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When I started this blog in 2009, I had no idea if anyone would read it. I started out writing about our first house (the “bungie” in our name is short for bungalow, which is the style of house we live in) and I occasionally received comments from my mom or one of my friends, but I didn’t really think anyone really cared about what I had to say. Then one day I wrote about the book The Lost Dogs and how owning Turk, a pit bull mix, had changed my life. I received just a couple of comments, one of which was from Aleksandra, who wrote, “this is beautiful.” I am pretty sure that up until that point, no one had said anything that I wrote was “beautiful.” I was floored.

I wrote a few more posts about my dogs and began to receive more positive feedback from readers. When I began volunteering with an animal rescue organization (a lifelong goal of mine) and took in my first foster dog, Ginger Rogers, my passion was realized.

Since I began my foray into the animal rescue and dog blogging world, I have been lucky enough to get involved in so many different ways. I’ve fostered four beautiful pit bull-type dogs: Ginger Rogers, Ginger Jr, Lucy Lou, and our current foster, Polly Pocket.

I co-founded a structured pack walking group, KC Pittie Pack & Friends, with fellow blogger Crystal of Wayward Dogs after seeing the benefits of pack walks from groups like Chicago Sociabulls and HikeaBull. Since January we’ve hosted almost 20 walks!

I have been able to help raise awareness (and money) for pit bulls in need, like Kimba, who touched so many hearts that our amazing community was able to raise nearly $1,500.00 for her care in 72 hours!

Most certainly my proudest moments have been when I’ve heard from a blog reader that they have started volunteering with an animal rescue. Most recently, my next door neighbors took the plunge into fostering with Lucy-Carolina, and I relish every moment I see that pup playing happily in their backyard. I feel lucky to have played a small part in Lucy-Carolina’s rescue – and love that my neighbors are now spreading the word to their friends about fostering too.

If anything I write can help to inspire one person to volunteer at a shelter, do a leg of a transport, or foster a dog, then I feel like I have done something of value. I have given back some of the good I’ve received from this world. I hope to continue writing about volunteering, fostering, responsible dog ownership, and pit bull advocacy for years to come. I feel like I have a lot more work I can do and a lot more to say – if you all will continue to indulge me by reading this blog.

In an effort to continue the work I’ve been doing on the blog, I recently entered the Bloggers for Good contest.

The grand prize is $1,000.00 for the blogger’s favorite charity and $500 for the blogger to continue his/her advocacy work. The charity I will contribute to if I win is Unleashed Pet Rescue – a Kansas City rescue group that focuses on rescuing dogs who have run out of time at local shelters (especially pit bulls) and reaching out to neglected dogs and their owners in the city by providing lightweight tie-outs instead of heavy chains, medication, food, and dog houses. This rescue is dear to my heart because I fostered Lucy Lou through them and because they pulled Kimba when she was running out of time at the local shelter. As for the $500 – I would use it to further my pit bull advocacy efforts. I want to leave my options open so I can put that money where it is needed the most – helping a pit bull get vetted before going to rescue, purchasing supplies for a shelter, etc. So, if you have a moment today and you believe in the work I’m doing, please vote for me in the Bloggers for Good contest and share the link with your friends. Oh, and while you’re at it, vote for That Touch of Pit too, who also entered the contest and is doing amazing work with The Bully Project in New York City.

Thank you for letting me share my life with you… I truly appreciate each and every one of you for letting me blog about my life’s passion day after day!

As I stated yesterday, Lucy Lou’s first few weeks with her new family did not go as well as we would hope. She was stressed and acting out in a variety of ways, including play biting her new brother Chunga and having accidents in the house. Her independent nature was also making it difficult for Carrie and Jason to bond with her.

