How To Celebrate a Life
Rich wasn’t a funeral kinda guy. Which is good, because I’m not a funeral kind of gal. But I knew when he was diagnosed that there would only be one outcome, and so I started brainstorming.
How could I celebrate everything I loved about Rich, an everything that everyone else loved about him, and keep it light?
When I think of a funeral, I think sad, somber and all in black. I knew we couldn’t avoid moments of sadness, but the other two I could definitely tackle!
First an interjection: if you attended the event, thank you! This may seem redundant to you — although many people told me later they missed things, so maybe you will learn something new! Plus at the end of this post I have a link to the video tributes, which you might find interesting. A lot of this is geared towards people who may be in a similar planning situation. A lot of people have asked me how I did the party. Hopefully someone can glean some suggestions that might make their own event easier to plan.
My first task was choosing when we would have the party. I needed time to get organized and plan, plus I needed it to be when both the ids could attend, which meant December. We chose the date based on Sailor Boy’s schedule. The Navy allows holiday leave to either start or end on December 28th, so we ether had to do it the week of Christmas or the week after. For many reasons we knew Christmas week was a bad choice. And we had to do the Thursday, because Friday and Saturday were too pricey, and Monday was New Year’s Day, and Singer Girl had to go back to school on the 2nd. So December 29th was the only fit. Mind you, I was more worried about my boy making it on time than anything else: his flights from overseas finally had him arriving mere hours before the party!
Date selected, we moved to the venue. I needed a place that could hold a lot of people, and was easy for people to get to. Ultimately we probably had almost 350 guests, and the venue we chose, the Metropolitan Ballroom, was a great fit. Light and bright, with lots of levels and nooks and crannies to space things out and create pockets of fun. I also liked that it was easily accessible by freeway (and lots of free parking!). We accessorized the very stylish room with our own touches. I’ll talk more about that later. As for sustenance, I tried to keep things like Rich would’ve liked. TBH, when we discussed what he would like to see, he wanted it to be in our front yard with food trucks supplying burgers and brats. Since we were doing this in December, that wasn’t going to work (plus, I really didn’t want 350 people using my bathroom). So there were sliders, and tater tots, and Vegas themed desserts, among other options. Oh and the bar was a cash one, as I knew these people. If I paid for all their liquor, I’d have been washing dishes for weeks. However, we did have a specialty drink feature: the RT G & T: Bombay Sapphire, tonic, and a badly cut lime. If you know, you know.
During the course of Rich’s illness, I learned many things about my husband, even though I had known him for almost 40 years. Primarily, I learned about who he was a work — a mentor, friend, leader, coach, resource. I learned from his coworkers that he was known for “Richisms,” little nuggets of one-liner wisdom on subjects as diverse as work, marriage, life and dogs. I typed them up, and scattered them about the room. They were nuggets of gold, and I will be blogging about them later! When learning these things, it dawned on me that we often only know one or two facets of a person. So I set about revealing the many sides of Rich through “stations” set up around the room.
We had a table dedicated to Rich as a family man, with photos and mementos (people loved the wedding album!). I had Sailor Boy and Singer Girl pick their favorite pictures of them with their dad and displayed those prominently.
Folks who knew Rich only as an adult, needed to know his beginnings, so there was a table featuring Rich as a young guy, with baby pictures and prom photos and certificates from his days as an alter boy and newspaper clippings from high school sporting days.
Folks not knowing who he was at work needed to know his passion and commitment there. So there was a work table, featuring a binder with his certificates and awards and even the resume that got him hired at Cargill.
Folks thinking of him as always cool and collected made me want to show off his fun side. There was a table that was just silly, with various desktop toys and knickknacks that revealed the fun-loving guy I was privileged to love. The running table had all his marathon medals, as well as his favorite running t shirt.
We also decided to have a table honoring his brother Tito, who sadly died 7 weeks after Rich (yeah, 2022 was a real winner.) I was glad we are able to do that. Rich’s family created a beautiful photo montage display for that, which I appreciated.
The main rule for the evening: no funereal clothes. Rich was well known for wearing what Singer Girl called his “pimp shirts”: fun garb that bordered on the outright loud and tacky. I encouraged people to dress like they were in Vegas — or like they were Rich in Vegas. The kids and I, as well as other family members and friends, wore some of his wardrobe. For example, I wore his “dogs playing poker” shirt — a classic. I think people had a lot of fun with it, and it meant there were lots of smiles and laughter as different outfits appeared. The place was sparkly and flashy and cheerful!
One thing I knew I did NOT want: photo boards. We’ve all seen them at funerals: fantastic collections of family photos, meant to initiate walks down memory lane. They are great, but often overwhelming. I get that they are the easiest way to share such memories, but since we had time, I wanted to do something a little more. So, I asked a friend to help me make video slideshows (links to the slideshows are posted at the end of this blog post).
I spent weeks collecting, scanning and organizing photos. We had one main montage, that was just pictures of Rich. That played in the background on large video screens throughout the evening. The second show was more curated. Split into 4 parts, each part introduced a speaker. The first section was photos of Rich at work, and led into the speech by one of his former colleagues. Next up was the family section: first, Rich as a brother, uncle, son, etc., then clips of him as a dad. Sailor Boy spoke after that (thankfully he kept it short and irreverent. I was grateful I didn’t have cause to bawl like a baby!). The third section was Rich as a friend. We divided this section into Rich as a friend to many, then Rich as a member of the Unicorn Squad.
The Unicorns are Mike, Erika, Sandi and Kurt, our closest friends. These are our ride or dies, the ones with whom we travel, party, or just hang out. They got on stage collectively, three lining up behind while the fourth was the spokesperson for the group. I loved the symbolism of that. We are a team at all times.
The last slideshow was mine. It was all pictures of Rich and I in all phases of our relationship — from our days in college to our travels and date nights and up until the last. Then I spoke — very briefly. It was just a thank you for coming thing. But it also served one last purpose.
