Category Archives: Pet Fostering

Match Game – Adopting the Right Dog Part 2 — Adjustments and Accommodations

Sometimes, there is that moment when your eyes lock onto an adoptable dog’s eyes and there is an instant bond just like in the movies but that is a rare occurrence.  For a majority of the animals in a shelter you are going to see a sometimes shut down, scared or anxious dog.  It’s loud, often smelly and, did I mention, loud in shelters.Woman Rubbing Noses with Puppy

Then there is the cuteness syndrome…there are reasons we ooh and ahh when we see a cute animal or human baby.  When we see those cute little faces, our brains are washed in a wave of dopamine which is the same chemical reaction we have when we fall in love, have sex or use drugs.  So, the cuter the dog, the more our brain tells us we need that animal. Big eyes, round, bulbous foreheads, wrinkles of skin…all these trigger this thing in our brains that makes us feel good and want to protect these “babies.” Some of the cutest dogs I’ve known have been extremely fear aggressive and are not a good match for anyone but the most experienced dog handlers and guardians.

So, as hard as it might be, we need to fight off the dopamine and cuteness factor when choosing the right right dog for the family.  When you find the right dog for you, I guarantee he will be the cutest looking after a while.  All human babies, to me, look like Winston Churchill with their big bald heads and rolls of fat but human instinct of the moms always say their baby is the cutest.

One of my friends, Laurie, went out to shelters one weekend looking for a Yorkie or Silkie Terrier or something that was scruffy and fluffy.  She came home with a large, red, short-haired dog that looked like a Vizsla or Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. and has since adopted three more largish, red dogs!  The point is that looks are really only a small part of that bond you will establish with the dog in your family.

This is the advice I give people who are visiting a shelter to choose their next family members:

  1. Look at less subjective things about your new family member rather then how cute he is.
    1. Energy level – I always use the example of a border collie who is adopted by a family of couch potatoes.  Neither dog nor humans will be happy in the situation.  The dog wants to work and herd whatever it can.  The people want to lie on the couch and watch sports or movies…not participate in them!
    2. Sociability – if you are looking for a furry companion that loves all people and dogs and can join your family on outings and vacations then you probably don’t want the dog cowering at the back of the kennel who is terrified of all around. But, please, keep in mind, that shelters often are scary and a dog is not himself there.
    3. History with Children – if you have kids or grandkids then you want a dog who can be around them and interact with children.  Some dogs are so frightened by children that they shut down so you want to make sure your new dog is comfortable and unphased by the lively antics of a kid!
  2. Ask if the rescue or shelter has a “Foster to Adopt” program.  This allows you to see how the dog lives in your environment and allows the dog to show you their true selves.  But there is generally about a two-week “honeymoon” period when bringing home a new dog.  This first two weeks is where everyone is on their best behavior and not quite accustomed to their new situation.  Humans aren’t habituated to their new family member and the dog is getting adjusted to this new life.  As an adoption counselor I want to make sure my adoptions stick so if there are any variables in the situation like other pets, disabled individuals in the home, etc. then I suggest we try a Foster to Adopt first.  One couple came to adoptions and fell in love with a lovely pitbull mix we had available for adoption.  They let me know that the husband had done several stints in Iraq with the Army and is now suffering from PTSD.  We knew that the bond was already starting to form with him and this young girl pup but we all wanted to make sure that the daily stress of keeping a dog wasn’t going to make the husband’s PTSD worse.  I’m happy to say it was a match made in heaven and they are all living happily ever after.
  3. If you can take a few days off when you get your new dog everyone will be happier! There are a few days needed for adjustment period for both you and your new dog. You can ease that adjustment by taking a few days off to acclimate your new best friend to your house and your rules.  We see a lot of new puppies in the spring/summer time and that’s a great time for adoptions during vacations!

Bringing a new family member into your home is not something that should be a spur of the moment event.  You want the best family member you can get and your dog wants the best family he can get!  Do your homework and you’ll soon have a great new member of your family.

