Progress with Hera

Now that her puppies have been adopted, Hera is not the least interested in being by herself in the dog area. At bedtime on the day Atlas was adopted, Steve led her to the nice dog cushion in the dog area and locked her in. Before he got upstairs, Hera was barking. With so many puppies and mom dogs coming and going, our house is rarely quiet. But we love our sleep. So I have an industrial size box of ear plugs. So when Hera wouldn’t stop barking, Steve and I each put a pair in.

Image result for disposable ear plugs

P.S. I’m kind of neurotic about ear safety and have been known to hand these out to workers in my house – and even my neighbor’s yard – who are operating loud equipment without ear protection. I like this brand because you can use them many times before they lose their ability to be compressed and slipped in your ear.

Even with the ear plugs, we could still hear her barking. Eventually she settled down, but if she heard any noise in the house – such as our daughter Amanda who keeps vampire hours¬† walking around – she’d wake up and start barking again. So the second night, we brought Hera and her cushion upstairs. Unused to being in the bedroom, she paced and paced. But once the light was off, she settled down on her cushion and went to sleep. It’s now been a week and a half and she’s quite content to sleep upstairs with us. Since it’s chilly, we throw a blanket over her and she happily settles down under it. Steve’s away this week visiting his parents. Our dog Wendy usually sleeps with Amanda, but last night Amanda was out very late. So Wendy ended up sleeping in bed with me (she’s over eleven now so she has privileges) with Little Dog and Hera on the floor near by so I had my own Three Dog Night.

One of the happiest discoveries about Hera is how well trained and disciplined she is. On a wet day last week, Steve put a towel in front of the sliding glass door for the dogs to run across as they came in. When I was letting Hera in I realized her paws weren’t just wet but muddy. So as she landed on the towel I immediately said, Stay! Not only did she stop, she sat down and looked up at me expectantly. Then she patiently and calmly sat as I brushed off each muddy paw. My girls would have been whining and fighting me with each paw. If only whoever trained Hera had trained Wendy and Little Dog instead of the slackers in this house ūüėČ

Speaking of slackers, we probably don’t bathe our dogs as often as we should. In part because we put off a lot of chores that aren’t urgent, but also because both dogs hate getting baths (and it isn’t fun for us either). Wendy whines from beginning to end, thrashing and pulling, trying to escape. Little Dog being littler is easier to wash but she shivers and shakes and I end up feeling so sorry for her. So many things frighten Little Dog, poor thing. But both our dogs are hound breeds/mixes – Hera too – so they have that hound smell . And that hound smell doesn’t just stay on them but starts to spread to all the dog beds, blankets and throws. So every couple of months, when I realize I’d be embarrassed to have anyone who doesn’t adore the dogs or a have head cold come over we give them a bath.

Bath day is exhausting because not only do we wash both dogs, but also anything that smells like dog. That means all the dog beds (we seem to have two or three on every floor of the house), any blanket we’ve curled up with that a dog has lain on (that would be all of them) the pillows and coverings on Amanda’s bed and all the towels we use to dry off the dogs.¬† Usually four or more loads of laundry.

The dogs get their baths in the walk in shower in our new bathroom. Our design/contractor suggested installing a grab bar near the floor on the shower wall so we could tie the dogs to it to give them baths. At first I didn’t like the idea of using my beautiful new bathroom for dog baths but once I thought about how much easier it would be to wash them there I changed my mind.


To secure one of the dogs to the grab bar, we run a spare collar around the bar, through the dog’s collar and then fasten the spare collar. Wendy still whines but she doesn’t bother trying to escape anymore.

Last Saturday was one of those days we broke down and cleaned everyone and everything. After washing Wendy and Little Dog, I had to tell Steve I thought we should wash Hera too. He agreed and we brought her to the bathroom. She stood¬†calmly while we fastened her to the grab bar. And she continued to stay still and calm while we hosed her down, washed and rinsed her. With Hera having such short fur and no undercoat, it went quickly. After a short toweling off, we were done. By far the easiest dog bath I’ve ever given. A half an hour later, Hera was completely dry. Meanwhile poor Wendy and Little Dog were both still damp, likely wondering where their dogs beds had gone, wondering what had gotten in to us that day.


