Does This Happen To You?

Is it just me or do random people at the store stop you to talk and ask questions of you too? I’m talking total strangers that I have never seen before.

There was the lady who was determining what kind of cat food to get. I was there getting cans of cat food for my 15 year old cat who would eat nothing else. Little did I know that by entering the pet aisle that I would become her prime suspect. She saw the food I put into the cart and asked, “Do they like it?”. Umm, no I just buy this to stack around the house? Of course, I responded that yes, this was the only thing that Lacey the cat would eat. Then I got to hear a little about her cats.

Next I was asked about a number of other brands on the shelf. I had no experience with most of them. Then it was, “Do you think Brand X is good for them?” Umm, you really should discuss it with your vet if you think that your cat has special needs. I thought this would be my opportunity to make a break for it. I don’t mind helping people but I had already spent some time on this and I had to get home. Not to mention, this lady was in desperate need of a bath. Mercifully, I was not all that close to her but I didn’t need to be. I explained to her that I was on my way home from work so really needed to get going.

I should have been faster with my departure. “What kind of litter do you use”, was next on her agenda. She wanted to discuss the merits and my experience with the various cat litters. I gave her a few words of advice and moved to leave. She was still talking as I made my way down the aisle and I called have a nice day. I could still hear her as I left the aisle. I’ve always wondered if she was still standing there talking by the time the next unsuspecting soul came along.

Driving home I thought there went 15 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. I can only hope that this random shopper’s life was improved in some way by our discussion. Whether it be from some advice I gave her, or just that someone took 15 minutes out of their day to talk to her.

There was also the day that a friendly lady asked me about acorn squash in the produce department. She seemed nice and mercifully was well groomed.

Her: Do you know anything about acorn squash?
Me: Yes, it is delicious.
Her: (Picking up random squash) Does this one look good? How about this one” (And so on, until she had the appropriate squash.
Me: (Thinking she is all set now and we are done)
Her: Ok, what do I do with this?
Me: (Gave her various cooking methods)
Her: Well, what do you cook with it?

So I gave some more suggestions and made my get away.

These are the most notable instances but these types of encounters seem to happen to me from time to time. I went home one day and asked my husband, “Does it say Sucker or Has no life on my forehead? He said no, that he thinks people can sense that I am a kind and caring person. I like his answer better so that’s the one we are going with.


Some Things That I Have Learned While Fostering Dogs

People go to adopt a dog from a foster home or shelter and take their impressions of the dog from what they immediately see. And really, for the average adopter, they think what you see is what you get. Not so much. If you had been abandoned, sent to a new home, or your best friend had died, or you were in an unfamiliar situation for a host of possible reasons, would you be at your best? You would be in unknown territory and so would have to try to adapt with whatever skills you had or just try things and see what worked. This is what so many dogs are doing when a potential adopter comes to meet them.
With luck, the dog will be happy go lucky and thrilled to see every new person and go joyfully with them wherever they want to go and do whatever they want to do. This rarely happens. And really, would you go with a stranger, without reservations, and do whatever they asked of you? I think not. In fact, the argument might be made that this would be foolishness. Why then, do we ask it of dogs?

Often the dogs are sad, afraid, looking for safety. Trusting you to provide what they need is something that must be earned. If they came from a good, loving home, hopefully this will come quickly. If they have never had care, love, and safety, they must learn that these things are available and will be a constant in their lives. Expecting a new dog to integrate immediately into your life is not likely to happen and not fair to the dog.

Sometimes I have seen a family come to meet one of our foster dogs and have an immediate bond. This is rare. Usually the dog becomes anxious and sometimes panicy when it is time to leave with the new owners. Sometimes the foster dog tries to get out of the car and gives us a pitiful look with forlorn or panicked eyes. Or acts dejected. On fortunate occasions the dog is just happy to go for a car ride and jumps in. And these are dogs that have been living in our home, which admittedly is not very normal, but is loving, with lots of attention and company from humans and other animals.

Think then what it must be like for a dog living in a shelter or pound. Don’t get me wrong, most of these places now are wonderful, doing the best they can to provide for the animals in their care and often doing a fine job. Still, the animals are there because, for some reason, they have lost their homes, if they ever had a true home. And these places are not homes, even though they may simulate them. Workers and volunteers still have to go home at night. It is not physically possible for the sheer number of animals seeking homes to have an actual home to stay in during this transition.

