Sunday, July 13, 2014

Foster Fail

I had heard the term before.  I assured my husband it would NOT happen to us.  I had fostered once before, and although I cried (a lot) when I placed the dog – I absolutely understood my role as a foster.
I pointed out that a number of our friends and neighbors foster, with great success.  I also argued that fostering a dog was a great way to see how Boomer and the cats would react to another dog.
Finally, I made my most emotional plea – by stepping up and fostering, we would be saving a dog.  Rescues can only pull as many dogs as they can place either temporarily or permanently.
We got our first Aussie, Hobie, from Aussie rescue a number of years ago – so Aussie Rescue Placement and Helpline (ARPH) is my rescue of choice.  Over the years I have donated to and volunteered for ARPH.  Most recently, I have helped on the administrative side – checking personal and vet references of potential adopters, conducting home visits of potential adopters and helping to transport a couple of dogs.
Earlier this year I jumped in with both feet and volunteered to foster.  We were approved and on the list!  Our criteria was pretty simple – our foster dog needed to get along with the cats.  Our Aussie Boomer gets along with everyone – including the cats, and we didn’t want another dog, even a temporary one to upset our feline/canine balance.
Our ARPH rep emailed me one day to say that there was a pending cat-friendly owner give up in West Virginia and once he was vetted and evaluated by ARPH, we’d likely be asked to foster.  I confirmed, we were still available and ready for the challenge.  For reasons I no longer remember, it was taking a while to get the dog in the system.  While we waited, we were asked to help transport Kacey, keep her overnight, and then take her to her foster.
We met Kacey in a large corporate parking lot in Centerville, VA.  She had been pulled from a high-kill shelter in Roanoke, VA.  At 9.5 years old, she was an owner give up because “the landlord would not them keep her.”  An all-breed rescue worked with ARPH to get Kacey from the shelter and to us. 
Kacey arrived with a number of dogs making the trip to freedom and a forever home from southwest Virginia.  At least six other organizations received dogs that morning, including Lab Rescue and a group that works with tri-pods (dogs with 3 legs).  We were NOT the last trip to the day – I think we were the second of four stops.
The moment I laid eyes on Kacey I was overcome with sadness and a desire to protect her.  Trying very hard not to judge (but for the grace of God go I), it broke my heart that this poor dog was given up after nearly 10 years of being with a family, sent to a shelter, and now being driven across Virginia.  She was matted and a little stinky.  Her breathing was labored.  She was dazed and confused.  She looked at me with her sad eyes as if I was her lifeline.
Kacey on the world's most expensive dog bed
We brought her home – gave her two baths.  Brushed and cut out her mats.  Even the fur on her paws was matted and her nails were so long it made it difficult for her to walk.   Once in the house, she jumped up on the sofa (or as I call it, the world’s most expensive dog bed) and went to sleep – snoring away. 
One of Kacey's favorite positions
That night she slept at the foot of our bed.  The next day I took Kacey and Boomer for a walk.  She was great.  Very happy to be out and about.  Wonderful with other dogs – just happy to be with us. 
Later that day we took her to her new foster.  I said to my husband as we were leaving, “we should have just kept her.”  I was sad to hand her off.
A week later, I was on my way to New York for client meetings when Aussie rescue called me.  Kacey was not a good fit for her foster family – would we be willing to take her back since she did so well at our house.  I was thrilled that she’d be back.  A quick call to my husband and coordinating some transportation – we had Kacey back in two days.  It was clear she was happy to see us.
Boomer and Kacey at the Hardware store
Over the next six weeks we learned that Kacey has a bit of arthritis, she is hard of hearing and has some vision issues.   She’s also a counter surfer (and an ingenious one at that, utilizing a table cloth, bag handle or chair to her advantage). She loves the cats (and their litter box).  She follows Boomer anywhere and enjoys his many outings (including doggie daycare and the dog park.  She doesn’t really play, but she observes and gets lots of attention.  She also has a number of fans at both).   Boomer in return has developed into her younger big brother – he’ll run and play, but circle back to check on her. 
Kacey about to shop at Crate and Barrel
Overall, Kacey is a very low-key, low-maintenance Aussie.  Getting her out and moving, along with regular doses of Dasuquin, have helped her stiffness to the point where she’ll actually trot a bit – but she’s a happy and willing walker!  I think Boomer also keeps her motivated.  She's also a very loving, sweet and content little dog.  We've had a number of house guests and parties since she came to stay with us and she's enjoyed both!
Last week we officially adopted Kacey. 
Our ARPH rep said she wasn’t surprised.  The gang at the dog park knew it was going to happen.   My guess is that Kacey also knew it would happen, it was simply a matter of time.  We absolutely adore her and cannot imagine our home without her.
Kacey enjoys the Aussie Meetup at the Zoom Room
Boomer and Kacey after a day of wine tasting in Virgina
I will continue to support ARPH and the dogs they save and serve.  Hopefully Kacey’s story will encourage others to volunteer, foster and adopt.  I tear up to think of her fate had the collective ARPH community not engaged.  PawsGo ( promotes a number of rescue groups through Facebook and Twitter.  We are always happy to share and support more.  Social media is a powerful tool in supporting organizations and saving wonderful animals, so share a photo, a link or a tweet!  Also, share your story.  We'd love to include it in our blog!
If you'd like to support ARPH and the work they do, you can purchase one of these t-shirts.  The original design is from PawsGo.  They are 100% cotton and printed in the U.S.  50% of your purchase goes directly to ARPH.  Sizes s,m,lg, and xl -- for 2lx and 3xl, please send us a message, they are not on the website. (

Boomer, Kacey and Delta Burke



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Dog Digs Del Ray

My husband and I, along with our two dogs and two cats live in a magical place called Del Ray – at least the dogs think it’s magical.  My husband and I think it’s a wonderful place to live and the cats are very happy with the urban wildlife they watch from their various indoor perches.

