With Stevie on her way to her new home (we will write more about her goodbyes next week) and our big exciting announcement coming tomorrow, this seemed a good time to write about an often-asked question in our world: How do we pick our foster dogs?
So far we have picked each of our dogs individually and for unique reasons, and it’s interesting how each dog has been a good representative for a different, particular ‘category’ of good foster candidates. We always look for the ones who would not have good odds without us. Here’s a quick breakdown.
A dog that doesn’t “show well” – Lollie Wonderdog
Lollie may be the most charming girl in the world but at the shelter, she was getting passed up over and over. She was there for months, and although she was a favorite among staffers, there was no real interest from adopters. We think it’s attributable to her physical appearance — Lollie came in covered in cuts, scars, bruises, and sores — the girl had obviously been through a lot. People glanced at Lollie and saw not the beautiful, perky, friendly, head-stand-doing house pet that she was with us, but rather a stray dog with a lot of scars on her face who had experienced a hard and unknown life on the streets. By taking her in, we allowed potential adopters to see past her scars. Without the foster home advantage, Lollie Wonderdog might not have had a chance.
A pit bull type in a BSL town – Gonzo Bunny-Ears
Sure, Gonzo is the world’s cutest dog, but that didn’t stop him from ending up at the county shelter in a town that does not allow pit bulls or pit bull mixes to be adopted out. Gonzo was temporarily saved by being called a french bulldog mix rather than a pit bull mix, but those labels are squishy, and it only takes one complaint to put a dog’s life in jeopardy. We were able to grab him as out-of-county fosters through a rescue, thus making him safe from potential appearance-based breed profiling that rarely leads to happy endings. Without the foster home advantage, Gonzo Bunny-Ears might not have had a chance.
A lovely dog in a rural high-kill shelter – TANK
Lots of lucky dogs end up in “no-kill” shelters or other well-run, well-funded shelters with high adoption rates. But lots of dogs don’t. TANK was scooped up in rural South Carolina and sent to county animal control — an underfunded, understaffed, underadvertised facility where the only dogs who make it out are those whose owners come for them and those who are pulled by rescue. We came to know of TANK through a DC area rescue that pulls dogs from rural shelters and adopts them out up here, and after hearing about his personality and seeing that adorable mug, we knew we had to step up. TANK was only with us a week before his perfect owner found him, but if he had stayed at the shelter in South Carolina, his week would have ended much differently. Without the foster home advantage, TANK might not have had a chance.
A dog who is undersocialized and needs further assessment – Baby Blue
Baby Blue was our sad story. She was a dog who was shy, furtive, unpredictable, and not well socialized. She was not considered imminently adoptable, but it was thought that she might bounce back in an experienced foster home. She didn’t bounce back. In the end Blue’s pain and fear were too severe for her to have a joyful life in this world, and we had to tell her goodbye — a realization that still leaves our hearts aching. But many other Baby Blues — undersocialized dogs that are too risky to adopt directly to the public but can go to an experienced foster home — shine in foster care and go on to make wonderful family pets. Blue was not one of these happy endings, but without the foster home advantage, Baby Blue might not have even had a chance.
A dog that is does not shine in a shelter environment – Stevie Wonder
Some dogs do ok in a kennel environment. They are able to remain social, interactive, and by most standards, normal. They wag their tails and get excited when people come by, are happy to go out for a walk, and eat and drink without much trouble. People walking the kennel rows notice these dogs and fall in love. Not Stevie-girl. For reasons we will never fully understand, the kennel was just too much for her. She was visibly nervous all the time, and her introversion grew more intense as time went on. After a few weeks at the shelter, she would not leave her enclosure or go back into it without being physically picked up — she would just flatten on the ground. She was barely interactive at all, preferring to go sit in a corner by herself than spend time with people who wanted to love her. In her kennel, she would huddle in the back and not even look up as people passed. Looking at a few entries on our blog, it’s plain to see how seamlessly Stevie-girl came out of her shell, thanks to being in a home with a family. But without the foster home advantage, Stevie might not have had a chance.
The next frontier: an elderbull?
Stevie doesn’t yet have all four paws out the door, and we’re already dreaming of who we will save next. There are a lot of best parts to fostering, but one of my favorite best parts is picking out a new dog. It doesn’t quite cure the heartache of saying goodbye to a dog you have grown to love with great depth and tenderness, but it certainly helps.
With Elderbull month at StubbyDog and the passing of our doggie hero Sarge the Elderbull a few weeks ago, we have been swept up in elderbull fever and are dreaming of saving an older pit bull next. Just like dogs with physical and emotional scars, dogs discriminated against by appearance, and dogs who wind up at a high-kill shelter, Elderbulls and other older dogs have the odds stacked against them.
We have our eye on one in particular — a fetching, eight-year-old blue pittie with a white stripe down her nose who reminds us of Mr. B from Two Pitties in the City. She is cute as a button, sweet as can be, and despite that, she is all but doomed at our local shelter. Between her age, the rugged condition of her body after a hard life, and some kind of mild neurological condition that affects her balance now and then, her chances of getting out are very slim. But at the same time, our area rescues are full and totally cash-strapped, so pulling an elderbull– who is likely to take longer to adopt out and may cost more to care for — is too risky.
We have some ideas brewing, but nothing is certain yet. But we do know one thing: if our sweet girl’s life is going to be saved, it’s going to take a village.