Being the awesome people they are, Carrie and Jason were willing to seek help to work on Lucy’s issues rather than just give up. I wanted to help in any way I could, so I asked my good friend Aleks from Love and a Six-Foot Leash (who is my foster guru and is currently training with dog behaviorists) for some tips I could relay to them. As usual, she offered a wealth of information for me to pass along…

Lucy Lou seems very “doggy” — that is, more interested in dogs (especially her new dog brother) than people. Do you think that’s accurate? If so, this is going to stand in the way of her bonding with the people unless they limit fun/time with her brother and up their time with her alone (at least for the short term). Dogs who are very doggy need to spend 5 hours with humans for every one hour they spend with dogs, at least while they are building their relationships. The reason behind this is that if LL believes she can get everything she needs (comfort, fun, play) from other dogs, then she won’t look to her people for it. Right now, her canine brother is probably way more fun to LL than her humans are, so she doesn’t see any particular reason to care about them or what they want from her. She needs to learn that they are more fun — and can give her everything that she wants, whereas her dog brother can’t. This seems like it’s going to be the biggest thing for LL. They should make sure they’re spending quality time playing, training, walking, and just being with each dog separately, and when the dogs are together, not letting them play inappropriately (wrestling in particular). Let them play with toys, but only under supervision. And the toy has to be given by the person, not snatched off the floor by the dog — which is part of controlling the resources. Playing with her people should be more fun, more frequent, and more exciting than playing with her doggie brother. She should only go in and out of doorways after sitting on command. She should only be allowed on furniture on command. Food should be earned through training, or can be hand-fed at the end of the day – that’s right, taking a handful of kibble in your hand and offering it to the dog to eat out of your hand, continuing until the kibble is gone. After the dog is sufficiently bonded, you can phase this out — but for the first couple of weeks, it’s a good idea. And don’t pay any attention to the dog unless it’s working for it — training, interactive play, etc.

It made total sense that she was having trouble bonding with Jason and Carrie when Chunga was such a fun playmate. Due to Turk’s issues with fosters, we kept her separate from the dogs almost the entire time she was with us. It was only natural that she was going to have an easier time bonding to us – we were her only option! Once Chunga was in the picture, she had no need for humans.

I passed along this information to Carrie and crossed my fingers. About a week later I saw an email in my inbox from Carrie…

Just wanted to give you an update on Lucy. She is doing MUCH better :). She is listening to me and I can now break her focus and redirect her. She has almost stopped biting Chunga’s face or his collar. We are currently working on her pulling and she is catching on – a lot quicker then Chunga. I wanted to send you a picture we took, not as good as yours, but cute.

I was elated! Through hard work and patience, Carrie was able to form a bond with Lucy and earn her trust. From what I understand, there have been some hiccups since then, but Carrie has enrolled Lucy Lou in a training class at the Petco she manages and is working closely with her trainer as different issues arise. She has even invited me to check out one of Lucy’s training classes sometime! It is such a testament to Carrie and her husband that they were willing to work as hard as they did with Lucy to help her make the transition into their family. I will continue to check in with her and see how she progresses so I can share with you all. But what I hope the take away from this is that bringing home a new dog requires a lot of love, patience, and discipline to work. It is not fair to expect your new dog to immediately know what you want them to do or how you want them to act. It can take days, weeks, months, or even years for a dog to finally settle in your home. Stick it out. It’s so worth it in the end!

Feel free to leave a comment with any other tricks or methods you used to help your dog(s) transition into your home! We’d love to hear from you!

I am sure you all have been wondering how Miss Lucy Lou is doing with her new family.

Photo by Fido Fetch Photography

I’ll admit I’ve been a bit hesitant to share any updates because I was worried she may be returning to our care at any moment. Let me explain…

In the first few weeks after she was adopted, I received a very positive email from Lucy’s new Mama, Carrie, regarding how she was doing:

Lucy is adjusting very well. Chunga will not leave her alone. I hope the newness wears off soon. He won’t let us love on her, he wants her all to himself. She’s been good with the cats. She is curious and barks at them, but when we correct her she quickly stops.

The next email I received a few days later was still pretty positive…

Chunga and Lucy are finally settling down. I think he realizes that she’s staying and is starting to give her her space. She still barks at the cats, but we are seeing an improvement. We are having a few accidents. I’m currently training her with the bell, but I keep missing her signals. Do you know what her signals are or what she is used to for going potty? The play biting has gotten better. They are still vocal when they play. We interrupt it when ever we can. She hasn’t really snapped at him. She does let him know when she is done playing. Today have been really good. Chunga has calmed down a lot and the separation barking has stopped with him. She still can’t stand it when Chunga and I are out of sight. She barks.

Then it came. The email every foster parent dreads. About two weeks into Lucy’s adoption, Carrie emailed me this:

We have a few concerns. Since the newness has worn off she has started to really go after the cats. She barks at them and chases them. We are afraid if she gets ahold of one. She is also still biting Chunga when they play. I am having a hard time breaking her focus. Alex (trainer) is coming over this week to evaluate. We might have to give her back.

