Sue's contradictions or how one foster dog taught a simple lesson

Sometimes, a foster dog comes into your life and turns all your expectations on their head. Sue was such a dog. Rescue's email asked me to foster a dachshund mix. Then, from the pictures I was forwarded, I realized I was actually getting what actually looked like a small Labrador. Picking her up from the rescue's transport van I was immediately informed that she was “a handful”. Finally at home, observing this small yet unexpectedly heavy (25lbs!) girl at play, I wondered about her personality because the rest of her resembled a serious bodybuilder. Not stopping there with surprises, Sue proved to be quite gentle, disarmingly affectionate, yet calm. Regularly flying up the stairs while almost knocking me off my feet, she would then lay at the foot of the bed, patiently waiting to be invited up. Rushing the main door to be let out, she would then lazily sit on the mat to peacefully observe wildlife in action. The only area of life where Sue was just Sue was her eating. That she did with complete and utter abandon. It was her, food, and the two had to merge together in under 4 seconds or less.

Spyke's broken leg or fostering a dog with medical issues

Over the past 8 years I had fostered close to 80 young, old, huge, tiny, unkempt, pampered, terrified, aggressive and completely neglected dogs. Only twice I was asked to take in a dog in need of regular medical treatments.

Meet Spyke, leggy, adorable, one year-old Chihuahua mix. Somehow in his short lifespan, he’s had a misfortune of breaking his front paw in the most inopportune place - his “wrist”. Dogs essentially walk on their tip-toes, so this is the worst kind of injury since they constantly apply the weight on the trying to heal bone. So, similar to horses, many dogs never fully recover full use of their limbs.

I received an urgent text message from my foster coordinator in November, asking if I could take in a dog who’ll need weekly cold laser therapy treatments at the nearby animal hospital. Not knowing a thing about laser therapy, much less that it comes in cold or hot varieties, I agreed to do it as a trial run. Picking the little guy up at the following adoption event from his previous foster, I got a crash course in dog leg injuries. Spyke came to HART from West Virginia, where his owners dropped him at the shelter with an already dangling front paw. Taking pity on a friendly guy, shelter's vet tech stabilized it and called several rescues. Since HART works with a variety of veterinarians who can perform complicated surgeries, little Spyke got a second chance at life.

Goodbye Jackie or losing your foster dog

It finally happened. One of my 80 plus foster dogs has passed away. The news came suddenly and two months after the accident, but they reached me nonetheless. My regular readers know that I foster more than my share of dachshunds, with little Jackie being the red standard of her proud breed. An absolute beauty at 8 years of age, she arrived with American Kennel Club papers, which meant at least three generations of her ancestors had their names and histories proudly inscribed in the official books. What Jackie also came with was her heartbreak at losing her family to unfortunate circumstances, which undoubtedly scarred and caused her distrust of people and at times other pets.

Any yet, even with that and an occasional very-dachshund stubborn streak, adopting her turned out to be easy. By a total fluke, as it often happens in rescuing animals, she was seen by her future family at a local homemade pie shop when a fellow foster brought her in after running an errand. With her husband away on business, Jackie's future lady of the house took her kids to the same exact shop to pass the time and enjoy the weather. Already having a dog of their own, a sizable basset hound, who has had countless surgeries to fix his back, this family was not looking for another dog. But seeing Jackie changed all that in an instant.

Giving up a pet (be it a dog, a cat or a gerbil)

Here we go. Another previously adopted dog has been returned. Their reason? Pistachio is just "too shy". Thank goodness rescues gladly take these dogs back before the "owners" think of other ways to get rid of them, as in passing it off to another family member or dumping it at the nearby shelter. So, this adorable, unbelievably loving, but "just too shy" dog is now back.

Did you know that most dogs are returned/given up within the first few months of their adoption. And, when it comes to the calendar, the month of March is the worst of all. Yes, three short months after all those heart-melting Christmas decisions, the teenage versions of same dogs and cats are brought back in numbers. The reasons are typically the same, ranging from "we are just too busy" to "our kid wouldn't walk/feed/clean up.” All in all, what was the peak of novelty has become a burden, a chore. Luckily, with time, rescues do find all these returnees new homes,  but at a heavy price to regular dogs who happen to find themselves in shelters at the same time. And by regular I mean, a Chihuahua picked up after getting lost and not claimed by its family or a Labrador Retriever, whose heartbroken owner had to suddenly give it up because of deployment. Overfull rescues can't take them in that week/month, so with the adoptions at their lowest, these dogs...perish. If your heart is set on getting a pet this holiday season, please ask yourself what reasons would make you return it. This short pondering will save a life.

When it comes to reasons for give up, being a dog with medical condition is not too favorable either. HART often sees emotionally overwhelmed families asking it to take their animals after vet bills have become so astronomical surrendering dog/cat to the rescue (with its own vet arrangements) is the last resort. Death in the family is another reason the dogs are let go. Earlier, I wrote about Tobe, the Spaniel mix, who found himself passed from one family member to the other until he found me. His owner wouldn't have dreamed of giving him up, but after she passed away of a terminal illness, Tobe was left in the care of her son, who after months of trying to find him a home finally brought it to HART.

Crowd-healing or how to introduce your foster dog to other pets

To a pack animal, fitting into a new group must be just a stressful as the first day of school is to the average human. Only, unlike us, dogs have centuries of built in “shortcuts” to rely on to ease them along the process. I see them use them first hand, so I’ll share my findings with you below.

First, find out you pup's history. Let’s take my most recent foster, Tippie. Her story is a simple one, but it will help explain her state of mind. Only 3 years old, she came to be rescued from a high kill shelter on the border of Virginia with Tennessee. A gorgeous miniature dachshund, with soulful eyes and a string of bad luck that almost got her killed, she must have gotten her start as a well-loved puppy. 
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