Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Foster Flunkie

Today's post is part of the I <3 Dogs Tour Week. Visit Tour Host Small Town Rescue for links to other blogs participating this week and to see how you can win prizes! And remember, if you'd like a copy of Vet Tech Tales: Vol 1, just let me know in the comments or by email. I'll be happy to send you a FREE e-copy in the format of your choice.

Today's guest post is by Karen Hartman

A few years after our first Sheltie died, my husband Tim and I wanted to help other Shelties find forever homes. We decided to help by fostering Shelties in our area, so we found a nice rescue and filled out the appropriate paperwork. Soon after, the group contacted us to schedule a home visit. One of the volunteers came to our home with her Sheltie. She was very thorough, asking us lots of questions and watching intently as we interacted with her and her dog.  We must have passed the test, as we were quickly added to the foster system.

The foster coordinator had a list of dogs entering the rescue group and worked hard to match them up with foster families. She tried to give newbie fosters (like us) an easy first dog, to get our feet wet. Ours was a scared little blue-eyed girl named Buttercup.

Buttercup was very thin, weighing only 10 pounds. She needed to put on at least 3-4 pounds. She had flaky, crusty ears and the hair was missing on most of her legs. She trembled as I put her into the car, and I wondered what kind of tragic life she had been living. I brought Buttercup to our home and, once she was inside, I took the leash and collar off her. She immediately went to “hide” under a side table in the living room and watched my every move. Each time I walked near her, she cowered.

After a few hours, I tried to take her outside. I called to her, but she wouldn’t come near me. I started towards her with the leash and she ran away, into another room. As I tried to coax her back onto the leash, I recalled the foster coordinator telling us to keep the leash and collar on her for the first day or two. If only I had remembered that guidance sooner! Buttercup eventually fell asleep, and I took that opportunity to slip the collar and leash back on.

For the first few days, Buttercup was quite wary. I took her for a medical checkup and got some ear drops, pills, and special shampoo from the vet. She was apprehensive, but willing as we applied the ointment to her ears and gave her a bath. Little by little, we started to bond as her trust in us grew.

After a couple of weeks, her ears were better and she was putting on a little weight. Her hair was also starting to grow back in. And she was even starting to show a playful side. Soon she was healthy enough to be sterilized, a requirement for every Sheltie that the rescue received.  

Dec. 2009: Just a few months later - what a difference!

I kept the rescue updated on Buttercup’s progress and sent a personality profile with pictures for them to post on their website for potential adopters to consider. Tim and I would scour the adopters list, trying to find a family that would be a good match for this timid little girl. But every time we read through the list, we found reasons to reject each one. Oh, those people have little children – that would be too much for her. Hmmm, these people have another dog – I’m sure she wouldn’t like that very much.

Two years in and it's clear who rules this household.

Meanwhile, Tim would whisper loudly to Buttercup in my presence, “Maybe if you ask her nicely, she’ll adopt you!” I knew then that she had found her forever home. I quickly informed the rescue that we wanted to adopt Buttercup and shared the news on the group email. That’s when we learned they had a term for people like us – the ones who kept the fosters they took in. We were called foster flunkies. I’ve never been more pleased about flunking something in my life! And I’m pretty sure Buttercup was pretty happy about it, too.  

It’s been almost three years now. Buttercup is still pretty timid, but she’s definitely part of our pack. She has a full, beautiful coat of hair and she’s gained a good five pounds. She’s learned how to sit, shake, lie down, and wait, and she loves treats and licking the toothpaste off her toothbrush. She continues to be hesitant with strangers and uneasy around other dogs, but we’re working on that. 


lexcade said...

Too bad all flunking doesn't include an adorable blue-eyed pooch.

Buttercup is BEAUTIFUL. It's incredible what a difference a little love and attention can make in a doggie's life. You've done great work with her. Keep it up!

Karen said...

Thank you, Lexcade! Yes, she's made quite a bit of progress, and learning to trust us a little more with each new day. I look back at the old pictures and can't believe it's the same dog. And in many ways, I guess she isn't - she's becoming the dog she was meant to be.