This past weekend I got the news that Candy had a “meet and greet” with a potential adopter scheduled. So off Candy and I go. It went well and she went home with her new mom.
It wasn’t a foster fail. But it could have been. This particular shelter, Half-Way Home Animal Rescue, has a clause in their foster application that says that fosters cannot adopt the dogs they foster. I thought it a good policy. Well at least intellectual me understood the reasoning behind the policy and thought it good.
Plus I figured it would be a fail safe for me. The reason why I decided to foster in the first place was to keep a connection to animals and to do what I do best.
Shower them with love and attention.
And because I was not sure I was ready to have another pet in my life full-time. Mainly because I work full-time and am usually gone 8-10 hours a day. Since I tend to get breeds that love and need lots of attention, they would have bouts of separation anxiety and act out. Not good.
So fostering seemed to be the way to go.
And it was a good experience.
Except that I fell in love with Candy. The first week, a honeymoon period, I thought hard about asking to adopt her anyway. Then it got a little rougher as a lot of her terrier traits came busting through. Like digging and chewing. And exuberance displays of love and affection that came with waking me up at 5 am in the morning with slobbery kisses and lots of nipping which was hard to break her of doing.
Then as we settled into a routine that included a nightly walk and outside play time (on a long tie out) where she could run around, toss balls and her Kong into the air, and chase after them soccer-style. Her terrier traits of being so cute and funny came shining though. She became pals with one of the dogs next door and showed that she didn’t have a problem with strange dogs nor people, once she felt familiar with them.
We went through both a bout with kennel cough and her heat. Nursing an animal through “difficult stuff” is very bonding.
Candy was a great dog. IS a great dog.
And I was happy that I took her and “saved” her from possible–maybe probable–euthanasia (she was at a high kill shelter and had a “due date”).
Her new mom was “grateful” to us for everything we had done for Candy. And that is what fostering is all about. Helping a dog find their “best self” AGAIN. A best self that often gets lost when an animal gets dumped and finds themselves alone and scared at an unfamilar place like a shelter.
In the best situations, like Candy’s, the animal gets their groove back fairly quickly. Someone sees them on a site like Petfinder (where Candy’s new mom spotted her) or at a pet event and decide to give them a new home.
And become the family they need, showering them with love and affection anew.
Still it is hard. Bittersweet.
I am happy for Candy but also sad. I miss her but want the best for her. So with that, I bid Candy adieu.
The hardest thing for people to put into practice, whether it be in training their dog or just life in general, is PATIENCE. And it only seems to be getting worse. We want the things we want and we want them now. And our society gives us the false belief that we should get things when we want them. 24 hour delivery. Prime now. Facebook likes and shares. It’s a constant source of adrenaline. So when we want our dogs to act or behave in a certain way, we expect them to provide the same instantaneous result for us.
In general, I am NOT the world’s most patient person. With one exception.
I cut anything a break that doesn’t have the voice–nor advanced neocortex higher order reasoning powers–that human animals are supposed to have. Notice I said supposed to. Many of us don’t. And all of us are challenged in that department from time to time.
Still, I tend to expect a world more from human animals than the non-human ones. Candy, is a lesson, in leveling up my reserves of patience and how important training is.
She’s a rat terrier. A breed known for being stubborn. Though both she and I prefer to call it “independence.” I have a reputation for being stubborn (or “difficult” as my ex-husband used in lieu of my middle name). We both like carving our own paths. Doing life in our own way.
That doesn’t mean that we won’t ever, never conform. Being the smart creatures we are, both Candy and I will do what others ask of us. But only when we convinced it makes sense (we consider ourselves to be super conscious, rational animals). And you’ll get our attention faster when there is a “high value treat” involved.
Because like I said, we are rational, practical-minded beings.
I send a lot of time surfing pet adoption sites, like the omnipresent Petfinder and Adopt-a-pet, Petango as well as the websites of individual rescue and shelter organizations within 10, 25, sometimes 50 miles of me.
Because well, I can be obsessive like that.
Rational me says this is okay since the advance research will help me figure out what I am want in my next pet animal (okay 99% probably a dog) and choose wisely. Besides research comes naturally to me. In second grade, I wanted to be a librarian. After getting downsized three times back in the 90’s, I took a toehold into being a consultant/information broker as the “Knowledge Economy” was in full swing.
I did not become a librarian.
Or buy those information broker business cards.
But I did stay in marketing where research is a large part of my everyday job. It’s my catnip (having owned a couple of cats, I’m allowed this analogy lol). So, I justify all this pet adoption site web surfing by telling myself (and anyone who will listen) that I WILL NOT make a choice about my next pet based solely on my first emotional “wants.” That a strong dose of rationality or levelheadedness WILL GO into my choosing too.
Which leads to paying close attention to a dog’s breed as a big part of that process.
Because oft times it’s our mistakes which teach us the most. And one of mine was in the choice of my first dog, Augie, a Samoyed Husky. Augie with his cute, coal black rimmed eyes and oh, all that fluffy white hair (a combination that also sets off my dopamine receptors LOL). Don’t get me wrong, I adored that dog. But left-brain was M.I.A. in that choice.
Augie was a bundle of energy. That was obvious in the pet store. But heck, what 3 month old puppy isn’t, right?
And let me say right off, that NO I didn’t crate him. My childhood dogs had been confined to a 4 feett by 3 feet space in our kitchen. I thought that cruel, so I decided that no dog of mine would ever have to endure being cooped up. Bored. In fact, my dog will have the run of the house. Yeah, even though both of us were gone 8-10 hours a day for work.
