

These, and so many more things, are all the things that an adopter could never know. And no matter how much explaining I did, they could never understand what we went through to get to the little white dog that throws himself in joy into a person’s arms. Or that 90% of the time will walk through a door without being carried or coaxed. Or that bounds into doggie daycare happy to see his dog friends.

It’s not necessary for an adopter to know all of the details of a dog’s past in order to give him a good and happy life. Heck, I don’t know the beginning stories of two of my dogs and we’ve done just fine over the last years. But the little white dog isn’t your normal dog. This world has already failed him tremendously. By some great testament of his temperament and his character he made it out the other side with only shadows of the past that sometimes lure their heads into his now life. He may not realize it, but he’s lucky. Really lucky. His yard mate for the first 18 months of his life was not so lucky. She didn’t make it.

A dog that can come from a tragic past and have such an intense desire to be a ‘normal’ dog and to still believe in spite of it all that the world is good and safe, that dog deserves a one hundred percent guarantee that the world isn’t going to fail him again. So…going back to my standard of a home better than mine, well, I know that I can promise the little white dog that. That no matter what it’s going to be okay, he’s going to be okay. Life will be good, it’ll be more than good, it’ll be amazingly fantastic.

And in return, even though he has no idea, he makes my world okay too. On those days when the rescue world can be overwhelming - the need so great, the options so limited, the people either so selfish or so cruel - I am comforted by the snores of the little white dog sleeping on my couch. And in that moment, in my heart and in my mind, everything is okay. Having him be okay makes everything else okay for me.

The journey with the little white dog has been heartbreaking. It’s been amazing. It’s been frustrating and fun all at the same time. And after the journey that we’ve been on, I guess that you can say we’ve come too far to let him go. When I told Brian I was writing this little announcement to the world, I asked him what I should call it. His reply, ‘To Squish or Not to Squish, That is the Question.’ Our answer - we’ve decided to ‘Squish.’

Squish

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Blog post by Kellie French.

Many people who work in animal rescue can relate to having to fight the thought, “there is no hope for humanity.” In addition to animal rescue, I have worked in the child welfare system for almost a decade, so there are plenty of days that I wonder about the human race.

However, there are also many days that remind me why I love doing what I do.

Days where I can see the full picture of the community who helped keep a family – human and animal alike – intact.

Days like the one that I witnessed a family’s struggle come full circle: from asking for help, to becoming the helper.

A Family Fights to Stay Together

As a representative of the MN Alliance for Family & Animal Safety (MNAFAS), I was contacted one afternoon by Minneapolis Animal Care and Control about two pit bulls in need of safe housing. Eva, the loving owner of Bubba and Pearl, had found herself in a scary domestic violence situation and entrusted her dogs to animal control to be held until foster homes could be located to keep the dogs safe until the woman could safely reclaim them.


Pearl

I met with Eva and her daughters to learn more about her situation, her dogs, and her safety plan. Eva shared with me her story, and her oldest daughter, Ashley, spoke about the behaviors, needs, and personalities of Bubba and Pearl. I was humbled to find out that Eva and her daughters were currently residing in a homeless shelter, kenneling their dogs in someone's garage overnight. They had to take their dogs from 5 am to 8 pm each day, but since they had no place to live, they would spend their days at parks with the dogs. This significantly affected Eva's ability to focus on other areas of her life, such as finding housing. Although the family had to make significant sacrifices to care for their dogs, they were happy and strong because they were together.

That was when MNAFAS stepped in to help. Eva, her daughters, and Bubba and Pearl were a perfect fit for the MNAFAS Pet Safe Housing Program and an example of the necessity of this service within our community: families are not only comprised of humans, but beloved animals as well, and some people will compromise their own safety and well-being in order to keep their pets.

It Takes a Community

Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue (MPBR), also a member of the MN Alliance for Family & Animal Safety, put out a request for foster homes for Bubba and Pearl. The dogs were subjected to a simple temperament test to ensure that they did not pose a danger to humans, and they were soon placed with foster homes. Bubba, a social butterfly, made quick friends with his foster family's dog. Pearl, who was much more mellow, was slowly introduced to her foster family's dog and cat.

