Giving Back: How We Became Foster Dog Parents

Chelsea and Pi - The Happy BeastAfter my dog’s sudden death this summer, I found myself incredibly lonely. My best friend, who I spent hours walking with every morning, who I rushed home to after work, who kept me company in the kitchen and kept my feet warm at night, was suddenly and very unexpectedly gone.

Fortunately for me, my life is saturated with animal lovers. After Pi died, a friend came over and helped me pack away all her things. I kept a couple bowls, her leash and collar and a few toys. Everything else went in boxes for the shelter where another friends works. The next week, I drove to Adams County Animal Shelter (ACAS) in Brighton to donate Pi’s things. That’s where I met Mila. She had just been surrendered to the shelter for the third time in her short life and her sweet little face melted me.

The next week, I went back to the same shelter with toys donated for a group of dogs pulled from an overrun shelter in Texas. This time I got to go to the ‘Texas Dog’ playgroup. In Texas, these dogs had been living in overcrowded kennels with little human interaction. At ACAS, they were given their own spaces and they were spending time every day with volunteers. Later, I met a springy Dalmatian puppy brought in as a stray and a very sweet but very sad bulldog who had been surrendered by his family of six years. I was torn between wanting to give all of these dogs a home and knowing that I wasn’t really ready to have a dog of my own yet.

Brownie - Foster dog at The Happy BeastUnderstanding how I felt, my friend who works for ACAS gave me a foster family application. A few weeks later, our home was approved and soon after that, my boyfriend and I went back to meet a few dogs who needed a temporary home. Brownie came home with us that afternoon. We took him for a walk through the park that evening, and that was the first time since Pi died that I felt really happy. Brownie needed time as a foster because he was a little nervous around men and the shelter needed more information on what his behavior was like in a home. After a couple days of slow introductions every time we entered the house, Brownie became very comfortable with us. He proved to be an excellent snuggle-buddy to my boyfriend and the perfect hiking partner for me. After his time with us, Brownie went back to the shelter and a few weeks later, we got the amazing news that he found his new family!

Antonio - Foster dog at The Happy BeastWe just finished up with our second foster dog, a sweet and goofy blue pit bull named Antonio. In the shelter, he was anxious around the other dogs. He spent most of his time hanging out in staff members’ offices, but he still lost weight from the stress. In our home, he was a happy, snuggly, lump on our couch. Wherever we were, he liked to bulldoze himself between us. My boyfriend likened sleeping with him to cuddling with a rock. He quickly stole our hearts and we seriously considered keeping him, but were hopeful he’d find another home. With that hope in mind, after his two weeks with us, I returned him to the shelter. Dropping him off absolutely broke my heart. That guy did not want to be surrounded by barking dogs. He wanted to be in our bed. But less than 24 hours later, Antonio was on his way to his forever home with his perfect family and that felt really good.

This is what I’ve learned about fostering dogs so far:

  1. Fostering is flexible.
    Different organizations have different needs, as do the animals they serve. The program at Adams County Animal Shelter allows us to take dogs short term based on our schedule. Keeping an animal for a week or two gives them a break from shelter life while allowing us to gather more information on how the dog does in a home environment. For our situation, foster care is a mini vacation for the dogs. Other dogs from ACAS may need a home to stay in until they find a permanent home and many rescue groups operate solely out of foster homes. Those animals typically need a place to stay in until they are adopted which could mean a longer commitment.
  2. Fostering is free.
    Well, kind of. The shelter provides us with beds, toys, a crate and food, (but I can’t help myself from bringing home extra treats from The Happy Beast!) Any medical care is handled by the shelter veterinarian and the shelter covers the bill.
  3. Shelter dogs are amazing!
    Because we are dog-savvy people in a mellow household with no small children, we can host dogs that may have a few quirks or need additional training. So far, our fosters have been incredible, and we joke that if these are the ‘challenging’ dogs, the other dogs in the shelter must be pretty darn perfect.
  4. Giving them back is really hard, but totally worth it.
    It’s hard to communicate to a dog that this home is temporary (it’s also hard to convince ourselves that we can’t keep all of them) so taking them back can be difficult. I remind myself that our role as a foster home is to be a stepping stone to their forever home. We can work on behaviors like leash walking and impulse control and help determine what kind of home they would do best in.
  5. ‘Foster Failure’ is actually a really good thing.
    While the term may seem negative, ‘Foster Failure’ only means the foster family decided to keep the animal forever. Foster Failure = Adoption Success!

