Friday, September 30, 2016

Foster Pup Sal Update

It's hard to believe that Foster Pup Sal has been with us for over a month now.  After a long two weeks of quarantine, we've entered a long three weeks of figuring out how to cohabitate now that there's no medical reason to be separated. Despite the struggles, Sal's come a long way in the 5+ weeks that we've been together.

He's no longer the scrawny little dude I brought home. His hip bones are still too prominent, but you can't see his ribs anymore and his back end is filling out. There are still spots--especially on his sides (you can see that in the Week 5 picture) where he's mostly undercoat, but the top coat he does have isn't dull and coarse anymore. Some of it even has a shine and the longer parts are nice and soft.

He's terrified of his foster cat brother. My 13-pound cat strikes fear in Sal's heart. Many a times, we stand in the doorway for over 5 minutes because Soth is standing there looking at him. It takes a lot of coaxing to convince Sal to come back inside when Soth is visible. (Note: Soth has never even swatted at Sal and this fear--unlike his fear of Barley--is unwarranted.)

He likes to know where everyone is and keep an eye on things. In typical border collie fashion, he likes to keep an eye on the flock. Since he's scared of Barley and Soth, that flock is a flock of 1--me. He's not brave enough to go down the basement stairs (which is fine with me because I couldn't carry him back up if he decided he couldn't make it back up), but when I go down, he sits at the top and waits until I come back. 

He enjoys slow, short walks. The day I had him, he couldn't even walk 1/10 of a mile and back. We had to start our walks by going one house down from ours and turning around, then the next day we'd go two houses down and turn around, until eventually we got to the end of the street and could make it back. The first time we walked a full mile, it took us 45 minutes (for perspective, Barley and I walk an 18 minute mile when we're talking our time and enjoying the scenery). Now, a couple times a week, we walk about a 1.3 miles. We still mostly stick to one or two 3/4-mile loops a day, but Sal does enjoy slightly longer walks, so we occasionally walk down to the lake .

For the first few weeks, Sal wasn't very alert on walks. But now he is noticing squirrels and paying attention to the world around him. 

He has also gotten stronger--the first few weeks, he couldn't stand with his front feet on the curb and his back feet on the road--he'd wobble and lose his balance. Now, he's much more stable and I was so happy he could stand like this that I let him sniff far longer than I usually do.

He's cleaner. He came to me pretty stinky with that shelter scent on his fur--but he was so weak that I didn't want to put him in the tub, even with the the non-slip mat we use. When he wandered upstairs in the house one day, I figured he was strong enough for a bath. His first bath was disgusting--the water was so brown. But he got another bath yesterday with some recommended shampoo to help with itchy, dandruffy skin and the water was just normal bath water when we were done. He smells much nicer now!

He's learning what beds are for. The first couple weeks he was here, he was too weak to step on his bed--it was new and poofy and if he stepped on it, he fell over. He would rest his head on it, but that was it. Usually, I'd come into the room to see him just sleeping in a ball in the corner of the room. Now, most days, I walk in and he's sprawled on top of the bed.
I accidentally ruined the cover in the wash--oops.

He loves toys. The second day he was here, I saw his eyes light up with a puppy-like glee when I brought out a ball. He couldn't go after it fast or for very long, but he wanted nothing more than to play with that ball. He will try to tug on soft toys, but ball-like toys are his very favorites. Barley and I picked up a pumpkin toy for him and he even plays with that one by himself.

He still has bad teeth, which makes it hard for him to tug on toys or to carry a ball for long, but the pumpkin seems to be something that doesn't give him any trouble at all. We don't have any updates on if/when his teeth will be extracted and cleaned. That may be something that happens after his adoption. He's still able to eat fine--kibble and wet food--so other than stinky breath and not being able to play tug, he doesn't seem bothered by his teeth right now.

