Category Archives: Fostering

Foster Failure

In the dog rescue world, the phrase foster fail often has an ultimately positive meaning.

Rather than going to a new home, a foster dog turns into a forever dog. Whether he bewitches his temporary peeps or just never gels with new ones, it’s all good. He’s safe, with people who love him.

I wish I had a foster fail story like this. But I don’t.

My foster failure story sucks. It involves intense bonding, intense fear, blind love, sharp teeth and a needle.

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you already know a lot of the story.

Almost two years ago, my boyfriend and I found a black dog.

Wayward dog #3 - Charlie Machete

The big mutt did not want to be caught, but Zach, my hero, managed to loop a leash around the snarling beast’s neck and gain his trust within minutes.

So began our adventures with the dog who came to be known as Charlie Machete, a striking black mongrel with a shovelhead, feathery tail, a lean, wiggly body and no manners.

He tore up our yard, bounced around our house like a “pinbull” and perched on countertops like a semi-domesticated panther.

He also occasionally growled at our friends, and tangled, expensively, with our golden retriever.

But for all the chaos Charlie Machete wrought, he could also be quite charming, trading tricks for treats, jogging tirelessly at my side for miles every day and snuggling close all through the night.

black dog on a walk

Best. Running. Partner. Ever.

We always knew that, for many reasons, he could not be our dog forever. However, we could see Charlie Machete’s potential. We loved him so much we were sure someone else could fall for him, too.

And they did – twice. But each affair was short-lived, and the second time he came back to us by way of a shelter three hours away.

Back under our care, he seemed a little calmer and a little more fearful. He was accepted into a rescue group but never liked meeting strangers at adoption events. He sometimes peed submissively in the house.

Eventually, Charlie Machete and our golden seemed to have worked out their issues. Charlie Machete even got himself a very tiny girlfriend and joined playgroup a few times at daycare.

But his distrust of most people – even some with whom he interacted regularly – persisted.

And then, recently, his fear came out in a rage against someone who inadvertently approached him in a way that made him uncomfortable. When I yanked on his leash to keep her safe, he redirected his frustration toward me.

No one was hurt, thank goodness, and the dog behaved calmly as soon as I removed him from the situation.

But that moment, the latest in a handful of close calls over the past year and a half, changed everything.

If I could build a bubble around this dog that I love so much, I would do it. But I cannot. And I cannot continue to risk him hurting another person out of misplaced fear.

Machete bat ears-crop

Tomorrow, the vet will come to my house, and I will give up on my foster dog for good.

It will be the hardest day I have had in a long time.

I’m sorry, Charlie Machete. I know that in ways I have failed you, despite my love for you. Thank you for all you have helped me to learn.

Frankie Has a Question

Will you be my family?

adoptable red pit bull

Frankie is looking for a home of his own.

This is Frankie. If he lived with me, I would call him Frank the Tank.

I had the pleasure of making Frankie’s acquaintance during the recent Dogs on the Lawn event at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

He was hanging out with the puppies and mama dog who are also currently available for adoption through Midwest Adopt-a-Bull.

Of course, it’s impossible to resist adorable, fat puppies, but I have to say Frankie was my favorite dog to spend time with that day.

He’s a big guy with a kind face, and as I jogged him across the museum lawn at the end of the day, it occurred to me that Frankie would make one heck of a jogging partner.

Currently, Frankie lives in a foster home with multiple dogs and a toddler. His foster mama says he loves children and that he would do best as an only dog or with a submissive female.

He originally came to Midwest Adopt-a-Bull from North Dakota with his sister. She has found her forever home, but Frankie is still looking.

Do you know someone who would like to make this big, sweet boy their own?

frankie 3

Please share Frankie’s story with your social networks!

Interested parties can learn more about him at

Puppies for Parole Goes Beyond Dogs in Prison

puppies for parole partnership

A new partnership is sealed.

Each month, Wayward Dogs highlights a story from Missouri’s Puppies for Parole program, a nationally renowned model for saving shelter dogs while helping human offenders. Instead of focusing on an adoptable P4P canine graduate, today’s post looks at a new way that this program will benefit people and dogs in Missouri.

