Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Christmas miracle comes early

For those of you following the story of our life with Asha, it's old news that she doesn't sleep through the night. For those of you who don't know....Asha doesn't sleep through the night. Asha has been a part of our family for just about two and a half years. When she first came to live with us, she slept on a little bed next to our bed. Then she started having seizures and refused to sleep there anymore. In fact, she refused to sleep at all.

I spent about six months sleeping on the bathroom floor with her. She eventually refused to sleep at all in the bathroom, so we moved downstairs to the couch. That is where we have been sleeping for the last two years. By "we", I mean me and Asha or Trevor and Asha. Every night, one of us would go downstairs and get on the couch with Asha. We would sleep there some or all of the night. EVERY NIGHT for two years.

We tried to get Asha to sleep there on her own, but she would wake up around midnight or 1 am and yell for us. When we came back downstairs and got on the couch, she would climb up and lay on us to make sure we didn't get up again.

We tried to get her to sleep upstairs with us again, but she wouldn't do it. There was no settling down and so we ended up back down on the couch.

Almost two years ago I wrote this post about needing sleep. I had only not been sleeping for like 6 months then. Little did I know that I had two more years of sleepless nights ahead of me!

In the last two years, Asha slept through the night 2 times. I remember them both. It has been exhausting. I had given up hope of ever sleeping all night again. I had given up hope of ever sleeping in my bed with my husband all night again. At first I was really sad and angry about it. I would cry and lay awake, mad at the situation. Then I started to accept it. I appreciated the moments of peace when Asha would climb up on the couch and snuggle in with me. Because all she wanted was her mama.

I have been traveling a lot for work lately and so has Trevor. We've had a house sitter who stays the night with the animals. I assumed she was sleeping on the couch with Asha too. Keep in mind, our home has lots of issues. Currently, our biggest challenge in Shilo. He doesn't like anyone coming over to the house and he won't let our sitter into the living room. He has decided that is his domain. I knew this and we are working on it. I never put two and two together. One day, it occurred to me - if she isn't sleeping on the couch with Asha, where are they sleeping? So I asked her. The answer "in the bedroom". She said that Asha sleeps on the floor next to the bed when we are gone. WHAT???

That night, we decided to give it a try. I didn't expect it to work. I was all ready to head back down to the couch. I made a bed next to me on the floor. Asha always wears a leash in the house (so we can grab her when she gets up and runs in a panic). I wrapped her leash around my arm and we all went to sleep. That's heard me....we all went to sleep.

At 2 am, I woke up to an Asha nose in my face. She was resting her chin on the bed. I touched her and she jumped up onto the bed with me, snuggling in and putting her head on my pillow. Back to sleep she went. I woke up about 5:30 and Asha was still asleep. I couldn't believe it.

That was two weeks ago. Asha has slept upstairs, either on the floor or in bed, every night for two weeks. That is more nights of sleep than we have had in the last two YEARS! Every night, I expect that to be the last of it. I expect to find myself back down on the couch. But is hasn't happened yet and I just can't believe it.

Our lives are so very different than we ever imagined. I said to Trevor the other night as I got into bed with Asha's leash around my arm "do you think Asha will ever get to live without having to constantly wear her leash?" and then I said "do you think that I will ever get to live without having to constantly hold her leash?" The truth is that the answer doesn't matter. We'll be happy either way. Asha certainly doesn't care. I look at her sometimes, with her ever present smile and wonder what the hell she is so happy about. Then I realize....she is happy to be alive, she is happy to be loved.

Trevor has been out of town this week and so Asha has been taking up more of the bed than usual. I woke up last night and she was laying behind me, with her paws around me, spooning. I'd say she is comfortable with the new sleeping arrangements.

I am completely and totally in love with this dog. She is the most amazing creature. I learn from her every day - about myself, about the world, about hope and life and love. I know I will never stop learning from her and I will never stop loving her. I am so grateful that she came into my life. And I am so grateful for this early Christmas Miracle of sleep.

Sweet dreams....

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

72 hours

Like most people involved in animal rescue, I am barraged daily with requests from various different places.  My facebook newsfeed is full of pictures of dogs needing out of high risk/high kill situations and shelters.   Sweet faces, scared faces with things that say “this dog dies tomorrow if no one can help”…and that isn’t a scare tactic.  It’s the truth.  I am on email lists, chat groups, message boards.  Its all background noise.  It has to be.   Otherwise it is overwhelming and will make me crazy.  We help when we can, but its never enough.  There is always another dog or cat that needs help.  It’s a challenge to help on our terms and not get  completely consumed.  Trevor and I know that in order to be able to help, we have to have boundaries or we will get burnt out and not be able to help at all.

We are on the foster list for one of the local shelters and every week I get an email about cats that need a place to go.  They are either sick, or not doing well in the shelter or have a special circumstance.  Sometimes there is one cat on the email, sometimes there are 6 or 8.  We haven’t made the time recently to take in many sick cats.  I see the emails but haven’t acted on them.  Until recently.

About a month ago we took in a foster from a different shelter.  Shasta was his name. He was very sick and honestly should not have even come to us.  He lasted about a day and then he passed away.  He was just too far gone.  That was tough.  We take in fosters to make them better and help them find a forever home.  Unless we take them as a hospice case  - meaning that they are too old or sick to be adopted and they live out their days with us – we expect them to get better.  We expect them to leave our home for a home of their own. 

Still a little raw from losing Shasta, last week, I got the usual email from Michelle at the Humane Society for SW Washington.  It had a plea for help.  A cat named Mayflower needed a foster home.  The subject line of the email was “special kitty needs a foster home" and included this picture.

Mayflower had come in as a stray and was so matted she could barely walk.  Her ears were so infected that they were deformed.  She had rubbed her face raw trying to scratch at her ears.  They had shaved her and were treating her wounds.  Then she got a cold.   Upper Respiratory Infections (URI) are a huge challenge in a shelter setting.  A cat gets sick and usually doesn’t just get better.  The stress of being in the shelter exacerbates the situation.  If the cat can get out of the shelter into a quiet place, they can rest and recover.  Trevor and I have fostered around 10 cats in the last year who were sick like this. They all got better and were adopted. 

I was getting ready to head out of town, Trevor has been traveling a lot and we have a full house – with one other foster (Shilo), a hospice foster (Poppy) and two older cats with issues of their own (Daisy and Miniver).   Then there is Asha.  Not the best time to bring on another foster, but there was something about Miss Mayflower that tugged at my heart.  I showed her to Trevor and he was like “whatever you want to do”.

I emailed Michelle and told her that we would take Mayflower if no one else could. She emailed back and said someone else was going to take her.  I felt good about that and didn’t think about it again.  That was Thursday.  Friday afternoon I got an email from Michelle.  Mayflower had stopped eating and was going to require syringe feeding.  The foster home who was going to take her wasn’t comfortable doing that and she wanted to know if we could still take her.  I said yes and within an hour I was at the shelter meeting Mayflower.

Here is the thing about fostering….you love them before you even meet them.  I loved Mayflower the moment I read the email about her and saw her picture.  Which is a crazy thing because I know we won’t keep her, I know I will love her and then have to let her go. 

