I am a foster parent turned “failed-foster-parent” of dogs, which means that I fostered these dogs and ended up adopting, which is not how the program is supposed to work. I became a foster parent in 2009 after my two very special friends, Sara, my almost-German Shepherd and Maggie, my Jack Russell, passed. Being a foster parent meant that I volunteered with a local no-kill shelter and took abandoned or rescued dogs (or other animals) home to care for them until they recovered from whatever trauma they experienced. As a foster parent, I constantly monitored the dogs’ eating habits, socialization skills, adaptability, etc., so the shelter could determine fitness for adoption. Once the shelter determined that the dogs adjusted to their new lives, the dogs are available for adoption.
In May, 2009, the police raided a “designer dog” puppy-mill farm in southern Indiana and found 250 crates filled with dogs – 200 dogs were alive but in poor shape, and 50 dogs were dead in their crates. The National Humane Society sent a team in to work with local authorities to treat the dogs and find homes for them. About 30 no-kill shelters were identified across the state and the big, well-equipped National Humane Society semi-truck delivered the dogs.
In our area, we received about 35 dogs, the majority of whom were cute puppies and young dogs. But there was one older dog, a seven-year-old female Chihuahua, among the group. I was told that for the majority of her seven years, she lived in a crate, her main purpose being to produce puppies for the puppy mill. The moment I saw her I knew I wanted to foster her. She looked like Missy, a dog I had when I was a child and looking at her brought back wonderful memories.
I called to her but she did not look at me -- she just stared straight ahead. I reached in the crate and picked her up. The poor little thing was shaking so hard I was afraid she would fall out of my arms. I held her for a long time and she eventually calmed down. She still had made no eye contact with me nor did she move a muscle, but she was not shaking as much. After her vet check, required by the shelter, I received permission to foster her. With all the paperwork filled in, Grace, her new name, and I went home.
When we got home, I put her down in the grass, thinking she might like to run around, but all she did was start shaking again. She did not move. What I did not realize at the time was that, not only had Grace spent little time outdoors, but she seldom walked on grass. I picked her up and we went inside. I put her down on the carpet, again thinking she might be more comfortable standing on something soft, but all she did was run to a corner of the living room, and that corner of the room is where she spent most of her first month with me. Eventually, she ventured into the kitchen and that day began Grace’s new life.
That was nearly three years ago. Since then, Grace has learned to walk on floors, carpet and grass. She no longer hides in the corner. She comes up to me to be petted and runs around the house chasing her red ball. She is no longer afraid of people and loves chasing butterflies and birds around the yard. And she finally holds up her tail and wags it, something she did not do for quite a long time. The blossoming of Grace has taken over three years but it is such a joy to watch her outside running and playing. Sometimes it is difficult for me to remember how afraid she was when we first met.
Grace resting on the bed with her blanket.
Since 2009, I have fostered four dogs: a five-year-old Jack Russell mix named Molly; a five-year-old Cock-A-Poo named Chewy; a two-year-old Chihuahua named Phoebe; and, my now-10-year-old Chihuahua Grace. I also have a two-year-old Cocker Spaniel named Ransom, not a foster dog, but he, too, comes with a story.
If you always have wanted a dog, a cat, or a horse for that matter, but have not taken the time to find that special pet, I suggest you look at your local shelters. They have wonderful pets who need good homes and I doubt you will ever be sorry.
To some, it might seem that my house “runneth over” with dogs, but as I write this blog, I see my friends sleeping on the floor under my desk and I know I am blessed that my house does runneth over.