Russell's Story: Chapter 7 - The Final Installment

There is no way to tell the story of Russell from beginning to end as a short story. His story is far too long; and far from over. So I will do my best to keep it as short as possible. I'll divide it into chapters so it doesn't have to be read all at once. The 7 chapters of Russell's Story will be posted semi-monthly.

This is the final chapter.

By the week of Thanksgiving I had gotten the results of Russell’s blood work. His thyroid levels were much better. His weight was down to 47lbs. and it was easy to see that he was well on the way to feeling better. He could keep up and sometimes even pass Mandy and Buddy when we went on walks. He loved to run whenever he could and watching him hop down the steps, his backside bouncing in the air at each step, was both inspiring and comical at the same time. My only concern was that his skin was flaking badly. His skin and fur were dry and flaky in September when he came back to us, but had improved. Now it seemed that it was worse than in September. The vet told me that was due to his body’s metabolism changing. He would, over the next six months or more, loose his skin and replace it with healthier skin cells that would improve his overall skin condition and coat. In the meantime, with advise from Tara (another foster for Paws and Prayers), I would give Russell a soaking oatmeal bath. He loved it! Soon his skin and fur would be much improved.

After doing the normal amount of checking through Marty’s adoption application, I realized that she would provide a wonderful forever home for Russell. Knowing how concerned I was about Russell’s future, she even sent me a photo of her house and fenced in backyard so I could see that Russell would have plenty of room to run freely when going outside. Her vet would contact my vet to discuss Russell’s health issues and plan his continued recovery. It all seemed like my long journey with Russell was coming to and end. We planned on doing the adoption soon after Thanksgiving. That would change.

During the week after Thanksgiving, I got a phone call from Marty. Her mother, retired and living in
Russell at the Holidays 2012
Tennessee, decided that see would like to come to Pennsylvania for the Christmas Holidays. Marty would have to drive to Tennessee to get her mother. She would stay down there a couple days before returning with her mother to Pennsylvania. After the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays, she would drive her mother home. After a short visit, Marty would return home to Pennsylvania. If Marty were to adopt Russell now, she would have to put him in a kennel when she was traveling. There was simply not enough room in her car to transport her mother, her mother’s dog, her own dog and all the luggage. She didn’t think it would be good for Russell to be put in a kennel shortly after being adopted. I agreed. She asked me if I would keep him until she returned to Pennsylvania in the middle of January. She would pay any expenses that I incurred taking care of him for the extended period. I wasn’t worried about that. I was more worried about it being all the more difficult to part with Russell.

People often ask me how I give up a dog for adoption after getting attached to the dog and the dog getting attached to us. It is never easy, and Russell was going to be the most difficult of all my fosters. My answer to people is that I know that there are so many other dogs that need help. Our family could not handle more than three dogs at a time. If I kept Russell, it would mean giving up fostering. I couldn’t do that. I made two trips to the Summit County Animal Control shelter prior to Russell’s adoption for the sole purpose of just looking at the dogs. The sights, sounds, smells, and especially the eyes of all the dogs confined there kept me grounded in the belief that I needed to keep fostering.

Up until Russell’s official adoption, he continued his steady improvement. His weight would eventually be down to 42lbs., for a total weight loss of 18lbs. Although he was considered adopted, I took him to adoption events so he could interact with other dogs and I could show him off like a proud father. He enjoyed playing with other dogs and seemed to especially like the large females! And for the first time since I knew him, after petting him at one of the events, a little girl said: “He’s so soft!” It was quite a breakthrough. He enjoyed the Holidays with my family and we bought him a new bed to sleep in and take to his new home.
Russell lounging in his bed
Russell’s adoption would finally come about on January 25th. I met Marty at the Petsmart in Poland, Ohio to complete the adoption. My Dad accompanied me on the trip. I was glad to have someone to talk to, especially on the way back home. We got there early and I was able to spend some additional time walking and sitting with Russell. I couldn’t help thinking what must be going on in his mind. In my mind I hoped that he would do well in his new home. I hoped I was making the right decision. I hoped he didn’t think I was giving up on him and abandoning him. Every time I looked down at him he would sit and look into my eyes. I knew he probably just wanted a treat, but I couldn’t help but think he might know I was saying goodbye.