Ouch. That last line sent me into a mini panic. I prayed over and over that the evaluation with their trainer (who owns pit bulls herself) would prove helpful in dealing with the various issues Lucy was having. I had my suspicions why Lucy might be acting out in this manner, but since I am not a trained professional, I hoped their trainer might be able to confirm what I was guessing. A few days later, this email arrived:

Alex (trainer) came over yesterday to watch Lucy, Chunga, Jason and myself interact. She stated that Lucy does not trust us and that is why she is not responding to us. She said that since she has been bounced around it will take awhile to earn her trust/respect. She also thinks Lucy needs a dominant personality for training, which I am not. I have to admit that there is very little bond between Lucy and myself. She is not the type of dog that wants to please – which Chunga is. I think it is taking me a while to adjust. She is responding well to my husband’s deep voice and we have seen improvements the past few days. She is a lot better with the cats. I believe that she had a hard time adjusting when I went back to work. It was a rough couple of days and I became extremely frustrated. Alex gave us some tips on correcting some problems and had some insight to why Lucy snaps at other dogs when she is on a leash. I decided that I want to give her more time and see if things get better for her and me. Can you tell me anything about her previous life before she ended up in foster? I think this would help me see things as Lucy sees them.

So my suspicions were correct. I mean, I can’t really blame Lucy Lou for struggling to adjust. As I’ve stated before, Lucy Lou never really had a home to call her own in her two short years on earth. Bounced from shelter to crappy adoptive home to rescue to foster to foster to her new family, the longest Lucy ever spent in one place was the three months she lived with us. As you can imagine, she learned to rely on herself instead of humans, and is very slow to bond with people. It took her nearly a month with us before she would cuddle with me on the couch, and even then, I could tell she still had her guard up. But she didn’t want to be alone…ever. She would bark if we left her sight. She desperately wanted to be loved but didn’t seem to know if she could trust it would last.

This is not a problem that is unique to Lucy, though. If you adopt from a shelter, your new dog has been living in a highly stressful environment for awhile (Shelters are usually very loud and full of foreign smells. Dogs are usually only taken out a handful of times in the day, leaving them to sit alone in a cage the rest the time.). If you adopt someone’s foster dog, it is going from living in a house it knows (and maybe the first time it has felt safe) to a foreign one – possibly having to contend with other pets and/or children in your home. Imagine if you were in one of these situations and then expected to behave perfectly and bond instantly with people you’ve only just met. I doubt it would be easy. Some dogs handle it better than others, but there is always some level of adjustment as the dog learns about their new forever home.

I also couldn’t blame Carrie for being frustrated. I think we all expect hope that the dog we adopt will fit seamlessly into our home. We all want our new dog to bond with us instantly and get along perfectly with our other pets. When that doesn’t happen, it can be stressful and frustrating, and dogs will feed off that energy, possibly acting out even more. Even the most patient of us might begin to doubt our decision to take in this particular dog….“maybe this one just isn’t the right ‘fit’ for me.” It’s happened to the best of us (shoot, I even considered returning Turk to the shelter in the first few weeks after I brought him home). Sometimes it can feel like too much to handle.  These feelings are not unusual and they do not make you a bad person.

Because my job as a foster mama doesn’t stop once my fosters are adopted, I sought advice from my foster mentor on what Carrie and her husband could do to help Lucy begin to bond with them and adjust to her new life.  They were willing to seek help (which is awesome!) and I wanted to able to aid them (and Lucy) any way I could. Check back tomorrow to see what advice I passed along and what happened next for Lucy Lou…

Dogs: Our breath isn’t that bad, Mom….

Foster Dogs: It’s really not that bad!

Lucy Lou: Seriously, Foster Mama, SMELL IT!

Lucy Lou: That bad, huh? Embarrassing.

Don’t let your dog get caught with embarrassing morning breath! Check out yesterday’s post and enter the giveaway to win a combo pack of Rupert Simply Smoochable Doggie & Kitty Mouth Spray AND Rupert’s Simply Smoochable Doggie Shampoo!

Also, if you would like to purchase any products off the Smoochable Rupert store website, enter “Waldo” at checkout to receive 15% off your ENTIRE order!

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