Today is the finally day of Sarge Stories. So it felt right to talk about what happened after Sarge got adopted and we were back to being a family of four. Right out the gate, it felt important to have quality time with Gus and Sophie.
One of the "sacrifices" that Gus makes when we foster is that some of his toys get shared and destroyed. I do my best to keep the very most important ones up and away. But Mr. Avocado was not so lucky this go around.
Adorable Sarge ate Mr. Avocado and Gus was kinda bummed. Gus is a big fan of this toy so I ordered a replacement to give him as a celebration of Sarge getting adopted. Below is the de-stuffed and torn up OG Avocado. He might be salvageable with a wash and some new stuffing.
Gus seemed confused when there were two avocados. Sophie was just super pumped to be included.
When Gus got to play with his new avocado, all concern dissipated. His laser focus on the toy is adorable. I'm so glad he can have his avocado back. He seems to now love Avocado #2 just as much as its predecessor.
We wanted to let the dogs know how much we appreciated them. So we got a delivery from The Seattle Barkery and Gus and Sophie were prettttty pumped. Sophie gets impatient when I want to record giving her treats. I love her little "boof" bark so much.
Then it was our turn to have some comfort food. We looked at what we had available in the house and scrapped together the ingredients for rice crispy treats. Gus is an excellent helper in the kitchen. Very attentive.
Some really amazing news came when we learned that the same day Sarge got adopted, so did another Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue alumni - Sugar! And Sugar hit the jack pot because her new family already had Joey.
I'm lucky to follow both Sugar and Joey on Instagram now. It feels so good to see updates on how awesome Sugar is doing with her new people. And if you need any evidence for why cattle dogs are amazing, please reference the photo of Joey below.
Even more good news came when I learned that Carter had been adopted. Carter was the dog that Sarge was transported with to Washington. We got to meet the big handsome dude when we picked up Sarge. Here is a video Marie was kind enough to share with the foster volunteers. You can see Sarge, Carter, and Marie's amazing dog Percy on the day we picked up Sarge.
It has been such a source of joy to see rescue working its magic, especially during this pandemic. I'm so proud to foster for Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue. Below are (from left to right) Sarge, Carter, and Tim with their new forever families.
Thats right! Our first foster Tim, who had been surrendered by his initial adopters, found his forever home. I got the news a few days after Sarge got adopted. And was over the moon.
With all these happy endings to fostering, it feels only right to share our new beginning. Here is a sneak peak at our third foster from Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue - Honey!
Honey is a two year old red heeler who had a litter of two boys and two girls. She is now spayed and coming to us from Texas in a few days and we couldn't be more excited.
Thank you Sarge for making me not only truly fall in love with fostering, but gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for everyone who makes rescue possible.
REMINDER: Next week we will be updating the shop and announcing items where 100% of the profits (not just our normal 20%) will go to Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue and to Project POOP in honor of Sarge. I'm really pumped to share with you what I've been inspired to create. And with your help raise some money for the organizations that helped make Sarge's journey possible. Stay tuned!
If you have been following along, you know how much we adore Sarge. So when I imagined what his forever home would be like I imagined one worthy of him. Never anything specific, I just wanted him to have someone that was willing to see how amazing he was and give him the best.
When we heard he had a meet and greet we were excited. Things were working a tiny bit different than they did pre pandemic. So we disinfected his long lead and gave him a good brush down. With the long lead we could maintain the 6ft rule and still safely pass Sarge between us and the potential adopter. When we told Sarge he had a meet and greet he was so excited. I think he could sense our excitement.
Here is Sarge doing a happy dance in the backyard after we told him about his meet and greet.
Although the meet and greet went great, it wasn’t a good match. No reflection on the person, just sometimes that is how it is. So we were surprised when we quickly had another meet and greet scheduled. This time everything had been streamlined. If things went well, Sarge could go home that day. Adapting the adoption process to insure everyone is safe.
Shout out to Deana for being the most amazing adoption coordinator for Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue. She found Sarge’s family. Which is no small feat when you can no longer do in person home visits - you have to do them virtually. And do everything in your power to streamline the meet and greet and adoption process for the safety of everyone involved.
I think she knew they were his people pretty quickly and shared the application with me. She told me about the phone interview she had with the family. And then all of a sudden I knew it too. The key bit of information was, this family had adopted a boarder collie mix when she was nine months old. The dog had extreme separation anxiety but they stuck with her and lived happily ever after for almost 15 years. And the details went on and on. I just sorta keep having this strong certain feeling that these were his people.
