July 11, 2017

Hello Lady. Welcome Home + a special nod to foster parents

Back on May 2nd, I shared a post on my Instagram introducing Lady, a 14 year old cocker spaniel. Secretly I wanted to adopt her then but we have always only had one dog in the house. This is because we only thought we could afford to care for only one dog at a time (I think having gone through treatment costs for Piri when he got older and then sick with kidney disease and cancer probably made us think this way even more). Plus she was with OBG Cocker Spaniel Rescue, the same organization we adopted Bartles from and so we knew she was in good hands. They always turn out the best happy tail endings.

In hopes to maybe offer a little help, I shared her post thinking maybe her forever family will see it. I continued to follow up on her to see if a family did eventually apply to adopt her. I was prepared to be jealous and happy for her at the same time.

Throughout the weeks, I saw Lady give endless kisses to her foster family, eventually switch foster homes, continue to get showered with love and care, hang out with her foster siblings and confuse the neighborhood folks into thinking that she was actually a puppy and not a senior. The conversations I read went something like this,

"How old is she?"
"Oh she's 14. 14 years old." 
"14 years?! Not 14 months?" 

Then on June 29, I saw another post which I also shared on Instagram, and by this time I was flat out lobbying Yangkyu for us to just bring her home. I dropped her name every chance I got.

Yangkyu: Bartles looks tired.
Jane : I know.. I bet if Lady was here, he'd perk up so much. She would offer him good company.
Yangkyu: ....

Yangkyu: (Referring to a guest dog) Spootie is always wagging her tail! Always! 
Jane: I think Lady also wags her tail a lot. Like.. a lot.
Yangkyu: ....

And on like this it went. But by this time, I knew it would be a bit harder for us to adopt her than back in May. Mr. Bartles was still fighting off a stubborn recurrent UTI and his mobility was on and off. Caring for him was more hands on than ever. But little did we know, we would lose him just two days after sharing Lady's second post.

I think I overanalyze. No, I do overanalyze. And I have an overactive imaginative mind. And my  heart ached and I cried for hours on end thinking that Bartles left to make room for Lady. That he felt bad and decided to go a little earlier than planned so that he can give me a break. So that I can sleep in my own bed and not have to wake up every hour during the night to help him get out of bed because he was feeling restless. I cried randomly - in the kitchen, while taking a shower, staring off in  to space and I kept saying over and over, "Bartles, if the reason you left us so soon was because you felt bad, you didn't have to... you didn't have to feel bad..."

The week following Bartles' passing, I went from thinking that we needed more time before welcoming another dog to wanting to bring Lady home right away. Not only because I felt she was meant to be, but also because after Bartles we learned a bit more about rescue work. That when a  dog gets adopted it means another dog gets a chance at finding their forever home because it frees up space in foster homes. It keeps the cycle of rescue going. And while my grieving was something I knew I needed to take time to work through, there were needs of these beautiful dogs that I knew we could help. And while our hearts break for dogs when they pass, they also help us heal.

Yangkyu on the other hand needed an extra push. For him, getting another dog just wasn't something feasible for him at the moment - financially, physically and emotionally. Losing Piri then Bartles 9 months later was devastating. But I persisted. I even put on a silent protest. Clearing all the dog beds and blankets we have, cleaning them and stacking them in his office room. Only, he didn't think it was a message. He thought it was actually pretty cool how I was able to stack them so neatly. *Insert exasperated face* 

We knew Lady was going to be at an adoption show on Saturday, July 8. I wasn't too sure if I would be ready to go because it marked one week since Bartles crossed the rainbow bridge. I wasn't sure if my heart would be up to it. Yangkyu by this time had come around and agreed to at least meet Lady. Thinking of sweet Bartles and Piri and wondering if they somehow consorted to make the whole thing possible, we decided to go to the adoption show, not wanting to have their efforts go to waste (see, there goes my imaginative mind again).

Pulling into Petsmart felt like that same December day when we went to go meet Mr. Bartles - just one day before our 2 week trip to Germany. I couldn't wait until after our trip and so we went just the day before we were to leave and put in our adoption papers just hours before our flight. I remember feeling nervous and excited at the same time. It was the same way on this warm July day.

