It all started with an email from a fellow volunteer. Due to unforseen circumstances we have a dog that needs a new foster home. Her name is Heidi. She was a victim of a breeding facility that just pumped out puppies for people to purchase. She was left behind without a home, if you want to call a cold dirty kennel a home. Since my home was open for another foster I inquired about Heidi. She has some issues with trusting people and new things. She has anxiety and fears of many things. She lived in a kennel withouth much human interaction and what interaction she had wasn’t pleasant. She did not know how to live inside a home with a family and interact like most dogs. My heart broke for her. I sent the email saying I would foster her as long as she got along with my dogs and my cat. I was suddenly anxious and nervous about the decision I was about to make. All of my foster dogs up to this point have been well adjusted dogs that came from homes or shelters but knew how to be a dog that was part of a family. So I sent the email not knowing I was about to get the most rewarding experience so far in my time as a volunteer. I will foster Heidi. I hit the send button and immediately I was excited and nervous at the same time because I had no experience dealing with these types of issues before.
The day arrived for us to pick up Heidi. We got to her other wonderful foster home and went inside to meet Heidi. There she was on a blanket in the living room and she was so scared and anxious that we were there. Her tail was tucked so far under her belly I couldn’t even see it. My heart sunk and I realized this poor dog is about to be taken out of her fairly new environment once again. After spending an hour or so on the floor trying to get her to know us we decided it was time to take her home. After much hesitation we got her in the car and drove her home. She was very anxious and scared but kept staring at me with eyes that look like she was asking me what is going on? Does this poor sweet girl realize what is happening? I know it sounds crazy but I feel if I keep telling her over and over and over that’s its going to be ok she might just understand what I am saying. The introduction to my dogs and cat go well Heidi seems to be a little less anxious with other dogs around since that is all she knows. We walk her around the yard and take her into the house for the first time. Her tail is still tucked way under and she is very nervous about the door opening. She doesn’t know what to do. She follows my dogs inside very cautiously and we realize very quickly that she doesn’t know how to go up the stairs. After what seems like hours we decide we need to carry her up the stairs and we will teach her once she settles. The first few days are rough, what have I done? I have taken this poor dog out of the only thing she knew and now she needs to learn all new things. I am upset that I cannot make her comfortable and make her feel safe. Frustration starts to set in. I sit on the floor with her every day and try to interact with her and touch her and do things with her like she is any other foster but she is not any other foster at least not one that I have had before. I force myself on her and try to make her understand that its going to be ok. I do some research online and reach out to fellow volunteers about how to handle this and I basically was told to go about my business and let her come to me when she is ready. I start to do this and things seem better at times and then something scares her all over again and she goes back into her shell. After a few weeks she is really comfortable around my dogs but not so much with us. Here and there she will give me a sign that she is turning a corner. Well she has a couple of accidents in the house when she gets scared and I am learning what sets her off and why. We start to feel each other out and go about our business co-existing. A couple more weeks go by and she decides that she feels safe in our bedroom. Whenever something scares her she runs to our bedroom. After a couple of days of this she learns how to jump on the bed. Now the bed is her safe spot, uh oh! She continues to spend most of her time in the bedroom coming out only to go potty outside and an occaisionally visit to the other dogs. Her fear of the steps and doorways is still there but she is learning from my dogs how to navigate all these scary things. I am starting to realize that my dogs are teaching her everything she knows not me. They really are becoming the key to Heidi’s success. So things are moving in the right direction and Heidi has a set back in the yard and is now afraid to go outside so she again is having accidents in the house. This time her fear is not as strong and doesn’t last as long and she gets comfortable going outside again. Her tail comes out to say hi every once in a while and it seems to be when she is with the dogs. She is starting to show interest in the toys and playing with the dogs and even an occaisional romp in the yard with the ball and my chocolate lab Casey. My tension eases more and more each day. Another week goes by and she is coming out of her shell more and more and starting to spend time out in the living room with us just hanging out. I sit on the floor and decide I am going to try and throw the ball and she chases it and brings it back, again my dogs taught her this not me. I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to tell someone. She has had some set backs along the way getting sick from certain types of foods and some fears of things she just wont seem to get over but she is so much better than she was when we picked her up.
Well its been eight weeks since this beautiful creature came into our lives and she is ready to find her furever home. This is bitter sweet for me and my family but knowing there are plenty of dogs that need our help is what makes sense that she find her furever family so I can make room for another.
I came home from work today and guess who was waiting at the top of the steps for me with my other dogs? You got it Heidi and guess what she was doing?
WAGGING HER TAIL AT ME!!!!!! She was telling me she is ready.
I will never regret taking a chance on fostering Heidi and I hope that more people will take a chance on rescuing all dogs but there is nothing more rewarding that going thru these ups and downs and seeing that tail wag and knowing that they are happy to see you and not scared you are going to hurt them.
Please consider fostering/adopting any dog no matter what their issues might be they will change your life forever. Wow what an experience.