Just like with any major change, adjusting to foster care was difficult for these two dogs. Bubba destroyed his kennel – he just wanted to hang out with his new foster family!

Pearl, on the other hand, was thought to have a bladder infection. But it soon became clear that it was something more serious. MPBR began to investigate why Pearl wasn't feeling well and, after countless tests, it was determined that she had an inoperable cancerous mass. MPBR volunteers were faced with the task of breaking this devastating news to Eva and her girls. Pearl was put on a medication that would keep her comfortable and pain free.

After a few months, Eva was able to bring her entire family back together, and Bubba and Pearl were reunited with their girls.

Bubba

The Giving Comes Full Circle

More than a year later, in September 2012, I again connected with this wonderful family – this time, at one of A Rotta Love Plus’ Get Your Fix! fairs, where they had come to get their dogs vaccinated and microchipped. Unfortunately Pearl had passed away, but Eva and the girls were elated to introduce me to their other dog, Golden, who they had just recently gotten away from their abuser. Bubba was with them too, exuberant as ever, and happily being wrangled by Ashley.

 Golden

That day, Ashley asked how she could volunteer with A Rotta Love Plus to help others, like those who helped her dogs. So in October, at our last Get Your Fix! fair of the season, Ashley joined the other ARLP volunteers in setting up tents. She listened to the precise directions necessary for recording microchip information. She spoke to people waiting in line, writing down their information and letting them know about the services being provided that day. Ashley also talked about her interest in keeping dogs safe and healthy, and her internship at a veterinary clinic.

Clearly, this teen and her family have not let life’s hardships affect their ability to show compassion.

With all of the terrible things that happen around us every day, I look at Eva, her daughters, and their dogs, and remember that what we do matters. It lasts.

The compassion we show others – animals and humans alike – sets an example that will be passed along to ensure a better place for all of us.

Fellow Get Your Fix! volunteers and me
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All of ARLP's foster dogs are, and will always be, near and dear to our hearts. But some -- due to their duration of stay in foster care, their particularly unique personalities, their resilience, or, as in Tally's case, a combination of all three -- leave a lasting impression on all they meet. We know that the many people who have followed Tally's journey over the last two years will be overjoyed to hear that Tally is home for good. Here, Tally's forever mama tells a story of what you want, what you get, and the unexpected bliss can result from a mismatch between the two.

Blog post by Ruth Patton.

It started with an email message from Jen L., ARLP's lead Rott n' Pit Ed trainer, in early January: “Hey Ruth, We just started another session of class and I was wondering if you would be interested in being a training buddy for Tally. Let me know what you think!”

The answer was yes, of course (more accurately, it was “Wheeeeeeeee! YES”), and Tally and I met for the first time on January 15. I picked her up at Chez Hotchkiss [home of ARLP volunteers Amy and Larry], and she was wearing a cute little pink collar and sweater set. I remember a lot of jumping and scrabbling and lunging and snorting...Tally was Distraction in Argyle. I got her into the car, got her to class, tried over and over to get her attention while she pulled and yodeled, and ran out of treats.

Ruth and Tally at Rott n' Pit Ed soon after they met. Photo by Lp Reyes

The next day, Amy emailed, “No pressure...but do you love her????? :)”

The truth? No. I mean, not in that way. Not in the 'adopt her' way. I grew up with dogs, and loved dogs, and knew I’d have one someday, which meant I’d thought about it a lot and had a fantasy dog in mind. Fantasy dog was male (so, not Tally), tall (strike two), laid back (three), and he’d run miles and miles with me (have you seen Tally’s wonky wrist?). And on the limited occasions I was willing to admit the depth of my psychosis, fantasy dog would also convince the cats to love him, he’d get along with all other dogs, and he’d protect me from muggers. (I know. I’m not proud of it.)

Not that the ARLP chicks didn’t try. “So-and-so was saying that Tally's totally your dog.” SIGH. I thought Tally was cute and had fun at Rott n' Pit Ed with her and cried just a tiny bit when I dropped her off at home for the last time in early March, but she totally wasn’t my dog.

