Post-Fostering Paranoia

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It’s a funny thing: No matter how badly I want to place a foster dog or foster puppy, no matter how much time and money and trouble they have caused me, the minute they leave to join a new household, the worrying starts.

For the past month, I’ve been fostering a goofy little mixed breed dog with giant ears. I called her Kiki, after the only repeated syllables I could call out loud that she would respond to (no response whatsoever to “Puppy! Baby! Beebee! Bobo! Mama! Taytay! Lala! etc. ). She has been a tiny pain in the butt: Adorable and friendly, housetrained and easy to train, but also a counter-surfer, prone to picking up eyeglasses and gardening gloves and carrying them off to far corners of the property, and of course, our biggest complaint, actually driving my “fun uncle” dog Woody crazy with her desire to play all day long. He’s up for playing some, but her style of play is very bitey/nippy, and his sensitive ears and jowls and lips and, most of all, his good humor, were showing some wear. I was taking a couple hours every day to take Kiki someplace for a super long run alongside my mountain bike, or an off-leash hike, and still, she was pestering the heck out of Woody. For his sake especially, and because it was taking so much of my time to run her every day, I really wanted to get Kiki placed ASAP!

Doesn’t Woody look a little tired?

Through the generous sharing of my “please help me find an adopter for this dog!” posts on Facebook, finally a perfect home appeared last Sunday: A woman who lives on five fully fenced acres in a rural area, is retired, and likes to both jog and ride mountain bikes. Any skepticism I had about a woman older than me riding mountain bikes was shot down when she drove through my gate in a big brand-new pickup truck with a bike rack mounted in the back. Yay! Her sister also lives on the property and has two dogs, so she brought the dogs along and we introduced the dogs, and it totally seemed like they were all going to be able to get along.

After the adopter filled out the adoption agreement from the shelter, I put Kiki in her truck and kissed her nose, fondled those magnificent ears one last time and, of course, burst into tears, waving the truck through the gate too choked up to shout a goodbye.

Kiki and the adopter’s sister’s Border Collie sleeping in the back seat on the way home

The adopter sent me a picture from the road: Kiki sleeping on the back seat of the truck with her sister’s same-age Border Collie. It was all going to be fine!

But then, I sent her a text about a tiny thing I forgot to tell her later that evening, and didn’t get a response. Not the end of the world, but a tiny worry started to grow.

The next morning – still no word. I have to say, I sort of expected another photo – Kiki running around her property, sleeping on her couch or bed, playing with the Border Collie… something! Over coffee, I fretted some more. What is the fencing on the adopter’s property like? Would she call me if Kiki got out and wouldn’t come back to her, or would she be too embarrassed to do so?

I sent the adopter a text: “If I promise not to be a pest, will you send me another pic today?”

No immediate response. Shoot! Come on!

I took her mountain-bike riding several times. She would trot and lope along for five miles, never leaving my back wheel. A terrific biking partner.

I’m only slightly ashamed to admit the next thing I did was pull up a Google Street View of the woman’s address and look at the fencing. It looked good – but oh! Gates! I wonder if Kiki hopped out of the truck when the adopter got out of the truck to open the gates! Shoot! She did that to me more than once (and once locked me out of my car, stepping on the armrest control panel, too). But that was right at my house, and she didn’t try to run away, she just ran into the yard. What would she do at a stranger’s gate, with a stranger calling her?

SHOOT – I should have warned her about how Kiki often tries to jump out of the car when I get out to open my driveway gates. I should have made sure she had a leash on her!

When another 30 minutes ticked by with no text, I escalated. “Alright, I have to admit I am fretting because I forgot to tell you that she would sometimes try to get out of the car behind me when I got out to open my gate. And I imagined her jumping out when you opened your gate. If she is lost, PLEASE don’t be embarrassed but let me know RIGHT AWAY so I can come help look for her! No judgment! I should have told you!”

That bowl, full of kibble and ready to be fed to Woody, was on the table above her. She jumped up and knocked it down with a huge CLANG! She showed absolutely no fear but dug into the chow. Kiki 1, Nancy 0 points for good management.

