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September 26, 2011

The Rewards Of Fostering


Trooper arrived after two weeks of anxious waiting. His previous owner has lost his apartment due to personal financial strain’s from loosing his job. Word has reached my wife, through a fellow employee, that he intends to turn Trooper over to a local shelter. The young man is moving in with his parents and prohibited from bringing Trooper with him since there is another dog residing at the home. I currently have two dogs myself, rescued from far worse fate’s.
Trooper was invited as a “Foster” meaning , we would make every attempt to return him, or re-locate him, at the earliest opportunity if the owner cannot return for him soon.
                      Our current financial situation should have prevented us from taking in any more pets, but, knowing that this was not just a stray, combined with the fact that the local humane shelter has recently rescued 500 animals from an illegal breeding facility and is already straining to keep up! I gave my word to the owner, that if, he had no alternative home by the time his move was inevitable, I would take Trooper. What I didn’t know was just how tough the next two weeks would be as my wife pleaded with me not to  bring in another dog (specifically male) and create more chaos in our home, between our existing two pets, Coco and Missy Lou. This was also going to increase our financial strain since I too, haven’t worked in the past six month’s.
                During the past two weeks I have listened to the constant begging by my wife to change my commitment and allow the owner to find a new adoption source. I cannot even begin to think of the alternative for Trooper. The day has come and Trooper will be here at 3:00 pm.
      I received a phone call that he is out front and I have secured both of our dogs in the bedroom, far from sight of the backyard. I instruct the owner to bring him directly through the side gate. When Trooper arrives he is not on a leash, and leads the way eagerly through the gate. Trooper is a one year old AKC registered Australian Shepherd. When I call him he comes immediately indicating that he is quite familiar with his name and very friendly. Two good signs. When I pet him I can feel his backbone and hip joint’s He’s about knee high and 7-10 pounds underweight. Not a good sign! Trooper is wearing a collar with current vaccination tags, but it is obvious that he is suffering from malnutrition. We discuss his feeding habits for which the owner assures me were at regular intervals and consumed in a timely manner, so all I can do is assume that Trooper has worms of some sort, preventing him from gaining weight. We all sit and chat for a few more minutes about my experience with dogs and my affiliation with the local shelter and their adoption policies, including my personal objections in taking him to any such shelter. After securing Trooper with a leash and handing one end to his current owner, I fetch another leash and head for the Bedroom.
                 I place Missy Lou on a leash in the house and allow her to view Trooper through the closed door at which time she goes outrageously crazy, barking and clawing at the glass door. During walks Missy cannot pass a fenced dog without attempting to break loose and get to the stranger behind the fence. Whether a cat or a dog, Missy acts like it will be the end of the world unless she can get her teeth into it. She has been my biggest concern as the days have passed awaiting Troopers arrival. Coco at 13 years of age follows my commands and has been taught to ignore other dogs barking or not, because I  taught her, that they are “Babies”, and she is a “Big girl“. She holds her head high and struts as we walk  even un-leashed, which she prefers. As I open the door and allow Missy to ease outside she nearly knocks me over and attempts to drag me to the ground. Trooper hit’s the end of his leash in an attempt to retreat. Everyone holds there ground as I calm Missy. I allow her to lean in slowly for sniffing and circling as dogs will do. After about 2 minutes and heart rates calm to a pant, I release Missy to explore on her own and secure Trooper closer to me for a reaction. If there will be any jealousy it will show up now. Rather than jealousy it turns to curiosity and tails are wagging all around. I release Trooper and the two take off running across the backyard. As Trooper explores scents and obstacles around the yard, Missy stays on his heels trying to attract his attention. After about 5 minutes of this, the two settle back on the porch coming when called and acting as though the visit is a normal episode in life. Now its time for Coco’s introduction!
As predicted, Coco shows a tail between her legs and approaches slowly like a cat waiting to pounce on a mouse. I hold Trooper on a tight leash allowing him to lean in slowly and Coco snaps like a mouse trap in his direction. With a quick command in Coco direction she looks to me for approval and I remind her that Trooper is a “baby” and not to be attacked. Coco raises a tail in sign of approval, and Trooper continues to grab quick sniff’s and off across the yard they go in full chase. The chase is innocent and as they stop and share scents, their approvals of each other are recognized with full body language in play. Missy Lou has been restrained on the patio to watch so as not to interfere with the meeting and pulls in full force to join in on the games of chase around the yard. This will be the moment of truth as I release her and jealousy can ensue when the two, become three. My commands to settle down continue until Missy resolves to sit calmly and watch. Suddenly Missy realizes that I have released the leash and she has not been tied at all, but has on her own accord accepted the fact that her older sister is in full approval of the new guest and there is no reason for alarm. I call Coco to the patio and order her to her bed while Trooper and Missy go for round two.
The challenge now is for me to pet and pamper Trooper in front of the two without them becoming jealous of the attention. I introduce Trooper to the water bowl as well. These are territorial issues that both Coco and Missy must overcome in order to create a harmonious environment. So far so good.
I bid Troopers owner a good day while inviting him to return for visits at any time. He secures a last minute hug and is gone out the gate never to be seen again.
  I set up an appointment with the Vet the following week and my fears are confirmed as the results of his test come back positive for Hook worm. I am informed of my options and elect to Purchase the necessary medications my self rather than pay the Price of the Veterinarian clinic’s quote. We pay our fee’s for the visit and bid them farewell. Within several weeks Trooper begins to put on weight and within 60 days he is back to normal body weight and muscle mass.
We have had Trooper for a year now, and I feel we must make a decision as to the fate of his future! His previous owner has shown no signs of returning. Trooper’s due a visit to the Vet (as well as my other two) and I  am still am not employed. Missy Lou and Trooper must be separated as she comes into heat in the next few weeks! Upon contact with Trooper’s owner, I have learned that he has found work, but, is not yet in a position to reclaim him.

