Making the right dog-and-family match is one of the most challenging, critical, and rewarding parts of dog rescue work. We’ve been incredibly lucky to place our past fosters in great forever-homes, and last week we felt that same rush again, only when Love-A-Bull placed Pocket Petunia and her foster home.
After a night in our home (we played emergency foster), it was clear that Petunia needed something different. We knew we were not setting her up to succeed. The crate-and-rotate routine we had to enforce brought out Petunia’s less charming qualities. At the top of the list: some stress-induced dog-reactivity, and a compulsive desire to fingerpaint with her own waste after eliminating in her crate (which she did every time she was crated).
We knew right away that these issues were likely caused by the strict and stressful regimen we were imposing on the poor girl, who had just finished a long journey and had no clue what was going on. She needed more freedom and more space, which we weren’t able to offer under such time constraints.
When Petunia and I met Jenn, we had a sense that Petunia would succeed with her. Jenn has two other young, active dogs who play nicely with others and could (hopefully) show Petunia the ropes. She has two young kids who love to help out with enrichment activities for new foster dogs. Jenn was willing to work on the crating issue and has concrete floors in her house that are easy to clean up, plus the patience of a saint to deal with frequent clean-up.
Still, we prepared her for the worst. We told her there would likely be many crate accidents and that dog integration could take weeks to do successfully.
Boy were we thrilled when, after 24 hours, we got this email:
How are you? We are doing great. I’ve never seen a dog smile so much. Her little body is going to lift off when she gets going wagging and flashing that humongous grin. The integration is done. We took our first walk this morning. I had a couple of friends help me walk her and my two youngsters. We walked 2 miles on this great nature trail and by the end, I was walking all 3 of them with grins and wags. No growling, no aggression of any kind. They respectfully smelled, ran circles and then got into the walk. Eventually, I let my two off leash to splash in the creek and even with just Petunia still on the leash, no issues at all. She had a great time and loved the water. All 3 rode in the back of the car together and since then, they have been a threesome. Oh!!! AND, she has only gone to the bathroom outside today. I have her on a schedule and if I stay out there long enough, she will smell around, find the right spot and when I start praising her little tail wags so hopefully we are making new connections.
She continues to eat like a horse. I got one of those training meat logs and we just had a session. No big training, just a little sit and focus on the treat. We do this with all three dogs and they all line up and sit still to get a reward. I like this because it showed me that even with high value treats, she does not have food aggression in close proximity to the other dogs. I’m still trying to help adjust her tolerance. You can see that she is still trying to figure out what she should react to but it is coming along wonderfully.
I can’t thank you enough for the wonderful support system you guys have. Please let me know if I am missing anything. Thanks Aleks!
Two days later I hopped in the car for a visit to little Petunia and her amazing foster family. I got a little teary meeting this brand-new Petunia — happy, confident, playful, with not a care in the world.
Thanks, Jenn and Petunia, for reminding us of the power of the right match!