They brought her out to me and she was in pretty bad shape.  She cried and the girl said that was the first time she had heard her cry since she arrived a week ago.  She then went over all of May’s medications.  She had special food and syringes to feed her with, ear drops, medicine for her cold, a pill to give her in 3 days if she still wasn’t eating on her own, a bag of saline and needles for her subcutaneous fluids.    We were taking the entire vets office home with us! 

They said Mayflower was one of the worst strays they had ever seen. I was surprised that they were able to give her a chance.  Seems like everyone felt she deserved a shot at a happy, safe, peaceful life instead of whatever hardship she had endured before she came to them.  I agreed.

I put May in the car and we headed for home.  We have one spare bedroom that is our “sick room”.  Its at the back of the house, none of the other animals ever go in there.  We take the sick cats there and let them heal.  Its quiet and out of the way. No one bothers them there.  When the cats are particularly sick we will sleep in there on the floor with them.   When we adopted our cat Murray, he had a URI and spent his first two weeks with us in the sick room where I slept with him every night for a week.

I got Mayflower settled. She explored a bit and then all she wanted to do was be on my lap. That’s how it would be the whole time she was with us.  If I was sitting down, she was in my lap.  If I was standing up, she was pawing at me and crying for me to sit down so she could sit in my lap.

She didn’t have any fur except on her paws and her head.  She had been shaved.  She loved being petted on her cheek and head.  She would purr and look up at me as if to say “I like that!”  She was so appreciative of our love.  She did eat on her own Friday night and that was encouraging.

I slept with her on Friday night.  Well, I stayed with her…we didn’t sleep much.  May was very restless and just walked all over me.  She was wearing a cone to keep her from scratching at her face and ears and she couldn’t get comfortable. 

Saturday morning she wouldn’t eat.  I gave her all her medicine, some fluids and then I fed her with a syringe.   She was very congested.  She didn’t like being fed that way.  I didn’t like doing it, but kept telling her this is how she will survive.  She needed to eat.

Mayflower had a special visitor on Saturday.  Trevor and I were gone most of the day and our pet sitter, Tamara came over.  We are so lucky to have her.  When I agreed to take Mayflower, I knew that I would be leaving town.  Tamara would be staying at the house and it was already a lot of work to take care of our crew.  One more, with special needs, may be too much to ask.  I emailed her before I said yes to Mayflower and her response was “I would be excited to take care of her”.  It takes a team and we are so fortunate to have a great one.  Of course, Tamara loved her .  

Mayflower was shivering – either from having no fur or being sick or both.  Trevor and I bought her a little coat to wear, hoping that would help her stay warm.  She didn’t mind wearing it at all.  I slept with her again on Saturday night.  She was more settled.  She just slept next to me all night long.  She was still very congested and I knew it was tough to breath.  I took her into the bathroom and turned on a hot shower, hoping the steam would clear her up a bit.  I kept telling her that is she just held on, a better life was ahead for her.  But she needed to hold on.

Sunday came and she still wouldn’t eat on her own.  She had started making a choking noise and would spit up mucus.  I know it takes a while for medicine to start working on  a URI, but I was worried about her.  I sat with her much of the day on Sunday.  She climbed onto my lap and didn’t leave it.  She snuggled in, tucking her head under my arm. I took her cone off so she could relax.  She got a little bit of sleep, which was good.

I have always loved animals, more that the average “animal lover”.  I feel a connection that I cannot explain.  Fostering has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done.  There was a moment when I looked down at Mayflower and was overwhelmed with emotion.  I believe we all have a purpose, some of us fulfill it, some of us spend our lives chasing it and some of us ignore it.  At that moment, I knew my purpose.  And Mayflower knew it too.

Sunday night was another tough night.  I was becoming increasingly more concerned about Mayflowers situation.  She was really struggling to breath.  I emailed the shelter to see if there was any more aggressive treatment we could try.  Then I went to run some errands.  When I came home around lunch time, I knew May was in trouble.

When I came into her  room, she didn’t even lift her head. I thought she was probably mostly deaf due to the condition of her ears, but even when I got close and touched her, she didn’t respond as usual.  When she did, she got up and immediately fell over. I called the shelter and they told me to bring her in.

I knew this was probably the end for her.  I knew it in my heart.  I put her in her kennel, got in the car and started driving. I was crying and so was she. I opened her kennel which was in the passenger seat of the car.  I reached in and petted her head.  Mayflower gently rested her head on my hand.  And then she bit me.  She sunk her teeth all the way into my thumb and wouldn’t let go. I thought she was having a seizure.  I finally shook her off my hand.  She cried and layed her head down, still laboring to breath, her eyes closed.  It wasn’t a seizure, but she was delirious.  I knew then, she was already gone.  Her heart was still beating, but there was nothing left of her.

I grabbed a tissue from the glovebox and tried to stop the bleeding from my thumb.  I cried quietly as we drove towards the shelter.  I told Mayflower that it would be over soon, that she was almost done with this world that had been so cruel.  I told her about animal heaven and how she was part of our family now so our other pets who have passed would be waiting for her.  I told her how she would wait with them for me and I’d be there someday. I tell all our animals when they die that I will see them again – for me it will seem like forever, for them it will be the blink of an eye.

I arrived at the shelter, it was closed but there was staff on duty.  We were escorted into the waiting area and the vet came out to meet us.  There were 3 or 4 people working on Mayflower . When they opened the kennel and saw her, it was obvious they knew what I knew.  She was already gone.  She was very pale and cold, laboring to breathe through her mouth, her eyes dilated.  The vet determined that she most likely had pneumonia and there wasn’t anything more they could do. She recommended euthanasia and I agreed.  I felt like I failed them. I felt like I failed Mayflower.  In my mind I knew we did the best we could, the best anyone could do, but its still hard to accept that there is nothing left.

She thanked me and got ready to take Mayflower back to the clinic. I told her I wanted to be with her until the end.  The vet seemed a bit surprised but gladly let me come along.  I was crying. I apologized for that, because that’s what we do, right?  We say we are sorry for how we feel when we think its not appropriate.  I had known Mayflower for 72 hours and yet here I was crying at her death like a crazy cat woman.  So I apologized.  But the truth is that I wasn’t sorry. I’m not sorry now.  I was sad that she was dying and doesn’t every creature, every soul deserve to have someone who is sorry to see them go?

The staff at the shelter was amazing.  The vet was so compassionate and kind.  She asked the vet tech not to lay Mayflower down on her side because it hurt her to breath that way.   If you have ever been there when someone – human or animal -  takes their last breath, you know how powerful it is.  It is tragic and beautiful.  To be there at the very end…to be the last voice heard, the last touch felt,  to ease the last pain.  That is a tremendous responsibility.  I am honored each time I am able to be a part of this transition.  And I am moved beyond words.

And that was it.  As quickly as Mayflower came into our lives, she left.  And I headed to urgent care to get the bit on my thumb looked at.  Cat bites are prone to infection.  Bad infection and the vet suggested I get a jump start on some antibiotics.

