Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A slight change of plans....

A few weeks ago I ended my blog by introducing Sammy, our newest foster. As fate would have it, he didn't remain a foster - we adopted him. It's a long story, but essentially he picked us. He was adopted and then returned through no fault of his own, and once he came back to us he made it clear he did not ever want to leave. Sammy is fitting in great with our pack. He's sweet, good with our cats, and really likes our dogs too. While this is great for us, it means that the fostering world is down a foster home, at least for now.

We plan to return to fostering once we get everyone fully settled in. In the mean time, I want to do everything I can to raise awareness of the need for foster homes. Foster homes save lives - they save the dog or cat they foster, and they save the dog or cat who takes the shelter spot of the newly fostered animal.

Foster families also help dogs be better family pets. Fosters teach housebreaking (it's not as hard as you think), they teach dogs how to walk nicely on a leash (also not as hard as you think), and they teach basic manners and commands -- but most importantly, fosters provide love.

The most common reason I hear as to why people don't foster is that they won't be able to give the dog or cat up to an adopter. While this can be a very real feeling, it is not a deal breaker. Most rescues and shelters work with adopters who want to keep fosters (they may try to talk you out of wanting to adopt your foster, but the good ones will work with you if you work with them). Just remember, when you foster and your foster gets adopted, it's great for everyone. You gain experience with dogs, the dog gets a  great forever home, the adopter gets a new best friend, and you get to do it all over again and save 2 more lives. It really is a win-win-win-win :)

February is Foster Awareness month for Pepper's Paws - please share your stories and experiences with us, anecdotes, advice, anything you think will help people understand why fostering is so important and help them make the decision to become a foster family! Email us at info@pepperspaws.com

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Week of Kindness and Learning

This past week was a mix of challenges and opportunities. Our two male dogs, Shadow and Bear, decided they needed to have their first dust up on Monday night. Thankfully, neither hurt the other one - but boy was it loud! Since this was the first time our pack had ever not gotten along, we decided to consult a professional. I was concerned that the back to back fosters was stressing our dogs out, and also that since Shadow and Bear are the same teen age age, we were in for some challenging times. We had a great conversation with Meg of Main Line Mutt Match (www.muttmatch.net). She offered us some great advice on how to minimize the stress on our dogs from fostering. She also reassured us that we were introducing fosters to our dogs in a good way and that we clearly were maintaining control of our extended pack. It was really great to hear what were doing right and where we could improve the experience for all of us. Thanks Meg!

Our talk with Meg was just the start of the kindness we experienced this week. Pepper's Paws received several donations this week! Some people gave us bags of towels because our plea for donations inspired them to clean out their linen closets. Others gave us a bag or two of towels - several of them were not what I would call "old towels" - but they wanted to do something to help us because they love our facebook posts so much (I aim to please!) Some of our donations were the result of adult children "helping" their parents not be pack rats any more (you know who you are :) The result of all of this was a literal car full of towels, linens, and blankets being delivered to Philadelphia ACCT (thanks for dropping them off Peggy!) And the donations are still coming in so we will be checking with other rescues to see if they could use our next donation.

The kindness continued today when I met with Howard Weintraub, owner of The Drafting Room, to go over some details for the All 4 Paws Rescue's fundraiser at the Drafting Room on Saturday November 26 (http://draftingroom.com/exton/site_files/EX_home.html). Not only did Howard offer to host the event and is donating a portion of draft sales to All 4 Paws Rescue, he also has gone above and beyond in getting local businesses to donate raffle prizes (Thank you Howard!) Be sure to check out the great food and beers at the Drafting Room and please come out and support All 4 Paws Rescue on the 26th!

All of these acts of kindness have made this a great week. The biggest learning point for me, though, came from our current foster dog, Sammy. Sammy is young collie mix who came to All 4 Paws from a high kill shelter in South Carolina. Sammy came off the transport van so excited to be here. He played for hours with the other dogs at the rescue and was a really sweet boy to every dog and human he met. And then he went to the adoption event and proceeded to sleep. He was exhausted, so he didn't make the best impression to the couple who was approved to adopt him. Since I had spent several hours with him earlier in the day, I was pretty sure he wasn't sick or a sad dog, so we decided to foster him. Something about his energy made me think he would be great with our guys.