Need advice on training, dog selection, behavior or dog sports?  Hit me up and maybe your question will be my next blog!  –the Kritter Keeper


Match Game – Adopting the Right Dog Part 1 – Knowing Your Family’s Needs

Recently a good friend of mine wanted to pull the plug and adopt a dog for the family. The twin boys have been asking for a dog as long as I could remember and Dad, my friend, was pretty enamored with the idea too!  Since he’s a writer, he tends to research everything so I was thrilled when they came to me to ask the best way to match up a dog to his family.

As an adoption counselor for Mostly Mutts Pet Adoption and Rescue in Kennesaw GA, I see a lot of families fall in love with a dog that just doesn’t suit their family based on how the dog looks or acts at an adoption event.  I gave Joel some questions to think about before he went to Mostly Mutts to look at available dogs.

  1. Puppy or Adult?
    1. A puppy is a mixed bag.  It is a lot of work and not always for the new dog owner but a family that has done a lot of research on bringing up a new dog and has the time and energy to devote to bringing up a new canine citizen of the world could have an awesome experience raising a puppy.
    2. An adult dog may already be house trained, may already be obedience trained and may already have moved out of his destructive phase!
  2. Adopt or Shop?
    1.  Your local shelter will have a plethora of choices.  My rescue pulls animals from local, county-run, kill shelters.  We have a huge number of foster families as well as space at the shelter for the dogs but when you have a dog that has been fostered, we can provide more detailed information on what training needs, health needs, or husbandry needs the dog has.
    2. If you are adamant about a specific breed, find a good breeder.  Visit the AKC site for that specific breed and find a breeder recognized by them.  Or, if you really would like to rescue, contact a breed-specific rescue organization.  There are lots of circumstances surrounding why a dog is homeless and they don’t mean the dog is broken!
  3. What is the energy level of your family?  To answer this question, think about your calendar and there is a Saturday that is totally open — no commitments, no plans, no family visiting. What do you and your family do with a whole day?
    1. Movie Day!!!! Rent a bunch of movies, make popcorn, and marathon the media.
    2. Waterfall Hike — find the nearest hiking trail that has a waterfall and get the family ready for an outing.
    3. Everyone on their own – you are in your reading nook catching up on that novel, the kids are playing in the back yard, and your spouse is gardening.
  4.  What is the activity level of your family?
    1. Kids are involved in every activity under the sun
    2. One or more adults work long hours
    3. Never home
    4. Good mix of family time at home and activities out
  5. What size dog can you see in your home?
    1. Extra large like a Great Dane
    2. Large like a German Shepherd Dog
    3. Medium like a Beagle or hound dog


      Private is a boxer-mix available for adoption through

    4. small like a Chihuahua or aYorkie
  6. What degree of grooming?
    1. Weekly Baths, brushing every day
    2. Bath, what bath?
    3. Monthly visit to the groomer to keep that puppy cut fresh
  7. What activities do you plan to do with your new dog?
    1. Daily walks around the neighborhood — I need an exercise buddy!
    2. Take him everywhere with us, ball park, vacations, etc.
    3. Snuggling on the couch
    4. I’ve got a map of all the great hiking areas in the state I want to go to with him

Knowing the answers of these questions before you even start the physical search for your dog can help you narrow down your choices.


Who is the Kritter Keeper…

I’m not sure how many of you have looked at the tabs on this blog site but I hadn’t looked at the tab Who is Kritter Keepers in a while.  In fact, this is one of the first things I wrote four years ago when I first opened my business.  I’m reposting this with some updates as lots of things have changed in this Kritter Keepers life and we’ve added to the posse of Kritter Keepers so I’d like to also highlight them as we continue on the journey to help people keep their kritters!

Who is Kritter Keepers?