I am still very sad.  I had such high hopes for Mayflower.  When I took her, it honestly didn’t occur to me that she wouldn’t make it.  That makes two fosters who have died in my arms in the last month.  Trevor is out of town and when we were talking on the phone about it he said, “I was just thinking that we need to stop taking these tough cases, we can’t keep having them die on us.  But then I realized if we don’t take them, who will?”  And there you have it….one of the many reasons I love this man and the reason why we continue to do what we do, why we always find room.

Mayflower died and that is heartbreaking.  9000 other animals died in shelters all over the country today.  Some were sick, some were not.  Most of them were alone and scared.  At least May had peace at the end.  Knowing that the others didn’t makes me crazy.  It makes me want to scream and yell and hit people.  It makes me want to know why.  It makes me want to know how it will ever get better….how it will ever change.  How much longer I have to look at my facebook newsfeed and see sad face, after sad face that doesn’t make it another day.  Knowing that most people would hide that from their sight because its just too sad.    I avoided it for years and once I finally took a look, I couldn’t look away and I couldn’t stand by and doing nothing.    I know not everyone can do what we do or what others do.   I get it.  There is a ton of suffering in this world –  kids, adults, animals.  If we don’t start feeling something about that and DOING something about that it will only get worse.  So if your reaction is “I couldn’t do that”, thank about what you COULD do….and do it.

Rest in peace Mayflower.  You will forever be a Bryant.

***special thanks to the staff and volunteers at the Humane Society for SW Washington for giving this sweet girl a chance and to Dr Rockey for helping her transition in the most peaceful and kind way possible.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back Again....

Back in May, Foster Shilo was adopted.  I wrote about it HERE.  The skies parted and the Universe aligned.  Near and far there was rejoicing.  I blogged about my happiness and it was shared by many.  People from far away, who I never met, knew about Shilo.

Since Shilo has been in his new home, we haven’t heard anything.  Well, we got some great reports the first two weeks and haven’t heard anything since.  That’s pretty normal and so it didn’t bother us – we figured no news was good news.  We ride our bikes by Shilo’s new house and always hope that we see him happily playing the yard (we never did).  I thought about him all the time – wondering if he had gone camping yet or if the fireworks bothered him on July 4th. I have wanted to reach out many times, but didn’t want to be a pain – he is their dog now.

Last week I got a message from a friend. She wanted to know if I knew how Shilo was doing.  She said that a friend in California had read Shilo’s blog months ago and it had touched her. The friend was looking for an update on Shilo.  That got me thinking and it gave me a reason to email Shilo’s family.  That was Tuesday .

Wednesday was a good day at our house.  Asha had a great appointment with her Behavioral Vet and she had slept through the night two out of three nights. I was feeling so good about how things were going in our home.  Finally we were getting some much needed peace.  Our current foster, Poppy, is nearing the end of his life and we are showering our attention on him. Trevor had recently reached out to a local rescue and offered our home as a foster for some dogs they were bring in from a hoarding case.  We were waiting to hear back from them.

I got home and around 7 saw an email from Shilo’s mom. It said “I’m glad you asked how things are going.  They aren’t going well. Blah Blah Blah (my words).  We are ready for him to come back”.  WHAT?  That was a shock.  My heart, which had been happily beating in my chest all day, dropped to the bottom of my stomach. I wasn’t sure if I was going to shit it out or throw it up.

I told her that I could meet her whenever was best for her – figuring that would be the weekend.  By 8:30 that night, Shilo was back at home with me.  His dad brought him back. Once the decision was made, they wanted him to be gone as soon as possible.  When Shilo got out of the car, he looked around and when he realized I was there, it was obvious that he remembered me. He jumped on me and licked my face, then he pulled towards the house. 

I talked with his dad for a bit.  Shilo had behaved with them the same way he had behaved with us.  Shilo had behaved with them exactly the way we had told them that he would.  I was trying to figure out where the communication breakdown had come. I thought we had been very clear about Shilo’s issues, about what to expect and about how they should proceed with him (offering training, suggesting a trainer, keeping him away from strangers because he bites).   Shilo’s dad said he thought after 9 weeks that Shilo would be “over it”.  But they didn’t do anything to help him get over it – no training – no asking for help.   There were a list of reasons why it wasn’t working. Their schedule had changed and things were different.  In the end, I think they just didn’t realize that a quiet home full of love wasn’t going to be enough to change a dog like Shilo.

I know they were sad. I have no doubt it was a difficult decision and I know there were many tears cried, many nights sleep lost over this.   But here was Shilo, back at home with me.

I love Shilo with all my heart and he is a good boy, but he has issues that are not an easy fit in our home.  When we chose Shilo to be our foster as part of a huge rescue operation in December, we did not know that his issues were so bad.  We did not know that he was a biter.  A dog like Shilo doesn’t do his best in a home with 5 other dogs, two of whom can’t see him.  A dog like Shilo doesn’t do well in a home with a 6 foot 4 man.  The majority of his aggression is directed at Trevor.  I am getting ready to head into my heavy travel season and so Shilo will now be home alone with Trevor a lot. We have house sitters who come to the house and Shilo adds a whole nother level of concern with that.  We can adjust, we can make it work.  He just doesn’t make things easy. 

All of this went through my mind as I stood in the kitchen and cried.  I cried for Shilo – he was looking around confused about why he was back.  They had played with him and walked him and surely he loved that.  He won’t get as much of that here.  I cried for the challenge ahead of him.  Then I cried because our lives were getting easier….and in less than two hours, they had gotten more difficult.  I was just so sad.

So here we are, right back where we started.  We have this damaged little soul who needs someone to be his forever family, to commit to taking care of him, protecting him and giving him the space he needs to feel safe in this world that has been quite cruel to him.  He trusts no one (except maybe me).  I think of all the things I could do if he was my ONLY dog and I wonder if there is anyone else out there like me who doesn’t already have a dog!

I don’t want to judge his adoptive family.  I am trying not to judge.  Trevor said to me “you can’t expect everyone to do what we do” and I said “I don’t expect everyone to do what we do”.  I didn’t expect them to take Shilo in addition to their blind/deaf Aussie with anxiety issues who hasn’t slept more than three full nights in 18 months and a 16 year old blind, mostly deaf, dying jack Russell, three other dogs and six other cats, including a 17 year old just diagnosed with thyroid tumors and another senior with one tooth, while both working jobs that take us away from home half of the time, owning a business, training groups of triathletes and marathon runners, etc, etc….I am asking them to take care of one dog with issues.  To honor the commitment that they made when they agreed to take a dog with those specific issues.  To not bring him back because he acted exactly the way we said he would act.  I am not asking them to do what we do.  We have chosen this and I am not sorry about that.  What I am sorry about is that because Shilo is back home with us,  another dog will not get to be here (we told the other rescue that we are all full again).  I know…that all sounded very judgemental….I just don’t understand. 

In all the hurt and sadness, I am also grateful that we were able to take him back, I am grateful that they asked us to take him back.  From the very beginning we told them that if it didn’t work, no matter why or when or how, Shilo HAD to come back to us.  They could not get rid of him any other way.  They agreed.  At first I wished I had never sent the email to follow up on how he was doing  - but then they said that they had been struggling with what to do for a while and so I am very glad I sent that email so that he could come back to us.