We walked in and couldn't find the OBG group until we went toward the front left of the store and saw a group of cocker spaniels. And then a friendly face turned toward me and asked, "Are you Jane?" I replied,"Yes! Are you Mary Jane?" And then I saw her. Lady and her beautiful face and wonderfully long wagging tail.

Mary Jane is Lady's former foster mom. I had contacted Mary Jane after emailing with Leanne who was Bartles' former foster mom. Just as Andrea (another foster volunteer with OBG) had encouraged me to reach out to Leanne to inquire about Bartles, Leanne had encouraged me to reach out to Mary Jane to ask about Lady. And so I did. And I am so glad I did. 

After getting to know Lady and speaking with Mary Jane, we were given the ok to bring her home the same day. It was a bit sudden and I hesitated only because I knew our car wasn't dog ready and we had a couple of errands to run after the adoption show. We had cleared the car canopy and dog bed after Bartles passed. Our house didn't have any dog beds in any of the rooms (they were silently protesting in Yangkyu's office room) and bowls were all cleared away as well. The living room was half clean - vacuum cleaner out and yoga mats and play mats (which were for Bartles because he slipped on our laminate floors) were off to the side, waiting to be cleaned and put away. But I said yes and then cautiously looked at Yangkyu who was, to my surprise, all good to bring her home as well. 

I asked him later, "Were you pressured? Or did you want to bring her home?" To which he said, "No, I wanted to bring her home. The moment she came up to me and licked my face. I knew she was our family." It was her kiss that sealed the deal. What a smart girl. 

Mary Jane asked us if we wanted to walk around with her a bit to see how she is. After months of caring for Bartles, who in the last couple months couldn't walk well on his own, having Lady trot and prance around felt awkward and unfamiliar. I was more used to getting low to the ground and steadying Bartles' hips and legs and helping him walk, or even getting on my knees and wrapping my right arm around his waist and walking alongside him, encouraging him to circle while standing up, if he needed to circle. On many levels, we felt like going from veteran dog people to absolute beginners. While some things came naturally for us, that first day with Lady felt like we were re-learning things as well. But everything felt good. Everything felt right.

From what we know, this is Lady's story.

She was found as a stray in West Virginia. The shelter was able to find her owners but the elderly couple were too ill to take care of her any more (the wife had Alzheimer's and the husband cancer) and didn't claim her. It was later revealed that Lady probably didn't get good vet care for the last 4-5 years but she was still in pretty ok shape, an indicator that her owners took good care of her throughout her life before they no longer physically could.

Lady is 14 years old and her intake form from the shelter lists her birthday as March 24, 2009 (the year is off). Her vet records after she was rescued by OBG indicates that her birthday is April 28, 2003. I have a feeling neither are her real birthdays, but we decided to go with the March date. Piri and Bartles were also both March babies (Bartles birthday was also unknown and his rescue date was used).

Her blood work at the time of rescue indicated that she had high liver values but after being put on medication it went back down to normal and she doesn't need to be on them on the regular basis anymore. The vet suspected that the levels were high due to the poor condition she was found in. The only medical issue she has right now is urinary incontinence, which she takes medicine for and she doesn't hear well. 

Lady is very different from my other cockers, Piri and Bartles and even Bobby, my childhood cocker spaniel. First, she's my very first female dog and a first with a very long tail. We're used to cockers with docked tails. She is however within the same color family - I've always had buff brown cockers and Lady is a beautiful buff/red cocker spaniel. 

While none of my other cockers did things like lick things off of floors or lick us for that matter, Lady likes to lick things off of kitchen floors and loves to give kisses. I think if we let her, she would lick our faces all day, every day. And her tail is always wagging. Her medical records at one point indicated that she had a happy tail accident from wagging her tail too much inside her kennel.

Lady also notices critters - bunnies, squirrels and birds. I've had guest dogs at Piri's Place who go nuts for them but none of my previous cockers cared much about them. Lady doesn't lunge and chase after them at full speed but her ears perk up and her walking does get faster. It's really adorable to see. 

