So I said goodbye to the last of the Sub pups last week. They lived with me for almost three months — three months of laughter and tears and hopes and fears. They were not my first fosters, nor will they be my last, but I wanted to share them with you all on this very important day.
Today is Give to the Max Day (donate now at https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds). It is the single most important day all year for Secondhand Hounds and thousands of other charities. What we raise today will determine the course of the next year: will we be able to save the broken, the sick, the doomed? It depends, really, on you.
If not for the donations of others, I wouldn’t have met the Sub Pups. They were born July 7th to a breeder mama. There were seven in her yellow lab litter and five had cleft palates. That means they could not eat, not by nursing mama or drinking from a bottle. Historically, breeders often chose to euthanize imperfect puppies. Yes, it seems heartless, but breeding is a business first and foremost, and there is no way a breeder is going to sell a “defective” puppy for full price. Not to mention get back the man-hours and dollars it takes to treat them.
Rescue is about a lot of things, but it is definitely NOT about making money.
So Secondhand Hounds created the Neonatal division, and the coordinator, Teri, has worked hard to let breeders and their veterinarians know that there is another option: surrender the animals to us, and we will do our best to fix them and get them homes. This wonderful breeder agreed to let us help, and we took four of the puppies.
(Actually, Teri climbed out of bed, made some coffee, hopped in her car and drove hours to get them. Then she snuggled them into the incubator plugged into her car and warming in the passenger seat. She also had to pull over and feed them every 2-3 hours. They were just hours old).
And how did she feed them? Well, since conventional methods don’t work for cleft babies, she (and, later, me) had to insert a tube down their throat and into their stomach and syringe-feed them through that tube. And no: you can’t buy puppy formula at the store. Teri had to figure out her own formula through trial and error (it’s a lot of goat’s milk and Greek yogurt!)
The sandwich shop Jersey Mike’s had run a wonderful fundraiser for us, so they had been given naming rights, and the Sub Pups were born: Jersey Mike, Big Kahuna, Stickball Special (aka Styx) and Philly Cheesesteak (aka Phyllis, the lone girl).
In some ways they were the perfect fosters: they never made a sound. They slept through the night. In fact, they slept ALL THE TIME. I guess that was partly because they were puppies, and partly because they weren’t all that healthy. At the time I got them, they were transitioning to solid food. It’s a challenging time with any puppy (or human infant!), but even more so for a cleft baby. Every time they tried to eat, it would go up through the hole in the roof of their mouths and they would sneeze and couch and it would be yucky out their noses. So we had to get them on solid food asap, and away from mushy baby food.
I still supplemented them with tube feedings, and every day I weighed them, panicking when they lost an ounce, celebrating at every milestone: they all came in under two pounds, so that first 2 pounder was huge for me!
So they did the puppy thing. They ate.
(they drank out of what I called a rabbit water bottle so as to not choke on water)
They learned to play!
And they slept.
When they were all diagnosed with pneumonia, we weren’t surprised. It happens. It’s pretty common with cleft palates, as any fluids they consume can easily travel into the lungs. So we started treating them, and we thought they were all getting better.
But not Phyllis.
Little Philly Cheesesteak started craning her neck — like a turtle. I showed it to Teri, and our founder, Rachel, and they decided she needed to go to the emergency vet.
I never saw her again.
Philly Cheesesteak didn’t make it.
The sweet little girlie, the littlest one. She looked like an absolute toy. The vets tried for days, but ultimately she passed in her sleep.
Phyllis was the first foster I have lost. I grieve her all the time, but I know that I did all I could. That SHH did all it could. And I had three little yellow boys who needed me, so it was time to get re-focused.
I was nebulizing them. I was giving them steam showers. I gave meds several times a day. I did chest percussion treatment to loosen the phlegm. And they began to grow.
From day one I followed the Secondhand Hounds protocol, socializing them and exposing them to sounds and surfaces and textures.
Soon it was time to start talking adoption!
Mike was the first to find his people.
His new name is Winston, and he is being spoiled quite nicely, thank you!
Then Big Kahuna moved on and was renamed, Barney.
Both Winston and Barney have cat siblings, and are doing just fine with that!
Styx had to be with me longer, as his lungs just wouldn’t clear up. We sent him to a specialist, who vacuumed his lungs and did a culture and we changed medicines. Two weeks later his x rays were much better, so I started contacting potential adopters. Two weeks after that, he was able to go home.
Now Mr. Styx got to keep his name. It works well with the resident cat’s name, Skittles. But one kitty isn’t his only furry sibling!
Styx is an office dog now, who has his own cubicle and gets plenty of love!