From Shelter Dogs to Therapy Dogs

A recent partnership announced between the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) and Bridle Ridge Acres, a comprehensive health care center in Hillsboro, will connect animals from the state’s Puppies for Parole program and children with special needs.

Owned and operated by Community Treatment Inc. (COMTREA), Bridle Ridge is a 45-acre campus that will offer general practice medical care, dental care for children, behavioral health care, mental health care, substance abuse care and family therapy, as well as equine and canine therapy.

 “Animal Assisted Intervention is a promising frontier in health and mental health,” says Judy Finnegan, COMTREA associate vice president.

“We are so pleased that through our partnership with the Department of Corrections,” she says, “COMTREA will have specially trained ‘helper dogs’ that will benefit many in our community. It seems like this partnership completes a circle:  A dog is saved – a dog is trained and a person in need is helped.”

Following basic obedience training with offender handlers at Potosi Correctional Center, specially chosen Puppies for Parole dogs will go through additional professional training for canine therapy.

Animals selected for canine therapy with COMTREA will aid with autistic children, wounded veterans, troubled children, mentally ill, victims of domestic violence and others.

Certain selected dogs will also be offered to nursing homes, schools, hospitals and other institutions.

According to DOC Director George Lombardithis partnership is an ideal arrangement.

“Since the program’s inception, it’s always been a vision of mine to have our offenders train dogs for those with special needs,” he says. “This partnership is a natural fit for us, and I hope it serves as a catalyst for many other relationships with organizations that assist those with special needs.”

MIssouri Puppies for Parole

Do you agree with me that this a great development for Puppies for Parole? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

To browse adoptable P4P graduates, check out the currently available dogs.

Festive Nostalgia

Better get your green out, it’s almost St. Patrick’s Day.

Courtesy: Fido Fetch Photography

Dr. Minerva

Last year on the Saturday before the leprechaun’s favorite holiday, Minnie the husky mix accompanied me in a parade through the Brookside neighborhood of Kansas City.

Emily from Our Waldo Bungie was there, too, with her foster-dog-of-the-moment Lucy.

Lucy Liu - st. pat

The lovely Lucy Liu

I remember the day very clearly. The sun was bright, and the air was warm.

Minnie was wearing a green t-shirt, but we soon had to strip that off to keep her cool and comfortable.

Lucy Liu got lots of looks thanks to her festive green skirt, in which she strutted for the whole parade.

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed.

Both of these sweet dogs have now been in their forever homes for several months.

The pre-St. Patrick’s Day parade is happening without us all this year, in just a few hours.

However, I will definitely break out that green bandana Minnie wore to help Luke or Charlie Machete get festive sometime this weekend.

Check out this video I took of her after last year’s parade:

Will you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year? Will you be dressing up your dog?

Pink Isn’t Just for the Ladies

Remember the recent controversy surrounding the dog who supposedly acted “gay” and was consequently surrendered to a shelter by his owner?

That ignorant guy probably wouldn’t appreciate Charlie Machete’s latest outfit, either.

"Is this a good color on me?"

It’s a boy dog! Wearing pink!

I, however, think my big black foster dog looks extra fetching in hot pink!

He didn’t seem to mind rocking my old t-shirt, either. 

Maybe that’s because dogs are colorblind.

Or maybe it’s because Charlie Machete admires how distinguished Scooby the elderpin looks in his #skybluepink sweater from Tiennot Knits.

Boy dogs look good in pink.

Boy dogs look good in pink.

Regardless, Charlie Machete pranced around in the hot pink tee for over an hour, not once attempting to wiggle out of it.

Zach’s sister, who babysat the black dogs while we were in Nebraska over the weekend, agreed that her favorite Wayward Dog looks good in the bold color.

Striking a pose.

Striking a pose.

What do you think? Does Charlie Machete look pretty handsome in pink?

If you aren’t intimidated by a guy who is willing to rock hot pink or Cabela’s camo, consider making Charlie Machete your own!