Shortly after 2:00pm, I put Russell into Marty’s car for the ride to his new home and the start of yet another new journey. I gave him a hug, a kiss on the head, and whispered something private into his ear; something that I tell all my foster dogs when they leave me. I gave Marty a hug and thanked her for adopting Russell. She thanked me for keeping him for so long for her.

My Dad and I avoided talking about Russell on the 50 mile trip back home, but he knew I was thinking about him. It will be a long time before there is a day when I don’t think about Russell. He touched the hearts of my entire family and countless others around him. I hope to foster many dogs for many years to come, but there will never be another Russell.

By the way, Russell is doing great in his new home. He has become attached to Marty and enjoys his time with his big brother dog Simon. Marty and I will keep in touch and whenever possible she will meet me so I can see Russell again.
The last picture Beagle Bob snapped before
sending him off to his new furever home!


Content By:  Beagle Bob

"Beagle Bob" Dietrich is a foster parent for dogs along with his wife Vicki and son Robert.  Bob is a full time Fire Fighter/Paramedic, Vicki is a high school math teacher, and Robert is a full time college student.  They have two Beagles, Mandy and Buddy. 

Images: Provided by Beagle Bob

Russell's Story: Chapter 6

There is no way to tell the story of Russell from beginning to end as a short story. His story is far too long; and far from over. So I will do my best to keep it as short as possible. I'll divide it into chapters so it doesn't have to be read all at once. The 7 chapters of Russell's Story will be posted semi-monthly.

November 2012
When I took Russell to my vet, I was nervous that he might have some serious health issues from being overweight. I had recently listed him on the Paws and Prayers web site as being an adoptable dog. I wrote briefly about his history and how he would need a lot of care to get healthy. I hadn’t gotten any inquires yet, but I felt I needed a better grasp of his overall health before even considering his being adopted. After giving Russell a thorough exam, my vet told me that Russell definitely had some health issues. He had: a heart murmur that was not serious or life threatening, some shifting of tendons in his front legs that may be from the excessive weight on the joints, and many signs of hypothyroidism. His being overweight, having dry skin and fur, and lack of energy (I noticed that the previous year) were signs of hypothyroidism.

The next day the vet called me and told me that Russell’s blood work showed that he definitely had hypothyroidism. He would put Russell on daily medication and check his blood again in one month. By that time Russell should be showing signs of improvement and more weight loss. He also put Russell on some aspirin daily because he felt Russell’s joints were probably hurting him.

By the middle of October I had gotten two applications for Russell by families wanting to adopt him. I was excited to see that he had gotten some interest, but was cautious about letting him leave without being healthier. After much debate, I decided to wait until after his blood work was re-checked in November before letting him be adopted. I contacted both families and was both surprised and pleased that they were very willing to not only wait until Russell’s blood work was done, but also to trust me to make the decision as to who would be the best family to adopt Russell. I also got a third application for Russell from a woman in Pennsylvania who had originally put an application in for another dog. That dog had been adopted by someone else, so she wanted to know about Russell. She was also willing to wait until I thought Russell was ready.
November 2012

Over the next two weeks Russell made remarkable progress. We noticed immediately that he had more energy. A major breakthrough came on a cool, damp day. We had all three dogs outside in the back yard. Russell had been able to go up and down the steps for a couple weeks now. It wasn’t pretty, but it was impressive. He was, however, walking over into the neighbor’s yard and we didn’t want him going to the bathroom there, so we had him tethered on a 30ft leash to keep him in our yard. It was a leash that was over ten years old and had been used by almost all the foster dogs. Suddenly, all three dogs spotted some deer strolling through the woods behind our house. With a fury of loud barking and howling, all three ran toward the woods after the deer. To our surprise, Russell broke his leash and darted into the woods dragging about ten feet of broken leash with him. My wife ran out after them with no shoes on and white socks. Mandy and Buddy ran a little ways before listening to my wife yelling for them to stop, but Russell disappeared into the woods. While I scrambled to get some shoes on, my wife ran as far as she could into the woods before the rough terrain and soft, thick mud was too much.

