About The Foster Zoo

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We have decided to blog our adventures again. So much has changed since we last blogged. Bella and Shiloh both went to their forever homes and they are in wonderful families. June Bug got adopted. We quit fostering dogs after those adoptions because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. We quit doing therapy dog work because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. Tanker passed away June 9th, 2013. We adopted a senior border collie named Shania Tankerbelle in his memory. We still have our two cats, Sweet Pea and Little Bit. Wes has started rescuing pitiful bettas from Wal-Mart and we currently have seven. We have a camper. We camp. We have focused on giving our animals the best lives possible. We are The Foster Zoo Crew and we like to have fun.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Day of Celebration

Today was a day of celebration.  Promotion results came out for Technical Sergeant and Wes' name was on the list.  This was the promotion Wes had been studying so hard for all year.  Wes has been in the Air Force for less than ten years, so this is quite an accomplishment. 

The Air Force promotes in order of line numbers.  Wes' line number is 4,921.  He predicts he will sew on in December or early in the new year.  In the mean time, he is taking some college classes.  He thought it through and he has to miss a testing cycle before testing for Master Sergeant.  He thinks he may test for Master by the following year, and he plans to get a jump start on studying for it.  Wes never ceases to amaze me.  I told him to not think about it and just enjoy the day.  Nope.  Wes was busy planning out the future.  

Out of the 34,257 people who tested this year, only 8,545 were promoted.  Out of the 1,256 people who tested in his career field, only 363 were selected.  I am pretty proud of Wes for being one of them.  Wes scored higher than 70% of the people who tested on the PFE and higher than 68% of the people that tested on the SKT.  He made TSgt with 8 points to spare.  He said he actually scored better on the tests last year, but he missed promotion by a couple of points.  Either way, he did excellent.

Gosh, Wes has come so far.  It seems like just yesterday when he was getting on that bus to head to the airport and ship out to Lackland AFB for Basic Training.  I remember bursting with pride the day he graduated.  That was in 2002.  He was 20 and I was 19.  Those are the fond memories I will always hold close to me.  Watching him grow from a young Airman straight out of Basic and Tech school into what he has become today has been the greatest joy of my life.  I'm not proud to be an Air Force Wife.  I am proud to be HIS Air Force Wife.

We had this coffee mug made at Lackland AFB when Wes graduated from Basic Training.  That pendant that I am wearing is an Air Force pendant that Wes bought me at graduation.  It matches his Air Force ring.  He wanted us to match.

 I remember moving to our first duty station, Fairchild AFB.  We chose to live on base because Wes was an Airman First Class and our housing allowance was not very high.  We moved next door to two Tech Sergeants and I remember being in awe that they even talked to us.  They ended up being our best friends.  I remember Wes being invited to a birthday party for the son of a guy he worked with.  He was a Staff Sergeant.  Wes was an A1C.  I remember telling our neighbors that we got invited to the party and "the guy is a Staff Sergeant!"  I look back at how silly I was, but how much respect I had for people of higher ranks.  Now Wes is one of those.  Our next door neighbor is a newly retired Colonial.  Our neighbor across the street is a Colonial.  One of our friends is Brigadier General who just retired.  We got to go to his retirement ceremony at the Pentagon and we were honored to be around people of such great importance.  They have all been so nice to us and have mentored us in one way or another.  They have all inspired us to be our best.  Now Wes is becoming one of the guys we've always looked up to.  This Air Force life has been a rewarding journey filled with lots of cool adventures.

Wes was in the shower when promotion results were released.  He had left his phone on vibrate and neither of us heard it.  When he got out of the shower, he saw that he had several missed calls.  He knew what it was about and he was anxious to call back the people he worked with.  When he called, I overheard a guy say, "Congratulations, Wes."  The stress and tension just melted off of Wes' face.  A whole new look of relief came over him.  Wes stood tall and proud for the rest of the day.

Wes' commander called Wes to congratulate him.  That made his day.  He received an e-mail from an old Pro-Super from Fairchild who is now a Senior Master Sergeant.  He looked Wes' e-mail up to congratulate him.  That made him feel really good.

We had an interview with the Volunteer Coordinator at Mary Washington Hospital about volunteering with Topher and Tanker in the hospital.  We really enjoyed talking to her.  We have to attend hospital orientation on July 11th and Wes has to get his TB test done.  We have to take Topher and Tanker up there to have their badges made.  Then we are free to work our dogs at both Mary Washington Hospital and Stafford Hospital.

