Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The End of the Story

So, do you remember me saying that it was the demise of me becoming a foster parent? I wasn't joking. I don't think we'll ever get to foster for that rescue again, but I learned some very valuable lessons.
When Flick arrived I felt very overwhelmed. There were a lot of things that seemed to go wrong, or at least were a miscommunication between myself and the rescue, and I think these elements and several others lead to high stress levels for everyone involved; including the rescue volunteers.
I had been under the impression that when Flick arrived she would have everything she needed. I was told she came with bowls, collar/lead, muzzle, crate, coat  and food. When she arrived the only things she had  were her collar/lead, her muzzle which was too big-and apparently we wouldn't have even gotten that if her trainer hadn't given the woman who picked her up one-and a crate that had one door rusted shut. I was handed her leash and the woman said she'd come up and see how everyone got along. When we had chatted on the phone the day before she had asked if she could come up with her new foster dog and I said of course, thinking that we'd all sit down and have a chat about fostering and what that particular rescue expected. No one had done this with me yet and the only things I knew about Greyhounds was what I had read online. I thought she'd come in and give me a quick break down of the breed and allow me to ask any questions, but that is not what happened.
Flick, the volunteer and I went up to my flat to introduce Flick to the resident dogs. Hermione was the only one  out and about at the time as I didn't want Flick to be overwhelmed by dogs and also because Hermione was our greatest concern with regards to Flick's chase instinct.
As I suspected, Hermione wasn't a fan, but that didn't really surprise me. Hermione is, as I've said before, a "B" with an itch and can take some time to warm up to other dogs. She's fine with humans and will launch herself into their laps, but she will hang back and observe other dogs until she knows what they are like. She doesn't bark or growl and isn't rude, she just doesn't get super excited. I figured the two of them would figure it out eventually once Hermione realised that Flick wouldn't hurt her. The only problem was that when they first met, Flick excitedly went to sniff Hermione and whacked the already sore and drugged Hermione with the basket muzzle. If you have ever been hit by one of those, you will know they do not feel good. Hermione let out this horrible noise-I think it was more drama than anything-and removed herself from the room. She disappeared into her crate for the remainder of the day. Mr. K came out at that moment with Otis, whom Flick couldn't care less about, and Roscoe came too. I began to get concerned when Roscoe gave her the cold shoulder since Roscoe is our friendliest guy out of the bunch. He loves to play with other dogs, but I thought it was maybe because she was a different breed that he hasn't seen much and she was wearing the basket muzzle.
After Flick accidentally whacked Hermione, the volunteer was quick to high tail it to the door. I think she was in our flat for a total of five minutes and just showed herself to the door. I had so many questions and the first meeting of everyone had not gone quite as well as I'd hoped, but my opportunity to ask questions/raise concerns was walking out the door. As I stood there tongue tied and surprised at her sudden departure, I told Mr. K that I was confused because there wasn't any food for Flick and the woman had told me that Flick hadn't eaten that day. Mr. K told me to go down and ask her about food and so I did.
I was told, shouted from across the street, that we were to turn in receipts for Flick's food. I didn't have a problem with this method, but that is not what we were originally told and we didn't have any food for her right at that moment. We didn't have bowls either or a jacket. It's October in Scotland: Greyhounds need coats even if only for evening or early morning walks. I had so many more questions, and was also concerned as to how I was supposed to keep Flick warm when out relieving and walking, but the woman was basically in her car closing the door, so I went back upstairs.
Upon my arrival back upstairs, Mr. K was none too pleased about this new arrangement. I can't blame him. As I said before, it's not that we minded, it's just that we had been told something different and we were completely unprepared for our new arrival. We also found out quickly that she had not been relieved before she was handed over as she nearly went on the floor, but a quick "Flick no" cut that short. Thankfully, she is house trained and went instantly when she was taken outside.
There was a lot of stress in our house and so I decided to take Flick for a walk. We went for a good two hours, stopping in a local park to people watch. I introduced her to other dogs, but that was slow going because I think people were nervous of her due to the muzzle. After our walk, I came home to a still very stressed out Mr. K and a Hermione still hiding in her crate. I sat on the floor in front of her crate and talked to her, petting her and encouraging her to come out. I kept Flick nearby on leash and petted her too, trying to get the two girls used to each other. Hermione did eventually come out, only for dinner, and went right back in her crate. We tried putting Flick in her crate and having the household dogs wander about her, but Hermione still wouldn't come out and Flick made such a racket we were worried our neighbours would call the police. I didn't know what to do and so tried calling the woman who was supposed to be my contact for anything fostering related, but she would only text and sent me to voice mail when I called her.
I was tired, stressed and frustrated and knew that wasn't a good combination for any of the dogs, never mind the humans. I needed help and I wasn't getting any. So, I called the woman who had dropped Flick off in the first place and talked to her. She gave a few suggestions for getting the girls used to one another and just said to give it some time. I began to realise that I was not equipped to give Flick what she needed.
I spent the rest of the day attempting to help Flick to settle in and show our dogs that she meant them no harm. Mr. K was still not convinced and when Flick lunged at Hermione that was the last straw for him. Not being able to see, I wasn't sure if the lunge was a "let's play" or a "I'm going to eat you" lunge. Mr. K had been holding on to the leash at the time and I was sitting on the floor playing with Hermione. When we received a phone call from another person-apparently she was in charge of transport, but I didn't find that out until the next day-I told her what was going on. She suggested she come over and see if she couldn't help the two settle in together, but I think Mr. K was at his wit's end. I was feeling very stressed as well.
There aren't many things I will openly admit I cannot do as a blind person, but fostering dogs with potentially high and unpredictable prey drive, may be one of them. I felt on edge, waiting for Flick to go after Hermione, or even Otis, again. I thought I could do it, but I couldn't. I love Greyhounds and think they are gorgeous and loving creatures, in fact I had quickly fallen in love with Flick, but I think our household is not set up to accommodate the needs of a   raw Greyhound. That admission does not come easily for me, but there it is.
When the third person called us back, I said we'd keep Flick over night, but that she needed to have a new home the next day. It was one of the hardest conversations I've had. It wasn't Flick's fault. She actually was a really great house guest: she was perfectly house trained, which was a relief.
That night was a long and trying one. We were awakened by one dog or another almost every hour. Roscoe was the only one  who slept soundly I think. At five AM I finally took the two girls out into the living room in order to let Mr. K get some uninterrupted sleep. I sat on the couch, snuggling both dogs and thought that maybe we could do this, but then when Hermione tried to give Flick kisses and Flick growled at her, I went back the other way again. What finally made me feel as though I had made the right decision for everyone was when Flick actually lunged/growled/barked at Hermione when Hermione was just standing on the floor looking up at Flick who was laying on the couch. If I hadn't had the leash taut, Flick may have injured Hermione.
With all of that in mind, I think Flick is a great dog. When she went after Hermione, her self correction made her realise that she had done something bad. She instantly flipped over and started whacking me with her paws as if to say,"Oh no! I got carried away!" She was perfectly house trained, took treats gently, walked nicely on the leash and was a huge cuddle bug. She also had the benefit of being absolutely gorgeous. Flick was a brindle Greyhound, with her markings being larger so that she actually was marked like a tiger. Her coat was actually quite healthy and shiny. She did have a shoulder injury, from what I could tell, but I think that would heal in time. I have absolutely no doubts that she will get adopted very quickly.
Mr. K and I had a chat after she left and we both agreed that if we had been in a different situation-bigger flat, Hermione not healing from surgery, Otis being full grown or at least house trained-we would have kept her as a pet. Instead of wearing the "I failed as a fosterer because I had to give my dog back in 24 hours" t-shirt, we'd be wearing the "I failed as a fosterer because my foster dog is now living permanently in my home" t-shirt.
So what have I learned from this?
I've learned that it is okay to say no and that sometimes it could possibly solve a lot of heart break in the long run. I've learned, that despite what I think, I cannot possibly do everything or save everyone. Fostering may be something we will only be able to do  a long ways into the future when we really don't have any pet dogs, or at least not new puppies. Or, perhaps, fostering is not something I will ever be able to do due to my life's circumstances, but that there are other ways for me to help.
Despite all of this, I have no hard feelings towards the rescue. I think I just talked to too many people who probably assumed the person before them had given me the "welcome to the fostering Greyhounds  club" speech. A lot of what went wrong was also my fault and i take full responsibility for that. They are holding an online auction in the upcoming month and I've offered to make a hand tied fleece blanket and a Halloween themed doggie goodie basket. I know I can handle that at least.
Where do I go from here?
Hermione is going to be a year in a few months and I am thinking I may enter her into some beginner agility classes. She is crazy good at jumping/running/turning/going through/over things and actually enjoys it. So, I'm going to work with her on her basic obedience in order to get it a bit more reliable and then see in January if we can't get involved in some sort of agility club.