When the pups are 6 months old, they will have surgery to correct their cleft palates. If all goes well, they should live the lives of normal, happy, loved dogs. But Secondhand Hounds has bills to pay. When we are done, we will have spent more than $10,000 on their care. We will not recoup that cost from adoption fees. We rely on your donations.
So consider donating, please. Because there are hundreds of animals we want to save. So far, in 10 years, SHH has saved more than 10,000 cats and dogs. Every day we hear of another one that needs help — a dog found starving and abused, a cat who had a litter by the side of the road, a breeder pup born with hydrocephaly, an animal abandoned because it was old and now needs hospice care. We have a donor who is willing to match all donations on Give to the Max Day dollar for dollar. So please: get that donation in NOW! https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds
In the meantime, here are a few more cute pics to remind you of where your money goes!
That link for donation again is https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds
Once again I take too long between blog posts. I just haven’t had any big doings in my life to report on — no trips, no big changes, no crazy silly stories. We’ve just been kinda settling in to empty nesting. It’s going well. Trying to do date nights every week, but life sometimes gets in the way. HWSNBN has been travelling, I spent October getting ready for our annual Halloween bash. Oh: and we got back into fostering.
As you know, we have had a gigantic hole in our hearts and lives since we lost Penny. Fostering was just too much. But before we went on our Greece and Croatia trip, there was a dog languishing in the office, waiting for a foster with no kids, no dogs, no cats. That was us. I told the family if Sirius was still looking when we got back, we were taking him. So we did.
He wasn’t an especially easy foster, but so sweet. He had become increasingly aggressive in his adoptive home. The owners tried everything they could, but he was just too afraid of the world. Interestingly enough, this was from birth. He had been the most skittish puppy in the litter, but everyone assumed he would grow out of t with love. But he didn’t. Just like some people are naturally shy or hesitant, Sirius needed to learn how to control his environment. Moving him into a kidless, dogless environment would be a good way to reset to factory settings as it were. There were a few days when I was worried he would never be adoptable, but Second Hand Hounds believed in him, and footed the bill for an in home trainer, leash aggression classes, and a doggy behavioralist.
With time and training and medication, he became a happy dog. The cutest couple ever applied for him, and we all took a chance. Would he be OK in their urban yard with a short, see-through chain link fence? With dogs and humans and cars and critters and kids everywhere? He was. He is now renamed Pico de Gallo, and is well loved.
We are often asked “are you going to keep this one? How do you let them go?” We loved Sirius, but he was not our dog. We entertain too much, and want a dog that likes to party at home and go out in public, not to mention one that will welcome other dogs into his home so we can continue to foster. Our life would’ve been awful for him. And I often say the best part of fostering IS the letting go: it’s when you get to complete a family circuit. My favorite moment is taking and sharing that photo of the once-lost dog going home with his new family. Best feeling in the world.
But what about us?
After Sirius, we took in Goober, a temp foster. Goober was a silly, intensely lovable pit bull that seriously wanted to be with us 24-7. And by with us, I mean physically a part of us. When I showered, he stood with his nose pressed up against the glass, as if fearful I would wash down the drain. HWSNBN thought Goober was great, but couldn’t commit to a pitty. “Too affectionate,” he said. “I need my personal space.”
So Goober was not our dog.
Next came Lady. On paper, Lady seemed very much like what we would want. House trained, crate trained, god with kids and dogs. She was some sort of greyhound mix we thought, so probably a good running partner.
We brought her home and set about getting to know her. She was easy: slept through the night, didn’t steal food, didn’t bark when folks came to the door, etc. Very sweet, but not overly clingy. But there was something missing. We just didn’t feel it. I asked my husband what he thought. “About adopting her? I mean, she’s great and all. But shouldn’t she go to someone who is excited about her?” He made an excellent point.
So she went on the website, and shortly we received an application from a veterinarian. She, her husband and their two young daughters had lost their two dogs a few months back, and were looking for a new one to fill their family’s dog-shaped hole. They met lady, and loved her. They were giddy about her. The little girls couldn’t stop talking about her. She was THEIR dog.
Shortly after Lady left us, I got an email from her adopters. They had renamed her, as most do. Her new name was going to be Penny.
They did not know about the sweet beast that left us in April. They had picked her name for the color of her fur — the exact same reason we had named ours Penny.
It was a sign to me that our Penny had moved on, and now it was time for us to welcome a new furry family member.
Meanwhile, I had seen a picture of a dog on the Facebook page of one of our partner rescues in Kentucky. Something hit me in the heart, and I immediately asked if she was coming to Minnesota. If so, she was mine.
And she is!
She came to us as Sissy, but has now been renamed Stevie Nicks. We don’t know what she is (DNA pending) so not sure how big she will grow to be. Some say she is done at 6 months old, others think he will get bigger. She’s only about 26 pounds, which is small for us. She is a complete ragamuffin thing. She is not house broken. She may never be a runner. She is not a late sleeper (we’re hoping she grows out of that quickly). But we love her. On paper, she is very wrong for us.