Shilo broke my heart when he was here before and he breaks my heart still.  There isn’t enough room in the world for a damaged little soul like him.  We’ll make room and we’ll make room for as long as it takes, even if that means Shilo spends his entire life with us. 

Happy Endings aren't always as happy as they first seem.  Shilo is still looking for his happy ending…..

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

2 years with Asha

Its been two years since we adopted Asha.   Two years since we unknowingly invited chaos into our life.   Two years….and everything has changed for us.   It seems like a lifetime ago.  I’ve written a lot about our experiences with Asha.  I’ve told lots of stories, both from my point of view and Asha’s.  I haven’t ever pretended that it wasn’t a challenge, but I also haven’t ever really admitted here just how hard it has been.
In the grand scheme of things, raising a dog like Asha is not that big of a deal.  Its been tough – but its not like we have child with cancer, are sick ourselves or are dealing with many of the tragedies that we see around us.  But you must understand that for us, these past two years have been the trial of our lives and its certainly not over.  The toughest days are behind us and the more distance we find between now and then, the easier it is to admit just how bad things were….

When we adopted Asha, Trevor and I felt pretty good about ourselves.  We had always considered ourselves selfish people.  THIS (adopting a dog who was born blind and deaf due to irresponsible breeding) was going to be our way to become “good people”.   I have always considered myself very impatient.  I want what I want, when I want it and how I want it.  I thought I wanted to become a patient person.  I remember reading a quote once that said something like ‘if you want to be more patient, don’t ask the Universe for patience, ask the Universe for situations in which to practice being more patient.”  Well…that sucks….doesn’t it?  Who wants to practice?  Why can’t is just BE.
The Universe had a good long laugh the day we met Asha.  “want to be good people? Here’s your opportunity to practice that”. 
I had read up on double merle Australian Shepherds (that’s what Asha is) and felt like I knew what we were getting into.  What I read made it sound like it was no big deal – blind and deaf?  They adapt.  Looking back, I realize that I was only able to find one or two blogs or stories about dogs like Asha.  Now I know that’s because there are not many dogs like Asha that survive.  Most of the ones with issues (and that’s almost all of them), never make it – they are euthanized either by their breeders, at shelters or by their owners because they just can’t survive in this world.  But I didn’t know that then, so I figured it would all be okay.
The first couple weeks we had Asha, she was a typical puppy.  She didn’t understand the stairs and so in the middle of the night when she needed out to pee, we’d scoot down the stairs with her.   She had lots of energy and would either run or sleep.  She had some obsessive behaviors, like spinning, but we were stopping those.  Several weeks after Asha joined our family, she had her first seizure.  She had two more in the coming weeks and was diagnosed with epilepsy.  We started her on phenobarbital.   The seizures stopped, but she has never been the same.

Its  hard to say if the epilepsy caused the damage or vice versa, but Asha became manic. Her anxiety increased.  She went crazy during the day when we weren’t home.  She wouldn’t tolerate being kenneled and we didn’t want to upset her because that could increase her risk for seizures. So she tore our house apart.  I would come home and find her in the middle of a pile of rubble that once was our blinds/books/pictures/molding, etc.  I always checked to make sure she was alive and then cleaned up after her.  She was NEVER calm.  I would lay on the bathroom floor with her at night and she would sleep about 20 minutes at a time and then wake in a panic.  I thought she would have a heart attack, she was so upset.   

I started to become manic too.  Months without more than 20 minutes of sleep at a time wears a person down. It was like having a newborn, only we didn’t have the comfort of knowing she would grow out of it and we couldn’t live like this forever.

We didn’t know what to do, we couldn’t find any information anywhere.  We really didn’t want to give her any sort of drug, that seemed so wrong.  We couldn’t tell people about it because we couldn’t risk being told to put her down or take her back.  We felt like we were her only chance.

We adopted Asha in July and by November, things were very bad.  Trevor would come home every night after work and find me on the kitchen floor with Asha,  crying.  I was so exhausted and I felt like a failure. I didn’t know what to do.   I was so mad at Asha for being this way, for doing this to our life.   I was sick right before Thanksgiving, I came down with a bad cold.  This was a low point.  All I wanted to do was lay in bed and rest.  But I couldn’t….becuase Asha would not be quiet for more than two minutes. I couldn’t lay down and rest.  I had no where to go.  I remember sitting in our entry way, leaning against the front door while Asha ran around and barked.  I finally said what I had been feeling but was afraid to admit….alone in that front room with our girl, I said “I wish we had never adopted you” and then I sobbed.  The only one I hated more than Asha, was me.

At this point, I think the Universe realized that I couldn’t take anymore….our vet prescribed some anti anxiety meds for Asha. They helped some, but not enough.  We were then referred to a Behavior Vet who helped us with some different medications and behavior modification. This started us down the path of redemption!  We started seeing Dr Pachel in December.  Then, in May, we were referred to Dr Valentine, a Chinese Medicine Veterinarian.  We started Asha on a combination of herbs, acupuncture and food therapy.  This made a tremendous difference.  Asha was also growing up and maturing, that helped too.

This also gave us a safe place to talk about what was going on with Asha and how we felt about it.  I know that these doctors would tell you how pathetic and desperate we were.  Many times I cried to them on the phone or in their office.  Over time, they helped me cope with our situation and I believe that made the biggest difference of all. Once I accepted what we were dealing with and started to appreciate it instead of being angry about it, things began to shift.  I was more forgiving of myself and of Asha.
Asha has always been the most amazing dog.  She LOVES people, she is unafraid.  She likes going places and doing new things.  When we were at our lowest point, I would take her to the local petstore every single night and walk her around.   She was so happy there and that is what kept her alive.  If her entire life had been the mania she exhibited at home, we would have had to make some tough decisions.  I am sure I looked like the walking dead when I would show up with Asha. But we walked in and all the employees would say “Asha is here!!” and they would come to see her and give her love.  I would stand back and watch her get all that attention and just eat it up.  For those few moments every evening, I believed it would be okay.

Our vet told me once that if Asha lived with anyone else, she would have recommended that they put her to sleep – that only because of how we took care of Asha, was her life viable. 

Through all of this, Asha has loved and trusted Trevor and I.   She knows when we are close and she looks for us when we are not there.  Trevor or I have slept on the couch with her every night for the last 18 months (the first 6 months she was here were spent on the bathroom floor).  If she wakes up in the middle of the night and I am not there, she barks and cries.  Most nights its just easier to stay on the couch and be able to touch her the second she wakes up, so we can go right back to sleep.  Every once in a while, I’ll let her go to sleep, then head up to my own bed…only to be woken up around 2 or 3 am.   There were a couple nights in May of 2012 when she slept all night. I remember waking up at 5am and looking at Trevor and saying “do you think she is dead?” , because she never sleeps through the night!  Back in January she slept all night…once.  Last night, she did it again.  Maybe we are turning a corner and we’ll start sleeping like we used to….in our bed instead of on the couch or the floor!

