It was a red-letter day for Boomer, my latest foster pup. He trotted boldly down my driveway and boarded the CARE, Inc. truck that would take him from middle Georgia to his new home in Delaware. Seven of his kennel buddies from CARE, Inc. were already in the truck, including his brother Dover. Boomer and Dover were rescued by CARE, Inc. at such a young age that their health and personalities were never compromised. And being pups, they found forever homes soon after their photos were posted on CARE’s Adopt-a-pet site.
Another dog in the truck is Pink, a Pomeranian-spaniel mix whose start in life had not been as rosy as Boomer’s. She had bounced around through rescue kennels for most of her life, arriving at CARE, Inc. middle aged and matted. After being treated for heartworms she was ready for a home, but potential adopters couldn’t see her beauty under the ragged coat, especially in a shelter with so many youngsters. Her break came when my granddaughter Zoie wanted a foster dog project of her own during her vacation to our farm. I helped Zoie pick out Pink because I knew the little ragamuffin would give her the satisfaction of making a huge difference.
Sure enough Pink’s ragged coat turned powder-puff soft after her bath. We also discovered she reveled in being bathed and brushed. We learned that she’s an avid traveler who loves to meet and greet people on sidewalks, at the farmers market or anywhere else.
At the shelter she was so wildly energetic from lack of exercise that she was difficult to walk on a leash, but once she came to my place and could run off excess energy in the woods and pastures, Pink calmed down into a balanced dog that could play hard with the children but also settle down on the couch for a nap. She had meticulous house manners and loved to cuddle, convincing us that she had a good home at one time.
After her spa week was over, I was able to post a vivid blurb about her personality and handsome photos that caught the attention of her future owner. Without those few days of foster care, Pink could have eventually died of old age at CARE instead of enjoying her new lease on life. It’s sad that she went unnoticed for so long.
Shirley’s break came earlier in her shelter life. She had just arrived at CARE one morning when I came for my two-hour volunteer shift. A rusty black, wire-haired little thing with a mustache--someone said she looked like the Grinch's dog. She had been practically feral, scavenging the leavings of a herd of hogs--a very dangerous livelihood for a small dog. She was terrified of life in general. I scooped her up and just held her for two hours instead of trying to walk her.
I didn’t think she could be made presentable enough or confident enough for adoption, but she deserved a more comfortable life even if she was destined to spend it at a rescue kennel. So I brought her home to participate in granddaughter Zoie’s spa week project. After her bath Shirley looked and behaved like a different dog. Her coat gleamed a shiny blue-black, and we discovered that her lugubrious expression hid a playful personality. We checked out her house manners, which were impeccable. Just getting to know her for a few days helped me take more appealing photos and write a blurb descriptive enough that a family in New Jersey recognized she would be a good fit for them. As it turned out, Shirley’s shelter experience lasted only a couple of months instead of years.
Shirley's owners send me occasional updates about her life. Hearing from the adoptive families is my reward, and it's worth more than any amount of money. I never tire of anecdotes about how Shirley puts up with gentle maulings by their four-year old daughter and how she loves to ride in the car---the little everyday happenings of a happy dog in a loving family. It all started with a bath.
Neither Pink nor Shirley would have been considered adoptable at an animal control facility simply because they had passed the cute puppy stage of life. Add Pink’s heartworms and matted coat and Shirley’s timidity; these two would have been put on the fast track to euthanasia. A no-kill shelter without volunteers to socialize and foster would have simply warehoused them until they died of old age. A spa week of fostering made all the difference for these two and the families who now dote on them.
If you have longed to try fostering but don’t know whether it would work for your situation, consider giving a kennel dog a spa week or weekend or just an afternoon. It will do you and the dog a world of good.
Adoptable Dog of the Week--Shirley has two puppies at CARE, Inc. who are ready for adoption. Caitlyn is a beautiful golden red wire-haired terrier mix and Mae Mae is black like Shirley. Since neither of them remember much about their hard life before CARE, Inc. took them in, they don’t have Shirley’s timidity. They are typical, rowdy terrier pups ready to take on the world. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about them.
CARE, Inc. dogs can now be transported to new homes anywhere in the lower 48 states, thanks to the transport service Doggie Express now operating in Georgia. There are many online resources about fostering or adopting older dogs, the Senior Dog Project is a good place to start.