I had promised my family and The Boys (Hudson and especially anti-social, grumpy Finn) that we would take a break from fostering.  When you decide to foster, its a family-wide decision, effecting everyone’s routines and schedules.  But (and isn’t there always a “but?”), I had seen a beautiful young lab mix on the foster page and knew I would foster her.  Her name was Lilly and she was listed at a year old.  She was arriving on the transport the week before Christmas. 

It would be my first time volunteering at the transport arrival.  Forty dogs and one cat were on that vehicle, driven all the way from Talladega, Tennessee.  It was already there when I arrived and the scene can best be described as controlled chaos.  

My foster sponsor Patie and I were responsible for micro-chipping the animals.  Dr. Fox stood at the entrance to the vehicle, along with Mike, an assistant volunteer and they pulled puppies from litters, telling me to identify who they were from sheets of paper with tiny, microscopic pictures.  Many puppies look identical and so it wasn’t easy.  At one point, I was juggling three puppies, as Patie chipped a fourth.  Mike kept handing me more puppies telling me to, “Hurry up!  You’re slowing me down!”  followed by, “Do you know what you’re doing?”   Ummm, no actually, I don’t!  

Every litter needs to be handled with a new set of clean gloves.  We’re all decked out in hospital cover-ups and the pile of disposable gloves grows by the minute.  Some puppies stoically take the micro-chipping needle calmly, others squirm and cry.  Most tremble and try to burrow into you.  It’s heartbreaking because you know they’ve been super traumatized, yet we’re all pulling for them to get A Second Chance at life.  

When it came time for my foster girl Lilly to get vaccinated, she was pulled from her crate located on the bottom level, below two litters of puppies.  She was so black that I could only see the whites of her eyes.  She crawled along the transport floor to Dr. Fox.  He inoculated her and gave her the de-wormer.  I got to sneak in a quick pat on her head. Lilly thumped her tail at me.   Without being prompted, she re-treated to the safety of her crate.  I was in love. 

The foster parents showed up to claim their puppies, some taking as many as three siblings.  They all got play-pens, crates, de-worming stuff, food, collars and leashes.  Here is my shameless plug for donations.  If you’re reading this blog, or any other rescue posts and you’re marveling at what these people do and then you inevitably think, “Wow, I wish I could help in some way….” well, you can.  Donate!  It doesn’t have to be your time or your money.  Whenever you’re at a pet store, pick up an extra bed, leash, toy or a blanket.   So many of my clients have given me their no longer needed pet supplies.  It goes such a long way for rescues that are stretched so thin for resources.

When the last foster left with the last puppy, I took Lilly out of her crate.  She was all big eyes and wriggles.  She walked around the grassy parts of the parking lot, sniffing and wondering at the world.  After her long drive from Alabama, her two weeks in a shelter and who knows what before that, she was finally free.  She was a stinky girl, but she was so endearing that I couldn’t help but stop and hug her every few feet.  As is common with rescues, she didn’t feel entirely comfortable relieving herself and I knew she had to.  

You know that tired old cliche about looking into a dog’s eyes and seeing her gentle soul?  Well, it happened with Lilly.  After another long walk, a much needed oatmeal bath and  dinner, I sat on the kitchen floor and she climbed into my lap.  She put her meaty puppy paws on my shoulders and stared into my eyes, her tail slowly going side to side.  I swear she was thanking me for fostering her.  Lilly’s head is shaped like a shoe box, with droopy hound jowls and the expanse between her eyes that you see in Pits.  Her body is skinny with a few ribs sticking out, making her head look even bigger than it probably is. She is jet black, except for a few brown hairs on her right shoulder, a thin line of brown hairs going down her right leg, and two buttons of white on her muscular chest (she is going to be a good swimmer).  

At 10:00, I crated her with her snowman toy- a gift from Mike, her iHeartDogs rescue blanket (buy one, they donate another to a shelter dog…yes another shameless plug!) and a bone.  She settled into her bedding, sighed, rolled onto her side and slept until the alarm went off at 5:30.