I treated Wes to a special lunch at Amy's Cafe down by the river.  Located in Historic "Port of Falmouth" in Falmouth, Virginia, Amy's CafĂ© resides in an historic three story brick tavern building dating back to the 17th-century. The inviting interior reveals exposed bricks and wood beams.

Historic Falmouth was founded in 1727 as a trading center for the Northern Neck. The Hunter's Iron Works foundry of Falmouth was an objective in the Virginia Campaign of 1781. The Army of the Potomac camped in Falmouth from November 1862 to June 1863, and then moved to Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

Located only a few feet from the banks of the Rappahannock River under the Falmouth Bridge, Amy's Cafe is a wonderful place to have a peacefully quiet and relaxing meal. You'll want to take a little walk before or after dining to enjoy the river views and other historic dwellings and sites in the immediate vicinity.  (http://www.amyscafefalmouth.com/)

This was a really neat place to have lunch.  The really cool thing about Amy's Cafe is that they are dog friendly.  They allow well behaved dogs to dine in the seating out on the deck.  I really love where we live.  There are so many dog friendly places here.

Wes and I chose to order the crab cake sandwich with sweet potato fries.  We normally wouldn't choose such a fatty meal, but it is one of their famed specials and we just couldn't resist.  It was a day to celebrate.

We could not celebrate Wes' big day without a brainfreeze, so off to Bella Cafe we went for dessert.

I needed some fertilizer for my flower beds, so we went to Wal-Mart next.  I've been wanting to get ferns for my front porch and I was hoping Wal-Mart would have some for cheaper than Lowes or Home Depot did.  The Wal-Mart in Stafford is currently being upgraded to a Super Wal-Mart and their lawn and garden department is not stocked with many plants.  We ended up going to Lowes and Home Depot.  Lowes had ferns on sale for $9.99 a piece, so I picked up four for our front porch.  You have to have ferns on a front porch with rocking chairs.  I also picked up a Daisy Gardenia for $6.00.  I was going to plant it in Blondie's Memorial Garden on the side of our house, but when I got started, I realized that bed is pretty full with bulbs and flowers already.  I decided to pot it in a clay pot and put it on my front porch instead.  It is little and only has one flower right now, but it smells so good!

My mom mailed me some wildflower seeds that she got from her flowers last year.  I planted them in Blondie's Memorial Garden (which I didn't take a picture of).  I also sprinkled fertilizer down in my front flower garden.

We had to move the rocking chairs off the front porch until we can sand them and refinish them.  They are 20 years old and some of the finish is worn off of them.  Now that I will be watering ferns, I don't want to get them wet with the wood exposed.  Wes said it will take a couple of days to refinish them.  They are currently sitting in our basement until we get them done.  We can't wait to sit on our front porch with a glass of iced tea and a good book.  It is very peaceful being surrounded by nature.

All of the ivy and other plants I had growing in the front has been cut back and lime has been put down.  The soil was too acidic and they weren't growing well.  By cutting everything back and applying lime, it should all grow back thicker and fuller.

While we worked in the front, Shiloh and Bella watched through the fence. 

Bella is howling.

At the end of the day, we were exhausted.  We showered and decided to go to bed early.

A day of celebration.  A day of fulfillment.  A day to appreciate the things we've been blessed with.  The perfect day to spend with the one we love most.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Small Steps = Big Success

I am in no rush to get these puppies trained to be therapy dogs.  They are well behaved and I would rather take it slow so that they know everything rather than rush through it all.  We are having fun at the same time.  I feel this is important for my pack structure.  When it becomes all work and no play, the dogs take life too seriously.  As of now, I have four well balanced dogs.  No fighting.  No dominance issues.  No being jealous of each other.  They can't take their therapy dog test until they are a year old anyway, so there is no hurry.

I have been working on sit, wait, and come for the month and a half that we've had the puppies.  I wanted them to be completely proficient at it before moving on.  Tonight was the ultimate test.  I put all four dogs in a sit and a wait.  I put all their food down and didn't release them until I took a picture.  They did really well.  I did have to remind Shiloh and Bella once or twice, and even once picked up the food and started all over, but in the end, they did it.

I am very proud of them.

