Just Add Heart: Fostering Dogs Made Simple

After close to twenty years and a variety of saves under his belt, Larry Abgarian is a force to be reckoned with in the San Diego rescue community. I met Larry last year when he was fostering's very own Rusty, a dog that many felt was unadoptable, but whom Larry took a chance.

Since the start of, I've received several folks who saw his name on a photo or as a reference on the site and had some story to share, so I felt it was about time to talk with him about a topic that he is well aversed: fostering dogs.

Larry and Lady Guinevere
SP: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started fostering animals. How long have you been at it?
LA: In late 1993, I went through a volunteer orientation at a San Diego animal shelter. Afterwards, we were given a tour of the facility. In the medical section, I came across a puppy alone in a kennel. It was dragging the right rear leg, and crying in obvious pain. A friend of mine, who was already a volunteer at the shelter, happened to be there. The story was that this 7 week old little girl was turned in by an owner, with a broken leg. The leg had not yet been attended to.The puppy was not yet up for adoption, and there was a strong likelihood of her being put to sleep. I asked my friend if she could speak to someone about me wanting to adopt the puppy as she was. It all worked out, and the next morning I took her to the veterinary hospital for surgery. I was informed that there was a rescue group called F.O.C.A.S. (Friends of County Animal Shelters) that would financially assist me in the cost of the surgery. I guess you could say that's where it all began..I volunteered with that group for 10 years. 

"Nicky", that little black ball of fur, spent the rest of her 13 years with me, along with a host of other dogs and cats that I either fostered or adopted myself. 

I met some wonderful people over the years through many rescue organizations. I am still actively working as a volunteer for several different groups, primarily Coastal German Shepherd Rescue San Diego.


Old dog health, from the inside out

I came across this great article on and wanted to share with all of you older dog owners.

I've always been told that it's important to get your dog checked out twice a year at the vet. For me at least, the reason for this are obvious: older dogs whose immune systems are compromised can have a harder time bouncing back than their younger counterparts. While that might be part of the story, this article talks about the importance for blood tests for checking with issues with your old dog's organs and dental exams.

It's not a large article and it has a lot of good, simple advice, so check it out when you get a chance.

Related articles:
Older dogs need regular blood tests

An Inconvenient Dog

He was nine years old, wouldn't look directly at anyone, and what I found out later, was that he had hip dysplasia and arthritis in his back. His shelter name was Coal, but to me he was Boo Boo.

Dogs like Boo Boo are abandonned by their owners every day by their owners every day, because it's not convenient to keep them around. The lucky ones have owners who work to find them a new home. Those not so lucky are brought to the shelter where they are put in competition with younger dogs. Many less adoptable dogs are euthanized when they aren't selected. Less lucky was Boo Boo who was left to wander the streets until he was picked up. No one came to look for him, which is a shame, because he was slow enough that he probably didn't travel far from his home.

Regardless of their age or condition, recognize that it's a life-long commitment before you bring a dog home. The lifetime is nothing less than the time that dog is alive. There comes a time when it's in your pet's best interest to have them put to sleep when they're uncomfortable and can no longer be helped; however if your reasons fall into one of the following categories, I'd ask on behalf of your loyal pets that you take a long hard look at whether you really intend to risk your dog being put down at the hands of strangers:

Art of the Mingle: Socializing Your Shelter Dog

One of the top concerns that I hear from folks about adopting a shelter dog is the potential baggage that they bring with them.

"What if he/she doesn't get along with anyone?" is a common refrain.  Sure, you're not going to get a blank slate of a dog. I can guarantee that your new shelter dog is going to have some particular ideas about how things should be. The good news is that you can make the decision that will help integrate them into your community and daily socialization is the name of the game.

Daily? Really?

Yes, really. I wouldn't have expected this myself, but getting out there daily is the way to go to take your dog's anxiety over meeting others of his kind away.

For starters, don't avoid places where others dogs are. You don't need to jump in and have play dates immediately, however just being in the proximity of other dogs, in particular calm dogs, helps your canine pal learn the benefits of not being freaked out every time he sees something with four legs. Encourage good, calm behavior, and let him know that he doesn't need to get nervous.

Next, don't meet any dogs that don't want to meet your dog. "Is your dog friendly?" isn't something you should say unless you're OK with a "NO." Just like you wouldn't want someone forcing their nervous dog on yours, be considerate and do the same.


January Adoption Update

This month's adoption update brings us some great news for a very special dog.

Lady Guinevere (aka Lady) was found in a shelter apparently having been used to breed most of her life and then dumped when she got too old. Our friend Larry Abgarian made it his mission to get Lady out of there, and camera in hand took the video and several pictures that would make it to and and went further by pulling her from the shelter.

Months went by and Lady had several calls (including one very gracious person from North Carolina, who would have made a great owner, but the distance and Lady's health prevented Larry from pursuing that lead.)  Putting on some much needed weight and battling through kennel cough, Lady G began to make friends with Larry's extended animal family, including two dogs and two cats.

Eventually, Larry decided the best thing for all parties was to make his home Lady's permanent place of residence.  Bravo, to Larry for being Lady Guinevere's knight in shining armor.

No problem is insurmountable with the right attitude

In this picture, our subject is beginning to get the idea that not all problems merit the frontal assault approach. About a minute later he reconsiders and dove in, taking down this "Everlasting Treat" in approximately twenty minutes, which just goes to show you that just because their grey on the muzzle, doesn't mean there is no fire in the heart.