When I finally caught up to Russell, he had managed to get at least 100 yards into the thick, overgrown, and very muddy wooded area. I was down on my hands and knees crawling because the area was so thick. The only things that seemed to have stopped him was the fact that the leash he was dragging had gotten caught on underbrush and he had sank into the mud up to his belly. I had to pull him out of the mud like pulling a cork out of a bottle. As I carried him back to the house, I couldn’t help but notice the happy look on his face. I felt his tail wagging against my body and his heart rapidly beating strongly through his chest. I took him right into the house and straight to the bath tub for a good cleaning. My wife and I couldn’t help but laugh at how happy Russell seemed to be after his little adventure.

November 2012
With Halloween about a week away, Russell was making great strides. He weight had dropped to 48lbs and his energy level was increasing daily. He was now ready to go on a full evening walk with Mandy and Buddy. It was no secret that he liked walks, but I was surprised that after just a few walks he got his own leash and brought it to me as I got Mandy and Buddy on their leashes. Russell was also beginning to show that he liked being at our home. Whenever I got home, he would run up to greet me. He would bark and cry until I petted him and even rolled over to have his belly rubbed (something he wasn’t physically able to do for a long time)! He followed me almost all the time when I was in the house and constantly sat down near me waiting for his head to be petted and neck rubbed. Most of the time he wouldn’t even lay down until he was convinced that I was going to stay put myself for a while. Russell had completely worked his way into our hearts.

As the time to re-check Russell’s blood work grew nearer, I knew that I must consider who would be the best of the three applicants to adopt him. I decided that Marty, a retired teacher who lives in Pennsylvania, was the best candidate. She was home a lot of the time, had a fenced in yard, a dog of her own, and most importantly; a true understanding of Russell’s history and my attachment to him and my desire to find him the right forever home. After several phone calls and e-mails, we arranged to meet.

It was the day after the November elections when we met at a Petsmart in Poland, Ohio. I was outside the store walking Russell when Marty pulled up in her car. As we introduced ourselves, Russell lifted his leg and had a nice long pee on the wheel of her car. As I watched, embarrassed by the scene, all I could say was: “You know there was a time when he couldn’t even lift his leg!” Marty was very nice about the situation and even laughed. Russell and Marty’s dog, Simon, a 12 year old male Lab-Collie mix, gave each other a “smell over” and seemed to be okay as we walked them together for a short time. Russell was cordial to Marty, as was his nature not to be over affectionate to new people. He took treats gently from her hands and sat patiently as she petted him. After about an hour of visiting and talking, Marty decided that she would like to, if I thought it was okay, adopt Russell. I wanted to wait until after the November 16th blood work was completed and I had a better idea of how Russell was progressing to complete the adoption. Marty agreed that would be best.

As I left the Petsmart, I was feeling a lot of emotions. I was excited that it looked so good that Russell was going to get adopted, nervous that I was making the best decision, but mostly sad that my time with Russell was nearing an end.

Russell had only lost a few pounds in the first couple weeks he was with us. I decided it was time to get a better physical check up and blood work done. I made an appointment with my vet. A thorough health evaluation would reveal many things.

November 2012
To be continued . . .


Content By:  Beagle Bob

"Beagle Bob" Dietrich is a foster parent for dogs along with his wife Vicki and son Robert.  Bob is a full time Fire Fighter/Paramedic, Vicki is a high school math teacher, and Robert is a full time college student.  They have two Beagles, Mandy and Buddy. 