I know, I was sounding like a crazy person, right? By the time another hour ticked by, though, I was absolutely certain that’s exactly what happened. I was trying to figure out how I was going to get all my work done this week if I had to take all day Monday off, looking for Kiki in a strange town. . . . and then the text with a selfie of Kiki and her adopter arrived. “We’re good!” it said.

Instantly, my worry evaporated. “Okay!” I thought to myself. “She’s just a minimal texter! I won’t worry!”

But you know, I probably will.

I was discussing all this with a friend – someone who has gone on most of those Kiki-tiring hikes and bike rides with me – and she said, “Couldn’t you write up a contract that says the adopter has to send you a photo a day for a few weeks?” Ha! I could – but maybe I will just send them this blog post, instead.

But look: Many, many dogs escape from their new homes in the first week – especially ones like Kiki, who were once picked up as strays and spent time in a shelter. Kiki was also previously adopted twice and returned, and then spent a month with me! If she got loose, where might she try to go? It’s anyone’s guess! Adopters really have to make sure they keep ID on their new dogs at all times, and pay special attention to gates, doors, and even open car windows. Keep them leashed any time you leave the property until you have a great bond and a good recall – and check in with those former foster people!

** Postscript: As I was writing this, Kiki’s adopter sent me about five videos of Kiki playing with the Border Collie, and showing me around her acreage and home. It all looks terrific. I’ll sleep well tonight!

18 COMMENTS

  1. I have been rescuing for over 20 years, over 200 dogs have passed through my house. I worry about every single one. There is nothing that me happier than a photo of a dog that I rehomed. Thanks for telling your story, I have felt the same feeling more than once.

  2. So glad to hear I’m not the only crazy dog person who’s imagination goes wild, and I do mean wild until I hear from the new owners that all is well. It is actually much harder when I retire my adults to new homes. After all, we have had a lifetime together and I know their quirks, and I worry how the new owner and dog adapt to each other. Puppies are a little easier as they are a blank slate to work with and at least for a while pretty easy to catch if need be. The “return to Yankee Shelties if anything doesn’t work out” policy helps my fears, but only a little. My intellect tells me I just have too vivid an imagination on things that can go wrong (thanks for that hereditary trait, mom), but it doesn’t stop me from sleepless nights.

  3. Same here, I have been a foster parent since 2014 and worry over every single dog I place. It makes me feel so much better when I get pics and posts of the dog. The ones who don’t send me any, I moan and groan, worry and fret. I placed one dog and got a call that night. She had gotten away! When they took her out on leash to potty she fought the leash from fear and they let go from fear and surprise. So needless to say, I couldn’t breathe for 5 minutes. We jumped in the car and ran over there searching for hours in the dark. When I had her spayed, something said, microchip the dog in my name. SO GLAD I did. The next day someone found her and called the number on the chip tag. So with that experience, yes I have mild panic attacks at placing them.

    • I had nearly the same experience about 8 years ago! I was fostering a massively obese yellow Labrador whose owner had died; she had to lose weight before she could be spayed and adopted. It took her a week or so to bond to me, and once she did, she wouldn’t let me out of her sight. I had her for a couple of months and finally placed her with a middle-aged couple. I went on and on about NEVER letting her off-leash until she was good and bonded to them, because she acted like a lost dog who wanted to get away from me at first. I went into hideous detail: no walking unleashed from the front door to the car 10 feet away, NOTHING OFF LEASH for TWO WEEKS AT LEAST. About, I’m not kidding, two hours after the guy took her home, I got a call from the shelter saying she was lost. WHAT? The guy had gone home, and the minute she looked at a door like she maybe had to pee, he opened the door and let her out — into his unfenced front yard! “I just didn’t think she would run like that!” OMG. I spent the next seven hours, in 100-degree heat, searching for that dog — and when I found her (when she sheepishly came out from behind a barn as I was telling one of his neighbors to keep an eye out for her), you can bet that I did NOT give her back. I told the guy she had to be checked out at the shelter (lie) and I took her home. The guy never called the shelter to see what happened to “his” dog after that! I hope he was too embarrassed to do so. The dog eventually went to a great rescue, Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue & Sanctuary, for further weight loss and eventual placement. Every time I talk to them, we reminisce about “the one who got away,” lol.