So I did my best to have Sarge absolutely ready to go home with them when the day arrived. Sarge got his nails trimmed, a bath, and brush out. The bath part was pretty amazing. If you remember from Sarge Stories - Day 5, Sarge was NOT a fan of the self serve wash station when we picked him up from transport. So we made a lot of efforts to help fix that for him. We went really slow and gentle with him. No loud water noises, lots of teats, and I stood in the tub with him.
He did pretty amazing. Major major improvement. And he still talked to me afterward, so that was great news. In fact, he was pretty concerned when I got into the shower afterward. Kept looking at me while I was cleaning the tub - like “lady why are you still in there? Get out!”
These two boys never ceased to crack me up. I loved seeing them together.
The next morning, before we were going to hit the road and drive up to Bellingham to meet his potential adopters - Sarge got a really solid brush out. We’d worked on him being ok with this way more frequently than baths. Spring time is when dogs and in particular ACDs love to dump their coat. So thank god for Ferminator brushes.
Being a stray all these grooming experiences were new and strange so again we went slow, loads of treats, and were gentle. Kind reassuring words, calm environment, the works. And he made big strides. Please ignore the insanely old floors of our little fixer upper house. Kitchen remodel is on hold at the moment for obvious reasons.
I packed a little tote bag for Sarge, just like I had done for Tim. I think this feels like a good tradition. It had enough food for 10meals, treats, a no-hide bone, thank you card for the family and a printed out fact sheet. The fact sheet I had some fun with and you can see what Sarge’s looked like below.
On the drive up I was nervous. It is hard to want something to work out so so badly and at the same time not want to say goodbye. Sarge got lots of treats on the car ride up. Mostly to make me feel better.
Sarge kept a watchful eye on the treat bag and then got sleepy. The drive up to Bellingham about about an hour an a half so he took a solid little nap.
When we pulled up to the meeting place we had already texted and emailed a bit with the family. It felt really good that they were preparing for him to come home and wanted to make things just right for Sarge. So when we saw them pull up, we got out and had Sarge on his long lead.
Sarge just went up and immediately started charming their pants off. No surprise here. It is what he does. But at the same time I think dogs just know good people when they see them, you know? Everything about the meet and greet went right. So we knew they were his family.
We handed them their little tote bag and watched them walk away to go on a family walk around the lake. While the meet and greet was happening a barred owl called from the tree line. My heart fluttered. I knew, I just knew everything was trying to tell me. Trying to tell me, this is it kid. Sarge made it. He got his happy ending and it is a pretty spectacular one at that.
Man did I cry when we got in the car and drove away. I missed that damn dog but I was so happy for him. I just really didn’t want him to think I left him because I didn’t love him. I wanted to somehow be reassured that he knew I wasn’t abandoning him. I did a much better job of having that chat with Tim before he got adopted. Things happened fast with Sarge so I just flat out forgot.
I know it is probably considered weird to be mad at yourself for not sitting down with a dog and explaining to them that you aren’t abandoning them that and they are going home with good loving people and their new family. But I’ve learned that that is an important step for me in this process and one I’ll be sure to do every time.
But right after the sadness came clarity. I knew this wasn’t going to be a “once or twice a year” thing for me. That was what we originally thought. We’d do one or two fosters during the months when market events were slower. Now I knew I had to do this again and again. After falling in love with Sarge that hard, how could I not? My god, there are so many Sarge’s out there that need help getting their shot at a happy ending. And I need to help as many as I can.
It is insane to think about that all this started because I wanted to try and find a way to celebrate the legacy of my dog Jack. Now there is a pandemic and we are going into our third foster with zero plans to stop.
Stay tuned for one more Sarge Story tomorrow. I’m excited to share more about what happened after he was adopted and how we are getting ready for our third foster to arrive.
Today’s post is all about Sarge on adventures. We only had six weeks fostering Sarge and just two and a half of those were pre pandemic changes. But we feel really lucky we were able to get him out on the town and see him work his magic.
When we picked up Sarge for fostering he had just arrived via transport in Washington. We were so lucky because just up the road there was a local pet store with a self wash station - they donated baths for fosters that just arrived. That was amazing news, Sarge was insanely cute but a little stinky. Fosters can arrive from transport in lots of different conditions, so having access to a self service dog wash right out the gate was awesome.
When we walked into the store, we were greeted by super friendly staff and Sarge was so sweet. He wasn’t a huge fan of spraying water part of the bath process. But we had to keep in mind he just finished a huge journey from Texas to Washington and had two strangers trying to wash him. So we did a quick wash, gave him lots of treats, and hit the road.
Video we sent to family of Sarge after he got his quick bath.
We were pretty hungry so we stopped by a drive-through Panera on the way home. Again, he was a freakin rock star. Super friendly and not concerned at all about the drive-through experience. Plus he had done awesome on the drive home so far and mostly laid down in the back seat.
