Chip Chip Hooray!

Galen is a homebody. She joined our family at eight weeks old, and in the two years she’s been with us she’s never run away or shown any desire to be anywhere that we are not. Even when we unleash her during hikes at a local mountain preserve, she will forge ahead, but look back every few steps to confirm that our path hasn’t diverged from hers. My husband and I joke that we couldn’t lose her if we wanted to.

Loki is a wanderlust. He was pulled from the same North Carolina shelter as Galen, by the same rescue group. We offered to foster him while the rescue sought someone to adopt him, but we took too much of a liking to the little guy to give him to strangers. So we gave him to my mom, with the understanding that each winter he would spend six weeks with us, while she and my stepfather jet-set between New Jersey and Florida.

Loki was named by one of the rescue volunteers, and the name fits him quite well. The original Loki, according to Scandinavian mythology, was the Norse god of mischief, and the dog Loki is a mischief-maker. Mostly he makes his mischief by disappearing.

Several years ago, my mother installed a fence around her property to keep out the deer. It also served to keep Galen and my sister’s dog, Bear, from leaving. But Loki’s lust for adventure proved to be stronger than the fence’s ability for restraint. He would find rare spots where the fence and earth separated and squirm through. My mother would find him happily roaming the neighborhood; she’d bring him home, and a day or so later, he’d be gone again. She ultimately installed an electric fence to end his journeying.

Lokia journeyman

a journeyman

We, too, have an electric fence, so when Loki’s here, he wears Galen’s collar. But during his last visit, Loki got skunked. He stunk, and so did the collar – even after I soaked it in tomato juice, then vinegar, then dish detergent. I couldn’t bear to put it back on him, so I sent him outside in an old dog collar hoping he wouldn’t know the difference between it and the electric fence collar. For two days I outsmarted him. On the third day, I couldn’t find him – anywhere.

That night animal control called; Loki was safe and waiting for me at our local shelter. A microchip that had been implanted between his shoulder blades gave animal control all the information needed to identify him and me – the person listed “in case of emergency.”

That microchip proved invaluable that night, and it may one day save Loki’s life, as he proves time and again that he has a journeyman’s spirit. Galen is microchipped, too. We had the procedure done after we adopted her, before we realized our homegirl isn’t going anywhere.


You can learn more about microchipping your pet on the web. Here’s just one site:

The Diva and The Pogo Stick

Galen is a mellow gal. Sure, she had a rambunctious puppyhood, committing such typical puppy crimes as chewing up my favorite slippers, teething on the wooden leg of a living room end table, and persistently and dangerously nipping at my daughters’ ankles. But by about eight months old, she shed her freneticness for a far less frenzied disposition. At two, her energy reserves still run deep, and she’s excruciatingly demanding when she wants to play, but more often than not she is a calming yoga breath sprinkled with a little diva.

Then there’s Loki.

A little over one year old, Loki is excitement unbound, a pogo stick, a whirling dervish. He explodes energy from the moment he bursts out of his crate in the morning until he runs back in at night. His ears tell his story – reaching upright from his head, they are alert, electric. Galen’s speak to her character, too:  They flop.

Loki is my mother’s dog, a mixed-breed rescue with a Doberman-colored coat whose most distinguishing feature — after his ears — is the Lone Ranger-like mask that wraps around his golden snout.  Loki is vacationing with us this winter, ping ponging back and forth between her home and ours two weeks at a time. We’re nearing the end of his second visit, but I don’t think its conclusion can come soon enough for Galen. The diva is tiring of the young whippersnapper. For her, he’s the houseguest who overstayed his welcome.

I can see Galen’s brewing frustration. At the start of Loki’s visits, Galen’s happy to engage him. They fang fight, they play tug with the carcasses of stuffed animals that have long lost their stuffing, they race around the backyard – Loki giving chase and Galen showcasing her speed and agility. But as one day spills into the next, she becomes less enamored with his playful ways. She starts to ignore him when he nips at her back legs or nibbles on her ears to encourage another round of fang fighting. She stands her ground in the backyard when he runs at her to initiate chase, sometimes even permitting him to deliver a body blow that she simply shrugs off. Alas, Loki doesn’t know what it means to give up, so when his entreaties become just too much, Galen seeks the refuge of her crate. It is the one and only place she is completely free from him.  He will stick his snout in the doorway, but he knows better than entering further.

