Thursday, May 17, 2012

A few soapbox ideas from a dog owner.

I wanted to share with you all something that has been on my mind over the past few days.

If you've had the chance to read some of my previous posts, you may realize that we recently lost our dog to lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.  We'd gotten the news, a positive biopsy, back in February, so we consider ourselves very lucky that we had an opportunity to say goodbye.

When we knew Lena's health was beginning to deteriorate, we began our search for another third dog.  Our other two, a six-month-old chihuahua pup and a four-year-old mixed breed, don't get along very well, and Lena had always been the mediator between the two.  We knew we'd never find another Lena, but we needed a third guy or girl (girl) to sort of keep the peace.

I began perusing the online classifieds, really wanting to "give back" to a dog in need as Lena had given us so much during her (too short) life.  We looked away from dogs and puppies in foster care, believing that they already had a home-of-sorts, but couldn't find anything in the shelters that looked right for our family.  So we waited.

There had been one dog, though, ... one puppy, actually.  I couldn't stop thinking about her.

She was a six-month-old lab/pitbull cross that had been born into rescue.  Her mother had been rescued, very pregnant, from a county animal shelter and had given birth to nine pups, all of which had long-since been adopted out.

Except for this one, six-month-old pup.

I still kept telling myself, "She's fine, though.  She's got a place to live.  She's in no danger of being put to sleep.  Find a dog that needs you."

But I kept going back to that ad.

We had found our dog, and she did need us.

After a week's worth of emailing back and forth, we made arrangements to meet the foster mom (who runs the rescue) and the little black pup that no one wanted, and it was love at first sight.  Not just for me.  For the pup, the husband, both boys, ... well, maybe not everyone.  The other two dogs haven't quite come around yet, but that's okay.  We're working on it.

Back to foster care, however ...

I was almost appalled after the woman left:  this dog probably would've been better off in shelter care. I gave her a nice, warm bath in the tub which left me with one clean and shiny pup and a tub bottom that resembled the parking lot of Walmart.  Dirt, gravel, dried blood, burs, you name it.  We named her "Suki," and Suki is covered in some of the worst scars and cuts I've ever seen.  You know those pictures of "bait dogs?"  Suki doesn't look much different.  Her coat is patchy, the result of healing wounds and scratches.  She had a few puncture wounds around her throat and ears.  Her skin is awful.  The fur on her face is incredibly thin.  She was a mess.

And I thought, "This is what foster care looks like?"

I want to make an urgent plea to you:  do not think that because a dog is being fostered, it still doesn't need to be rescued.  Please don't imagine a foster dog having a cushy bed, a loving hand, a warm comfortable place to call its own.  Foster homes are often crowded with dogs trying to find their own loving families, and many of the breeds being fostered are the "harder to place" breeds.  Sure, a little cute fuzzball is going to get adopted right out of the shelter, but fosters take the ones that don't necessarily have people "oohing and ahhhing" at the bars of the run.

Just because a dog is being fostered, it still needs a family, a home, a backyard.  It needs its own toys, access to its own food and water.  It needs its own attention, needs to be more than just a part of a pack.  Suki isn't sure about playing, because no one ever gave her the chance to get the tennis ball.  She was obviously bullied and picked on a lot by all the other dogs.  She is a real sweetheart, but she needed us as much as we needed her.

Check the fosters, too.  You can get much more information on temperament, likes and dislikes, activity level, any fears or shyness.  And you are saving a life, because you're allowing room for one more animal to be pulled and fostered.  Please don't look at the sweet ads of puppies and dogs in their foster home and think that they have everything they need because they don't.  They need someone to love just them.  They need the chance to be an individual.  They need a family to call their own.

Thanks for reading,