Saturday, March 8, 2014

My Favorite Foster; Rudy's Story

In addition to volunteering at the animal shelter and being one half of a therapy dog team, I also foster dogs in my home.  Fostering saves lives. There isn’t enough room or staff in crowded shelters to house and care for all the homeless pets that are brought in every day.  The influx of homeless dogs never ends.  There aren’t enough people to adopt them.  There isn’t enough room in shelters and rescue organizations to continually take them all in.  Foster parents can step in and take some of these dogs into their own homes to provide care and shelter.  

Dogs need to be fostered for several reasons:   

> A  dog may have a highly contagious illness like kennel cough and need to be isolated from the shelter population.  Most shelters have a number of isolation kennels, but when they’re full the dog must be isolated in some other way such as placed with a rescue organization, or placed in a foster home.

> Shelter life is stressful; it’s loud, scary, and confining.   A dog may “shut down” or become what is sometimes called “kennel crazy”.  This is usually a dog that has been at the shelter for a longer period of time, continually passed over by potential adopters.  When a dog shuts down, they no longer interact well with people and sometimes won't eat.  Kennel crazy dogs constantly bark, jump around like mad trying to get out, and may becoming hostile.  Dogs like this have been in the shelter too long and desperately need a break.  

You don’t need to be a stay at home foster mama in order to be an effective foster.  Even people who work full time or are in school full time can foster.  Whether you have children or other pets in the home you can still foster.  Most shelters provide the food and basic supplies you will need to care for your foster pet.  If the dog is ill they’ll provide the necessary medication.

One of my first fosters was Rudy, a chestnut colored Chihuahua mix.  The shelter named him Rudy (as in Rudolph the red nosed reindeer) because he came in around Christmas time.  He was thin and frail, his ribs clearly visible.  He quickly developed a terrible case of kennel cough, probably due to a low immune system.  He was barely able to sleep, his non-stop coughing wracked his small body keeping him awake day and night.  The shelter didn’t have an available isolation kennel for him or a rescue organization that could take him right away.  He needed a foster home, STAT! 
Poor Rudy suffered horribly with a serious case of Kennel Cough
I was nervous about bringing him home to foster because I worried that my own dog, Icy, might catch his kennel cough, but I took him anyway and kept him separated from Icy the first week. 

I moved him into our quiet, comfy guest room, placing him in a spacious crate with a soft fleece blanket.  He hadn’t been eating at the shelter, probably because it hurt his throat to eat the dry food they gave him due to the kennel cough.  As soon as I gave him wet food, he wolfed it right down!  He quickly began to gain weight and after about 7 days the cough subsided.  He also had fleas and some ticks, which I treated immediately.  This alleviated his constant scratching, making him more comfortable.  

Throughout his ordeal, although he was suffering through kennel cough and discomfort he remained sweet and lovable.  As he recovered, his vibrant personality emerged.  He was extremely loving, playful and smart.  He got along great with Icy and the two played well together.  I fell madly in love with Rudy and we developed a strong bond. 

I sometimes sleep in a pair of big puffy socks, which I leave by the bed like slippers.  One day one of the socks disappeared.  A couple of weeks later I was gathering up Rudy's fleece blanket to wash, and stuffed deep inside the blanket was my sock!  Rudy must have snatched it and hid it in his bed, probably so he could have my scent close to him as he slept in his crate at night.   

I’ll be honest, I kept Rudy far longer than I needed to, I just couldn’t let him go!  Eventually however, I had to. 

Fortunately, the father of one of our wonderful Eagle Scout volunteers wanted very much to adopt him.  I couldn’t ask for a better Dad or a better family for Rudy.  I know he has a great home with a family who loves him as much as I do. 

The day Rudy was adopted, his new Dad pulled away from the curb with Rudy standing up in the front seat, his nose pressed against the window.  He was looking back at me with those beautiful brown eyes, not understanding why he was leaving me.  I cried all night long and for weeks afterwards, but I knew it was the right thing to do for Rudy.  I will love Rudy forever, my darling boy will always be in my heart.  Darn. Now I need a tissue. 

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