Fostering dogs is unpredictable and sometimes heartbreaking

I’m writing this post with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes.

I had my 14th foster dog for exactly three weeks.

She was described by a volunteer at the shelter as scared but loving tummy rubs.

She arrived here without a collar, and having spent the night at another foster carer’s house, hiding from her other dogs.

So I did what I usually do in these situations: I sat on the ground near her, and allowed her to come to me. She did – straight onto my lap. The shelter volunteer was right: she loved lying on you and having her tummy rubbed.

When she first came to me, I had her separated from my other dogs, because she had kennel cough. When that was gone, I introduced her to my other foster dog. This was a bit tricky, because I didn’t have anyone to help me introduce them. Tara, the new dog, was a bit blustery to start with (I introduced them through the fence), but settled down when I told her to. I took Foster 13, Tylah, into the pen with Tara, and they hit it off immediately. Within seconds, they were playing.

But over the next week, they had a few inconsequential spats, which quickly stopped when I yelled at them.

Then one night at 10:30 pm, when I was about to go to bed, I heard an unholy ruckus – the two foster dogs were having a real fight. I ran outside, clapping my hands and yelling, and they stopped. Investigation showed that Tara had a wound next to her eye. I separated them, and called the Rescue Lady the next day. I needed one of the fosters to be removed, because it was not physically possible to keep them separated (there’s more to the story, but I won’t bore you here with it – it has to do with the health of one of my own dogs). Rescue Lady said she would see what she could do.

Now, at this stage, I didn’t know who was starting the fights. I suspected it was Tara, but I never saw the beginning of a fight. A few days later I discovered that Tara had received another wound from the fight, this time to the top of her head, but it was minor and her black fur had camouflaged it.

A week later, Rescue Lady told me (didn’t ask me, told me) that she would come and get BOTH dogs the next day. Now it just so happened that was the day I was going out – the first time in literally months that I would be out all day. I told Rescue Lady that, but she was coming regardless.

I returned home, expecting to see only three dogs – mine. To my surprise, there was another tail wagging at me. It was Tara. No sign of Tylah.

I logged onto Facebook, which is how Rescue Lady and I communicate, and sure enough, there was a message from her, saying that she couldn’t take Tara because she was acting as a guard dog in my absence, and had bitten Rescue Lady twice when she attempted to put a collar and lead on her. She also said that she would come back today while I was home.

I was really surprised at this. For three weeks, Tara has been nothing but a snugglebum with me. She was just learning to play with me, and every time I went to her, she would lie on her back and ask for her tummy to be rubbed. I had many magical moments with her lying on me, and batting my face gently with her paws as I rubbed her tummy and we looked deep into each other’s eyes. The behaviour Rescue Lady was describing was totally unexpected.

So this morning, Rescue Lady arrived for another try at taking Tara away. She took one look at Tara, and said, in a very nasty tone, “Hello, bitch!” Charming. When Rescue Lady went towards the pen, Tara started to bark at her, and wouldn’t stop. Rescue Lady asked me to put the lead on her, which I did, giving her a rub at the same time, and she was fine. But the moment she stepped out of the pen, she lunged towards Rescue Lady and ripped a strip off her pants. Rescue Lady was not happy. I was dumbfounded.

I had to put Tara in the car, and pleaded uselessly with Rescue Lady not to put her down. I get that Rescue Lady can’t take Tara to a meet-and-greet and risk her lunging at someone else. I get that Rescue Lady can’t afford a lawsuit. What I can’t get is Tara’s behaviour. There was a world of difference between the snuggly, loving dog I knew and the one that lunged at Rescue Lady and ripped her pants.

I get that Rescue Lady did what she needed to do. I also get that Tara did what she thought she needed to do.

Most of all, I get that every living thing in this world does what it has to do in order to survive.

I’m just sorry that Rescue Lady’s survival requirement clashed with Tara’s survival requirement, and that Tara lost.

RIP Tara. You were lovely to me, and I can’t stop crying.

Seeing the world through a puppy’s eyes

Today was the first full day that Meg, the puppy with the broken leg, was at my home. Unfortunately for her, I had to go out. I gave her a chicken carcass to keep her occupied, and turned on a radio at low volume to give her some company, then left her in her crate in the garage.

Several hours later, I came home to hear her howling.

Oh dear.

I went into the garage and the howling stopped. Somebody’s here! Licks and kisses and tail wags galore.

I let her out of the crate and took her outside for a pit stop. It’s hard to stop her jumping to say hello, but I know I have to because the broken leg is one of her hind legs, and obviously the strain of standing on only two legs has to hurt.

I took her onto some grass, and sat down with her. She leaned into me as she gazed around. She was a bit spooked, because it was very windy. I think it was a bit scary also because she has been in a pound for a week, and hasn’t seen green grass or a horizon for a long time. She’s only a puppy, after all.