Augie gnawed up part of my staircase of my brand new six-month old home, molding, a couple of couches, and a bunch of other things I can no longer recount. Yeah I read from cover-to-cover the book I bought on Samoyeds. Right AFTER bringing my new pet home. And obviously, I missed what one key characteristic of the breed meant:
Samoyeds are large working dogs. They have HUGE exercise needs.
So to save my house–and my marriage–when I got home from my one hour and a half commute from work, out we went out for a very long walk/run. My daughter would also take Augie to the school park where he could run (we didn’t have a fenced yard) and chase after tennis balls or Frisbees. Truthfully, he didn’t entirely stop the chewing, but making sure he had enough exercise helped until he grew out of puppyhood.
After Augie passed away, I vowed to ALWAYS take a dog breed’s key characteristics into account BEFORE I committed. Which means my next choice, Cody, the Bichon Frise, was deliberate. And mostly a good one.
On the emotional appeal side, Cody had cute, coal black rimmed eyes and a huge bundle of fluffy, white hair (are you seeing the neural pathway pattern being set here? 😉 On the rational side, I could choose to take Cody out on walks (like in the woof & meow header photo) or when I could do no more than crash after work, just let him zoom around the house for a minute in-between his penchant for jumping off beds.
Like I said, getting a Bichon Frise was a choice that worked out very well , though what they say about being difficult to potty train and being crated are true.
So while doing my own zoomies around pet finder sites, I’m always filtering for small and medium dogs and doing a deep dive into breeds whenever it is a breed or some combo thereof in which that I am unfamiliar.
So I’m thinking that I know what I want and that’s what I’ll choose…
Until I break my own rules.
Because when I take a deep dive into individual organizations “inventory” of animals, inevitably, I’ll see some dog (or cat) that I have an instant attraction to that does NOT fit my so-called criteria. Which is the case when I come across what seems to be the ideal breed: a retired, racing greyhound.
Greyhounds are smart, affectionate, gentle, not big barkers…a bit on the larger scale for sure, but LEAN. So no big food costs as they don’t need a lot of food, but this seemed like the path to breaking my very bad habit of plying my pets with treats (usually as bribes). Being overweight is not good for any animal’s health, but for a greyhound, it could be very bad news health wise.
I loved the idea that greyhounds make a great exercise buddy, though they they don’t NEED to run. So I figured that I could let him or her out in my very long backyard and that would fulfill the activity needs. But then I kept reading words like “no small animals” and “not good with children.” Not on every bio (Petango is good about printing this on their bio summaries) but a number of them.
Why is that, I thought (and thank goodness for the internet which means you can research stuff like this easy peasy rather than run out to the library or to buy a book or magazine about the breed like you had to do back in the day).
Yeah, sometimes the obvious completely escapes me. Greyhounds chase tiny rabbits around a track. They do this because they have high prey drive or aggression. I have lots of tiny animals running around my backyard. Like chipmunks, squirrels, and yes, wild rabbits.
I learned that prey drive could also be activated by other dogs. And two small dogs live next door. Cody’s old pals. Each morning they would come to the back patio door to “call on him” to come outside to play. Cute, right?
We definitely were NOT going to subject any of my wildlife friends or dog neighbors to the possibility of being “preyed upon.” So hunting and coursing dogs (which means reluctantly whippets and the Italian greyhound were out of the picture, too).
Lesson Learned: Okay, you can’t always get what you want.
Because in my mind even when you fall deeply in love with an individual animal or breed (AND YOU WILL), it might not make sense for your situation nor be fair to the animal. Be compassionate!
So I went back to cruising the animal adoption sites. But now I’m telling myself to stick to them for research and “window shopping.” Rational side back in control admonishes me to stick to the original plan– wait on adopting a new dog.
Because on Sunday, I took the plunge. I agreed to foster my first animal (see above). A dog named Candy who they pulled from one of the rural shelters they work with. And yes I’m scared. It’s my first foster dog. And it feels like a huge responsibility.
And a gratifying one. Because Candy, like all the animals Half-Way Animal Home Rescue works with, had a “due date.” Which is what they also say about animals when they go onto the euthanasia list.
Which of course, isn’t fair. Look at those eyes. You think how could they even think of ending the life of this beautiful, sweet-eyed girl. But like my ma used to say, life isn’t always fair.
Fostering an animal, of course, is a way of righting that wrong.
I meet Candy this Friday.
P.S. Check out the rescue’s Facebook page to see the other animals with due dates that they would like to save. If they can’t find fosters and sponsors, they won’t be able to which is heartbreaking.
P.S.S. The “official day” may have passed, but we think every day should be National Rescue Dog Day. And Rescue Cat Dog. And Rescue Guinea Pig, Chinchilla, and other small animal day. Or Rescue Wild Horses Day. And Rescue Wild Birds that Have Fallen From Their Nests Day. Well, you get the picture.
“My life is richer for the presence of my dogs. Not just my dogs alone, but all the dogs which have slept in my lap, run across fields where I’ve played with them, or leaned out of car windows as I’ve driven by. I have fed them, held them, massaged their necks, rubbed their bellies, and thrown them sticks and toys as far as my arms could reach. They have chased me, caught me, and licked me until I had to surrender. I have grown up with them and watched them grow up with me, and I’ve sadly watched some pass on. On occasion I have helped to heal them, and more often they have helped to heal me. I have taught them some things of importance: how to sit, how to shake hands, and how to roll over. In turn, they have taught me to believe in the constant goodness that seems to emanate so easily from their gentle and loving nature.” –John Hurley (from J. Peterman Senifeld fame), It’s Okay to Miss the Bed On the First Jump