Have I gone crazy!?

I live downtown in an itty-bitty apartment with not just one, but THREE children all under the age of 5 and my hubby. We have a cat. I work as a receptionist at a vet clinic seeing lots of puppies and kittens every day. You'd think I have my fix, right? WRONG! We end up opening our heart and our home to 2 rescues... and that's it! I must be dog-gone mad!

Friday, March 25, 2011

This is a dog, right?

The one thing that threw me off completely with the whole fostering process was the fact that not all dogs behaved the same. You see, in my head, dogs liked to play fetch and chew on things. They enjoyed walks and pooped everywhere if given the chance. Dogs that would bite would let you know right from the start. Even at my job, there were "good dogs" and "bad dogs" and there was the line, in black and white.

I never factored in the strange alterations that a dog's previous experience and time at the shelter would create. Dogs are indeed very complex creatures!

The first dog we got to foster was named Nova. She was a Whippet looking husky/shepherd mix. She came to us at about 30 lbs, all skin and bones. My kids could count her vertebrae and her ribs from a distance. She was very sweet but very afraid.

The first three days she would not move from her corner in the kennel! I would get on my knees, carry her out, hand feed her, and then let her go only to see her walk right back in there. I would take her for walks and she had the permanent expression of, "I'd rather not do this!"

This is a dog, right?

With time and patience (and locking her out of her kennel for a few hours so she'd be forced to walk around), she just buttered up to us. She started approaching Paul and me for us to pet her head. She started wagging her tail and showing interest in our kids' food. In fact, one night she walked away from us in the living room and pooped in the bathroom - and I celebrated! (She is a dog after all, folks!) I remember commenting how at least now that she's "behaving like a dog", I can work with her. She got adopted to her forever home within 10 days of being with us, and her mom called me to let me know she comes out of her shell more and more every day.

Then we got a lab puppy with no name. She was nicknamed "Sweet Pea" here in the house after the "spa package of the month" at my job (for lack of a better name). She was about 6 weeks old and just spayed, so it wasn't one to take outside for walks or carry around too much.

I had no idea puppies were that gross.

Pretty soon we thought we'd change her name to "Squirt". That's all she did - walk, walk, squirt! walk, squirt! Then run back around and step all over it and slide with poop across our living room floor... So I could chase the puppy with puppy wipes and Paul could clean up after her with disinfectant. We put puppy pads all over the play pen. She tore them to pieces. Walk, walk, squirt! She's howling all night. The kids aren't sleeping. They are waking up in the morning and she's biting their pijammas and they were dragging her around the house. "No! Please don't chew up my flip-flops!" She got adopted quickly too.

I asked for a foster I could walk. Our apartment was way too small for that kind of mess and my kids were still too small, making me a slave to our floor. That's when I got Genny, a 4 month old husky/golden mix.

Genny was nuts!

On the list of things she destroyed it includes our blinds, the padding on our balcony floor, my laptop charger, my daughter's carseat, and numerous toys. Her howling would bounce off the walls and pierce your ears. She would try to jump on your lap, jump on the sofa, jump into the crib. There was no "off" button with her, constantly trying to eat stuff out of the kitchen. At one point I chased her down and extracted a chocolate brownie she had snatched right from the kids! Knocked the kids over constantly like bowling pins. Paul and I were on her 24/7 under strict training ... because we had no other choice!

She was the foster that showed us exactly what we DIDN'T want in a dog.

By the time she went home to her forever home (in about 15 days) she had stopped howling through the night, learned to chew only on her toys, learned the sit command, and stayed off the furniture (for the most part). She also had knocked me on my ribs and face on the ice because she wanted to pick a fight with a moose, and scarred my daughter's face from her forehead to her cheek across her left eye.

My daughter and I recovered just fine, by the way.

Genny's Mom shared that she was soon to start obedience school. She goes for 3 mile jogs, and they love her high-energy. Perfect fit!

I totally needed a break from fostering and dogs. After Genny, we weren't even sure we wanted to OWN a dog. For a whole week. And then I got a text message on my phone, "Hey can you foster a rat terrier we are picking up from the shelter in the valley?"

