Whole Dog Journal's Blog May 3, 2017

More Foster Stories with Good Outcomes

Posted at 08:34PM - Comments: (12)

Here’s another post to provide closure to some of the foster-dog stories I’ve shared with you in recent months.

In mid-March, I wrote about being fairly depressed by the arrival of two foster dogs. I had pulled the first one from my local shelter as a prospect for a friend of my son, who was looking for an athletic, medium-sized dog. I had never seen the dog outside of a kennel, first at my local shelter, and then, after we evacuated the shelter during the Oroville (Calif.) Dam scare, at a friend’s house (she took in about 20 of the shelter’s dogs!). He had a darling face, seemed quiet in the kennel, and looked like a Poodle-something-mix. As soon as it was safe for me to go back home after the evacuation, I asked to foster him.


It wasn’t until I got him home that I saw he wasn’t going to work for my son’s friend. That young man is a professional athlete, and was looking for a dog he could take out for runs; this dog could barely stand up! He had as little muscle tissue as I’ve ever seen on a dog, and he stood and walked way back on his “wrists.” It seemed clear he had been kept in a crate or tiny pen for most of his life. He also had a bad habit of barking LOUDLY when he wanted something or when he was frustrated. This, too, seemed like a trait he had likely developed while being stuck in a crate. He didn’t have any other tools for dealing with his frustration.

Despite this bad start, he was friendly and sweet and playful. I called him Muppet, because he looked like one, with those long legs and tufts of hair flying every which way. Based on his uncoordinated, weak gaits, my husband, who gives nicknames to every dog that passes through our home, called him Floppy. Indeed, he flopped about wildly as he tried to play with and chase my adolescent dog Woody around my yard. It was sad but funny when they would play tug of war over a toy; they would stand braced and pulling, and it would look like an even match, but if strongly muscled Woody would turn his head to look out the window, Floppy would go flying in that direction. It only looked like it was an even match because Woody was tempering the strength of his own tugging.

Still, it takes a special person to make a home for dogs with physical and behavioral deficits, and I despaired that I would be able to find a suitable family for him. Then I received a message from Jill Breitner, developer of the terrific Dog Decoder app and a trainer who recently relocated in southern Oregon. She said that she had a couple of clients that Muppet might be perfect for, and that in either case, she would first take possession of him for a month or so, and then spend some time with the owner, to make sure they knew what to expect from the dog and to smooth over their new relationship.

As it turned out, another friend was driving a couple of dogs from our local shelter to central Oregon, where she would meet another driver who would take them to adoptive homes in the Seattle area. I asked if Muppet could catch a ride on that transport, and a few days later, he was on his way.

As luck would have it, the person doing the transport had car trouble on the morning that all the travel arrangements were made, and instead of being crated individually in the back of a truck with a camper shell on it, the dogs were going to ride in a car – the back seat and the “way back.” And as they drove, one of the dogs being transported was quite unhappy with the seating arrangements, and made the other dogs in the car nervous enough that by the time Muppet got to Jill’s town, he had diarrhea and no appetite. It took a couple of days of gentle care and low-stress, loving handling before he regained his adolescent energy and spunk.

I’ve asked Jill if she would write an article for WDJ about her approach to this sort of fostering/training arrangement, and she’s agreed. Briefly, she said she tries to give the dog a soft landing from his previous placements, and give him time to feel safe and loved in the most enriching environment possible. She observes the dog carefully to see how he moves and operates, and so she can share her insights about his behavior with his new owner when it’s time. Jill kept Muppet for over a month before his new owners drove up from Arizona to get him! They spent two days with Jill and Muppet getting to know their new dog and his newly trained behaviors, before driving with him back down to Arizona. Jill says they are in love with their new guy, who has been permanently renamed Buffett (after the musician). Super happy ending!

Despite the frustration I expressed when I wrote that first blog post about hard-to-place dogs, the other dog I was writing about also has found a terrific forever home. Twig is an anxious little guy with funky-looking knees, who had scrapped with his previous foster person’s dog and needed a new home before he got hurt. I asked Lisa, a friend who is involved with a local rescue group, if she could foster him for me when I went on vacation, and when I got back, she said she could keep him a little longer, trying to promote him through her network of rescue folks.

Lisa has cultivated a relationship with the local television station, who will sometimes feature an “adoptable pet of the week” on its morning show – and make the clip available for linking and sharing on social media. Lisa got onto the show with Twig, and lo and behold, the perfect couple emerged within a day asking to meet and adopt him. They are an older couple with no other dogs, and he reminded them in many ways of a beloved dog they had years ago. They took him home for a trial and say he fits into their lives perfectly. Hurrah! Networking (literally) rocks!

More recently, I complained about these adorable siblings, who have been in my local shelter since just before Christmas. I shared my theory that they looked too much like pit bulls to attract people who did not feel comfortable with a bully breed, and not enough like pit bulls for those who specifically wanted a bully breed.

It so happened that I was at the shelter one day for an unrelated task (actually, helping Lisa, hero of Twig’s story, check to see if the next dog she was about to foster had any issues with cats), when I saw someone else I know at the shelter, taking a shelter ward to one of the outdoor runs. I wandered over to see what she and her husband were up to, and they said they had lost two senior dogs, one after the other, earlier this year, and their remaining dog is depressed and sad, and so they decided it was time to adopt another; they were just looking. I went into total car salesman mode. “Have I got a dog for you!” I told them, and ran to get a leash. I ran back to the boy dog’s kennel, telling him, “Now don’t blow this, it’s a great opportunity for you…” I showed them everything the dog knew: sit and down on cue, polite fetching, and best yet, a default sit and wait when you just look at him, or when you walk up to a door or gate. Long story short: He got adopted!