When we arrived home we did a pack walk with our two dog, Gus and Sophie. Then had some backyard time to get to know Sarge more. He was just so warm and sweet right out the gate. I was so impressed with him. I was really excited he was our foster dog. I shared his adorableness on All Dog Kind's Instagram Stories.
A few days later - after seeing him do amazing on pack walks and see him be not only non-reactive but very friendly with every person and dog he saw - we took him on some errands. Starting with a Home Depot run. He waited in line with Justin and I for a bit as Justin made a return. Then Sarge and I did some browsing in the garden section. He hesitated with somethings - like automatic doors - but with gentle encouragement and a steady stream of training treats he took it all in stride. Even let multiple people say hello, give him pets, and tell him how handsome he was.
After Home Depot, we headed north to Swansons. Honestly one of my favorite places in Seattle. Sarge did incredible. He said hello to another dog, met more people, and flirted his tail off with some employees at the check out line to get a treat. Like this kid was for sure using his skills again as a stray dog to charm the heck out of everyone - including me.
This is one of my favorite photos of Sarge because it reminds me of that Swasons adventure. He was still learning to sit and wait for a treat. You can just see the excitement on his little face as he stares down the treat I’m holding above my phone. And his teefers. Oh god his little smile, showing his perfect little teefers. So good. SO good.
The next weekend I was vending at Fremont Sunday Market. Man I miss doing that so much. I miss getting to chat with y’all and meet your dogs. Catch up with other vendors. But that day, Justin came with Sarge about half way through the market to say hello. Sarge was a rockstar in the big crowd. He flirted with more people and picked up some treats for himself, Gus, and Sophie at The Seattle Barkery. Plus he looked pretty handsome in his bandana.
It is not too often that I get to have one of our pups stop by when I’m vending, so I couldn’t resist snapping a quick photo of Sarge in front of the cart.
Alexandra’s Macarons was two booths down I was glancing over more and more as the market day came to a close. I was dreaming about which flavors I would bring home. Then I noticed that an artist, right next to the delicious macarons, was doing on-the-spot drawings. I immediately wanted one of Sarge. Sarge and Justin had already left since they popped by for lunch. So I asked Anthony if he could do one using a photo, and he gracefully obliged.
The outcome of this portrait was just perfection. Justin and I love it so much we are going to try and collect one of every foster dog that comes into our life. Maybe make a little gallery wall of all our fosters. It is just the perfect size and it was a really lovely reminder of a special day with Sarge. So grateful I got to meet Anthony that day.
Even though a pandemic prevented us from going on any further adventures around town - we still enjoyed many more walks with Sarge. And we treasure the memories of the adventures around town we did get.
We haven’t really been able to do that with just two dogs at home. Back when we had three dogs, we’d leave Jack and Gus at home and take Sophie out on little dates. Since Gus is reactive he doesn’t enjoy these types of adventures so it was a wonderful way to have some quality time with Sophie. With Jack gone, Gus doesn’t do well being left alone. We leave a little camera on to check in when we leave the house. If we try and take Sophie for quality time, Gus just cries the entire time. So we are too big of softies to be able to stand it. Being able to leave Sophie and Gus together while taking Sarge out was such a joy. And to see Sarge shine in all his charming glory and flirt with everyone was really refreshing for Justin and I.
It feels good to be documenting these memories of Sarge. It also makes me look forward to future memories with future fosters. In fact, we got news that our next foster should be arriving next week from Texas. I’m getting so pumped to meet her and share that journey with y'all.
Stay tuned for the last two days of Sarge Stories! I’m excited to share more about fostering him and his adoption as we get ready for our third foster to arrive.
Well ya’ll today was just one of those days. But I promised myself I’d do this for seven days. Ending the series just in time to welcome our third foster pup. Originally transport was scheduled to arrive in WA this Sunday. But they got delayed and we are hoping for mid next week.
So in an attempt to stick to my 'write one blog thingie per day', self implemented rule... and instead of the normal story telling... I threw together some photos and videos of special Sarge moments. In no particular order, just for you to enjoy.
Sarge made the best faces while squishing himself as close to you as he could manage. Night or day this dude loved to cuddle.
This video of hale bouncing off his head and him being like "ok cool, grab the stuff from the truck and lets go inside now please."
Gus and Sarge had to be near each other almost all the time. This was one of their favorite spots. Since we are sheltering in place, Justin works at a standing desk in the kitchen and I work on my computer in the bedroom. Here the boys could watch us both.
Big spoon Sarge, little spoon Gus.
Took this video right after we learned Sarge could jump the "extra tall" baby gates we have in our home. He could do it without touching them or knocking them over. When he jumped them or jumped up onto our bed it looked like he went straight up and over. Like the trajectory of his body made a right angle. It was cartoonish and adorable.