Check out his adoptable profile

Valentine’s Day is almost here – be sure to check out the Wayward Hearts gift guide for dog lovers!

How We Helped Dogs in 2012

Way back when my little Wayward Dogs project began, I started this blog to chronicle the lost, stray and abandoned canines I encountered.

Lost dog

I’m quite happy to report that for a second year in a row, those experiences did not occur frequently enough to warrant daily posts. In fact, I hardly ran into any wayward dogs on the streets in the year 2012!

That, of course, meant I had to fill in the days with posts about other things, including other people’s awesome dog projects, including:

Then, there was the KC Pittie Pack…

KC Pittie Pack & Friends at Loose Park. Photo by Fido Fetch Photography.

KC Pittie Pack & Friends at Loose Park. Photo by Fido Fetch Photography.

Emily from Our Waldo Bungie and I came together in 2012 to create a co-project of our own.

We founded KC Pittie Pack & Friends, a walking group designed to help people socialize their pets in a structured environment. In its first year, KC Pittie Pack:


In 2012, I also used this blog as a platform to generate support for local animal welfare organizations.

My awesome blog readers helped me:

And the year was not totally devoid of “wayward dogs.”

Tara the elderbull

Of the handful of lost dogs I encountered, the three I was able to assist appeared when I was en route to work:

  • Malakai – A gorgeous and sweet husky dog who was stopping traffic on a very busy Kansas City street.
  • Tara – I knew my neighbor’s elderbull was never supposed to run around the ‘hood by herself.
  • Cotton – A hunting dog I totally failed to blog about. Rather than taking him with me, I turned back toward home. Cotton’s ID tag had a phone number, so I left a message on his owner’s voicemail that his dog was safe and how to reach me. Then, I went on to work. Within 20 minutes, Cotton’s uber-relieved-sounding dad called him, so I told him where to go pick up his pup.

Foster Dogs

The fact that very few stray doggies followed me home in 2012 was actually a really good thing, considering at the beginning of the year we still had two formerly wayward dogs under our roof – Minnie and Charlie Machete – in addition to our two forever dogs.

Machete loves our husky mix Minnie.

No kidding – four was too much for our little house and the humans inside it.

Fortunately, by May, both fosters were adopted. But the reprieve did not last long.

Less than a year after he originally arrived in our lives, Charlie Machete came back – by way of a shelter in Omaha.

Machete bat ears-crop

We still don’t know exactly why he ended up behind bars, but we are grateful Charlie Machete’s adopters never changed the contact information on his microchip. Because they didn’t, the shelter called me, and Zach was able to make the three-hour drive to bail out our big black foster dog, who was otherwise on the list to be euthanized.

For now, he remains with us – when he’s not playing with his friends at Kennel Creek Pet Resort – and is available for adoption through Midwest Adopt-a-Bull.

Influencing Others

Although I haven’t proven to be a very successful dog foster mom, I’m proud to say that, through networking, I was able to help some other dogs find forever homes in 2012.

Sometimes I feel funny about the fact that I am the girl who almost daily posts sad pictures of dogs desperate to be adopted. I know this habit annoys some of my friends, but I keep doing it for a good reason: Sometimes the sharing pays off.

beagle husky mix

Because I helped my friend and fellow Kansas City pet advocate Nicole get the word out, these two dogs landed in forever homes in 2012:

  • Mia, a beagle/husky mix was adopted by my coworker
  • A black lab puppy was taken into a foster home that adopted him

My constant fretting about wayward dogs also seems to have had an effect on Zach’s and my mothers.

In 2012, both of them made successful efforts to apprehend and return home lost dogs in their own neighborhoods.

I have also noticed that generally in life I am becoming the person others turn to when they have questions about dogs. That sure feels good, and I always try to help if I can.

Here’s hoping for more successful efforts on behalf of dogs in 2013!

What was your biggest accomplishment for dogs last year?

A Reindog’s Christmas Wish

Charlie Machete is so excited for Christmas that this year he agreed to put on a special holiday costume.



Same as last year, all he wants for Christmas is a forever family of his own.

