Tag Archives: foster

Tails: The Best Gotcha Day Ever…

Today marks Alice’s one year anniversary of her “Gotcha Day” with us.  We have 4 dogs at the moment and while each one of them holds a dear place in my heart, there is just something about Alice.

She could not have been dropped into our laps at a worse time.  I remember getting the message from Jessica, “Is there anyway you could foster this Shih Tzu we are bringing up from auction?”  I knew my husband would freak out.  We were leaving in a few weeks for a trip to Florida, but when Jess sent me her photo: this horrible, sad Tzu with her tongue hanging out and looking just like our Penelope – I couldn’t possibly say no.

The picture Jess sent me from the auction.

So, I said what so many of us say, “Yes, but only for a few weeks.”

I promised Bill that the dog would be gone by the time we left for our trip.

I remember picking her up at Jennifer’s house.  She had just come from her spay surgery.  She was sitting in a laundry basket half awake.  All I saw was her tongue.  I had never experienced a “tongue dog” before.  It really takes some getting used to.

My daughter, Abby, was with me on the pick-up and she was taken back by the dog and the tongue and her pathetic little state of being.  My heart was smiling because I was doing what I love most in the world – taking in a helpless dog who just needed love and a second chance.

Alice’s ride to our house.

Alice came from a puppy mill.  She spent 5 horrifying years there and everything about her showed the scars of the horror.

Alice at the rescue vet. #89 was her puppy mill auction number.

We took her home and found her a safe place in the family room.  Crated her for the night and never heard a peep.

However, the next day proved more challenging.  Alice was afraid of absolutely everything.  I had experienced this before with Thorp, but Alice was even more untrusting.  She would hide behind the wash machine for hours on end.  She would disappear on the lower bookshelves.  She trembled constantly.  But, of course, each of these moments only melted by heart more.

Alice hiding in the bookshelves

The days with Alice were hard and sad.  She was such a blatant reminder of how much I hate puppy mills.  Not to mention, I was constantly trying to wet her little tongue because it looked so dry.

Time went fast and before I knew it, we had to leave for Florida.  There was no way I could part with Alice and make her go to a new home just as we she was starting to get a little settled in ours.  So, I asked my pet sitter if she could handle one more – of course, she could.

We went to Florida and while we were there I had a terrible freak accident on the beach!  I stepped on very large, very sharp shell and needed emergency surgery.  Our trip was extended an entire week.  Alice would have to wait longer for me to get back.

When I did get back, I wasn’t able to put any weight on my foot and could only walk a little with the help of crutches.  Poor Alice was terrified of the crutches and no one else in my family had the endless patience to deal with her.  It was messy in our house for a few weeks.  (some of you can imagine…) But, because of the tension of the situation, I think I healed quicker.  I tried harder to get around because I knew Alice needed me.

A few weeks later, I was off crutches and we were headed back down to Florida for a long Thanksgiving holiday.  See we already had bought a home there and it was our plan all along to move down the fall of 2017.    We had been cleaning out our IL house and “thinning our herd” not even once considering adding to it.  But, here we were towing 4 dogs to Florida.

Alice was still frightened of everything, but she traveled so well.  She absolutely loved the beach and the sunshine and slowly, our crazy life was becoming hers, too.

Alice on Sanibel beach

I remember adoption applications coming in for her.  I would read them, my heart would race, my stomach would get that pit inside and I would think of a million reasons why that person or family was not a good fit.  In truth, Alice was not nearly ready.  I am always worried about mill dogs getting loose and running away – so scared they don’t come back and so impossible to find.  Alice was definitely one of those dogs.

Christmas came and my birthday right after New Year’s and Alice was still living with us.  Neither my husband or my daughter offered to give her as a gift to me like our Jack had been and no one ever came out and said,”Adopt her,” but I did.   I sent in the adoption paperwork and fee and she was finally mine.

I don’t think any of us can imagine life without her.  We certainly had NO intention of adding to our family, but she dropped in practically unannounced and she just fit.

Family, friends, and total strangers all love Alice.  Her tongue precedes her and people are fascinated by her.  I took her on a girls trip to Florida and we had the best service in the airport.  Even the TSA went out of their way to accommodate us!!  Stores always allow her in and nearly every one of them offers her water!

Penelope and Thorp have always been my reminders of puppy mills.  They have always fueled my desire to see puppy mills go away.  Alice does that, too, but because of her tongue, she instantly initiates the conversation with strangers.  She is the poster child for all that is wrong with mass breeding.  People who never understood the horrors of puppy mills take one look at her and understand my fight.

My vet believes that Alice’s tongue is a result of blunt trauma to her skull that left her face crooked and partially paralyzed.  I hate thinking of her being treated so cruelly.  Alice also suffers from severe dry eye and because it went untreated for 5 years, her eyesight in her left eye will probably be a total loss.  She is on drops multiple times a day, but we aren’t sure they will save both eyes.

Alice is willful, playful, quirky, and so appreciative of love.  She filled a hole in my heart I didn’t know I had.

I am so grateful that she was plopped into our lives when we least expected it.  I have fostered numerous dogs and have been able to let them go, but Alice was the one who had to stay.

Christmas pic on Sanibel.