Sled Dog Camp in Alaska with sleeping puppy

Kritter Keepers is the accumulation of a life long passion for animals.  Today, I’m a professional pet educator giving advice to pet parents through my Kritter Keepers blog,, community speaking engagements and my Kritter Keepers clientele.  I am an active volunteer at Mostly Mutts Rescue where I am an adoption counselor, foster mom, social media helper and photographer.  I am that crazy dog lady that lives, eats, breaths dogs!  To understand how Kritter Keepers was born, I have to go back to the beginning!  Update:  still volunteering at Mostly Mutts but I’ve also added training to my skill set.  In 2003 I started with an online dog training school, CATCH Canine Academy and in 2005 I went to a six-week, hands-on training class hosted at St. Hubert’s Animal Shelter where I did so many things including:

  • Slept in a dorm room for six weeks
  • Studied like crazy with ten other crazy dog people in the class
  • Handled a variety of dogs but worked mostly with very strong pitbulls
  • Helped out at the ASPCA center where they rehabilitated scared and an anxious dogs generally pulled from horrible situations
  • Worked with two amazing trainers, Pia Silvani and David Moriello (founder of CATCH)
  • Graduated with a CCPDT – Certified CATCH Professional Dog Trainer certificate

I’m either the last year of a Baby Boomer or the first year of Generation X depending on what you are reading!  My affinity for dogs and animals started at an early age when I refused to go down for a nap unless I was sleeping curled up in the belly of our Collie, Blaze.  There were always multiple pets in my household, both dogs and cats.  When I was old enough to go to school that’s when I found out that I have secret animal radar!  Every loose or stray dog and cat followed me home.

By the time I was 12, I’d rescued a lot of animals and replaced lost dogs and cats to their rightful owners.  One day, I was walking home from school by the lake and I saw a man throw two squirming trash bags into the water.  It was the middle of winter but that didn’t stop me from wading in and pulling the plastic bags out.  I also had the wherewithal to write down the man’s license plate number.  Inside the squirming bags was a mama dog — some kind of spaniel — and her four adorable pups.  My parents helped me contact the police and give the license plate number.  I was a big hero with my picture in the paper but best of all, I got to keep one of the pups.  Evidently the daddy was a poodle and the dog, whom I named Bickford Dellvechio or Bicky for short, turned into a lap dog devoted to my Mom.

I wanted big– I wanted labrador!  My wish was granted at my 16th birthday with a trip to the pound (we didn’t call it an animal rescue or shelter back then) and a beautiful, shiny lab whom I promptly named Boo Boo (and my father secretly named Big Rose).  Boo Boo was an awesome dog and probably should have received a college diploma as she attended as many classes as I did!  She was one of the smartest labs I have ever had.  She could open doors, unlock gates, do many tricks including opening the refrigerator door!  I just couldn’t quite teach her how to open a beer!  Everyday during football season, we’d walk from our student slum apartment off of West Pensacola Road in Tallahassee up to the football training field.  Almost everyday, Bobby Bowden would come over, pet Boo Boo on the head and say, “That’s a fine looking dog you have there Missy!”  After college, Boo Boo stayed on with my roommate’s family as I had moved to the big city of Washington DC in a no pets allowed rental.

it would be four years before I would have another animal. My roommate and I were young professionals working many hours and still trying to have a social life.  One day as we were bringing in groceries to our Brownstone in Capital Hill, a very pregnant cat walked into the house and made herself at home.  It was cold out and she looked like she was going to pop any minute. So she became Phoebe (I seem to like that name) and we were soon a cat household with five kitties — mama and four babies.  Phoebe would take her babies everyday and put them in the big picture window in our front living room where they could get the benefit of the sun shining into the house.  Neighbors used see Phoebe carrying out this unusual ritual.  One morning, we opened the front door to leave for work and there was a little baby orang kitten who couldn’t have been more than a day old.  We took him to Phoebe and she immediately began to care for him and allowed him to nurse.  He was about four weeks younger than the rest of the litter.  We were able to find homes for all but decided we would each keep one — two boys so we thought.  We had a short-haired tiger with a striped tail and a mask around his eyes named Coon and a plump, fluffy grey kitten I named Sid Vicious.  We soon found out from the vet that Sid Vicious was a girl!  So she became Sidley Anne.

