Introducing Our New Foster Dog: Donald Sutherland

Meet Donald Sutherland the dog. Last night we decided to give fostering another go (our second time ever), so we went to the PSPCA in search of “Buster,” who we saw listed on their website as being shy, old and blind. After waiting two long hours, we finally met this little wiry haired guy, who has the body of a Dachshund and the combover-esque hair of a terrier.

We fell in love and scooped him up and now he and Betty White are in cahoots (and by “cahoots” I mean he sniffs her and she  runs away and escapes to higher ground). We’ll see how well he and Betty end up getting along before I consider hiding him in my pocket and keeping him for good.

We’ve renamed him Donald Sutherland because we think the resemblance is pretty uncanny, but maybe you have to meet him to see it.

Likes: Rubbing his face on our shaggy rug. Romping around in the backyard. Artfully peeing without lifting his leg. Being mistaken for a member of the Sutherland family. Devouring Beggin’ Littles. Trying to get Betty White’s attention by playfully barking at her in a guttural tone.

Dislikes: Being returned to the shelter for “not being very playful” after just one day of readjusting to a new home. Not being tall and limber enough to jump on the couch. Being mislabeled as “blind” when he really has nuclear sclerosis (which in his case, doesn’t affect vision).

He isn’t doing a ton of smiling in these photos, but I’m sure that will change once he’s grown more comfortable here. We get attacked with tail wags and kisses whenever he’s not sleeping, so we think he’s pretty happy (even though we I dress him in a sweater sometimes).

I’m looking forward to sharing more about Donald Sutherland as we get to know him better. Do you think we picked an appropriate celebrity to name him after or would you have gone with a different long-haired gent?


{So Happy} Charsi’s Forever Family is Here

For those of you who have been following our adventures as a first time foster dog family since late September (here and here), we have exciting news! Charsi has found a forever family, and they seriously couldn’t be any nicer. We met up with the lovely couple and their cute dog, Pebbles, today at Cooper River Dog Park. I got uber lost because my GPS and iPhone refused to believe me when I told them the intersections in Pennsauken, NJ. Thanks to the help of Charsi’s new parents (!!), I managed to finally find my way to the pooch park after driving in circles and cursing Jersey’s crazy U-turns for far too long.

Seriously, how cute is Pebbles? Charsi has loads of energy, but she hit it off really well with Pebbles, who is full of adorable sass. The family has decided to rename Charsi (originally named Mariah from the shelter) “Charlie,” which I think is a great name for a girl, plus it makes me think of my favorite character from Lost, so it’s a win-win.

I’m going to look past the Charlie Sheen connection, since I was absolutely obsessed with him after I was an extra in Major League II. Below is surprisingly the least embarrassing photo of Charlie and I during the course of my days as an extra. I may or may not have several t-shirts/sweatshirts with iron-on transfers of these photos that say “Shannon Loves Charlie” (if you want proof, comment below and I might be convinced to pose in a photo while wearing the t-shirt I still have). I also may or may not have refused to wash my hand after he kissed it. For weeks. I even knew he kissed prostitutes with the same mouth, but I still loved him anyway, and my entire fourth grade class knew it. Unfortunately, he’s no longer “winning” in my book, but we’ll always have 1994.

Anyway. Enough about Charlie Sheen and more about puppies, please.

I like catching Charsi Charlie in the most unflattering poses, thus a picture of her scritching herself.

I am so so excited to send Charsi off to her happy home early next week. I’ve grown quite attached to her (she totally spooned me in bed this morning after Pete left), but I’m really looking forward to sending her off to such a friendly family. I can definitely tell they will spoil her with lots of love and she seemed to fit in perfectly with them during our doggy date in the park.

Has anyone else fostered pets before? How many families did it take to find the right fit for your foster friend?

{A Foster Dog Update: Featuring the Adorable Charsi!}

Charsi has been adjusting wonderfully here at home and now that her stitches have been removed, she’s officially geared up to find a forever family. Her and Betty White are getting along well (when Betty isn’t getting hit in the face by Charsi’s wagging tail), so she’d definitely do well in a home with other pets. She’s definitely changed a lot in behavior and demeanor since we picked her up her nearly two weeks ago—it’s crazy to think that she was listed as “fearful,” because she couldn’t be any friendlier now that she has warmed up to us.

Whoever ends up taking Charsi home will definitely get lots of love, but until then, we are happy to give her Beggin’ Strips and belly rubs. If you know of anyone who might be interested in adopting Charsi, please comment below and we’ll set up a date!