While not without challenges, this experience has helped me heal from losing my dog and has already brought so much happiness back to my life. My time with Pi showed me what it means to really love and respect an animal. She taught me all about dog behavior and training and now I can use everything I learned from her with each dog that comes into our home.

If you are interested in fostering with Adams County Animal Shelter, visit

Many shelters and rescue groups, including our friends at Mother Gaia Animal Rescue are also always in need of foster homes. If you are looking to foster in your area, check with different organizations to find the one your lifestyle fits best with!

Supplements for Every Day Dog Health | The Happy Beast

Supplements for Every Day Dog Health

You already have your dog on a healthy diet so what else does your she need for optimal health and wellness? The answer might be dietary supplements.

At The Happy Beast, we always address diet first. A species-appropriate diet lays the foundation for proper health by reducing the risk of illness and injury in animals and helping them recover from existing illness and disease. Often times, our animals have a lifestyle need or health condition that can be addressed by adding supplements to the appropriate diet.

For example, my dog, Pi, eats raw foods prepared by Primal and Small Batch and she occasionally gets air-dried food from The Real Meat Co. She’s on an optimal diet, but to meet her specific health needs, I stock my doggie medicine cabinet with Connectin joint support, a fish oil, Pet Natural’s Calming treats and Optagest prebiotics.

Check out these common scenarios we hear in the store every day and how the right supplement can help improve your animal’s health.

My two-year-old border collie mix is my hiking and running companion.

A young, active dog is susceptible to joint inflammation and injury. Omega-3s from fish oil and glucosamine keep joints healthy and moving. Colorado canines will also benefit from a daily prebiotic or probiotic to stave off environmental bacteria like giardia. Try InClover’s Jump or Connectin for joint health and Optagest Prebiotic and Enzyme.

I have a seven-year-old dog with a history of urinary tract infections and struvite crystals.

Powdered cranberry contains tannins that prevent certain pathogenic strains of bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Free-floating bacteria can then pass through the bladder, reducing the risk of infection and growth of struvite crystals. Try Cranimals or Wee Wee Boost.

My lab has itchy dry skin and sheds incessantly.

Omega-3s from fish oil or algae combat inflammation and soothe itchy skin. Anecdotal evidence shows that those same omega-3s reduce shedding, but conclusive research is still ongoing.  Try InClover Glow or Alaska Natural’s Salmon Oil.

My dog’s breath stinks!

Bad breath can come from tartar in the mouth or bacteria in the gut. To combat both, pair a prebiotic with a green detoxing supplement. Try InClover’s Grin or PetKelp’s Wellness Blend.

I have a dog who is a Nervous Nelly at the vet and sometimes vomits on car rides.

There are several supplement approaches to calming an anxious dog and some are more effective than others depending on the dog and the cause of anxiety. Theanine helps dogs who are generally anxious, while flower essences like Rescue Remedy work well for sensitive dogs. A dog who vomits in the car will find relief from an herbal supplement like Ark Natural’s Happy Traveler.

My dog got into the trash and she’s had loose stools for the last few days.

Pumpkin fiber soothes tummies by regulating stool volume and density, meaning it binds loose stools and combats constipation. Firm-Up’s dehydrated pumpkin also boasts soluble apple fiber for an extra stomach-soothing boost.

