Hey everyone, Mr. PoopBags here!
I have a very special opportunity to introduce my friend Wade Anthony H. to you.
I explained to Wade that one of the worst parts of owning The Original Poop Bags®, is when we receive an email asking us to remove folks from the email list because they have recently lost a pet. I always try to give them some encouraging words, and we rush to make sure we get off the list. Still, it breaks my heart.
I was really moved by watching Wade’s story, and I thought we might be able to put a little good back into the world, and help some folks out. I reached to Wade and asked if he’d be willing to share his story, and journey with our readers…
Paul Cannella (PC): First up, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where you’re from, where you live, etc?
Wade Anthony H. (WH): I grew up in a small, rural farming town in the Texas Panhandle called Nazareth. I am from a very large family with many relatives still living in my hometown. I moved to Austin TX upon graduating from college and have lived in Austin for 23 years now.
PC: You know I LOVE me some Austin!!! Tell us about your history with dogs. Did you have them as a child? How many have you been yours? How did you get them, etc.
WH: My siblings and I always had family pets growing up; specifically, we had cats, dogs, rabbits and even pigs. Our neighbor had horses, our cousins had milking cows, and our grandmother and aunt had chickens. There were even sheep, goats and ducks at times so we were pretty well rounded with access to livestock growing up. We typically inherited our family pets (dogs and cats) whether they were gifted to us from neighbors, cousins or at times even strays that would show up at the house. I was always very attached to and empathetic with the family pets. I was known to sneak them in the house on a very cold night from the garage or spoil them with hearty leftovers. I did not have my very own pets or “furry children” as I like to call them now until later in life as an adult.
PC: Haha, that is pawesome! Such a cool experience for a kid to interact with so many kinds of animals. We didn't get that in the suburbs of Chicago! Tell us a bit more about your last pair of dogs.
WH: I adopted Cletus and Roscoe when they were rescue puppies from a local non-profit here in Austin. It was October 2011, and Austin had just suffered an excruciating drought and heat index that caused many rural fires on the outskirts of the city. A lot of rural pets were displaced and ended up in over-capacitated, high-kill shelters. Cletus and Roscoe’s mom was pregnant and slated for euthanasia when the non-profit called “Pawsitive Karma Rescue" saved the day. I was actively looking to adopt a dog, and within twenty-four hours of adopting Cletus, I returned back to the foster to adopt his brother Roscoe. Due to my daily work schedule, it was only fair and necessary for my pack to run as a pair when I was not at home. It was such a blessing and journey for 7+ years with my two dogs, and I really grew so much as a person during this time period. Roscoe was first diagnosed with carcinoma in March 2018 as tumors were discovered throughout his abdomen. He successfully underwent major surgery to remove the tumors along with affected lymph nodes. Chemotherapy ensued for the next six months until the cancer returned. At that point, I decided to forego any more chemo and started a holistic regimen at home during his final month. I lost Roscoe in October 2018 and focused all of my attention and love upon Cletus. I was very concerned how Cletus would react as they were inseparable, but he did very well. He became my ultimate companion, had many play dates with friends’ dogs, and we developed an even-closer, richer bond through this period of time. In March 2019, Cletus was diagnosed with lymphoma, and he was already stage four by the time it was discovered. It really came out of nowhere, and it was aggressive. I decided that we would not do weekly chemo treatments as I saw what that did to Roscoe, and I just did not want to put another dog through that process. I started the holistic regimen again at home to help ease any pain, and Cletus passed very peacefully within two weeks.
PC: Ugh, that is so heart wrenching. After your dogs passed away, can you tell us about the periods you went through? I recall there being a break from their passing before becoming a foster dog Dad. Do you have any advice for folks that might encounter this experience?
WH: After each dog passed, I actually felt relief at first. Relief that they were no longer suffering from any pain or discomfort. I was relieved that I no longer had to play what I call “Nurse Ratchet” with my homeopathic concoctions and treatments. They both were very good patients with lots of patience for me, too. Upon first losing Roscoe, I forwent the ensuing grief as I amped up the love, attention and focus on Cletus. I don’t think I allowed myself to grieve and did not want to grieve at that time. Upon going through and completing the second loss with Cletus, it was much more difficult for me. They were now both gone, and I had an empty nest. I was forced to grieve, and in hindsight, it was a very good thing as I needed to grieve both losses separately and yet at the same time. During the first few months, the grief would come and go in waves. Tears and sadness would then turn in laughter and smiles and repeat the cycle often. Upon burying them both in my back yard beside each other, I did find some immediate joy with the new presence of two blue jays. These birds were down at the exact gravesites the morning after Cletus was buried, and to this very day, I still see them often in my yard whether passing through to say hello or stopping in the yard to stay for a short while. I found peace and comfort as these two bluejays then became the spirits of both Cletus and Roscoe for the next six+ months and still continues. This was a very important healing time for me. I was able to reflect back upon the wonderful seven+ years of life that we were able to experience together in earthly form.
PC: Man, that is powerful!!! What a journey of emotions, highs/lows, and everything in between. There are so many people that can relate to this, and I’m sure it helps! What were you looking to get out of fostering? Was it to give back, were you testing yourself, searching for the right dogs, or ___________? What adoption organization did you work with? How did you find them? Any plugs you’d like to give them?
