What are these puppies?

One of the first questions I get when I’m fostering puppies is, “What kind of puppies are they?”  “Hellifi know,” is what I should say most of the time. Unfortunately, to list dogs and puppies on Petfinder, we are required to select a breed. So we do our best to come up with something. When the mother is available, we make an educated guess based on appearance and temperament. If we notice different features in the puppies we choose a secondary breed.

Unfortunately the only information we have about our ten puppies’ mother is a picture.


(The dog circled in blue is the mother. The other dog looks similar. Her sister, brother perhaps? )

Homeward Trails volunteers thought the mother looked like a retriever mix so we listed that as the first breed.

One clue to the puppies’ breed is their varied tail lengths. Two puppies have long tails, two have stub tails, and the rest have bobbed or short tails. Only a limited number of breeds have genes for a bobtail. The two puppies with stub tails are the smallest, with little ears that are upright, or likely to become upright.





They’re also feisty, almost fearless. Despite being nearly half the size of the long tailed puppies, they have no problem holding their own when wrestling with them.

The long tailed puppies are the biggest and have the largest ears.





The other six with short, but not stubbed – tails fall somewhere in the middle.

Another notable personality trait is the puppies go berserk for squeaky toys. One squeak and all their heads whip around in the direction of the noise. A second squeak and they’re off in pursuit. Cecilia, pictured above, will begin scratching at the ground, instinctively digging for a varmint. I’ve never had a litter respond so passionately to the sound of a squeak before. Given the puppies’ behavior – confident, fearless even, strong response to squeaks –  good chance they’re part terrier. And their appearance fits several terrier breeds from the list of naturally bobbed tailed breeds Miniature Fox Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier and Rat Terrier.

Without a DNA test, it’s difficult to know which terrier breed. I settled on Miniature (Toy) Fox Terrier because many of the short tailed puppies (i.e. the ones who likely have the most terrier genes) really enjoy being picked up and carried which is a feature of Toy breeds. Granted, they are puppies and most puppies like being carried and held. But over and over I’ve noticed it’s the smallest, shortest tailed pups who are at my ankles begging to be scooped up. And once I pick them up they never seem to tire of being held.

Our backyard neighbors have a puppy too.  A golden retriever, Maddox, who’s now seven months old and seventy five pounds. He’s often out in the backyard looking over the fence hoping the puppies will be outside and come closer.

Despite their different sizes, Cecilia and he have become buddies:




Puppies on Petfinder

Tracey, the puppies adoption coordinator, is so organized.  She had names and Petfinder pages for the puppies by the very first night.

Here they all are:

Apple: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37217353

Bridget: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37217239

Cecilia: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37217492

Dylan: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37217511

Edwina: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37217009

Frieda: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37217092

Gonzo: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37215949

Harry: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37216834

Inez: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37216011

Jerry: https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37215957


Puppies’ first outdoor adventure

Thursday morning Amanda took the puppies outside to eat while I cleaned up inside. It wasn’t that cold out, but oh did they shiver. I expect they’d never been outside before. So we brought them in as soon as they were done eating and everything was cleaning up inside.

Later when it was warmer, we brought the puppies outside again. Puppies benefit from experiencing new things: seeing rocks and trees, feeling grass under their feet, hearing the neighbors’ dogs bark and smelling pine needles and dirt. At first it was a little overwhelming. The puppies whined and shivered. But soon most began to gain confidence, get curious and explore the yard.

I hope we have a day that’s warm and dry enough to take them out again.


rainy day fun


With the rain today, the puppies are keeping us busy. We can’t let them outside to eat and their whelping box is too messy to feed them there so this is what I do instead. After I put newspaper down all over the dog area, I place their food bowls on the floor. Then Amanda and I let the puppies out of the whelping box to eat. Then I change out the dirty towels, toys and newspapers in the whelping box. Once they’re done eating we stay and let them crawl on us and cuddle a bit, while others run around and play. It’s really nice having Amanda help; the puppies like her so much she usually has more crawling on her than I do. She also shouts out if there’s a poop to pick up. The sooner I get it, the better; not much worse than a puppy running through a pile and then leaping onto your lap. Amanda hasn’t dealt with this side of fostering much and is a little squeamish. I remind her that’s why we put on old clothes and wash up when we’re done. Despite all the messes over the years, I’ve never gotten sick; good old soap and water does the trick. If the puppies start acting tired or we have other things we need to do, we put the puppies back in the whelping box and change out any newspapers that are too wet, messy, crumpled or chewed on. Occasionally, if we’re in a rush, we’ll layer newspapers on top of the messy ones knowing we can throw them away next time.

We go through this routine three times a day: morning, early afternoon and late afternoon.  Then in the evening we check on the puppies again, change the newspapers and towels in the whelping box, remove any messy toys and if we have time, play and cuddle with the puppies again.

We also took some videos today:


ten little puppies

In my last post, I mentioned I’d been emailing with Jenn about a new dog family.

