Thursday, January 26, 2017

Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement

I enjoy unusual holidays and celebrations. Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement on January 26 is one that caught my eye and imagination. I didn’t find anything for 2017, but did find this delightful story and backstory about this holiday at Bugs and Bunnies blog. It’s from 2011, but still a fun post. 

I love the spirit of this holiday, so I plan to celebrate by offering encouraging words to others—and hope you do too!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Let go of the past. 
Learn how to appreciate joy 
without fearing it will be taken away; 
how to love 
without fear of being hurt. 

Friday, January 20, 2017


Our latest fence features two rows of concrete block at
the bottom reinforced with rebar and filled with concrete.
My Batman is a Jack Russell Terrier-Pitbull mix. He sees fences as a challenge to go over, under or through. Once he spots prey—cat or possum or occasionally a nasty neighbor—refocusing his attention is a challenge. In his early years, he climbed from a stack of wood and jumped over the fence. Several times he dug under the fence to get to the cats fighting in the neighbor’s yard. Once he even clawed away a concrete block and ripped off a fence board to get a nasty neighbor who was taunting him. 

Each time he escaped, I’d make a frantic run through the neighborhood searching for him. He never went far—unless I was chasing him. Then he’d glance back to make sure I was close by. If I turned around and went home, he’d show up soon afterward. 

After he was safely home, I’d patch up the fence again and shove more bricks and blocks underneath. Over time, we seemed to find the right combination for a Batman-proof fence: six feet high with concrete blocks buried into the ground at the bottom.

Of course, he’s ten years old now and more interested in getting an extra snack than cruising the neighborhood. Thank goodness! 

If you have a furry escape artist, you have my empathy. And I’m curious—to what lengths did you go to keep your escapee fenced in?

Monday, January 9, 2017


Smart doggies at a shelter quickly learn to put on their best manners so a human will take them home. However, if no one taught a dog manners, they are likely to bark and jump and scare away any humans looking for a furry companion. Also, a lot of dogs can’t handle the stress of being confined to a kennel.

Going to a foster home can give doggies a much needed break, as well as add social skills and cute tricks to their canine resumé in applying for a new furever home with a human family. 

Loving a dog unconditionally was easy, and I jumped into being a doggie foster parent.

My first foster dog was a Lhasa Apso mix who received an injury to one eye and had it surgically removed. He came home with me to recover. When the time came to take him back to the shelter to wait for an adoptive family, my doggie foster career began crumbling. I wanted to keep him!

Someone adopted him in less than a week and, at a shelter event about a year later, this dog came with his family. He was obviously adored! Relief flooded through me this had worked out.

My second foster dog was also recovering from surgery. When the time came to return Batman to the shelter, things didn’t work out like they did with my first foster dog. The day I adopted Batman, my future as a doggie foster parent took a definite downward turn. A failed foster, my co-workers teased me, as they chalked up another adoption.

Adopting Batman brought my doggie count up to three and I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to handle the additional responsibility of foster dogs. However, it was hard for me to say no to a dog in need.

When kennel cough swept through the shelter, a number of dogs were placed in isolation. They had been on medication for awhile and were just serving the rest of their time to be sure no symptoms come back. Taking on two teenaged doggie girls who needed to play and be cuddled wasn’t really a tough decision for me. They quickly bonded with each other and with my Batman, running circles in my yard, giving Batman great exercise therapy to strengthen the leg that had been broken.

A third teenaged dog joined us a couple weeks later. He bonded quickly with my foster girls and Batman. The four of them made for a wild and crazy time racing around the back yard, then curled all together to sleep.

During this time, I also realized one of the benefits of having multiple dogs is the older dogs teach newcomers appropriate behavior. When the youngsters came inside, my older dogs continued their lessons, insisting they not play. As a result, they learned to be down and quiet in the house. More effective than a human trying to teach manners!

My foster doggies quickly stole pieces of my heart and learned what was expected of them. Then came the tough part. Letting my foster babies go brought many tears. I checked on them every day at the shelter and bugged other staff about how they were doing back in a kennel and if anyone had shown an interest in them. When they were adopted, I fervently prayed their new families would keep them forever.

