I was looking for a photo for a highly fearful dog, to go with Dr. Jessica Hekman’s article, “Canine Anxiety: The Neurochemistry of Dog Behavior.” The most chronically fearful dog I’ve ever laid hands on was one of my former foster dogs, a little American Cattle Dog-mix I called Diamond. I have hundreds of photos of that little lump of coal (diamond in the rough), because I fostered him for months – as did one of my good friends, trainer Sarah Richardson. We traded custody of the perennially afraid, formerly feral dog for nearly a year, but eventually, a shelter volunteer that I had trained overheard a couple at the shelter say they were looking for a Cattle Dog-type, and she thought of Diamond. She had helped me when Diamond was first brought into the shelter by animal control, and she fostered (and then adopted!) his less-feral younger brother from the same mother. She put the couple in touch with me, and somehow, they weren’t scared off by Diamond’s deep fear of the world, and they gave him a loving home. Ah, a photo search that recalls a happy ending!
That search took me through my digital folder of “foster dog” photos, and made me remember a few more foster dogs I had a hand in finding homes for. It also helped me realize that this has actually been a productive year in placing foster dogs – which is a little bizarre, because 2015 has also been a trial for me and my family. I lost a beloved brother to cancer. I lost another close relative to drug abuse, and though this relative isn’t dead, his addiction has him on the street and out of touch. My husband and I are helping raise this person’s toddler son. It’s felt like one crisis after another.
And yet, this small thing, looking for a photo of a dog I helped three years ago, took me into a folder where I saw photos of other dogs I helped this year – this “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” year.
There was Val, a Greyhound-mix I pulled from the shelter and placed with one of my son’s coworkers on Valentine’s Day. She goes to work every day with her owner, my son, and my son’s dog (also pulled from this shelter, a year prior!).
In May, I needed a photo of a tiny puppy for an article. I messaged the vet tech at my local shelter, and she confirmed they had a mama dog with a tiny puppy that I could photograph. I couldn’t stand to see the little mother so stressed, trying to raise her teeny single pup in a cage at the shelter, and brought them home. The girlfriend of one of my husband’s friends saw the puppy’s photo on my Facebook page, and now the puppy has a wonderful home – and I get to admire photos of her on my new friend’s Facebook page!
The mama took months longer to place; like Diamond, she was very afraid of people. When I traveled to Nebraska in September to visit the Nature’s Variety production facilities (article about that coming soon), my sister dog-sat “Mommy” for me – and fell in love! Another dog placed.
Keeping an eye out for a suitable dog for another one of my son’s coworkers, I pulled a nice hound from the shelter. She didn’t work out for him, but I placed her with my sister-in-law’s next-door neighbor! And found my son’s friend a nice little Aussie instead!
Five dogs who needed help, stayed with me a while, and found nice homes – thinking about them, I just realized how much they helped me, too.