This party had a lot of goals. Obviously, I wanted to honor Rich. But I also wanted to thank everyone who had been there for us through the long days of a very short year. So it had to be fun — upbeat music, colorful clothes, good food, lots of comradery, etc. Originally when I was planning things I wanted there to be craps tables and make it really something we would have loved, but I guess you cant do even non-gambling craps tables in Minnesota (lame). So I had to do the next best thing: puppies.
At the end of my spiel, I revealed that there was a litter of puppies waiting to be cuddled. Surprise! As the Puppy Party Coordinator for Secondhand Hounds here in Minnesota, I felt it was fitting. People loved it (of course). It gave folks another reason to mingle and smile Rich would have approved.
There was one final goal for the evening: I wanted his family, especially his mom, to feel what I had felt for all those wretched months: the outpouring of love and support. When we moved to the Midwest decades ago I never could have known what an amazing world we would create here. People have literally come out of the woodwork to help in ways big and small, and I still get people reching out, asking how they can help.
I am so lucky.
We were so lucky.
This is the link to the video tribute of just Rich.
Go Westie, Young Man!
We got our latest foster on the last day of April. Ebby is not my typical foster: she’s a senior, and a small dog, and not very fluffy. I’ve had several surprised folks ask why I chose her, since she is clearly not my type. TBH I’m not 100% sure — maybe it was because she was so darling, and I’d never had a foster like her, and I figured she’d be super popular so she’d be adopted quickly. While all the rest proved to be true, that last little bit? Not so much.
Ebby is an owner surrender West Highland Terrier, who came to us from a Reservation in South Dakota when her owners had to move to a long term care facility. She was clearly well loved, and comfortable around everyone she met But she seemed to have been neglected a bit in the end, which isn’t entirely uncommon in situations like this. We assumed that, as a senior dog, she’d need a dental cleaning, but once I got her home we realized there were more layers to this stinking cute onion.
I could tell from a glance that her ears were infected and gross, and her nails were in dire need of a trim before they officially reached talon status. It also was rapidly apparent that she was deaf. Deaf dogs can be a blessing, and Ebby’s lack of hearing sure makes it easier to sneak around her and not interrupt her impressive sleeping habits (Miss Ebby Debby commonly sleeps 10-14 hours a night, and is a highly skilled napper as well.)
But when she wakes up and can’t find me, she gets a little concerned, and I have to chase her down the hall and tap her on the shoulder, or wave my arms frantically to get her attention. Mere inconveniences — there are way bigger struggles with some animals, including my own Stevie Nicks, who feels the need to bark at everyone until they are out of sight. But I digress.
When the Ebster went to her vet appointment they confirmed the hearing and teeth issues, and also revealed that — surprise! She wasn’t spayed after all. We added that surgery to the list. We also discovered several reproductive tumors (mammary and perineal), most likely the result of never being spayed. So those would have to come out. But before we could address all that, we needed to address the laundry list of minor ailments: double ear infections, skin infection, eye infections, etc.
Secondhand Hounds usually adds new dogs to the website on Wednesdays. and Ebby’s vet appointment was Monday. I forgot to notify the powers that Ebby was a medical case, and she was added to the website! Whoops…I didn’t even know until I opened my emails and saw a plethora of applications! I quickly notified my Foster Coordinator and the Adoption Coordinator and we pulled her from the site, then started responding to apps: “Hi, you know that cute dog you applied to adopt Well, she’s not adoptable. Yet.”
Westies are like crack to some people. I never understood it, but I do know. While she is not my “style” of dog, Ebby is cute and loyal and funny. She wants nothing more than to be near me, preferably cradled in my arms like a baby. Her little woo-woo voice is a hoot, even if I don’t always know what she wants. And when she starts moving, scampering is the only way to describe it!
So no it was no surprise that all that the three applicants were okay with the mistake. I promised to keep them apprised of what was happening, and invited them to meet her in the mean time. Two said yes (the other decided to wait and see what happened in her surgeries). The two that came, both retired couples, fell in love.
The first couple had recently lost a female Westie and was looking for a companion for Frank, their sad black Scottie dog. The wife wept when she saw Ebby! Ebby and Frank got along swimmingly, once Ebby confirmed that she would be the leader. The next couple didn’t have any other dogs, having lost their one and only. They came with family in tow, and all thought it was a good match. They also thought Ebby would be a great model for all the dog clothes the wife liked to make!
So I told them I’d keep them posted, but that nothing could proceed until after surgery.
While waiting for her surgery, Ebby got to know Stevie Nicks, even if she was a little pissy with her in teh beginning. I think Stevie’s big size freaked her out, especially when Ebby and I were cozied on the couch and suddenly this giant muppet would jump up next to her. To a deaf dog, that had to be disconcerting.
Ebby took field trips with us, met lots of poeple, and had playdates and overnights with other fosters.
She visited my dad at his memory care facility, and discovered that she loves being out in the yard, soaking up the sun.
On June 7, Ebby went under the knife. The vet wasn’t sure if they’d get everything done, or have to split it into two procedures. Thankfully, after about a 3 hour surgery, Miss Ebby emerged minus 6 teeth, several tumors, and a uterus. She was white girl wasted for the rest of the day, even if she slept poorly that night. Getting her to eat enough to take her pain meds was a challenge. Icing her incisions helped, but only so much.
She didn’t sleep well that night, or the next (so neither did I). Sleeping in a cone is tough, and she paced a lot, which meant banging into things. We tried kenneling her, but she cried. The second night, she had had diarrhea, which worried me. The vet had warned that the surgery to remove the perineal surgery was invasive, and could result in some fecal incontinence. Now we had some drippy issues. After taking her outside, and coming to verbal blows with HWSNBN (he doesn’t do well when a dog interferes with his sleep), I went online and started ordering doggie obesies on Amazon.
The next day I discovered the key to sleep: at night, Ebby wore a onesie and a diaper, but no cone. She left everything alone, and we had no mess to clean up. We were doing frequent butt baths (can’t have poopy stitches ) — sometimes 5 a day. But gradually things started to heal and I got rid of the diaper. But she still sleeps in a onesie — at least until the stitches come out.
