Betsy and pups

Our momma dog, Betsy, has really blossomed. She now goes outside happily and is no longer making messes on the newspapers. And her shyness has completely disappeared.  She gladly greets – with a big bottom wiggling tail wag – whoever comes to the door.  And if the new arrival will let her, she’ll jump on their lap and lean her head onto their chest, and enjoy all the pets they’ll give her.  She’s not really lap sized but don’t try telling her that. A few minutes ago, I tried to get her to sit next to me instead of on me while I was typing but she kept pushing her head into my arm, trying to find a way in. She finally gave up and is now lying on the floor next to my feet.

The puppies are plump and happy and doing well.  On nice days like yesterday I let them out to run in the yard, play in the grass, experience the sights, sounds and smells of the larger world. Betsy has made letting them out more challenging. Like our foster Hestia before her, she can climb the metal wire fence we use to make area for our mother dogs and puppies.

Hestia and her pups, the metal wire fence in our sideyard


Betsy goes up and over the metal fencing. Then the puppies gather at the fence and whine and cry for her.  Hearing them cry, Betsy returns and instead of climbing back over, jumps onto the air conditioning unit next to the fence and paces around looking for a way back in.  Since this routine was rather unpleasant, I started leaving the gate open.  Not a perfect solution as the puppies have more yard to explore and to potentially get into trouble (either by harming plants or objects or getting stuck). And inevitably Betsy and the puppies will wander over to the sliding glass door and look in at me as if to say, hey let us in!

This morning, I let everyone outside for about an hour before I had to leave to meet one of the women I tutor in English. Around 10:15am, I went downstairs to let Betsy and the puppies in before getting changed.  As I opened the door, I heard a puppy crying. I yelled out “Puppy puppies!” the phrase I use to call the puppies to me.  Betsy and four of the puppies came running. I could still hear but not see the crying puppy.  Walking along the side of the house, I could hear the crying coming from the crawl space under our new addition.  A few years ago, we’d had another puppy crawl under there and get stuck in a hole.  After that, we’d filled up all the gaps with bricks so no other puppies could crawl under.  Walking back around, I noticed an area along the house where dirt had been recently dug out, leaving a hole big enough for a puppy to crawl through.  I bent down and called through the hole and the puppy quieted for a moment but didn’t come to my voice.  Had he fallen in the same hole as the other puppy and was unable to get out?  Would I have to go in after him? There were no places big enough for me to squeeze through. The crawl space is covered with panels. I remembered that Steve had removed the last panel to get the other puppy.  The panel was screwed in on one side but not the other.  The puppy was crying and I was in a hurry so I tried prying it off (sorry Steve!).  Just a little more pressure and the panel popped off.  Then I got down on all fours and went into the crawl space – still in my pjs and robe –  and crawled forward toward the crying puppy. Halfway there I felt a sharp pain on the top of my head – I’d hit one of the hundreds of nails hammered down through the floor.  As I got closer to the sound of the puppy, I started feeling for a hole. Finally I found it and the puppy. It wasn’t wide, probably no more than six inches in diameter but deep enough that the puppy couldn’t climb out.  I reached in and scooped out the puppy then crawled back out on one hand and two knees.  Once out of the hole, the puppy seemed fine and I put him in the whelping box with the other four.

Amanda checked my head and said there wasn’t much blood so I quickly changed clothes and ran out for my appointment for which I was very late.  We’ve had on our to do list to replace the metal fence with something permanent.  Perhaps it’s time to actually get it done.

Videos from last Thursday, February 15:



Momma and pups

Wednesday evening, just before turning out the lights, the little black and white puppy waddled over to the front of the whelping box, looked up at me and whined. When I picked him up, I noticed he felt dirty, gritty even. I ran my finger over his fur and felt a layer of scales, crumbling pieces of dried skin and what felt like scabs all through his coat. Occasionally rescued puppies will have cuts and scrapes or a few scabs but I’d never seen anything like this before. I looked closer at his skin and fortunately didn’t see any swollen places, raw or red spots, no sores or signs of injuries.

Thursday morning, I gave him a bath in the kitchen sink using a seborrhea dermatitis  shampoo that I happened to have.  Normally I don’t bath young puppies. Their mothers and their own bodies’ mechanisms generally keep them clean enough to maintain health. But I was concerned that this strange build up of dead skin might trap moisture and bacteria against his skin and cause a skin infection. The puppy accepted being bathed surprisingly well. Perhaps the rubbing and running water aren’t too different from the rough licking he receives from his mother. But when I’d finished and lifted him out of the warm bath water, he started to whimper so I quickly rolled him up in a towel like a sausage, leaving only his head exposed. Young puppies – just like newborn babies – love to be swaddled. I held him for a moment, looking at his sweet face. Then I unrolled him and rubbed him down. Unfortunately, the bathing hadn’t done much good, the scales, and crusts of skin were still embedded in his fur. So I got out a wire dog brush