He's cute and he knows it. Now that he's put on weight and has gotten clean, he knows that he's a cutie pie and he expects the world to acknowledge that, too. He's mastered the head tilt for photos and is also very effective at using it against me when he wants snacks or petting.

He's a really fun little dog with a lot of personality. If you or someone you know is interested in giving Sal a home, information about adopting him can be found here.

Teaching My Reactive Dog to Cohabitate

Barley can live with other dogs. She adores my parents' dog. She tolerates my sister's dog and a friend's dog. But she's also very selective about the dogs she shares her space with. I knew that the biggest challenge with bringing Sal into our house would be convincing Barley he was allowed to be here. 

The first two weeks Sal was here, he was in quarantine, so while there were some challenges as far as giving everyone enough time, cohabitating wasn't one of them. I had high hopes that it would go well. Barley actually introduced herself to Sal during the quarantine period--I didn't know that the bedroom door where he was staying didn't actually latch and Barley shoved the door open and let herself in. I didn't even know it had happened until I saw Sal wander by the kitchen where I was working. I marched him back to his room, herded Barley out of it, and set up a barrier to make sure she didn't expose herself to him any longer than necessary. 

After the quarantine ended, we took things really slowly. Sal is still working on building up strength, so I didn't want him to be overwhelmed by Barley's enthusiasm. I started out keeping Barley on leash. When she's on leash, she knows she's working and she stays focused and listens to commands. Sal would come close enough that I could give them both treats, and Barley was interested, but under control.

I'd pay attention to her body language and when her ears started going into weird positions or her eyes started wandering, we'd increase the space between them until she relaxed more. Or, we'd end the session on a positive note and everyone would go back to their separate spaces.

We started using our gate to help with training, too. Barley is fine with Sal when he's on the opposite side of the gate. They can sit just inches apart on opposite sides and I can pet the both at the same time and no problems.

Freedom has been more challenging. Honestly, I didn't really know where to begin. We started off staying leashed inside--I could have them on either side of me while I sat on the couch and as long as the treats were frequent, they were fine, but I didn't know where to go next.

Then one day, I put Barley in the kitchen, shut the gate, and took Sal out for a quick walk. I didn't plan to go any farther than the end of our street and back, or I would have crated Bar, but my best friend called while we were walking, Sal was eager to go farther, and it was nice out, so we kept walking. When we got back, Barley met as at the door. I was sure she'd jumped the gate (she hadn't), and I knew that we had to figure out how we could all be in the same space at the same time.

That night, we started with some mat work (Sal has no idea what a mat is, but somehow he ended up on one, too). We spent a few minutes giving everybody treats for staying down and being calm. Then I put them in separate space and gave them lots of individual love. 

Then we moved to another room and tried again. We kept sessions short and sweet so they always ended positively.

Gradually, we worked up to sitting on (by) the couch with both dogs off leash. I was afraid to breathe in case I broke the spell they were under. (String cheese and hot dogs have strong powers, but I wasn't sure just how long those powers lasted.)

Ignore my messy coffee table.

For days, we practiced in different locations, in sits and downs, with varying distances between them. As long as I had snacks, Barley didn't care that Sal was there. Sal was always unsure about Barley, but he likes snacks.

Sal wasn't worried--he was licking hot dog off the carpet.

Then we took a few steps back. Earlier this week, I thought maybe we could all watch a tv show together. For the first part of the show, everyone was fine. They happily munched on string cheese and hot dogs. As the show went on, though, Barley getting more interested in Sal. I was able to redirect her and was proud of her for leaving him alone. And then all of the sudden, Sal's head was in her mouth--which is how Barley offers corrections to other dogs--she wasn't hurting him and as soon as I touched her, she let go and moved away from him, but Sal was traumatized. Bar took a time out upstairs and I got some of my Burt's Bees for dog wipes and cleaned the slobber off Sal and snuggled him for a bit. 