Part Two…The end of the second year

Exactly two years have passed and I receive word through my wife that the owner is coming back for Trooper. The emotions are running wild throughout the family. Attachments have been made that run deep with everyone involved. My wife knows that Trooper has been a handful, but, also realizes the attachment Andrew and Thomas have made with Trooper, taking him to the Golf Frisbee range each evening and the attachment I have with taking him everywhere I go, and especially hiking at the lake on Sunday mornings. He has learned to fetch, although he doesn’t like to return the ball to me, but would rather hide with it under the table. He will eventually return it with enough begging.
I taught him to play dead when I pretend to shoot him with my pointed finger, a trick that my boy’s enjoy showing all their friend’s. Two years have passed and the truth is that Trooper has spent more time with us than he has with his owner in his entire live. Trooper is anal about barking at every teenager that comes through the door, letting everyone know that slipping in during the wee hours of the morning will not be tolerated. Still I have constantly reminded everyone in the home that this is a “Foster pet” and someday he must return home. Now that day has come.
His owner shows up and we all take turns with our hugs and kisses and shed our tears as he heads out the gate, jumps into the truck, and disappears around the corner. Of the two dogs, Missy Lou seems to be in the most depression as she watches the gates and looks behind me each time I come home without Trooper behind me.
But, this isn’t where it ends!

A week later we receive a call that Trooper has escaped from his owner during a walk and cannot be found. The Apartment complex is gated and fenced, so he must be somewhere within the 14 acre facility. No-one can find him and he won’t come when called. We load up and drive over to the complex, splitting up in search parties along with most of the apartment staff, we begin looking under cars, shrubs and along fences. Finally my wife spots him under a tree and calls out to him. Trooper leaps into her arms and gives her the face licking of her life, and everyone breaks down crying. He is handed over to his owner once again, with specific instructions not to release him from his leash while on walks, and we all return to our respective homes where we live on to Foster Happily ever after.

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