Ruth and Tally consider each other. Photo by Lp Reyes

Aaaaand then I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I kept checking the list of available ARLPups to see if she was still there, and I’d make cheerful, promotional comments on her Facebook pics (e.g., “She’ll make a GREAT companion!”). And I kept hoping she’d get adopted so I could let it go.

In the meantime, Cory and I decided to give fostering a try. It seemed like a great way to have a dog in our lives without having to make any kind of permanent commitment. For me, the cats were a serious concern. No so much Jasper, the lazy male with three settings – sleep, make biscuits, cry for dinner. It was Poppy I was worried about. She’s seven pounds of fury. She’s the one who runs to the door whenever someone comes over...not to greet them, but to assess if they’re a threat that needs to be neutralized. She’s faced off with two dogs at once totaling over twelve times her mass. She backed the neighbor Labrador into a corner of the kitchen and kept him there, hysterically yelping, until I managed to get a towel over her.

Jasper in front, Poppy in back. Photo courtesy of Ruth Patton

I was afraid that if a dog showed any interest in her, or chased her, or heaven forbid, tried to attack her, she would scratch their eyes out. So having a dog in the house could turn out to be ultimately unworkable for the long-term.

We submitted the foster application in early April and heard back from Amy, who wanted to come over to see the house and yard and make sure we weren’t hoarders and were fit for fostering. I asked her to please bring Tally. We locked up the cats, the guests arrived, and Tally destroyed two toys, popped our kickball, and rolled in her own pee. I emailed a friend later, “DOGS ARE SO GREAT.”

Smitten much?

Tally works her charm on Cory. Photo by Ruth Patton

Soon after, Amy asked if we’d like to dog-sit Tally while she and Larry were on vacation in early May. I let Cory decide because I felt biased. He agreed, I did a secret celebration, and it was decided. On April 30, Amy dropped her off with all of her doggie accessories, gave feeding instructions and some sage advice, and went home. So there we were, with Tally in the house, wondering how we were going to handle the next couple of weeks.

Photo courtesy of Ruth Patton

You know how the story goes. She hasn’t left.

I remember Tally as a bit out-of-control back in January, and apparently when she first arrived in Minnesota her distractibility was legendary. But her many months with kind, caring foster families helped her settle down into a very easy dog. From the beginning, she was great in her bin – went in easily, didn’t complain once there. She’s great in the car. She doesn’t bark, doesn’t get in the garbage. Really, the only naughty thing she does is chew plastic things (water bottles, food containers, plant pots...with the plants still in them, but we know that, so if she gets one, it’s our fault). She’s very trainable – what started with “leave it” with treats became “drop” with toys, and she’s decided she likes to fetch.

I’m not sure I can explain how ridiculously delightful Tally is. She loves to play, and her capacity for fun is almost matched by her clumsiness. When she wants your attention, she’ll grab a toy – a ball of some sort – amble up with it in her mouth, and just bonk right into you, toy-first. BONK. Tug is super fun, and she’s surprisingly good at catching high fly balls, but sometimes she’ll leap up to catch one and throw herself completely off balance, landing hard on her side (but up the next second, chewing the ball as she toddles up, reluctantly but eventually dropping it for another go). She snorts and sneezes and makes funny noises. Her ears don’t match. She sleeps hard and is happiest on the couch next to or on top of someone. She seems particularly content while a beloved person holds a Nylabone for her as she gnaws on it, gazing deeply into her person’s eyes, gnaw gnaw gnaw.

Family photo by Lp Reyes

Perhaps my favorite Tally quality right now is her adoration of the neighbor kids. Especially Cora, who’s eight. When they visit, Tally won’t leave Cora’s side. She stares at Cora with unmitigated devotion. If Cora sits down, Tally lays in her lap. We showed Cora how to play fetch with Tally, and it’s heart-swelling to watch this little girl with her little girl’s voice say, “Tally, drop,” and see Tally, so intense, drop the ball, sit down, and look up into Cora’s face.