Here is my blog post from her one year anniversary of joining our family.  In the last 12 months things have continued to improve tremendously.  Asha is much more calm during the day and even at night – while she wakes up and calls for us, she doesn’t panic…its more of a habit.  She is so smart.  Every day I am amazed at how she has adapted.  She doesn’t know she is any different.  She is happy and loving.  I commented to Trevor just the other day - Asha isn't much different than the other dogs now...she has her quirks, but for the most part is turning into a good dog.

Asha won the Diamond Collar Hero Award from the Oregon Humane Society.   She has had stories about her in the paper and online.  She’s had her pictures taken for a book about special needs pets.  She is our rockstar.

My life is so very different than I ever could have imagined.  We’ve had to work very hard to hold it together.  Most days, no one knew how awful things were here…except for me and Trevor.   But no one can ever  truly know how incredible this experience has been either and how lucky we are to have found Asha. 

I used to look at Asha and wonder how we would ever live with her.  A few months ago I found myself looking at her and wondering how in the world we would ever live without her. 

Today isn’t just the anniversary of the day that Asha joined our family….its much more than that.  Its an opportunity to celebrate all the life has to offer, all that we have become and have yet to be…because we took a chance, made a sacrifice, and kept moving forward when no one would have blamed us for giving up.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rev3 Williamsburg and Team Nadia

I am the Volunteer Director for the Rev3 triathlon series.  Its my job to recruit and organize the volunteers we need for each race.  This year, we have 9 races in cities all over the country and I am charged with finding between 400 and 1200 volunteers to help with everything from packet pick up, bike check in, aid stations, lifeguards, kayakers, parking attendants, anything you could think of (and lots you wouldn't).  I meet ALOT of people.  Rev3 has a local charity donation program that allows groups (teams, clubs, non-profits) who provide 15 or more volunteers to receive a donation in exchange for their help.  This is a nice way to give back to the community and it really helps recruit volunteers.

In most cities, Rev3 has been there before and I have a database of volunteers and groups to start with. Last weekend, we had a race in Williamsburg, Virginia.  This was our first year and it required lots of cold calling, introducing Rev3 and our volunteer program. Some people were receptive, others not so much.

Some of the race was taking place on the campus of The College of William and Mary. I contacted the Athletic Department and asked them to spread the word amoungst the sports teams. I also called the Office of Student Organizations. I was hoping to get the word out to the fraternities and sororities as well as all the other organizations.  I spoke with a woman named Ann who asked me to email some information to her.

Later that day, Ann emailed me back. She said that a woman who worked in her office had a daughter who was just diagnosed with cancer.  She and some friends wanted to raise money for this family. I told her that if they set up a bank account/a foundation of sorts, I would be able to make the check out to that fund and it would work.  Ann told me she would see who she could round up and would be in touch.  .

The first week in June, Ann emailed me that she thought she would have 12 volunteers.  I gave her some shift options for those volunteers to start signing up.  A week or so later, I got an email from Jess with a address.  She said that she was organizing the volunteers for Team Nadia.

I worked closely with Jess over the next couple weeks to ensure that all the volunteers were signed up correctly.  As the days went by, the list grew.  Once we hit 30 volunteer slots filled, I knew something special was happening. I commented to Jess - Nadia must be pretty special - to which she replied simply "she is."

At this point, I didn't know Nadia's story or how old she was.  I just knew that people wanted to help her.  Years ago, our friends Mark and Annalee lost their daughter to a rare disease after several years of fighting. I remember how helpless I felt. I wanted to help, to do anything to ease their pain.  I saw this group of people feeling the same way and taking action.  I really wanted to help them.

Race weekend arrived.  Friday afternoon, the first shift of Team Nadia volunteers arrived.  They were AMAZING.  Everyone was so happy and energetic. They were great volunteers - hard workers with common sense.  I love all my volunteers, but let's be honest...some are better than others and these were the BEST!!!
Jess gave me a pineapple - in that area, a pineapple is a sign of welcoming.  Attached was a note that said "Thank you - love all the member of Team Nadia".  I was able to learn some more about Nadia.  She was 11 years old and had JUST been diagnosed with cancer.  11 years old....

By this time, the group had grown to over 40.  Everyone I met was so friendly.  They told me that Nadia and her mom might be coming down to the race site over the weekend and I asked that I get to meet them.

I couldn't stop feeling good about this great cause we were helping. I wanted the rest of our staff to know about it.  On Saturday night we had our meeting after dinner, where we talk about race day and go over all the final details.  At the end of the meeting I asked to say a few words.  I told some of Nadia's story.  Most of the staff wasn't aware that we do these charity donations and none of them but me knew about Nadia.  It was important that they know the impact that Rev3 was having on the life of one young girl who had nothing to do with triathlon. I knew that Sunday was going to be a rough day and when things got tough for us, I wanted everyone to know that we had a purpose bigger than ourselves for being there, a purpose bigger than that race. That purpose was Nadia.

After our meeting, we always do a little cheer, to gear up for race day.  Here's the video of our cheer that night:

Who are we?  Rev 3
Where are we? Williamsburg
Who are we here for? Nadia

Everyone made fun of me because I carried that pineapple around all weekend.

Race day came and as expected, things got hectic. Early in the day, I told Sean, our announcer, about Team Nadia.  He talked about them all day long.  It was great.

 Around 2:30, I got a text from Jess that said "Nadia is here!  We are looking for you"  I dropped what I was doing and went to find them.  They were down at the Aid Station where much of their group was working.  Nadia was already wearing a Rev3 visor. I was introduced to her and hugged her so tightly, her knees got weak.  I had just met her and I loved her already.  Then I met her mom, Angela, and gave her the same kind of hug.  We talked and laughed. Nadia asked me if we had any funnel cake. I wish.  I wanted to take Nadia over to Sean and have him introduce her, since he had been talking about her all day!

We visited a little as we walked.  Nadia was very soft spoken and shy. I could tell she was a bit overwhelmed by all the attention.  I got to talk a little with Angela and couldn't help but think about what she must be going through.  I was in the presence of true strength.  I wanted to hug them both and make it all alright.  Instead, I introduced them to Sean.  Here is part of his interview with her.

There were many tears of gratitude and the feeling was mutual.  They needed us just as much as we needed them.  Nadia and Angela went on their way and I went back to work.  That would be the last that I saw of Team Nadia for the weekend, but I couldn't get them out of my mind.

I got home late Tuesday night and on Wednesday started doing all my post race work.  I emailed my friend Melanie.  She lives in Virginia Beach and had brought her daughter and some friends to Williamsburg to volunteer at the same Aid Station as Team Nadia.  They were raising money for their soccer team and got to meet Nadia, who is about the same age as them.  Melanie told me that they wanted to give their donation money to Team Nadia.  I was very touched by this.

Charlie, the owner/creator of Rev3 was on his email and I chatted with him, telling him about my friend's kind donation to Nadia.  Charlie asked me if I could put him in touch with someone from Team Nadia so we could get more of her story and put it out on our social media.

