The Joys, and Heartaches, of Being a Foster Dog Mom
March 22, 2007
My first attempt was a complete failure. Well, not a complete failure… A coworker found a Rottie in her neighborhood. Through some of the neighborhood kids, she got the whole story. A backyard breeder had her. The dog had 10 puppies (she, herself was quite young), and all but one died. Apparently, this made the guy mad, so he let the Rottie out on the streets. My coworker, a kind animal lover, took her in. This mama Rottie and her other rescue dogs didn’t hit it off at all. Mama Rottie got a big bite on the nose. I told her I’d take her and foster her through a breed-specific rescue group. She kept the lone puppy, Butch, who was later stolen from her yard. Ugh.
Mama Rottie, who I named Scout, had so little life experience. She didn’t know how to play, how to walk on a leash, or even how to ride in a car. Everything was new to her. She really bonded with my rescued Golden, so I kept her. She’s my “foster failure,” though she’s happy and healthy and spoiled.
Foster #2 was an Aussie mix I called Laika, named after the first dog in space. I found her curled up in a ball in a neighbor’s yard on a cold morning. I put out signs and no one claimed her. I signed up to foster her through HOPE. Part of fostering through HOPE is taking the dog to a local Petco for adoption days. My first Petco experience wasn’t great. No one wanted to look at adult dogs; only puppies. Luckily, Laika caught the eye of a nice young woman who had really done her homework regarding dog ownership. You could NOT have asked for a better owner. After she adopted Laika, she would send me photos that her mom took of her “grand doggie.” It was really quite sweet. I was happy because I knew Laika was happy.
The there was Riley. Poor sweet Riley. I found him on the sidewalk in front of a church on Memorial Day. He was a Pitt Bull/American Staffordshire Terrier or maybe a mix; a gorgeous boy with a brindle and white coat. It took almost an entire bag of treats to coax him onto a leash. But after that, he wouldn’t leave my side. He was a positively wonderful dog. He was very heartworm positive, but he got treatment for that. I also neutered him, vaccinated him, and fattened him up. He was a quick study. We went to several adoption days, but no one really gave him the time of day–I think due to the whole Pitt Bull thing. That was really unfair to him–he was nice, obedient, got along well with other dogs. Stereotypes really hurt his chances. This is Riley.
The entire time I had Riley, he battled diarrhea. Many different doctors saw him, but no one diagnosed him correctly. It wasn’t until he coughed up blood one day that I found out everything that was going on with this guy. I ran him over to my regular vet clinic, but saw a doc I wasn’t used to seeing. Dr. Dodge took X-rays and immediately saw there was something wrong. Later that night, Riley and I ended up in the doggie emergency room where he was further diagnosed with “something big and ugly.” We made the trek to the Texas A&M Vet School. Riley’s abdomen was riddled with lymphoma. His right kidney was completely destroyed. He had a mass on his intestines that was causing an intusucception which could be the source of his diarrhea. Lymphoma was likely what was in his lungs, too.
The doctor explained they’re the kind of lymphoma that’s highly treatable and then there’s the kind Riley has. That’s not to say no treatment was available; I could have tried surgery, chemo, radiation. But given the state of the disease, the variety of places in his body where it lived, and his enlarged heart (due to the heartworms), it was unlikely he would make it through the treatment. If he did, his life would only be an additional 6-8 months long.
He’d been in a oxygen cage all day because he was having such a difficult time breathing. They released him to me that afternoon after putting him on a light sedative to make the drive back to Houston as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, he gasped and panted and hacked the entire way.
After a brief visit to the park to sit in the grass and watch some birds, Riley and I went over to Montrose Veterinary Clinic where Riley was given a yummy frosted cookie and a lot of love from Dr. Dodge and all of the techs. He wagged his tail right up until he fell asleep in my lap. I will never forget that dog. I will never forget that day.
After that, I wasn’t sure if I could foster again.
Sometimes, you have to let time pass–maybe it’s to heal wounds, maybe it’s so you forget how difficult it is. I guess the right amount of time went by for me. Now I’m fostering two puppies. I’m happy to report they are eligible for adoption and will have their debut at Petco this weekend.
I wonder how long it will take me until I do this again?!