Following up with Daisy

Thank you to HSHV volunteer Sandra Pruden for adopting Daisy and then for giving me permission to share her beautiful photos.  See the gorgeous adolescent, and then adult, Daisy below!

Sandra reports that Daisy is a joy (but we already knew that!).  She is a beloved member of the family.  Sandra told me that her granddaughter’s first word was Daisy!  She loves snuggles and belly rubs and gets plenty of them!

Daisy’s fur-ever home is a kitty wonderland of climbers, cat trees, and the classic cardboard box! 

She enjoys supervised outdoor time in Sandra’s secured backyard (Sandra has emphasized these safety features to me a few times when sharing outdoor photos of Daisy, which lets me know just how knowledgeable she is, both about how much cats enjoy outside time and about keeping them safe). 

I am so happy to know that Daisy (the very dog-like cat!) ended up in such a loving, perfect home.  She is clearly living her best life!

To learn more about volunteering at the shelter or fostering animals in your home, please visit the HSHV’s volunteer page.

Learn more about available animals at HSHV, and the adoption process.

If you are not local but do want to get involved, find your local animal shelter online and learn more.

Following up with Morgan, Part 2

While at the shelter this morning, I asked about Morgan.  We had fostered her two years ago, and while our time together had ended with her biting Livie (to the tune of a $300 vet visit!), we still thought of her fondly. 

We had wondered where she was and what she was up to on numerous occasions.  I had shied away from asking questions about her; I tend to default to trying to not be intrusive or obnoxious, often unduly and to a fault.

But I asked today.  The staff member searched for Morgan and I saw her face change when the answer popped up on her screen.  I knew before she said it.  I think I knew before I asked. 

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Morgan had been humanely euthanized a few months after her foster period with us.  Her cancer, the reason she had been placed in foster in the first place, had returned.  The veterinary staff had deemed her inoperable, and sometimes humane euthanasia is preferable to several months of painful decline. 

Morgan had spent about a month at the shelter and about three months in a loving foster home (without other dogs with whom to compete for her rightful place on the couch!) before euthanasia.  I like to think she had found peace before passing.

HSHV has the highest save rate of any shelter in Michigan and is committed to helping as many animals as possible recover, rehabilitate, and find loving forever homes. Sometimes, however, humane euthanasia is the kindest option, for the animal or for the community. Read more about HSHV and their no-kill efforts.

Read more about our time with Morgan by selecting Canine Fosters from the top menu to access any of the posts about her.

Just when I thought I knew how to walk a dog…

I returned to the shelter the following week to walk dogs again.  After my unfortunate mistakes on my first shift, I was armed and ready with knowledge and confidence. 

Today wasn’t as snowy as the day last week, but it was still cold…the kind of cold in which your nostrils freeze closed a little with every inhalation, then thaw as you exhale (that’s not just me, is it?!).  I decided to zip my gloves into my jacket pockets while leashing dogs so this pair would survive another week. 

I was happy (and sad) to see Renalda.  She was a red circle dog, meaning that she was house trained and should be one of the first to go out in the mornings.  She had not yet been walked, and she had been such a pleasure to walk the previous week, so I signed her out.  I had noted, along with several other volunteers, her injured paw, and the shelter vets had fitted her with a boot to protect the paw on her walks.  While I was happy that she was being treated and on the mend, I was nervous about my own ability to put on the boot.  I was remembering jumpy Ranger (who had been adopted in the past week!!) as I entered Renalda’s kennel with her harness and boot.  I needn’t have worried, however, as that sweet girl wagged calmly and patiently while I put on her implements.

Renalda picked up her booted foot awkwardly as we strolled.  We walked around both trails and she peed and pooped, but she didn’t seem particularly pleased to be out and about.  After our 15 minute walk, I could tell she wanted to go back in, so we headed back to the kennels.  Renalda and I enjoyed some snuggle time and pets before I slipped out. 

Next, I decided to take Nabisco for a walk.  The small pitty had been an easy walk for me the week before and I get attached to animals quickly (as I imagine most of my readers do!), so I wanted to take him out again.  I slipped into his kennel, applied his harness, and out we went. 