I sent an email to Jess, introducing her to Charlie and told her that Charlie wanted to get some more info about Nadia's Story.  Jess replied with some great information.  I didn't know the whole story before.  Jess filled us in.  Nadia had just been diagnosed in May. Here's the condensed version: Nadia had symptoms of allergies for months, when doing a procedure to relieve sinus pressure, they found 6 tumors and diagnosed her with stage IV cancer.  She began chemo on May 17th (my first call to Ann was May 15th).  Nadia had been tolerating it well and was now getting ready for radiation treatment, which she wasn't going to tolerate as well - she could lose her hearing, taste and smell and not regain it.  (it made me wish I had found a funnel cake for her when she asked).  There was a local cancer facility that had another option - a different kind of radiation treatment that would be easier on little Nadia and perhaps be more effective.  The copay is $5000 per treatment and Nadia needed two.  Team Nadia's main focus was to raise the money for those treatments.  Jess said that she would be happy to talk to anyone about all this.

As I read Nadia's story, I cried.  Life is so unfair.  I tried to put myself in Nadia's mom's position - how does it feel when there is a better way to treat your baby but you can't afford it (WHO COULD??).

I started to think about all the ways I could help them raise the money.  While doing that, I went to Target to get some cat food.  As I was standing in line, I saw the email response to Jess from Charlie.  Here is what he said....

 I would really love to help you all raise the money you need for Nadia's 2nd treatment.  That's right, I said 2nd treatment. Meaning that in addition to the volunteer money we owe you, we will also donate an additional $5,000.  I will send the money via paypal using the e-mail address provided in the flyer you sent.

I didn't even make it past the first line and I started to cry because I knew where he was going....

By the time I got home, I still hadn't seen a response from Jess. I texted her and said "if you haven't checked the Team Nadia email lately, I suggest you drop what you are doing and go check it now".  Not even 5 minutes later - the response "holy crap, holy crap I need a drink".  I could only imagine the scramble going on to get ahold of Angela and I would have given anything to be there when she got that news.

In that moment...all of our lives changed forever.  Charlie's, mine, Jess's, Angela's...and Nadia's.  None of us will ever be the same again.

There are so many lessons to be learned here.  You just never know when you will meet someone who will change your life, you never know when you will need help and perhaps the most important lesson is this:  anyone can make a difference.  I work for a triathlon company.  We put on races.  And today, we changed the world.

I'll follow Nadia's story and post updates - I told her that she's never getting rid of us - 20 years from now she'll be saying "Those Rev3 people won't leave me alone".

Between the money Team Nadia raised, Melanie's girls' donation and the Rev3 donation, we are at $6120 to the $10,000 need for the treatments.  Donations can be made through paypal to the email:  If you are reading this, please make a donation.  Ever dollar counts.
How will you change the world today?

Go Team Nadia - fight fight fight.

Follow Nadia's story on facebook:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Foster Mrs. Miniver becomes Mrs. Miniver-Bryant

When I had my interview at the shelter, we sat in the cat room and talked.  Several of the cats came over and checked me out.  One in particular jumped up on my lap and stayed there.  When I showed up for my second interview, she was again waiting for me. When I sat down, she jumped up on my lap again and settled in.  This kitty became my favorite.  Her name was Mrs. Miniver and I always made sure I had time to say hello to her, no matter what else I was doing at the shelter.

Mrs. Miniver is very old.  She is about 15, her owner passed away last summer.  She and her brother came to the shelter and there they wait.  Miniver had some dental work done when she first arrived at the shelter and there were complications.  She never fully recovered from that.  Her throat was damaged (she purrs like a freight train now and has trouble breathing) and her mouth wasn't ever quite right either.

I always told the volunteers in the cat building that Miniver could come home with me when she reached the end of her days.  Early in November, she took a turn for the worst.  Mrs Miniver stopped eating and started to hide.  Not a good sign.  I brought her home with me and figured she didn't have much time left.

She settled right into our family.  Our girl cats Daisy and Baby stay in our bedroom and Mrs Miniver liked that just fine.

A couple weeks passed. Miniver would sleep right next to me every night and purr right into my face.  I noticed that her breath was really bad.  She didn't want to eat and was getting very thin  I was worried the end was near and so I made an appointment with the vet.

When we saw the vet, he gave her a full exam.  When he opened her mouth to check it out, I couldn't believe my eyes.  Her teeth and mouth were a total disaster.  I cried because it was so bad.  How could we not have noticed this?  The vets recommendation was to do surgery and pull all her teeth, cleaning out her gums and giving it a chance to heal.  He said she would either not survive the surgery or she would come out of it a different cat.

The surgery was going to cost $600-$1000.  I was very upset.  How can you justify that kind of money on a 15 year old cat.  The vet said that the original surgery performed last year was not complete and she has just been festering ever since.  I felt like we owed it to Mrs Miniver to finish the job right and at least give her a chance.   I called my director and told her the news.  She asked what I thought we should do. I told her that if the shelter couldn't or wouldn't pay, that I would find a way to pay for it.  That's all she needed to hear.  If I felt that strongly, then we'd do it.

In the meantime, Miniver had an upper respiratory infection.  We treated her with some injectible medication and a nebulizer.  She hated that damn thing, but it sure made a difference.  Once she was healthy, we scheduled the surgery.

Miniver came through with flying colors.  They pulled all her teeth but one and cleaned out all her infection. After a recovery period, she started eating again and gained some weight.  She stopped hiding and was much happier.  At her 6 week check up, she was cleared for adoption.  Now the question was - who would take a 15 year old cat with one tooth!

That was back in March.  Time passed and no one inquired about her.  She wasn't up to going to adoption events and seemed perfectly happy here with us.  A few weeks ago, Trevor and I were talking about it - she isn't any trouble, she fits right in with our other kitties and she loves us.  And of course, we love her.  I was laying on the bed with her, she kept rubbing her face on mine.  She looked at me as if to say "I belong here...and we both know it".  I filled out the paperwork and submitted the check.  Mrs. Miniver, Mini as I call her, is now officially a Bryant.  Trevor and I have a soft spot for the older animals.  The three that we originally had when we met 13 years ago all grew old  with us.  They taught us compassion and trained us to be able to provide the same to these shelter animals that have now entered our lives.

So, in honor of Wookie (read about him HERE), Opal (read about her HERE) and Gus (read about him HERE), we welcome Mrs Miniver to our family.  She will always be one of us.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Foster Ducky

Looking back, I couldn't even remember how Ducky came to be with us.   So I checked on my text message history and now its all coming back to me!

Back in April, the director at my shelter was over at the other shelter in town, talking to them about what dogs we could bring to our shelter.  We take animals from them whenever we have the room and the resources.

Tamara (the director), sent me a text message.  It was this picture.  She asked if I thought Amanda (a friend of mine who owns another local rescue) could help.
This old guy had come into their shelter as a stray, his owners never came to claim him.  He was about 15 years old and blind in one eye.  I didn't think Amanda could help him, she specializes in special need rescue and this old guy was really just at the end of his days.  He needed a quiet place where he could rest until it was his time to move on to the next world.

I texted the picture to Trevor.  Within a day, I was on the phone with the shelter.  They had mentioned to Tamara that they wished they had more hospice fosters.  We could do that.  I knew this guy probably wouldn't be adoptable, but he didn't need to die in the shelter.

