Fostering saves lives...
I know we have all heard that statement many times, but I did not realize just how true this statement was, and its impact, until I became a foster. Fostering was something I had been thinking about doing for quite some time, but being a mom to 3 young children, I had to wait for the right time. That time was the summer of 2016, and I happened upon a picture of a scruffy, 8-year-old wire-haired dachshund that was quickly running out of time at the shelter. His family had moved and decided he was not important enough to take along. He was also having a skin reaction to fleas, so he was missing a lot of hair. Combine the skin issue and his age, and he was getting passed up at the shelter every day. My family and I had a discussion that day, of what it meant to foster, and what we would be doing for this dog, and we all agreed that we were on board to help. Tazz came to us a few days later…the day before he was to be euthanized. This was when I truly realized the impact of the statement “Fostering saves lives.” Tazz was alive because we took him in with the support of 4Life. Tazz started soaking up the love from day 1, and he gave back just as much. He bonded quickly with my kids and enjoyed playing with our dog.
I have a distinct memory (and photo) of the first day Tazz was with us. My husband was holding him, and he just looked so relieved; like he knew exactly what had just happened. Looking in his adorable eyes…it was like looking into his soul, and he knew he was safe.
Lots of love, good food, and some good old coconut oil on his skin, and he was as beautiful on the outside as he was on the inside. Tazz was with us for a couple of months before he was adopted. He went to a wonderful home that was looking just for him. There is no better feeling than to see these dogs, who almost missed their chance, find amazing, loving, forever homes. THIS is why my family fosters.
Our second foster came to us just a few weeks after Tazz was adopted. Sadie was a 4-month-old puppy who had never been out of a crate (ever) or known human contact. She was scared and had no idea what was going on. It didn’t take her long to realize how much fun was to be had in our house! She was adorable, spunky, and LOVED playing with our dog…talk about endless entertainment! My family and I would sit and watch the two of them play…lots of laughter! Sadie was fortunate enough to be adopted with her brother, who was being fostered by someone else. YAY! Another happy ending!
I could go on and on about all the different dogs we have fostered: Tazz, Sadie, Baby, Princess Buttercup, and Candy. Although very different dogs, they all had similar stories. Neglected and let down by the very humans they trusted to love them and take care of them. As a foster, you have a very important job of showing these dogs that they are worthy of love, kindness, a gentle hand, and that humans can still be trusted. Dogs that are taken into homes as a foster have a MUCH higher success rate of being permanently adopted. Instead of sitting behind the bars of a cage in a loud and scary place, they are cared for and loved in a home, which allows their true personalities to shine.
I often get asked how I let go of all these dogs that I love so much, it’s simple: there are more dogs to save.
My family and I have loved each and every dog that has come through our home. It has been an amazing experience for my kids. They have learned so much about what fostering means, and why we do it. I love listening to them tell their friends about their foster dog, and explain how to properly handle them. This past year-and-a-half has been an extremely rewarding experience for my family, and we plan to continue to foster. Why? Because fostering saves lives.
- Meghan D. - Volunteer/Foster Parent
Just her name on the page brings me a huge smile, but, a little anxiety too. I don't want to miss a thing about Piper when I write her. I don't want to forget a single memory, though I know what matters is her essence, what will be forever. Her life. Her soul. Her spirit. If I worry about not getting this perfect, I’ll never start. Besides, if I began writing a blog when Piper came to us, I would have driven you all nutty. I mean, come on, I have 1,800+ photos of her and a zillion stories of this cooky girl. I have a feeling though, that I’ll constantly be “editing” this post, even after published, as her soul sweeps through mine almost daily, leaving me with only words to capture her.
The beginning. I happened to see Piper for the first time on an IG post from Beau Madison/Ashley (her blog is Spirit of the Wild). The picture of this terrified stray black shepherd in the OC Shelter tore my soul to shrivels. It was reported that she had seizures in her kennel and I couldn't imagine her alone with this terror. I felt so helpless. Despite being in CPS for 18 years, I will never stop wondering, “how can this world was be cruel?” I kept sharing her, pledging, and hoping someone would go and get her. I could not shed my worry for her, I was on her post non stop.