WH: I honestly thought I would take a minimum of a year off before attempting to get "back in the saddle" with dogs again. I wanted to focus on me, I wanted to focus on traveling more, etc.; yet I still sensed that I was missing the mutual love and affection of dogs. Through a friend, I was introduced to another local, non-profit rescue called “Throw a Dog a Bone”. This organization focuses solely on South Texas rural shelters with no resources or support to help the many, many dogs that never get a chance in life at all. Dogs of all ages and breeds were and are being euthanized daily, and this org has been working feverishly to turn each and every one of these grim prospects into successful, new beginnings. I knew I was ready, willing and able to help save dogs from being wrongfully and prematurely euthanized. This was the perfect way to reintroduce myself to the mutual love and affection of dogs without overdoing it at the start. It was like playing uncle to my nieces and nephews…..you get to spoil them, they get to spoil you, and they go on to their loving forever homes.
PC: With one tear in the corner of my eye, and an ear to ear grin, I’ll carry one… Tell me about the process of fostering in general? What did you like, and not like about it? Again, any advice to share with the #OGPoopBags readers?
WH: At first, it was a bit odd to have a new dog(s) in the house as you really have to get to know their personality, traits, and they have to get to know yours. Some of these fosters are only around for a week at a time so it can be a challenge. At times you want them act and do things that your previous dogs did or knew how to do. For example, you might expect them to be able to walk on a leash, and that might not be the case with a stray or young pup. The beauty in this process is that you get to find out which dogs are best suited to you and your needs should you be looking to adopt again. It is almost like test driving cars or maybe even dating where you are on a trial basis to determine the fit; and at the same time, it is still a win-win situation because you are helping to save a dog’s life whether it is a fit or you help them progress to find their forever home. It is really great therapy and you get to co-create the therapy as needed.
PC: I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future, but I can say this is my favorite blog to date!!! Tell us about <spoiler alert> the dogs (yes plural!) you selected and why? If you could break it down into the first, and second ones, that would be great.
WH: While I had every intent to foster for awhile and gauge myself with the process, I found the perfect dog for me on the third round of fostering. I could not let him go after caring for him for a week (as the applications were coming in), and I decided to adopt Otis. My goal at that point of confirmation was to continue to bond with him first and then to gradually find him a perfect mate through continuing to foster. About a month later and a few foster pups later, we found his new brother Silas. I have now had Otis for three months and have had Silas for one month. They are two peas in a pod and are inseparable. They are both Shepherd mixes and are both less than 1 year old each. Otis was around six months old when I adopted him, and Silas was around 5 months old when I adopted him. Otis had fallen in love with a previous foster female as had I, but I already knew she had been adopted and just needed a week or so before she could be transported to her forever home. It was hard to say goodbye to her as I watched Otis cry and mope around the house for a few days, but I knew that a perfect match watch still waiting patiently for us, and we found it. That could be another hard part of fostering: you may fall in love with a dog, yet your purpose is to merely assist the dog who has already been adopted. You still serve a very important part in that dog’s new life albeit it seems like a such a short period. You share love and energy with that dog, and you help that dog to grow and expand and vice versa.
PC: What a lesson that is. It’s so easy to fall in love with a dog, but it’s the right mindset to keep the goal and mission in mind that fits for you, the dog, and their furever home! Was it always the plan to get two dogs, or how did that come about?
WH: For me, absolutely yes. I learned through Cletus and Roscoe that my work schedule would be unfair to a single dog. Although I have a house with a doggie door and a big backyard, a dog (especially a younger dog or pup) will be bored at home waiting for its companion/owner. With two dogs, I see them interact and play with each other all day long (yes I’m that owner with an outdoor webcam spying on my dogs). Two dogs is a must for me at this stage of my life, but I could see myself with maybe one dog down the road when I am home more often during the day.
PC: Feel free to post any pics on our social of them playing, or maybe we can live stream it! We all know that losing a pet is never easy, but as I watched your story progress on Facebook, it brought me such joy. I knew I had to reach out to you, and I was so happy that you were open to sharing your experiences with our readers. Any overall advice about pet ownership, the grieving process, fostering, and making the leap back into pet parenting that you’d like to share?
WH: I do recall feeling a sense of guilt when I first decided to adopt again; guilt that I was falling in love with another dog again and so soon. I worked through that emotion fairly quickly though because I reminded myself that these new dogs will never replace the love I have for Cletus and Roscoe; they merely will expand and build upon that foundational love. What on earth could be wrong with expanding and growing love? In addition, I was able to connect with Cletus and Roscoe’s energy-spirits through an intuitive channeling session. I received the following guidance: it is VERY important for all animal owners to understand that our pets come into our lives with one simple plan and mission: to bring us humans peace and unconditional love. That is their only purpose. Our animals do not have our very-own human filters of emotion that we impose on ourselves. When we wonder and worry if we did enough for our pets: did we provide enough love, did we cause harm in anyway, should we have done this or done that or should we have gone another route or method…..we must stop ourselves from continuing this process of “emotional worry” especially during the grievance period. Go ahead and simply relieve yourself of any burdens for they are unnecessary. Our pets do not and did not care about our emotional filters; these are human traits. Our pets already came into this life with instinctual, unconditional love. They did not have to learn about love the way we humans do, they simply provide it. Relieve your heavy heart and release any burden. You had the perfect relationship and journey with your pet as it was meant to be, and I hope you can and will do it again. Carpe Diem!
PC: WOW! Seriously, this is simply amazing! This is way beyond my expectations, and I will share this link with folks in need and feel very proud of it! Anything else we missed that you’d like to cover?
WH: I would like to add a little tip and trick called spray cheese. A good ol’ fashioned can of original, American spray cheese helps the medicine go down. If you find yourself needing a perfect solution to help your pets take their Rx, try a can of spray cheese.
PC: On that note, I am going to fix a little snack for Lucy, Mr. Theodore and me! Thanks Wade, we really appreciate this and wish y’all the best in your new journey!!!
Wade would like to give a special Texas shout out to: