Foster dog learning experiences

One of the great things about fostering dogs is that every dog becomes a learning experience. Each of the fosters I've had so far has taught me something different about the foster dog, about my dogs, and about myself.

Hannah was my first foster and I was learning just what it meant to be a dog foster. The first few days were definitely an adjustment for me *and* the dogs, and for a while I started to wonder if I could really do the fostering thing. One day when I had Simba out in the back yard, he ran to the back porch and sprung both Nala and Hannah from "jail". Hannah took off running into the woods out back and I thought "Oh, crap". I scrambled to round Nala and Simba back up so I could go look for Hannah, but thankfully she decided to come back. Hannah turned out to be a really sweet dog that thrived on some much needed attention and training, and after a few months went to a home with a great family near Rock Hill, SC. I came very close to deciding to keep Hannah, and if it wasn't for the call that said a family was interested in adopting her, I quite likely would have kept her and become another foster failure.

My second foster, Mel, has so far been the most challenging dog I've had. Extremely shy, timid and wary of new people, it took an hour of gentle coaxing and lots of Milk Bones to get her to approach me when I first met her. After that she grafted on to me and never wandered very far away. The dogs also accepted her much quicker than I expected, and it was a lot of fun watching the three of them play together. I spent the next few months researching dog behaviour, trying to learn techniques I could use to get her to be less timid around people. Nala and Simba, well, they learned how to jump a meter into the air when they see me. Thanks to frequent trips to the dog park and the helpful dog owners there, I managed to get her to start getting closer to people and even letting them pet her. Mel ended up gong to a nice home in Virginia about four months after I got her.

Foster #3, Barkley, was just one big lovable goofball. He made you think of a very tall, skinny lab or a very small Great Dane, but his attitude was all puppy. You couldn't help but smile and laugh whenever you saw him entertaining himself with a Nylabone or running after a ball. Barkley wasn't exactly the brightest dog in the pack, but he was definitely easy to love and lived completely in the moment. Training Barkley was an exercise in patience because he was so food focused he usually wouldn't associate getting a treat with what he was doing to get the treat. Meal times were always entertaining, and Barkley always treated each meal like it was the first one he'd had in days. Everybody who met Barkley was always surprised to learn that there hadn't been much interest in him for so long. Eventually though, a very nice couple from West Virginia ended up adopting him and he's living a pretty good life in his new home now. I think Barkley might have been another one I might have kept if nobody showed up to adopt him.

I had planned on taking a break after getting Barkley adopted, but ended up taking on Sazy as foster #4 the day Barkley left. Didn't know anything about Sazy when I got her other than she was a fence jumper. She's a tall lab mix (I'm thinking lab/shepherd), very affectionate and loves to worm her way into your lap. It wasn't until a week after I got her that I learned Sazy has incontinence problems due to her spay operation (I was starting to suspect a UTI), and is also heartworm positive. Dealing with the incontinence has meant a lot of wiping up, cleaning the crate and beds, lots of Nature's Miracle, and sessions hosing her off outside. Sazy is not fond of being sprayed off with cold water. Even with the constant cleanup, it's hard not to love Sazy with half of her curled up in your lap. Sazy loves to run, and loves to go chasing after balls and other dogs at the dog park. She may also be the shortest foster I've had if the people who filled out an application for her during SEWE are still interested in taking her.

Fostering dogs has proven to be one of the more rewarding tasks I've undertaken. Every dog is different, and every dog has something new to teach me. In return, I've discovered that I have a lot I can give to a dog while it's waiting for a forever home.