So, you may have noticed that I haven’t written very much about my other foster dog. Vera Bradley has been with us for a month now, and in that time her presence has been eclipsed by puppies leaving, Estelle leaving, and then Darlin’ giving birth. That’s my official excuse.
My unofficial excuse for not mentioning Vera often is that my family is in love with her. All of them.
Well, except the cats.
The cats are beyond terrified of her. One has even taken to living up the hill with the barn cat. There is good reason for this fear. I have little doubt that Vera would (best case) run them out of town or (worst case) shred them into little bitty pieces, if given the opportunity.
In fact, it is this very threat to the cats that keeps my family from kicking me out and keeping Vera instead.
What goes through a dog’s mind? This week, as I watched my three musketeers – Gracie, Estelle, and Vera, following me from room to room, up and down the stairs, my three furry shadows, I’ve wondered what, exactly, are they thinking?
Vera has only been here about ten days, but she has easily stolen our hearts.
In the past year she’s been rescued from death in a shelter, arriving in her first OPH home testing heartworm positive and bearing a ghastly embedded collar wound. After her neck healed (with a scar so deep you can sink your finger in it up to the first knuckle) and she was treated for heartworm, she was adopted. Yay, happy ending, right?
Another returned dog. I won’t bore you with the details of why this dog has come back to OPH care after being adopted 8 months ago. Prior to that she was treated for heartworm in her foster home. Prior to that she was neglected and abandoned and left with the deepest, most horrifying embedded collar scarring I’ve ever seen. She makes Lucy’s neck look like a paper cut.
When Vera Bradley arrived, her adopter was apologetic, explaining that Vera was a little wobbly and confused because she’d given her a sedative for the two-hour drive. Vera’s nails were long and the adopter told me she had to have her vet do them because they’re black, plus Vera is sensitive to the sound of the clippers (we learned later in the weekend that Vera is terrified of snapping sounds – a neighbor’s nailgun sent her into a panic).
After she left, I took Vera to my local pet salon to have her nails trimmed while she was still in her twilight state. She stumbled in and stood for the trimming like a love. The technician was aghast at the embedded collar scarring and took Vera into the grooming area to show all the other employees. “I’ve never seen anything this bad,” she said. “Poor baby.”
And she’s right. It does feel like someone attempted to chop off Vera’s head, but more than likely her neck simply grew around a collar that was too small. Whether that happened when her owner wasn’t paying attention or while she was a stray, we’ll never know. I’m amazed she survived it.
When we got home from the groomers, Vera plopped down on the Frank bed and curled in as small a ball as she could, given her size (she’s about 60 pounds, but is easily at least 10 pounds overweight). She remained there the rest of the day, declining dinner until I sat beside her and urged her to eat. Even then she only finished half.
If you foster dogs, this is a question tossed at you on a regular basis. I hear it so often, that I thought I’d just take a moment to set the record straight.
Yes, it is hard to give them away. Every time. Sometimes it’s harder than others.
For instance, I won’t miss cleaning up after twelve puppies, but I will miss each of these precious pups who I’ve come to know and love. I will miss George’s impish ways and Zora’s constant need for hugs. I will miss Louisa May’s soft, soft coat and the quiet way Eudora leans in to me wanting my attention but not demanding it like the others. I will miss all these pups. Just like I miss all the dogs and puppies that came before them.
So, yes, it is very hard to give them away. But I know when they arrive at my house that the day is coming when I will watch them leave. I don’t ever think of these dogs as ‘mine.’ I think of the time they have with me as a sort of a grace period. It’s my gift to them- a safe place to get their feet underneath themselves and know love and security so they are ready to go to their forever homes.
Many of my foster dogs have come and gone quickly. So quickly, that we barely got to scratch the surface of their personalities. This is not the case with my two current dogs whom I think may still be with us at Christmas.
Not because they are bad dogs – quite the contrary, but here’s the complications involved with either of them finding a forever family quickly….
First, take Whoopi.
She’s a hit at events. Even a non-dog lover easily proclaims, “Look at the bloodhound!” They’ve all seen them on TV and in the movies, because what screams redneck, hillbilly, sidekick as loud as a bloodhound?
I took Whoopi to the Petapalooza on Sunday and she was wonderful.
I really like the Facebook feature, Memories. If you aren’t familiar with it – Facebook randomly sends you private posts with pictures from posts you made on the same date in history.
Recently, this picture came up –
It’s from a year ago when we were still relatively new to fostering. Since our foster dog, Carla, had become part of the family, we’d agreed to babysit two other foster dogs for another OPH foster who was going away for the weekend. She could have put them in boarding but both dogs were sort of special needs. Hitch was incredibly shy and prone to running away (something we got to experience first-hand when one of our teens left a door open -twice! I got a lot exercise that weekend…) and Kylie who was…well Kylie was a little like our current foster Gingersnap – super sweet and VERY active, and maybe a wee-bit manic. It turned out to be a fun weekend and the first time we’d ever had four dogs in the house at once.
Now four doesn’t seem so crazy. In fact, as we watched our merry band of four last night, I said, “I like our little herd,” and Nick said, “Me, too.”
Just the other day, I was shocked to retrieve Addie’s red polka-dotted slipper shoe out of Momma Bear’s mouth. For some reason, known only to the canine world, those shoes are the best tasting ones in the house. Pretty much every foster dog has favored them. Somehow they’ve survived the onslaught, although several dogs ago, Addie had to use blue flowered duct tape to re-secure the liner to the bottom of the shoe.
Momma Bear’s paperwork says she’s between 2 and 5 years old. I’m betting she’s on the low end of that scale. As she’s finally begun to relax at our house, we’re seeing more puppy-like behavior.
Next was Brady’s forgotten croc and then Ian’s stinky sneaker. And the children thought they could stop putting their shoes away since there wasn’t a puppy in the house. Think again!
It’s not just the shoes she’s begun chewing. She’s gnawed on the directions for my new iphone, multiple ball-point pens, and yesterday she found a box of packing peanuts. That was pretty funny. They were the kind made of cornstarch which disappear when wet. She’d poke her long snout into the box in the corner of my office and fish out one peanut and then take it to her favorite spot only to discover it was gone! So she’d return to the box and grab more, repeating the process until I put the box up because I didn’t know if cornstarch was poisonous to dogs (it isn’t). Continue reading When the Guest Becomes Family