Mango Momma said...

Oh man! This brings back so many memories for me of dog adoptions gone bad in our household. Some rescue organizations are better than others, that is for certain and it is so hard to tell when you talk to the people because they are all very well intentioned.

But the safety and comfort of the resident dogs is the number one consideration and it sounds like a bad situation. Heck, even Roscoe wasn't happy about it.

Don't fret. I am sure Flick will find a suitable situation.

Now, you sure have me scratching my head over how you manage agility. You'll have to explain that one.

Mango Momma

The Websters said...

I'm so so sorry fostering didn't work out for you. you have such a good outlook on everything that happened.

The volunteer who is our contact doesn't foster at all but reviews applications and calls references. You are so right that there are so many ways to volunteer.

Can't wait to hear more about agility. I wanted Nora to be a therapy dog but the cost involved to get her certified is outrageous!


Love Amy said...

Does the rescue do exit interviews? Perhaps you could mention some of the communication frustrations you are having... working with volunteers, I can sympathize with well intentioned but misinformed volunteers. The info is inconsistant or full of holes. By highlighting some things you felt might have slipped through the cracks could actually make the place a better run organization! If no interviews like that happen, perhaps writing off an email or a letter to the board of directors or their lead manager. If they have some key people in place like that of course.

Jenny said...

Waw, that sounds like one crazy day. At least you know you gave it a go and did your best. You would always be wondering if fostering was suitable or not if you didn't do it. Now you can give more time to Ottis and the other dogs, and your new guide when you get it.