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.

Sooky has gone back to kennels

Just a few minutes ago, Rescue Lady came and took Sooky back to kennels. The poor dog is scared of everything and is aggressive as a result – she even tried to attack the horses when we went for a walk yesterday!

Not only is she discombobulated because of all the upheavals in her life, but she jumps 6-foot fences.  I can’t keep her here, because I have to keep her on the chain to keep her in. That’s not good for the dog.

Neither is going back to kennels, but I can’t help her.

I’m sorry that this has happened – I only had her for four days – but there’s not much else that can be done from my end.

Hope you find a new and loving family soon, Sooky, and that you can overcome your fears.

Lessons Learned:

  • Sometimes a foster carer is not the right one for the dog
  • Sometimes a foster carer just has to say to the rescue organisation “take the dog back”
  • Sometimes you can’t connect with a dog, no matter hard you try – and believe me, I tried.


Some fostering days (and dogs) are better than others

Today I have six dogs – three of my own, and three foster dogs. It’s been one of those days.

My Pixie is still not acting normally since her desexing operation a week ago, so I have been keeping her separate from the other dogs and crating her at night.

The new foster dog, Sooky, has been chasing the others up and down the fence for two days, and I thought it was probably time and okay to introduce her to another dog.

I decided to put Pixie in with Sooky for the day.

Sooky took exception to this idea and to Pixie, and started to lunge and growl and bare her teeth as soon as Pixie and I went into the pen with her. She even tied me up in her chain as she tried to get to Pixie.

Okay, that didn’t work out. I took Pixie over to the other pen where her sisters and the other adult foster dog were, and she was as happy as could be.

But then Ash (the 27 kg foster dog) and Nova (my 18 kg dog) got into a full-on fight – over me. Not good. I chased them around the pen, yelling and trying to catch them and separate them, knowing full well that this could end in disaster.

I finally caught Ash, and held her still until both dogs had calmed down.

But suddenly I realised that Sooky was out of her pen, and in front of this one, wanting to join the fight. Bother!

I opened the gate between the two pens, and let some bodies rush past me into the second pen. Unfortunately, two of the wrong bodies flashed past. Never mind, the priority was catching Sooky.

Somehow Sooky ended up in the pen with Ash (and two others, one of whom quickly went back next door when I opened the gate), and promptly wanted to start a fight with her. Sooky is less than ten kg, and very skinny, and wouldn’t stand a chance against Ash if they got into a real fight.

So then I picked up a struggling Sooky and took her back to the top pen. I investigated the pen thoroughly – the gate was still closed, there were no holes in or under the fence. The only conclusion I can make is that Sooky either climbed or jumped a six-foot-high chain wire fence.

She’s now back on the chain, which is not what I wanted for her, but to keep her safe I must.

I went back and checked the combatants. Luckily, neither dog was hurt. They both had sections of their (long) fur that were matted and wet with saliva, but I can find no wounds or blood.

To top it all off, the puppy with the broken leg had been howling throughout the fracas, because I hadn’t fed her yet.

Some days of fostering dogs are better than others. This was not one of the better days.


Meet Sooky, the cattle/boxer

Sooky arrived today, only one day after Peaches went to her new home.

Sooky, not to be confused with Suki (who was my third foster dog), is another surrender. She is a cattle dog crossed with a boxer, and someone has completely removed her tail, probably to make her more like a boxer. The poor thing has absolutely nothing left to wag.

Sooky was rescued from the pound because Rescue Lady had a foster carer for her. Unfortunately the carer fell through at the last moment, and Rescue Lady asked me to take Sooky.

Hmm. I didn’t want another foster dog just now. I still have a puppy with a broken leg who needs a lot of attention, and an out-of-control cattle/collie mix who gets my girls into trouble.

Rescue Lady said I would only have Sooky for two weeks, while she makes alternative arrangements.

My task with Sooky is to feed her up (she’s skinny), and socialise her. She’s a funny looking thing, but quite cute in her own way.


My seventh foster dog has found a home!

Peaches, a blue/black cattle dog, was surrendered to the local pound at the age of three years. I don’t know why she was surrendered – she’s a lovely dog and very well trained. In all the time I was fostering her, she always toileted in the same spot, and she never lifted her feet off the ground to jump on me.

