Puppies minus one

Picture by Misserion under a Creative Commons License.

Continuing on the off-topic note that my last post started on: if all goes according to plan, there will be one dog less in the shelter next time I go in. Let’s refer to this dog as Greyface.

Greyface’s impending absence has left me with a serious case of mixed feels.

Greyface is an older dog who is not doing well in the shelter at all. He is too stressed, loses weight to a point where his ribs are showing and has worn through the pads on his paws from nervous pacing and jumping up against the fence. He’s a sorry sight and has spent several months in the shelter already with very few people being interested in meeting him.

I spent some time grooming Greyface last week, finding him quite an enjoyable dog, and asked the shelter staff if there was no option to put him with a foster family because he was so obviously miserable. When the shelter admitted that there was no foster family available, I offered that Beloved and I could take him until he found a new home, or until we moved abroad (in case you wonder – we had discussed possible fostering even before I started volunteering and I did make it clear to the shelter that unless Beloved consented to this particular critter, there would be no deal). Less than ten minutes later the shelter staff agreed that it would be a wonderful idea. We set up an agreement – Beloved should come in first to meet Greyface, to see if they would get along and then we would take him home a few days later, when we were done with our current home improvement project.

Saturday came, I took Beloved to the shelter and one look of Greyface’s slightly cataract-clouded eyes later, Beloved was sold. Greyface was totally welcome and we would work hard to give him a place with well-paced exercise, fun play and plenty of time to sleep and be a senior dog who needs to gain weight. I started making preparations – arranging for transport to take Greyface to my house from the shelter (because we’re car-free and he is a sizable dog who comes with sizable equipment), informing those who’d come to visit with their own dogs that there would be an unknown canine factor involved with their visit, copying Greyface’s schedule of six daily meals into my phone and .. well.. Even Beloved happily announced to some visiting friends that we would be fostering a dog and that they should expect cuddles. We talked about the rules we’d uphold with Greyface, about what walk-schedule to put him on and who would be responsible for what. I lost a fair few hours of sleep to happy daydreams of having fur stuck to the couch, saliva on my jeans and an irrefutable need to go outside four times a day, snow and ice notwithstanding. Beloved joked a litte about how he’d only ever seen people show this much anticipation over the arrival of a new baby. He may have been right.

I went back to the shelter to volunteer again, a few days before Greyface would come home with us. So many people expressed their happiness to see Greyface get a place outside of the shelter. We discussed updating his web-listing with pictures I’d take at home and writing him a new character description based on how he behaved. I offered to take Greyface back to the shelter with me once a week on one of my volunteering days so that the people who like him could see how he was doing. People offered me rides for those weekly trips (because, really, a nervous dog with stomach issues on a commuter train is just not all that great of an idea) and I graciously accepted. Everybody thought it was a great idea.

Less than an hour after I got home that day, I got a call from the shelter staff. Much to everyone’s surprise, someone had come in and expressed an interest in permanently adopting Greyface. I have not heard from the shelter since, and can only assume that the adoption process has been started and that he won’t be there when I next go in. Obviously it is great that such a senior dog can find a permanent home. I think that the people who adopt him will find Greyface to be sweet, obedient and all around awesome. I hope and believe that these people and Greyface will get along and get lots of love and enjoyment out of their newfound companionship. I hope we never see him again, other than in a picture attached to a card or e-mail about how well he’s doing.

So, all that is nice and splendid and I am happy.

But I’m also sad – perhaps ridiculously so, but so be it – that I don’t get to have this dog who I get along with so well to grace our house, if only for a little while. I’m surprised at how over-the-moon excited I was when it appeared that we would get to have a foster dog and I’m even more surprised at how genuinely, handkerchief-wettingly sad I am now that it has become so very unlikely to happen after all.

I suppose there should be a moral to this story – something about developing more empathy for other humans and the cycle of joy and sadness that comes with a hoped-for expansion of your family, or better understanding the importance of pets for the good of the human soul, or some wise lesson or other that makes my post anything other than a self-centered ramble of a woman who didn’t get what she wanted – but I don’t feel like twisting the story that way. I could write the moral and it would be true, but it wouldn’t feel genuine in this moment.

I’m going to make tea and feel sorry for myself for a little while. Soon enough I’ll be back to cleaning kennels and I’m sure the other pooches will be happy enough with my care that it will make me feel better. And if the unlikely happens and for some reason these people decide not to adopt Greyface after all, then I’ll take him home and give him the best foster home a dog could ever want.


4 Responses to “Puppies minus one”

  1. 1 Sheryl January 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    That’s so hard. He may not have been “your” dog officially but it sounds like you love him a lot and letting go here must be difficult. I so admire the bravery of being willing to take in a dog on a foster basis, to be willing to do the hard work of being a dog owner with the knowledge that one day you’ll have to step back.