I take Galen aside and tell her that Loki will only be with us for a few more days, and that when he’s gone she will miss his doting. She cocks her head quizzically, and looks at me. “Please speak my language,” she seems to say. “Ask me if I want a cookie.”  But I know that when Loki’s gone Galen will miss him.

We’ve been through this before.

After his first two-week visit, Galen acted relieved to see him go. But she quickly found that life without a suitor had a downside. Who else was going to spend hours with her sniffing around the backyard?  Who else was going to gaze at me with big brown pleading eyes and persuade me to dole out extra treats? Who else would accede to her demands to play every time she demanded?

Right now, Galen may be giving Loki the cold shoulder, but he’ll leave, and during his two-week absence she’ll start to yearn for her pogo sticked playmate.  And then Loki will return, and the games will begin… until the diva decides she’s had enough.

Mission: Adoption

Fostering a puppy is not easy.

It’s not simply that you must live in a state of constant vigilance to ensure the puppy doesn’t act, well, like a puppy, by peeing on your kitchen floor, chewing up your favorite shoe, or escaping into the neighbor’s yard. What makes fostering a puppy so difficult is that you can’t unplug your heart.


I feel like we’ve known Loki for months, yet he’s been in our lives just over two weeks.  My husband, Kevin, and my two daughters saw something special in the six-month-old pup, when we met him June 16, at a local Pet Valu. He’d been rescued from a North Carolina kill shelter and brought to New Jersey by Catnip Friends Cat Rescue, but the group wasn’t having success finding him a home. We agreed to foster him, while Catnip sought someone to adopt him.

I quickly came to realize, however, that my daughters, ages 9 and 7, wanted to make Loki a part of our family. Kevin seemed amenable, as did Galen, our 20-month-old lab mix, also a Catnip rescue.  I watched Galen quickly move from indifference to joy at having a playmate at her beck and call. She didn’t even seem to mind that Loki stole every one of her toys, including the Mickey Mouse with whom she shares her crate (Mickey makes a great pillow for a dog’s weary head).

Galen and Mickey Mouse.

I was the lone hold-out, unsure that our house was large enough for two dogs, even if our hearts were.

A few days into Loki’s stay, I engineered a solution that works for me and that my girls, despite tears, are learning to live with: My mom and stepdad adopted Loki. The thing is, there was no way I could return him to the rescue group; he had already been through so much.  Just a month before we brought him home, Animal Control was set to kill him.  It says so right on his intake form: “Release Date 05/15/2012.”  “Release” is a euphemism for euthanasia.

My seven-year-old has taken the decision hardest.  She drew Loki a card.  It reads, “If they end up keeping you, I’ll miss you sooooooo MUCH!!!!! Always remember us.  Love, the Skole family.”  

Dhani’s letter.


Loki seems very happy in his new home.  He has a large tree-filled yard to romp in, lots of sticks to chew on, and my mom is already spoiling him: In the evening, Loki settles into a prime spot on the couch right next to her.

As for fostering, I am in awe of those who do it.  One of the co-founders of Catnip told me that fosters are the life-blood of a rescue organization.  Perhaps, we’ll try again.  The need for foster families is great.

Three for three

We’re three for three:  Three shelter dogs from the south. Three diagnoses of kennel cough and intestinal parasites. Perhaps it’s not fair to blame the dogs’ southern heritage; a study of U.S. shelters by the UC Davis Veterinary School found kennel cough and intestinal parasites are common in shelters in all 50 states. Still, we’re three for three.

Loki is our newest rescue.  He strutted into our lives on Saturday. I intend for our family to foster him for a week; my daughters intend for us to keep him for a lifetime. In truth, he is as well-behaved as he is funny looking, and he’s only about six-months-old. At least that’s how old the vet guesstimated him to be.

