In The Trenches With a Puppy Foster Care Family

Shortly after I joined the online pet blogger community BlogPaws,  I started to visit some of the member blogs.  Which is how I  fell in love with what Maria and her family are doing over at The Wag Tales!

What’s not to like about puppies?

Especially the puppies that, but for the intervention of Maria and other volunteers in the world of animal rescue,  might not ever live to find their forever homes?

There’s a lot of hard work that goes along with animal rescue.  The core of rescue – what makes it work – is fostering:  I know it’s hard work because I used to foster … adult dogs.   What fascinates me about Marie is that she used to foster big dogs too.

Until she transitioned over to fostering puppies.

After following her blog posts about the first litter of pups she fostered,  I wanted to know more about the woman behind the blog.  And, so I sent Maria an email asking if she’d like to be interviewed.  I put together a list of questions and Maria sent her answers back to me.

We covered quite a bit of information which I decided to break up into two separate posts.  Or more.  All of this said,  here is the first part of my interview with one of the greatest Foster Moms In The World!

Healing Rescue Dogs Interviews Maria of The Wag Tales!  Part One

HRD:     First of all, I have to tell you that I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit when it comes to the “I started out with big dogs and have fallen in love with small dogs” scenario.

Almost 2 years ago, my family adopted our first small dog – Tessa who weighs 18 pounds. We’ve always lived with at least one Giant breed and dogs that have weighed between 30-50 pounds. I never thought I’d have a small dog living with me – small is still big in comparison to toy breeds – but for my family, even a dog weighing 18 pounds is pretty darn small!

Maria:   I couldn’t agree with you more!  We adopted a small breed (Dino, the Foster Dad) and I never thought I’d have a little guy like that living with us.

I swear he is a big dog traped in a small dog’s body!  He is 12 pounds of love and nurturing who can play with the big dogs as if he is one!

HRD:   Tell me about your human family.  (any personal details you’re comfortable sharing; about yourself: do you work fulltime? Your blog mentions that your husband works from home – did this make it easier to decide to foster puppies? )

Maria:   My human family consists of my husband and 11 year old daughter.  Our daughter is absolutely the next generation of dog rescuer – something which makes us extremely proud.  She has never know life without dogs and she says she never wants to!

She isn’t the typical child who wants a “puppy” or a dog and then never takes care of it.  She gets in there and does just as much as my husband and I. When our foster,  Italia, was giving birht over the summer and had some trouble breaking the sac on Pisa, it was our daughter who got right in there and broke the sac, massaged the puppy, suctioned her mouth and made sure she was breathing!

My husband works in an office but he has the ability to work from home and he does frequently (when we first began fostering, he was only working at his office). This makes life very happy for me because I love having him around and yes, it is easier for fostering litters. But it wasn’t always that way. He is my super hero! It is he who house breaks most of the dogs. I have gotten much less squeamish about cleaning up after the puppies. When we first started fostering, I was unable to clean up after them without gagging…now, not a problem! Regardless, he still does the bulk of it AND he loves all the dogs!

I am a pet photographer
so I basically set my own schedule. I do quite a bit of rescue work from fostering to screening applicants to matching the right families with the right dogs to transporting dogs from the shelter to rescue facilities. It is a very rewarding experience.  

HRD  When did you first get involved with animal rescue and why? (How many years of rescue/fostering large dogs have you done?)    

Maria:   I first started in animal rescue when I got our rescue dog. The reason I got involved was I saw how much help was needed in the rescue community. When I first got involved, it was on a much smaller basis. I was going to adoptions, walking and bathing the dogs and showing dogs to potential adopters. It was only the last couple of years that I actually started fostering and screening applicants and such. Now, I think of how much I was missing before fostering. I wish more people would take in a foster dog. Their lives would be so much more enriched and they’d be helping an animal in need. There is such a good feeling to that!

HRD:   Talk about your big dogs – Enzo, the shepherd/rottie, and Dino, the Foster dad.  How old are they? What are their histories? How did they end up with your family?  Did Dino’s ability to bond with the puppies really surprise you?

Maria:   Enzo is a German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois and is my oldest dog.  

He is around 8. We’ve had him since 2007 when we adopted him from a rescue which I later became involved. We got Enzo after my beloved German Shepherd had passed away after we had him for 14 years. 

Enzo must have been abused by a child or children.   

When we got him, our daughter was 7 and he was terrified of her. He would back away whenever she came near him. As a matter of fact, he would back away whenever any child came near him…or if we had our hands above his head. 

It didn’t take long for Enzo to realize that our daughter would never hurt him and he is now a well adjusted dog who loves children! LOVES them! He lets toddlers pet him and he gently licks them all the while wagging his tail. You can see the “smile” on his face.

Chloe is our German Shepherd/Rottweiler/Lab mix who we adopted almost two years ago. She was out first “failed” foster. I say “failed” because we couldn’t let her go. She was just too special to us. She came to us at 4 months old and with Distemper.   

We nursed her through it and bonded to her more than I can express.   

We almost lost her over this past summer. The vet thought she was in kidney failure. She ended up being diagnosed with Canine Addison’s Disease. I’d never been so happy to hear someone had a disease! And I will be a loyal supporter of this vet for the rest of his career! He saved our little girl 

Dino is our little man. He is 7 months old in body, but an old soul in spirit! I am quite convinced he was a big dog in another life. My intention was to adopt him out, but once again, I fell in love.   

Adopting Dino was one of the best decisions we’ve made. He is a nurturer to the core. He gets along with everyone and everything. He is the one who welcomes all the fosters with open arms…or paws?    

Dino just looks at it like there are more friends to play with. He is probably the most well-balanced dog I’ve ever known. 

HRD:    What do you know about Italia’s background before she came to stay with you? (If you are part of a rescue org – and, from reading your blog, I get the sense that you are – can you share some information about this? …. how old is she, by the way?)    

Maria:   We heard about Italia through the small dog rescue I started volunteering with over the summer. I did it only because I liked the organization and the fact that they were close by was a huge plus. Never did I think I’d actually like small dogs!   

Italia was in a local shelter and needed a rescue to foster her. I had fostered many litters but I’d never experienced a dog birthing. I thought it would be a good experience for our daughter and I couldn’t resist saving a life and her unborn puppies’ lives.   

I don’t know anything about her background other than she was at a shelter. I’m not sure if she was turned in or if she was found as a stray. She is between 2 and 3 years old.

HRD:    The photos of “pregnant Italia” are adorable!    

And,  she had FIVE puppies! Is that an unusually large number for such a tiny mama?   

Maria:   Yes! Five puppies is a lot for a small breed, but not by much. From what I’ve been told, small breeds usually have 3-4 puppies.   

HRD:    How did you come up with such cute puppy names?   

Maria:   I’m glad you like them! We come up with a theme for each litter. One of our litters was a New York theme, one was Italian names and so on. This one was supposed to be names of cities in Italy with Italia as the mom, being the actual country. As the puppies were being born, we changed it a little. They are all based on Italian cities but they are varied a bit. Columbo was named after the TV series which we love. Pasquale was named after my favorite uncle who was a second dad to me.  

You can visit Maria’s blog and follow her family’s adventures in foster care and, if you’re in California looking for a great photographer, be sure to see if Maria is nearby.   [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]








  1. Barbara Hodges says

    Just had to drop a line and say “Thanks!” for the smile and sooooo adorable pictures of Italia and her puppies in the matching sweaters. YOU MADE MY DAY!
    Barbara and “Tony”

    • htkhp says

      I love it when my blog makes people smile, Barbara. And, I needed an emotional boost myself this morning, so thank YOU for giving that to me!


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