Now we're back to baby steps. We're back to spending time on opposite sides of the gate where they can see each other. We do a few little sessions in the same room again. I'm paying more attention to Barley's body language so that when she starts getting testy I can separate them again before things escalate. I'm letting Sal decide how much space he needs from her and if that means I have to walk several steps back and forth between them to give them both snacks, that's ok. 

It's a long, slow process and patience has never been one of my strong suits, but I'm hopeful that maybe one day we'll be able to make it through a whole tv show with all three of us relaxing. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

That Guilty Feeling

I had a plan to write about foster pup Sal's progress and how Barley's handling our houseguest when I woke up this morning. This week's been exhausting, so I didn't set an alarm when I went to bed this morning. When I woke up this morning, I was shocked to see 8:25 on my phone. It's not unusual for Barley to let me sleep in, but it's unheard of for Soth to not wake me up at least once begging for food and knocking things off the dresser.

This guy does not sleep in.

I changed out of my pig pajamas, so my neighbors didn't see me in my pig pants that late into the morning when I took Sal out in the front yard. Usually, Soth comes into the bathroom with me in the morning, but he was no where to be seen. I brushed my hair in case Sal decided we should stroll down the street a little ways. I checked the library room to see if Soth was snoozing on the loveseat or in the closet and then Barley and I headed downstairs. I called Soth and heard a jingle, so I figured he was probably stretching and would be joining us at the back door in a minute.

I opened the gate into the kitchen to take Barley out the backdoor and Barley rounded the corner and went straight to the cat food. I noticed that none of the cat food hadn't been touched all night. Soth doesn't always finish his food at night, but there wasn't a single bite taken out of his wet food and the only dry food that was missing were the kibbles Barley got before I caught her. I panicked. 

I called Soth again. I heard another jingle. Closer this time. But I still couldn't see him.

And then I knew. My heart sunk.

My little basement troll.

I stepped out of the kitchen, opened the basement door, and who did I see? My handsome little guy was sitting on the other side. He opened his mouth wide and yelled at me and then trotted into the kitchen to search for his food.

He is an expert hider.

The rest of the morning he has been acting like he's been without human contact for 10 years. He's been following me around. Bumping my hand with his head until I pet him. Wrapping his paws around my hand to make sure I don't stop petting him.

I guess doing a headcount is going to become part of our bedtime routine from now on. Sorry Soth!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Foster Pup Sal Tries Wellness Complete Health from

Foster Pup Sal has terrible teeth--he'll need several extractions and some major cleaning when he's strong enough for surgery--so we've entered the new territory of wet dog food. While the majority of his meals consist of dry food, he gets several spoonfuls of wet food to make it easier to eat and to encourage him to eat so he puts more meat on his bones. When our friends at asked us if we wanted to try Wellness Complete Health wet food, we jumped at the chance!

We chose the Poultry Lover's pack, which comes with three different flavors: chicken and sweet potato, duck and sweet potato, and turkey and sweet potato. Since you never know what Sal's forever family will want to feed him, I try to give him a rotation of different proteins for his wet food so he'll be ready for anything! 

The Wellness Complete Health wet food is a paté style--even though I've been feeding Soth this style of wet food for years, paté food always grosses me out a little bit. Sal didn't care, though, and it was actually even better for him because there weren't large chunks of things that he had to chew. He tends to make a big mess with wet food with chunks, leaving bits of it on the floor and I end up stepping on them in the dark with bare feet. We didn't have that issue with Wellness Complete Health. It's easy to mush up over his kibble so that he gets some softer bites with the crunchier stuff.

We started with the turkey and sweet potato formula. The cans are 12.5-oz and each pack comes with 18 cans (6 of each flavor). I was pleasantly surprised to see that you could still see some chunks of sweet potato in the formula--when I open a can of food, it's always nice to be able to identify what's in there, so seeing some of the individual ingredients made me happy.

Sal doesn't get excited about much--his interests are limited to playing with balls and eating--but he was really excited about trying Wellness Complete Health.

He was really excited to get a second afternoon snack this day.