Yep - that's the adoring look. Photo by Lp Reyes

And the cats? We took it super slow, kept the species separate. They didn’t even see each other for the first month. Then we moved Tally’s crate into the dining room and covered it with a blanket when the cats were around. Then the blanket came off. We increased their exposure to each other over the course of weeks: we’d have Tally out and let the kitties into the room for five minutes. Then ten. Then fifteen. In general, and to my huge surprise, Tally is completely intimidated by them. Her usual reaction is to look away, as though trying to convince herself that if she doesn’t see them, they won’t see her. There have been two incidents of Poppy-on-Tally violence, both of which began with a great deal of cat menacing behavior (growling, stalking) and ended with Poppy swatting Tally on the butt, even though Tally was exhibiting the most pathetic expression of canine submission you can imagine. (And both of which happened when the human intervenor was on the toilet.) I’m pretty sure Pop didn’t even use her claws; she just wants everyone to admit that she’s in charge. As I’m writing this, Tally’s asleep next to me on the couch, and Poppy’s on my other side. Jasper’s next to us on the back of the couch. It’s better than I’d dared hope.

Even so, Tally’s not completely comfortable around them. When one saunters into the room, she’ll often lick her lips and look at me. It’s that looking-at-me part that melts my heart. She’s nervous, and she turns to me. Every time, I tell her, you’re okay. I’ll protect you. And her history is always in the back of my mind, with the fight ring and then the substandard shelter where so many of the other dogs died, so I feel like I’m making amends for the human race, you know? I mean it when I say to her, I will keep you safe for the rest of your life.

It's official! Photo by Lp Reyes

I still have a hard time believing she was in foster homes for so long – almost 18 months! I don’t think she was waiting for us. I don’t believe it was meant to be; I just don’t think the world works that way. But I do feel very, very lucky that it all happened the way it did, that Jen thought of me and that Amy brought her over and that Cory was here and that I’m finally ready to let go of my fantasy dog and cuddle up with a real one. That’s how it goes, right? There’s what you want, and there’s what you get, and the two don’t have to match up for life to be good. Tally is amazing. Loving her makes me a better person. I’m going to keep her safe and happy for the rest of her life. And I’m grateful for ARLP and the work it does bringing dogs like Tally into the lives of people like me.

Amy, Ruth, and a group of ARLP supporters at Tally's adoption party. Photo by Lp Reyes
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Foster homes - the first stop in our program dogs' journey to the good life - are an invaluable part of A Rotta Love Plus. When a foster home decides to keep its foster dog forever, you may overhear us joking, "another one bites the dust." But as you'll see in this post about the Williams' family experience with Sula, like many other "foster failures" before them, the match between dog and home was just too perfect to resist. Click here to learn more about fostering for ARLP.

Blog post by Seth Williams.

In early June, we were spending a typical Saturday out and about and had no idea that a new chapter in our lives was about to open. A phone call from ARLP foster coordinator Amy let us know that ARLP had visited Minneapolis Animal Care and Control (MACC) to evaluate a Rottweiler for foster care and, while there, they were alerted to a second female - of the 'Rottweiler mix' variety - that might be a good candidate as well. Seems the MACC staff arrived at work one morning and found her tied up in their front yard and saw some potential "amazing" in her. But she needed a home.  Could we take a dog? Sure! Today? No, but how's tomorrow work? Done. She had her temporary home.

Amy and Larry arrived the next day with a stunning little female on the other end of the leash.

That 60-pound, grey and tan Rottie mix walked into our patio that Sunday in June and, though we didn't realize it at the time, into our hearts as well.


Sula. Photo by Lp Reyes

We did the initial meet n' greet, got her settled, and rustled up a bag of food, some treats, and toys, and off went Amy and Larry.

We had decided on the name 'SULA' the night before her arrival based on a photograph Amy sent us. Sula's snout had a tan marking that looked like a mountain, and I was instantly reminded of a beautiful peak in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana named Sula Peak. She was as beautiful as that peak.

We began our Foster journey, intent on finding out what made this girl tick. Why was she abandoned? Was there something we weren't seeing? What could it be? A few weeks passed without learning any such information. What was happening, however, was Sula's subtle yet effective integration into our family.