When we got Sammy home he did OK with our dogs and us. He wasn't particularly friendly, or overly playful so we gave him a good meal and bath, and then a soft, warm bed. This morning, Sammy's true colors came through. He was playful, friendly, and loving. He was respectful of our dogs and showed them the good energy I knew he had. Within the first hour, we were all bonded. Sammy won't be with us long, I'm sure. He's just too sweet of a dog not to find a home quickly (even with it being Thanksgiving week - I have no doubt he'll find a home!)

Sammy has reminded me that just because someone is having a bad day, it doesn't make them bad or negative. We all would always like to make a great first impression, but sometimes things just don't go the way we wish they would. We all have the ability to bounce back and show our best sides, just like Sammy did. Sammy also taught me that I can trust my gut. I had a feeling about his energy and I trusted it, and it was a good decision. Trusting your gut is primal, so why do we sometimes ignore that little voice that says "You can do it!"? The next time you are faced with a situation where you gut is talking to you, think of Sammy and remember - you can do it!

On a separate and unrelated (or maybe it is related?) note, I am working on plans to start a part time dog walking business - more on this to come later :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pepper's First Therapy Dog Visit

For a while now I have been thinking of trying our dogs as therapy dogs. I was at the vet a few weeks ago and noticed a flyer from a local nursing home asking for people to bring in their dogs to visit residents. The nursing home on the flyer was the same one my dad had been for a few weeks so I took it as a sign and signed Pepper up.

Pepper made her first nursing home visit tonight. Pepper was anxious as we entered the building, and as we waited for the activities director her anxiety grew - I think she thought we were in a vet's office and it was time for her nails to get trimmed again! As soon as we started walking around her demeanor changed and she relaxed and became the friendly dog I know and love.

Pepper worked each room we entered like a pro! She greeted the residents respectfully and let everyone get their pets in. When we encountered someone who didn't want to meet her she seemed to sense it and ignore them. She also could tell who really wanted to pet her and gave them extra time for pets. Her only challenge was when she smelled the occasional dropped cracker on the floor - then she forgot all about the residents and pursued her snack. Luckily there weren't that many snacks to find!

One resident that really made an impression on her was a woman who didn't have her teeth in and her hearing aids were out too. The activities director had to shout to get her attention when we walked in - and then she saw Pepper. The woman broke into the biggest smile of the night - all gums and bright red lips (she still had her lipstick on). She stroked Peppers ears and massaged her neck with love. They both enjoyed the experience. As we left the room, the activities director told me the woman is 102 and does all her own care and grooming. Amazing! Aside from the teeth and being hard of hearing (OK, almost deaf!) - she looked better than some 50 year olds I know!

Once again, my dogs have taught me a lesson. Pepper had equal love and attention for anyone who wanted to pet her. She didn't get put off my how someone looked, or whether they had treats for her or not. She just treated them the way they treated her,  and everyone was happy.

We will be going back to the nursing home again. I may even try Bear and Shadow some time. And they , like Pepper, have lots of love give and the gift to make people smile :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pepper's Paws - How it's going and where we're going

I am very happy to say Pepper's Paws is off and running! Although we only exist on Facebook at the moment, we are doing some of the things we set out to do. We have forwarded donations to Darlington Humane Society in South Carolina and begun to collect towels and blankets for local rescues in need. We are also using our network to share donation pleas and adoption needs for other animal organizations. I am so happy with the progress we have made it just a week and so grateful to the people who have "Liked" us on Facebook, made donations, planning to make donations, and helping to talk us up to their friends. This is exactly what we need to be successful in saving shelter animals - thank you!

I want to take a moment to share more about the mission of Pepper's Paws and make sure you understand where we fit in the animal shelter/rescue world. First and foremost, we are not a rescue. We don't foster animals, pull them from shelters, house or shelter rescue animals, adopt animals out, or accept owner surrenders. There are lots and lots of other organization who do that quite well. If you are looking for this type of help ccspca.org, delcospca.org, all4pawsrescue.com, phoenixanimalrescue.com are great places to go for help and services like this (among many, many others). We are not yet a legal 501c3 organization so don't write us a check (at least not yet :) - but we are happy to pass on your checks to these organizations!