So excited, in fact, that he forgot all of the manners we've been working on and dove into his bowl before I set it on the ground for him. 

Barley doesn't eat much wet food--mostly because I've finally got her regular food portions figured out to help her maintain a healthy weight and I'm too lazy (and hate math too much) to do the calculations to mess with that system--but she occasionally gets a fun seasonal flavor or some as a special treat.

Like when she's stuck inside watching her foster brother struggle with a photoshoot she could do in her sleep.

Barley was equally enthusiastic about trying Wellness Complete Health in turkey and sweet potato.

She apparently forgot her manners, too.

Wellness is a brand that we're familiar with from using some of their treats, but we'd never tried their actual dog food. After having a chance to examine each of the different flavors, this is definitely a brand I feel confident feeding to Barley and especially her foster brother Sal. 

Wellness is committed to providing holistic nutrition. They use fresh, healthy ingredients that give dogs many different health benefits. The first ingredient in each of the formulas is the protein and in the turkey and sweet potato formula, the first three ingredients were turkey, turkey broth, and turkey liver. That is the number one requirement I have for any food I feed the pets.

The next ingredient is ground barley (which is a little weird to feed Barley because, well, you know)--once I get past the idea of Barley eating barley, though, it's an ingredient that's extra important for dogs like Sal. Sal came to me emaciated, and as food gets reintroduced, all kinds of things can get out of whack if you're not careful. Barley (the grain, not the dog) helps regulate blood sugar. Now, we're starting to increase the amount of food while decreasing the number of meals, so instead of four tiny meals, he's getting one normal one, one afternoon snack, and two small meals later in the evening. It's too early to tell if the barley's making much difference for Sal, or if he's just getting used to his new feeding schedule, or if it's a little bit of both, but it's definitely something that can't hurt! I feel better knowing he's eating a food with ingredients that help keep all of his systems in check. The other ingredients are all packed full of vitamins, fiber, and other goodies that help with skin, coat, digestion, and overall wellbeing. 

Wellness Complete Health Poultry Lover's wet food has definitely earned a spot in Sal's wet food rotation. It's a brand I can trust and a food that he can't help but dive into. 

Disclaimer: We were provided with a Wellness Complete Health Poultry Lover's variety pack from in exchange for our honest review, but all opinions are my own and we only share information we think is relevant and valuable to our readers. and Wellness are not responsible for the content of this post. Always consult with your vet before starting your pet on a new diet.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Thanks, but No Thanks

The other day, I got home from work and was picking up sticks in the backyard with foster pup Sal when the dino-dogs next door came charging out into their yard and right at the fence. Sal doesn't care about other dogs. He'll sometimes look up from sniffing the grass if he hears a bark, he sometimes shows interest in the weird things that happen when Barley wags her tail, but he has never once showed any desire to go near another dog. My neighbor came out and calmed his dogs down and I told him this was a different dog that didn't care.

We chatted for a few minutes and he told me he wanted to show me the collar he'd gotten for his younger dog, so he ran into the house. He handed me a remote pet trainer collar box--I feigned an interest in it, turned it over in my hands, pretended to read the description on the box. When I tried to hand it back, he insisted I keep it so I could peruse the instruction manual when I had time and he'd get it back later.

I know he meant well. It's no secret that our biggest training struggle right now is with Barley's reaction to the dino-dogs. We're definitely open to advice and tips. 

Squirrels, deer, and chimpmunks crashing through the woods? No problem. Dogs next door? Yikes.

We're working on it, but it's slow going. We can only work on her reactions to the dino-dogs when they are outside at the same time we are--and it isn't always a good time to drop everything and go out in the yard when we see them--so it's not like our earlier training adventures where we could take short walks several times a day and have many opportunities to practice. 

"I learned 'Paws Up' in a day. Dino-dogs are harder for me."