Sula was brought into a home that already had two humans, a four-year old Lab named Hoolie, who has seniority,  and a four-year-old (or thereabouts) Rottweiler named Andy, who came to our home a little over a year ago from the State of Texas. Also in residence was a 13-year old feline with an attitude to match.


Andy, of TX200 fame. Photo by the Williams' family

Sula meshed into the daily routine and was readily accepted into the pack by the pack dudes. The cat tested this new arrival but soon decided she was worthy of feline companionship as well.

Training started with Rott n' Pit Ed, and attendance at Adoption Day events was planned and executed. All this time, we humans found we were constantly challenged by the idea of Sula one day leaving our family.


Sula and Seth. Photo by Lp Reyes

It was becoming evident that we were bonding and enjoying having her in our family. Besides, we were learning about the 'inner' Sula. Who else would understand her, know her likes and dislikes? But we found comfort in ARLP's ability to find the 'perfect' home and knew our job was to give her the best foundation as possible for success in her new home.

...but still...

Sula and Hoolie were fast becoming play companions and seemed to find great joy in eachothers' company. Andy, the cerebral Rottweiler, would engage Sula once in a while, but mostly seemed to watch in awe as Sula and Hoolie expended great energy in nothing more than play -- a concept that baffles Andy.


Hula and Soolie. Or is it the other way around? Photo by the Williams' family

When the applications for Sula started rolling in, our discussions of making Sula a permanent member of our family took on a sense of sincere purpose. Several days of discussing the pros and cons helped us discover that Sula had, in a bit under two months, in fact become a family member. If she were to be adopted into another home, we would miss her terribly, Lab Hoolie would lose a true play companion, and at the end of the day, our family would have an empty hole left behind.

Discussions conducted, evidence weighed, decision made. Sula was in her forever home.

Now we understood. Now we found, in the decision, joy, peace, and completion. It was, and is, the right thing.

We will continue to foster, albeit short-term, but anything we can do to help these critters successfully navigate waters they are thrust into, through no intent of their own, is time and effort well invested.


Home for good. Photo by Lp Reyes
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Exactly one year ago today, two moving vans driven by ARLP volunteers Carol and Kaylene pulled up to Central Bark, where they were met with a roomful of other volunteers who had been expecting them. The van doors opened to reveal their contents: seven Rottweilers, all strangers to us, who had made the long journey from Texas where a massive animal seizure had taken place months earlier. The dogs were dirty, tired, and nervous, but our foster families were ready. For these Rottweilers, the journey to recovery began that night.

A year has passed, and these dogs are no longer strangers: they are Andy, Kyler, Lilah, Mercury, Ramos, and Zema. Each has been adopted into a loving family that has eased them into the good life as beloved companions. For this one-year celebration, their families have provided updates on their life up til now. [Their six-month updates are available here.]

Andy

At Andy’s six-month update, we got to know Andy’s “Hollywood” personality and cheered him on as he passed his Canine Good Citizen test. At one year, Andy is still teaching his human, Seth, the ways of the world. Andy reports: “My human continues to be a pushover for that ‘Rottie look,’ with the ever-present ‘Rottie lean.’ Are all humans this simple? First I took over his heart and landed a cool pad, now I've captured his mind as well!  I'm so ‘in charge’ that he can't even do this update. I’ve done some training with the human. When I first got here, I had a crate to sleep in and eventually I assured the silly human I would be happy sleeping on the floor, and that he didn't need to close the crate door. It didn't take too long, and only a couple of those looks and leans and, like magic, I was on the couch. Well, it didn't take long after that and now it's pretty much wherever I please, including the bed at night! I think my next project is to get my human trained as a therapy partner, but I've got some work to do with him first. I sure love when we go visit, or visitors come here. I especially like it when there are other dogs around to share our ‘Human Stories’ with, sniff the things we sniff, and get extra treats. Word on the street is that come spring, I'm going to get to go for bike-ride runs. Not sure what that is yet but my Bro' Lab says it's a gas!”