Here’s the first note I got from Jenn on Monday:

This is what the shelter worker wrote about them (I am pasting this directly):

They was throw out and lady pick them up but want them gone now

My goodness. Pic attached. Any chance you are open to helping get them out of there- they are 5 weeks old…and drum roll please… 10 pups.. the plan would be to get them online ASAP and start screening apps so you’d only have them for about 3 weeks.


It’s always the picture that gets me. Isn’t she pretty? What a beautiful brindle coat she has. And look at all those spotted puppies!

I had many good reasons to say no to this request. I’m still recovering from foot surgery. While I’m driving again and back to most of my regular activities – tutoring and after school enrichment teaching – it still hurts when I walk and the more I’m on my feet the more it hurts. And fostering in the winter is so challenging.  The pups and mom would have to be inside most of the time which means more indoor messes to clean up; we’d also need to work harder to keep them stimulated. But as long as the Petfinder pages go up quickly and the applications are screened fast we could have them adopted in just a few weeks. I decided if I could get Steve and Amanda to agree to help me more than usual I’d say yes. Later I showed Amanda the picture. After she said, awwwww, I asked if she’d be willing to pitch in, for instance, willing to get up early in the morning to help feed and clean up after the puppies. She agreed. I called Steve at work and explained the situation; he reluctantly said yes. He’ll be a good sport once they’re here and he sees them for himself.

Yesterday, Jenn found someone willing to drive them from Fairfax to us in Gaithersburg – I’m always so grateful to our volunteers willing to pack a bunch of stressed out animals – whining – yipping – howling – into their cars and get on the beltway often at rush hour. Tracey, the adoption coordinator for this set of puppies, would make sure adoption folders would be put together and vaccines and de-wormer collected and sent up too.

This morning, while I was visiting my niece, her three year old son and new baby daughter, I got a call from Jenn. Jenn explained something had gone wrong with the transport. The mother dog and puppies were with a woman whose husband had recently moved out. When it came time to collect the dogs for transport, the husband refused to let the mother dog go and took her away with him. Jenn wanted to speak with the husband, to let him know that we would return his dog to him if he’d let us keep her for just a few weeks, until the puppies were eight weeks old. But his wife wouldn’t give Jenn his phone number saying she didn’t want to get in the middle. So the ten puppies were sent on the transport van without their mother.

It’s very unfortunate the puppies have been separated from their mother. The transport trip is always frightening for puppies, even more so without their mother along. And weaning them so suddenly in the midst of so many changes won’t be good for them either. Nursing provides comfort as well as food. For development and socialization, it’s also important for a puppies to spend at least eight weeks with their mothers. But sometimes stuff happens that we can’t control. We’ll just have to do what we can to help these puppies grow and thrive without their mother.

Here they all are (pictures from the mother dog’s owners):







The puppies arrived a half an hour ago, around 8pm. They’re plump, active and friendly. The smallest is nearly half the size of the largest. Their fur is incredibly soft. And get this, their tails are different lengths. Some are long, some are short and some are just stubs.

After fussing for a few minutes, they amazed me by settling down and playing with one another, seemingly relaxed and comfortable in their new surroundings.

Fingers crossed we’ll all have a good night’s sleep


Roller coaster ride for Hera

The day after Hera’s spay, I emailed Miranda to ask how she was getting along. Miranda checked with the Center staff and they said she was doing really well. While I was encouraged to hear this, I still found myself worrying about her. Hera simply isn’t the kind of dog who’d be happy with a changing set of people walking and feeding her – no matter how caring.

So as I rested my foot, I thought about Hera and wondered if there was any way we could foster her and keep the cats safe and content. But since Hera was gone, the cats were following me around the house again, lying next to or on me when I was resting. As much as I missed her and wanted her to have a foster, we couldn’t take her back.

On Sunday January 8, Miranda emailed that Hera had been adopted that day. A family who’d recently lost their beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback had applied for her. Hera reminded them of their previous dog, sharing many of the same traits: incredibly protective, standoffish at first, loyal and regal. She said it was a match made in heaven.

That evening, I exchanged emails with the father of the family. He told me Hera had already warmed up to him and one of his daughters – there were four children in the family – and they hoped Hera would help his family heal after the loss of their previous dog.

Hera warm and content by their fireplace:


I was so thrilled for Hera; I went to bed feeling happy and relieved.

These feelings were short lived. Miranda emailed me the next morning to tell me that Hera was coming back to Homeward Trails. The father had told her that everything had been going well but that his wife rushed Hera and Hera snapped at her. Miranda said they felt terrible about it and understood it wasn’t Hera’s fault. He also told her a young child might be joining their family and Miranda no longer felt comfortable with the placement. I felt terrible for the father who already seemed attached to Hera and the whole family.  Most of all I felt terrible for Hera. Once again she’d be leaving a warm loving home without understanding why.

