Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thoughts on Fostering Dogs

Written July 29, 2011
Thinking about how much we can learn from dogs' adaptability. These incredibly sweet and loving shelter dogs in my bed - I have no idea their history before the shelter, and we all know how uncomfortable (to say the least) the shelter itself is. Imagine if you were on the streets and then picked up and thrown in jail, then bounced around to different foster homes and transported from everything that was familiar and put in a totally new place that was completely different in every way. You go from wondering where your next meal will come from, to being in a prison where you are constantly hearing your friends and neighbors crying and screaming and you know they are disappearing and not coming back, to going to a dr who pokes and prods you and maybe you stay there for a few weeks with other dogs who don't know where they are or why they are there, and some are sick and everyone is barking and miserable, to going to some new house where you don't know the people or the other dogs and there is a cat that hides under the couch and comes out and hisses and scratches when you get too close (not that you even knew she was under there, the sneaky btch). Every single foster dog I have had that has come straight from the vet or kennel has adjusted within a couple of days. Some adjust the next day.

Fred and Cherie and Darby and Nathan had never seen stairs and were so terrified to go up or down stairs I literally had to push their legs up two at a time and feel guilty because I basically have to drag them down the stairs by their leash and harness because walking 3-4 dogs at a time makes it too hard to carry them all up and down. After 2 days they are running up and down the stairs with the others. Some of them pee in the house once or twice the first day or two. Some of them don't pee at all, even outside, for many hours. Sandy didn't pee for 24 hours and I couldn't figure out what was going on. Darby would pee when you would take her out of the crate from excitement. Then they see Simone pee at her usual spot (she has about 3 spots that she likes best, one right in front of the building), and they see she gets a treat and they smell her scent and next thing you know they are peeing when/where she pees or they are just finding their own spot that they like, and they get a treat and that's that, no more accidents.

These dogs don't know me, they don't know Simone, or the cats Billie and Ella, or the other dogs that are here temporarily. And yet within 2-3 days they are all playing together, snuggling each other (and me), sometimes even sharing their dinner from the same bowl (or switching bowls). You know how fcked up people are - whether people had a rough childhood or not. And here are these dogs, totally sweet, loving, learning their house training, polite to each other and to me. Not holding any grudges or harboring any resentments. It's completely beyond me how they do it. I am the queen of regret and second guessing myself and big decisions I have made and I haaate change and moving house sends me into nervous breakdown territory.  Whenever I drop off a foster at their new home I think one down, so many more to go, and I see that even though they were happy with me, they are even happier in their new forever home with the people who will be there for years, not just days or weeks, and they bond to their new families and keep doing their thing.  I know they are always happy to see me when I see them again, but they totally adjust and live their lives (well, except for Fred, whom I had to avoid for a few weeks because he would get so overly excited that he couldn't calm down. One time I saw him and his mom coming toward me in the park and I scurried to hide behind a tree before he saw me).

I hope I can learn from them a little bit about going with the flow and adjusting to new circumstances, no matter how many hellish things I might confront.  A lot of people on the street ask me how I can foster and they say they could never do it because they would want to keep them all.  I don't want to keep them all.  I do love them all (especially Sandy, and Darby, and Scooter, and Odie, and Woody, and Sissy and Betty, oh, well, yes, I love them all). I love them all but if I kept ANY besides Simone I couldn't really rescue or foster, so then what. I never thought I could foster dogs, not emotionally, just practically, living in an apartment, doing it all myself. I couldn't even get approved to adopt a beagle from SOS Beagle Rescue 5 years ago because I was freelance and didn't know my work hours and didn't have a yard (my yard is the park, and my fence is a 20 foot training leash that NEVER comes off that harness). I couldn't even get approved to adopt a beagle from a rescue group 5 years ago! So I found Simone on petfinder and went to the city pound and got her and she has had a pretty great life since then (although I have to say, she is not in love with this whole fostering business, she does tolerate it though, and she gets more treats since they all have to get trained).  Just something to think about in terms of what we think dogs need to be happy, it's not that complicated or that much really, and most people are actually capable of providing a good home for a dog if they care to. And with Nature's Miracle, the pee is easily cleaned up and the smell removed and if I can do it without a yard or garage or a hose, ANYONE can do it. So yeah, this is yet another plea going out to people who might think they don't have the lifestyle or don't have the ability - the benefits far outweigh the challenges. And you know what, you make it work (just like Tim Gunn says). So if you know anyone who really loves dogs but doesn't think they can manage it, or someone who has a dog and is thinking about fostering, pass this around. Okay, time to get everyone up and to Prospect Park for the morning poop, pee and play.

Oh - PS - Just got home and realized I forgot to mention something else amazing about rescue and fostering. The PEOPLE. I am serious. I know there is a lot of insanity out there and some craaaazy btches making wild accusations and harassing people they've never even met... (I have even been attacked by some of the Robeson drama queens for simply asking that people have some tangible proof before they go around slandering other rescuers they don't agree with), BUT the vast majority of the people I have met doing this have been AMAZING.  And I am not just talking about the rescuers and volunteers (although I am constantly amazed at you guys on the ground and how much you deal with on a daily basis). I have met the most wonderful people through placing the dogs. The family that adopted Sandy for instance - the coolest fcking people in the world. SO awesome. I went to Boston for an interview and they offered for me to stay with them at their house. I had some other offers so didn't stay over but went by for an afternoon and hung out with them for hours. Sandy was the happiest dog in the world - she seriously has the best life EVER, and they were just the coolest people. And they are not the only ones. Every family that has adopted a dog from me or one that I have been involved with has been really great. I am still friends with most of them and I feel like they all enrich my life so much. Just today, the neighbor who is fostering Cherie for me (because she saw me getting out of the car in front of her house with FIVE dogs and was like, girl, let me help you), she had Cherie out at the dog beach in Prospect Park today and ran into Danielle and Fred/Kevin. hahahahahha

So anyway - I realize there are some crazy people out there and drama and all of that with rescue and I KNOW there are a few people who are incredible rescuers who have wanted to give up lately because of the emotional drain of the crazies - (you know who you are Christine and Tara) - BUT I hope this note and the support of all the great people will keep the good ones going. It's not like the crazy btches are quitting, so the good people can't quit either.

okay, gotta go - have a major grant application due in 3 hours and still need to fill out a bunch of it.  yikes

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