Heartbroken

“I would find it too difficult to give them back.”

Katie and Taylor at 4 weeks old

Katie and Taylor at 4 weeks old

This is the most common reaction when I say I’m fostering puppies. And the most common reason people have for not doing it.

And yes, it is hard to give them back. I’m heartbroken. We even spent the weekend after giving them back agonising about adopting Taylor, before deciding that three dogs was too much, especially as she will be so much bigger than Ollie and Mia.

Katie and Taylor at 10 weeks old

Katie and Taylor at 10 weeks old

I worry about them because of their breed more than any other puppy we have fostered. I wonder what kind of life they will have and hope with all my heart that they find a wonderful forever home who will love them as a member of the family.

It’s hard to give them back, but it’s worth it. And it gets easier each time and also with time. It’s so rewarding knowing you’ve given them a good start in life. And surely the pain of giving them back is worth it for all the joy they gave us while they were here. And the pain is worth it knowing that you gave two homeless puppies the chance at a better life.

So do it, if the only thing holding you back from fostering is the thoughts of giving them back, just do it.  As Garth Brooks once sang: “I could have missed the pain. But I’d of had to miss the dance”.

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Week 2: Pooing machines

Katie and Taylor have been with us for a whole week now and we’re heading into week 2. The changes in them are amazing, they are so much more sturdier, there are no more worms and they have grown so much.

Pit bull X puppyThey’re eating really well and they’re full of energy. All this good quality food has turned them into pooing machines, hence the blog post title. However, because they’re being fed the good quality food their poos (and excuse me here, I’ll try not to get too graphic) are less frequent, more predictable, more solid and less smelly. All reason enough to invest in good quality food for your pooches in my opinion!!

We’re keeping accidents to a minimum by taking them out the back straight after eating, and as soon as they wake up, when they are guaranteed to need to go to the toilet. I wouldn’t say this is house training, they’re a bit too young yet. But it saves us the constant cleaning and it is hopefully setting up good habits.

Pit bull X puppyThey pretty much sleep, eat and poo. But the gaps between sleeping are getting longer and longer and it’s so funny to watch them tumbling and wrestling with each other. They’re also getting more interested in toys in the last day or so. We have plenty of puppy toys left over from Ollie and Mia, which is great because puppies need soft toys that won’t damage their teeth. There are no real discernible personalities yet but they’re beginning to emerge.

Pit bull X puppyOllie is still pretty much ignoring their existence, but Mia is becoming more and more curious. She still isn’t playing with them and growls if they get too close but every so often I find her inching closer and closer to them to have a sniff. With each of our other foster pups it has taken about a week for her to really start playing so there may be hope yet.

Pit bull X puppy

Week 1: Gratuitous Puppy Pics

Last week I talked about fostering, why animals might need a foster home and what is expected from foster parents. This week I’m putting my money where my mouth is and I bring you: cute puppy pictures.

Four week old pit bull puppyMeet Katie and Taylor, two four week old Pit Bull X puppies. They are named after the Irish World Champion [and now Olympic Gold Medalist] female boxer Katie Taylor, because strength and power can be feminine too. I’m not going to go into the politics of Pit Bulls here other than to say I personally believe there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.

Four week old pit bull puppy

Katie

These guys will stay with us until they are nine weeks old and ready to be put up for adoption. They are adorable and I am totally in love already. They are so tiny and ideally would still be with their mother until they are eight weeks old. The Dublin SPCA have given us a crate, blankets, hot water bottle, toys and food. They’re on extra special baby puppy food because they’re so young. When we go our or during the night we have the crate set up in the utility room and the settle down pretty quickly.

Four week old pit bull puppy

Taylor

When you get over the constant cleaning up after them they are so much fun. They want to be in your arms all the time and love wrestling and playing with each other. You don’t need a telly when there are puppies around. I’ll try and post an update every week on their progress, they’re going to grow very, very quickly.

Where did you get that gorgeous puppy?

Well, where DID you get that gorgeous puppy? Don’t get me wrong, there are reputable breeders out there. But unfortunately there are also those who take advantage of consumer demand and the lack of regulation in the puppy breeding sector.

Ollie and Mia cute rescue dogs

Ollie and Mia are rescue dogs

Puppies are always popular Christmas presents (although don’t get me started on the idiocy of getting a living, breathing animal as a present!) but as the saying goes a puppy is not just for Christmas. If you are going to get a dog for Christmas do some research on your preferred breed and ask the right questions to ensure you’re not buying from a puppy farm.

Puppies from these ‘puppy farms’ are predominantly sold through classified ads online and in newspapers, and to some extent through pet shops. If you buy a dog from a puppy farm through a classified ad there is no means of comeback if the dog becomes ill or even dies. These deals are often carried out in a car park, with a disposable mobile phone number as the only means of contacting the seller.

