Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Tale of 12 Puppies

Timehop informed me this past weekend that I have officially been a dog foster mom for Stray Rescue for four years.  It has been one of the most challenging, heart-breaking, and rewarding experiences of my life.  I never regret deciding to start fostering, in spite of the variety of incidents and getting overly attached and all the times I've spent chasing dogs down streets and back alleys.

I love dogs.  I've always loved dogs.  I don't remember a time where I wasn't asking my parents to have a dog.  I think I basically wanted to be a dog.

Note: I didn't just wear this at Halloween.
Finally, finally, when my parents bought their first house when I was 8, I got what I'd been wanting: my own puppy.  Barney the beagle.  Pretty much the best dog we could have asked for.  He was smart, sweet, and lazy.  He slept in like we did.  He didn't care if we went on walks or not.  He'd do anything, absolutely anything, for a treat.  He was dressed up for every holiday without complaint.  He went through two knee surgeries and had a tumor removed before we had to put him down when he was twelve.  It broke my heart, and my mom's heart.  Probably my dad's heart too, but he generally shows even less emotion than I do.

Where it all began...
While my mom is fairly determined not to go through such a loss again, I'm clearly a glutton for punishment, because I've set myself up to continually be saying goodbye to the dogs that I bring into my house.  Granted, it's not quite the same.  The dogs I foster are going off to forever homes with people who want them.  But I usually get attached anyway, so saying goodbye is generally still hard.  Especially when you can't explain to a dog (who is just as attached to you as you are to them) why you're leaving them at a strange house.

But I still go back for another dog.  And another.  And sometimes two more.  I really and truly love giving these dogs a home where they can learn (or at least re-learn) what it's like to be a normal dog in a house.  That's the part I love: seeing them change and relax and be happy.  Sometimes there's not much change.  They might not have been at Stray Rescue for very long.  Or they handle change better than some.  

In four years, I've had twelve dogs.  They've all been so very uniquely different.  Some I've adored.  Some I've tolerated.  Some have presented more interesting challenges than others.  Apologies in advance that some of these photos suck, as they were uploaded through old, not-so-smart phones.

First was Madrid, nicknamed Maddie.  I picked her because she was beautiful.  She was a sweet, happy girl.  And very special.  Stand over you and stare at you from inches away special.  Escape through every opening her head could fit through special.

Then Toffee, an emaciated "lab mix" who quickly stole my heart.  I cried when I left her at her new home.

Quill was... cute.  And annoying.  So it was a good thing she was cute.

Gaia (left) was a shy, scared girl who found the perfect family who was willing to let her take her time to get to know them.

Wendell (middle) was a giant, furry dope that stayed a grand total of a few days.

Browning was my own personal rescue.  I picked her up on the street near my apartment. She wasn't micro-chipped and no one ever seemed to be looking for her, so she became my foster.  She almost became mine.  She was perfection, and I carried her around and slept with her like a warm teddy bear.

Cocoa, full name Cocoa Puff Cereal, was a... special dog.  She'd been shot, had her dewclaws removed, and had a tongue that refused to fit in her mouth.  And she looked like a beagle that had recently had a pitbull shoved inside her.

Couer D'Alene (Cordi) was the most beautiful, sweet girl.  We had many, many couch naps together.

Morticia wasn't around very long, but she did have a habit of stealing my clothes.

My sweet, sweet Girlie girl.  She was with me for quite awhile, and I didn't mind at all.

Houston was a giant sweet, dopey puppy who had no idea how big he was.  He was adopted in no time.

And now there's Thunder.  He's been the most challenging foster I've had, due to his difficult heartworm treatments and his very serious fear of people (and sometimes parked motorcycles and stone lions).  But once he realizes people aren't going to hurt him like he's apparently been hurt in the past, his love and desire to snuggle is all-consuming.  He thrives on routine, loves walks, and adores his stuffed toys.  He's become so much more of a normal dog in the months I've had him, and I know he'll continue to improve with the right family to love him.

I adore being a foster mom, and I look forward to many, many more dogs that I'll have the opportunity to help and love.  It can be really hard to say goodbye to all the ones that steal my heart, but I wouldn't change anything.

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