My family and I just completed our adoption of a new family member from my friend Joe Maringo of SPARRO.org in Pennsylvania. But before we adopted, we were considered a FOSTER HOME FOR THE ORGANIZATION for three weeks. And I loved it.
As founder of Dogs Deserve Better, I fostered a LOT of dogs during my 13 years with the organization. Through that fostering experience I learned that I didn’t bond the same with every dog I fostered. In fact, there were some dogs I had a very hard time bonding with at all, and some that I bonded with too much, making it harder to love them and allow them move on to a new home and family.
After our boy Sloan passed away last year I was nervous to adopt a dog without fostering first. I had known dogs of all breeds, shapes, and sizes, and I knew that, when it comes to dogs, what you see is not always what you get. Once I made that commitment, I wanted it to be for the rest of the dog’s life. How did I do that without being SURE that the dog was the right fit for our home and vice versa?
It’s easy for any of us to see a dog online and get excited, and envision that we will adopt that dog and perfection will ensue. It’s a different matter and a lot less likely that this perfect vision will happen in reality—at least not straight out of the box. Not without some wrangling, some training, and some good old-fashioned sit down family discussions.
If we’ve already committed to adopting the dog and find that the fit is just awful, then what do we do? Become one of those adopters who goes back on our word? I hate that, and I didn’t want to be that person.
So I was nervous.
I decided to just rescue on my own, then; my reasoning being that I could make sure to rescue a chained or penned dog who was in need of help, get him or her cleaned up, housetrained, and ready for a new home, and then we could make the decision together as a family as to whether we adopted once we got to know the dog.
Basically, I would do what I’d been doing for 13 years, only without the backing of an organization. Seemed like a plan.
Once I made the decision to rescue a dog, it was only a brief time before she crossed my radar screen. Jewel, pictured above, was a gorgeous girl, and my heart immediately said YES to rescuing her at first glimpse. I arranged to pick her up, and ended up bringing home both Jewel and her daughter Onyx that day.
I really wanted to declare them adopted immediately. I did. But I knew I was getting excited and ahead of myself, and I cautioned myself to follow through with my fostering commitment before making any kind of rash decisions.
I’m glad I did. We had problems right from the start; not the easy problems either, but the “Oh hell, what have I gotten myself into problems.”
The girls were bonded, and I really didn’t want to separate them, but as a newly integrated family (my daughter Brynnan had just moved with us in September with her two cats, bringing us to three people and five cats) the added stress of two dogs was not working for us.
I wanted to keep Jewel, Brynnan wanted to keep Onyx. Onyx was very nervous around Joe (my husband, not my rescue friend…they are both named Joe, so it’s confusing!), and barked her head off at him whenever he was around, leaving him feeling like he wasn’t welcome in his own home. The dogs were joining up to chase the cats.
We ended up in a tense family situation, and so at the three week point I wisely put them both up for adoption to see if I could find a home for them together (without cats)…a home that fit THEM.
You see, both dogs were GOOD dogs. They really were (and are). But, they just weren’t the right dogs for OUR family and OUR situation.
I ended up finding the perfect home for THEM, and their new family is in LOVE! Here’s the last update I got from their mom, Diane: “We are so very happy with these two and they are totally loved. They get along with our sheltie Ginger great. She acts like she is herding them when we are outside. Too funny.”
So, all was well that ended well.
Except that, well, I still didn’t have a dog.
Although I was thrilled that I got to rescue again, and the ending was a happy one for them, the experience made me even MORE nervous about adopting a dog without fostering first. Now I had Brynnan and Joe both to consider, in addition to my own opinion, needs, and wants.
I enjoyed the freedom of rescuing on my own, but financially it was a hardship without the backing of an organization. I was lucky and blessed that many of my friends and supporters from my DDB days chipped in to help me vet and groom the girls. But I knew it wasn’t something that I could continue without nonprofit support.