During our walk yesterday, I also found out that she loves bird dung and rubs her face and neck against it. Perfume. We've also had guest dogs who did this as well, which freaked us out and it landed them right in the bath tub. But with Lady, we thought it was adorable. Boy, we're really in love with her aren't we. 

Lady does great home alone. Piri and Bartles, for different reasons, couldn't stay home by themselves. Piri because of his separation anxiety that came and went and came and stayed when we moved to our home in Centreville. We ended up taking him everywhere with us because by that time he was old and sick and we didn't want to leave him home alone, pacing and crying.

We didn't leave Bartles home alone too often but when we did, he did great by himself. No crying or barking, although he did have a couple of accidents. Then there came a point when he couldn't move around on his own too well and got himself into a pickle. One day we came home to him crying because he couldn't get up on his own and he had also gone potty. That day we bought a pet cam and I decided that I would never leave him home alone again.

We had already gone out several times to run errands and go grocery shopping and Lady has been fantastic. She sleeps while we're gone. While we were out, we checked up on her through the pet cam and at one point she was in the same exact spot we saw when we left her the night before. Yangkyu and I were perplexed wondering if the screen was frozen. It wasn't. She is just chill like that. 

And while she doesn't notice right away when we're back home (she's usually facing her back toward the front door), I do notice that she perks up as if she does sense something - perhaps our presence. Then she turns around and when she sees us, her tail starts wagging.

Lady also doesn't mind you handling her paws. Piri went nuts every time we tried to trim his paw pads and had to wear a muzzle because he tried to bite. Bartles was ok with us trimming his back paws but didn't like to have his front paws touched. But his only resistance was taking away his paws, and sweet Bartles always gave up in the end. I still can see his baby-like protests while we trimmed in my head like it was yesterday.

Lady yawned while I was trimming the fur that grew too long between her paw pads. Yawned. And while it took a while for me to do Piri and Bartles' paws, it took only minutes to finish Lady's. 

In some ways, Lady being so easy catches us off guard. Piri, during the last few months of his life was a handful and Bartles as well. And so for a good year, all I have known was caring for sick senior dogs. And so having Lady trot around, eating well, sleeping well and just being totally ok is weird. But a happy weird. Do I make sense?

Lady will start to get things of her own (like a collar, which is coming today and also another tag just like the ones I made for Piri and Bartles), but so far it has been a lot of hand me downs from her brothers from across the rainbow bridge. She has Bartles' big grey bed and frankly all other 6 dog beds in our house currently and all the doggy blankets as well. Just a week before Bartles passed, we had also bought incontinence mats and waterproof baby diaper changing mats for him and so if Lady ever needs it, it's there. She has Bartles' and Piri's harnesses and leashes at her disposable, and winter clothes and summer tees as well. Her brothers looked out for her well, don't you think? 

Currently, Lady is transitioning between foods. I was thinking about keeping her on what her foster mom was giving her because she loved it so much, but I made her some boiled chicken and rice after she had a slight bout of diarrhea and after seeing her like it so much I decided to cook her meals too. Both Piri and Bartles got home cooked meals. Bartles also had some raw food and Orijen Senior dry food for when he had pangs of hunger. So far, I think she'll get home cooked meals twice a day and dry food (Orijen Senior - Bartles left a whole new bag for her) for free feeding. It looks like she nibbles on it when she wants to and doesn't keep emptying the bowls. We've been trying it out all day yesterday at 1/3 cup at a time. I also introduced her to Stella and Chewy's toppers yesterday, all which she has been tolerating very well.

She is only on Proin for medication for her incontinence and we've added some supplements. She gets a senior multi-vitamin chew from VetriScience, Nordic Naturals fish oil capsules and Dr. Harvey's CoQ10 capsules for a healthy heart. These were all leftovers from Bartles, which were originally carried over from Piri. This morning, I also added green lipped mussle joint powder and milk thistle to her food (also leftover from Bartles). She licked her bowl clean. I know her liver values are ok now, but I thought perhaps continued maintenance of her livers might not be such a bad idea. The only thing we will probably add to this is a probiotic to help with her gut. Lady loves her treats and I think she knows that the kitchen is the place to be in the house. 

The first day when she was home with us, she stayed downstairs mostly and came up only to sleep with us. But now she follows me around everywhere and gives me morning kisses to start our day. Her tail wags non stop. It hits the floor often and one time, in a worried voice, I said, "Yangkyu! She's wagging again and hitting the floor! What if she gets hurt?" And Yangkyu said, "Hurry! Hurry! Put a blanket under her tail!" 

We enrolled Lady with Pets Best health insurance. Piri was on ASPCA and Bartles with Healthy Paws and while we had originally wanted to enroll her with Healthy Paws, they have an age cap. All dogs must be enrolled before 14 years old. Pets Best had pretty awful reviews, but we decided in the end to experience it for ourselves. We hope it works for her if she ever needs it one day. For Piri and Bartles, having insurance in the long run ended up being beneficial. 

Lady is getting her first Chewy box today. She'll get a new collar, Greenie dental chews, a tooth brush and tooth paste, VetriScience Probiotics, shampoo and also joint chews should the powder doesn't work out. She will have many Chewy boxes in her future (just like Mr. Bartles and Piri).

While my heart still very much aches and longs for my boys, Piri and Bartles, I am happy that Lady is in our life now. Some people wondered if it was too early for us or maybe it would be better to adopt a younger dog so that we can have more years without having to say good bye within a short period of time. 

When Piri passed, old and frail, I made a promise that the next dog we get will be a senior dog with medical issues. It was because I wondered if for some reason Piri needed a new home at 17, with cancer, kidney disease, deaf with poor eye sight, if he would've been able to find a home to live out his golden years or if he would've been passed up over and over again because he was just too old and sick. And so Bartles came home to us. Yangkyu and I have been struggling with infertility for years (I lost count the number of years) and when Bartles came to us I realized that maybe we are meant to be parents of a different kind - to frosted faces. And so, Lady is here today.

Adopting senior dogs is so that we can feel loved and be happy with them, but I think, for me, it's also knowing that we may not have much time. But whatever time that is left, is still very much worth it. We adopt senior dogs not for the purpose of having many years of happiness with them (although if we did, that would be icing on the cake), but to give them a chance to live out the remaining years of their life knowing love and care to the very end.

So we say a big welcome home to Lady at 14 years young. We're so happy to have you met you. 

PS - Before I go, I wanted to say thank you to foster moms Leanne and Mary Jane, and to everyone who volunteers as a foster. I knew what an important role foster parents played in the rescue world, but I didn't really know (and see for myself) until Bartles, and now Lady. My experience with OBG fosters is that they are in your corner from the beginning to the end. When Leanne dropped Mr. Bartles off in our home on December 19, her care for him didn't end there. She checked up on him and us as well from time to time and at every difficult turn she was there, offering moral and emotional support, all the while caring for her four cockers and fostering more dogs. I had mentioned that caring for sick senior dogs can have its challenges but when you have good people in your corner, it is more than possible. Mary Jane continues to keep communications lines open for if and when we may need her guidance, and her genuine care and interest in Lady's well being is so very apparent. Once a foster mom to a pup, always a foster mom, even after they find their forever homes. It takes someone with tremendous dedication and heart to do this. Thank you, Leanne, Mary Jane and to everyone who fosters. Seeing their caring hearts at work only makes me want to try harder and give Lady a good and happy life. Thank you for all you do and setting such a good example for the rest of us.


  1. A HUGE HUGE welcome to Miss Lady and I've been so joyful reading all your IG posts about her. Welcome to the family and we can't wait to hear more about you :)

  2. Welcome Lady! Sounds like you've had a lovely time getting acquainted with her. You guys are so lucky to have each other now :)

  3. awwwww, I loved reading all of this Jane, she was definitely meant to come home that day with you guys :) :) Hello Miss Lady!!

  4. Welcome home, Lady:) Jane, you and Yangkyu are something else. There's a special place in heaven for people like you:)


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