P.S.¬† Isn’t she a beautiful girl?



Puppy details

Posting became challenging this fall. Besides my volunteer activities of tutoring a woman from Togo in English two mornings a week for the Literacy Council of Montgomery County and being a CASA for a teenage girl in foster care, I started teaching engineering four days a week for an after school enrichment program with a company called Silver Knights. Add that to my regular day to day shopping, trips to the gym, cooking and other chores, visits with my parents, sisters, nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews – I am so blessed! –¬† and the responsibilities of caring for Hera and her puppies and my animals didn’t leave me as much spare time. And while I enjoy posting about my fosters, I also enjoy reading, watching shows and football with Steve and our daughter Amanda. Or lying down on the couch, doing nothing, with the cats and dogs piled on and around me.

But since the fall session of the enrichment program has ended, and Hera’s puppies are all comfortable in their new homes I have time to write a little about their time with us.

If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now. It’s hard fostering puppies in the late fall and winter. And not great for the puppies and mothers either.

When I have a mother dog and a litter of puppies, unless it’s raining hard, in the late spring, summer and early fall, my morning routine is to let everyone eat outside while I clean up inside. I start by letting the mother dog outside, filling the puppies’ and mother dog’s bowls with food and water and letting the puppies out of the whelping box and into the side yard. While everyone’s eating, drinking, peeing and pooping outside, I go in and clean the whelping box (remove the dirty towels and toys, roll up the dirty newspapers and put down clean ones). Then I go outside and pick up all the new messes. If weather is clear and I’m not going anywhere – and can keep an ear out for them and check on them periodically – I leave the puppies and their mother in the side yard where they have room to run, places and things to explore – bushes, the dog house, the fence line, rocks, plants, dirt, toys – and sights and sounds to get used to – passing cars and trucks, people walking their dogs, etc.

Unfortunately, this was not Hera and her puppies experience.¬† There wasn’t a single day warm enough for them to be out for longer than 15 or 20 minutes. The first time I took the puppies out they immediately began to shiver; it wasn’t even that cold, somewhere in the mid 50’s. So in the beginning, I fed them inside in the whelping box. Not an easy task. Overnight, the puppies create quite a mess on the newspapers and on themselves from running over the newspapers. I would try to ease them over to one side of the whelping box and quickly throw down some clean newspaper on the vacant side to put the food bowl on, but herding puppies isn’t much easier than herding cats.¬† Once they’d pounced on their food, I’d remove any dirty newspapers a puppy wasn’t standing on. As soon as they were done eating, the pooping and peeing would begin and the whole cleaning process started over again. Thank goodness I’d stock piled newspapers between Holly’s litter and Hera’s as I was using far more than one Washington Post a day.¬† And another blessing, Hera was not one of those mothers who had to be separated from her puppies while they were being fed. While she did prefer their softened food to her own – for some reason all the mom dogs seem to – a quick “no” was all that was required turn her back to her own food bowl. It would have been a disaster had all seventy pounds of her jumped into the whelping box, scattering puppies and food across the dirty newspapers.¬† The last few weeks on days when the temperatures were in the mid forties or higher, I would put them out with their food and water, quickly clean the whelping box and let them in one by one as they finished eating drinking and pooping. They’d be shivering like crazy, convincing me more and more that these pups truly were Rhodesian Ridgebacks – I’ve never seen puppies with so little cold tolerance.

Leaving the puppies behind in the whelping box was the hardest part.¬† Instead of romping outside in the clean air and sunshine, with sights, smells and textures and room to run, they were stuck in a 4′ by 4′ box. Thankfully they had each other to play with and lots of toys and fragments of toys (a disemboweled stuffed animal will do for a puppy). And now that the puppies were on solid food and not whining for her milk, Hera was happy to stay in the dog area as long as she had some toys to carry around in her mouth and toss and shake. Occasionally, I would come downstairs and sit on the floor to play with the puppies but even this was hard. When I can be outside with puppies, some will wander off to run behind the bushes, explore the fence line or dig under the pine trees. But inside with nothing else to capture their attention, all seven wanted my focus. This wasn’t a problem at five weeks when they’re happy just to climb on me or lie in my lap, but by six weeks, many were sinking their teeth into me. It’s one thing to manage one or two puppies biting or pulling on you but seven at a time? Not possible. And it’s not good to let puppies get away with biting and pulling or they’ll get the message it’s okay.

