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.