Topher is shaking his paw really well now.  He knows the word "shake" and will offer me his paw before I put my hand down to grab it.  I started working on "sitting pretty" with the puppies.  They are really good at it, but only with me holding a treat over their nose.  Boomer was excellent at "sit pretty."  (He was our foster dog.)  It's a cute command to teach.  People really ooh and aww over your dog when he can sit pretty.

I also started working on "down" with the puppies.  I have to separate them for this one.  Otherwise they are both trying to get the treat.

Other than that, I did nothing today.  I am exhausted.  I don't know why.  I just am.  I went outside and played with the dogs for a while.  I took some pictures using the macro option on the camera on my phone.  This will be my new obsession.  Not that taking pictures isn't already a passion of mine.  I have taken about 1200 of them on my phone this month.  What can I say?  I love my life and like to document it.

I don't know if this is a mom bug carrying around her baby bug or if these bugs are being intimate with each other.  I hope it's the mom and baby option.  If not, I apologize for taking an X-rated photo.  Either way, they are cool looking bugs.

It was pretty warm outside today.  We played outside anyway.

Tanker cools off by the air conditioner.

Shiloh lays and chews mulch.

Topher plays it cool on the deck.

The puppies always come in and lay on the air conditioner vent.

Shiloh decided she needed to work out her jaw muscles and carried one of my weights around this evening.

Wes went for a HIDA Scan today.  He will find out the results next week.  Tomorrow, we have an interview with the volunteer coordinator at Mary Washington Hospital.  We are excited about that.  Promotion results also come out tomorrow.  Wes is nervous, yet he feels confident.  Regardless if he makes it or not, he will always be the best in my eyes. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Where would I be without my dogs?

He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him.  When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me... whenever... wherever - in case I need him. And I expect I will - as I always have. He is just my dog."  - Gene Hill

Where would I be without my dogs?

I would be one big stress mess.  There is so much going on in our lives right now.  As my good friend pointed out, I am a sponge for it all.  Wes and I both are.  That's the beauty of being in love.  We endure things together.  We absorb each other's stress.  We bond through it all.

Wes went to an Infectious Disease Doctor today at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.  The doctor is putting him back on Doxycycline for four more weeks.  Wes still has a lot of symptoms.  When he wakes up in the morning, everything from his hips down are stiff.  He has a difficult time walking first thing in the morning.  His hands are stiff by the end of the day.  His fatigue is very bad. 

If Wes is still symptomatic at the end of four weeks, he will be admitted to the hospital for one to two weeks, have a central line placed, and given IV antibiotics.  We both hope it doesn't get to that point. 

The doctor said he couldn't predict if Wes will be burdened with this the rest of his life.  Some people have long term disability from Lyme Disease.  Some people never feel the effects of it after the first treatment. 

I received an e-mail recently implying that I was not keeping people informed well enough.  I am trying my best.  I am going through a lot as well, and writing about our hardships to everyone is not necessarily my top priority.  I have to take care of my mental health as well.  People can either accept me for who I am, or I do not need them in my life.  I am really trying to stay in good spirits.  I need to be that for Wes.  As much as I appreciate that I was burdened with this e-mail as opposed to putting it on Wes, I would appreciate respect more than anything.  We are only human.  My priority is Wes.

Wes goes for a HIDA Scan tomorrow.  He does not have gallstones; However, the doctor suspects that his gallbladder is malfunctioning.  If so, that is what caused his abdominal blockage.  He was ordered by the doctor to eat a high fat meal tonight followed by a glass of whole milk.  Gross.  The doctor suggested a fatty steak with all the fat around the edges.  Disgusting.  I am not cooking that.  I am taking Wes to Five Guys instead. 

Because Wes has had so much radiation lately, between the X-Rays and nuclear studies, he has to hold off on the Chest CT.  The doctor does not want him having contrast that close together since he is having the HIDA Scan tomorrow.  I think I did mention that the nodule on his lung is 8 mm by 10 mm.