It was magic sitting on the ground with her as she saw the world. She sat with one paw on my thigh as she looked first at the grass, then at the fence, then whipped her head around to locate the source of a noise. She smelled the wind. Her ears were constantly flicking because of the sounds and also because the wind got into them. Occasionally she would acknowledge me, but she didn’t notice when I stopped petting her, because everything around her was far more interesting than I was.

I was amazed at how long she simply sat there, soaking it all in, before she decided she wanted to play with me. She climbed over my legs, sat on my other side, and promptly decided to eat some tall grass. Then she turned over and wanted to play fight me.

She was half lying on my legs when she suddenly looked up above my head and followed something with her head. I looked up too, and saw a black bird gliding past. Meg was entranced.

It was such a special time, seeing the world through the pup’s eyes. When was the last time you sat and watched the world around you with a youngster of any species?

Meet Meg, the pup with the broken leg

Photo by Jo LyonsI just took delivery of a charming little lady by the name of Meg. She is a 14-week-old cattle dog, and she is just gorgeous. When she and her sister arrived at the local pound, everyone thought the two of them would find homes very quickly.

The sister did. Meg didn’t.

Why didn’t Meg find a home? Because she has a broken femur (thighbone). Why does she have a broken femur? Because apparently the person who rescued her inadvertently dropped her from shoulder height. Okay, that can happen. What’s tragic is that no-one noticed anything amiss until she had been in the pound for a week and she suddenly stopped using the leg.

The call went out for a special foster carer. Because I have experience with nursing a dog with a smashed leg, I volunteered.

When her statutory holding period in the pound was over, an x-ray was taken of the leg. It is indeed broken, but it is a clean break, and already there are signs of calcification around the bone, which means that it has started to heal. The bone is not out of alignment, so the decision was made not to operate or bandage, but simply to keep the pup quiet for the next four weeks.

So little Meg may be the very first dog ever to stay inside with me. It’s too cold at the moment for her to stay in the garage at night (which is where she would normally sleep), so I am setting up an area in the house where she can be crated, able to see me, and warm at night. I’ve never had a dog inside before. All my dogs have been strictly outside dogs, so it’s going to be a new experience.

Welcome, little Meg! I hope we can help you heal cleanly over the next few weeks.

The rescuer at Rainbow Bridge

I’m not the author of this story. I don’t know where it came from, but I think it is beautiful. If you are the author of this story, please contact me so that I can give proper attribution.

Unlike most days at the Rainbow Bridge, this day dawned cold and gray. All the recent arrivals at the Bridge did not know what to think, as they had never seen such a day. But the animals who had been waiting longer for their beloved people to accompany them across the Bridge knew what was happening, and they began to gather at the pathway leading to the Bridge.

Soon an elderly dog came into view, head hung low and tail dragging. He approached slowly, and though he showed no sign of injury or illness, he was in great emotional pain. Unlike the animals gathered along the pathway, he had not been restored to youth and vigor upon arriving at the Bridge. He felt out of place, and wanted only to cross over and find happiness.

But as he approached the Bridge, his way was barred by an angel, who apologized and explained that the tired and broken-spirited old dog could not cross over. Only those animals accompanied by their people were allowed to cross the Bridge. Having nobody, and with nowhere else to turn, the dog trudged into the field in front of the Bridge. There he found others like himself, elderly or infirm, sad and discouraged. Unlike the other animals waiting to cross the Bridge, these animals were not running or playing. They simply were lying in the grass, staring forlornly at the pathway across the Rainbow Bridge. The old dog took his place among them, watching the pathway and waiting, yet not knowing for what he was waiting.

One of the newer dogs at the Bridge asked a cat who had been there longer to explain what was happening. The cat replied, “Those poor animals were abandoned, turned away, or left at rescue places, but never found a home on earth. They all passed on with only the love of a rescuer to comfort them. Because they had no people to love them, they have nobody to escort them across the Rainbow Bridge.” The dog asked the cat, “So what will happen to those animals?” Before the cat could answer, the clouds began to part and the cold turned to bright sunshine. The cat replied, “Watch, and you will see.”

In the distance was a single person, and as he approached the Bridge the old, infirm, and sad animals in the field were bathed in a golden light. They were at once made young and healthy, and stood to see what their fate would be. The animals who had previously gathered at the pathway bowed their heads as the person approached. At each bowed head, the person offered a scratch or hug.

One by one, the now youthful and healthy animals from the field fell into line behind the person. Together, they walked across the Rainbow Bridge to a future of happiness and unquestioned love. The dog asked the cat, “What just happened?” The cat responded, “That was a rescuer. The animals gathered along the pathway bowing in respect were those who had found their forever homes because of rescuers. They will cross over when their people arrive at the Bridge. The arrival here of a rescuer is a great and solemn event, and as a tribute they are permitted to perform one final act of rescue. They are allowed to escort all those poor animals they couldn’t place on earth across the Rainbow Bridge.”

The dog thought for a moment, then said, “I like rescuers.” The cat smiled and replied, “So does heaven, my friend. So does heaven.”