This morning, a week after Hera’s failed adoption, while exchanging emails with Jenn (HTAR’s Dog Program Director) about another mother dog and puppies, she mentioned that Hera had just been adopted again. And while I want to feel happy and relieved,  I’m going to hold those emotions in check until I find out more. I hope to reassure myself that Hera’s adopters are aware they need to go very slowly with her, keep an eye on her body language and wait until Hera approaches and initiates contact. And to be sure anyone new who meets her does the same. Hera requires more watchfulness and care than most dogs. But in the right hands she’ll be a wonderful dog and a deeply devoted companion.




More about Hera

In the final weeks, Hera became very attached to Steve. Maybe because he played with and walked her more than anyone else. Perhaps she thought he was the “head of the house” and wanted to secure her place in his affections. Whatever the reason, Hera would get so excited when Steve came home from work. She’d jump on him, put her giant paws on his shoulders and lick his face; there was no doubt she was crazy about him. Afterward, she’d stay by his side while he got ready for the best part of the day, the walk.

When we have a foster dog, Steve will walk all three dogs together if everyone gets along and he can safely handle them. Hera walks very nicely on a leash, is responsive to commands and gets on with Wendy and Little. But because of her size, strength and protective behavior she needs much of Steve’s attention. So while we had Hera, Steve took Wendy and Hera on walks and left Little Dog at home.

Little Dog:

Myles accidentally left his toy at our house. Little Dog wasted no time finding it and making it hers. (It was eventually returned to Myles.)

Why choose Little to leave behind? The first few years we had Little Dog, she was extremely shy and fearful; it took years to build her confidence enough to even consider taking her on a walk. Initially, she was afraid to even have a leash on or go out the front door, let alone walk willingly down the driveway. The first walks were actually “carries.” And while she now enjoys going on walks and meeting new people and dogs, she still shakes in fear as she watches Steve prepare for a walk. My theory is that just as Pavlov’s dogs were conditioned to drool by the sound of a bell, Little Dog was conditioned to shake when she saw Steve come home from work and gather up the leashes. It’s so hard watching her tremble when Steve approaches her with a leash. Perhaps if we’d gone slower introducing all the steps of going on a walk all those years ago she wouldn’t have this association. But even if I put a leash on her in the backyard – i.e. completely change the stimulus – she acts frightened. It’s possible she’s still afraid something scary might happen on a walk. Perhaps Steve might step on a stick making a loud noise, we might take her on an different route than the one she’s used to or bring along a foster dog who’ll act unpredictably.



Unlike Little, Wendy isn’t ambivalent about walks; Wendy lives for walks. The word walk isn’t spoken in our house, it’s spelled, otherwise Wendy gets unnecessarily excited. And if she doesn’t get exercise, she gets bored. She’ll start following us or one of the cats around, whining at us, hoping we’ll entertain her. Sometimes she’ll bark at a cat for not being interesting enough. If the cat runs, she’ll chase; then Little Dog will join in – barking and chasing – that’s when I start to lose my mind.


But back to Hera. I didn’t take long for Hera to fall in with our routine, making a few adaptions of her own. Food in the morning. Pacing the house looking for cats. Going outside to check out the yard and sniff the neighbors’ dogs through the fence. Tossing some toys around. Taking a walk, followed by watching us eat dinner, then settling down beside us as we read or watched TV in the evenings. She was well mannered – except for jumping up on Steve which he encouraged – responded to commands, rarely barked – if I let her in the backyard and she wanted to come back in she’d just quietly wait by the door until I let her in. If it weren’t for the part about pacing the house looking for cats (and occasionally spotting and chasing them) all would have been well.

When I found out Hera would be going to the Center not a foster home after being spayed I really wanted to tell Miranda that we’d continue fostering her. But besides the cats, there was another reason I couldn’t do that. On December 27, two days before she left for her spay, I had surgery on my right foot and I needed to stay off my feet as much as possible for a few weeks. Steve would be home the first week but he’d have lots of extra duties already. And once he was back to work, I knew I wouldn’t be up to managing a dog of Hera’s size and temperament.

The day after my surgery, we got a hint my instincts were correct. Steve had to go out and I wasn’t comfortable having Hera loose in the house without him home. Steve didn’t want to put Hera in the dog area downstairs where I leave her when I go out; he feels bad leaving her there. When he said he was going to leave her in one of the bedrooms upstairs where she’s hung out with us it didn’t occur to me this wasn’t the best time to leave her alone in a new place (the pain pills likely didn’t help my thinking). As soon as Steve left, Hera began to bark. Then I heard a big crash. And after that banging and scratching at the door. Alone in the house, I was afraid to hobble up the stairs on my crutches. What if I fell? And what would happen when I opened the door? Hera, happy to be released, might well knock me over. So instead I had to listen to over three hours of her barking, banging and scratching, hoping she wouldn’t hurt herself or do too much damage to the room. Thankfully she didn’t hurt herself. And though she knocked everything off the night stands nothing  got broken. The only damage? The molding around the door is all torn up and will need to be replaced.

So maybe Hera wasn’t thrilled to be in the dog area, at least she was used to being left there. Not so the bedroom upstairs. And unfortunately, now separation anxiety is another concern on the list of things to talk about with any potential adopters for Hera.