We hope this blog post provides a good, quick summary of some of our favorite supplements, but stop by the store if you’d like to talk more about your pet’s specific conditions and how we might be able to help.

Species-Appropriate Food for Canine Weight Loss | The Happy Beast

Species-Appropriate Food for Canine Weight Loss

An estimated 53% of dogs in the U.S. are obese or overweight and we get a lot of inquiries in the store for weight loss diets and treats. We started The Happy Beast Weight Loss Program to help dogs and cats lose weight in a safe and healthy way, using species-appropriate foods.

Most commercial and prescription dog foods aimed at weight loss are low calorie, low fat and high fiber. The dominant ingredients in these foods are carbohydrates. Why? Carbohydrates (e.g. rice, corn, potatoes) are much lower in calories per pound than meat. The idea is to help your dog feel full by allowing him to eat just as much food while consuming fewer calories.

We find a few problems with this approach.

First, higher carb means lower protein. (Remember, protein is required for muscle and organ growth and maintenance.)  Second, dogs are satiated by fat. A low-fat, high-fiber food will not help your dog feel full. And third, the body can only store a limited amount of carbohydrates, so most unused carbs are converted to fat stores.

Contrast this to the diets we recommend for weight loss that are high protein, moderate fat, and low carb.

In the most recent publication of Nutrient Requirements for Cats and Dogs, the National Research Council finds that canines have no requirement for carbohydrates. The primary source of energy for canines should be fat and protein. For your dog to lose weight, he needs a species-appropriate protein supply and healthy fat to help him feel satisfied. We reduce carbohydrates so the body is forced to use up fat stores for energy.


Regardless of your dog’s need to gain or lose weight, he needs a daily supply of high-quality protein. The digestive tract breaks down protein into amino acids which are used for daily body functions including maintaining and repairing muscles and organs. A diet that is primarily high quality protein will provide your dog all 22 required amino acids. If your dog doesn’t consume enough quality protein in his diet, he will synthesize 12 non-essential of the 22 amino acids by breaking down his own healthy muscle and organ tissues. The other 10 amino acids are called essential, because they cannot be synthesized by the body if they are missing from the diet.


Including a moderate amount of fat in the diet may be contrary to what we’re used to hearing when we talk about weight loss, but healthy fats have an important roles in helping your dog feel full.  Dogs feel satisfied when they’ve consumed enough fat, not when they’ve consumed enough food. Feeding a dog green beans and carrots is not going to make a hungry dog feel full. Once your dog has reached his weight loss goal, fat in the diet will be used as energy.


Any carbohydrates your dog eats are converted into glucose by the digestive system and used for energy. Any unused glucose is stored as fat. By limiting the amount of carbohydrates in the diet, your dog’s system will resort to using fat as an energy source instead; using up fat reserves in the body. This is how your dog will lose weight!

Using the diet of our dog’s ancestors as a guide, dogs require 14% or less carbohydrates. Most dry food (kibbles) are made up of over 40% carbs. If your dog has a weight loss goal, consider a raw, freeze-dried or air-dried food that contain less than 15% carbohydrates. If you still choose to feed a kibble diet, you can still replace some of his food with canned, raw or cooked meat to increase his protein intake while decreasing carbs.

For more info, read our blog post on calculating carbs or check the Nutrition Plan Worksheet for our Weight Loss Program. You can also check out the websites for some of our favorite brands, including SmallBatch, Primal, K9 Naturals, ZiwiPeak and The Real Meat Co.

Or stop by the store anytime and we’ll be happy to help create a customized Weight Loss Plan for your furry friend.

Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Behaviorist's Approach | The Happy Beast

Separation Anxiety: Behaviorist’s Approach

Separation anxiety is probably the most common behavior concern our customers have with their dogs. It is characterized by dogs who, when left alone, howl, bark, whine, house-soil and/or chew and destroy carpet, doors, blinds, couches, etc. Behaviors range from mild to extreme. Some dog may not eat when left alone, while dogs with more severe anxiety might break out of crates, scratch through doors, or dig under fences.