The following day, I went to meet him.  Its always funny that they ask me to come meet the dogs or cats we offer to take. There really isn't anything that could happen that would make us not take them once we met them. This guy was no different.   Pretty soon I was on my way home with an old, blind, confused dog in my car.

His tail looked like a platapus, so we named him Ducky.  The shelter signed him over to us.  They weren't going to list him for adoption and so it just made more sense to make him ours.

Ducky came home with us and was immediately part of the family.  He was very confused about where he was and why.  He is just an old guy, trying to figure out where the heck his family is. I honestly didn't expect him to make it more than a week.

After he was home with us, I did what I do with all our pets in distress....I took him to see Dr Hope Valentine, our chinese medicine vet.  She did some acupuncture on him and told me that she honestly didn't think he had much time.
Here we are, a month later, and Ducky (we call him Poppy) is still alive and kicking.  He seems to have realized that this is home.  He is so old.  He hobbles around, sometimes he falls over.  He is very stiff.  Except when its time to eat. This guy will run and jump and spin around when the food comes out.  He knows which door leads outside and will sit there when he wants out.  He knows that door leads back in too and will sit at the door and scratch at it when he wants in.

All Poppy wants to do is snuggle, relax and sleep.  He does a lot of pacing. That is getting less as time passes. I used to hear him pacing around and then it would be quiet, I would find him sitting down, just staring off into the distance, contemplating life.

At night, he snuggles on the couch with me for a bit and then goes into his kennel and sleeps.  He is such an odd little guy and of course we love him with all our hearts.

We have no idea what his past has been. I don't understand how your 15 year old dog goes missing and you don't look for him.  But I can't speak to any of his circumstances. If he didn't have a good life, we'll make up for that now.  If he had a good life and a family that loved him (and didn't come looking for him for some reason), then we'll keep him safe and be with him in the end.  That is what I would want for any of our animals if we couldn't be with them at the end,.

I don't know how much time he has. I make time every day to pick him up and hold him close.  He seems to really enjoy that. He is stiff at first and then he relaxes into my arms and rests his head on my shoulder.  Its then when I know that he is grateful for the kindness of strangers.  Strangers who are now his family.
Thousands of animals die in shelters every day.  Some are young, some are old.  They all deserve a different fate, but most don't get it.  I wish we could do this for every single one of them...but we can' we do it for Poppy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Foster Shilo finds forever

Shilo came to live with us in December of last year.  He was living at a rescue in California that was losing its permits and needed to get rid of the 70 dogs they had.  If not, those dogs would end up back in the high kill local shelter and that would mean certain death.  Most of the dogs at this rescue were high risk, meaning they had been on euthanizia lists before they were taken by this particular rescue.

Our friend, Amanda, who runs the rescue Panda Paws, was helping out by taking some dogs from this place.  Trevor and I decided we wanted to help too.  Tamara, the Executive Director at the shelter where I worked said we could take 4 dogs.  Trevor and I would foster two and the others would go to the shelter until we found them foster homes.

We spent hours going through the pictures and descriptions of the dogs.  After many changes, we finally settled on Lucey and Shilo.  They both had their issues and Amanda warned us that these could be long term fosters.  We were prepared for that and anxious for their arrival.

Lucey and Shilo, along with the other two dogs we took in at the shelter, were part of a big rescue operation called Home for the Holidays.  Every year, an organization called Wings of Rescue, helps transport hundreds of animals from high kill situations in places like California to the northwest.   There were over 400 dogs coming up to Portland and other northwest cities.

HERE  is my blog about that.

On December 7th, we headed to the Hillsboro Airport and waited for their arrival.  We had gotten an email from the people at the rescue where the dogs were coming from that said Shilo wasn’t very happy that morning and to be careful because he was angry when they put him in his kennel.   We greeted our new arrivals, let them walk around a bit and enjoy the fanfare.  Then we hit the road for home.

Lucey laid down in the back of the car and went to sleep.  Shilo sat as far back as he could and never relaxed.  When we got to the house, Lucey and Shilo both kept their distance. They laid together in the kitchen.  Shilo took quite a while to ever lay down. I remember we made such a big deal out of it when he was actually not sitting up anymore.

Over the next few days we realized that Shilo didn’t understand being petted.  He didn’t want to be touched.  He would run away anytime we got close.  But every time I turned around, there he was.  Looking at me like he wanted to know what this touching was all about.

I sat at the table, doing work and he would come over towards me.  I put my hand down and just sat there.  Shilo wouldn’t look at me.  He would put his head down and side step towards my hand.  I would touch him for a moment and then stop.  Shilo would then move closer to me, still not looking at me, still with his head down.  This went on for a couple weeks, until he finally let us pet him.  And then he realized that he liked it.  He wanted to be touched.  But he still didn’t understand it.

We told him to keep his head up, that he should be proud and never needed to come to us hanging his head.  He needed confidence.  We knew that his past must have been bad.  He had been found in an abandonded house, tied up in the yard with no food or water.  Who knows what had happened to him before that, but by his behavior, it must have been bad.  

Lucey was adopted pretty quickly and I often wonder if Shilo was confused about that.  She was with him at the rescue in California, where the dogs had free roam of many acres.  We wonder if they were friends there.  Then they made the trip from California together, they came to our house and went in their kennels side by side.  Then, one day, we went to the shelter and some people came and took her away.  Then it was just him.

Over time, Shilo became more affectionate.  He would jump up on the couch and lay with us.  He didn’t mind the other dogs, but he certainly wasn’t part of the pack.  Again, he seemed confused by the way that they played.

HERE is another blog post about Shilo and his progress.

The biggest issue of all was his biting.  Shilo did not like to be told what to do.  And he expressed that with fear, a snarl and then a bite.  It typically happened when he was on the couch and we wanted him to get down.  He didn’t mind it as much when I did it, but he really minded when Trevor did it.  I remember once he bit me, it was my fault, I knew it was coming and I didn’t stop what I  was doing fast enough.  He was sorry the second he did it.  It made me so scared and sad for him.  It made me worry about his future.  How would he ever get adopted if he wouldn’t let people get near him.  Who would ever take him?

Months went by.  Other fosters came and went and Shilo remained.  He only had one person even inquire about him.  She came to the shelter and met him.  She really liked him, but didn’t think she was prepared to deal with his issues and special needs.   She asked what I thought and I told her that Shilo needed someone who would be an advocate for him, who would protect him and make sure he wasn’t put into any situation that could end up poorly for him.  If she wasn’t confident she could do that, if she had any doubts about doing that, then he wasn’t the right fit for her.  She agreed and said she was sorry.

Over time, Shilo got more comfortable with me.  Trevor went away for work a lot during the month of February, after that, Shilo was really angry with him.  He wouldn’t let Trevor put him in his kennel and he would snarl at Trevor way too often.  During that time, he became more attached to me.  He started to play with the other dogs a bit more.  He would forget himself and chase after them through the yard. You would see him let go and then realize that he needed to hold back.  Then he would run inside and jump up onto his spot on the couch where he felt safe.