I emailed all potential adopters after the surgery, letting them know she had two weeks of recovery minimum before she could go home, and that we needed to wait on test results. A few days later I warned them about the fecal incontinence. The adopter who hadn’t met her never responded. The one with Frank the terrier decided they couldn’t handle that, and gracefully bowed out. The last one? The dog fashion designers Offered to mail me the diapers left over from their last dog, who had been incontinent — and asked me to measure Ebby for some new outfits.
So now Ebby has a person!
The next step was waiting on test results, which we received a few days ago. The perineal tumor, and the largest mammary tumor, do show cancer. What to do? Wait and see if the cancer would progress, or do further, more invasive surgery. That surgery is beyond the scope of our crack vet team, so we would need a specialist. If we end up doing it, it’ll be another month before she can go home. What to do?
The vet said she wanted to discuss it with the adopters, so they have been playing phone tag. I have suggested a “foster to adopt situation, where the adopters take her home, but bring her back to us for any treatment. and the adoption is finalized when the treatments end. So that’s where we stand right now. Ebby gets her stitches out tomorrow, and hopefully her mama and the vet can chat. I had the adopter fil out the foster paperwork, and I will be doing a virtual home visit this weekend. The adopters are super busy with long-delayed family reunions, a funeral, and moving her mother into a care facility, and then them into her home. All of this is taking pace in North and South Dakotas, where they and their family live. Many adopters would just bow out, or ask me to hold onto her for awhile. But these folks are willing to squeeze in a multi-hour drive to and from the Cities to get her as soon as the paperwork is done.
I love them.
I do hope Ebby gets to go early next week, as she is super attached to me and, while it has its charms for me, it’s tough on the rest of the folks in our home when I leave (she woo-woos when I am gone). She has spent time at other homes, and has settled pretty quickly with them, but that was before the surgery.
Since the surgery, besides becoming my white shadow (remember that TV show?), she has become perkier. That could be because she is eating and sleeping even better than before (I didn’t think she could ever sleep more, but she does). I think she didn’t eat much before because her teeth hurt so much, the poor baby. She has become adventurous, wandering down the driveway when she wants to go for a walk, or sniffing her way into our off-limits forested backyard. She never complains when I catch her; I just scoop her up and cradle her like a baby. Maybe she does it just to get the extra lovies? Hmmm…
Anyway: I hope I can soon share pics of Ebby with her new family. We will probably take another little foster break after this, as I need to work in the yard and exercise, and I am really bad at both when I have a foster. Plus we have a busy few months coming up with lots of fun stuff I can’t wait to share with you all!
In the meantime, I will love on Ebby, and be grateful for the chance to help her find a better forever!
Showered in Spring Dates
April was pretty grey (gray?) in Minnesota, and May was marginally better, but we welcomed spring with as many outdoor dates as possible!
I like when we can involve animals with date nights. Our first April date night had us exploring an Alpaca farm in Prior Lake called Whispering Oaks. After chatting with the owner and watching several stunning long-lashed friends in their paddock, we got to take an Alpaca for a walk (unsupervised, no less, lol). Also on the farm are chickens and donkeys and all sorts of other furry friends.
HWSNBN knows I have a thing for history — especially in the form of cemeteries (don’t judge). He found an online self-guided tour of the old Oak Hill Cemetery in Excelsior. I have always wanted to visit it, but had just driven past on my way hither and yon for the past 20 years or so. Glad to have a solid reason too get out of the car!
The tour told us about many prominent citizens and founding families buried there. I was dismayed at the awful conditions of many of the graves (a fact that was further highlighted by the contrast with the well-kept historic cemetery we visited in Boston a few weeks later. More on that in another post). Nonetheless, it is worth a walk around, especially if you are into that sort of thing, like I am.
You may have seen the footage awhile back of a drone flying around a vintage bowling alley? Well, that was at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis, and that was the site of a particularly fun date night. Thanks to social distancing rules, we got a set of lanes and ball return all to ourselves, with a waiter bringing yummy drinks and food.
I worried about my tennis elbow flaring up, and I did have to keep switching ball weights, but I did pretty well. We absolutely sucked at score keeping — I haven’t had to manually add up bowling scores in decades. Math does NOT belong on a date night.
But cocktails definitely DO belong on date night! For one of his picks, HWSNBN signed us up for a virtual cocktail class. We joined two other couples from other parts of the country and made three different tequila drinks, thanks to the the website Cozymeal. The class was called Tequila Cocktails with a Twist, and our Mixologist, Anthony, was great (follow him on Instagram). We made a life-changing margarita, a Paloma (I don’t dig grapefruit juice, but everyone else raved), and a Mexican Old-Fashioned. I was surprised how much I liked that last one, given it’s brown-liquor roots. But I’ll try any drink once, lol. And often twice.
When we finally got a glorious day, we struck out with resident dog Stevie Nicks and foster Ebby the Westie and enjoyed some of Minneapolis’s beauty. Everyone was out and about, loving the weather. It was so wonderful to be in a crowd of happy people again! Weddings, street musicians, prom pictures, families and friends and other “daters.” Glorious!
Some of our “dates” aren’t always official one-on-ones. Since the pandemic hit, we regularly spend time together giving platelets. Not exactly fun and games, but it IS something that we both get great satisfaction out of doing, and it’s something that helps bond us together. We’ve also done a lot mope double dating. For example, we went with a couple to a Minnesota Twins game.
Luckily, it was a great one, and we enjoyed watching the Twins shellac the Kansas City Royals after meeting up with two other couples at Fulton Beer. Another double date night? Adults night at the Minnesota Zoo for zoo babies! The zoo is always more fun with a cocktail in hand, and when you don’t have to let little kids get in front of you. Sometimes it’s fun to be selfish!
Our last two date nights of May couldn’t have been more different. For one, we attended the Oddities and Curiosities expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I didn’t know what to expect, except for, well some odd and curious things. We were not disappointed, lol. We thought we might find something cool for our Halloween party (which is back on this year, BTW!), but the stuff was way too weird for my guests, lol.
I mean, the beautifully framed butterflies and beetles would’ve worked, but the taxidermy two headed calf, purse made out of skin, and the mass murdered memorabilia was a bit too far off for us. The people watching was fantastic, though! No regrets going (regrets are hard to come by in my world), but I wouldn’t go again.