When I'd let the dogs out sometimes I'd go check the laundry. We have this tiny old window that lets you see the whole back yard. Every time I looked out this old foggy laundry room window, he was pooping. And it was guaranteed to make me hysterically laugh.
Loved his flirt pole time. Look at his amazing tail as he zooms.
He took to photo shoots like a pro. And made you smile while doing it.
He also considered sitting for a treat so serious business. But after a few clicks of the camera was like "ok, it is treat time lady."
I found a cow paws video! See Sarge Stories Day 3 for an explanation of why cow paws were my absolute favorite.
Taking back yard breaks while the sunshine was a out and the birds sang, was a magical. It was only made better by watching these two dudes live their best lives: just zooming and playing nonstop. Notice Sophie in the very back of the yard, not having any of it.
Stay tuned for more Sarge Stories over the next three days! I’m excited to share more about him and our fostering journey as we get ready for our third foster to arrive.
In tomorrow's post I'll share all the adventures that Sarge wore this bandana during his time with us.
The photo for today’s post was the result of a photo shoot Sarge and I did in the back yard. He’s wearing our Spark Bandana and he looks insanely handsome. I brushed him and put on the bandana because I wanted him to look his best. We were taking these photos to give him a head shot for his adoption profile on Petfinder.
Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue is a small, volunteer based non-profit organization. They are a foster based rescue which means all of the dogs in their care live in foster homes where they are part of the family until they find forever homes. It also means that the more people foster, the more dogs can be pulled and transported out of shelters.
I’m falling hard for this rescue because of the dogs we’ve fostered, the volunteers that run it, and also because of Gus’ story. Gus was roughly one and a half when we adopted him. He had been returned or surrendered to various shelters three times before he made it to Seattle Humane and we found him. Australian Cattle Dogs are not for everyone. They take work but the reward is immense and quite frankly addicting.
I’ve never had a relationship with a dog like I do with Gus. A lot of that is due to the vast amount of training we had to go through together to give me the tools I needed to help him with his reactivity issues. I always wonder what he could have been like or been spared if we found him earlier. He has scars all over his face and he had to have extensive dental surgery (9 extractions) because of damage to his teeth and jaw. Big shout out to Columbia City Veterinary Hospital for making that surgery as smooth and positive as possible for our bonkers reactive boy. Australian Cattle Dogs and most working breeds are easily misunderstood. So I’m really grateful that I’m getting to be a part of this network of people who care and advocate for them.
In foster based rescue, foster parents are often in the best position to get great photos of the pet. Pets are in a home environment and have settled in. Their personalities start to shine and you can see it in their eyes. Thats why capturing that personality in a flattering photo can really make a difference in how many people stop scrolling and read about them and consequently how many apply for adoption. Photos which capture the pet’s personality just flat out increase a dog’s odds of finding their people. You can see an example of a photo of Sarge at the shelter. Oh he is still cute as a button but it isn’t his best. Then compare that to his sparkly little eyes in a photo from the backyard session. Big difference.
If you haven’t already - check out these solid tips and tricks for capturing photos and video as a foster parent or even just for fun as a pet parent. My friend Marika of Dirtie Dog Photography is the co-founder of The Limelight Pet Project. The project shines a light on harder to adopt rescue animals and the people who help them in the greater Puget Sound region. Featuring video interviews and photographs of the animals in local news segments, Pet Connection Magazine, and through social media.
Since COVID-19 has changed everything, it is inspiring to see how this project has pivoted. They are now conducting all interviews virtually, and have created video tutorials to help empower foster parents and rescue workers to capture high quality photographic and video content of the pets in their care. Which means these pets can still get featured on Q13 Fox and JoeTV Seattle. In fact, check out this amazing Q13 feature of Tuffy the goat from Puget Sound Goat Rescue.
But back to Sarge. If you have been following along for the previous two days, you might have found yourself asking - if you love Sarge so much why didn’t you keep him? And that, my friend, is an excellent question. So first I’m going to walk you through all the reasons I kept thinking that maybe we should keep him. That maybe he was our dog.
The first is cow paws. Sarge had cow paws. Now cow paws in a term in our household for when dogs have toe beans that are both pink and black. In other words, they have spots on their paw pads. Jack had cow paws. Really amazing big boy cow paws that used to flutter as he lay on his side dreaming that he was running very fast. In case you don’t know who Jack is, he was my heart dog. My best friend of 13 years who recently passed in September and is the inspiration behind us starting to foster.
Now that might sound like an insane reason. And I’m good with that. You see, I remember seeing the bottom of Sarge’s feet one day while he lay next to me and my heart just exploded. Man I missed having cow paws in the house. Sarge let me touch them and inspect the spots and I told him over and over how perfect he was. Again, I’m good with sounding like an insane person.
