Wednesday, June 29, 2011

They Try So Hard

It's tough for foster pets to come into a new home - most especially a new home that is completely unlike their previous home. And when that previous home is the only home they've ever known, well, it hurts sometimes to watch them struggle to adjust. Of course some dogs adjust more easily than others, but the most difficult ones are the older dogs who lose the only home they've ever known. This is the case for three of my five current fosters, and while they're all making progress toward settling in, it can be alternately humorous and heart-breaking to watch their efforts.

 Duchess is five years old, and she lived with one family since she was adopted as a puppy. Then she went to a shelter for awhile, and then to my house. She is the perfect dog - sweet, laid-back, perfect manners. She was probably an only dog, because she ignored all of the other dogs for several weeks. She's just starting to try to play with the other dogs, and she doesn't seem to know quite what to do. Ziggy, Tulsa and Roxy will chase each other around the house or yard, and she'll run behind them as fast as she can, not usually able to catch them. If she does catch them, she'll jump into the middle of them, and then stand there as if thinking "now what do I do?" I have to be careful because she doesn't have great dog-dog skills when it comes to playing, and the other dogs sometimes misconstrue her attempts to play as aggression. But I don't want to discourage her from learning to play, so I'm just monitoring them closely and intervening when necessary, since I know that her communication skills should improve with practice.  I am excited that she's starting to relax enough to play with the other dogs!
dogs playing with Duchess trying to catch up

Roxy a brindle pit bull Roxy is three years old, and she also lived with one family since she was a puppy. She was also an only pet, but she has pretty good dog-dog skills. She does have some separation anxiety though, and refuses to let me out of her sight. She even follows me into the shower! I tried to show her there was nowhere for me to disappear in there, but she refused to believe it. So this means we go everywhere together - outside or inside. When I leave for work I have to crate her, and she cries piteously. She sleeps, not just on my bed, but pushing me halfway off the edge, so as to be as close to me as possible. She'll stop eating if I walk more than two steps from her bowl, and she won't go outside unless I go out with her. I am trying to keep her on a routine so that she will learn that even though I leave, I always come back, and it is okay for her even if I'm not there. I'm hoping to someday take a shower again without her help.

Bunny a BichonAnd then there's Bunny. I only wish she had a bit of the separation anxiety that Roxy has. She's lived the first five years of her life in a puppy mill, and is terrified of people. She's getting a  bit more comfortable around me, but still doesn't like me to touch her. She also is afraid of the hardwood floors, so limits herself to one small area of the room that is covered by a tarp (to make clean-up easier since she isn't house-trained). It's tough to house-train a dog that doesn't want to be touched, won't walk on the floor, and is scared to go outside. This is what puppy mills do to dogs by leaving them in small cages with no human interaction for their entire lives. So please, don't buy a puppy from a pet shop or from anywhere that you can't meet the parents and see their living conditions for yourself. Don't support the people who treat the puppies' parents this way. Bunny is trying really hard to learn to be a normal dog, but I'm not sure that she ever will be. My goal by the end of the summer is to get her to enjoy the outdoors. She wants to go outside very much, but she's afraid. If I carry her out to the deck, she seems to enjoy herself, but she won't go a foot beyond the safety of her crate or dog bed.  I wish there was some way I could make her feel safer.

At the other extreme, Tulsa and Ziggy, my last two foster dogs, seem completely comfortable at my house. Ziggy has never lived anywhere else since he was a puppy, except a short stay at doggie boot camp, and he thinks he owns the entire house (or at least the room where his crate is). Although I'm pretty sure that anywhere Ziggy goes, he is immediately comfortable. The dog has more self-confidence than any other dog I've ever met! Tulsa on the other hand, is not as self-confident, but she is quick to adjust to a new home. She's had a lot of practice, this being at least her eighth home that she's lived in in three short years. I wonder if she knows that I'm another temporary stop on her journey. I wonder if she thinks that all dogs spend their lives going from family to family, pack to pack. I hope and pray that her next stop will be her permanent home - for her, and for each of my fosters who have already had enough upheaval in their lives. There are times when it is unavoidable to give up a pet, or it is in their best interest, so I am not qualified to judge anyone who makes that decision. I know that foster pets are the lucky ones, able to live in a home instead of a shelter, their lives spared unlike most dogs in shelters. Still watching them try to adjust to their new circumstances can be difficult. So if you decide to adopt an adult dog, please be patient with them. Give them some time to settle in, and forgive any mistakes they make. It's not easy to go to a new home! But they need you, and if you give them that new home filled with love, they'll show you so much gratitude! Unless you adopt Ziggy, in which case he will just consider it his due. I think I may have mentioned this before, but he's not a normal dog.

Ziggy looking goofy


Kolchak Puggle said...

My heart just breaks for poor little Bunny! I wish I knew what I could do to help! Have you checked out Debbie is great with fear. Maybe she has some suggestions that might help?

Cupcake said...

I agree with Kolchak Puggle. Bunny breaks my heart. I truly hope she can get over her fears. Thank you so much for taking care of her. Taking care of all of them.

Bailey said...

The stories are so sad. Bailey was so young when he went into foster that it was easier for us him to adjust when he came home to us. Katy's journey has been a longer but in many ways more rewarding. We can see how much progress she has made and how much work it was for her to get here. We still have more to do with her, but we will get there.

Tucker The Crestie said...

Each of these dogs is so lucky to have you, and I only wish there were more people like you out there. We pray that each one of them finds a loving forever home - they certainly deserve it.

Cyndi and Stumpy said...

I remember, oh so well, how painful it could be to watch Stumpy learn to be a dog. but the highs when she finally figured out that most things were not going to kill her, made it all worthwhile.

It's quite an endeavor to work with so many maladjusted dogs! I'm in awe!

Happy, Waggin' Tails, FUREVER!
Stumpy and me

A Couple of Misfits said...

All I can say is thank you for taking in such an odd bunch of fosters! They can certainly learn some important life skills from each other and from you. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for what you do! These dogs are so lucky to have you in their lives. We adopted an Australian Cattle Dog last June and have also seen some of the same struggles that you have with your fosters. We don't know where she came from just know animal control picked her up wondering the streets in S.C. We wouldn't trade her for anything and we have had to work really hard with her to overcome her fears also. Her fosters gave her a good start and we plan on finishing it.
We wish that one day the world will be right and we no longer have puppy mills and animals discarded like trash.
Donna Of NC

Kim said...

It breaks my heart too, but you're right—the foster dogs are the lucky ones.

Kari in WeHo said...

Puppy mill dogs break my heart :(


meowmeowmans said...

What an interesting assortment of fosters you have! Bless you for taking care of them all until they find their forever homes. :)

Anonymous said...

Roxy not only LOOKS like our Stevie Wonder, but seems to have some of the same attachment issues. Stevie doesn't follow me into the shower but does flip out if anybody else tries to take her out of the house. Poor girls.