My Life As a Dog Foster Parent and How It Got That Way

Raven

I love dogs. All dogs. Especially mixed, rescue dogs that no one else wants. That’s now. I wasn’t always aware of the need to give these sweet souls a chance at a happy life and how many of them are out there.
That said, I have a weakness for Yellow Labs. I love them. My lifelong desire was to own one of these beautiful creatures. My parents did not share my enthusiasm, and in retrospect, they were right not to get a dog without commitment.
Anyway, when Tom and I bought our first house, that was one of the first things I got. Yes, I bought a dog – something I would NEVER do now, but I was clueless then. All I knew was enough to go to a responsible breeder.
The day I picked her up, I held her in my arms, and called her Roma after one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. Tom drove home from the breeder while I held this creature with the face of a Precious Moment and the iron will of a military dictator.
Thinking that I would have this little being love me, respect me, be my loving companion, and faithful BFF was a lovely thought, but it had nothing to do with the reality. I was deluded. So deluded. People actually said that the dog wants nothing more than to please you. Wrong! Pleasing me was the LAST thing on her mind.
And she was smart! Sort of the canine version of Stephen Hawking. She sized me up on the ride home, and played me like a violin her whole life. I actually would think of things I could do to amuse her! I don’t mean dog toys or marrow bones or doggie puzzles. I mean I would think of things to personally amuse her. I sang, I jumped around to get her playing, I threw fetched balls and ended up fetching them myself because she just didn’t see the point. If dogs rolled their eyes, she would have done that. I tried everything but bird calls on her.
Car rides – that was another form of hell. I did discover that Garth Brooks seemed to have a calming effect, though. I love Garth.
Anyway, I took a dog-grooming class at the local technical high school. My main purpose in doing this was to be more effective at sprucing up our dogs who come in to rescue. Some of them are in bad shape, and I thought I could be more effective if I had a clue about proper bathing, flea treatment, grooming, etc.
One evening, the instructor asked up all to bring in our dogs to use as models for the right way to shampoo. Oh boy.

It took three of us to get her into the tub. Then, during the drying phase, she just shrieked like a banshee. Think Janet Leigh in Psycho.” The instructor asked me to leave, and to be sure and bring my dog with me. That was one long walk of shame, let me tell you.

 

On my Internet searches, what I was mostly learning was about the tens of thousands of abused, neglected, beaten and starved animals. I learned about the horrors of the puppy mills, dog fighting, and the need for action, and the need to be their voice.

I learned that most rescues don’t have a shelter, the dogs are fostered, and that is what I wanted to do. Tom gave the green light and we were off. What rescue?
There are ones who specialize in blind dogs, which reminds me of the night that eight blind dogs were delivered to my house at 3AM, but that’s another story.
There are rescues who specialize in all breeds, black dogs who are always chosen last as people have a “bad” connotation to them. Check out blackpearls.com if you don’t believe me – ones for small dogs, senior dogs, retired service dogs. We just asked for one that needed us.
We fosters are vetted, as are prospective owners. We show the dogs on our websites, where people can apply. People are annoyed that they show up on adoption days and cannot just take the dog with them. We do a home check, vet check, etc. While this may seem intrusive, I have done home checks on people who lie on their applications, people with whom I would not leave any living thing. Our goal is a life-long loving commitment to the dog.
Our very first one was Raven. She was a tiny black mix who was terrified. She had been used as a bait dog to train fighters. She was only a little girl who was starved, scarred, full of dandruff, a bacterial infection. The world can break your heart in a million different ways.
All she could do was shake. We put her in a secure crate with lots of fluffy blankets and some stuffed animals. After a few days of sweet talk, some home-cooking, and a routine for loving and potty times, she seemed to be coming around. Much to our shock, Roma was taking her under her wing.
A defining moment came when I saw her shoot up the stairs. It turns out she was running up to pee in guest room, but we take our victories where we find them.
Even though I could go on forever about the overwhelming positive experiences, there are some sad times, some heartbreak. It isn’t easy and it isn’t for everyone.
The worst is letting go of a dog that we have come to love especially, but the only way I can let them go to their new home is the thought that there are so many waiting for a chance and there is always another one waiting in the wings for its chance to shine.