Next was that Sarge liked to swing one of his front feet around wildly to ask for attention. Many times literally punching me in the face. But we worked on that and transitioned to nudges as a more polite means of requesting pets. Jack used to do that. He was a big dog too. He was 95lbs in his prime and he would swing that leg around and wack you with one of his paws. Years and years later when we did a DNA test, turns out he was 50% boxer. Don’t know how we didn’t see that one coming. But the act of this paw punching it just seemed so wonderfully familiar.
These two seemingly strange details about Sarge held a lot more weight when my sister fell in love with him. In fact my sister told me at least once a day to keep Sarge. She even gave him the name Henry and refused to refer to him by any other name. My sister lives in California so we FaceTime a lot, even more so now that we are both sheltering in place at home. She is an animal lover but not necessarily a dog person. So the fact that she was so sure and so adamant and fell in love with Sarge so hard - it sort of took me aback.
The only other time she had talked about a dog like this was Jack. My family loved that damn dog. Because he was one hell of a dog. In fact, when I think back on it, I remember my sister fell hard for Sarge just seeing his photo. When I told her he was going to be our foster dog, I showed her pictures of him. I told her what we knew about him. Having grown up in Texas, I think she liked that they shared a home state. Her love for him made it hard to ignore the parts of me that were seeing so much of Jack in Sarge.
Gus and Sarge at my work table, asking me to take a break and play
For me these reasons were things that I thought might be “signs” but there were also some pretty obvious reasons. For example Sarge was an intuitive, sweet, loving, smart, handsome-as-all-get-out dog. Who also seemed to really love us. Sarge also fit into our family so well it, it made fostering him so SO easy. Seeing him plop right into our routines and do amazing with our dogs, made me pause. I mean the amount of sweet nap moments and cuddles that happened was insane. I couldn't help but wonder if I was ignoring those "signs". I mean a pandemic broke out and we were both working from home. There really isn’t a better time to bring a new dog into your life when when you can be home to help them adjust and get to know each other.
At some point during fostering Sarge, I learned that Tim, our first foster, had been returned. They had had Tim for less than a month and decided his separation anxiety was too much for them. It broke my heart. My mind worried that what happened to Gus was happening to Tim. It just seemed like a blow to my concept of our first foster being such a success. Should I hold onto Sarge so that that could never even be a possibility for him? It also made me think a lot about expectation setting for people when they adopt a new dog. It takes a dog months to become fully adjusted. But that is for another day. Luckily Tim had an amazing group of people who wouldn’t let what happened to Gus happen to him. So Tim went to be fostered by PNWCDR’s adoption coordinator Deana. And there he was loved while the search started again for his people.
I guess now is the part where I’m going to do my very best to explain, that in spite of everything I said above, I knew we couldn’t keep Sarge. You see, in my heart of hearts I knew that a dog this handsome and young and healthy and simply wonderful would find a home. And not just any home, but an amazing one. I kept having these little dream moments of what that home might look like for him. So for me, in this very particular situation, keeping him felt selfish. Keeping him meant that an amazing home wouldn’t get to love Sarge. Keeping him meant we wouldn’t be able to foster the next amazing dog.
But don’t mistake me, in no way is ‘foster failure’ ever selfish. I think in those situations there is no choice, they are just your dog and you know it. Or maybe you know their best shot at happiness is with you. Or maybe you’ve been fostering them for so long they are family so its just right to make it official. I had to be honest with myself, I felt confident Sarge had a really good shot at finding real happiness out there. Plus in this current pandemic, I also felt confident that there were a lot of people and families looking to adopt.
So we did everything in our power to help Sarge get ready for the moment we would find his people. And we enjoyed every moment.
Stay tuned for more Sarge Stories over the next few days! I’m excited to share more about him and our fostering journey as we get ready for our third foster to arrive.
This series is intended to tell stories about fostering and our second foster dog Sarge. Wanted to share these stories over the next few days as we prepare our home for our third foster dog! If you haven’t read Sarge Stories - Day One, feel free to catch up here.
Fostering Tim came at the perfect time. He was our first foster from Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue (PNWCDR) and he arrived on January 14, 2020. The start of the year is quiet for most small businesses. The holiday insanity has come and gone. Customers are taking it easy on spending. Events and markets take a breather. Which meant I had more time on my hands to dedicate to this whole fostering adventure.
All that seemed to be working in our favor. I think both my spouse Justin and I were waiting to see if we could even pull this off when Tim arrived. We didn’t know whether we would succeed or maybe just “make it work” with Gus and his reactivity.