Last weekend we got to experience live music again for the first time since I think February 2020. We got front row seats to the Lonesome Losers show at The Hook and Ladder Theater for a Yacht Rock tribute. Almost three hours of groovy soft rock — just what the doctor ordered! Oh and the burger from the Gentleman Forager food truck was delicious!
As always, food played a prominent role in our dates.
The setting at Charlie’s on Prior made for some picturesque apres-Alpaca noshing.
For our April 14 birthday (yes, we share the day), we checked out opening night at Josefina, the new Italian place in Wayzata. The cocktails weren’t my style (too dark liquor or Aperol-bitter), but the home made pasta was a thing of beauty.
Now that Singer Girl is home for the summer, we invited her to go on one of our date nights. I’d been wanting to try the St Paul restaurant Estelle since pre-Covid, and we finally made it. Granted, it was cold and rainy and we had to sit outside, but good food, drinks and companions can compensate for pretty much anything!
All this yumminess makes me hungry — which is good, because we have dinner plans soon and I need to get ready! Hope you are having fun dating. Please let me know if you have any awesome suggestions for us to try!
(Oh: and if you haven’t already, please support my Bark in Your Park Fundraiser for Secondhand hounds! This weekend I pledged to walk 10 miles for the cause, and hopefully earn $7500 in pledges to help save more animal lives. Please donate here: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/stevie-nickss-landslide/donnitorres
Homes Sweet Homes
When I last posted about my Caribbean Beach babies, we were awfully close to adoptions. Well, I just wanted to give an update!
They moved into their forever homes almost a month ago, and everyone is so happy! I know people were worried about them being separated, but, as I suspected, they flourished apart. Within hours of Trillium leaving, Tulip realized that she was one her own and better start letting people love her. Whereas the day before she was fearful about us petting her, she was converting her struggles to snuggles by the evening! Interestingly, both girls have big sister’s who look a lot like them!
Trillium left first and moved in with her new mama Kim and big sister Gilly.
Her new name is Pearl, and, like her namesake, has come a long way from her rough beginnings! She has done great with her potty training, and has a fondness for chewing bones…and shoes…
Pearl and Gilly are very busy, with daily dog park visits and walks. They have a lot of fun together!
She likes meeting new people, but is a little shy, so would prefer to make the first move, according to her mama. She has learned some commands (and knows the word “treat” very well!).
Tulip retained her name, because, well, her big sister is named Daisy and that is too cute to not have two flower names!
Tulip was a little wary at first…
but she and Daisy connected quickly, and enjoy romping in the yard and wrestling. She enjoys getting to know the neighbor dogs as well!
As you can see from her pictures, they tandem sleep as well, lol.
Tulip is a bit slower to trust, which was how she was with us. She just recently worked up the courage to go for a walk — Mama August says it took her 20 minutes to go seven houses, because there was so much to smell! While she likes food, she is cautious about taking treats, so August is being very slow and patent with her training. Just what this little girl needs!
August has sent out Tulip’s DNA for testing, and Pearl’s will soon be in the mail. I think t will be fascinating to see how closely related they are, and how!
Thanks for all your support with them. I have a new foster now, a senior West Highland Terrier named Ebby. I’ll talk about her another time!
We’ve now had Tulip and Trillium, my little beach baby foster puppies from St Thomas, USVI, almost 6 weeks. People who meet them for the first time feel sad, and worry about how far they have to go yet. But folks who have seen them more than once marvel at the transformation!
They have had lots of doggy exposure. We have had several canine houseguests: Ginger, a mini doodle, stayed with us for a week. She was more unsure of the pups than they were of her, but after a few days it was crazy play time!
A few days later, dog-in-law Monte, and former foster Lyle, both large goldendoodles, had a 36 hour playdate. When Lyle the Wild came charging into the house (he’s just a year old), T and T screamed in terror and peed everywhere. Three hours later, they were best buds.
Lyle and Trillium had what can only be called a connection. In fact, they were so keen on each other they made everyone else feel uncomfortable. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing they are both fixed. Those would’ve been some weird looking puppies!
While they still aren’t cuddly lap dogs, we can get some good scratches and pets in. Trillium especially will allow belly rubs. We think she is more used to being held, as we had to give her eye drops twice a day for a minor eye infection. After a few days of chasing her about, she gave up and let us pick her up. We made sure to give lots of lovies when we did it, and rewarded her with whipped cream when done. So now she is more likely to allow contact, even if she isn’t always relaxed. We decided to start “force” cuddling Tulip more, to see if we can convince her that human contact is a good thing. Hopefully in a few days she will be better about it. But right now she cowers with terror, and we have to really make it worth her while (lots of ear scratches, belly rubs, and cheese).
On the training front, we are spending more time outside. They love being there, but hate getting there (ie: being leashed and carried outside). They need to start recognizing that the reward is greater than the punishment, lol. Many dogs are skittish on leashes, especially at the beginning. I don’t want to force too much, as I don’t want to create future leash aggression issues. So as much as I’d like to take them for a walk, I don’t think they are there yet.
In the meantime, we have had several meet and greets. All guests are handed a baggy of kibble to toss around like breadcrumbs for pigeons. The first time someone came to the house, they barked insanely and it took a really long time for them to accept the human. But each time someone comes over, the pups take less and less time to warm up to them. Mind you, they aren’t coming up to visitors for physical contact, but they will take food out of patient hands!
I had two good adopters back out. One family’s circumstances changed during the process, and they weren’t going to be able to give Tulip the time she needs and deserves. Trillium’s withdrew when they realized that their busy city neighborhood would likely be too much for a shy dog. She has another good prospect, who has now visited twice, once with their dog. Monday I will visit their home with Trillium to see how the pup does with a strange dog on her turf. I assume Trillium will cower in a corner, and probably pee a little, lol.