Now I’m concentrating all my efforts on his sister. I brought her home over the weekend, and this week, she’s spending time as a special guest at The Canine Connection, my friend Sarah Richardson’s training, boarding, and daycare center. Sarah’s assistants are lavishing care and training on her, and she’s getting lots of opportunities to play with other dogs. After I send the next issue to print, I hope to host her again while promoting her as widely as I can, in any way I can. And then, I might have to take the rest of the summer off to play with my own dogs only!

In the comments to the above-mentioned blog posts, you guys have contributed some great ideas for helping shelter dogs get adopted. Keep sharing! And thanks!

Comments (12)

I love reading this. It's so important to understand a shelter dog and where they come from. So many times people think just giving them a home will magically make their problems disappear. It doesn't. I adopted one that looked so much like Buffet (aka Muppet) that I did a double take. She too was horribly scarred mentally and physically. But she had a wonderful life with me and unfortunately she passed after 9 years and sudden cancer. I have a new rescue and he is like an autistic child, he has been with me two years and still he is recovering every day. I urge people to "listen" to what their pets tell them. They are so open to being loved and they will tell you what they need if you will only be quiet and listen. Thanks again for sharing, bless your heart for being so wonderful.

Posted by: rubyskyjuly | May 9, 2017 3:47 PM    Report this comment

I am so impressed with your efforts. i wish that i would be 1/100th as generous as you are with your time and efforts.

Posted by: schesney | May 7, 2017 10:12 AM    Report this comment

Field bred hunting dogs are the way to go for athletic companions, as noted by at least a couple of other posts in this forum. You cannot beat the sheer athleticism that goes with a hunting dog from an actively hunted line. A breed specific rescue would do the trick, I think.

Posted by: Mel Blacke | May 7, 2017 9:13 AM    Report this comment

What you do is wonderful and it makes me happy to read it. We've rescued and fostered our share over the years, but not nearly on the scale that you do. Thank goodness there are still good people out there!

Posted by: Dogvocate | May 4, 2017 6:03 PM    Report this comment

How about the bully-like sister dog for your son's friend? She should be a great athletic companion. And she is beautiful!

Posted by: kimfatty | May 4, 2017 5:47 PM    Report this comment

Weimaraners are also great for athletes (another pointing bird dog bred to run for an hour or longer, when hunting birds). There are Weim Rescue programs in almost every state; some large states have from 2 to 4 Weim rescue groups (all of which branches of the WCA rescue program). They (and their contacts) are listed on the Weimaraner Club of America web site, by state. Many of the individual Weimaraners up for adoption (in the various WCA rescue programs) are also listed on petfinder's web site. The WCA programs usually make sure the dogs are: fully vetted (and fixed) housebroken & crate trained. Most are evaluated as to whether okay or not, with other pets. The WCA has what is called a Weimaraner "Rescue Railroad" for transport, when needed.

Posted by: Betsy | May 4, 2017 3:53 PM    Report this comment

Oh gosh Nancy, you are such a hero. You and your wonderful network. So delighted to hear these happy-ever-after-stories, they make my day.

Posted by: Carolyn M | May 4, 2017 11:08 AM    Report this comment

There is a wonderful rescue group in Texas who specializes in shorthaired pointers - they have their own shelter facility (near Dallas) and have a lot of dogs right now that have been saved from kill shelters throughout Texas and also Oklahoma, etc. I'm sure they would be open to transporting for the right family - canerossorescue dot com.

Posted by: jeisenhardt | May 4, 2017 9:53 AM    Report this comment

If you guys want to see the most amazing foster story ever, that of Miracle, who was brutally attacked by other dogs, and surrendered to a shelter to die with massive wounds, infections, maggots, etc. please search YouTube for "Col. Potter miracle of Love". (I can not put the direct link in these comments.)
On a sad note, after almost 12 years in his furever home, Miracle peacefully passed but a month ago in April of 2017. His was a story of what amazing care and love can do for dogs who were in horrible situations.

On another note, the same rescue (whom I have been honored to be a part of since almost the beginning) did a tribute to every rescue, very rescuer and every foster home. It can be found by searching YouTube for "Salute to Foster Homes and Rescue Groups - Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network". (Cairn Terrier

Posted by: kkrpsyd | May 4, 2017 9:33 AM    Report this comment

I second looking into a german short haired pointer for your son's friend. I personally have one and they have quite a bit of energy, but are also very trainable and they know when they need to calm down. I think it would be a perfect match!

Posted by: Gsp.baby | May 4, 2017 9:01 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for being there for these dogs, and thank you for letting us know they are happy now.

Posted by: Alice R. | May 4, 2017 8:48 AM    Report this comment

For your son - look into rescuing a German Shorthaired Pointer - excellent running companion. Lots of adults around to rescue (we got ours at 10 mos) GSP need runners/bikers in their life!

Posted by: BusyVP | May 4, 2017 8:45 AM    Report this comment

New to Whole Dog Journal? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In