Days passed, nothing and no one came forward for her. Sure, some people said they would take her, but backed out and their promises were hollow. So, she was scheduled to be euthanized the next morning, before the shelter opened. I was in a flurry trying to help, Beau put me in touch with a rescue and somehow a “hold” was placed on her, giving her more hours to live. This dog was labeled “R/O” (Rescue Only) which I thought, “well that’s me” I’ll rescue her. Little did I know it doesn’t work like that. A R/O dog had to have an approved rescue organization “pull” her from the shelter. A regular person like me, couldn’t get her alone. I was told this was because of her seizures. So, this dog was not seen by the public or able to be adopted by the public. She had a death sentence from the beginning. If it weren’t for Beau Madison/Ashley, Piper would never have been seen or saved.
I got in my car and headed for the shelter. While texting between Beau and Teri (4LifeRescue, who came forward for her and us), I spent hours trying to get her out, after waiting and waiting I was told to come back later, things weren’t approved. I decided shop for her (I needed to feel like I was getting something done!), I bought her a new bed, collar, leash, and toys. Finally, Teri from the rescue said she was approved to leave with me.
At the dreary shelter, they brought her out. She was sitting with the volunteers just outside the office. I ran to her, tears in my eyes. Her eyes found mine. They smiled. Mine smiled back. “You are so beautiful!”, I told her. “Hi baby, can I call you Piper?”. She ran straight towards me. I took this as a “yes”. I felt like I already knew this dog with the biggest goofy grin on her face, nuzzling me like a cat. Piper easily walked with me to my car. Dusty and skinny, Piper climbed in and right onto her new bed. The whole drive home she held ont my hand. Paw to Palm, I tell you.
Piper on her freedom ride home. Isn’t she stunning? Dont be fooled by shelter pictures, these dogs are beautiful, but in the worst situation imaginable. How would we look if we were photographed in jail, there for no fault of our own, our concrete cell hosed out with us sitting in there, going through seizures alone. No help. No hope. I know how I’d certainly look in a “mug shot” and its nothing close to “pretty”.
Piper and I got home. I thought perhaps she was dog friendly, I had no idea. The shelter had no idea. Medical dogs are isolated at the shelter. And when she was in our yard, I brought out Sadie, our alpha boston terrier. The most stable in our pack of three. Sadie and Piper both circled and hair was raised. To me this was a “no go”, especially me being alone. I picked Sadie up quickly and took her back inside. Of course this is not even close to the correct way to introduce dogs. I need to fall back on the old excuse, I was “green”, especially to bringing a shelter dog home. Our first rescue lived with a dog and got along with everyone in our pack straight away.
So I seperated the dogs. I bathed Piper, and she graciously let me. I scrubbed away who knows how many years of grime and neglect. And, she shone beautifully after. Following a quick walk, I left her in my step daughter, Zoe’s room, to tend to the other dogs. When I went back in to see Piper, she had run into the mirror and had pooped. Poor girl, that must have been so scary. She’s afraid, its all new. As the night soaked in, I invited her to lay with me on the bed. Piper snuggled right up to me, a puzzle piece into my curved body. I had music playing softly, tears streamed down my face as the words of each song seemed meant for this dog, who just barely escaped a lonely death. My husband Manuel came home late after a long day at our brewery. I had only told him in a text who I brought home, and, after barking at him in a way most men would be terrified of, Manuel let Piper sniff him and they became fast friends. Manuel has a way with dogs. And, luckily understood my need to bring her home. “Can we add Luna to her name?” he asked. She looks like a Luna. Now this dog who was formerly shelter #A1408657, has two lovingly selected names, just for her.
That night as I snuggled up with Piper, I wrapped my arms around her and held her big brown paws. I was awed at the trust she gifted me so quickly. I vowed, I would not let Piper down. So, we had ourself a new foster dog, and a sweet and silly one at that!
Oh we loved non stop on our goofball. Piper was up for anything, especially posing. I got my braces off (embarrassing to wear as an adult!), and she readily posed with me, her crooked teeth that I had memorized, next to mine in her usual glee. I may have had a couple thousand dollars now invested into my smile, but hers, she outshined mine effortlessly! Just look!