Tulip has two good options right now. Like with Trillium, we did first visits at my house with no dogs. Last night, the first couple brought their scruff-muffin, Weasley, over for a how-do-you-do butt sniff. Weasley was more interested in checking out our yard than playing with the dogs, but that’s ok. I’d rather have a dog that ignores Tulip than one who charges up with even friendly enthusiasm. Tonight we are meeting the second adopter, who is bringing her dog Daisy. If this one goes well, I have to decide if I want to do round 3 with both or just one. I havean on paper preference right now, but need to see how the dogs do before I proceed.
Until decision day, we have a routine.
Their days are full of naps,
and more naps.
Keep your paws crossed that I will be posting an “adoption pending” pupdate soon!
Weeble May Wobble But She Don’t Fall Down!
It’s Give to the Max Day! Since today is so important day (more on that later), I thought I’d share an update on my fave foster of the year — and maybe one of my favorites of all time!
Back in the spring, Teri, the Secondhand Hounds neonatal program coordinator, posted a picture of a tiny thing that needed help.
Something grabbed me on the inside and I instantly reacted. This baby was tiny, and sad, and damaged. We didn’t know how bad off she was, or even if she could be saved. But SHH was willing to try, and I wanted her in my life.
She was teeny, and scared. When Teri and I showed up for her intake, she would scream and flail frantically. She almost threw herself off the table, and it was nearly impossible to console her. She had been found at just two weeks old, abandoned in a box on the side of a Kentucky road. Our rescue partners down there had been working with her to gte her stronger before her trip up north, and now she was ours.
As I was driving away with Weeble that night, Teri cautioned me that we might have to make a decision. I understood that we didn’t want her to suffer, but I was determined to try.
We agreed to take it a day at a time.
Weebs had no control over her body. I immediately figured she was blind. Then, I started to realize she was deaf (a diagnosisI confirmed by banging pans together over her head. She slept through the clamor). We worried she had a neurological disorder, as she couldn’t walk in a straight line. It was painful to watch — friends who met her passed silent looks over my head, sure that this baby wasn’t going to make it.
My first goal was to get her to eat, which was tough with all her lurching and swerving. She was starving, but frustrated. I would take the goopy mush and smear it on my fingers then put them in her mouth. After I had crammed as much food in her as she could handle, she would pass out, satisfied.
She wasn’t safe in her pen: she kept crashing into things and falling. So I literally gave her a padded cell.
The smaller her area, the calmer she was. So I filled it with soft toys.
We made it through the first day. Then the next. Days turned to weeks, and she started to calm down.
A trip to the vet confirmed she was messed up, but we just couldn’t tell what it was. We had a theory (Cerebellar hypoplasia), but when I reached out to others with animals with that diagnosis, they disagreed. She was doing too well.
So we just did what we could to get her stronger, healthier, and, after a while, happier.
She started to puppy! She learned to eat (although never neatly. I called her eating style the “Stevie Wonder.”). She still couldn’t easily walk a straight line, but her paths became neater diagonals, versus wide arcing circles. I realized that a lot of her issues were likely emotional trauma. Since I rarely know my fosters’ back stories, I invent them, based on the dogs’ behavior. My guess is that Weeble’s first two weeks were fine — nursing away with her litter. But when her eye opened, and she started to move, the asshats who had her litter realized she was damaged, and threw her out like trash.
Who wouldn’t be traumatized?
Once she was steadier, we made a decision that was right for her but so very painful for me: she needed “siblings.” Our founder, Rachel, had a litter of puppies about the same age and we moved Weeble and another neonatal puppy, Cheddar, into her pack. Dogs need other dogs to teach them the ground rules, and I knew she would benefit, But I was as worried as a mama dropping her differently-abled kiddo off at school for the first time.
Would the other puppies accept her, or pick on her? Would she miss my guiding hand, or join in the fun? I let her loose, held my breath, and watched.
The other puppies bounded up with puppy joy, totally unaware that my deaf, visually compromised baby couldn’t anticipate their crashing arrival. She hollered and whimpered. Baffled, they backed off. They all tried again. She wandered around, confused. No one became immediate friends, but no one tried to eat her, either. Rachel gently pushed me out the door, and promised to keep me apprised.
The house was empty and quiet and easy at home. I missed Weebs. I worried. But, like any mom, I knew that she needed to spread her wings. And she did.
Soon she was in charge, albeit goofily. Weeble, once she got past the ugly beginnings, was so joyful, so grateful to be alive, that she just thought life was amazing.
As we assumed, after a few weeks Rachel’s puppies were adopted and Weeble and Cheddar were left alone (we typically wait a bit longer to put neonates up for adoption, as they have more issues to resolve before being go-home ready). So I got Weeble back — and her “sister” Cheddar, too.
She was bigger, stronger, more confident. Her time with “siblings” had worked miracles! She and little Cheddar, also a neonatal pup who came to us with her unique “cleft nose,” were continuing to teach each other how to dog. They were doing so well, in fact, that it was time to start looking for adopters for both!
Weeble’s bio was a tough one. I knew I had to work very hard to find her the right family, as we just didn’t know what the future would hold for this wobbly baby. She needed a home with another dog, and one where the people were committed to keeping her safe, and socialized, and willing to put in the work now and forever.
When Krista applied, she said she’d been following Weeble’s journey on social media, and had fallen hard. She brought her boyfriend Jason, who wasn’t sure they needed a third dog. He was a bit more cautious and reserved during the meet and greet, but it was pretty clear by the end that he was smitten, too.
A few days later, after a virtual home visit, we decided to set up a meeting with their two boxers, and, if everyone jelled, she was theirs. My worry with any dogs was whether they would accept her, or exclude her as “damaged.” The dogs were confused by her, but more because of her exuberant energy, not her wacky ways. A family was born!
I always want to keep in touch with adopters, as I get so emotionally attached to the dogs while they are here. But Weeble was even more special than most, and I was desperate for updates. Krista and Jason have been wonderful about keeping me posted!
Weeble is now a burly, happy, bull in a china shop pupper named Wobbles (I love that). She loves going to daycare, playing with her siblings, and cuddling with mom and dad (although Jason reports that sometimes she doesn’t quite know the appropriate times to be awake, and has been known to want to play at 1am!).