These dogs in shelters and pounds can exhibit behaviors like slinking in the back of the cage, cage aggression-protecting the only thing they know, and shutting down, becoming non-reactive, or exhibit fearful shaking. These dogs do not “show” well to potential adopters. They get passed by, so spend longer in the shelter, which makes them have more negative reactions as they spend even longer in the shelter. It can become a vicious circle. Getting them out of their cages for walks and one on one interactions can help. It gets them out of that reactive situation.

With all dogs that you are meeting though, in foster homes or shelters, don’t expect miracles. The true personality of the dog may not emerge until you have adopted them and had them in your home for a while. How then can you make a decision on who to adopt? Well you can take them out of the current setting if possible and see if there is a connection with you and your family, including any other dogs you may have. It would also be wise to ask the shelter workers for their advice and opinions of the dogs and what is normal for them.

My experiences while fostering have taught me that, on average, the true personality of a dog won’t begin to emerge for about a week, maybe longer. Once they start to develop a routine and become familiar with a place, they start to relax and do things that seem normal to them. So keep in mind that input from someone who has spent some time with the dog can be invaluable!

All photos are of past dogs that we have fostered. 

Bernice’s Dogs

Nikki and friend

Nikki, Shelby and I visit our friends at the nursing home twice every month. We love them! How could you not?

Last evening when we arrived, Bernice said to me “I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve been waiting for you all day!” We are listed on the monthly activity calendar as Pet Therapy on the second and fourth Mondays of every month. Bob, Andy, Norma, George, Max, Helen, and an ever changing assortment of others sit and visit with us for an hour. 

Bernice then went on to tell me that she told the servers at supper that she needed her ice cream now! They commented that she wasn’t done with her meal yet. She said it didn’t matter, she needed her ice cream because the dogs were coming and she didn’t want to be late! Bernice said “I pushed that food aside and ate my ice cream and got out here to wait for you.” She ate the best, most important part. A woman after my own heart. 

Shelby visiting

We meet in a main area where people congregate so that we can visit with a number of people. Nikki likes to stay on the couch unless I put her on someone’s lap. No touching the floor for that girl. She sits in the middle so the first people to make it to the ends of the couch get to spend lots of time with Nikki. 
Shelby is more a working kind of girl. She likes to keep making the rounds and visiting new arrivals and passers by. If someone goes by without petting her, she tries to follow them down the hall. She knows her job and is determined to do it. 

So although we are visiting with the group, Bernice tells everyone that goes by “this is my dog Nikki. And that one over there,Shelby, is my dog too.” Sometimes I take the leash and make sure everyone gets a chance to pet the dogs. This makes Bernice say, in a pitiful voice, “but I want to hold her”. Still, we try to play fair and take turns. 

All the residents thank me for coming every time we visit. And Bernice tells me over and over how happy she is that we come to visit. I think I’m making a real impression. Bernice asked me what my name was last night! That is quite a rarity. I am just the dogs’ chauffeur most of the time. 

At the end of our visit, I ask Nikki if she is hungry and wanting her food. Her ears go up, she deigns to jump on the floor, to everyone’s amusement, and we say our goodbyes. Two more weeks and we do it all again. I can’t wait!


There is no way you could get me to trade this for a tidy little house in town. 

Sometimes it does sound appealing to me but very rarely. When I think about having nice, clear city water, it doesn’t sound so bad. You know, you just turn the tap on, and out it comes, magically iron-free and ready to use. 
In the winter time, you drive a short distance down the street, or maybe even walk, and you can buy things without risking life and limb on slippery snow covered roads. 

But here, I am free. I can sit outside and listen to the crickets. I can hear the wind blowing across the little valley. I can plant beds upon beds of flowers on one side of the house and vegetables on the other. 

And most importantly, I can have all the dogs I want. Well, not quite that many! I am constrained by time and money. But one day I will be retired and then I will only be constrained by money. Beware!

My mother-in-law liked to quote a poem that began “When I am an old lady I shall wear purple…” Well I already wear purple so either I am already an old lady (hmmm, I guess that’s relative) or I am going to do things more outrageous than are quoted in the poem.  Let’s hope for the latter. 

Wow, that is one bunch of random thoughts. Well, if you know me, you know that is how my mind works. I don’t claim to have them organized, just to have lots of them. Until my next random spilling of thoughts…

Peace be with you. 

Some people say that a sign of high intelligence is the ability to use tools. In fact, at one time it was thought that only humans were intelligent enough to use tools. Other animals have since been found to employ the use of tools. 

Tools are used to make survival easier. Wouldn’t a greater sign of intelligence be the use of toys? Toys are used for fun and play.  Although I suppose the argument could be made that play is practice for skills needed later in life.

Still play does not support immediate survival. So I think that only highly developed animals play. Food for thought.