Del Ray is a front porch neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia – a couple miles from historic Old Town, a couple of miles from the Pentagon and about 6 miles from the U.S. Capitol.  Our inside the beltway oasis, “Where Main Street Still Exists”, features tree lined streets, pocket parks and is home to some of the area’s best restaurants, shops, and dog friendly stops. 

 Our neighborhood was once home to a race track (our 1920 Bungalow is built on one of the turns). Gambling, drinking and the various nefarious activities that come with gambling and drinking were once the order of the day for Del Ray.  The majority of Del Ray's inhabitants worked at the Potomac Yard rail yard -- the rail yard's carpenter built and lived in the house across from ours.  His granddaughter owned it and ultimately sold it in the mid-1990s.
A century later -- the President  frequently stops by for pizza, a burger, or frozen custard.  And our little neighborhood is often featured on HGTV’s House Hunters.

With every season there is a celebration in Del Ray.  In the spring we have the House Tour, the summer brings A Taste of Del Ray and First Thursdays.  The first First Thursday of the summer season honors our canines -- Dog Days of Del Ray.  Local businesses lure dogs and owners with agility courses, first aid for dogs, treats, toys and demonstrations. Area rescue groups line the streets with adoptable dogs and cats -- for the rare family that has neither, or more than likely, needs another!
In the fall, it’s Art on the Avenue, a Halloween parade and the annual Turkey Trot 5 mile run.  Winter and the holidays bring a tree lighting and our main street lined with luminaries.  Our farmer’s market operates year round and serves as the Saturday morning gathering place.  
Lest you think these celebrations are small neighborhood gatherings, the First Thursday festivals are typically enjoyed by over 1,000 people, the Turkey Trot boasts 5,000 runners, the Halloween parade has upwards of 8,000 attendees, and I am told that Art on the Avenue draws as many as 30,000 people to our neighborhood.  They are also dog friendly, because everyone in Del Ray has a dog!
Art on the Avenue

Walk down Mt Vernon Avenue, or The Avenue, as well call it and your dog will pull you into the bank,  dry cleaner, hardware store, garden shop, pharmacy, boutique, bike shop, car dealer, coffee shop, or duh – the natural pet food or dog accessory store, because they all have TREATS!

The Greener Cleaner

Our Neighborhood Hardware Store and the Purple Goose, a children's clothing store

Boomer at United Bank, politely making a withdrawal
We typically begin our mornings at St Elmo’s Coffee Pub, where  dogs await their reward for, well, waiting while humans get their lattes.   Owners pay it forward by ensuring the free treat jar is always filled for not only the next day, but the next dog and owner that stop in.
St Elmo's

Del Ray is also home to the area’s first dog park.  A group of frequent users are working with the City of Alexandria  to raise money and make improvements to the park.  From lemonade and coffee sales to t-shirts and a mobile boutique called The Thread Truck ( – Del Ray dog lovers and business owners are working together to ensure the dog park is safe, healthy and fun!

T-Shirts to support the dog park are being sold at  Nature's Nibbles

If you’re hungry for Ethiopian, Thai, French, Mexican, pizza, sushi, barbeque, Italian, burgers, subs , a salad or just a glass of wine and some cheese --  you can find it in Del Ray.  And for the most part – your dog can join you on the patio.  
Del Ray Pizzeria
The Del Ray Café, a delicious French restaurant which unfortunately doesn’t have a patio to accommodate dogs, has more than made up for its architectural snafu by creating addictive dog treats.  Created by a classically trained French chef, the Del Ray Café’s dog treats are baked in house and contain chicken liver and bacon (I am told they are delicious).  The friendly staff will see a dog walking outside (sometimes before the restaurant opens) and happily bring them a treat, just another example of the magic of Del Ray.

Del Ray Cafe
To learn more about Del Ray, restaurants, events,  and all our neighborhood has to offer go to  Bring your dog and spend the day!
Dog Friendly Del Ray
Dogs are welcome and/or treats are provided
Del Ray Cafe
Nature's Nibbles

The Caboose Café
Taqueria Poblano
Los Tios
Pork Barrel Barbeque
Holy Cow
St Elmo's Coffee Pub
Del Ray Pizzeria
The Greener Cleaner
The Neighborhood Pharmacy

Meat on the Avenue
United Bank
Thai Peppers
The Front Porch
Evening Star
The Hardware Store

Bon Vivant Market and Cafe
The Dog Store
The Dog Store
The Del Ray Café
Kaizen Tavern

Velocity Bikes


Nature's Nibbles
Rosemarino d'Italian
Burke and Herbert Bank
Alexandria Hyundai
Greenstreet Gardens of Del Ray
Arlandria Floors
Greenstreet Gardens of Del Ray

Swet Ride

Stomping Ground


The Del Ray Famer's Market
(Saturday's 8 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., treats are sold but dogs must be kept outside the market.  Most people safely tie their dogs up around the market's perimeter.  Nearby vendors and neighbors are happy to keep an eye on dogs.)

These market bags are available at the Neighborhood Pharmacy and great for a day of dog friendly shopping.
Dog Friendly Events in Del Ray (check or Visit Del Ray on facebook, for dates and times)
First Thursdays (the first Thursday of every month, May - September 6-9 p.m.)
Art on the Avenue
The Halloween Parade
The Turkey Trot (separate start and registration for runners with dogs)
The Holiday Tree Lighting

Boomer, Kacey and Delta Burke