Meet Charsi: Our First Foster

This past Saturday, Pete and I made our way down to the Animal Care & Control Team (ACCT) in Philadelphia with Betty White in tow. As soon as we opened the doors, the place was packed to the brim with pets in serious need. It was unstomachable how many pet owners were giving up on their dogs or cats. The volunteers at the front desk were telling people that if they dropped off their pet, they would have to be euthanized due to major overpopulation, but the pets kept streaming in. We were looking forward to finding the perfect fit for our first foster dog, so we filled out some paperwork and began touring around.

One of the volunteers pointed out a dog named Mariah, who was recovering from several major surgeries, one of which she had the day prior. As much as we were smitten with a certain a shar pei named Broddy Bell, we knew it was likely he would find a home much easier since wrinkly dogs are pretty irresistible. So, we decided to have Betty White and Mariah meet in the outdoor courtyard, where they proceeded to hit it off. Both of them love butt scritchers, quiet moments and staring nervously with adorable, shifty eyes. It was a perfect match, so we filled out some remaining paperwork while waiting to receive her medicine and before we knew it, we were on our way to the pet store with our new friend.

Since we aren’t the most ginormous Mariah Carey fans, we changed her name to Charsi (a Diablo gamer reference, courtesy of Pete’s geekiness), which of course is temporary until we find her a forever home. She is a seriously strong lady whose life got off to a rough start, but she didn’t let that get her down. Charsi was brought into the ACCT nearly two weeks ago as a stray, and needed to have a mammary lump and hernia removed, in addition to a spay procedure. Needless to say, this shepherd/terrier mix is looking forward to a lifetime of cuddling and now has a clean bill of health. Currently Charsi is kicking back her paws and relaxing with us, but she is excited to find a pooch parent who is in need of a sweet four-legged friend.

Charsi arrived at the shelter underweight at 26 lbs, but we’re putting meat on her bones and making sure she will be brought back on track in no time. Charsi is recovering and counting down the days until her sutures will be removed, so we have to be very gentle with her. When we first came home, she absolutely refused to go outside, which made potty training a bit difficult. It is pretty impossible to pick her up without possibly hurting her stitches, so we remained patient and positive, with plenty of puppy pads on hand. Now, just two days later, Charsi is totally responsive to going outside and fully potty-trained.

She has already mastered how to “sit” and likely has some more tricks up her sleeve, which she’ll hopefully share once she has recovered from her surgeries.

Her favorite pastimes so far include: watching cars out of the sunroom window, snoring loudly while dreaming about being adopted and stealing Pete’s clothes from his dirty laundry pile.

Betty White was pretty tuckered out all weekend from having to share our bedroom at night with a near stranger, but she has really warmed up to Charsi. I think fostering pooches will be great for socializing Betty White and helping her become more confident around other dogs.

Since Charsi was a stray, her age is a bit of a mystery, but she looks to be about 5-years-young. No matter how many birthday candles she’s blown out, Charsi has a lot of smooches to share and loves getting pets.

I forgot to mention how much Charsi loves looking at herself in the mirror. Whenever she passes a reflective surface, she stares at herself with a “oh, girlllll, you so good lookin’!” expression on her face. She’s a little conceited, but we still love her…perhaps that is why she was originally named after the great diva herself, Mariah Carey.

Several people have shown confusion over why we would choose to be foster pooch parents—how it must be nearly impossible saying goodbye when you find the adoptive parents for the dog. Fostering an animal means providing food, shelter and love while ambitiously searching for weeks or months to find an appropriate match for the pet. During this time, it’s obvious an attachment will form, but the thing that gets me through this is knowing that as soon as we find Charsi a home, we will be able to help another dog in urgent need.

I’m not saying we’ll be fostering dogs for the rest of our lives, but during my hunt for the perfect full-time job, I have the time needed to give back in small ways. As a freelancer working from home, I can get a little stir crazy—going through half of the day without actually speaking to anyone—so this is a great opportunity to get out of the house and explore the area. I’ve met way more people in the neighborhood over the past two days than I have since we moved here in June, which is saying a lot.

It’s really nice feeling like a little family in our new house. Last night, the pooches joined us while we made a bonfire and toasted s’mores…it was one of the most relaxing Sundays in a long time.

If you would like to find out more about Charsi or want to set up a puppy date, feel free to comment below! She is only $75 (think about how quickly you spend $75 at a trip to Target!) and totally priceless. The donation to the Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) covers all vaccines, a microchip and her spay procedure, all of which have already been completed.

Does anyone else have any foster stories they’d like to share? I love hearing advice and anecdotes from others who have fostered pets in the past.

Foster the Pooches

Fostering a dog is something that has been on my mind these past few months during unemployment. Now that winter is soon approaching, it seems only natural to reach out and do some volunteer work since most of my photography work starts to die down as the weather gets more grim. It is really disappointing to think about how pets are mistreated, especially during the holidays, and how people rush to pet stores rather than making the obvious choice to seek a shelter dog as their newest family addition.