Loki, as seen on

By Monday, I was concerned that Loki might have kennel cough. At first, he seemed to hack only after eating, so Kevin and I attributed the coughing to the fact that he inhales his food more quickly than my vacuum could.  But the hacking turned to honking and retching, so I took him to the vet. Now he and Galen are on Clavamox twice daily.

Galen is no stranger to kennel cough, a highly contagious respiratory disease that, despite her being only 20-months-old, she’s already had twice; she was infected at eight-weeks-old when we adopted her.  According to Petmd a “very high percentage of dogs” will get kennel cough at least once during their lifetime. For Galen, I’m hoping two times doesn’t become three before she reaches her second birthday.

Galen, at 3 mos. old.

If dealing with the kennel cough wasn’t enough, the vet called Thursday to inform me that Loki’s stool tested positive for coccidia, giardia and whipworm, all common intestinal parasites. I rushed to the vet’s office to pick up more meds. My kitchen counter is beginning to resemble a pharmacy.

It’s pretty clear that Loki poses a minor health threat to Galen.  But after an initial period of seeming disinterest, she’s really taking to the little guy.  They fly around the backyard and roll on top of each other, mouths wide open nipping each other’s necks.  I couldn’t keep them apart if I tried.

Perhaps the most significant event of the past several days occurred Wednesday, when we crated Loki for the night.  As in nights past, Kevin ushered Loki into his crate, which sits in our family room, and then he and Galen retired to our second-floor bedroom.  But this night, instead of a few seconds of whimpering followed by silence, Loki cried… loudly, and he didn’t let up.  I shot Kevin a frantic look:  I did not want two dogs in my bedroom!

Galen ran downstairs.  I went from frantic to complete panic – I did not need her making things worse.  Moments later, however, silence. We didn’t hear so much as a peep from Loki.  And at about 11:30, when I like to presume Galen was confident Loki was sleeping, she came back upstairs and stumbled into her own bed.

Thursday night she slept downstairs with Loki.


My husband said, “Sometimes life throws you curve balls.”  But sometimes life doesn’t do the throwing; you do.

I went to the Flemington Pet Valu Saturday to speak with Linda, one of the co-founders of the rescue group that saved Galen, about my pup’s early days in North Carolina and her transport north.  Linda is so busy with her day job and the rescue that I’ve found the only way to communicate with her is to corner her at the pet store—she’s there most weekends trying to adopt out her dogs and cats.  This time Kevin and the girls came with me.

When we arrived, volunteers were lowering six of the cutest, cuddliest, beige pups you’ve ever seen into a pen on the sidewalk outside the store. The pups were eight weeks old and looked like some type of golden retriever mix; their mom – a jack russell – was also rescued, so at least part of their heritage is known. I heard one young guy, probably in his late twenties, say to his friend, “They are genetically designed to make you go goo-goo ga-ga.”

Puppies from a North Carolina kill shelter


I had never met Buff, who, with Linda, co-founded Catnip Friends Cats Rescue, but Buff was also at PetValu Saturday.  I’d hit the reporter’s jackpot:  two sources poised to answer my myriad questions.  I grabbed pen and paper and left my family to go ga-ga over the pups.

But Kevin and the girls did more than ogle puppies; they volunteered to walk a five-month-old dog named Loki, who had been passed over for adoption three weeks straight.  Figuring out Loki’s breed is a challenge.  Gaston County Animal Control in North Carolina deemed him a husky, but there is no way that Loki has even an ounce of husky in him.  He looks more mutt than either Galen or Gryffin.  During the following two hours, my family bonded with little Loki.

After my first visit to the pet store some weeks ago, I started toying with the idea of our becoming a foster family to one of Catnip’s dogs.  I mentioned the possibility to Kevin.  We agreed this summer, when I had time off from my job as a college professor, we would seriously consider it.

Somehow summer became Saturday, fostering became possibly adopting, and Loki came home with us.

I say Kevin threw the curve ball; perhaps I did by allowing Loki to come home with us.  Either way, ball thrown.

Loki: Shepherd, Dog; Flemington, NJ

Loki, as seen on