Images: Provided by Alliey Bender Photography

Pet of the Month: Anna "Banana"

I love to cuddle and be silly!
Hello.  I'm Anna.  Or Anna Banana as my foster momma calls me.  I think she's just being silly when she calls me that.  I love my foster momma.  I get very attached to my persons.  So much so though that is probably the reason why I've been searching for my furever home for so long.  I'm not a bad girl, I promise.  I am just very loyal and protective of my persons and my home.

I'm not a huge fan of strangers.  I don't like cats or small children.  I get very upset.  And although I usually need some time to warm up, I do like other dogs.  I've spent many a day at Camp Bow Wow and always get good reports.

I'm not camera shy!
I am a good a girl.  My foster family is working with me on learning to be more welcoming to strangers and outsiders. There's hope for me yet as I do very well with training and every day manners.  Foster mom says I'm very well behaved.  I'm smart and a fast learner.  I know basic commands like:

  • sit
  • shake
  • laydown
  • roll over
  • stay
I'm crate trained too.  Although, because I'm such a good girl, you are able to leave me out to roam the
house when you're gone.  It'll be just as you left it when you come back, I promise!

I love to play.  And when let out to run I run like crazy.  So if you've got the energy to keep up with me and want a companion to be by your side, I hope I get to meet you very soon!

What?  I'm playin' here!

Anna "Banana" is listed on Paws & Prayers Adoptable Dogs. This sweet girl is up to date on her shots and vaccinations. To meet and/or adopt Anna "Banana" please fill out a Paws & Prayers adoption application for her today.

Amazing Motherly Love

Momma with her pups
I just read a story about a mother dog, her owners home was on fire. Onlookers were shocked when she re-entered the ferocious flames six times rescuing her puppies one by one and carrying them out and placing them in what she deemed the safest place, a open compartment of the fire truck. Once they were all safe she climbed in herself and nursed her 10 day old puppies. Seeing this reminded me that I have been blessed enough to witness this amazing motherly love before.

Some thirty years ago I had a beautiful Shepard Husky Mix, aware she was due to give birth any day we prepared for a birthing box full of comfortable blankets. While at work one day she decided, despite our efforts to keep her pinned in our kitchen, it would be more comfortable to have her pups on my new couch. We opened the door that evening to find her laying on the couch with stuffing every where!! I gasped at the sight of my couch shredded all over my living room, while surveying the damage I heard the tiniest squeak. And then I saw them, two adorable puppies nursing on their mommy. I totally forgot about the mess, Babe had delivered her puppies! What I didn't realize at that moment was that there were more. Her weight on the couch had caused the babies to slip down inside the couch, she hadn't been destructive she was trying to get her babies. There were nine more pups down inside the couch for a total of eleven. Fortunately all the pups were healthy and there was no ill effect from being - couch puppies. I couldn't be upset with Momma, I had recently lost my three month old son I would have torn up anything to save my baby. I totally understood, it was motherly love.

Shepard Husky mix puppies

Snow White
Recently I took into my foster care a very emaciated White Shepard momma, along with her six, three day old pups. The pups needed supplemented because momma wasn't producing milk yet. A few hours after her arrival as I was preparing to feed when I noticed the tiniest puppy in the corner all by herself. I picked her up she was lifeless and extremely cold, I needed to warm her up and fast. I have a microwaveable bag filled with rice I use for headaches and I heated it up and wrapped her in a blanket and then placed her on the heated bag. It took several hours but I got her temperature up, got some food in her and she started to peak up. I gave her back to momma which licked her and pushed her gently under her. A few hours later the whole scene repeated itself a second time. The third time I found her in the corner she was even worse than before and again I began the process of reviving her. Only this time her extremely weak mother came to me, placing her mouth around the puppy and carried her back and placed in the corner. Once again I picked up the poor little girl and started to work on her, when I felt a gentle nudge. Momma again took her and put her back in the corner. Being determined I was going to save her I again picked up the puppy walked back over where I was working on her and before I could even start, momma took her away. As much as I didn't want to give up I also didn't want to upset momma any more. Heart broken I decided momma must know more than I did, so I let her be. A couple hours later I return expecting to find this precious little baby in the corner. What I found is something I will never forget as long as I live. The puppy had indeed passed but her lifeless little body was not in the corner. She was being held in her momma's paws. Momma looked up at me and for the last time picked up her lifeless baby and brought her to me. I could have her now! She must have known something was wrong, how hard it must have been to love her puppy so much to let her go, sparing her baby from any further pain. It was motherly love!!