The fact that people still buy pet store puppies is a little shocking, especially since a lot of pet owners don’t realize they are supporting puppy mills when they adopt from a local store. This map, organized by the “No pet store puppies” campaign by the ASPCA is particularly eye-opening. Buying anything in pet stores that sell puppy mill dogs supports the industry, so I urge pet owners to buy your supplies from stores that do not sell puppies, or buy your supplies online.

{Carli Davidson Photography}

That being said, there are many dogs waiting for homes in shelters all across the country, so I am anxious to make a trip to the PSPCA soon with Pete and Betty White. If you already have a pooch and want to foster a dog, the two dogs must meet ahead of time. I adopted Betty from the PSPCA, so it will feel good to give back to the organization that gave so much to us over the past five years.

Photographers have an advantage when trying to find adoptive parents for dogs because they are able to capture the animal’s character in creative ways, which inevitably helps in rehoming the pet. I’m going to try to reach out to the Montgomery County SPCA, which is probably a two minute drive away, to see if they would be interested in having me swing by once a week to photograph adoptable animals. I think it would be beneficial to give the pets better exposure since many of the dogs on their site don’t have photos.

If anyone has any experience with fostering dogs or reading materials they’d like to recommend, feel free to comment below!

FOUND: Missing Cockapoo in Abington, PA

A few hours ago, a woman knocked on my door and pointed across the street to our neighbor’s porch. “Is this your dog?” Betty White was trembling behind me. “No,” I replied. “I just scooped her up from the street, she’s been running around with no tags on.” My gut reaction was to run across the street to make sure the pooch was ok. He was unharmed and incredibly friendly, so I offered to take him in. Lets be honest, people, what else is this unemployed girl going to do with her afternoon? So, I carried her over and offered her some food and water. Betty White was a little territorial, but for the most part she just slept on her chair while the dog sat on the floor panting.

I immediately posted a found dog ad on Craigslist and went around asking neighbors if they had ever seen the dog before, but no such luck. Next we went to the local animal hospital to get scanned for a microchip, but she isn’t microchipped unfortunately. I stopped by the Montgomery County SPCA on my way home to put out an alert to all of the shelters. They also scanned her and notified me that she was in fact a he. I hadn’t gotten a chance to inspect his man parts since things were a bit chaotic since his arrival, so I had been just taking the woman’s word for it when she called the dog a girl. Whoops, sorry. I probably just caused a few years of doggy therapy with that false assumption.

When we got home, I called the police department and alerted them that I had found a tan cockapoo. Hopefully someone will notice he is missing soon so I can feel better that he is back with his family. He is so so friendly and gives slobbery dog kisses and wags his nubby tail whenever he greets anyone. I have never seen a dog so ecstatic to be running up to the entrance of a vet. Clearly he has grown up with wonderful surroundings, so I have no doubt that he just escaped from a backyard or a kid opened the back door and he got out somehow.

Please send this blog post to anyone you may know in the Montgomery County, PA area who can help spread the word about this pooch being found. This automatically takes me back to when Betty White went missing during the snowpocalypse, so the very least I can do is take care of the little fellow until his owners have him back at home safe and sound. Until then I will spoil him with pets and kisses and Beggin’ Strips (don’t worry, Betty gets an equal amount of lovin’ so she’s not jealous).

This is his sad, someone-please-claim-me-as-theirs-because-this-woman-keeps-taking-my-damn-picture pose. He practiced it a few times before he fully mastered it.

Betty White has totally made a BFF out of this whole ordeal…and that’s saying a lot since she hates almost everyone!

He tried to pull the lost dog card to get couch access…pfft, he must think I’m an amateur!

Anyway, please spread the word about this cute little guy. He is missing his owners a ton and needs some mom and dad hugs, stat! He is wagging his tail in his sleep as I type this…so ridiculously adorable!

The Search for Betty White

As you might have read, last Saturday, Pete and I drove Betty White to our dog trainer in hopes of her leading a more stable life. We thought if she were to spend her days in an atmosphere with dogs who could help her learn to be a leader and with a trainer who would stand by her side day and night, she might be a happier, healthier dog.

Having to say goodbye to her was the hardest thing I ever had to do, that is, until Wednesday morning came along. Pete and I were stuck at home due to a snow day, and we were in separate rooms working at our computers. My phone rang around 11am and when I saw it was our trainer, I was excited to hear all about Betty White’s week so far. I was devastated when I picked up and was told that she escaped by scaling the fence (which she is infamous for) and was missing in King of Prussia, which was over an hour long drive from us in the wintry weather. I got the details, hung up the phone and bawled. We felt helpless, especially after knowing we were told three to four hours after her escape. We felt sick and upset knowing that we were sitting around clueless when we could have been out helping search for her. I knew the roads by our apartment were not safe to drive on because of all of the snow, so I paced for a bit and debated whether or not we should leave. We didn’t care if we were putting ourselves at risk on the roads, we had to go look for her. We put on a ton of layers and drove off in a panic, while squeezing each other’s hand and hoping Pete’s car wouldn’t slide off the road.