My kids think it’s weird that she is so similar to our Penny, but most folks adopt a type. I mean, if we always did yellow labs, or chihuahuas, or boxers, wouldn’t they all be similar? But they are all different. And they are all perfect.
Over the years I have had to say no to many adopters, not because they weren’t great but because simply can’t share a dog between applicants. Often they come back to me later and thank me for saying no — because they had since adopted THEIR dog. Had they taken the other, they would never have known this one. I feel that way about Stevie. I am grossly infatuated with her, and can’t keep my eyes and hands off her.
The perfect dog is a fairy tale — or, as I called it when I told folks we were “fostering with intent,” looking for our unicorn. But they are like glass slippers. They don’t fit everyone. But they fit the right one.
Not a particularly amusing day — and while productive in some ways, not so much in others!
My hairdresser par excellence, Chelsea, helped me pick a pair of cool readers today. Is that an oxymoron? “Cool readers?” I choose to think I’m just hip — and I don’t mean of the broken variety. As we always do, we discussed my next color, and how we will go about achieving it. I like my bright blue Muppet look for sure, but I am thinking something more sophisticated for my trip to Paris (mais oui!) in April. Gonna go berry wine. She’s intrigued…
Hit the library, where I checked out far too many books to read on this schedule, but oh well. I’m reading a great one right now: Goodbye Vitamin, by Rachel Khong. It’s a sad, funny novel about a gal who moves back home on mom’s request — just for a year — as dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My dad has Alzheimer’s and so many of the stories she tells remind me of when mine started declining. My Dad always got busted for stealing silverware. We’d be out to brunch and he’d be slipping a knife up his sleeve — and he usually had multiple watches on under that sleeve. Mom was forever bringing me ziploc baggies filled with stuff he had taken from my house. Anyway: so yeah, it’s a horrid disease, but if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Which does seem to be how I make it through my days no matter what.
Next it was the CAR WASH. Why the caps? You must not be from a winter state. We just finished three days of melt after two weeks of temps so cold my nipples could cut glass. So that first car wash is like taking off your bra at the end of the day. It shouldn’t thrill you to the tips of your toes, but it does. For me, the car wash was also a quiet place. I read for about 10 minutes, while someone else was cleaning. That is a bit of heaven right there, my friend.
HWSNBN does not feel the same about car washes. See, he is wicked afraid of clowns (not teasing him; we all have our things. For me? Escalators. No I am not kidding. Hate the things. And my kids know it: they love to walk backwards on them, pretend to trip, whatever. They joke that someday they are gonna fill escalators with clowns and wet themselves watching their parents try to climb over each other to see who can get out of the way first. They are hilarious, my offspring.). Anyway: back to car washes and clowns. Yes, there is a connection: HWSNBN feels that car washes are where baby clowns are made. He points out the multi-colored foam. Yeah…I got nothing.
Car all sparkly, I pick up three Old English sheepdog puppies and drive to an elementary school in St Paul (about 40 minutes away) for a party of sorts. The puppies were fluffy, the kids squealed, the grown ups smiled, the puppies peed and pooped. I cleaned it up. It’s what I do. My partner got excellent video footage of me — from behind (thank goodness for her wide angle lens) –cleaning up pee. That’s a lovely piece of video floating around the rescue page right now, lemme tell ya.
Rushed pups back to foster and me to my house, where I picked up Sailor Boy and we sat in traffic for an hour to go see Dad/Grandpa. It was actually a good visit; the last ones haven’t been as happy as he hasn’t been super responsive. But this time he actually chatted, and even cracked a joke. No one knows what was so funny, but in the middle of eating he looked across the table accusingly at the aide, and said: “You! You’re a liar!” We were shocked — then noticed he had the biggest grin and was even laughing. Sometimes the best jokes don’t have a punchline.
We all laughed out loud a few minutes later, when he decided that he liked his dessert a bit too much. Sailor Boy had been helping him with his eclair, and Dadpa decided he’d had enough. Speared the whole thing with his fork and tried to shove it all in. Wiping tears from our eyes, we promised we weren’t gonna try to steal it from him, and helped him with a piece that actually fit. It was a good visit, and I am glad Sailor Boy got to see him like this before he heads back to his duty station.
Now I am dying of hunger. There’s a new restaurant in town that I am dying to try. But we are waiting on Singer Girl. I guess I should be proud of her, as she is supporting Drummer Boy as he does his Major Presentation. So as a parent I am pleased. As a tired woman who just wants to eat pasta and drink wine, I am annoyed. I am ready to take off my bra.