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A dog that looks a lot like Nabisco
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A Nabisco look alike

As we walked along the back trail, Nabisco had a different energy to him.  He kept grabbing the leash in his mouth, closer and closer to my hand!  I employed the soft toy in my apron pocket to distract him.  The soft toy would work momentarily, but then Nabisco would drop it and grab the leash again.  I picked up the toy and then he lunged for it and I tossed it out in front of him to keep him moving in the right direction. 

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A dog biting the leash

Nabisco got interested in sniffing, so I pocketed the toy and we exited the gate that leads to the front trail.  Out on the front trail, Nabisco resumed his antics.  He gripped the leash with his teeth and pulled so hard that I worried he would rip it out of my hands.  The soft toy distraction worked only for moments at a time and Nabisco’s enthusiasm for it as I picked it up worried me.  He went from a soft growl during the leash tug of war to leaping at the toy as I picked it up.  I kept my calm façade, but I began looking around for another volunteer to alert in case I needed help. 

Ultimately, Nabisco and I slowly made our way back to the kennels.  I was confused about his seemingly abrupt change in behavior.  I had not read about Nabisco in the information book prior to this walk.  I had walked him the week before; I thought I knew what there was to know about him. 

This assumption was (now so obviously) wrong.  So much can change for a dog who is in a shelter setting within a week.  Dogs are usually stressed by the constant commotion (dogs barking, the flux of visitors and different volunteers) in the shelter.  They have been removed from whatever their normal is and placed in a new, and often scary, situation. 

In the week between our walks, Nabisco had felt those stressors and had been designated a blue dot dog.  A blue dot designation is for dogs who exhibit behaviors that the behavior staff believe require a walker with extra training.  These dogs may be a little more fearful, dog aggressive, strong, jumpy or mouthy.  They may have behaviors unique to them.  Regardless, these dogs need an experienced walker with the skills to adjust to their behavior set, skills that I did not yet have! 

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I was embarrassed that after my negligence to check the information book before walking Tracker, I had once again failed to enter a kennel informed and prepared.  Nabisco’s blue dot was right there on his kennel!  The notes in the book would have alerted me to the change as well.  This time, the dog and I were safe.  But I did feel frazzled and committed myself to improving. 

I proceeded to walk several other dogs that day.  I followed all the steps and took no shortcuts.  I walked into kennels armed with all the information available about the dogs I was walking, and enjoyed those walks and play times immensely. 

Gone were the frazzled nerves, replaced by the warm feelings of having helped an animal.  Before leaving, I passed by Nabisco’s kennel and gave him treats and some scratches, which he accepted gratefully.  I thanked him for the lesson (and for keeping the secret!). 

I knew then that I would steadily work through the 40 hours of dog walking required to take the blue dot walker training.  Hopefully, Nabisco would no longer be at the shelter by the time I could walk blue dot designated pups, but I was committed to furthering my experience and education so I could return a part of the joy that animals bring to my life. 

Read more about my dog walker training and other unfortunate mishaps at!

Learn more about volunteering at HSHV!

Research your local animal shelter and get involved!

Feline Fosters

“Time spent with a cat is never wasted”

Learn more about our feline fosters by clicking on the post titles beneath the names of the kitties!

Shadow and Midnight

The first fosters!

The early days

The kittens warm up to us…a little!

Feline lice


Shadow and Midnight are adopted!

Beans and Daisy

The break between fosters

Something is wrong with Beans

So, syringe feeding is more difficult than I imagined

A very dog-like cat

Love hurts

Canine Fosters

Home is where the dog is. ~Abby Geni

Click on the post title below the foster dog’s name to learn more about our foster experience with them!


A dog!

Morgan makes herself at home

Things go wrong

Following up with Morgan

Following up with Morgan, Part 2



Gerralynn comes home!

Lynn teaches us a few things about heartworm treatment

Lynn’s other affliction

Lynn settles into life at the Barbaro house

Heartworm stinks…so does the treatment

Reframing the past

Lynn meets potential adopters

Poop on the ceiling

Lynn is adopted!