A few years later when I left Washington DC and my roommate we kept Coon and Sidley Anne together.  My roommate decided she had enough of DC too and moved to the mountains in New Mexico with the kitty siblings.  I moved to New York/New Jersey area to be with my then boyfriend (now husband for 19 years).

Update:  Most of you all know I lost Andy to a car accident in January 2016.  On September 3rd we would have been married for 24 years.  It’s been a difficult journey after his death 

I longed for a pet of my own and started volunteering at the Bergen Countyanimal shelter in New Jersey.  I really had my heart set on another lab and missed Boo Boo terribly.  We lived in an apartment in Hoboken, NJ that had two different dog parks.  Our landlords were dog lovers themselves and had given us permission to get a dog.  One day a man came in with a purebred chocolate Labrador retriever.  I was his intake person.  He had a total of three labs, two males and a female, and he had been breeding them.  But now he had a toddler in the house and the dogs were fighting over the female so he wanted to get rid of at least one.

Duke was a handsome hulk of a dog but did not have any leash manners and I could barely hold him.  Knowing my husband had no dog experience and that we were going to require at least two outings a day to the dog park, I asked if the female was as powerful as this guy.  He said no and he was willing to give her to me instead of this guy if I wanted to follow him home .  Of course I did and as soon as my eyes met this dog’s eyes we both felt as if we’d come home.  She ran past her owners (her name was Duchess at the time and the other choco lab was Duke her brother) and lept into my arms.  She was coming home with me.  And luckily my fiance agreed!

That was more than 20 years ago and my household has not been without at least one dog, usually multiple dogs and other pets.  We’ve fostered animals, found animals and kept animals we’ve found.  I have a 14-year old red-eared slider that I saved from getting run over when he was just a baby with an egg tooth.  Red-eared sliders, by the way, are not indigenous to Georgia but that’s another story.

Update:  technically I’m the proud guardian of six terrific dogs — my old ladies, Phoebe, Bailey and Sophie and my young “guns” Oscar, Bubba and Hunter.  Because of fostering, clients, and acquisitions made by my adoptive daughter Mel,  The Litt Palace of Puppy Love has had as many as 10 dogs!  Something we can do in a pinch but not how we would like to live.  

Oscar was a foster dog that I had for over a year.  He’s got some issues for sure but he’s extra special because the last anniversary that Andy and I celebrated, Oscar was my 22nd anniversary present and the last present from Andy.  Bubba came a few weeks after Andy’s death and from the moment I met that little puppy/baby/monkey face, I knew he was my soul dog, my heart dog. Hunter was a client but when his owners couldn’t handle the 7-month old Vizsla pup AND four human children under the age of seven, I couldn’t resist keeping him.  He’s in training right now to help me out as an emotional support animal and eventually as a service dog for some severe anxiety issues I have.

Mel adopted her own dog Beau and Phoebe has defected to the MelPPL.  

In March 2013 I finally opened my business Kasey’s Kritter Keepers,  I specialize in pet sitting, dog walking, training and pet photography.  I continue to enjoy volunteering or animal rescues and am now attending dog training school with CATCH Canine Academy.  My goal is to open an indoor activity/training center specializing in Doggie X games like Agility, Dock Diving, Flyball, Treibball, and nose work classes to name a few.  I want my center to be a place the entire family comes to play with their dogs

Update:  I graduated from CATCH, added training to my Kritter Keepers services.  This spring, I tested for and achieved my CPDT-KA and my CPACP.  In Fall of 2017 we will be opening Kritter Keepers Club where a dog can be a dog and we focus on a curriculum of dog sports and activities.


Life is full!  Life is good!  Life is dogs!