Image result for wire brush dogs

and gently began to break up and brush away the crusts of dead skin. As with the bathing, the puppy seemed to enjoy the attention – which was fortunate as it took a long time. Still, even with all this effort, the puppy still had some scaly areas. But I still hadn’t checked his brothers and sister. I might have four more puppies to clean, I couldn’t spend the whole day on one puppy. So I gave him off to my daughter Amanda to hold and went down to get the next puppy. Sure enough he too had crusts all over his skin. This time I brushed the puppy before giving him the bath and that was much more effective. I eventually worked my way through all five puppies – each and every one of them had this same strange build up of dead crusty skin. Thankfully though, none had any sores. And what felt like scabs were simply thicker, harder clumps of dead skin.

Later I read up online about dog skin conditions and looking at pictures and symptoms, nothing matched. I did read an article that listed skin ailments of newborn puppies which mentioned that they sometimes get dandruff because their sebaceous glands aren’t mature. What these puppies have goes well beyond dandruff. But could they have layers of naturally occurring dead skin trapped in their fur? I thought about how mother dogs usually spend hours licking their pups and wondered what would happen if they didn’t. Could the dead skin accumulate on the puppies to this extent?

If the condition returns – i.e. if I notice new layers of dead skin building up –  I’ll ask Liz, my Adoption Coordinator, if I can take one of the puppies to the vet for a diagnosis and treatment advice. Otherwise the next time I’m at my vet for one of my pets I’ll tell her about this weird condition and see if she has any ideas.

Since I had all the puppies upstairs anyway, I decided to take some video, pictures and get them posted on Petfinder:









Then after the puppies were tired out from playing and starting to fall asleep, Amanda and I gave them their first vaccine and de-wormer and put them back in the whelping box.

What about the puppy’s mother? Thursday morning, I came quietly into the dog area. I soon noticed a thump, thump, thump sound. At first I wondered what Amanda was doing upstairs. Then I realized it was the momma’s tail wagging against the wall. She was in the back left corner near the outside door on the the dog bed we set out for all our momma dogs (which we wash of course before any new arrivals). As I approached her, she didn’t get up.  But she did make eye contact.  And when I knelt down near her and put my fist out she sniffed it. I gently stroked her upper chest – the best place to pet a dog you don’t know well.

By Thursday evening, she would rise and walk over to me. By Friday, if I sat down on the ground, she’d lie next to me, or on me as I petted her face, head and back. Her fur, like my part Beagle Little, is extremely soft, and she has the gentlest, sweetest brown eyes. After getting a better look at her, I think she is all or nearly all Beagle.  Her teeth are very white, so I expect she’s young, perhaps just two years old.



She’s been going on the newspapers I put down; whenever I open the door to the outside, she shows no interest in going out. Has she spent her whole life inside? I learned that she and the puppies were rescued from a hoarding situation. Twenty dogs in total were removed from one person’s home. Thankfully she’s a loving, gentle-natured dog; sometimes dogs from hoarding situations are terrified of people. Some day soon, when we have good weather, I’ll lure her outside and begin socializing the puppies to the outside world.


Plans made, plans changed

As much as we enjoyed Pearl and her puppies, it’s been nice just being responsible for our own brood. So while nearly every day adoption coordinators and shelter reps sent emails to the Homeward Trails list serve about puppies, dogs and the occasional mother needing a foster I didn’t respond. If no one volunteers after their first note, they’ll send out another note with “Second Request” in the subject line. Monday morning, a note from an AC named Tracey went out asking for fosters for a litter of seven, eight week old bloodhound puppies arriving Wednesday – preferably broken up in pairs and threes. Monday evening a second request came out. Then Tuesday a third request.  It doesn’t usually take a third request. Nobody wanted to take these guys on. I didn’t want to take them on either.  But I couldn’t stand to think where they might end up if no one came forward.



So I emailed Tracey yes.  And while I knew they’d be a handful – hounds always are – and we’d probably have them for a while – bloodhounds aren’t high on people’s lists of dogs to adopt in the DC region – I also imagined all seven of them barreling around the back yard, tumbling over one another and afterwards cuddling up with me for a nap (where that nap would be I hadn’t yet figured out).

A few hours later Jenn, our dog coordinator, texted pictures of two mother dogs and their puppies asking me if I could foster one set of them.

Mom 1


When I received the text, I was in Annapolis for some meetings and didn’t have time to respond. Later when I checked my phone again, Jenn had texted again. She said she’d talked to Tracey and that Tracey would find someone else for the bloodhound puppies if I would take one of the moms.  So of course I said yes.