    • 2 thesmittenimmigrant January 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      Thank you! I find it difficult not to be hard on myself and tell myself that I am silly for being sad, so I appreciate your supportive comment very much.

      I do hope we can foster other animals in the future. I’m sure that will make me sad again when the time comes to let them go, but with all the joy from actually living with the critter in question, I expect it to more than balance out.

  2. 3 Amanda January 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I am so glad you did not make a whole twist to the moral of this story because your story in itself will perhaps inspire someone else.
    More people like you are needed, there are just so many dogs (and cats) in shelters, and everyone wants to take a cute little pup or kitten (and so the adults stay there).
    It is very hard to be willing to make all the sacrifices fostering / adopting takes, specially dogs in apartments. Dogs are so full of energy you have to take them for walks, twice a day preferably and let them go crazy so that all the energy goes out. Otherwise they just become sad and destroy your house out of boredom. I would never have a dog unless I had a house with a garden, and then again, with the comittment to walk it. The boy does not like dogs at all (he was bitten as a child so he does not trust them). I was bitten too, I even had to had minor surgery to remove the scar it left, but I am not afraid of them. I understand that (specially) these dogs have gone through a lot and are often scared or mistrust humans (understandable).
    We want a cat though, since forever. But we haven’t got it yet because we don’t want to add another possible chance of risk to our fertility struggles. I *know* that taking all the necessary hygienic measures (gloves, hand washing, daily litter changing, etc.) basically minimize to 0 the risk of Toxoplasmosis, but I am negative to it (weird since I have been in contact with quite a number of cats in my life) and with our unexplained case I really just don’t want to add more to the gamble. I know all kinds of things and knowing them does not help with this journey. So, no cat until our baby comes.
    I really admire your work. As soon as I get my wiley ducks in a row (NT2 II exam, then rijbewijs) I am thinking of volunteering, maybe by the dierenambulance.
    Thanks for sharing this, it really is important, and quite controversial. Because of animal welfare issues they are trying to forbid or have forbidden that dogs / cats that don’t get adopted be put down so they have to be kept in bad conditions (often the shelters do not even have enough money for basic care, that is, cleanliness and food) and at the same time veterinary faculties have a shortage of animals from which to learn.
    If people would just stop abandoning animals, getting pups by impulse without previously knowing all that it implies and comitting to it, like you did, and realizing the importance of sterilization, the story would be different.

    • 4 thesmittenimmigrant January 30, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      Thank you, Amanda.

      I fully agree with you on the importance of neutering one’s critters. Thankfully, the problem with shelter animals here is not so big that animals need to be put down ‘routinely’ to make space for new ones. In our shelter, I’ve heard of one ‘unadoptable’ dog that they eventually put down. He was very hard to place because of behavioral issues and the long stay in the shelter only exacerbated them until he became so miserable that euthanasia seemed the better option. That’s rare, though. There’s one dog who has been in the shelter for over 18 months now, and so long as he stays healthy and (relatively) happy, they’ll keep trying to adopt him out.

      Personally, I’ve never considered a yard a must-have for owning a dog. Then again, most dogs that I have personally encountered here are city dogs – they get walked three or four times a day for considerable distances, which compensates for a lack of yard space, I guess. When I lived with my parents, we would walk our dog four times between nine in the morning and midnight and more if she indicated needing to pee or poop. We’d also play games like hide and seek or tug-of-war with her, often indoors (because of a lack of inclement weather). My parents do have a garden, but it wasn’t used to ensure that the dog got exercise.

      I do know of people (for instance in the US) who take one walk a day with their dog and, yard or no, I always feel a little sorry for those dogs. Maybe that’s irrational, though, if the dogs get the run of a sizable piece of land. To me it seems that more walks and play provide a good excuse / reason to add some daily training into a dog’s routine, as well as bonding time between owner and dog. I don’t know if that is as easy to have when the dog mostly exercises itself.

      It makes total sense that you would hesitate to get a cat right now. I am sure that when the time is right, there will be a shelter kitty out there that fits perfectly with you. It is surely strange that you have not become contaminated with toxoplasmosis at some point and I had no idea that toxoplasmosis could influence fertility at all, either. It just goes to show how difficulty to conceive can influence all aspects of your life. It must be hard to never get away from it, and to think about every aspect of your life with your fertility in mind.

      When the time comes for you to look into volunteering, the Dierenbescherming has all kinds of animal-related volunteer work. A friend of mine volunteers with them and apparently gets to work with a cat-matching system to connect people to suitable cats. She also takes calls for the dierenambulance’s central call center.

      Anyway. For now, I wish you luck with the NT2 and other duck-herding activities. I keep my fingers crossed for you.

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