When I saw Khronos (formerly Boomer) with Joe M.’s rescue, my heart immediately went pitter patter. I really wanted to adopt another shepherd, but Joe’s favorite fosters of mine had always been dogs who more closely resembled collie mixes. This guy seemed like a perfect cross between both our likes. He has shepherd fur and coloring, but some kind of adorable mixed breed face.
I messaged Joe M. from SPARRO about him, and he said he thought the dog would be good with cats. He’d seen two cats and hadn’t bothered with them. Khronos also seemed friendly with both dogs and people.
I told Joe M. I was nervous about adopting without fostering first. He responded that ALL his adopters are now considered foster homes before they are allowed to adopt. What? That’s so awesome! And, perfect for me. What a relief!
His policy is that there’s a three week foster period, during which the family gets to know the dog and the dog gets to know the family. At the end of three weeks, he ‘reconvenes’ via e-mail or chat or whatever with the family and discusses the potential adoption; as long as everyone seems happy, the adoption finalizes. Perfect.
This solution took a lot of the stress and anxiety about adopting off my shoulders. I knew I legitimately had time to make the final decision, and see how everything went with Khronos each step of the way.
I recommend that all rescues consider putting a foster to adopt policy in place, or at least making it an option for potential adopters. Not only would it take pressure off folks like me who really hate to go back on our commitments, but it would help ensure that the right dog ends up in the right family more often than not.
Adopting a dog should be for life. And just like the choice of a life partner is a serious decision and one in which fit is all-important, so should be the choice of a family’s doggie companion.
Thursday was the end of our three-week foster period for Khronos. He is amazingly well-behaved in ways that I would never expect of most dogs. He barely barks (what’s up with that?), and he doesn’t chew up ANYTHING…not even his own toys! I know from my days of heavy fostering how very rare it is to find a dog who does neither of these things; I just don’t expect that advanced level of behavior in the beginning of training a dog.
He loves all three of us, and he even wants to love the cats. They are more persnickety, and are still iffy with him, but he’s been—mostly—a perfect gentleman with them.
Our one area of imperfection is that, unlike Sloan, we can’t let him off-leash without him wandering off (quickly…ok, it’s less like wandering and more like running!).
This upsets us—not only because we have to worry and go chase him down—but because we live on 35 wooded acres, and we really wanted a dog who would just hang with us outside without having to be tied to us. We want maximum freedom for him; but so far maximum freedom isn’t working.
Sloan spoiled us, as he’d go wherever we were outside and never consider leaving our visual range. He enjoyed just laying on the front porch, keeping guard and alerting us to ‘intruders.’ Oh, he’d nose around the yard a bit, but then he’d be right back either wanting inside or enjoying the breeze from the porch.
We have a small 20’x 10′ fenced area for potty business with a doggie door, but our property sits atop a hill along a river, and it’s not amenable to a large fence like my previous homes have been.
I will admit this challenge gave us a moment’s pause in our consideration. We discussed the implications, with worst-case scenario being that he could never be trusted off-leash, and whether we were up for continuing to work with him to hopefully get to a point where he can be trusted off-leash outside.
We decided, as a family, that we already love him, and we will to continue to work on the off-leash-ness. And that we accept the situation if it’s never to be.
I’m walking him a mile each morning, and both him and I are getting used to our morning routine together and enjoying it. We have taken him running on a long line with the 4-wheeler in low gear around the property to provide him with some more strenuous exercise, and he seemed to enjoy that, too. He loves the river and he loves to swim, and we look forward to many happy years with him as an integral part of our family—the way all dogs deserve to live.
And so, without further ado, allow me to introduce to you the newest member of the Thayne-Horvath-Grimes household! [Drumroll, please…]
Khronos! We love you, boy.
Welcome to the family. And, please consider making off-leash training easier for us. Thank you.
P.S. Have a laugh at our expense as we get carried away with ourselves and think it’d be a good idea to take him kayaking. Enjoy.