Andy and bro

At Zema's six-month update, we learned that this shy girl was beginning to come out of her shell with the help of agility classes. However, she has had to put her dreams of agility stardom on hold: Zema's mom, Pat, informed us that the increase in activity led to a shoulder re-injury. Surgery was required, and half of the tendon needed to be removed due to the disease. Zema is now in rehab and progress has been slow, but Pat reports that regardless of the injury and the time required to recover, “Zema will be forever wanted and loved by me. Her life will be good!”

Zema in rehab

Mercury – known at ARLP as “Cracker Jack Surprise” since we were expecting six, not seven, dogs to arrive in MN that evening – now has a life that is jam-packed with joy. “Boy, do we love that lunatic!,” his family reports. “After spending the summer and most of fall swimming every single day at the lake, Mercury proved how much he loves water even when frozen. He is crazy in love with snow, grabbing it in his mouth and Tigger-bouncing while throwing mouthfuls of snow all over the place. He loves his eleven-month-old Rottie sister to distraction, allowing her to chew on him at her whim and pull him by the tug rope down hallways. Together, they cause entirely too much trouble around the house!” Mercury has come so far, and his family is still working with him on overcoming challenges in terms of his fear of strangers and kids. But his life is full of joy and love. “He lives to chew toys beyond recognition and go for daily walks, and he is a fantastic loose-leash walker.  Oh, and when he isn't bouncing around, tormenting his siblings or chasing balls, he is a super snuggler, and is for SURE a Momma’s boy,” Diane tells us.

Mercury and sis

Lilah, who was still with her super foster family at the six-month check in, has now been adopted by a lovely family. Lee and Judy report that Lilah has learned routines quickly at their home and gets along famously with her four-legged brother Winston. While Lilah continues to be a bit fearful on walks at times, for the most part she really enjoys them. “She is a joy to us,” they say.

Lilah

As for Ramos, he “continues to be the love of my life!” according to his mama, Angie. “Ramos is doing wonderfully, but sadly we can no longer sleep in the same room together since his snoring is relentless,” she jokes.

Ramos

The last time we checked in on this group, shy-guy Kyler was being fostered by ARLP volunteer Laural. She and Kyler developed an amazing bond and for those who knew them, it came as no surprise that in December, Laural became Kyler’s forever home. She writes, Kyler “is coming out of his shell more and more, but oh so slowly. Each little thing that he does still brings a tear to my eye: His first playbow. His first few seconds of play with his pittie sister. He is now allowing strangers to feed him treats, as long as they hold the treat between their fingers and not on an open palm – yeah, he is rather quirky. The first time he wagged his nub when going in to daycare. The first time he crawled on my lap. He loves car rides, pulling apart rope toys, and chewing on bones. He loves red peppers, green peppers, and cucumbers. He loves belly rubs, butt scratches and massages."

"He loves me.”

Kyler

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Three ARLP alum dogs celebrate their 'Gotcha Day' - the day they came to their forever home for good - on Valentine's Day. Today, their families share "love letters" that they have written to these special survivors. Happy Gotcha Day, Albert, Josie, and Pearla. It is clear that you are so very loved.

Dear Albert,

You are my love, my precious, precious love.  It is hard to believe that we have only spent two years together; it feels like we have been together for ever.  Really, I mean that: F.O.R.E.V.E.R.  Gesh, you were a brat at times and you still have your moments, but quite honestly, I don’t want to relive those teenaged years.  I had all ready raised two human teenagers and I really didn’t want to have to go through that again.  It is amazing how human teen years and canine teen years parallel.  Knowing that you would outgrow them, as my human kids did, got me through it.

I almost lost you, you know.  You weren’t with me too long and came down with Parvo, which can be a disease that would have taken you from me and I never would have known what joy you can bring.  Now you get to your share your goofy ears, your goofy long helicopter tail, and your goofy smile with so many.  You have made me so proud.

Coming home from work every night is such a pleasure because you act like you haven’t seen me in years; I love the greeting I get from you.  I love that you have to be touching me at all times, whether you are laying on my feet as I work at the computer or snuggled up next to me when we go to bed.  I love the kisses you give - okay those may get a bit annoying at times, but know that I would miss them like crazy if you stopped.  I love that you are my copilot in the car.

You are my love, my precious, precious love.  I love you with all my heart, today on Valentines Day and every minute of every day of the year.