Pepper's Paws is a support organization. We are a place that rescues and animal shelters will be able to turn to for volunteer support, help with fundraising, awareness campaigns, advocacy, supplies like blankets and towels, dog and cat food donations, etc. Our goal is to be the additional arms and legs that these chronically underfunded and understaffed organizations. We are a volunteer organization - and we are happy to have more volunteers. Just let us know what you can or like to do and we'll find a need - either working directly on Pepper's Paws or with a needy shelter or rescue. We value and appreciate all the support we can get!

I have received a few questions on Facebook that I feel need to explain further. Are goal in collecting donations for needy organizations is not to have you donate to Pepper's Paws instead of the organization you normally donate to. We don't want to take support from anyone - we want to increase the number of donations overall. If you currently donate to the SPCA please keep doing so! If you want to donate to us too that's great too. We are not in competition with other groups - we want to support and to work with them to do what is best for the hundreds of animals in need.

Another question I received was "why not just donate directly to the shelter?" You can - please do! Our idea behind accepting donations and then passing them on is that it may not be convenient to get to a shelter for you, or you may not realize there is a rescue who needs help near by. Also, if you only have a few things, you may not think it is worth the trip all the way in to a shelter - but if we put your few things together with a few other people's few things we can make a sizable donation all at once. We want to be an organization that helps remove barriers to needy animal groups from getting lots of help.

Pepper's Paws is open to idea to raise money, supplies, and awareness for shelters and rescues. If you have an idea we want to hear it! Comments? Feedback? we're all ears!

Thank you for your support and for taking the time to read this!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Pepper's Paws is born (sort of)

They say desperation is mother of invention (not sure who "they" are, or if that quote is quite right - but it fits me tonight!) I had planned to do a lot of homework on how to start my non-profit, completely think through everything and anything I need to know, etc. etc. etc. but then I saw a desperate post tonight from my favorite shelter and I decided I can't wait to try to start this. All 3 of our dogs came from Darlington Humane Society in Darlington, South Carolina. I have never been to the shelter, but I have been told they are way underfunded but the people who run the shelter - staff and volunteers, move heaven and earth to save every dog that comes in. And to their credit, the dogs that come from Darlington are the best - rarely a bad apple in the bunch. I know this first hand - we have adopted 3 Darlington dogs and have fostered about a dozen of their dogs in the past year with All 4 Paws Rescue.

Our dog Pepper was the first adoptee that came from Darlington. Pepper was brought in as a stray in September 2009. They spayed her, treated her for heart worm and hookworms, and kept her there as long as they possibly could. Right around Christmas they called a rescue and begged them to take her - she had made the dreaded put to sleep list - she had been there too long. Lucky for us, the rescue took her and she was fostered by a great foster family. We found her on petfinder after she had been in foster for 2 months.

Shadow was our 2nd dog from Darlington. He was dumped at the shelter by a woman who said he wasn't hers. The shelter knew she was lying. I saw Shadow's picture on the shelter web site and something about him just told me to adopt him. He was fostered by the same great family and has been a great dog for us ever since.

About a year later, I saw Bear on the shelter web site. He grabbed my heart and I enquired about him. And then I asked Di if I could have my 40th birthday present early, and being the loving person she is, she said yes. Bear had to be treated for heart worm and came to us shortly after treatment. He was skittish and hand shy, we're pretty sure he was abused by whoever had him. He was brought in to the shelter as a stray, and I think he ran away from whoever had him. He is now a more confident and loving dog - can't imagine our family without him.

Darlington has truly changed our family. Di and I felt we had a giant hole in our life after two of my parents and one of her parents died. We spent so much time taking care of our parents and their associated needs that when they were gone, we felt lost. So we adopted Pepper, and then Shadow, then we started fostering, and then we adopted Bear, and our lives are forever changed. Darlington was a huge part of that, and they will forever be special to us.