Piper also posed in costumes, doggy pajamas, ridiculous props, and christmas lights. She readily engaged in music videos with Zoe. Them doing “The Whip” together was a total crack up. I’ll have to figure out how to add that to this post. Pipey smiled through all of this, and in the videos with Zoe, what you notice most is Piper looking lovingly at Zoe, gently admiring, and enjoying being included.
But of course, fostering is not a smooth yellow brick road. Besides working with Piper on dog socialization, we knew that her health could be next. Piper was treated for ear infections and skin issues initially, and, we were told the seizures in the shelter could have been related to other issues (a head trauma, stress, ingestion of something toxic) and may not present in her life moving forward. We crossed our fingers for this to be true.
Unfortunately it wasn’t.
The first time Piper had a seizure, it was fairly short and she had been laying on the ground when it happened. The second time, she was sleeping with my stepdaughter who came running to our room crying and yelling “Pipey is having a seizure, help me”. Piper had fallen off of Zoe’s bed and was seizing on the floor. I knelt down and held her. Her body elongating on the floor, muscles stiffening, her head throwing back and gnawing, her bowles and bladder lost. This seizure was long, a whole minute after I got to her. After the seizure, Piper cried, deep howls of confusion and fear. This was one of the hardest things to witness and hear, little did I know there would be two more before our vet appointment. That night as I held Piper and tried to sleep, I kept thinking about this happening to her in the shelter, when she was all alone. And, she was found a stray, did someone dump her because of her seizures, or bowel and bladder accidents that accompanied them? Oh sweet girl. You are going to get help now. Monday morning, bright and early, we were at the vet, here she sitting in a chair, listening to the plan of how to help her. And, help her it did. After starting her medication, Piper never had a seizure again!
It was time for Piper to catch up socially, with other dogs, to where she was with other people. We already know that she loved everyone, young and old, but with dogs ,she was like that uncomfortable person at a party, too eager and too “in your face”. Keeping dogs seperate is not easy (lots of barking between doors and unhappy neighbors- until we figured out how to quell the rockiness and ruckus). Interestingly, the one squirmish at home when Pipey snuck into a part of the house where the three others dogs were, Piper only “gently mouthed and herded one dog” and got bit by our small rat terrier. Then Piper ran and hid. She had a big bravado with her bark, but seemingly no bite. So, the mission became helping her learn. Step one, pack walks, meeting other dogs, and often walks or jogs with our rescue, Saige. Pipey began learning commands. Learning to trust. She was wonderful at adoption events, enjoying her 4LifeRescue team. Also, we loved taking her to Trotts Dog Walking and Training in Long Beach, these are free pack walks with a wonderful trainer.
We got to know Piper’s rescue, 4LifeRescue, and its team members. They became our team and friends, there for us every step of the way. They fell for Pipey too and endured my thousands of photos of her sent to them! We had many 4LifeRescue posts with Piper….here are a few of my favorites!
Piper did great at adoption events and there was a lot of adoption interest in her. Piper had many “meet and greets”. Most who met her fell in love. When the next step was them adopting her, we would say “good bye” for days, it was one of the hardest things to do….here is a selfie I took when I knew she was leaving us….
But, we believed she had a great life in front of her, we prepared her thoroughly for her transition. Here she is headed to a home with a man who really wanted her, seemed to connect with her, passed the home check and adoption requirements …..Piper seemed happy on this drive to his house, feeling our optimism for her….
But things didn’t work out. He returned her in less than 18 hours because she barked at his roommate and his roommate was “afraid of her”. Later, another adoption didn’t work out and was a mutual decision between myself, the rescue, and the adopter. Next a potential adopter (who agreed to at the very least foster her while we were out of town visiting family) wanted her “out in less than 24 hours” because she barked at someone who visited them and barked along the fence at a dog in another yard. On our trip after hearing this, I wanted to turn around and go get Piper. However, the rescue knew we needed to see family and found a trainer to watch Piper. Piper was reported to have done well with the trainer and even with his dogs.
Having Piper returned exhibiting confusion, exhaustion, and seeming “shut off” really gutted me. I was failing her. Harming her. I could feel it sharp and tight inside me. Picking Piper up from yet another person who gave up on her hurt. I watched her in my rearview window, her eyes a million miles away, before she gave in to sleep.