Once we reached King of Prussia, we split up and walked for hours in the snow. I tried my best to keep it together, but there were a few strangers shoveling snow who made it very hard not to cry. I couldn’t handle hearing things like, “We have a small white dog too!” without turning into a blubbery mess. I was terrified, not only because an incredibly shy dog was lost in a strange world, but because there was an impending snowstorm that was supposed to dump a foot and a half of snow that evening.

Sick and sneezing, Pete and I had to head home around 4pm since the snow was on its way. I felt helpless being an hour away from where Betty was missing, but our trainer spent all hours searching and knocking on doors, passing out flyers. I couldn’t eat and I certainly couldn’t sleep while seeing the thundersnow taking place outside, so I stayed up all night trying to spread the word as much as I could. The amount of support shown on the Internet was astonishing—my updates on Facebook went viral and the next morning I received dozens of calls from shelters, animal rescues and local dog-lovers who were willing to lend a hand by hanging flyers and sending e-mail blasts to residents in King of Prussia.

My co-workers were amazing enough to pick Pete and I up in their SUV when we were snowed in our driveway on Thursday morning. They even printed out flyers for us since our printer was out of ink and there was no way we could get out of our driveway to get to the store. We were on our way to King of Prussia again and I felt slightly more positive today than the last. We split up and covered the nearby territory by foot—handing out flyers and searching everywhere within a few miles of the training center (we even took flyers to the King of Prussia mall security, just in case she was hiding in a parking garage somewhere). Betty hadn’t been spotted since 8am on Wednesday morning, so we still didn’t have any leads on where she might have spent the night during the snowstorm. I was trying to think positive thoughts and not let myself picture the worst, which was easier said than done.

Pete and my co-workers lifted my spirits and gave me hope during our car ride home that evening, even though there was still no news on Betty’s whereabouts. When we got home, Pete and I started cooking dinner, even though the thought of eating made me nauseous. A little after 6pm, we received a call from our trainer saying that someone spotted Betty at an apartment complex parking lot about a half mile down the road and across the street from the training center. We put on our snow boots and ran out the door. The roads were a mess, so we were driving at a snail’s pace, but we had faith and sat quietly waiting for another call. About 15 minutes passed when our trainer called to say that he was able to scoop up Betty. I can’t explain the emotions that were going through my head. The past week seemed so surreal to Pete and I, like we were watching a movie or living a scene in someone else’s life.

Betty White was alive and well, and miraculously in great shape. She snarfled (a word I borrowed from my friend Kerry) her food and water while sitting on my lap in the car. She even started doing “butt scritchers,” which are hard to explain, but involve her yelping excitedly while shoving her bum into the air waiting to have it scratched (I’ll post a video showcasing “butt scritchers” one of these days). When we were driving, she had a moment where she was having what seemed to be a panic attack, but she quickly calmed down and fell asleep. I pet her while calling my family and exchanging tears of relief.

Betty White happy at home the evening she was found.

Wednesday and Thursday were easily the two worst days of my life, so when we heard our trainer say that Betty White was alive and well, we knew we had to have her back in our lives for good. We have no doubt in our minds that it is the best thing for her. We are willing to make whatever life changes are necessary to bring her happiness and stability. My job is being gracious enough to allow me to bring her into work with me from now on. In the meantime, I don’t plan on having much of a social life during the next few months (sorry friends!), as I want to devote my time to helping train Betty White.

For reasons I won’t delve into, we have started fresh with a new trainer who specializes in shy dogs with separation anxiety. We had our initial consultation today and learned a lot already—we have been practicing some behavior modifying exercises that help Betty White realize that her crate can be a happy place for her. We also purchased a D.A.P. plugin (dog appeasing pheromones) that will help calm her nerves, along with an herbal remedy that will hopefully ease some of her stress-related behaviors.

I took Betty White to the vet yesterday and was relieved to find out that she is in perfect shape. Some of the technicians even recognized her from the Facebook updates and were really excited to see that she was found. She’s totally as famous as the Golden Girl now. I was happy to find out that Betty was already microchipped from a previous owner, since the SPCA told me otherwise when I inquired.

Thank you so much to everyone for your kindness and help in raising awareness when Betty White went missing. We are so lucky to have such a strong support group. We look forward to helping Betty White have the best life possible and will be sure to update you all on her progress as we focus on her separation anxiety with our new trainer.