A few weeks ago, we got a hospice foster named Ducky.  Ducky is old – 15, blind in one eye, going blind in the other.  He hobbles around and minds his own business.  He doesn’t see things coming.  Shilo was laying on a pillow in the office and Ducky walked too close to him. Shilo snapped and actually made Ducky bleed.  This is the first time I have ever raised my voice at Shilo. I was angry and I made him go out of the office.

While I attended to Ducky, he was fine – mostly just startled, Shilo stood in the other room, looking at me.  I told him that I was angry and that he couldn’t do that to Ducky.  After about 15 minutes of being mad at him, I was in the laundry room.  I looked out and there was Shilo, standing in the hallway.  The look in his eyes broke my heart.  It was a look that said “please don’t be mad at me….you are all I’ve got”.  I stopped what I was doing, sat on the floor and called him.  Shilo put his head down and slowly walked toward me.  I cried.  I cried for what he had been through and for his uncertain future.  I cried because I didn’t know where his story would go from here.  I cried because he was broken and he may never be able to be put back together.  He needed patience and space and compassion.  Often I feel like that is in short supply.  

I told him to lift his head.  I told him that I loved him and I always would and even though I was mad about what he did, that wasn’t changing. I sat on the floor with him for a long time, petting him, hugging him, kissing him.   That night, he snuggled closer on the couch and I made sure to give him extra love over the next couple days.  I needed him to know that it was going to be okay.

The following weekend, I got a text from Clint at the shelter. Someone had called about Shilo.  I called the man back, not having much hope.  I asked him some questions and told him all about Shilo.  The thing about a dog like Shilo….you have to tell people the worst case scenario.  There is no sugar coating it.  If you make him sound great and then he bites them or their kids or their friends, he can end up dead.  It literally is a life and death situation.  So, I told them.  I said that if they were still interested we could set up a time to meet, but that they wouldn’t be able to touch him.  I laid it all on the line.  The man said he would discuss it with his wife and call me back.

I hung up and looked at Trevor. I said “I know I made him sound awful, but I have to” and he said “I know”.  10 minutes later, the man called back and they still wanted to meet Shilo.  What?  I was shocked.  I was headed out of town, Trevor was willing to facilitate the meeting on his own.  We set it up for Saturday at the park.  Shilo had been to the park twice to meet Joanna and have his picture taken. He was comfortable and happy there.  He has met people there and nothing bad has happened.  I figured that would be safe.

Saturday came and I was out of town.  I was busy working, but thought all day about how that meeting would go.  Trevor sent me a text and told me that the people wanted to adopt him.  I was in complete disbelief.  He said that the wife walked Shilo and that he ever wanted her to pet him.  She sat down and Shilo came over to her, nosed at her hand and let her pet him.  Then, he ran back over to Trevor as if to say “Look Dad, I was a good boy”.  When I read that, I lost it….our little guy did good.  Maybe his time really was here.

They wanted to take him with them on Saturday, but there was paperwork to be done and I would have to do it when I got back.  They were excited about Shilo and talked about a dog they had previously who took two years to warm up to the husband. They talked about how Shilo would be an only dog and never have to be kenneled.  It all sounded perfect.

Trevor told the people that Shilo could always come back to us.  He made them agree that if there was ever any issue, if they ever needed to get rid of him, he had to come back to us – no matter when it was or where we lived.  He would always be ours if he couldn’t be theirs. 
Shilo wanted to know if it was really true that he could have a forever family of his own, like Lucey.  And we told him yes.  It could be.

I got home on a Monday and arranged to meet Shilo’s new mom on Tuesday afternoon at the park.  2:30 was the time.  I didn’t have much time left with my guy.  I always have a heart to heart talk with our fosters before taking them to their forever home.  The conversation is usually the same and I know they understand me.   Shilo and I sat on the floor in the laundry room and I told him that I didn’t know what his future would hold, but I would love him forever.   Any time, any day, if he thought of me, I would still be loving him.  And when he takes his last breath, no matter when or why that is, I will still love him.  Then I told him this “don’t ever let anyone break your soul.  Hold your head high and be proud”.    He licked my face and wagged his tail.  

You see,  when you have a foster animal, you love them as if they were yours.  They are a part of the family, even though we know its not forever.  When they arrive, you don’t know how long they are staying.  It could be a few days, it could be years and that is what we commit to, the uncertainty.  Trevor and I take on the difficult cases. The animals that come to us as fosters all have some issue that needs to be worked through.  We give them the time and space to do that.  When they leave us and go to their forever home, it is deeply rewarding and emotional.  We are sending on of our own into the unknown, hoping for the best, hoping we have done what’s right.  Shilo is the extreme example of this.  He has been our foster for 6 months.  He has had the most issues of any animal we’ve fostered and we were prepared for him to be with us forever.  So the idea that he has found this seemingly perfect home, well…that’s overwhelming.

Shilo’s forever mom was waiting for us at the park. She was early.  She had a new leash and collar for her new little guy.  I put the collar on him, while he stood on my lap and licked my face.  He was giving me his final kisses goodbye.  He walked right over to the car and jumped in to head to his new home.  We drove away behind them and I could see him in the backseat, tongue wagging, looking around as if to say “where are we going? I can’t wait to get there”.

Later that evening, we got some pictures from his new family and they said it was going well.

The next day, I checked with them to see how things were.  Shilo’s mom said that he had been her shadow all day, he had been on two walks and played in the yard.  Sweet Shilo.  He will be an only dog.  He has two cat siblings that he doesn’t mind at all.  His new family likes to camp and they asked us if we thought Shilo would like to go camping.  I think Shilo will like to go anywhere his people go.  And I think these are his people.

Today has been a week since Shilo went to his new home.  He went there as a foster and the agreement was that we would finalize the adoption when they were ready.  Today I got a text message with a picture and they said “We love Shilo and want to finalize the adoption” .  Those are words I wasn’t sure I would ever hear.  

He looks so happy.  That makes me so happy.

 It took a team of people to get this guy to his forever home: whomever got him out of the high kill shelter in California, the rescue groups that organized his flight to us, Tamara, the Executive Director at WCGHS who let Trevor and I chose Shilo, and then worked with Shilo to socialize him, Leah, a volunteer adoption coordinator at WCGHS, who never gave up hope for finding Shilo a home, Joanna, who took the most amazing photos of Shilo and Caroline for getting Shilo into the newspaper as pet of the week.  Shilo’s family saw the picture in the paper and fell in love.  Then there is Rachael, who wrote Shilo’s amazing adoption bio – that made the people fall more in love with him.   To Michelle and Kathy and Clint who were excited to hear the news about Shilo’s possible forever home.  The list goes on and on. I am sure I forgot someone.  But it doesn’t matter…we are ALL a part of this success.  We can’t save them all, but we have saved this one.  We are all a part of his life and he is alive because of us.  There is no greater feeling than that.  I am honored to have played a part, to have served as Shilo’s in between….from who he was to who he will be.  I’ll never forget him.

You want this feeling….call your local shelter or rescue and ask about being a foster home for a pet in need.  You will never be sorry that you did it.  I promise.