In the end we did. We did pull it off and Tim went to his new family on February 17th. After fostering Tim went so well, we had to sit down and chat about if we wanted to do it again. It was a lot of work to ease Gus into life with Tim. And Tim needed love, attention, and training. He was just a young little dude, only about a year old.
I remember when Tim’s new family came to the house to pick him up, I was a so nervous. Would I cry in front of these people? Would Tim not want to go? Would Gus and Sophie be sad? All newbie foster parent worries. But Tim remembered his new family from his two meet and greets and was so excited to see them. This huge wave of relief just washed over me. Tim was happy. We had done it. Tim got his new beginning. We had achieved foster success.
Turns out our dogs were fine too. Sophie and Gus weren’t sad. It was like their friend that had been sleeping over went home. And they were both like, cool what’s next? Classic me to worry and overthink. And I wasn’t sad. After I watched their car drive off down the road, I just felt… really really good. I felt like I had done the thing I had wanted to do. I had made my dream for Jack’s legacy come true.
So what next? Back to normal? At best it was a new normal. Having only two dogs in the house felt weird. We had only lost Jack in September. Even after three months of just Sophie and Gus - two dogs felt odd. It had felt good to have three dogs again for the six weeks we fostered Tim. The boys played and played in the back yard. Cuddled on the couch. All under the watchful supervision of Sophie. The house was warm and full.
It was a now mid-February and the quiet beginning of the year was supposed to be coming to an end. March meant lots of events and markets - more time dedicated to my growing little business. All Dog Kind is a big part of Jack’s legacy too. I didn’t want to lose that or not push it to grow. So I worried about my event schedule ramping up impacting my ability to foster. Would I have enough time? Tim was such a good friend and match for Gus. Would the next foster be the same? We also had our annual road trip coming up at the beginning of May. Would that be enough time to do another foster?
My gut said leap. So I did. Because when it comes to dogs and most things, my gut steers me right. After, of course, my brain organizes and overthinks everything. Now my heart, on the other hand, is a nut job. It says things like “sell the house, buy land and start a dog rescue.” Or things like “it is totally normal to have five dogs in a <500sqft single family home in the city.” You get the idea.
So I reached out and said we were ready for another foster. I had seen a photo of a dog named Dottie and inquired about her. Marie in all her wisdom matched us with Sarge. On February 23rd, six days after Tim went home, we drove up to Burlington to pick up Sarge. He had been transported from Texas along with another dog named Carter. We pulled up to a veterinary clinic. They had this fenced in yard right next to the parking lot where we could all meet. My heart fluttered when I saw them. Sarge and Carter were romping around with Marie and her amazing dog Percy. It felt special to get to pick him up the day he arrived in Washington. In my dazed excitement, I remember Marie saying something like “yeah he seems like a good one. Heather sent him to us. She always sends us good dogs.” I didn’t realize it at the time but that was going to be an important piece of information.
Sarge settled in perfectly. A few days in I realized I never really dug deep into the information we had on him. Just skimmed a few pieces of info. Mostly looked at pictures and videos that showed how sweet he seemed and dove in. I just remember reading he was a stray that people had seen around town in Balmorrhea, TX. Something about how he hung out by the grocery store, being cute and trying to get food. So I went back and dug deeper.
There was a document the Alpine Humane Society had put together on Sarge for Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue. You can see a picture of it below. It almost looks like a little flyer for him. The sentence that stopped me in my tracks was “We don’t know much about his history, as Sarge was rescued from a highway pullout after his dog partner had been hit by a car.” I was reading this with my computer in my lap and Sarge napping on the couch next to me. I just started to cry. He woke up like “lady what’s wrong?” And I looked him straight in the eyes and asked “why didn’t you tell me?” He just walked from his spot on the couch into my lap (as I quickly removed the computer) sat down and kissed my face.
This was the moment that solidified he was an old soul in my heart. He was far too young be that wise. It can be so easy to forget how far they have come by the time they get to you as a foster. As best I can tell Sarge had been picked up by animal control, brought to a local shelter, pulled from the shelter, placed in foster care in Texas for a month, then transported to Washington State. A lot of people had to give a crap to make that happen. A lot of people had to care whether Sarge made it.
A few weeks later, Marie shared an annual report with the rescue’s foster group. Saying it was from one of their independent rescue partners, Heather Hall. That Heather was located in Terlingua TX outside of Big Bend National Park. And so far, Heather had sent PNWCDR seven dogs - Venus, Serena, Panda, Tasmin, Timmie, Tango and Sarge. So naturally I was curious and opened up the document to read. Heather had reached on on Instagram after I had posted about Sarge and tagged PNWCDR. It was amazing to connect, we had chatted about how Sarge was doing, how wonderful he is, and how grateful I was she sent him to PNWCDR. I knew she helped get him to us but I no idea what else she was doing.
