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!
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.
And 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.