Foster Failure

–  August 20, 2017

My eyes widened when I saw him.  55 pounds?  Maybe.  But tall, lanky, skinny.  Where have I seen those markings before?  My neighbor’s Anatolian shepherd.  He licked my hands and wiggled around.  Yes, he was sweet.  My eyebrows raised again.  He was intact.  They didn’t tell me that!  Well . . . I said I would do this.  Can’t back down now.

If the shelter asked me if I would be interested in fostering “sweet Goofy,” I asked what kind of care he would need and was told he had just had FHO surgery (ball joint removal) and needed a place to relax.  He would need his pain meds and I would have to exercise his leg along with short leash walks only.  Then there was the cone.  Tim looked at me like “What have you gotten into?”  We gratefully accepted a large dog bed and walked out the door, sans pain meds.

The car was the first thing.  When Tim started the Forester, Goofy made a beeline back to the shelter.  Since he was lame, it wasn’t a big problem, but his anxiety was evident.  He thrashed about as Tim lifted him into the open hatch and closed it while I slipped into the back seat.  Drooling all over, Goofy sat nervously and tried to circle in the too-small-for-him space.  I grabbed his collar – damn cone -petted him, trying to reassure him.  I never found out his history – and maybe the shelter didn’t either – but I assumed a car could be part of it.

Somehow we made it to my house where Goofy leapt out of the car.  We walked him into the backyard and through the kitchen door where my female Jack Russell Terrier mix was waiting.  The cone had to come off.  Instantly Goofy was a new dog.  Freed from the thing that blinded his communication with the world, his tail wagged and he was anxious to make friends.  Daisy was astounded by his size, his exuberance.  We let the dogs out in the back yard and Goofy dove off the deck.  So much for short leash walks – our first faux pas.  The dogs seemed to get along fine.

The first evening went as well as we hoped.  Goofy finally calmed down after getting some much-needed attention.  As the evening went on Goofy paid more and more attention to the line of stitches on his hip and I knew his cone would have to be put back on.  It was a project, but we managed it.  We sectioned off my kitchen, a reasonably large space for Goofy, with a couple of plywood boards and a table.  He should be set.  After about 30 minutes he was calm.  It was almost midnight.

About 20 minutes later I woke up to knocking and thrashing.  Goofy was trying to escape from what he may have seen as a prison, or maybe he just wanted to be where everyone else was.  I walked out to the kitchen and found Goofy moving the heavy table aside and ready to climb over the 2-foot tall plywood.  I gave up and removed the cone (I am not a fan either).  Almost immediately Goofy calmed down as I dragged his bed into the bedroom.  He curled up, and though he nipped at his hip a few minutes, he eventually went to sleep.

Instead of going to the barn that day I stayed home to see how Goofy adjusted and was pleasantly surprised.  Daisy and Goofy were playful with each other, but for the most part both dogs laid in their beds while I fussed around the house and read Sunday’s New York Times.  I emailed the shelter advising them of everything that happened and requesting pain meds.  We had moved forward.

The dogs got along until treats were involved, particularly rawhide chews.  Daisy not only does not share, she did not want Goofy to have what she had.  So, when I gave both dogs a rawhide and Goofy looked away in a moment of inattention, Daisy swooped in and stole it.  When I replaced Goofy’s treat with Daisy’s rawhide, Daisy got ticked off.  She simple did not want Goofy to have anything she had.  Goofy was a good-natured soul and tolerated Daisy’s abuse, but finally got ticked off himself, growling, lunging (as I held him by the collar).  No treats.  Not for anybody.

On Tuesday morning, I had another volunteer commitment and, unwilling to leave the two dogs alone, I dropped Daisy off at Tim’s and left Goofy by himself.  When I returned three hours later, he had taken out the window blinds in two rooms.  Afterwards, I realized he was looking for me.  Oh well, what did I expect, really.

The shelter finally responded to my email requesting pain meds on Tuesday with an invitation to bring Goofy in for a vet check along with what I felt was an admonishment about wearing the cone 24/7 and keeping him confined.  Getting him into the car was easier this time, but Goofy still thrashed around in the back seat as I drove as slowly as I could to the shelter.  Tim followed me in his vehicle, worried about me.  He said I looked pathetic and I’m sure he was right.

The vet tech ushered Goofy through the door while we waited on hard metal chairs in the intake area.  It wasn’t long before she returned with a lecture about keeping the cone on, doing his exercises and keeping him quiet and as immobile as possible.  How could I do that with an intact male and a little female terrier mix in the house, crate or no crate?  Although it wasn’t true, I felt like I returned Goofy as damaged goods.  “It’s okay to leave him here,” she said. “We have plenty of fosters.”  I left him.

On the way home I burst into tears.  I thought about Goofy in a cage in that noisy shelter, dogs barking wildly.  It was the right thing to do, though.  I knew that.  Goofy needed to be under vet supervision, in a place that could crate him and walk him.

The next afternoon another email went out requesting a foster for “sweet Goofy” and again I was stung by failure.  Two days later he was still at the shelter.  I assumed they finally found another foster, but another email request went out.  Then, weeks later, the same email went out, only this time it said, “for one week.”  It no longer stings when I see it.  Medical fosters are not easy commitments.  I am not the only failure.

Christine Baleshta


Leave A Comment