Thursday, September 4, 2014

Teaching An Old Dog A New Trick

Last month, on a total whim, my daughter and I decided to foster puppies from the humane society.  My reasoning was this:

1. The crawler on the tv screen during the morning news said the humane society had a great need for fosters for cats and dogs.

2. Our three cats would not tolerate it very well if we brought in foster kittens, besides the fact that the fosters might bring a kitty illness in that ours could catch, even if we kept them in separate parts of the house.

3. It would be really hard to give up kittens that we had fostered, because we are cat people, but puppies? We could give up puppies. They're cute, but we don't want a dog, so we wouldn't have a problem when it was time to return puppies for adoption.

We got our puppies, two of them, shepherd/great pyrenees mixes from a litter of six, on August 2. We named them Audrey and Olivia, because we thought the names they got from the humane society were stupid.

You could have put the sum total of knowledge we had about taking care of a puppy (let alone TWO of them) on the head of a pin and still had room to etch War and Peace on the pinhead.

We tried our best to housebreak them. We gave them a reward every time they pottied outside. They rewarded us by pooping and peeing all over our family room floor.

They got sick. REALLY sick. They both had coccidiosis (a single-cell parasite that attacked their intestinal tract). They both had kennel cough. Olivia was sick enough that I thought she wouldn't make it. Twice.

They chewed any and everything.

They occasionally had accidents in their crate, requiring baths and cleaning of the crate first thing in the morning. In the early days of the coccidiosis, one of them pooped in the crate in the night. Squishy poop. They got it on themselves, of course. Then, taking it to another level, Audrey apparently dipped her tail in it and painted poop all over the inside of the crate. 

And I asked for this.

But after four weeks of puppies, four weeks of alternating between enjoying them and wishing they were GONE, of cleaning up poop and pee off the floor, walking them at all hours, napping with them in our laps, playing with them, cursing them for chewing our flip flops, and worrying about their health, we fell in love.

Then it was time to return them to the humane society for transport to the rescue group that was going to find homes for them. A rescue group 500 miles away, where we would never see them again.

The manager of the humane society told us the name of the group where they were going, as we stood there crying, turning our babies over to them. She told us she cries every time she sends her own fosters off for adoption.

My daughter and I said one last goodbye to the puppies, gave them one last hug and kiss, then walked out the door and stood on the sidewalk in front, hugging each other and sobbing. On the drive home, we talked about how we could never do this again. It was too much mess. Too much heartbreak. Too much everything.

But the next day, I contacted the rescue group and asked if we could be kept informed about how the puppies were doing. I joined their Facebook page. And yesterday, their pictures turned up on the Facebook page, along with those of their siblings.

And now I get it. I get what fostering is all about. 

Look at these six puppies. Four of them stayed in a kennel at the humane society, because there weren't enough foster families to take them in. Ours were loved and nurtured and maybe spoiled a little. Can you tell which were our puppies and which lived at the shelter?





#1 is Audrey, #6 is Olivia. Look how perky they are, how bright their eyes! 

We did a good thing. It wasn't always easy, but we did it. 

Will we foster again? Yes. (Shhhh! Don't tell my husband or the three cats.)

Are we sorry we didn't keep them? Nope. We are not dog people. Not entirely sure we are PUPPY people, but we are foster people.

Are we going to cry again next time? You betcha.

Help an overcrowded shelter in your area and be a foster parent to a dog or cat (or puppy or kitten or two or seven). 

Want to read the rest of our adventures in fostering? Read Puppy Tails, Part 1, Puppy Tails, Part 2, and Puppy Tails, The Final Chapter.

This post is an entry for this week's Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop with the prompt:


Talk about one thing you learned last month.

25 comments:

  1. Oh my Goodness, those pups are adorable! I cannot let my daughter see this, or I will be in the same boat. I'm not ready for a puppy or dog, but I'm considereing it.

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    1. I have never owned a dog and seriously knew nothing about them. I will say cats are a much easier pet, but these puppers were so goofy and fun!

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  2. You know I definitely support this cause. (And if you can't bear to give them back after only a few weeks, you can always do puppy raising for Guide Dogs for the Blind--or a similar organization--and be able to keep them in your home for about a year!) :-)

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    1. Oh, Kristi, you are the reason I did this! And I thank you for it! And I think one month was a pretty perfect amount of time! If our high school had been completed on time, we would have been in a pickle, as my daughter wouldn't have been home to take care of the puppies when I went back to school!

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  3. One can definitely see the difference in the eyes of your puppies and their siblings who remained in the kennels. Poor little puppies. Hugs to you and your daughter, I bet it was heartbreaking to return them.

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie! I am amazed what a difference you can see between the shelter puppies and ours.

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  4. Brandi (@Fitzysmom)September 4, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    Ahhh . . . we're dog people and that would crush me! So proud of you and your girl for doing it. Those pups are adorable!

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    1. I had no idea it would be so harrrrrd! They were sweet (when they weren't pooping or peeing on my floors).

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  5. The dogs that stayed with you definitely look happier than the others in the photos.

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    1. Thank you, Romi! It makes me feel good that we made a difference in their little lives.

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  6. From a recipient family of well-fostered rescue kitties (Rotten as they are), thank you. XO

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    1. You're welcome! And kitties (even rotten ones) would be a lot easier than puppies!

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  7. Awwwh you guys made SUCH a difference to them. Makes me feel sad for the puppies which stayed at the shelter - they all look so uncertain.

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    1. They do, don't they? Poor puppies! They are in foster homes now, I understand, so they'll hopefully come around soon.

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  8. You learned a lot, and my hat is off to you. What a wonderful thing you and your daughter did. Thanks for stopping by.

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    1. Thanks, Kelley. Even the messiest parts don't seem so bad in retrospect!

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  9. Wow they look terrific - i am amazed the difference in pups . Well done!

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  10. Fostering is so much better than them being in kennels for weeks or months, especially pups and old dogs. You were brave to take on two puppies at once that is really hard work! I could tell immediately which were the pups you fostered from the photos, they look so bright eyed!

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    1. The shelter likes to have two puppies fostered at a time so they keep each other company. And they were good for each other. They were so cute when they played! I miss them, but I have high hopes they will find wonderful homes!

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  11. I am so glad you shared the array of photos. I hadn't really thought about the ones back at the shelter. But your two girls have such an advantage towards a secure and positive bonding with a family now. Awesome. ~May

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    1. I hadn't thought that much about them either, except when I'd look at our two, one in my lap, one on the couch, and think of the others in the kennel at the shelter with no one to love on them.

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  12. CUTE!!!!! We've fostered 4 dogs on 4 different occasions and each time I go through those same feelings of "this is fun", "this is hard", "maybe we should keep him", "how much longer?"

    It is such an awarding experience! I contacted a rescue bulldog group last week to see if we could have a go at one of those big boys, but haven't heard back. Definitely want to have another go at it!

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    1. YES, you know EXACTLY how I felt about it! It was really rewarding, when I wasn't cleaning up poo off my hardwood floors :) I think I want to give a mama cat and her newborn kittens a try next.

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  13. My hat's off to you! I'm not sure that I could take such turmoil - practical and emotional. Those who have the time, space and heart to foster animals have my admiration and respect. Those precious creatures were so lucky to have your family enter their lives when they needed you.

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