Pipey, I am so sorry.
I have to admit, I was offended on Piper’s behalf. The reasons given always were selfish and flimsy. The fact that these “adopters” gave her no time to decompress and adjust, only taking her then leaving her when they wanted, when it was convenient to them. The opposite of what they promised us and the rescue. I was losing confidence in the human part of rescue. I was pondering moving to the countryside to keep all the dogs. This photo (below) of her, staying extra close when we got home….really explains things.
I distinctly remember Piper being somber as I took the next photo the following day after her being returned. No huge silly grin, instead, her amber eyes reaching out to me (less direct and less confident) as I held her paw. Pipey trust me. We will figure this out together.
Luckily, in a few days, Piper would bounce back- return to herding gnats in the back yard, farting then giving you an incredulous look as she left the room, and, trying to put all three of her tennis balls in her mouth at the same time. Of course we all hung in there too. Myself, Manuel, Zoe, Piper, and 4LifeRescue. We felt fortunate to collected more joyous time with Piper, more fun photos, more ridiculously personality filled memories, more time to work on her training and socialization. We enjoyed her. And, she was happy. We tried to have faith that there was someone out there who would see and love the Pipey we knew.
When I finally let go and stopped worrying, the right man came for Piper. Isn’t that always the way? Daniel met Piper at our home and spent time with us and her. He walked her. He asked a lot of questions, he prepared, and shopped for her. The rescue met him and did his home check, they loved him as well. At the time a different family also wanted Piper, but I saw signs of this not being a fit, of another potential “failure”. The rescue was wonderful in supporting our input and dealing with this family lashing out at us for Piper going to a different adopter.
The night when Daniel came to get Piper it was rainy and gloomy. Piper barked at him like he was a dangerous stranger, and, I saw Daniel’s face and neck flush. My heart sank. I think Piper felt our emotions, and worry, knowing we were saying goodbye- again, subconsciously scared from being burned before. Ugh. Not good on our part. Luckily, a moment later Piper realized this was Daniel, the man she really liked and she nuzzled into his leg for pets and cuddles. We spent some time together letting them re familiarize themselves and answering Daniel’s questions. Then, Piper left with Daniel, into the dark and drizzle, and, I worried about getting a call the next morning saying he “couldn’t do it”.
Daniel texted me the that night that Piper was a “little sad” in the car and when first in his home. He said she thoroughly sniffed his place then “met her toys”. He told me “thank you for saving her and looking out for her until she came to me, you will always be her mum”. I love this text and slept well that night. Daniel reported the next day that Piper tossed and turned throughout the night but “who doesn’t when they are somewhere new?” Over the weeks I heard how she was doing and adjusting. He had questions and hurdles, but he faced them with her and gave her time, understanding, and patience. Daniel also began formal training for Piper, and, did an amazing job. I about fell out of my chair when I say a photo of her with other dogs in training, laying on command between two other dogs. I also was sent videos of Piper being completely silly, talking and grumbling, tossing her toys about. It was officially announced. Piper was adopted! Here is their adoption announcement!
As her first year adopted passed, I received photos and updates periodically. I loved every single one of them. Each one indicating their further bond and all the time and love Daniel put forth to her. Piper became his family. She was going on 7 mile hikes every weekend, hanging out with his friends, pack walking, and vacationing the snow in Big Bear. Piper even has a new friend (perhaps a boyfriend, lol?), a small dog who often stays over and sleeps on Piper’s back. Oh the progress the former shelter dog made!
In a recent text on their one year “Adoptiversary” Daniel texted me: “Erin, Piper has such a personality and is super quirky. She fits in with me just perfectly. We are meant to be! I can’t believe she was with you for as long as she was and wasnt adopted. When I first saw her picture, I knew it was her, she was my dog”. Awwwww.
Here is Piper, her first year adopted:
Look at Daniel and Piper, Paw to Palm!
So, Piper found her forever, and it was a process but so worth it! We had had her for six months, and, she was and is family to us. I think all fosters deserve this. To be family, until they have their very own. I am eternally grateful for Beau and 4LifeRescue. They saved her. I am also endlessly thankful that the best papa for Piper was found. She deserves this beautiful life she has.