Love,

Mom

A Poem for Jo

My funny valentine, sweet comic valentine/You make me smile with my heart

Your looks are laughable, so photographable/Yet you can clear a room with your...

On second thought, maybe I should stick to prose.

Josie, two years ago you wriggled your way into our hearts and onto our sofa, and neither will ever be the same. (Whose brilliant idea was it to get a white couch, anyway?)

In the past two years, you have slurped away tears and given me innumerable reasons to smile.  In the short time we've known each other we have traveled a million miles to find the right path, together. I promise you that as we continue to travel down this road, I'll be right beside you, giving you half of my Chicken McNuggets (even if you do sometimes puke them up in the back seat of my car).

You came into my life to teach me about love: unconditional, messy, perfect love. For this, and for all of the other ways that you have ‘Josified’ my life, I thank you.

XOXO,

Mom

 

Dear Pearla,

Is it really true that we’re beginning our third year together? I met you for the first time two years ago today. I knew when I read the notes written to you from all the hospital staff who cared for you while you healed, that you were a very special little girl. I knew when Dr. Hunter packed up the two bags of toys, supplements, food, socks, booties, jackets, sweaters, and your crate, that you would be missed at the hospital, where you’d wormed your way into so many hearts. I knew when you first shared your incredible grin with me, that you were a little beauty, ready to capture the hearts of people large and small.

Your first year as a foster is a blur of memories, including accomplishments large and small. You learned how to use the stairs. You learned how to walk on a leash. You learned to accept being picked up, and you learned it was safe to sleep in my lap. You learned basic obedience, and you passed both the CGC and TDI tests within your first three months in my home. And yet you had few, if any, adoption applications. I learned you love to mug for the camera (as long as you had 4 feet on the ground). I learned you play patty cake when excited. I learned you rarely bark, you’re afraid of heights, you’re prone to ‘happy tail’ in your zest for expressing joy, and you love peanut butter. I learned while you are a snuggle bunny in the chair, you are a bed hog overnight, taking up far more room than your tiny frame would indicate. What I did NOT know, is that you were in my home to stay. I don’t remember exactly when that changed.  But I do remember the heart pounding fear of loss, when your first serious application for adoption arrived, well into our second year together. I thought I’d done such a thorough job, steeling my heart against the day you would leave my home, for your forever home. When that application didn’t work out for different reasons, I will never forget the sense of relief, that I had more time with you. I need to thank your Auntie Lara, for helping me see that your smiling face and wagging tail belonged in my home for good.

I have never had a single day where I wished you were somewhere else, never had that day when I needed a break from your antics. I love waking up to the thump thump of your tail, even if I have not yet seen you. I love watching you stretch after a satisfying sleep, seeing you flex each toe with a wide-mouthed yawn. I love your little nose nudges to my leg, when you’re seeking some petting. I love that you sit behind me in the kitchen while I wash the dishes, and move back and forth with me from cupboard to pantry as I put them away. I love how you run through your tricks as fast as you can when you’re all excited. I love that while you remain a victim of motion sickness, you still go for car rides because I ask you to, not because you love  the car. I love watching you prance around with a favored toy, showing off your happy conformation that would make any dressage horse blue with envy. I love your snaggle teeth, your floppy ears, and your warm eyes. I love your scars, and the education we can offer to people who see them, and assume their origin. I love the way you burrow into the pink chair’s cushions, so you can watch me while I work, thumping your tail each time I glance over to see if you’re still awake.

I can’t imagine a day without you, Pearla, and I am so very very grateful to have you in my life.

Love,

Your Mom

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Penny, a much-loved ARLP alum, has found her forever home with a wonderful family. We were thrilled to receive this recent update from them! Post and pictures courtesy of the DeWitte family.

Our story begins in 2004, when Jamie and I added to our family a little boy and a little girl. Our little girl was named Girlie Girl, she was a pit bull. We got her in order to keep Chica, our Lab mix, busy because we knew we wouldn’t be able to give her the attention she needed with our son, Marcus, coming. When we first met Girlie I was totally against having a pit bull in the house. I was uneducated about the pit bull breed, I had heard that pit bulls eat babies, kill people and other animals, and most of all they can turn on you when you least expect it. When Jamie and I went to the vet to meet her it went like this: "Girlie really doesn’t like men so here is a greenie (treat)," and then they shoved me in the run with her. When I approached her she rolled over onto her back and snuggled right into me. I instantly fell in love, not only with Girlie but with the breed.