Even then, it took at least 6 months before we could could take a normal walk. We still need plenty of treats to reinforce good behavior on walks because other dogs, especially ones barking in their yard, will always be hard for her to ignore. It took about 10 months of consistent training before she could pass the Canine Good Citizen test because of the meet-and-greet portion.

We try to do some training in the yard every day--even when the dino-dogs aren't out, we do some boundary work and recall work--but Barley spent our first 5.5 years together on-leash every time she was outside and she's only had 3 months of even having a fence (with about 3 weeks of that being travel time), so the progress is slow.

I know she can get better and will eventually quit snarling at the fence, but it will take time and patience and a lot of consistent work. 

In less than one week of Sal being able to come out of quarantine, Barley has gone from barking her head off every time she saw him to being able to sit on opposite sides of the gate (again, why did it take me so long to invest in one of these?! it's great!) and demonstrate different behaviors for him. In agility this week, a new, enthusiastic, overly friendly dog joined our class and came in late, right before Barley's turn. She stayed right with me, did the whole course beautifully, and never once looked at that dog. She can learn to behave around other dogs. It just takes time.

Barley's helped Sal master sit.

A couple days later, Barley and I were outside when the dino-dogs came out. Barley let out a bark, realized it was the older of the two dogs (who is far less interesting to Barley), and turned back to me. My treat supply was low, so I ushered her back inside and went to grab the box for my neighbor. I lied and said I wrote down the name and would talk about it with our trainer. He was really happy and told me it would really help us. He brought out the remote to show me the different settings and buttons--you can send an audible signal as a reminder before sending the "annoyance" as the instructions called the static signal as a correction.

I'm not opposed to training collars--growing up, my dogs had an e-fence. I walked across the fence holding the collar's prongs before I let my parents put it on my beloved dog. It wasn't painful--just a buzz, much like my Up band gives me when I have been sitting for too long. (In one of my less proud big sister moments, I also tricked my little brother into walking across the fence holding the prongs--he might disagree with my assessment.) My brother's dog wears a bark collar when they aren't home because they live in a big city apartment and can't afford to be evicted over a barking dog--and it works and their dog still loves them and trusts them and is a happy-go-lucky guy. I much prefer other methods of training, but sometimes there are other circumstances--like homeowners associations that don't like fences or work schedules that mean someone can't always be home with your dog to keep him from barking--that might make them worth trying.

But they aren't right for Barley. Especially not when it comes to her reactions to other dogs. She's already annoyed by the presence of other dogs--there's a reason there's a saying "Don't poke the bear." Buzzing Barley when she's already annoyed would most likely just increase her annoyance. Even if it didn't, she'd have to dislike the buzzing more than she disliked the other dogs to get it to work (our second dog growing up sometimes wanted squirrels more than she wanted to avoid being shocked and would run through her fence). The likelihood of that being the case is slim.

She does, however, prefer treats to the other dogs (although sometimes she forgets the treats exist until I stick one right in front of her nose), so we'll be continuing our training plan, making the adjustments we need to, until she learns to choose focusing on me over the other dogs. After I gave the neighbor his box back, I restocked my treat supplies and brought Barley back out--she stayed with me, whether I was sitting on the patio furniture or asking her to do heeling exercises, and we went back in after the treat supply got low again so we could end on a high note.

She's my best bud and I wouldn't want her any other way!

Our methods might not be quick, but they're what works best for Barley and that's the promise I made to her when I brought her home from the shelter. Of course, I didn't actually tell my neighbor any of these things--it's hard to have a long conversation when you're trying to keep your focus on Barley to keep her from melting down outside or she's in the house with her paws on the windowsill barking at you because you've left her alone. Plus, I hate conflict, so telling him that we absolutely would not be trying that collar was way out of my comfort zone.