      BTW, all my fosters go home with a collar that has my phone number stitched into it. I tell everyone to please leave that collar on until the dog has other ID. If the dog gets loose and someone finds her, I want to be the FIRST to know.

      • I have gone so far as to make an id tag with the new owner’s name and phone number. You can make a tag at any of the big box pet stores.

  4. I worry about every single one of my fosters… we have good reason to. This happens to me a lot (no response adopters) so I’ve been less paranoid about it more recently. And… I am really busy supervising and integrating the first few days with a new dog too.

  5. I empathize with all of your feelings. I don’t know how far away from you the new owner lives, but I always visit the home of the new owner before letting the foster dog go with them. I also make sure the dog is chipped and that the new owners have a tag with the dog’s name and their phone number on it and that it goes on the dog’s collar right away. And I impress upon them that they have to be extra careful about holding onto the leash for quite a while until a bond is established. Maybe it’s overkill and micro-management, but it helps me to relax.

  6. Thanks for sharing Kiki’s story — hope this is where her “happily ever” starts. Sounds like a perfect home. Job well done, Nancy.

  7. I really loved reading this❤️ I have been following along with this cute little dog since you first started posting pictures of her- I immediately fell in love with her big ears and was praying for a perfect fit.
    So happy she has a forever home

  8. Such good stories from foster “parents”. I have never fostered an animal, just always have a dog & a cat – never without! But hearing about someone ELSE’s imagination as to what can go wrong? THAT I understand completely. I tend to go off on a tangent whenever there is something going on with my animals – used to do it with my horse – now its all on my dog & cat (Axel & Juliette). Hope you all keep on fostering – the dogs & cats need you.

  9. We used to foster and I know exactly how that is! You always worry and fret and smile with joy and relief when you get a picture and things look as if all is well. We stopped fostering when we “adopted” a highly fearful dog (she was pretty much unadoptable–a Great Dane that would act with aggression when she was fearful and she was a puppy mill survivor and afraid of everything–she was really a sweet girl, but just so fearful and tried to make the scary stuff go away by growling, lunging, etc.). Needless to say, she did not want other animals that she didn’t know coming around. She was great with the ones that were here when she arrived, but nobody new, please. Now that she’s gone (lost her in August and I miss her every day), we could start fostering again and may do so in the future. Frankly, though, it’s been nice not having to worry about my fosters and cry for a week when they go home.

  10. Sure hope it works out for adorable little Kiki. A border collie pal her age sounds like a great fit for her. They will probably play chase games for hours, taking turns being `It’😊.

  11. Ecvery one that has adopted has said they will update me often! Occasionally I get a adopter that really does what they say they will. The first couple of days are the worst! You story makes me feel more normal! Thanks for writing!

  12. Paint Kiki black and that was my Ramses. Afghan hound/Boston Terrier/mutt. His ears could do semaphore. Once someone told me my internet avatar had a dog attached to them. Those ears. Sounds like Kiki found the perfect forever home.

    I’ve considered what I am going to do when Diana has passed. I considered fostering but like you, I think I would be a bit paranoid after they left me. And I’m sure at some point, I might end up a failed foster.

  13. We adopted a dog similar to Kiki and similar behavior. Her fosters came and liked our home for Kia. I too had a incident were she ran away in the first 2 days and of course recall was not working. Learned our lesson. Now 3 month after she is great and enjoys her long walks in the bush. Kia too has large ears. Enjoyed your story. I am still sending pics to the fosters and they appreciate it very much.

  14. rescuing for over 23 years and placing more than 1,000 dogs. I have an adoption contract that is legally written up. New owners MUST contact me everyday for one week, then 3 times a week for 2 weeks, then once a week for a month and appreciate contact after is appreciated. We request good and problematic acclivity’s. i feel is is the responsible thing to do for any responsible rescue.

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