In fact the Dublin SPCA have issues a warning after receiving a series of calls about sick puppies. They said “Every day, we deal with people regarding animal welfare issues and it concerns us greatly when we receive calls from pet owners; especially at Christmas time, who tell us they’ve purchased their pet from the back of someone’s car or boot, only to find the animal has become dangerously ill very quickly, often dying within 24 hours of them getting it home.”

Buyer beware

If you do want to get a dog there are ways you can ensure you are buying your dog from a reputable breeder.

The Dublin SPCA would advice you to first of all consider adoption. There are animal shelters across the country with hundreds of dogs looking for their forever homes at any given time. These include the Dublin SPCA, Dogs Trust, the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) and A Dogs Life, to name a few.

If you are interested in a particular breed, up to a third of dogs available for rehoming with the Dublin SPCA are pedigree dogs.  There are also breed specific rescues that you can contact and adopt through. You can contact the Irish Cavalier Rescue, the Japanese Spitz Rescue or Westie Rescue Ireland, for example.

Ask the right questions

If you really want to buy a puppy, it’s essential to ask the right questions. There are many breeders out there who are in no way connected with puppy farms, and these breeders will be happy to answer your questions. The Irish Kennel Club (IKC) maintains a database of breeders, and these breeders are bound by a code.  Once the new legislation comes into force, breeders will have to display a certificate of registration.

A good breeder will also want to ask you lots of questions. They will want to know where the dog will be sleeping, how much exercise you will give it and may even want to see your home before selling you a puppy. They will also want to ensure that you have thoroughly researched the breed of dog you are buying.

  • You should ask to see the puppies with their mother. Ideally a puppy would be well socialised with a family, but if a breeder is reluctant to let you see the mother this should set off warning bells.
  • You should ask to see the environment the puppy is kept in and NEVER agree to meet someone half way in a car park.
  • Ask about inherited conditions from the animal’s parents/grandparents.
  • You should ask for the vaccination certificate for the puppy and also the name of the vet.
  • Reputable breeders will also microchip puppies.

Introducing Ollie and Mia

Ollie and Mia have already made an appearance in a blog post or two so I thought it was time to properly introduce them to you.

Ollie

Ollie

When Rossa and I first started looking for somewhere to buy I insisted we get somewhere with a back garden because I wanted a dog. We adopted Ollie from Dogs In Distress in July of 2009. We met him in his foster home when he was 6 weeks old and was just a tiny bundle of fluff. We think he is a Shuh-Tzu/Fox Terrier X and were told he was found wandering the streets at 6 weeks old.

Ollie is a real little character. He is such a gentle soul too. He loves to play and has two games. He drops a toy at your feet and then it’s a game of ‘fastest draw’ to see if you or he gets to the toy first. His other favourite game is ‘tug of war’. When I get home or someone comes into the house Ollie will run off to find a toy for them to play with.

Ollie grown up

Ollie grown up

He’s also very clever. He know sit, down, paw and ‘bang’ where we taught him to roll over and play dead. He knows who his ‘Aunty Aoife’ is, knows that we’re going out even before we know ourselves and can instinctively tell whether he’s coming with us or not. (If he’s coming he waits by the front door, if he’s not he hides under the couch.) He knows walk, park and ‘go in the car’ and sits when we come to a road until he is told to cross.

He loves cuddles and will keep nudging your hand for more, but isn’t a snuggly dog, he won’t sit on your lap for hours, although loves to snuggle against our legs in bed (where he sleeps at the weekends).

Mia

Mia

When I started volunteering at the DSPCA I started to pine for a second dog. A friend for Ollie don’t you know. After bullying Rossa into eventually agreeing we contacted several rehoming organisations, including going back to Dogs in Distress. I think because we had kept in touch with them since we adopted Ollie we were given first choice on Mia.

We met Mia in the same foster home in November 2010. We fell in love immediately. How could you not! Mia is a Chihuahua Yorkie X and was surrendered by a family at 4 months old. The first few weeks Ollie was very jealous and we had to be careful not to give her too much attention, but bit by bit he realised she wasn’t going anywhere.

Mia all grown up

Mia all grown up

Mia is mental. Totally mental, but she is also the sweetest little thing you will ever come across. She is hyper and demanding, high maintenance and exhausting. She is also a bit thick. Alright, a lot thick. She barks at 5am at mysterious shadows in the garden and still isn’t 100% house-trained. Right now she won’t leave my hand alone as I try to type demanding cuddles.

When she gets really excited she climbs up on our shoulder and starts rolling around like she wants to cover herself in our scent. She wants ‘up’ all the time but will snuggle in against your neck or flop her head on your shoulder in a way that makes my heart melt. She is utterly adorable (even if she is crazy.)

She is besotted with Ollie and bullies him at the same time. When she gets excited she pulls at his ears, she bites his neck and pulls at his legs. But I think we can finally say they are friends. Kind of.

Waiting patiently to cross the road

Waiting patiently to cross the road