How do you deal with well intentioned, but unwanted training advice?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Barley Tries the GameChanger (Review)

Long time readers of the blog know that Barley likes to find ways to entertain herself--even if I've only turned my back for half a second. Usually, Barley chooses forms of entertainment that are highly inappropriate--like digging my carpet or eating things out of the trash. For that reason, we love interactive toys that keep her busy in safe ways. Recently, we got the opportunity to review a new interactive dog toy, the GameChanger by Bark Busters.

The GameChanger is a treat dispensing toy made out of non-toxic, BPA-free polyurethane material. The GameChanger can be hand washed and it comes in four different colors: red, blue, lime green, and yellow.

Barley thinks that any mail that comes is for her, so she was really excited when I brought the package inside. She was very impatient to see what this new thing was, so she wouldn't smile at first--instead, she gave the GameChanger her intense border collie stare and then shifted the stare to me.

The GameChanger is made of two separate pieces that you pop apart, fill with treats, and then push back together. It took me a second to figure out how to separate the two halves, but after I'd done it once, it was really simple. As soon as Barley saw this toy would be filled with treats, she was thrilled.

The holes are pretty small, so we used some Zuke's Minis and some Merrick Power Bites and they were perfect, but any smallish treat would work. I tried putting some of Barley's kibble--which is about the size of Cocoa Puffs (or at least the size I remember them being the last time I ate them)--and they were just a little too big. I'll be keeping the GameChanger in mind next time I make Barley peanut butter and banana treats and adjusting their size accordingly! 

You can choose two different levels of difficulty for the GameChanger; by aligning the holes on the two sides, you can make things more difficult and by not aligning them, you can make things easier for your dog. 

Barley tends to get frustrated easily when she's not getting the food she wants, so I meant to choose the easy mode, but I didn't read the instructions carefully and I accidentally put it in hard mode. Oops.

Barley didn't care, though. She picked up the GameChanger and went to work. She tipped it, rolled it, kicked, nudged it, laid down with it, carried it. She was so in to moving the GameChanger around, she didn't even notice when a treat fell out.

A video posted by Beth (@eedevore) on

Overall, we love the GameChanger. Here are our three favorite things about it:

1. It's durable. Barley is very enthusiastic about food and she can be very rough with treat-dispensing toys. She's been known to bang them against the wall or throw them down the stairs. One of her favorite treat balls is made of a hard plastic and I'm afraid it will crack if she sends it down the stairs, so it's a downstairs only toy. With the GameChanger, I don't have to worry about that. On the second day with the GameChanger, Barley did send it flying down the stairs and it was still in one piece. It did bounce quite a bit, so if you have breakable things at the bottom of your stairs, you'd want to be careful, but ours just careened off the front door and into the living room and made it even more exciting to chase.

2. It's quiet. Barley was loud. She growled a lot. She stomped a lot. But the GameChanger was very quiet. There were some soft thumps as it hit the carpet, but that was it. I left Barley upstairs with the GameChanger while I spent some time with quarantined foster dog Sal--I could hear Barley thumping around (because for an agility dog she is not light on her feet), but there was not the normal banging and crashing I normally hear when she uses interactive toys while I'm off somewhere else. Later on, I was doing dishes and Barley left the kitchen--she was quiet, so I was worried and snuck off to see what she was up to. She was in the living room playing with the GameChanger. Since we usually use interactive toys when I'm grading papers, quiet toys are a definite plus! 

3. It's fun. Even when Barley wasn't getting treats out of it, she enjoyed the way the GameChanger moves. It's thick enough that it can roll on it's side for quite some time. It's easy to flip over with her nose. It's flat enough and soft enough that she can pick it up and carry it around. Often with interactive toys, Barley gets them stuck under furniture and doesn't care enough to work to get it out and it stays there until I pick it up and get her engaged again. On multiple occasions, she's gone off and picked up the GameChanger on her own. Once, I couldn't find it when I wanted to remind her to play with it before I went to see Sal and I found it under the bed where Barley stores her favorite toys.