Snow White and her pups in foster care.  All, including
Snow, have since gone on to find their furever homes!


Content By:  Donna Schulman

Donna Schulman is a foster for dogs and puppies along with her husband Richard.  Donna is a full time care taker for her mother and Richard is an automotive painter.  They have a 7-year-old rescued Pomeranian named Pepper and three rescued cats Figaro, Charlie and Boots.

Images:  Provided by Donna Schulman

Russell's Story: Chapter 5

There is no way to tell the story of Russell from beginning to end as a short story. His story is far too long; and far from over. So I will do my best to keep it as short as possible. I'll divide it into chapters so it doesn't have to be read all at once. The 7 chapters of Russell's Story will be posted semi-monthly.

In the early afternoon of September 26th I brought Russell back to our house for the third time as a foster dog. I introduced him, yet again, to my Beagles, Mandy and Buddy for the third time also. They gave each other a courtesy sniff and walked away from each other. It seemed that Mandy didn’t care to fight with Russell any more. Maybe she felt sorry for him. The introductions that day took place in our front yard. Since Russell was completely unable to run, I let him loose in the front yard with my two dogs. As my two ran around sniffing and doing their business, all Russell could do was pant and watch. After several minutes, he waddled over to a bush and attempted to lift his leg to pee where Buddy had a few minutes earlier. He couldn’t do it on the mildly slopping ground. Despite his obvious discomfort, Russell’s tail slowly wagged as he tried to follow me down our 50ft. long driveway so I could get the mail. He made it about half way and stopped. I walked back up the driveway to our walk that led to the front porch. Russell followed along. When I stepped the one step to the porch, I saw Russell staring at it like it was a mountain. He crawled up slowly and had to take a break before crawling up over the front door threshold and into the house. I’m the kind of person who tries to find humor in just about anything. The only humorous thing that came to mind at this point was: “At least he can’t run away!”

In the late afternoon my wife Vicki returned home from work. She knew Russell would be there, of course, so it was not going to be a surprise. As she opened the door to come into the house, Mandy and Buddy did their normal barking and running to the door to greet her. Russell, who had been sleeping in a dog bed, struggled just to get up. When Vicki first saw Russell, her mouth dropped open. Nearly in tears, she couldn’t believe his condition. The Beagle that she had not really cared all that much for last year, was now just a pitiful sight that she couldn’t help but feel sorry for.

Shortly after Vicki got home, we fed the three dogs. Afterwards we led them to the sliding glass door that opened up to the back yard. This is where we normally let them out to go to the bathroom. There are ten steps that lead from the door down to the yard. Mandy and Buddy raced down the steps and into the yard. Russell put his front paws down one step and stopped. He couldn’t get down the steps. I went down the steps past him and tried to help him down. He methodically went down each step by dropping his two front paws down first. He would then have to shift his body weight to one side because his rear legs would start to spread apart. As he shifted sideways, his back end would slide around and drop down to the lower step. He would then have to twist his whole body to get his two front legs back in front of him so he could lower them to the next step. It was a grueling process for him to do and even more torturing for us to watch. Russell would be going out the front of the house for a while because there were only two steps down to get to the yard and each had a larger surface to land on.

That evening we prepared to take Mandy and Buddy for their evening walk. It was obvious that Russell was not going to go for the normal 1-2 mile walk we go with our dogs. Mandy and Buddy went nuts when we got their leashes ready for their walk. Much to our surprise, Russell was showing some excitement to go also. We knew he wasn’t going to be able to go very far (maybe to the end of the driveway), but we had to admire his enthusiasm. Vicki decided to take Mandy and Buddy and I would try to follow with Russell. I didn’t need a leash as we started on the walk. Vicki quickly disappeared as she walked off with Mandy and Buddy. Russell tried his best to follow, but after about 100ft. down the street, he stopped and laid down on the concrete. After a few minutes, I convinced him to get up and follow me back to the house.

Over the next couple weeks we tried to put Russell into a routine of eating healthy and moderate exercise. By the end of the two weeks, Russell still could not go down the back steps. We did, however, find out that he could go up the steps. We got into a routine that would allow him to get some exercise by letting him out the front door, force him to go around the house to the back yard and up the steps to get back into the house. We also continued to let him follow Vicki or I walking the dogs in the evening. He slowly was able to go farther and farther down the street. One night when I was walking Mandy and Buddy and Vicki was following behind with Russell, he suddenly decided that he wanted to come too. It didn’t take long for Mandy, Buddy, and I to get far ahead. After I was far enough away to be out of sight, Russell started barking. For the next 30 minutes or so I could hear him bark as I went through the neighborhood. We walk the dogs in a big loop through the neighborhood leaving the house from the south and returning from the north. When I was about 200ft. or so from returning to our house, Mandy and Buddy started barking at one of our neighbor’s dogs. I noticed that Vicki and Russell were not in front of our house, but I could hear Russell barking. When I got to our house, I noticed Vicki and Russell coming from the south. It seems that Russell had tried to follow us and had gotten almost a quarter of a mile before he heard Mandy and Buddy barking. He turned around and headed to the barking which brought him home. Vicki said Russell was very determined to follow me despite it being so physically difficult. It was a major sign of improvement for Russell in terms of his health and his personality. He was getting in better shape and was also beginning to bond with us.

Russell had only lost a few pounds in the first couple weeks he was with us. I decided it was time to get a better physical check up and blood work done. I made an appointment with my vet. A thorough health evaluation would reveal many things.

To be continued . . .


Content By:  Beagle Bob

"Beagle Bob" Dietrich is a foster parent for dogs along with his wife Vicki and son Robert.  Bob is a full time Fire Fighter/Paramedic, Vicki is a high school math teacher, and Robert is a full time college student.  They have two Beagles, Mandy and Buddy. 

Images: Provided by Beagle Bob

Volunteer of the Month: April 2013

Volunteer of the Month for April is Jackie F.  We might not always see her at Petsmart every weekend. Jackie does tons and tons of behind the curtain work for Paws and Prayers. She takes care of her family including; children, animals and always has a foster or two. She is on email all the time and will respond to phone messages (even when someone else got it before her), help with questions and guides people where they need to be. She sends out emails to just make us smile, which they do. She takes in kittens that need a momma to stay alive when it is kitten season (NOW). Jackie is our go to women, she is there when we need her.  She spent hours last year for the Adopt Me Meow event and there are talks of her does the same again this year. Jackie dedicates so much time to our group with a positive attitude and smile on her face. We truly appreciate all the time and hours Jackie spends helping animals in need find their loving homes. Thank you from the volunteers but most importantly the fur babies that you save!

We can't reinvigorate our Volunteer of the Month recognition without YOU, our supporters! Have a volunteer you'd like to nominate? (Yes, fosters are volunteers, too!) Click here to complete our quick, easy survey with your nomination and why they deserve to be Paws & Prayers Volunteer of the Month!  Winners are announced at the start of the following month. Thank you!