Fast forward to 2008 when we added another member to our pack, our second son Finnegan. Not one time did it cross our minds that Girlie would do anything to our babies, and she never did. The pit bull was a great friend and sister to our little boys, always loving and never mean or growly. Girlie was truly a part of our family, which  is why we were devastated in the spring of 2011 when we found out she had a tumor on her heart. There were no options after visiting multiple vets and we knew what had to be done to relieve her suffering. We held her tight as she slipped away and went to heaven while our hearts broke.

The house was not the same. We missed the clown breed that we grew to love. That is when I remembered a booth that we visited at the pet convention shortly after we got Girlie -- it was ARLP. I looked at the available animals for two weeks before I worked up the courage to fill out the adoption application. I did not tell my family until it was done, but once I showed them the pictures we all got excited together. We could not make a decision between two beautiful dogs, Pearla and Penny. I was a little excited to get the ball rolling and I think I drove the ARLP volunteers crazy.

We met the two perspective family members. We fell in love with both dogs, but in the end we chose Penny. (Note: Pearla is now in a fantastic forever home, too!) After deciding that Penny was our girl I once again drove ARLP crazy with phone calls and emails trying to get the things worked out so Penny could visit our house and meet Chica and so that ARLP could do the home visit.  Needless to say things went famously and Penny became a member of our family.  The first couple of days were rough as we were not used to a 3.5-year-old that had so much energy; after all, Chica is 11 and Girlie was 9.  Penny missed her foster mom and she whined a little for the first week.  Because we were slowly introducing Penny to her new surroundings, she got to sleep with me in Finn’s room for the first month.  All I have to say is SNORE MUCH, Penny?  Penny is not a sound sleeper. She was up and roaming the room and whining to get out of the room to explore the house.

Penny spends her days in her crate where she gets her Kong with kibble topped with a peanut butter plug. Penny actually beats us to the crate once she sees the Kong. Penny is a pretty little pittie that we love and adore. She does some funny things, like playing on her back. I have never ever seen a dog that likes to be on her back so much. She lies on her back to sleep and one of the funniest things I have ever seen is when she tries to chase her tail on her back. She can’t catch that darn tail but watch out when she does.

Penny also loves her new backyard. She does zoomies, chases balls, and barks at the neighbors who she believes might come take her yard away. On the first day that Penny was with us she got out of the fence because I have two little helpers who left the gate open, and she almost ran away. Since then she has not tried that again and has even earned our trust enough to get unhooked from her leash when we get to our driveway after walks. She is a good girl -- Jamie refers her to as a good girl in training, and this describes her well.

Along with all the loving, snuggling, and playing, we have found time for training as well. We have trained Chica to respond to commands in German, so we thought we would give it a try and see if Penny would pick up on it, and she did. I was pretty impressed that she picked it up so quickly.

Penny is now a beloved member of our family and she loves us back. Penny and her sister have been caught several times snuggling together; Chica pretends not to like it, but we know better. Penny has done many things since coming to her new home; she gets walks almost every night and checks out all the new mail that is left for her on posts, trees, and various other objects. Penny even got to go to Marcus’ football practice, where she was a wonderful ambassador to her breed; she saw little girls and boys and loved them all.  We have also discovered that we have tasty feet because Penny can not resist licking them every chance she gets. Cooking with Penny is quite the adventure; she has her spot in the kitchen lying on her side right in front of the oven or under the counter waiting for the slightest crumb. We love Penny and although she will never replace our Girlie, she is a part of our family and with every passing day she helps our hearts heal.

We love our Penny, Penny per Pennerson, Penn, Penny Lane, Money Penny, and Penny Can.  Thank you to everyone at ARLP who had anything at all to do with the rescue of Penny, she is amazing and our lives are blessed having her in it.

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