The GameChanger is heavy, so if you have a smaller dog, it might be more challenging to flip over or carry around. Bark Busters recommends using this for dogs over 15 pounds, but if you have a smaller dog, don't worry! According to the company's website, they're working on a smaller version that they hope to have ready by the end of the year. The only issue we had was that it took awhile for treats to fall out of the GameChanger in both modes--and Barley is NOT patient--but they seemed to follow out more easily the more Barley used it, so I think the holes just needed some time to stretch out a bit and Barley didn't eve mind that it was more challenging than some of her other interactive toys.

We definitely recommend the GameChanger by Bark Busters for all of our friends who need a little help entertaining themselves in healthy, fun, safe ways! I'm thinking this will be great fun for foster dog Sal, too, since he's still gaining the strength for longer walks and spends a lot of time inside--as soon as his quarantine's over, he'll be trying it out (I'm just so tired of disinfecting things that he has to wait a few more days). The GameChanger can be purchased through the Global Dog Company's website for $29.99 or other online retailers like Amazon

Disclaimer: We were provided with one GameChanger in exchange for our honest review, but all opinions are my own and we only share information we think is relevant and valuable to our readers. Bark Busters is not responsible for the content of this review. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Longest Days

If you follow us on Instagram, you've already been introduced to foster pup Sal. About 2 weeks ago on  Thursday, Barley's mothership posted a few pictures of a new intake and said he was 10+, underweight, and had terrible teeth. I saw the pictures, thought he looked like a nice dog, showed his picture to my sister, and I logged out of Facebook and went about my day.

But the next day, I was still thinking about that dog. I called my mom and told her I was thinking I might foster a dog. Fostering isn't something I've ever really considered because I pretty much fall in love with any strange dog on the street, so I was pretty sure if a dog came into my house, it wasn't coming back out. But my sister fosters through Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in DC and my aunt works with a dalmatian rescue (although she doesn't foster because on her one attempt, she failed--but she does transport dogs to foster homes), so I figured if they could do it, I could try it. I thought about it some more. I worked all day to clean out my two downstairs bedrooms and told myself I'd contact the foster coordinator if I finished unpacking the boxes in those rooms.

As you'e probably guessed, I emailed the shelter that evening. The foster coordinator and I chatted on the phone the following morning and she told me that the shelter is so crowded right now (according to PetFinder, there are 95 adoptable pets at the shelter--but they seem to be getting more every day) that all of the dogs have kennel cough. I told her I'd need to talk to our vet--who was already closed for the weekend--and since dogs can only be picked up for foster when the shelter is open and it's closed on Mondays, Tuesday was the earliest I could get him if the vet gave the ok. 

Poor Sal couldn't get out o the car on his own.

I wasn't too worried about Barley. She's a tank and she's had the bordatella vaccine and is around other dogs regularly, so I felt confident that if she did catch his kennel cough it wouldn't be too bad, but I was worried about her spreading it to her agility classmates. The last thing I wanted to do was bring another dog into her life and then keep her from her favorite part of the week. After talking to the vet's office, who said a two week quarantine would be a good idea, I decided to foster Sal. 

Such a scrawny little fella. 

When I picked him up, I was shocked at the condition he was in. He looked sad in his Facebook pictures, but they were taken from angles where he didn't look awful. The dog I saw in front of me was mostly undercoat from the shoulders back to his tail and was severely emaciated. He looked like what would happen if Snoopy's brother Spike in I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (before Rerun's mom fattened him up) and the mangy wolf rom Ice Age had a baby.

The shelter was chaotic when I picked him up. Crates stacked on top of crates in the reception area--dogs on the bottom, kitties on the tops--and people were coming in surrendering animals and bringing in strays the whole time I was there. I got a little advice about feeding him and exercise and fresh air from the girl at the front desk, but I didn't get much information about him.

He was completely skin and bones when I brought him home. You could feel every single vertebrae and his hip bones. I was afraid to touch him past his shoulders because he was that frail. Luckily for Sal, his foster mama grew up in the South, so if there's one thing a Southern girl is good at, it's fattening people (or in his case dogs) up.