I mentioned at the top of this post that today was a special day. It is Give to the Max Day, a day so important to all Minnesota nonprofits, but especially vital this year. We cannot do in-person fundraisers, so today is a make or break it kind of day. Without donations, we can’t help dog’s like Weeble. We can’t save all the bottle-fed babies, the seniors struggling at their end of life, the thousands that pass through our doors every year. We need your help.
If Weeble’s story touches you in any way, please donate today. All dnations will be matched! Go to https://www.givemn.org/donate/Secondhand-Hounds and pledge anything — it ALL helps.
As a thank you, I’ll keep sharing these babies and their stories! I don’t know who next year’s Weeble will be, but I am excited to meet her!
Save Your Winter By Saving A Life
A wonderful friend recently asked me to write a blog for her company’s website. Christie has an amazing clothing line, Sun 50, that is not only fashionable and fun, it can save lives, as it is all created to save your skin from sun damage.
As the website states, “We created this company to bring hope and wellness into people’s lives.” Clearly, it has a spiritual connection with animal rescue.
I enjoyed writing about a subject that I am passionate about — just like Christie’s passionate for lookin’ fab and being safe at the beach!
After she published the blog, I decided to reprint it here, adding a bit more detail.
Perhaps you’ve realized you will be home more than usual this winter and you may be thinking, “now is THE perfect time to add a fur friend to my family.” After all, dogs have been known to cure loneliness, increase your opportunity to be outside, exercise and socialize, from a six-foot distance of course! (although, TBH, dogs don’t go in much for the social distance thing. I mean, how do you get in a good butt sniff from 6 feet away?)
So how do you start?
First of all, figure out the best dog addition for your lifestyle and be honest with yourself.
BREED: Are you looking for a running partner or a couch potato? A brewpub mate, boater, or road trip dog? Visit dog parks and ask the owner questions or just observe. Visit websites like Secondhand Hounds or Petfinder to see what’s available in your area. Research breeds of interest so you know what to expect in terms of training, health concerns, behavior, longevity, shedding, etc.
AGE: Are you ready to invest 10-20 years into this relationship? Or are you thinking 3-5 years is plenty of time? This will help you decide puppy vs older dog, and help narrow down breeds (small dogs statistically live longer than large breeds).
FINANCES: The adoption fee is just the beginning, folks. When you adopt from us, that fee includes spaying/neutering, microchipping, vaccinations, vet care, and any training/socializing we can do. Be sure to review the fees for agencies in your area.
When you get them home, add in food, medical care (routine and the inevitable emergency or illness), training, vacation expenses (whether they go with you or stay behind), etc. It adds up quickly. If you are worried about money, do not adopt breeds prone to expensive health issues, like bulldogs or Great Danes.
How new is your carpet? Do you like to leave shoes around? Does your toddler drop lots of food? How will you react when your puppy pees n your couch or the kitty uses it for a scratching post? These things happen. And it can get expensive — fast.
YOUR TIME: Puppies require a ton of work on their schedule, not yours. Not a fan of midnight walks in the snow? Don’t get a puppy. On average, it will take a dog up to a year to house train. All dogs require time in training, no matter their breed or age. It can take time for an animal to acclimate to life in your home, and if you can’t take it slowly, maybe you shouldn’t take the plunge.
OTHER PETS: do you have any other fur friends at home? How do they feel about adding to the family? We insist that all our dogs meet any other dogs they might live with. They don’t have to have an instant connection, although that can happen. But if they dislike each other immediately, that’s not a great sign. And don’t get a puppy to bring life to your old dog. That’s not fair: most older dogs would like to chill out, not defend themselves against puppy teeth and enthusiasm. Got a kitty? Is it used to dogs? If not, make sure you get a dog that is cat savvy (we can emp test our dogs), or is a puppy who you can train diligently to be respectful. Make sure that your current animals have a way to escape the new ones if they need a break. Bottom line: if you are applying to adopt one of my fosters, I will tell you to put your current animal’s needs and desires first.
WHERE YOU LIVE: are you a neat freak? A sneezer? Dogs and cats bring saliva, dander, hairballs, muddy pawprints, poop. I know folks with allergies focus on certain breeds, and they can be better. Some breeds shed less, but all animals shed in some way. Don’t write a dog off until you meet it — and don’t assume a certain breed will mean no sneezes.
Is your yard fenced? If not, are you ready to take your dog out on a leash every time it needs to go out? Electric fences are controversial — they work for some dogs, but not all. Where will the pet sleep? Is everyone on teh same page for rules? How about training — everyone should attend training classes so you are on the same page. If mom says no to jumping up on guests, but dad greets the dog every evening with an “up, up” commnad, dogs can be confused. Dogs pretty much understand “always” and “never.” “Sometimes” is anarchy.
I have found that most adoption returns happen because the adopters weren’t honest with themselves about who they are and what they were willing to take on. It is awful when returns happen: the adopters feel guilty, the dogs feel guilty, and the foster who made the connection often feels guilt as well. So please: make sure you are picking the dog whose age/size.breed works best for you and your family.
Oh — and can I make a suggestion on what NOT to do?
Don’t give a pet as a gift.
I know it looks cute on commercials, but it is a living being. When we have folks that want to do this, we first have the “gift giver” get approved, then we recommend a surprise meet and greet. Make it a “date” if it’s for your significant other — maybe you bring them to meet a dog just to see what it’s like. Or you arrange something with the adopter — like a “chance” encounter at a park. Make sure the animal clicks for them (and the dog likes them back!). If you choose a chocolate lab, and it turns out your significant other always wanted a pit bull, you can’t exchange it like a sweater that’s the wrong color.
Ready to make the move? Patience, Grasshopper. Right now, EVERYONE wants a pet. The pandemic good news for rescues all over the country is that dogs and cats are finding homes at unprecedented rates.
The bad news for adopters? Adoption is suddenly insanely competitive. For every puppy on our website, we receive dozens, or even hundreds, of applications. But please do not give up hope!
Here are some adoption tip highlights and recommendations for you:
- Read the bio and listen to what it says. If the bio says “no kids,” and you have triplets, don’t apply. If it says “must be in a home with other dogs,” and you don’t have one, move on.