The annual report tells an incredible story and I highly recommend you read it. It is inspiring. Like make you jump up and down in your living room inspiring. Growing up in the south (SC & NC) and having half of my family be from El Paso, TX - I’m familiar with how the vast majority of our country simply doesn't have the rescue infrastructure built yet. So I have a soft spot for people who are trying to make that happen. And I’m a little biased because starting a project like this sounds like something my heart screams for me to do all the time.
And to be quite honest - this annual report and this project underlines everything important about this story so far. That when people connect and collaborate and help each other real magic happens for these animals.
Heather coordinates transports for all the area shelters and in 2019 started The Underground Dog: Project POOP. POOP is an amazing acronym for Pups Out Of Presidio, because the project is focused on the Presidio Animal Shelter. She is doing an incredible job of partnering with her local animal control officer, working with other rescues like One Tail At a Time-PDX, creating access to veterinary care, building a foster network, working with local government to change policies. And again, I’d like to emphasize, 2019 was her first year doing this project. And she did it with an annual budget of less than 15k. To put it plainly, Project POOP helped vaccinate, sterilize, foster, nurse back to health, transport and/or adopt 94 dogs and 10 cats from the Presidio Animal Shelter, and 7 more local dogs. When I read that statement it makes me feel powerful. Like change is possible.
You see Sarge’s journey cracked it all open for me. I felt like the rescue world just split open and unfolded before me. I saw it in a way I just had not before. I had touched pieces of the puzzle in the past. I helped transport dogs when I was in college. I’d pick up an hour or two of driving and we’d daisy chain these little babies to a foster home or a forever home. It was great. I’d volunteered with rescues at adoption events and with nonprofits building backyard fences. One time I held a puppy that was the last of his litter at an adoption event for hours. I had seen his mom and all his siblings get adopted. Then right as the event was ending helped him get adopted. Months later bumped into him and his new family at local dog event. All this to say, I had experienced bits of the magic.
This time it was different. I was only six weeks of Sarge’s story. But the amount of love I felt for him was on a new level. It made me feel this immense connection to everyone who had brought him to me. To everyone that made it possible for this dog to live and be happy - I felt deep gratitude. Falling in love with Sarge made me vividly see all the steps that could or could not have happened for him.
Next week I’m going to be launching some new items in the shop - and 100% of the profits from those items (not just our normal 20%) are going to go straight to Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue and to Project POOP in honor of Sarge. I'm really pumped to share with you what I've been inspired to create. And with your help raise some money for the organizations that helped make Sarge's journey possible.
Stay tuned for more Sarge Stories over the next few days! I’m excited to share more about him and our fostering journey as we get ready for our third foster to arrive.
I wanted to share Sarge’s story because, he is our second foster. And I have this insanely strong feeling that in five years I’m going to look back and remember falling in love with him as a transitional point in my life.
Before Jack died I did my best to gingerly imagine life after him. I was dreading the idea of life without him. Many days the idea alone made me crumble into pile of goo. Anticipatory grief is real. But still, I felt this need to find something to hold onto to that was on the other side - to see what this terrible loss might make possible. For me, my heart kept screaming foster. So I held onto that. I held onto this picture of bringing dogs into our tiny home and being a safe and kind place for them to land before they went off to their new lives. I wanted it to be part of Jack's legacy. I wanted him to live on through us helping these foster dogs.
I remember revealing wanting to foster to a few loved ones. The concerns were reasonable, but I was stubborn. “Oh god, Lauren, you’re going to adopt the first one you foster.” “Wait doesn’t Gus want to murder like every dog he meets?”
Then the day came. On September 23rd, I held the paw of my best friend of 13 years as he quietly and peacefully slipped away. I had adopted Jack when I was 19 and he was around two years old. Thirteen years is a lot of years. Even more so when those years take you from your teens to your thirties. Navigating the grief taught me a lot and it changed me.
About a month after Jack passed, I was vending at a work event at Optimism Brewery here in Seattle. I had this amazing candid conversation with a woman about loosing her dog and about fostering. We both were low key crying in the middle of this event. I wish I could remember her name. But I’ll never forget what she told me. When I told her I wanted to start fostering, she said “you have to promise yourself you won’t keep the first one. No matter what.” She explained that if you did, then you wouldn’t be able to help all the others that would have come after. I went home that night and told my spouse Justin what she had said. And he agreed. So right then and there we promised each other, no matter what, we wouldn’t keep the first one.
On January 14, three and a half months after Jack, we got our first foster Tim. And he tested that promise. He wasn’t perfect but he was insanely cute, sweet, and loaded with potential. We loved him. Which brings me to the second hesitation most people brought up - Gus.
