The Messy Truth about Dog Fostering

Look what arrived!!IMG_1677

I think it’s time to be honest about what it takes to be a foster family for all these deserving dogs. Maybe I’ve made it sound glamourous and exciting. Sure, it’s all that. Kind of. But beyond the sweet faces, fuzzy snuggles, amusing antics, and happy endings, there is some serious work. And sometimes there is a little bit of frustration and a tiny tad of aggravation and occasionally there are moments when you groan and say “Why am I doing this again?” to a clueless dog who looks at you with complete unadulterated innocence. You need to be a determined and patient person to foster dogs. And you definitely can’t take your house (or belongings) too seriously.

For me, the hardest part has not been the getting attached or the rearranging of our family schedule or the late night and early morning walks. What makes me the most nuts and causes my husband to growl, are the messes. And I’m not talking about the shredded newspaper, the upended ash bucket, or de-stuffed stuffed animals. I’m talking about pee. The latest foster dogs are pee-ers.

I know they look innocent, but they are capable of significant mess making and proportionately ridiculous destruction.
I know they look innocent, but they are capable of significant mess making and proportionately ridiculous destruction.

I’m not sure, but I think I prefer my first dog who was a pooper. Poop might smell, but it’s much simpler to remove. Pee, not so much. (I apologize for all this potty language but I’m trying to be straight up with you here. Fostering dogs involves a fair amount of potty language.)

I have never liked our living room carpet. It was brand new when we moved in 12 years ago. I didn’t like it then. I still don’t like it. By some unexplained miracle, it remains like-new so there’s no real reason to replace it. So we haven’t. It’s a shimmery dark brown that shows every speck of lint, spiral bound paper twirlie remnant, popcorn kernel, and light-colored dog hair. So that’s pretty annoying and means more vacuuming than the average carpet. Have I mentioned how much I hate vacuuming? (Normally I’m not a hater, but I make an exception when it comes to vacuums.)

The one thing it doesn’t show is the pee stains. You’d never know a dog peed here, unless you step in it. Lovely feeling seeping through your socks. I’ve become quite professional in the clean up. Here’s my technique – place old towel over spot, trample on it to soak up the liquid, dowse spot with seltzer water (or white vinegar), use other end of towel, soak up the liquid. I can’t smell or see the stain after that. But apparently a dog can.

Once it started, it didn’t end. Every dog who enters the living room takes one sniff and says, “Oh, here’s where I’m supposed to pee. How convenient.”

So tonight’s fun and games will include at least three passes with my new carpet cleaner. And I might just repeat that performance again tomorrow. The dogs will be babygaited in the kitchen or locked on the screened porch until the carpet is pristine. And after that they will be supervised. I’m even thinking of buying a squirt gun so I can make the point my shrieking and dragging by the collar outside hasn’t managed to achieve.

Now, I’m not such a complete ninny that I think this will fix the problem. And I’m not such a quick giver-upper that I’ll stop fostering dogs. But at least henceforth I’ll be armed.

Maybe I didn’t go into this with my eyes wide open. Here’s hoping this post will serve as fair warning to anyone considering signing on for this awesome adventure. I’ve given this a lot of thought and even included a list of the things I think OPH should consider issuing with new foster permits (kidding – there aren’t actual permits):

  1. Carpet Cleaning machine
  2. A huge number of towels
  3. A warning list entitled “Things you don’t think a dog will mess with but he will definitely mess with”

(this should include notebooks, jock cups, homework, cellphones, your most important hat – the one for the your travel team who has a game TODAY,

DSC_8737

Kindle Fire. And anything else you think a dog would NEVER mess with.)DSC_8739

  1. Extra water bowls so no one will fight
  2. Measuring cup plus chart with feeding directions by weight
  3. At least 50 or 60 stuffed animals, dog toys, or unwanted shoes
  4. Baby gates
  5. Case of wine

(Kidding about that last one.) (Sort of.)DSC_8590

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Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

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