- Apply quickly. Do not wait for your significant other’s opinion. Apply, THEN tell them what you have done. You are not obligated to adopt the animal, but it’s the only way to talk with the foster and learn more about the animal (our animals all live in foster homes).
- BE FLEXIBLE. If you insist on only wanting a 5-pound, blue eyed female fluffy white thing under 10 weeks old, you just made your quest exponentially harder. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to get the right pet.
- Insist on something “designer” or “trendy” (like a Frenchie)? Become a foster. SHH Fosters chose the animal(s) they foster, decide who adopts them and get “first dibs” on their foster if they “fall in love.”
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Why adopt rather than buy from a breeder? You are saving lives! According to ASPCA, about 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year. While that number is sickeningly staggering ( that’s more than 4,100 per day, or 171 per HOUR), that number is down from 2.6million each year in 2011, thanks in large part to rescues and shelters promoting spay, neuter and adopt don’t shop.
Additionally, with a foster based rescue, the foster knows the animals from heath to behavioral quirks and is motivated to facilitate the best match for you and each fur friend. It is also VERY difficult to tell if a breeder is an ethical and responsible animal lover, or just a puppy mill solely interested in profits.
It’s also waaaay less expensive. At Secondhand Hounds, our animal adoption fees range from $100 for an older cat to $1000 for a purebred, highly desirable breed puppy. For that fee, you get way more than “just” the animal itself:
“Secondhand Hounds charges an adoption fee to adopt through our rescue. … Adoption fees include the cost of spay/neuter surgery, microchip, de-worming, flea/tick preventative, heartworm test (for dogs and puppies over nine months), feLeuk/FIV test for cats and kittens, and age-appropriate rabies/distemper vaccinations. By paying this adoption fee, you are not only adopting your new best friend, but you are also allowing us to save more lives.”
Let me be clear: SHH is NOT anti-breeder. We are anti-bad breeder.
A responsible breeder has a waitlist and never has puppies waiting for adoption. A responsible breeder screens their animals for illnesses and does not breed litters with genetic issues. A responsible breeder will allow you to meet the parents, visit their facility and ask questions. If the breeder does not meet the above criteria, walk away.
Bringing a fur friend into your home is a major decision with lifelong reward. While the adoption process may take a bit longer these days, I encourage you to throw your application in. Your decision to do so will save a life — and might even be yours. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have — and please share pics of your rescue dog or cat!
A Lab(rad)or of Love
Last summer I agreed to take on four neonatal fosters for Secondhand Hounds. Lovingly dubbed the Sub Pups, these tiny yellow labrador puppies were released from a breeder because they had cleft palates and would’ve died without help.
The sandwich chain Jersey Mike’s generously donated to our organization, and as a thanks we gave them naming rights. Thus they were dubbed after popular menu options: Jersey Mike (aka Mike), Big Kahuna (Kahuna), Stickball Special (Styx), and Philly Cheesesteak (Phyllis).
You can see some of last summer’s blog posts here. We definitely had a lot of ups and downs with these babies, as we do with most of our neonates. Clefties tend to aspirate their food and liquid, leading to aspiration pneumonia. These guys were no exception. At 5 weeks old, they started declining. My life became a blur of vet visits and medication dosings. The boys struggled, but they overcame eventually. Little Phyllis, sadly, did not. She is the only foster I have lost, and it was so hard. My heart hurt for her, but in the end know we did everything possible to give her a chance. She was loved, and she knew it.
As I said, the boys recovered, and after a few months were able to go home to their forevers. Today, the babies are big boys!
Mike was the first to go, and he was dubbed Winston (look for him on Instagram as Sir Winston Labrador). His parents are veterinarians, and daddy has extensive experience with clefties. Mama and Daddy are overwhelmingly in love with their boy! They worried at first that they would struggle to connect, as they had just lost another lab. But clearly Winston’s winning ways quickly eliminated that concern.
“He has become the Michael Phelps of the dog world and LOVES to swim and chase a ball in the water, so we aren’t sure if his favorite thing really is the ball or the swimming part LOL,” says his mama. Winston is a big snuggler, which doesn’t surprise me (orphan babies get pretty spoiled by human contact, due to how much intense handling and cuddling they receive from early on). When they are babies, cleft pups drink from a “hamster” waterer, as it takes a while to learn how to drink from a bowl without choking. Winston got a little spoiled, evidently, as he still prefers his waterer to a bowl, and will only drink out of the water bowl if it has a little milk in it!
Big Kahuna is now Barney.
This sweetheart has been a godsend for his humans: “Barney is a wonderful member of our family! We can’t imagine being without him, and we are so grateful for him especially when we had to go on lockdown, he got us through that very difficult time.”
Like Winston, Barney slits his time between snuggles and playing. He happily greets his humans, and wants to meet all the neighbors (I mean, isn’t everyone a friend you just haven’t met yet?)
Barney loves going on walks around the lake and through the woods (so many sniffing opportunities!), and he is learning how to play fetch. Of course, he usually just keeps the ball and the game for him is for his people to wrestle the ball away from him! His fave time of day might be mealtime: in typical lab fashion, he inhales his food in seconds. His current task on his to do list is convincing Tinker the cat, to play, but she’s not having it (50 lb dog versus an 8 lb cat!).
When the pups were dealing with pneumonia, Styx suffered the longest. His recovery dragged, so he stayed with me for more than a month longer tan his brothers. To be honest, I didn’t mind. He was such a sweetie! His adopter was also patient, beasue she knew she had a great dog coming hoe soon!
Styx hit the family jackpot: he is one of four dogs at his house!
His three siblings are Skittles, Daisy and Sasha. He loves playing with them during the day and cuddling at night.
Styx (the only f the puppies to keep his name) also loves being around the two-leggeds, and has settled in quickly to his job as an office mascot! It seems all these babies came from some great snuggle stock, as all their humans report the cuddle is strong with these woofers!