Didn’t take me long to figure out being a foster parent was not my strong suit, but a big paws up to anyone who does this to give doggies a better chance of being adopted. 

Monday, January 2, 2017


GV: Batman is now the senior dog in my household—the dog who has been with me the longest. He has a special place in my heart, as do all my furbabies but for different reasons. 

Batman: Why don’t you let me talk, Mom?

GV: He’s telling me I’ve been hogging the blog posts. And since I wrote the first two sentences and wasn’t sure where to take this blog post from there, I’m going to let Batman take over.  

Batman: I got here when Mom was just learning to talk to dogs. She didn’t know much, but we taught her. She didn’t know about multiple dog households—well, a bit. But she didn’t realize it was as easy to take care of six dogs as it was to take care of three. I mean, we did all the work, right? She had older dogs who bossed us youngsters around. No playing in the house! Eat all your dinner—as if we needed anyone to tell us that. Don’t get mud on the floors! 

Coming here was the happiest day of my life. I don’t think Mom realizes how happy I was when she finally listened to me and made the adoption official. I mean, how slow can a human be sometimes? Sheesh! She didn’t realize how much we needed each other. I needed her and a home. She needed me—she needed all of us. She was hurting, and we helped take away that hurt. How can you have time to hurt with six or eight or nine dogs running in and out of the house? I mean, come on! You barely have time to feed us breakfast before it’s time for another meal. Mom did good though. She loved us and encouraged us and helped us learn how to live with humans. Then her heart broke when some of the others went back to the shelter. I hate to see her cry. But she does it a lot about us. When we hurt or when we die or when we leave. She cries. I wish she would realize how much good she has done and quit beating herself up for what she sees as failures. They aren’t failures. Sometimes the world just sucks. And sometimes it’s time for us to go home. We’ve finished our lessons with people and we get to go Home. 

Just like your dog came here for you, we came for her. Love us. Learn from us. And let us go when our time here is done. Cry if you must, but know we’re never really gone. We’ll always be in your heart. We’ll always be just a whisper away if you want us. If you learn to talk to us like Mom can. And our hearts will always beat with yours. Two beings so much in sync it sometimes seems like we are one. That’s not just for humans, you know. 

GV: I did edit this post slightly—as Batman told me I would do—because some of this was a message just for me. But I hope whoever needs to read this message realizes Batman speaks for so many other furbabies who share their lives with humans. 

Batman: Love you.

GV: Love you too, baby.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Batman came to the shelter with a leg that had been broken for some time. Since a piece at the top of the femur had been completely broken away from the rest of the leg bone, a local veterinarian removed the bone chip and fitted the leg back into the joint by a genius refashioning of the cartilage. 

Then came several weeks of therapy and healing with a doggie foster parent, which included Reiki. (I was that foster parent and, as a Reiki master level practitioner, I use this method of energy healing with all my doggies.)

Batman sped through recovery. The biggest challenge was to remind him to use all four legs instead of running and jumping on three as he had become accustomed to doing while his leg was injured.

Five weeks into recovery, the vet who performed the surgery said she usually didn’t see such healing until five or six MONTHS. Reiki energy healing and determination, with a good dose of play mixed in, can bring miracles!

Over the next weeks, Batman cooperated fully in rebuilding the muscles in his leg by running, jumping and climbing as any youthful terrier would do. A nervous habit of chewing pillows, coats, shoes and whatever else got close to his mouth was soothed by a steady supply of toys, chews and Kongs stuffed with goodies. He later learned to calm himself by getting a bone to chew on.

When the time came to return Batman to the shelter, things didn’t work out as well as with my first foster dog. The Batz did not like being confined to a kennel and quite vocally made his displeasure known. I waffled for awhile about whether to adopt him or not, and finally caved to what we both wanted.

However, my future as a doggie foster parent took a definite downward turn that day. A failed foster, my co-workers teased me, as they chalked up another adoption.