Diary of a serial fosterer

Amina comes home

Amina becomes Beans

Photogenic Beans


Birthday sadness

The first week


Mama Beans taking a break

Bean puppies – Week 2

Beans meets Teddy and Livie

Bean puppies – Week 3

Snuggle puppies

Meal time

Bean puppies – Week 4

Amina / Mama Bean / Beans

Road Trip!

Happy Holidays from the Bean puppies!

Bean puppies – Week 5

Breaking news! Puppies use puppy pads!

Speaking too soon…

Bean puppies – Week 6

Goodbye is the hardest part

Bean puppies personality profiles

Bean puppies – Week 7

Snow day with the Bean puppies

How will you let them go?

Who told on me?

Bean puppies – Week 8

The Bean puppies are ready for homes!

In which I make some rookie dog walker mistakes

My first day as an official, independent dog walker at the shelter was a cold one.  I was wearing my volunteer t-shirt though, really, there was no point to that; it was hidden under a sweatshirt, a down jacket, and a windbreaker. 

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Me (not really!) ready to walk dogs

Each exhalation condensed into a little puff of fog.  Inhaling the frigid air felt like setting fire to my lungs.  The weather in Michigan can be as unpredictable as extended family dynamics at the holidays, but the dogs still need to get out, snowing or merely miserably cold (Michigan’s winter equivalents of rain or shine).

I signed in confidently, grabbed my badge and headed to Dog Town.  I walked down the kennels, then realized I forgot a scrap piece of paper on which to record the dogs I could (no blue dots!) and wanted to walk.  I stashed my gloves into my jacket pockets and got a pen and paper from the volunteer station.  I walked down the aisles of kennels and recorded eight numbers and names of dogs that I wanted to walk.

Then, I returned to the volunteer station and checked out a beautiful hound dog, Tracker*.  I was pleased that he didn’t need a harness (why make my very first independent walk a tricky one?!).  I armed myself with lots of gear: volunteer apron, poop bags, a soft toy, treats, and a sturdy leash. 

When I approached Tracker’s kennel, I had momentary amnesia.  If the outside of the kennel was being cleaned, how were we supposed to get the dog out?  Where was I supposed to put the lock?  When I brought him back, would I put him in the inside or outside?  Luckily, there was another volunteer in the volunteer station, so I went back and asked about the best way to take a pup out during cleaning (from the inside, down the shortest end). 

Feeling less confident, my hands were shaking as I opened Tracker’s kennel to slip in and leash him.  What if he darted out?  I did my best contortionist act sliding in (Elastigirl from the Incredibles comes to mind – we have kids – but I am sure that I am giving myself too much credit with the smoothness of the endeavor.  Especially with all my many layers, I probably more closely resembled the Hulk, top heavy with lots of space near my legs for a dog escape!). 

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Tracker was wagging like crazy when I successfully entered his kennel.  I clipped the leash to his collar easily, put my gloves back on, and reached through the bars to let us both out.  We walked quickly past all the other kennels to a chorus of barking and emerged into the outdoors (still frigid!).  Tracker and I walked the back loop, the front loop, and then the back loop again. 

He pooped, and I did that winter walker thing where we take off a glove, retrieve poop bag, open bag, collect poop, tie bag, and put glove back on, all while maintaining control of dog while other canines parade past (more superhero evocations!). 

Tracker was a quick walker, so we were finished with our walk while the staff was still cleaning the outside of the kennels.  I had forgotten, of course, to inquire about coming back into the shelter with a dog, having returned a dog to the outside of the kennels during training, so I decided to take Tracker to the play yard until the cleaning was complete.

In the play yard, Tracker was sooooo adorable, running around like crazy and throwing snow up from his heels like a frisky foal in the spring.  We played ball for a while, both of us smiling, the cold no longer bothering me at all. 

Finally, it was time to return Tracker to his kennel and walk another dog.  But Tracker had other plans!  Each time I approached him with the leash, he would dart away!  I kept smiling and waving to the passing dog walkers, but internally, I was panicking!  I could just imagine myself stuck in the play yard with Tracker all morning, my ruse uncovered when someone else wanted to use it!

