You may have seen it coming. As I shipped last month’s issue to the printer, I was contemplating the fate of the many, many great dogs currently waiting for homes at my local shelter. I didn’t mention that I was especially tempted by one particular little dog – one of many, true, but one who stood out to me for some reason as an especially bright diamond in the rough. I’m not sure the shelter staff saw what I saw; every time they saw me take the dog out for a walk they’d sort of shake their heads. “She’s a handful,” was the most they’d commit to.
I’ll admit that the seven-month-old dog is so energetic that it was difficult to slip a collar and leash over her head and get her out of her kennel, and that she ran around like a maniac once turned loose in one of the shelter’s exercise yards. But the staff members were probably too busy to see what I saw: that in her haste to drag her handler out of the shelter building, she steadfastly tuned out the incredible distraction and din of her fellow inmates’ barking and lunging at their kennel doors; that once she stopped zipping around the exercise yard, she was incredibly sweet and affiliative; and that she figured out exactly what you wanted her to do after just one or two treats and words of praise, and repeated her praiseworthy behavior immediately. In other words, she was able to concentrate, even when in a stressful situation; highly friendly to and interested in humans; and quick and easy to train.
Yes, I’m now fostering her. I’m determined to find her the perfect forever home – and I don’t intend for it to be mine! I really do enjoy the ease of a one-dog household, and the close relationship I have with my singleton dog. At the same time, I’ve been hijacked by a single-minded desire to see this dog in an appropriate and appreciative home.
My husband is perplexed. “We finally have Otto trained to be a really good dog; why on earth would you start all over again with a dog who doesn’t know anything?”
I’d be hard-pressed to answer that question as I’m shoring up the flimsy temporary fencing that keeps Otto out of the winter garden – and that Zip (she has a name now) keeps running right through, under, and over. Or when I’m filling the holes she’s dug in other places in the yard. Or mopping up the soup she spilled when she jumped up on the kitchen counter to investigate that delicious smell. Or standing outside in freezing weather (even as I’m afflicted with my second winter cold), waiting for Zip to pee, so I can praise and reward her.
But if I find it inconvenient and time-consuming to teach an exuberant, uneducated dog to fit into a human household, how much of a chance does she stand in a home with inexperienced owners, or ones who aren’t lucky enough to work at home? We have to do what we can. Please: Spay, neuter, foster, adopt!