Rescue, Breeder or Both?

puppy loveThis is a very tough question because I’m personally involved in rescue but my love of dogs and the individual breeds makes me also a prime candidate for a pure bred.  The truth is I have both.  My two pure breeds (a lab and a vizsla) are rescues of a sort as the families that owned them couldn’t deal with or handle them.  So Lesson One is that there are sometimes pure breed dogs available at your rescue.  At Mostly Mutts, we’ve had Shelties, Boxers, Pomeranians, Great Danes, English Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Beagles, Lhasa Apsos, Poodles, Miniature Pinschers and the list goes on.

But most of those dogs were not puppies so what do you do when you want to get your pure breed puppy?  Lesson Two is that if you want a pure breed, do your homework and find a reputable breeder.  So today, I’d like to talk about what to look for in a reputable breeder.  In my profession, I see a lot of puppies that are in homes because someone walked by a pet store window and knowing nothing about the breed but spying this little package of puppy goodness, they had to have it.  Getting a puppy is not an impulse buy! Here are the Kritter Keeper’s rules for getting the right puppy for your family.

  1.  Research the breeds and what the right fit is for you and your lifestyle.  If you like to lie on the couch all day then you should not an Australian Shepherd as Aussies like to work all day running around and herding everything!  Maybe look at one of the less active companion breeds like a Chihuahua or Brussels Griffon.  If you are looking for a larger dog, believe it or not Greyhounds are big couch potatoes or something giant like a Great Dane or Mastiff.
  2. Research the breeder.  I would prefer to work with a breeder that is acknowledged by the AKC and fits their standards.  There is a laundry list of things I want from the breeder.
    • Certificate of Health — I want to know that some of the genetic things that a breed is prone to are not in the genes of her line.  For instance, hip dysplasia in a German Shepherd or blindness in a Dalmation.  To know what health risks a breed is known for see #1 on this list.
    • Home visit with at least Mom if not Mom and Dad on site.  I want to make sure I am not supporting puppy mills so I’m going to want to see what environment my puppy is growing up in and I want to check the temperament of Mom and Dad.  I  want to see the puppies before I choose and how they interact with the rest of the litter and the parents.  I also want to make sure that the breeder is providing an interactive experience for the puppies to help them with their cognitive functions.
  3. Understand the genetic lines of the dog — maybe the breeder has more of a show dog line versus a pet dog line.  If you aren’t going to show then perhaps you would be better suited to a pet dog line.

Whether you get your new puppy from a rescue or from a reputable breeder, enjoy all the puppy kisses!


Where Have I Been? Eating Ice Cream!

Is the Litt Palace of Puppy Love closed?  Not at all…but things certainly have changed for us.  I’ve taken time out of the blog world to lick my wounds and get back to a manageable mental status after the death of my husband.  I was (and still am) the move forward and ask for forgiveness later person.  He was the guy that researched everything before making a move.  We were a good combo together.  But now I feel like I did when I first moved out of my parents home.

Remember the first time you had that dirty little pleasure of eating ice cream before dinner…or better yet eating ice cream as dinner?  And guess what? There was no one to tell you that is not right.  You were your own boss and you could do whatever you wanted.

I had my share of ice cream for dinner this past year…several puppy fosters of really difficult puppies and finally found their forever homes.  I also adopted a puppy who has become my heart and soul, Bubba.  Bubba is the ice cream, the hot fudge and the cherry on top!img_2601

From a business perspective, you may recall I compromised with my husband and was going to take a job out in Kanab, UT with Best Friends as a trainer in Dogtown.  I was very excited about the opportunity to work for this great organization but I really wanted to open my own training center.  Andy knew me as a great technical consultant (I was an IT consultant for 15 years of our 22-year marriage), but he just couldn’t see me giving up that career to run my own business so our compromise was to work for a few years at a non-profit as a trainer and then open my business with that experience under my belt.

Well, needless to say, I couldn’t leave my framily in GA after his death — I needed all the support I could get living on my own.  So I focused on expanding Kritter Keepers. We now have two great Kritter Keepers in addition to myself – Jessica and Mel.  Angela has joined the team and will be working on marketing and other business-y stuff.  The biggest thing for Kritter Keepers is that we’ve purchased a property and are working to make our dream come true of having a dog sports – oriented training center, doggie daycare and boarding facility.  We are converting a human daycare. Designs have been finalized and we are hoping to start the remodel very soon.  That has to be a banana split for dinner!  It is both the scariest and the most exciting move I’ve made in my career.  I believe in myself and I know that Kritter Keepers Club will be a success!