If you ever have even the smallest glimmer of wanting to foster – DO IT!  You don’t just change a dog’s life, you change your own.

Happy Gotcha Day, Alice!!  We love you more than you could ever know.

Those eyes… that tongue.

Tails: Fostering- a Dichotomy of Heartbreak and Hope

This Friday I will say goodbye to my foster dog, Maisy.  I am teary eyed just typing the sentence.  Maisy was a 12 year old owner surrender to Chicago Animal Control.  I happened about her picture on Facebook one day and noticed that no rescues had come to her rescue.  Her picture was gut wrenching.  A tiny little furball who looked beyond scared and neglected.  Her eyes pierced my soul and immediately, I found myself on a mission to free her.


At the time, our rescue wasn’t able, but by the time we got her pulled, circumstances changed (as rescue is always changing) and she became ours.  I took her to an ISO at a vet clinic outside the city.  Maisy had half the coat she should, mostly elephant skin… Her ears were infected, she smelled like she hadn’t been bathed in years, her nails were curled into her legs… The dog was a hot mess.  (If I had a favorite breed, it would be “hot mess.”)


She spent a week at the vet clinic.  I went to visit her in the basement where they kept her.  I wasn’t at all impressed with the situation and as soon as she was cleared from the canine flu, I drove there and got her out.  Maisy is tiny.  Weighing in at only 9 pounds, she seems just skin and bones.  Frail in some ways and feisty in others.  She is resilient.  She is a survivor.


I have spent the last 10 years immersed in rescue and animal welfare and though I am often surrounded by dogs in need, there are just certain ones that find their way directly into my heart.  Maisy is one of those dogs.

Her eyes, well, they saved her life because they are so profound.  She is not blind like we initially thought from the picture.  But, she does have dry eye and will probably always need eye meds.  Whether her lack of coat is from mange or diet or allergies or stress, we have every possible issue covered.  In the last two weeks, her hair has started to grow back.  Her eyes sparkle and her smell… I took care of that, too.  She still has far to go to appear, “normal,” but truthfully, I don’t see any of her scars or illnesses anymore.  I only see her as the lovable, sassy dog she always was.


My three dogs aren’t the best hosts.  You would think since they were each once foster dogs, they would understand the situation better and be kinder.  Instead, they cling to the pack they know and sadly, shun most others who come for a stay.  They would never hurt her or any dog.  They just don’t go out of their way to make anyone else feel welcome.  Maybe they think you have to earn your right to stay?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that Maisy longs for someone to play with.  It appears she has never seen a cat before and has resorted to practically begging our cats to play.  She tosses her own toys and plays fetch with herself.  My dogs just look on with irritation and eyes that seem to ask,”When will she be leaving?”


A few years ago, I would have kept Maisy.  It wouldn’t have mattered if she fit in with my group.  It wouldn’t have mattered what the rest of my family thought.  The reality was I couldn’t bear to let a dog go.

That is until two years ago when Lin, our President, sent me the picture of my foster dog with her new family. There she was, sitting on the lap of her new owner, as the couple drove away waving goodbye in their convertible.  I wasn’t there, but the picture was proof enough that the dog found her perfect home and that it would be a happy ending.  I suddenly realized that I didn’t have to “keep”  them all in order for them to be fully loved and cared for.

Fostering is hard.  You are letting someone into your heart knowing full well that they will leave and you will be crushed.  Many foster dogs require a lot of attention and care.  They might need meds and baths and training.  Often you give more to them when they are with you than your own dogs.  You give them everything without a second thought because you see in their eyes how thankful they are to be safe, to be cared for and to be loved.


Friday is only a few days away.  I have already teared up a dozen times in anticipation of saying goodbye.  I always worry that Maisy, or any foster, will think I didn’t love them, that they weren’t good enough to keep.  After all they have been through, it kills me to believe they could think that.  I only want them to know how deserving of a family they truly are.

I am fortunate this time because Lin is going to foster her.  I have known Lin for a long time.  I have stayed at her home, I have snuggled with her dogs.  I KNOW Maisy will be loved.  None the less, my heart will break a little on Friday because when I take in a dog, any dog, I love it with everything I have.  Maisy is no exception.

Here’s the hard truth about fostering.  If I hadn’t fostered Maisy, she would have been dead by now.  No other rescues came forward to save her.  She was a senior in need of a lot of care.  She is the kind of dog who enters a shelter everyday and rarely gets the chance to leave alive.  Sometimes, I think, people think I, and others like me, exaggerate when we say things like that, but it is the honest truth.  Millions of dogs, just like Maisy, will be killed this year simply because there wasn’t an available foster home to save them.

Fostering is emotionally challenging, but to actually KNOW you are saving a life – there are very few things that can be so rewarding.  I will cry, maybe for days, but Maisy will live on for years to come.  She will dazzle others with her personality. She will melt hearts with her eyes.  She will become part of a family.  She gets her second chance.

My tears are selfish and  short-lived, but fostering is selfless and life-changing.  Please, if you love dogs (or cats) and have temporary space in your home, consider becoming a foster.  There are so many great rescues across the country looking for you.  And, there are so many dogs like Maisy, who long for a second chance to be loved.