She came to me on the 1st of July 2012, wary of people and bewildered after having been in the pound for a week or so. She was so bewildered that she barked and growled at people – purely a defence mechanism, I’m sure.

When the Rescue Lady brought her to me, she heaved a sigh of relief, because Peaches immediately took to me with no growling, barking or backing away.

Peaches was a solid dog, and didn’t lose any weight while she was with me. Well, maybe a little bit. She had stumpy little legs that seemed too short for her body, and she was a whirlwind of activity. Try to give her a cuddle, and she wove around you in circles, allowing you to stroke as she flashed past. Only in the last couple of weeks did I get proper cuddles where she sat still for chest and head rubs, and when this happened she grunted and panted with pleasure.

Yesterday, Peaches met someone who wanted a companion for his male cattle dog. They all got along well together, and Peaches went home with them.

I’m so pleased Peaches has found a home. I hope it works out, but if it doesn’t, I’ll take her back and we’ll try again to find her forever home.

Peaches was with me for 48 days, which is the second-longest time I’ve had to foster anyone. Peaches is also the only foster dog to date who managed to bite me. Admittedly it was mostly my fault. After a few days of being in the pen next to my dogs, and in separately with three of them, I thought it was time to try her with the whole gang. Unfortunately, everybody was really excited and loud and bouncy, and Peaches and Nova (one of mine) got into a fight directly in front of me, almost on my feet. Knowing full well that I was likely to get hurt, I reached down and pulled the dogs apart. Sure enough, I felt the teeth sink into my hand and thumb. They were Peaches’ teeth.

That was the last time I tried to put Peaches in with my dogs. I had just started to put her in the pen next to them again, preparatory to trying again to mix them, when she found a new home.

Hope it all works out for you, sweetie. It was quiet this morning before breakfast – you weren’t here to bark at the plovers!


Little Meg and the big bad scary dog

Photo by Jo LyonsMeg and I were sitting in the late winter sunshine this morning, enjoying each other’s company and vegging out together. She’s very restful when she leans on me and looks around.

She has good eyesight, and was watching my sister about 100 metres away, when suddenly I saw a blur of brown. Then two brown dogs, one bigger than Meg and one about the same size as Meg, came in the front gate.

Instantly, Meg was on her feet and barking ferociously. Her hackles went up, and the barks were interspersed with deep growls.

The intruder dogs stopped, looked at Meg, turned tail and fled.

Meg, with the broken leg, scared off two strange dogs with her noise! I had already started to get up off the ground in order to pick her up and get her out of harm’s way if necessary, but it wasn’t necessary. My brave little Meg! What a champion!

Meg stayed on the alert for several minutes, growling under her breath. She even growled at a blue heron that landed nearby.

After a while, though, she settled down again, but she made sure she was touching me.

Who was protecting whom? I have a feeling she was protecting, not only me, but the property as well.

What a wonderful way to start a day – sitting on the grass in the sunshine, watching the world go by, and playing and vegging with a broken-legged but big-hearted puppy.

I’m all relaxed now, and ready to start my day.

Thank you, Meg.

Weight training with a dog

Here’s an interesting workout and weight training exercise all in one.

Tug of war with a 27 kilo dog.

One of my currently three foster dogs is Ash. Ash is a beautiful-looking dog who is supposedly a cattle dog/rough collie mix. I think she also has shepherd in her, because her head is very shepherd-like.

Ash has issues. She jumps. She licks. She mouths. More about that in a later post.

But she’s still just a very large 12-month-old pup.

Ash is also very intelligent. Or at least, I think so. I’ve never had a dog who loved tugs-of-war like she does.

This morning, she snuffled around on the ground as I was cleaning up, then she found the rope toy and brought it over to me. Then she offered it to me. She wanted to play.

Obligingly, I took one end of the rope and started to pull.

Fifteen minutes later, we were both puffing and panting, but neither of us was willing to give in to the other. It was funny to stand there trying to get my breath back, watching Ash with the rope firmly clamped in her jaws and panting around it. I kept telling her to give up as I dragged her around, but she didn’t. I finally won when she tried to adjust her grip and I managed to whip the rope out of her mouth and throw it behind me.

She fetched the rope and wanted another tug! I didn’t give it to her – I was too winded.

We both got a workout this morning.

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.