Promotion results come out on Thursday.  Wes is really excited about it.  He tested really well last year and got high scores on his tests.  Because promotion is made up of test scores, time in rank, time in service, EPRs, and amount of medals, he missed the cutoff score last year.  Wes is still below the average time for being promoted.  He calculated that if he makes the same score on his tests that he did last year, plus his additional time in grade, plus the two Commendation Medals he earned this year, he should make it with about ten points to spare.  He deserves it.  He is such a hard worker.  Plus, he deserves some happiness in his life.  He is taking a college class starting in July.  He is very excited about it.  Wes has turned into one of the smartest people I know.  Just last night, at 1:00 in the morning after he got home from work, he pulled out the book he is reading to read another chapter.  He said he wants to finish it before he starts his class.  He has turned into a bigger reader than me!  He is flying through books left and right.

My dogs help me manage my stress.  They can contribute to it as well.  Puppy training is not easy.  I will admit that I have two really good puppies though.  I have met puppies who were not near as well behaved as Bella and Shiloh.

Topher is really my buffer in life.  He reads me so well.  He knows if I am sad.  He will lay his head on my leg.  He knows if I am stressed.  He will try to play to cheer me up.  He knows when I am happy.  He smiles so big.  He is truly one of my best friends.  He is my therapy dog.

Tanker and Topher will both play with the puppies when I am tired and they are not.  They sense my emotions.  They are like my little puppy training assistants.

Topher and Tanker's cards came in the mail.  I ordered them through Vistaprint.  They had an offer for 100 free cards.  All I had to pay for was shipping.

I think the children, especially, will love them!  Wes and I only have to get our TB tests done in order to volunteer on our own in Snowden in Fredericksburg.  That's the Psychiatric Hospital we have been shadowing/being observed in.  I have such a passion for those people there.  Wes and I have an interview scheduled on Thursday with the Volunteer Coordinator at Mary Washington Hospital.  We're excited to get started there as well.

Dogs keep me going.  My love for my husband keeps me passionate.  Helping others keeps me loving.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Busy Weekend of Training and Relaxation

This weekend was spent mostly relaxing, with some training thrown in here and there.  I get this guilty feeling when I don't spend time with my Zoo Crew.  They enjoy to learn.  Every one of them seems to strive to figure things out and learn new things.  That's why I love herding breeds so much.  They are thinkers.  They like to stay busy and figure things out.  If you don't provide them with a "job", they will find one themselves.  That holds me accountable and keeps me busy as well. 

I have been feeling a little discontent from Topher lately as I have been putting so much time into the puppies.  Topher was my focus until the puppies arrived.  Now that Bella and Shiloh are part of our family, my day is spent playing and training them when they are awake, and resting or doing something of my own when they sleep.  In the last week or so, Topher has been coming up to me with his ears tilted slightly back, and then yelping at me, like he is saying, "Play with me!  Pay attention to me!"  Topher is my boy.  I adopted Topher for Tanker just a couple of days after Blondie passed away.  I looked at every Australian Cattle Dog on Petfinder and Topher struck me as "the one" from the moment I saw his picture.  He helped Tanker find happiness; he sat by my side every day that I took care of my ailing grandmother; he cooperated and eagerly learned basic obedience as I de-stressed from the emotional turmoil inside of me as I watched my grandmother pass away.  Topher was my shoulder to cry on and my brief moments of happiness during my time of distress.  To say that Topher and I are bonded doesn't even touch the relationship we have together.

I designated Saturday a Topher and me day.  I gave the puppies to Wes and just played with Topher.  We ran around the backyard, I brushed him, and then I decided to teach him how to shake.  Teaching Topher how to shake took me ten minutes.  No joke.  He is smart.

Bella and Shiloh kept themselves busy playing tug of war with a long piece of mulch in the backyard.

Wes enjoyed working with the dogs too.  He normally doesn't do as much of the training as I do because he works, but he does what he can when he is home. 

Wes found some solid oak rocking chairs off of Craigslist for only $20.  They are 20 years old!  They are in great condition, but need to be refinished, so that is one of his next projects.  We enjoyed sitting outside Friday night listening to the frogs and crickets.

Saturday night, we went to Bella Cafe to watch an Irish band perform.  They are a father/daughter duo with a great fiddle player.  They will be back in September for those of you who expressed interest in seeing them.


Sunday, we went to a graduation party of the son of a patient I took care of in Hospice.  I didn't take care of her through Capital Hospice.  Her husband hired me to take care of her at home in her last two months of life.  I bonded with the family and they have kept me a part of their lives since she passed away.  It was great to see them all.
The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing.

Of course, everybody got treats too, including the cats.  They sit patiently with the dogs.

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