The next time I picked up the ball to throw and Tracker was close to me, I gave him a treat before throwing it.  I kept this up, with the leash stowed around my neck, for a few more times.  At last, Tracker got even closer to me and I quickly leaned forward and clipped the leash to his collar before giving him the treat.  Whew! 

We walked to back trail one more time (I was feeling guilty about having tricked him!), and then returned to his kennel.  I gave him some love then slipped back out (Hulk style!).  When I got back to the volunteer station, I realized that I had forgotten to read the information book before taking Tracker out.  Several volunteers had noted that Tracker had been reluctant to be leashed again after playing in the play yard.  What other mistakes had I made?  Which mistakes did I have yet to make? 

It was time to pick another dog…

* Some pups names have been altered

Learn more about volunteering at HSHV!

Read about my experiences with Dog Walker Training at HSHV.

Dog walking

Pup at HSHV. One of the first dogs I walked and played with in the play yard.

While waiting for my dog walking class date to arrive, I received an email that there had been a cancellation in an earlier class.  Would I like to fill that spot?  Uhhhh….YES!!

I arrived at the three hour training 15 minutes early.  For those who know me (and those who are getting to know me through this blog), you know that this is not atypical!  I sat on a bench outside the education room waiting anxiously. 

When everyone was there, we introduced ourselves and learned about the ins and outs of dog walking.  This beginning class would prepare us to walk adoptable dogs only, not the dogs in isolation or holding.  We were also restricted to walking those dogs without a blue dot designation, meaning that they needed a walker with more experience or training for one reason or another. 

Some of the adoptable dogs still had specific walking needs, however, so we learned how to interpret their kennel notifications, such as if they required certain walking tools like a harness (for strong pullers), a metal leash (for leash biters), a special treat (to distract jumpy dogs while leashing them), or a leash wrap (a way to wrap the leash behind the front legs and then back through the dog’s collar…a sort of makeshift harness for pullers).  On occasion, dogs would have exercise restrictions, such as if they had recently had surgery or if they were undergoing heartworm treatments.  We learned where to find this information and how to apply it. 

A very handy large stuffed dog served as our first model for placing a harness and leash wrap.  I made my first dog walking mistake (of many to come!) while placing a harness on the stuffed dog:  I only clipped the leash to the harness, having missed the instruction to also clip the leash to the collar for extra security.  Mental note!  Then a very excited, real life dog joined the class and we learned how much more difficult it was to harness and/or leash wrap a moving, wiggling, jumping dog than our handy, stationary stuffed canine! 

After all this practice, it was time to venture down to Dog Town!  We toured the volunteer station and learned where to grab an apron in which to stash tasty treats, a soft toy, and poop bags.  We reviewed the information book, where volunteers can make notes about a dog that may be helpful for other walkers. 

“He’s a puller!”

“She was nervous at first, but after spending some time together in her kennel, she was happy to go for a walk.”

“She is dog reactive. Move away from kennels quickly.”

“He didn’t want to go back into the kennel.  Make sure you have treats handy.”

Then, we checked out the walker log, where each dog is listed and their walks for the day are listed in subsequent columns.  This log is handy for figuring out which dog most needs a walk next.  Dogs with a red circle around their kennel numbers are house broken and will not eliminate in the kennel; these dogs should be walked first in the morning, and last in the evening.  The goal is for each dog to get four outings each day. 

Pup at HSHV after a walk.

Next, we took a scrap piece of paper and writing utensil from the counter and previewed the adoptable dogs.  We were told a very important piece of advice: if a dog makes us nervous for any reason, just skip him/her and let the staff or a more comfortable volunteer take that dog out.  Walking down the kennel aisle, we recorded the dogs’ numbers and names that were not blue dot and that we were comfortable taking out.  To be honest, despite having the trainer and an experienced volunteer on hand to help that day, I avoided the leash wrap dogs!!