If you or anyone you know would like to adopt Charlie Machete, check out his profile at

Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Fit for Husky Dogs

Kansas City woke up this morning to white stuff and blustery wind.


My fingers are crossed that we might actually have a white Christmas.

For at least two households I know in this metro area, it will be the first Christmas celebrated in the company of a beautiful husky mix with heterogenous eyes.

Could you stop Facebooking and pet me, please?

I’m not only referring to Minnie, my lovely former foster dog who now enjoys a pampered existence with my friend Holly.

There’s also Mia.

Several months ago, my friend Nicole, the Kansas City animal advocate I introduced you to last week, forwarded me this picture.

beagle husky mix

The beagle husky mix belonged to some people in Nicole’s family who were moving and could not take the dog with them.

I helped Nicole spread the word. As luck would have it a family I knew was on the hunt for their first dog. And the dad had a soft spot for huskies.

Come back tomorrow to learn more about Mia’s happy ending!

Real Rescue Stories from Kansas City – Part 2

This post is the continuation of yesterday’s Q&A with Nicole, an animal advocate in Kansas City.

Kingsley and Lucy

Kingsley and Lucy

How many pets total do you have of your own?

We currently have four cats and two dogs.  Two of the cats, Dirk and Frankie, we’ve had since they were kittens, and really were the first and only pets we ever ‘sought’ out.  One of the cats, Lucy, was a foster that we were only supposed to be responsible for for a short time, but her owner never reclaimed her.  Kingsley we found on Cliff Drive, and never even tried to find a home for.

As for the dogs, Butters and Max Powers, I’ve told you how Butters came into our lives.  Max Power is really the luckiest of all of our rescues.  I found him in a tennis court in Valentine Park.  I was walking Chester Sauce and we came across these two dogs.  I stopped to see if they had tags.  One of them did.  The other, Max Power, bit me when I stretched my hand out for him to sniff.  After that, I began to walk away, and he snapped at me again.  Even though he didn’t want me to touch him, they both followed Chester and I.  He’s been by my side since then.  He has also stopped biting people, but remains suspicious of most new comers.  He’s completely food and disc golf driven.


Tell me about Butters.

Oh, Butters.  Butters was a dog that showed up one day roaming our block.  I had seen him following a younger couple, and they kept throwing sticks at him saying, “Get away” He just followed along with his tail wagging desperate for some love.  One day I was sitting on the front porch when he passed, and I hollered out to him.  He came immediately over and melted my heart.  His tail and back hips wiggle with such an intense rhythm, that made him impossible to turn away.  He is a big dog, and the husband and I were really trying not to take in any more animals, so we advertised the shit out of him.  We asked everyone we knew, we made him his own Facebook page, and would post cute pictures of him and describe the things he likes to do…and still couldn’t find him a willing companion.  Then, eventually we stopped trying.  I couldn’t imagine him living anywhere else now.  He’s so incredibly in love with my husband.

Butters did have to spend some time at a training camp though.  He was horrible on a leash, and loved to jump up on everyone.  He’s better at both, but will never be trusted to hang out off of his leash.  He’s also so protective of us, that when we come across other dogs on a walk, he freaks out.  He’ll lunge and bark and, act a fool, embarrassing us.  We hope this will continue to get better with age, but it seems unlikely.  He loves to play with other dogs, and is very social, but once you leash him, he thinks it’s his job to make sure no one gets near.

Max Power

Max Power

Do you think your pets are ready for the baby?

It’s hard to say.  They seem to be more glued to me than ever.  Here at 40 weeks pregnant, I never have any personal space, there is always at least one animal guarding me.  Often times my husband will come home from work and find all six animals on the couch with me.  The dogs I don’t really worry about at all.  Only the juggling act that walking them and the baby will create.  However, there are two of the cats that are a little less friendly.  And one cat who no matter what we rig up, is capable of climbing over the baby gate and getting into the baby’s crib.  This is a pattern we are trying hard to break.  I think everyone will be fine once the initial dust settles.  After all, with all the different animals that have come and gone through our pack, and all the times we’ve moved, our animals are actually quite flexible and willing to give strangers a chance.