As you can imagine, Secondhand Hounds spent a lot of money on these babies. All had at least one cleft surgery, plus emergency care during their bout with pneumonia and countless doctors’ visits. Thanks to generous donors, it’s what we do. We want these amazing animals to have the best life possible (historically breeders euthanize puppies and kittens born with defects like cleft palates; we are giving them another option).
Next month is Give to the Max Day. The fundraising event is always important, but this year it is critical for us and other charities. 2020 has been a YEAR, if ya hadn’t heard! We are unable to do our major in-person fundraising events, so if you are moved to see more success stories like these, please consider donating on November 19th. For more information, please click here.
Recently we got in a new cleft baby, a French bulldog who is working hard to survive.
Secondhand Hounds will do all it can to make sure she has a happy where are they now story this time next year!
Da babies grew up and became da toddlers — and now they became someone else’s dream dogs!
Alice and Thimble went home to their forever families last week, When they left me, the once one-pound struggling critters were 19 and 22 pounds each — at 10 weeks old. Gonna be HUGE!
Thimble’s adopters contact me all the time with pics and videos. She is now named Nora, and is a total daddy’s girl. She also has four human sisters — two sets of twins! She also has cat and dog siblings, so no worries about her being lonely.
Both dogs have continued their character traits at their new homes. Thimble likes to sleep (a lot) and sleeps under things as much as possible. At my house, her fave space was under my desk. Her adopters report she likes to squeeze into quiet corners for some shuteye. If that doesn’t work, she has been known to crawl under a pillow and snooze! Thimble lumbers about like a happy, over-served bar patron. Her squat legs don’t quite seem up to the task of holding her girth upright. And her wrinkles are getting jowlier, and the drooling has commenced. (Can dogs wear bibs?)
Alice is now Matilda, and just as sassy as ever! Some of the staff at Secondhand Hounds nicknamed her Karen due to her insistence to tell them her opinions about everything!). She has a big ole mastiff brother named Walter, and her parents adore her. Walter thinks she’s cool, too, but wants her to hurry up and grow so they can play together more safely. Be careful what you wish for, Walter! She is pretty brave, and jumps right into the middle of the action, whether it is meeting new people or greeting much bigger dogs.
When they were living with me still, we worked hard at Dogging 101. During the day, I played YouTube desensitization clips, and it seemed to help. They sleep through storms, and don’t seem phased by barking dogs. I took them out to socialize on walks and to events. They made their first bar appearance, where, of course, they were crowd favorites at the Excelsior Brewing Company! They and two siblings were the star attractions at an event at The Vine Room in Hopkins, where folks cuddled them up while supporting a great local business.
During the last few weeks with me, I had to travel a few times, so they experienced life in other homes. For a few days they slept over with some siblings, on another occasion they lived in a kid-filled house, and on a third they hung out with a big dog named Rosie. Alice loved Rosie from the get go, but Thimble was a bit cautious. By the end of the weekend, however, they were best pals.
Here are some other fun shots from their last weeks with us. I miss them already! (But not the pee. Or the poop. Or the drool…)
Big Dogs in Progress
We are back to fostering after an almost 4 month break. Pre-COVID, there weren’t enough fosters, and animals were languishing in shelters and rescues all over the country. But when folks realized they had lots of time on their hands, fosters and adopters came out of the proverbial woodwork, so I stepped back. I thought I’d let some of the new fosters have a shot at dogs, as we simply couldn’t keep up with demand.
But last month Secondhand Hounds received word of a couple of dogs in Kentucky who needed help — and one was heavily pregnant. Popeye, the daddy, is a one year old Neapolitan Mastiff.
Mama Olive Oyl is a two year old Neo Mastiff.
Mama went into labor before she could get up here to Minnesota, and now, instead of one foster for dad and one for mama and her brood, we needed many more fosters, as Olive Oyl decided her job was done and elected not to nurse the babies. So: fosters experienced in bottle or tube feed itty bitties were needed, and since I had experience from last year (remember the yellow lab puppies I had?), I was asked to help out.
Mama gave birth to 14 pups: 4 were stllborn, and 4 passed before we received them. So that left 6 babies, divided among 3 fosters. I got Thimble and Alice when they were just 11 days old, eyes and ears still closed. They weighed barely over a pound each!
Every 2-3 hours I bottle fed them formula. We use a very interesting formula recipe, which includes goat’s milk, whole Greek yogurt, whole ayo, karo syrup and egg yolks. So every few days I whipped up that mixure in the blender. The pups liked the formula,but hated the bottle. I swear I must’ve tried 5 different types of bottles and nipples. The feedings were taking about 45 minutes each time, and I was pretty wiped. I was spending about eight hours a day total feeding them! So at night I decide to tube feed them, so that cut the feedings to about 20 minutes total. But during the day I wanted to keep them on bottles, because they seem to need the sucking.
When they were 19 days old, Thimble got really, really sick. I consulted many times with fellow fosters and our vet, and we all decided she needed help. Her breathing was labored and she was so, so limp and lethargic. Before I handed her off to the emergency vet, I actually said my good byes. The vet confirmed aspiration pneumonia. I wasn’t surprised, given that they just fought and struggled with their bottles.
She came home and both puppies promptly moved into an oxygen chamber that took up half my kitchen counter.
We started antibiotics, and switched from bottles to syringe feeding. They loved that. Just sucked the formula down! We also started adding canned food to their diet, a little at a time. I had a feeling they’d be happier when they got real food, and they were.
They were also a mess!
Soon they were gaining weight, breathing better, and scooting around! Every day we try to make the food little thicker. Now I am taking dry kibble and soaking it in formula to mix with the canned food. As their teeth grow in, I will start making the much dryer and crunchier.
We are socializing now too. I invite folks over all the time to play with them, as I want the pups to love everyone. Thimble is definietly the more easy-going of the two, while Alice s a bit of a diva. Thimble is also MUCH bigger, and looks like she will be jowlier than Alice.
I’m about to go on a trip, so they will stay with another foster for 5 days, and I am eager to see how big they get by then. Thimble grew by almost 60% this past week, Alice by 25%. Pretty sure I won’t recognize them when I return!
I’ll keep ya posted!