Piper brought us into the world of rescue, and, to 4LifeRescue (where I have met the greatest friends!) and, since Piper, rescue is one of the biggest parts of my life, and my pack’s life. We went on to foster six dogs in this first year in rescue. And, also help with other dogs not placed with us. Thank you Piper, rescue is my favorite!
I just love you to the moon and back Piper. You will forever be my love. Here are a few more great pictures of this amazing girl. I’ll sign off with photos to replace my final (for now) words on this sweet soul.
When you really "get each other" you certainly laugh together!
Originally published by Erin H., 4Life foster mom, and author of Paw to Palm
Welcome to K9 Hero
Welcome to our Foster Blog. Our purpose here is to expose the beauty of what it’s like to be a foster parent, a window into an amazing experience of compassion. Each and every home has their own story or experience, but what we have come to learn is that there is a common theme among foster parents – the incredibly rewarding feeling of being able to save a life, who had no chance without them. For some, this love often grows into rewarding connections with other like-minded individuals, and for others, it is their own kind of purpose. We hope that these stories will move you, or help you decide if fostering is right for you. One thing is for sure - there are thousands of dogs and cats languishing in desperate situations facing a very sad fate without enough of us to help them. Please join us on an inspirational journey into the power of saving lives.
I’ll start with a quick peek at one of my very own fostering experiences – Saving Blossom. I’ll never forget the first image of this fat, over-bred beagle mommy at Downey Shelter. It was a picture collage and one picture was a snapshot of a very wild eyed, fearful looking girl who didn’t know what was happening to her. Another picture showed her on her back for tummy rubs, all too happy for human affection. I loved her instantly and saw that she was set to be killed very soon. Here I was, a wife with a beagle of my own, a Dalmatian, a pit bull, and two cats. I picked her up from the shelter and she knew she’d gotten a second chance. She just wanted love. I’ve heard it said that you will never experience the feeling of gratitude like when you save a dog you’ve rescued, and I believe it’s true.
Blossom joined our home nicely, settling in with the mix of bigs and littles. She let me dress her up for her photo shoots to market her for the very best home. Of course, I had to dress her up in beautiful flowers to match her name. I’d come to learn many things about her, many true to her breed…like FOOD!!!! I had made the mistake of getting groceries and then picking her up from the vet. After putting her into the backseat of my car and driving home, I could see her bottom through the rear view mirror teetering back and forth on top of the seat, trying to fall head first into the groceries. I’d shout her name and her wild-eyed, bushy tailed eyes and open mouth would look at me like she’d hit the jackpot. I clasped the steering wheel and started laughing. So, she wasn’t always the best in the car, but she had this heart-melting thing about her that soothed a soul, so I let those things go.
On the day Blossom found her family, I knew they were perfect for her. They had their own two beagles. I’ll admit, I felt the need to keep her, of wanting her silliness to be mine, but I stepped back, instead, and saw her future world of walks, morning bed snuggles, and off to the trails for their hikes, and I knew she was already theirs. I also knew there was this other little guy in a desperate situation who needed me now. So I cupped her little face and said, “Baby Girl, I’ve done my job and you’ll always be my girl, but I’ve gotta help this other little guy like I did for you.” I swear the look in her eyes said she understood, but either way, I know now she is exactly where she was meant to be, and I helped be a bridge from despair to a happy life. The perks continue as I see all the great picture texts come to me and I see that she truly has Blossomed. It’s kind of fate - her name. She’s Blossom, and she will always be my girl.
I could go on and on just about her, or I could tell you about the others who’ve equally affected me, enriched my life, made me a better person, made me feel that I hold a very powerful purpose in this life, but I think it’s enough to just say that each and every time I do this, it stands alone, as if it, and only it, is the greatest thing I’ve EVER done.
The following entries are our very own foster parents and their stories. We hope that their stories touch you, and just maybe, they will inspire you to become a lifesaver, too.
Outreach / Adoption Coordinator
4Life Animal Rescue
This blog is a compilation of writing from our dedicated volunteers and foster families