Lilly spent the day with me at work, running errands and riding around in the car.  She is the most even tempered dog I have ever had the pleasure of fostering/owning.  She is not at all jumpy, walks well on a leash, is polite and doesn’t startle or bark at anything.  People inevitably ask me, “What’s her back story?” and I can’t answer that.  She came to us from a high kill shelter and was on the euthanize list.  Beyond that, I can only speculate.  Here is what I think: she was either born with this calm demeanor and is a sweet soul by birth, or someone had her, took good care of her, trained her and somehow lost her.  I cannot imagine the heartache of losing a dog like Lilly, but I know I would tear up the earth looking for her.  (I’ve since learned the she was an owner surrender….which means she had three days to get adopted, or be put down).

It took less than one day for Lilly to find her forever home with an amazing couple, Addison and Spencer.  I put the word out to family and friends, and within a few hours, my oldest son’s good friend Spencer and his fiancée Addison fell in love with her.  After meeting Lilly that night, they left the next day for Michigan and we stayed in touch.  I probably sent way too many pictures and videos of their newest family member, but I knew how much they were already missing her.  As I type this blog, they are on their way to make the adoption official.  Lilly is going to live her best life with them.  They will make her so happy and in return, she will shower them with unconditional love. Will I miss her?  Oh hell yes!  But I know she is going to have an incredible life with Spencer and Addison.  And I know that there is another Lilly out there who needs a foster person and that person will be me.  xo

Some Amazing Lilly Facts:

Lilly made it out the front door of the shelter.

Lilly is brave.

Lilly is resilient.

Lilly is forgiving.

I sometimes call her Liliana, Lillian, Silly Lilly and Lilligator.

Lilly is probably a Hound/Pittie/Lab mix, maybe she has some Rottweiler in her as well.

Lilly has a unique bark/bay.  It’s very throaty and deep.  (Hound)

Lilly LOVES to sniff.  She follows a scent like a blood hound. (Hound)

Lilly wants to jump in the lake to play with the ducks (Lab).

Lilly is super loyal. (Pit)

Lilly’s fur dries quickly (Lab).

Lilly is very smart (Pit)

Thanks to my crazy dogs, Lilly is now conditioned to run to the kitchen whenever the ice machine is engaged.  She now sits for ice “treats.”  

Lilly is very trainable.  She knows the homemade dog treats are in the garage fridge, so she follows me out there and will sit by the fridge, waiting patiently for me to give her a cookie.

Lilly snores like a freight train.

Lilly will sleep in her crate, often going  there of her own accord, or she’ll sleep at the foot of our bed.

Lilly is a counter surfer.

Lilly is a voracious eater, inhaling her food rather than eating it.  (slow it down bowl)

To Addison and Spencer:

Firstly, thank you for opening your hearts, your lives and your home to Lilly. She is a one in a million dog and I think you already know that.  

Please stay in touch with me.  I only adopt my fosters out if I feel 100% sure of the adopters and I will haunt you both for pictures, videos and updates.  I am her godmother after all!

While we don’t know a lot about Lilly’s back story, you can call the number on her rabies tag in Pell City and ask questions about her.  Her adoption folder should have the name and number of the shelter from where she came and they might be able to give you more details (it’s sketchy at best).   You can read these two books that talk about the journeys fosters dogs take and the lives of foster people and what their dogs go through on their journeys: 

 1) Rescue Road by Peter Zheutlin.  This book tells the story of Greg Mahle, a man who drives a retro-fitted for crates and kennels truck twice a month to pick up dogs in kill shelters all over the south.  He drives them north to their forever homes.  Google his story and interview on the Today Show.

2) Another Good Dog by Cara Sue Achterberg.  This book tells the story of rescue, foster people and foster dogs.  It will also help you understand some of the things Lilly will be going through as she adapts to your home, her new home.

You can always call me, anytime and I mean that.  I have two adult kids but I still keep my cell on at night and sleep with it under my pillow.  

I know this is silly, but I say this to everyone, if Lilly turns out to be not the dog for you (life circumstances, allergies, moves, separations…etc), please know that I will take her back, no judgements, no questions.  I get it.  

Finally, when and if you’re ever considering another dog, please consider us at A Second Chance.  I’m a big believer in a dog finds you, so you may one day find that second dog totally by accident (even though I believe there are no accidents!) and that’s so amazing….BUT, if you are actively looking one day, please let us help. I would love to help you find the perfect second dog for you and for Lilly.  Also, please tell your friends about us.  Lilly is going to be the best ambassador for A Second Chance, as she is beautiful and perfect and endearing,  

Thank you for loving Liliana as much as I do.


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