I also bought a brand-spanking-new, six-miles on the odometer, Chevy Colorado.  This is a two scoops of the fudgiest, most indulgent ice-cream ever.  Andy didn’t think a pick up was practical especially for a girl!  And he hated General Motors because they cancelled our GM reward card when we built our first house — not because we didn’t use and pay promptly but because we had too many credit inquiries (first home buys suck up credit report scores due to the number of inquiries!).  He never forgave and forbid anyone in our family from purchasing GM products.  So this is a first for me and I LOVE my truck.  It is the perfect vehicle to express my personality!

The year has not just been about eating ice cream for dinner.  It’s been emotional and really could have been so easy to fall down that rabbit hole of depression.  I think being a little naughty and rebellious helped me.  When Andy and I used to argue, my favorite thing to fight back with was the “You’re not my father!” battle cry of the rebel-without-a-clue that I am!  So each little step forward, each scoop of ice cream, is not without an internal conversation with Andy. In his own way, I think he would be proud of what I’ve done this year even if he didn’t agree with some of events.

A Puppy Just Saved My Life

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My husband and I didn’t always agree eye to eye on fostering – especially puppies!  So, when he suddenly passed away earlier this year, one of my first thoughts was that I was going to foster again when things get a little less hectic.

The problem with things getting a little less hectic is that the quiet moments become greater.  It’s during those quiet moments that your pain and grief of losing your loved one hits you like a ton of bricks.  Fostering for me, brought a normalcy I needed. I think.  It’s not even been 30 days.

I don’t trust that Andy is dead.  He’s been away from me for long period of times since April of 2014 when his mom first went into the hospital.  Because of work situations and care needs for his mom, he ended up spending most of 2014 through April 2015 taking care of her up in New York.  I spent time up in NY and he’d make a trip down to Acworth for important things like our anniversary. Unfortunately, him mom passed in May 2015.  He then spent the better part of 2015 taking care of her different properties in New York and Florida.  Flash forward to October and Andy finally came home.

Most of the time he was gone, I was in Acworth.  I was so lonely for him.  Again, it was the quiet times – no one to sit on the couch with and hold hands. No one to cook for. My mood was spiraling downward.  During this time, my saving grace was a boisterous dog named Oscar.  Willful, crazy but lovely and smart. He was one of the first residents of our new shelter and I took him home loving a challenge.

While Andy was gone, Oscar wormed his way into my heart.  After more than a year and a half of fostering Oscar, Andy gave him to me for our 21st anniversary.  Betcha didn’t know that dog was the gift for that year.

So, it makes sense for me, as I try to make sense of losing my best friend, my love and soulmate that I take a puppy to foster.  For me, this was comfort (along with wearing Andy’s shirts).  The Litt Palace of Puppy Love is open for business.

Fetch-For-Fosters: A program that proactively helps rescue dogs to get adopted

Thanks Katie Grillaert for this blog…

No Dog About It Blog

Woman Rubbing Noses with PuppyIf you’ve read my blog, then you know that I am a big believer in dog training and helping people to better understand their dogs through dog body language. You probably also know that I am also a huge supporter of animal shelters and animal rescues.

The biggest issue many rescue organizations face is making a dog more adoptable. Training is key to making this happen. How a dog behaves is one of the biggest factors that impacts whether a dog will be adopted. It is a key factor in keeping an adopted dog in their new home.

Today, I would like to introduce you to someone who has a novel new idea that I hope will become a model nationwide. Fetch-for-Fosters is the brainchild of dog trainer Katie Grillaert of Fetch Dog Training and Behavior. It is a new program focused on proactively addressing a dog’s training needs…

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