What we would do instead is bring a few at a time upstairs into the kitchen.¬† There they’d have room to move around, time to play with us and an opportunity to have more experiences.¬† Besides being good for their development, it was important to help them gain confidence in a different environment than the whelping box and with new people in preparation to meet their potential adopters.¬† Of course that meant our floor was potty central.¬† We went through lots of paper towels.

As challenging as it was having Hera’s puppies during a cold November and December, it could have been much harder. What if there were ten puppies, or even twelve packed in that whelping box growing bigger each day, making messes, all clamoring for my attention?¬† And despite their not having the experiences of playing in the yard they seem to be doing very well in their new homes.

Landon, formerly Zeus:


Puppies all adopted!

Washed all three dogs this morning, and now I’m cleaning all the towels, dog beds, blankets or anything else in the house that has dog smell on it. Hera surprisingly was the easiest of the three to wash. She quietly stood still through the whole process, even as we rinsed her face (unlike Wendy who tried to pull away and whined from beginning to end). And her coat, so short with no under coat, lathered up and rinsed quickly. We gave her a quick rub down and she was completely dry a half hour later. Meanwhile Wendy and Little Dog are both still damp two and a half hours later.

A lot has happened since I last posted about Hera and the puppies.

Pictures taken for petfinder:















We listed the puppies as Rhodesian Ridgeback mixes.¬† After finishing the Petfinder pages, I was very curious to see what would happen. How many people out there want Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies?¬† Would we get enough applications? Turns out quite a lot. More than enough in fact. Miranda had to take their pages off of Petfinder, she was getting so many applications.¬† And the people she screened were fantastic. Everyone who came to meet the puppies had either owned, lived with or was familiar with the breed. They’d done their homework and knew what to expect or were comfortable with what I described: a fairly high energy dog, with some protective instincts and a strong prey drive.¬† As they played with the puppies, they soon learned Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies are also prone to biting hard when playing; smart to have a toy nearby to redirect them until they grow out of this. We talked about the importance of socialization. Even though it’s been frigid lately and the puppies, like their mother, have little tolerance for the cold, they still need to get outside for walks so they’ll see, hear and smell a variety of people, animals and objects during these early months when they’re still open to new experiences.¬† Thankfully, Puppies look awfully cute in sweaters.

Last Friday, December 9, the first two puppies went to their homes. The next four went Saturday. Two sets of families with children, one family with teenagers, one couple and two singletons, all prepared to love their puppy to pieces. The final puppy, Atlas, didn’t have an adopter yet but I got an email Sunday that a young woman from Virginia Beach was in town and wanted to meet him. We hung out in the kitchen as she played with Atlas and told me how she would take him for daily morning walks on the beach (I asked if she’d adopt me too). No surprise, they left together.

So now it’s Hera’s turn to find a home. We wish we could keep her until that happens. As much as we love Hera – and we do, she’s a wonderful dog and is so devoted to us now – it’s stressful for her and the cats for her to remain with us. Unfortunately, she not able to ignore the cats. And it isn’t that she isn’t trained, she’ll sit and stay on command and we’ve even gotten her to walk by the cats while on a leash. But it’s like leading a starving man past a plate of food, she’s so clearly fighting her will. Her prey drive is simply too strong for her to be around the cats without us being on guard the whole time. So we gate her in the kitchen or family room or lock the cats up in one of the bedrooms. But even when separated, she never settles down. Instead she spends her time pacing back in forth, trying to get a glimpse of one of the cats. Occasionally she’ll knock a gate latch open or jump one and take off after a cat, cornering him/her. Her presence is disturbing enough that our cat Iggy hides himself away all day now, he only appears for his morning feeding and 10 pm feeding.

Still, it’s going to be very hard to say goodbye to Hera. She’s already been let down at least once by a human she loved and trusted (it’s clear by her good health and thorough training that she was a loved and well cared for pet). And soon it will be my turn to let her down. Will her growls return when she’s no longer with people who love her and she knows she’s safe with? I can only hope Miranda finds a nice, patient foster for her.¬† And that a loving caring adopter will come along soon and see what a fantastic dog she is.