After Jack passed, we still had Sophie our 12 year old and Gus is our three year old. We rescued Gus from Seattle Humane on January 4th, 2018. About three weeks into having him he revealed to us that he was both people and dog reactive. We went through some deep and heavy training with him to address his reactivity (shout out to Ahimsa Dog Training!). Doing our best to learn as much about dog behavior as possible. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but wow that process taught us a lot. And brought us closer to Gus. So we had to do everything in our power to make sure we wouldn’t set Gus up for failure with a foster.
To the best of our knowledge, Gus is an Australian Cattle Dog (ACD). Maybe one day we will do that DNA test like we did for Sophie and Jack. But we mostly assume he’s 100% ACD. Although he is dog reactive, he has dog friends like Arthur, Bailey, and Luna. We have been able to have those dog friends in our home and even dog sit them. So when I submitted our foster application to Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue, I made sure to highlight Gus and his reactivity.
In my bonkers mind, Gus might have the best chance at success if we fostered other ACDs. So when the time came to do our home inspection and make sure we were good candidates for fostering, Marie was amazing. She was able to see Gus for what he was, just an anxious goofball doing his best.
When our first foster Tim came home, we took it very slow. I mean slow. I was hyper vigilant. Every door in our tiny house had a baby gate. We did crate rotation. Gus wore a muzzle. I guess all fairly normal stuff for people in the dog rescue community, but I was like a new mom nesting. I didn’t want to mess this up.
The real magic happened on pack walks. I would walk Sophie and Tim while Justin followed us with Gus. Over a few weeks we finally felt good about Gus and Tim mingling on long leads. It went fantastic. And we kept taking small steps. Then sooner than we knew it they were best friends - cuddling, playing all the time. The caution was no reflection on Tim, it was a just our first time. You know? We felt like newbies. We didn’t want to fail Tim or fail Gus. Thinking about the progress that was made is kind of nuts. Patience yielded some beautiful things.
Our first pack walk with Sarge, the day we brought him home
We fostered Tim for five weeks. Then six days later we picked up Sarge. When Sarge came home, we did our first pack walk. Followed the same formula. Me, Sophie, and Sarge up front while Justin and Gus followed. It almost seemed like the progress made with Tim transferred right to Sarge. Gus was curious but not stressed on the walk. They even booped each other. We still took it slow, didn’t want to push our luck. But wow, the bond Sarge and Gus made blew us away. Seeing our dog Gus fall in love with Sarge as much as we did was magical.
We fostered Sarge for five and a half weeks. The more we got to know him and learn his story the harder we fell for him. It feels good to document this experience. It feels good to share it too. I want something to come back to, something to mark this point in my life. The story of everything Sarge made possible.
Stay tuned, I’m going to share more of his story over the next few days as we prepare our home for our third foster dog.
Well, I learned a new thing y'all! And I'm pretty excited about it. I sort of want to make everything an illustrated GIF now! That's why I've added them to the shop!
Here are two of my favorite examples at the moment. The first is of our dog Gus. He makes insane eye contact with the camera when we have his ball right above the camera lens. So it only seemed right to capture his dedication in a little GIF.
This second GIF is of our foster dog Sarge. He got adopted this past Thursday and I miss his goofy presence very much. But I can't say enough about the amazing family that adopted him. He's gonna have the best life. It makes my heart happy thinking about how he was a stray in Texas and now has a loving family here in Washington.
One thing that Sarge did that I loved was jump on the bed and plop himself in your lap and stare up at you. Many times he'd get comfy and fall asleep there. Then pop awake because he didn't want to miss anything fun that I or the other dogs might be doing. So here is a sweet little GIF of sleepy Sarge.
I'd love to help make a GIF of a special moment or quirky characteristic of your pet. They make an awesome gift to send someone some joy they can share.
The final product is emailed to you or the gift recipient and includes...
- a .gif file perfect for website use or text messages
- a .mov file formatted for sharing as an IG Post
- a .mov file formatted for sharing as an IG Story
Instagram can't post .gif files at the moment, so I make you a roughly 15sec video loop of your GIF as the perfect work around. ;) The movie file for IG Stories is formatted to fill the whole screen for a nice clean look. An example of the Gus Illustrated GIF formatted for IG Stories is below.
Since I am used to mailing all my portrait products with a thank you card, I wanted to do the same for this digital offering. So I made a digital thank you card that will be included in the final product email. It can also be used to include a gift note from you to the recipient.
I'm really excited to see where these portraits go. But even more so, I'm excited that these GIFs can be little pockets of joy that we can share and send to one another. You can order your Illustrated Pet GIF here.
Stay well out there!