And right now Darlington is in crisis. At last post, they took in 64 animals in 4 days and the unwanted and stray animals are still coming. They need fosters, they need money for vetting, and they need rescues to take dogs and find them homes. If Darlington isn't able to get this help, dogs will die. There is no easy way to say this. Adoptable, loving, deserving dogs will die. I feel compelled to do whatever I can to help. The non-profit I am planning to start will help support shelters like Darlington, and I need help to do this. The one thing shelters always need is money and foster families. Since my non-profit is not set up yet, I am happy to receive checks made out to "DCHS" and I will send the checks to them as one package - or you can send them directly to Darlington (please put Pepper's Paws in the memo :). You can also go to www.darlingtonrescue.com and click on the RESCUE Information link - there is a paypal donation link on this page. If you are willing to foster Darlington dogs, click on the Safe link and click on the green text at the top of the page - it will take you to a list of rescue that pull Darlington dogs. You can also share this blog and share posts from DarlingtonCountyHSRescue on facebook. Any of these things can help this deserving shelter and wonderful dogs in need.

My goal is to raise $1,000 for Darlington in the next week - and to help find homes for as many dogs as possible. They need to move about 40 dogs out to get back to "full" (as opposed to bursting at the seams,  which is where they are now). Will you help?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I'm thinking of trying something new...

Everyday I read about homeless dogs, dogs that have been abused, and the shelters these dogs are in being desperate for help. I find myself feeling powerless to get my head around the size of the problem of unwanted and homeless animals, let alone how to help solve the problem. But now I have an idea.

One thing these organizations have in common is that they need resources. They need money for medicines and vet services, they need money for food, and they kennel supplies - food bowls, cleaning products, leashes, and collars. And they need voices to speak with them and for them. And volunteers to help at adoption events and to walk kenneled dogs. And they need people to adopt the animals. I have toyed with the idea of starting a rescue, but I don't that would really play to my strengths. I have an idea....

I am thinking of starting a charitable organization that provides resources to shelters and rescues in need. An organization that provides funding, spay/neuter assistance, dog supplies, volunteers, and is an advocate for the shelters and their needs. Underfunded shelters and overworked rescues need arms and legs to help with the work, and voices to help them be heard. I think this is something I would thoroughly enjoy doing. Is there is a need for this? I think so, but if those in the know know differently I love to hear from them. Am I crazy? (let's leave that a rhetorical question :) Can it be done? Where do I start? Would people actually be willing to donate money, supplies, and time to such an organization? I hope so. Thoughts? Ideas?

How do I get started? What is the most important first step? Time to start my research! Ideas, thoughts, warnings, and suggestions welcome!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

One year later....

Di and I started fostering a year ago this month. We just picked up foster number 23. Not bad for our first year! What will the next 12 months hold - who knows for sure, but I'm glad it will filled with dogs, dog food, treats, Nature's Miracle, and hopefully lots of adoptions!

Our newest foster is Clarissa, a 7 month old Shepherd mix. She came from a high kill shelter in South Carolina, and is quite a nice dog. She is doing great with our gang - and loves people (in a gentle, friendly way not a I'm-going-to-jump-all-over-you kind of way). So far miss thing has enjoyed a good meal and so yummy snacks (her words on this one :), had a bath (she did great!), and played quite a bit with our dogs. She is now sleepy next to our dogs like she has been here her whole life. Very nice to see. Will she adopted quickly? I think so. She is one of those dogs that people gravitate to - she'll go fast to a great home.

I spent quite a bit of time this weekend at cancer benefit events - a kids cancer walk and a Bark for Life event. Two very different groups of people, but both left me with a profound feeling of the possibilities in life, and an appreciation for my life and the people in it. I have been fortunate so far to experience cancer in terms of others' lives. My mom, my dad, several relatives, and a few friends (who are way too young to have cancer). I have shared many heartbreaking moments with patients and caregivers, and I know I have also been that friend that needed someone to listen to what I was going through when I felt helpless as a care giver or family member on the sidelines. So after this weekend, I have to ask myself what am I going to do to make the world a little bit better? Right now I have no one directly in my life who needs my help with dealing with cancer (I am there for someone who has someone who has someone who has cancer, but it's not quite the same thing) - so what I am doing to make the best use of health and time? I volunteer with foster dogs, and I am also a Big Sister volunteer, but after spending time with folks who really don't have time to do anything because they are going to chemo appointments, and doctor visits, and battling the day to day affects of this horrible disease, then I know I actually do have more time. I am working on my 5 year career plan, and I think I need to work on my 5 year give back plan. More on that later....

To everyone I talked to this weekend, I thank you for sharing your story with me, shedding a tear  or 2 with me, and for having the courage to continue to live and fight and keep on keeping on. You inspire me, and I thank you for that.