We returned to the volunteer station and selected a dog from our list and checked him/her out for a walk.  I selected a medium sized black and white pitty that required a harness, Renalda.  My pre-walk checklist was long: apron, treats, stuffed toy, poop bags, read info book (Renalda is a puller and is sometimes moderately dog reactive), sign her out, grab leash, get the harness, put training in action!

Finally, it was time to walk a shelter dog!  I let myself into Renalda’s kennel.  She greeted me enthusiastically with full body wags!  I let her sniff me and then leaned over to put on her harness.  Blessedly, she let me slip it over her head with minimal wiggling and hopping.  I clipped it (the right way!) and attached the leash to BOTH her harness and collar.  Holding the leash loop with my left hand and the leash somewhat taut with my right, Renalda and I proceeded with confidence out of the “red zone”, the area close to all the other kennels.  We walked around the back trail loop and then around the front; each trail takes about 5-8 minutes depending on how much sniffing the pup wants to do.  Renalda and I decided to take another loop around the back trail before heading back to the kennels.  I returned Renalda confidently, having had a wonderful, uneventful first walker experience. 

Once each of the new dog walkers returned their pups, we all heading back to the conference room to review.  Some questions were asked:

“What do we do if a dog gets loose?”

“What do we do if we have a medical concern for a dog?”

Finally, the training drew to a conclusion with some last words of wisdom.  We were encouraged to sign up for our first independent dog walking shift soon, within the next week if possible, to solidify the knowledge we had gained in training.  I left excited to do just that!

To learn more about volunteering at the Humane Society of Huron Valley, check out their information page online.

Not local? No problem! Find a shelter near you!

Want to read more about fostering? Check out the first post “My impatience leads to great things” and follow along from there. Also, please “follow” the blog to read more about the next furry friends we invite in!

Love hurts

Beans was indeed growing while eating on his own.  Beans and Daisy’s intake date remained December 27th. Our foster kittens were almost ready to leave our home.

Meanwhile, the Christmas holiday approached.  My five year old daughter, Nora, suddenly considered that Santa should bring gifts for Beans and Daisy!  We always hang a stocking for Livie, which ends up full of toys and tasty treats on Christmas morning (Santa is apparently an animal lover!).  Nora lovingly crafted two homemade stockings (picture lots of construction paper, glue, glitter, and staples!) for the kittens.  Lo and behold, the stockings were full of Fancy Feast and kitten toys on Christmas morning! 

Two days after Christmas, we packed up Beans and Daisy with heavy hearts, and headed to the shelter.  Reminiscent of our other returns (Shadow and Midnight and then Morgan), I felt guilty and sullen about the process.  How could they possibly understand this turn of events in their lives?  How could they know how much they were loved through a couple scary, difficult days and so much change?

We now knew that Daisy would be going home with a kind, feline loving volunteer, who had assured us that she would send updates.  But where would sweet, cuddly Beans end up?  What if the timing (a few days after Christmas) was an impediment to his chances of a quick adoption?  What if the stress made him revert back to undereating and he lost some weight?  Would his new owners be as clueless as I was as his new foster? 

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried as much as I did.  Only one day after taking Beans and Daisy into the shelter for their spay/neuter surgeries, their names were on the Facebook post announcing their adoptions!  Daisy had been adopted successfully by the volunteer who would adore her and Beans was adopted by a family with a son and daughter who would play with Beans to his heart’s content.

(Side note:  I don’t always know much about the people who adopt our foster babies.  The shelter requires an application and adoption interview, in which they ensure the potential adopters are prepared for the responsibility of owning a pet.  I only know who the person is if the adoption is prearranged and/or if the person comments in the Facebook post that their new pet is home and loving life!  In the case of Beans’ adopters, they posted with a quick update, for which I was soooo grateful!)

Missed a post? Follow along with the story of these two foster kittens with the following posts:

1) The break between fosters (bringing Beans and Daisy home)

2) Something is wrong with Beans (when we learn that Beans isn’t thriving)

3) So, syringe feeding is more difficult than I imagined (trying to syringe feed Beans to recovery!)

4) A very dog-like cat (in which Daisy steals our hearts)

Check out HSHV on Facebook for the latest adoption news!