In January, I met with animal behaviorist, Dr. Juli Potter, DVM of Starwood Veterinary Care in Boulder County, to discuss separation anxiety in canines: what causes it, how to manage it, and when an animal behaviorist can help.

Dr. Potter explains that most dogs suffer from some kind of separation anxiety. We have spent thousands of years domesticating dogs and breeding them to be our constant companions. While dogs are not meant to be alone, we can train even the most anxious dog to be comfortable and confident while we are away.

Rule out or identify any medical problem contributing to your dog’s separation anxiety.

Dr. Potter recommends a full blood panel with urinalysis and a complete physical exam. Left untreated, pain and illness lead to and/or increase anxiety.

Practice empathy.

Coming home to a dog who has destroyed the house or getting complaints from neighbors about your dog barking can be terribly frustrating. Try to understand why your dog behaves this way. He’s not angry or “acting out.” He’s seeking out ways to cope with the stress he’s feeling. Remember, punishing a dog who is fearful or anxious will only increase his fear and anxiety. It may even teach him to avoid you.

Make life predictable.

Create a predictable daily schedule for you and your dog. A consistent routine reduces separation anxiety by teaching your dog what to expect. Feed, walk, and train your dog 2-3 times per day. Training sessions and walks don’t have to be long; 15-30 minutes for each is sufficient. Dr. Potter says the morning walk is the most important one. It allows your dog to burn up energy before spending the day alone. Need help with training? A behaviorist can design a treatment program based on your individual needs. Need help with walking? Stop by The Happy Beast to pick up business cards for local dog walkers and pet sitters in the area.

Teach basic commands.

Basic commands like “sit”, “down”, “stay” and “shake” help teach your dog predictability as well. When practicing, say the command, wait for (or encourage) your dog to perform the behavior, then reward your dog with a treat. Practice these behaviors for 10-­15 minutes 2-­3 times a day. Teaching basic commands and tricks is a predictable way to interact with your dog for it helps your dog learn what is expected of him.

Ignore needy behavior.

Ignore very needy, attention-seeking behavior. Dr. Potter says this is more challenging for the humans than for the dogs. If your dog jumps up on you, shoves his head under your hand to be pet, or begs for attention, you have to walk away and do not look at him. Giving in to these behaviors reinforces your dog’s constant “neediness” for you.

When you have to leave…

Be sure to ignore your dog for at least 20-­30 minutes before you have to leave.. By this time, your dog should have had a walk, a short training session and his breakfast. Don’t make your departure anything special or overly emotional. About 10 minutes before you leave, give your dog a special treat such as a Snoop filled with treats, a bully stick or a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or dog food. (Dr. Potter suggest filling a Kong with canned dog food and freezing it overnight.)

When to seek professional help.

If your dog’s separation anxiety is negatively affecting you or your dog’s quality of life, consulting with a behaviorist can make a remarkable difference. Dr. Potter explains that sometimes the things we think are helping our animals are actually reinforcing their anxious behaviors. A behaviorist can help you identify what is working, what is setting you back and also prescribe a training protocol.

In certain cases, a vet may also prescribe an anti-­anxiety medication. Dr. Potter explains that medications like these are a “band­-aid” and should only be used short term. The medication reduces the dog’s anxiety so that he can begin to learn alternate positive behaviors. As training goes into effect and the dog becomes symptom free,the medication should be tapered off. Anti­-anxiety medications inhibit the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, therefore a rebound effect, or worsening of symptoms, can occur if the medication is stopped suddenly.

Dr. Juli Potter, DVM of Starwood Veterinary Care in Boulder County offers in home wellness visits, behavior consulting and training. Her mission is to enhance the human-animal bond through knowledge, empathy, and compassionate care.