So, long story short, this evening, the second dog – a beagle, possibly basset hound mix – and her five puppies are now settled in the dog area. They arrived about an hour ago. The momma dog wouldn’t make eye contact and didn’t want to come out of the crate. She’s an owner surrender. So just a short time ago she was in a home with her family.  Since then she was dropped off at a shelter, hustled into a van for a long drive, brought inside just long enough for some shots and other indignities before being driven off again to someplace unknown. She needs time to adjust, to realize she and her puppies are safe.


Pearl & Pups and more

Pearl and her four puppies went to loving homes around three weeks ago. Before meeting her, Pearl’s new mom researched boarder collies and began training her as soon as she got her home. Apparently Pearl, now Pixel, tries to herd her new family in the house and nips at the heals of whoever is behind on walks. Her new momma plans on  training her out of that last habit as she doesn’t want Pixel nipping at anyone’s heals, particularly children’s. All the puppies’ families began the usual steps of potty and crate training and falling further in love. Everyone’s puppy is the cutest, smartest ever and they are all right.

Here are a few pictures of Pixel out for brunch and in her new home:



Occasionally one of my former foster pups or mom dog’s owners email me news and photos or put something up on Facebook.  Here’s what I’ve received recently.

Remember Velvet? She’s happy as can be with Bethany who loves her to pieces.  She’s now called Bella Notte in honor of the dark night we got her back.



And some of her beautiful puppies. with Velvet for a mom how could they be otherwise?





And Hera?  She’s still named Hera (she is a goddess after all).  She couldn’t be happier.  I’m so very grateful she was adopted by someone capable of handling and loving her.

hera 1

hera 2

hera 3

And two of Hera’s daughters on a play date together.  Stunning dogs:

hera's pups 1





Pearl’s puppies all have “P” names.  Presley, Paige and Parker are the three girls and Pax is the boy.  He’s much bigger than the rest and very rolly polly.  If he were mine, I’d name him Fats Domino.  Here’s some video Steve took of him showing off:


Snowy Day

With the holidays and my youngest daughter Rachel visiting, I didn’t have time to write about Pearl and her puppies. Then after Rachel left and the holiday plans with family were all over, I felt a bit of a let down.  And it’s been so very cold.  But earlier this week it got into the 20s, so I decided grab my camera and let Pearl and the puppies have a romp in the back yard.

While I’ve let them out in the small side yard before, this was the first time the puppies had been in the much larger backyard. Pearl especially liked racing around the yard with her puppies following behind her.

We didn’t stay out too long.  Best of all, no one demanded I make hot chocolate for them.


Pearl plus Four

While I miss Savannah and her puppies, it’s been nice being responsible for just our own two dogs and three cats. No whelping box to clean up. No pressure to keep my time away from the house under three or four hours. I’ve been getting to the gym four times a week. I’ve started some long overdue projects.  In short, I’m so enjoying having one less responsibility, one less thing to plan around or worry about. And truthfully, I’m not crazy about fostering in the winter months. Unless the weather is mild, the mothers and puppies have to stay inside. That’s fine for first few weeks of life. But by week five or six the puppies are ready to run, jump and play. They get far too cramped in the whelping box; they need to engage with the outside world. And being inside isn’t just hard on them, it’s hard on me. Having to feed them in the cramped whelping box.  Needing to change the newspapers in the whelping box multiple times during the day (without being able to let the puppies outside while I do the changing). The whelping box that is so huge when the puppies are newborn seems far too small when those same puppies at two months are looking for places to sleep, run, play, poop and pee. Having to face eight, eight week old puppies in a messy whelping box first thing in the morning is daunting, having to do it three or four times more each day is disheartening.

But winter or not, the emails asking if anyone can foster a mom or pregnant dog still keep coming. One day a few weeks ago, I didn’t get around to checking email until the afternoon.  A request to foster a pregnant mom had come out at 7am. By the time I started exchanging emails with the adoption coordinator, someone else she’d been talking with said yes.  I have to admit I was relieved.  Then a week ago Saturday, I got this email and photo from Liz, an adoption coordinator I really enjoy working with:

Hi all,

Pearl, appears to be a collie mix, is nursing 4 3-week old puppies.  She is about 35lb and can’t wait to find her forever home. Please is anyone open to foster this mom and her  babies?  They are 3 weeks old, but are fluffy which is the most sought after pup lately. The only way we can help is with a foster home for them to go to. Please can anyone help?


Only four puppies?!?!?  The whelping box would not get crowded with just four.  Fluffy puppies?!?!? They’d probably be able to handle going outside when temperatures were in the 40’s.  Maybe even in the upper 30’s for short periods (long enough for a quick meal and a whelping box clean up).

I emailed back to ask what the mom’s personality was like; the shelter said she was sweet. So I said yes.

She arrived Wednesday evening of last week. Her name is Pearl. She’s sweet and friendly too; greeted both Wendy and Little Dog with a wagging tail and gentle sniffs. And didn’t seem to mind the cats. And her puppies are fat, furry, cuddly little things. Simply adorable.

Here’s some video I took this morning: