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Foster a Dog (and Meet Bernadette!)

Want to foster a dog? Tips at the end of this post.

Remember the other day when I shared that I'm a Bernadette Peters fan?

Meet our silly goofball, Bernadette.

Three dogs?! To be fair, one is only a foster dog...except we love her so much that we're adopting her! 

adoption photo
foster a dog before and after

Top: Bernadette's fearful "Before" photo, taken at the shelter
Bottom: Bernadette's cheerful "After" photo, taken the day we brought her home

Bernadette, originally named Tulip, had arrived at the shelter as a stray. She was so fearful that I was not able to pet her even once during the two hours we spent in her large pen at the Bernalillo County, NM shelter. 

Her ears were down and her tail was tucked between her legs. She was exhausted from pacing in circles nonstop. The shelter gave us handfuls of treats to offer, but even these weren't enough to coax her to come near. SN and I both wondered if fostering her was a mistake.

So what changed our mind? Here is that same terrified pup after 5 minutes in her new home:

world's happiest dog
Fostered, then adopted - best day of Bernadette's life! Olive looks a little jealous.

Dogs smiling
Don't feel bad for her. This photo was taken moments later - best day of Olive's life!

Speaking of Olive, she is the reason we reached out to the shelter to begin with. (And the reason Bernadette was almost named Martini.) We enjoyed having her as our only dog - no offense to Biscuit, who is 15 and sleeps 23.5 hours a day. Olive was bored. Whenever we saw another dog, she wanted desperately to play with them, but no one ever wanted to play with her. We tried to keep her entertained, throwing her favorite toy 50 bazillion times a day.

I'm why we can't have nice things
Bored = Destructive
This "I'm why we can't have nice things" dog tag for Olive's collar lasted about a day. 

home photos with dogs
It is tough to be a playful puppy with no playmate.

I've kept my free subscription to active, even after adopting Olive last year, because I enjoy the daily photos of cute dogs and puppies. We've always joked that it's tempting fate. Since signing up pre-Olive, there have certainly been adorable faces in my Inbox that have been difficult to resist.

When I saw Bernadette's photo, I gasped and showed it to SN. He remarked that she looks exactly like Olive, complete with her freckles and white-tipped tail. The shelter even thought they were the same age. Could they be sisters?

foster a dog

We did not want another dog. Even if we did, we certainly did not want another big, strong, destructive dog - Olive was already such a handful! 

But...the dog in the photo looked just like our Olive...and she was all alone in a cold, hard kennel... with no toys or human contact...probably so sad and scared and crying all the time. I imagined Olive in that situation and it broke my heart.

 I tried to forget her, but my mind kept telling me it was Olive at the shelter, rejected by society even though she's the sweetest, most loving, goodest (yes, goodest) puppy in the world.

We had to go save her. But there was a major problem:


All of the animal shelters were operating under restrictions. Instead of driving to get Bernadette that very moment, we had to make an appointment to visit her a week later. Then our governor announced a stay-at-home order and I panicked, fearing this meant the shelters would be closed entirely. Olive's sister was going to be trapped with no chance of adoption for a minimum of 2 weeks, most likely more!

According to the woman at the shelter, she received my desperate plea to be allowed to save our dog while she was at Target and it made her cry right there in the store.  

Pit bull and chihuahua
Can you guess who chewed the side out of this basket?

The wait to get Bernadette felt like months. It didn't help that Olive was constantly trying to play with Biscuit, who wanted nothing to do with her. Her perfect friend was waiting for us, but it wasn't safe to go to her. 

Finally on our way to the shelter, SN said he could never love Bernadette as much as he loves Olive.

SN to Bernadette that same night: I wuv you my widdle puppy wuppy, mwah mwah mwah, and other nonsense baby talk while squishing her squishy widdle puppy face. He insists he loves all 3 dogs equally. They are our children.

We childless couples are weird sometimes, eh? 

American bully
So was Bernadette Olive's perfect friend or had I just built their relationship up in my mind? The photo above looks sweet at first, but then you realize Bernadette is biting Olive's lip. Within an hour of bringing our new puppy home, Olive's lip was bleeding! I feared we'd made a terrible mistake.