Paul says, "No!" I'm like "Sure, for the rest of this week." Paul says, "Why?!" I respond, "Well, you haven't even taken down the kennel. All the dog stuff is set up - we might as well!" Forgot to mention sarcastically that I just loooove to go for walks at 6am when it's about 10 degrees F outside. And that I consider it yoga to bend over and pick up poop from our hardwood floors.

On a serious note, there's something about an animal in trouble that I can't say no to! The shelter is not the place for dogs - it does psychological and emotional harm to keep ending up back there time and time again. The more time these dogs spend time in a home resembling a "normal" doggy life, the more they show their true personalities and attract their "soulmates".

So we sat around and played poker while we waited for the phone call that they were in town and ready to hand this little dog over...

The Odyssey of our Dog Fix

I have been a big-dog lover all of my life. We used to live on the mountain side in Venezuela and my mom had a purebred German Pointer that practically raised me. Then she made friends with an Old English Sheepdog and a Doberman that I guess must've been strays because those two lived on our property for years. When "Sifrina" (spanish term for "Stuck-up" or "Snobby") had puppies I would get up in the middle of the night and sleep with her and the litter... scaring my mom half to death come morning when I was nowhere to be found but the basement.

Since then, I didn't really get the chance to own a dog, specially since moving to the States. We fostered dogs, found strays, re-homed them, but not one "stayed". So I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was dying to get married for the big bonus to be on our own and be able to have a dog!

Sure enough, Paul and I got married. We adopted a lab mix puppy from the pound and it was stolen from us while we were living on-base and he was on deployment, and I was 37 weeks pregnant with our first child. I tried searching for him and he never turned up. But from there the pound contacted us and offered us Sweetie, another lab that was up for euthanasia simply because her time was up.

Sweetie was THE perfect dog. She made Lassie look like a mangy mutt. She taught Anakin (our oldest) how to walk. She was completely housebroken, understood all her commands, and we had NO behavioral issues with her from the day we picked her up at the pound! But when Paul seperated from the Air Force, after a year of unemployment, we were forced to have re-home her and move back to our hometown. Our prospects there were unknown for us, let alone a 60 lb. animal.

Fast-forward a few more years and we find ourselves in Anchorage, Alaska. We've moved in to our itty-bitty apartment (second one since we got to Alaska) that allows us pets under 25 lbs, and if over there is a rent-increase. Yippee! Doggie, here we come!

Or should I say, here I come.... Paul wasn't too crazy about bringing one home just yet. And where do we start? What dog? Three kids later, what do I have the energy and time for?

First thing I did was look on craigslist. That was overwhelming. I saw a lot of older dogs being 'rehomed' for 'small fee' and the dogs were described as perfect angels - so why were they being dumped? It made me suspicious.

Then came my big pet-peeve (LOL, "pet"-peeve... hahahaha)... I see this ad for a litter of "Pomapugapoos" with a "rehoming fee" of $450. You've got to be kidding me?! Poma-pug-a-poos is not a breed. Not even a "designer breed". I'm not a big fan of dog breeding because of our pet overpopulation and the stress it puts on our local shelters to begin with. But that was ridiculous! And the "rehoming fee"? Like, I understand if it was the cost of food and some supplies, shots and medical bills that may have been run up and you're trying to cover some of that expense. But when I contacted this person, she said it was just for the unspayed, unvaccinated puppies. Woman, you are trying to make a profit off the fact that your mutt got loose and came home knocked up!

Even though the puppies looked adorable, I just couldn't endorse that. But we were too afraid to just bring home a dog from the pound and not know what its personality would be like. So with the help of a coworker we came up with the BRILLIANT idea to foster dogs/puppies that our local rescue organization would evaluate and pull from the pound. Then the dog would be adopted to its forever home. In the meantime, we would gain valuable experience in dog training and housebreaking, and the kids could learn appropriate doggy manners... and if a dog didn't fit with our home, it would be moved on to another foster family better suited and I could sleep well at night. Right?

Oh, we had no idea.