Hello from Portland Maine! I am very excited to join Life with Dogs as a featured trainer/blogger. I have been a Life with Dogs fan since Nigel’s very first photo shop – I mean reality photo.
For my first post, I started writing in way too many directions. I started a trick training challenge post, another on a difficult dog I worked with and the lessons she taught me. There is the unfinished owner trained service dogs post , product reviews, and how to teach hind end awareness, back yard agility, and a stoopid intro that has been fully deleted.
Here is all you need to know. I am a reward based trainer (shameless link to Gooddogz Training) . I share my life with two dogs, Finney a 5 year old Smooth Collie, and Beck, a 1 year old American Shelter Dog. Beck is my very first “failed foster.” I have three wonderful kids, and they are often pains in my somewhat large behind.
My summer brain cells have kicked into overtime, leaving the brain cells that usually do the brunt of the work around here in limbo for a while. As I get older, I am a bit like dogs, in that we all need a little bit of time to switch gears, to adjust to change and new schedules. After much starting and stopping and editing, I decided to give rescue a plug and in particular, foster dogs, because that is where my summer brain is at.
I have been involved in various aspects of dog rescue for the last 13 years. In the last two years we have been fostering dogs for a local Maine rescue, Canine Commitment , and close to 30 dogs have passed through our doors on their way home. A few dogs only over nighted, and most of the fosters stay for an average of 3 weeks. One special guy was here for 9 months. In a round about way, we kind of sort of gave (re) birth to Peter (from the Brady Bunch litter).
Personally I think that all trainers should foster at least 1 dog a year if at all possible. Lessons the dogs have taught me have been invaluable in helping others with their problem dogs. With puppies I lived potty training, mouthing, and schedules and management first hand. Most trainers have well behaved dogs and we forget what it is like to have little run away peeing, nipping demons in our lives. A majority of the dogs that have passed through my doors have come with a need for remedial socialization. We have had food and toy guarders, and rough players. There were more than a few humpers, and hiders and beggers, and dogs who will shred anything and everything. We have placed former leash pullers, people jumpers and fence jumpers and hole diggers.
I love getting to know each dog’s personality, helping them be all the the dog that they can be, and I especially love playing match maker. I so love when that perfect home that is just right for a certain dog, seems to appear out of no where. Oh and I love updates from the families. Can’t ever get enough of those.
Of course not everyone can foster. I could not take in dogs when my kids were much younger, and I didn’t have an X husband yet. My last dog Charlee, a Border Collie, Cattle Dog rescue, took quite a bit of training and convincing before she would share her home. Charlee did mellow with age and training, and she turned into a great foster peace keeper and teacher. She will forever be my second heart dog.
If you are thinking “oh hellz no, I am going to stop reading this now, this trainer is going to lay some guilt on me for not taking in homeless dogs,” then you are wrong. Fostering works for my family. We have the space and the know how and unfortunately, an endless supply of needy canines. And you know what? All those excuses that people come up with on why they could never foster are valid.
You do fall in love with lots of the dogs- although not all — believe you me!! The dogs do have accidents in your house and you do traumatize your kids when they can’t keep them. Your kids may cry and beg and maybe even hyperventilate (only 1 time!) when it is time to say goodbye. It is not easy. My youngest daughter is 9 years old and she is a huge animal lover. She still mourns for several foster dogs that were very close to her heart, that she spent a lot of time with. My friends tell me that I am teaching her lots of wonderful life lessons. Some days I feel like the worst mother in the world.
Fostering dogs is not unlike having unprotected sex. Sooner or later there is a very good chance you will have a baby. We adopted our former foster dog Beck in March. How we lasted so long without keeping one, I have no idea. A good friend told me that now that I “broke the seal” I am doomed to more foster failures. Que sera sera.
Recently I wrote a blog on my own site about my two latest lovely sister pup fosters. Click here to find out the best reason I have had so far to foster dogs. I will give you a hint. I don’t need Calgon.
No guilt, but please do consider fostering a dog. Think about how many Karma coins, one dog once a year will get you. You may mourn your foster’s loss, or maybe end up keeping it. Your kids may need therapy, but it is the right thing to do, if you have the situation that can allow it.
For me, fostering is a no brainier. Taking a dog with a little baggage and sending them off to their new home with a carry on, is what it’s all about. Of course not all rescue dogs come with issues, but pretty much all dogs have something. My new dog, who is half Border Collie and half tornado, is teaching me all about the thrill of the chase. Of course I have worked with plenty of dogs who chased various things over the years, but there is nothing quite like living first hand with an issue that gives you a new perspective and a big ol’ dose of empathy. That reminds me of another post I have started. How to stop the chasers from chasing.
In closing, thanks so much for reading: you can look to all the posts mentioned above, and more, coming to Life With Dogs soon. If you have training issues that you would like to see addressed, please suggest them in the comment section. Here is hoping for a great summer and by the way, you all should bring your dogs to vacation in Maine. Maine is a very dog friendly state. We have great hiking trails and beaches and it is wonderful place to be in the summah!
Check out a few of our adopted foster cuties.
About the featured photo above: Nancy’s daughter snuggles with foster dog Lucy giving the all too familiar, “Mom can we keep her?” look.