About a week later, he's put on some weight and some fur.

The shelter had told me that he needed several small meals while his body got used to food again, but there was no indicator of what small meant. So, I spent a long time on Google. I ran ideas by my best friend who is a human doctor, but knows about refeeding syndrome in humans who have been without food, so he at least had a better idea on if I was on the right track than I did.

I got him his own bed, but he has no idea how to use it--this is the closest he's gotten.

The first few days he was so weak. He'd sleep so hard that when I went in his room, he wouldn't even stir and I couldn't tell if he was breathing--on more than one occasion, I was afraid he was dead. I took him for a short walk down the street--it was unplanned and I'd left the front door open (except for the storm door), so we only went to the stop sign in the middle of the street, about .1 miles, and we got 3 or 4 houses down from mine on the way back and he couldn't walk any farther. I had to carry him home. He couldn't go up the three front steps into my house for the first week and I had to carry him up. 

He loves being outside.

Even though he spent a little time in the backyard his first couple days here, a follow up email to my vet suggested that he should be in the front yard instead of in the backyard where Barley plays so that she didn't catch kennel cough from walking through grass he'd coughed or sneezed on, so he's spent a lot of time on a long line wrapped around the trees in the front. He's helped me with yard work and cleaning out my car.

Every day, he's getting stronger. About a week and a half later, his hair is growing back in softer and shinier (maybe because I'm spoiling him and making him eggs every day), he's now able to walk .4 miles at a time 2 or 3 times a day, and he can usually go up the front steps on his own.

His hip bones are still scarily prominent and I try not to pet him past his rib cage because it freaks me out, but I know that every walk we take and every time he goes up the stairs, he's gaining more muscle mass and that boniness will disappear soon.

Right now, the days have felt extra long because I'm splitting my time between the front yard and Sal's room--and then retracing all of our steps with the can of Lysol before letting Barley out of the bedroom. Then I spend time snuggling Barley, walking her, and playing with her in the backyard before the switch happens again. Of course, the days also went by really quickly because school was starting and the end of summer always goes by too fast.

Sal loves to snuggle and if you're not petting him, he will nudge you until you pet him. It's not enough to just have your hand on him--you have to be actively petting him or he will let you know that he's not satisfied.

As he's getting stronger, he really loves to play with toys. He won't play with some of Barley's old toys I gave him unless I play with them with him. I think his bad teeth make it hard for him to hold onto toys and carry them himself, but he definitely wants to play.

He does not understand lesson planning, so when I'm hanging out with him, it's really all about him--which right now means that he's getting less time than I'd like to give him because I have to get work done, too. 

He needs some grooming, but he'll have to get stronger before that happens--until then, he has toes that remind me of the Grinch's feet with curly hair at the end. It makes me laugh--and doesn't seem to slow him down at all.

He's already housebroken, so we've been focusing our training on his selfie skills--so far there hasn't been much progress ;) 

Next week, his quarantine will be over and I can start integrating him into the rest of the family--Barley's actually already introduced herself to him (but that's a story for another time) and Soth has watched him from a distance while I've taken him outside and he's given Sal a few quick sniffs a couple times, so I have high hopes that it will go smoothly.

Everyone keeps asking if I'll fail or telling me I have to keep him--and I'll never say never--but I don't think he's my dog. We just don't have that chemistry. From the second Barley came out of her kennel at the APL, she was mine. Sal and I like each other, we enjoy each other's company, but he's not overly attached to me and I guess the feeling's kind of mutual. I'm rooting for him and love seeing him make progress every day and I enjoy having him as a houseguest, but he doesn't feel like a permanent part of my life. Maybe Barley will fall in love with him and my views will change, but I don't feel like his journey ends here.

If you're interested in Sal, you can find more info on adopting him here. He's a great guy with a really funny personality and the stronger he gets the more his looks are going to match that great personality!