Tiny dog
With Olive injured, we wondered if we were risking Biscuit's life by allowing Bernadette in our home. A 15-year-old, arthritic, almost blind and deaf chihuahua would be no match for the new dog's powerful jaws and unknown temperament. 

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.

puppy bath time
We washed the shelter stink (extra emphasis on stink - P U, Bernadette) off in a gentle shower, being mindful to avoid Bernadette's still-healing spay incision. We also bathed Olive and Biscuit. All three dogs snuggled together afterward in front of the fireplace and took a nap.

They have been inseparable ever since.

puppies sleeping
Little by little, they have bonded and have established the funniest pack. With two young American Bullies (well, at least one American Bully, according to Olive's DNA test) and a 4-pound chihuahua, would you believe the chihuahua is the alpha?

If anything, Bernadette seems to be a little afraid of Biscuit. When she growls, which crotchety old chihuahuas do constantly, Bernadette jumps back. She has actually tripped over her own legs and fallen over a few times because she is in such a hurry to get out of Biscuit's way.

Biscuit has two teeth, Bernadette. Come on.

dogs with green eyes
These two are perfectly matched for nonstop playing. I love to watch them run around our backyard (and run and run and run). Actually, it's a bit exhausting. Cute though.

Funny side story: We were enjoying a glass of wine by the fire pit and laughing as the dogs played. It was relaxing, at least until they rolled against the gas lever, sending flames shooting 4 feet into the air.

foster dog adoption
Olive is sooo happy.

rescue dogs
She actually seems to enjoy having her face chewed on. She returns the favor.

funny dog videos
Yeah, they're totally siblings.

Foster a Dog

We dog lovers want to save all the dogs. This post has made fostering a dog seem like such a smart idea, right? And it is! There are several things you should consider though:

1. Your foster dog will probably need your help learning how to live inside a house. Bernadette has been surprisingly well-behaved. She never jumps on the furniture, even when our other 2 dogs are there, and she doesn't bark. She mostly understands how to use the dog door and she mostly doesn't chew things up. 

If the word 'mostly' caught your attention just now, you should know that while I have been writing this, Bernadette was outside...and she came inside just to pee on the floor, then returned outside. WTF, Bernadette? 

While I was still frustrated about the peeing, she snuck back into the house to steal one of SN's shoes to chew up. This was after she snuck back into the house to steal a decorative wooden fox to chew up. This was also after she ripped a pillow apart. There were white feathers everywhere - I thought she'd killed a bird. 

We're adjusting to her just as she is adjusting to us. Keep anything that can be mistaken for a dog toy, which seems to be just about anything, out of reach. (And she can reach more than you expect!)

2. Your foster dog may need medication or veterinary care. We were fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) that the shelter diagnosed Bernadette with an intestinal condition (from eating puppy poop - yuck) right before we picked her up. They provided us with medicine to give her and strict instructions for keeping our other dogs from getting sick. The first few days were challenging messy (dogs are gross), but now Bernadette is healthy and the extra trouble was easily worth it. 

3. You're going to get attached to your foster dog! This experience has taught us that we are not good candidates for another foster because we would surely want to keep that dog too. It would have broken our hearts (and Bernadette's heart) to take her back to the shelter and leave her there. 

That said, if you are one of the many fosters who are able to say goodbye, you should be proud knowing you have helped your dog tremendously and possibly even saved its life. When the shelter is full, you taking a dog (or two...or five) home gets them off the euthanasia list and opens kennel space. If you can teach your foster dog(s) some good behavior and tricks, they'll be that much more adoptable. 

Plus, did you notice my photo above that showed Bernadette at home vs at the shelter? You'd be much more likely to want the happy dog, right? Bernadette was a completely different dog once we got her home. If you can send your dog(s) back to the shelter socialized and with cute photos, you've helped their chance of adoption.

cute puppies

The grand finale:

At first, you'll think this video is all about Biscuit and my mismatched fuzzy slipper socks. Wait for Bernadette's surprise cameo at the end. 
She's such a nut.