Frankie and Dirk

Frankie and Dirk

What is the most important thing about animals you want your child to know?

For me, it’s to respect them and to have empathy.  I don’t think of any of the animals that live with us to be our ‘pets’.  They’re our companions and they are here because of a mutual respect and trust.  We don’t own them.  I think he’ll pick this up just from what he sees around our house, and those of our friends and families.

However, I know it’ll be hard to explain why the five cats that live on or under the porch live outside, while the inside cats live inside.  One day, I know we’ll have our hands full when he starts bringing home animals too.

Readers: What do you want children – yours or anyone else’s – about animals?

Real Rescue Stories from Kansas City – Part 1

I’ve been told that if you have a heart for animals, they know it, and they will find you. This has certainly been true in my own life. It has been even more true in the life of my friend Nicole.

In looking out for neighborhood animals in need, she and her husband have helped keep bellies full, bodies warm and provided new starts on life.

What follows is Part 1 of my Q&A with Nicole.

black lab puppy

This puppy once showed up on Nicole’s doorstep.

What is your neighborhood like?

We currently live in the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood, which is just east of the river market. Some days, it’s diversity is uplifting and makes you feel great.  Other days, you are confronted with some of the uglier aspects of any city; crime, abandonment, lack of funds or interest, etc.

There seem to be a lot of stray/feral cats in this neighborhood.  My husband and I feed the cats in the winter, and do our best to befriend them enough to be able to put them in a carrier and take them to Great Plains SPCA to be spayed or neutered.  Also, I’ll see quite a few roaming dogs, sometimes in small awkwardly matched packs,(I’ve seen a Chihuahua, pomeranian, and a German shepherd mix all cruising together) and others just out on their own.  This sometimes makes for a scary situation when walking our two dogs.

black lab bit bull mix

Rescue dog Chester Sauce.

How many animals have you helped rehome?

We’ve helped a total of twenty animals, 9 dogs and 11 cats find new homes. For the most part, we just happen upon an animal that is friendly, and it’s too hard to say no.  They seem to know that we the type of people who can’t argue with a cold wet nose, or a tail wrapped around one’s leg.

It usually goes like this: I find a dog or cat somewhere, I sell its sad story to my husband who will agree to keeping it until we can place it. Then, I call, text, e-mail, and Facebook all my friends and family trying to find a match. We get our house back to a reasonable pack, then another sweet four-legger shows up and the cycle starts again.

Who are the most memorable dogs?

The dogs, we tend to keep ourselves.  Chester Sauce is a pit/black lab mix that used to live out his sad life tied to a tree in a neighbor’s yard.  These people were some of the most negligent dog owners we’ve ever had the displeasure of living near.  We lived next to Chester for a summer that was really hot. Every day before work I would fill his bowl with food, and bring him a solid chunk of ice to have for the day. He spent every moment of his life tied to a tree by a six foot rope.  His head was scarred and scabby from the flies that would bother him all day. And while we found his coat to be a brilliant shiny black, the whole time he lived at that house, he was a stinky brown.

We eventually moved from that apartment, and into a house with a large backyard in south Kansas City.  After a few weeks, we decided to go and liberate Chester. We drove back to his house, and after a brief conversation with his owners, I was told, “Sure.  You can take him for a walk.”

I walked him up the street, put him in the car, and drove him to his new home, ours. Chester became the best dog ever.  He was very eager to learn, and was always very gentle with people and other animals. We came home once to find him sitting under a tree crying.  When we got close we found he was sitting next to a baby bird that had fallen from it’s nest. He wouldn’t leave that bird’s side.

When we moved to midtown I could walk him  up to Mr. Z’s or Chipotle on 39th street and leave him outside of the store without having to worry about him wondering off.  He would sit, untethered, waiting for me to return.  No dog or curious person would be able to make him leave his post.  He’s now retired and living a softer life in Lee’s Summit with my husband’s grandma.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of the interview!

%d bloggers like this: