07 August 2011

The creation of love and sadness

Upon returning from Rhode Island, I got a call from a local dog rescue for whom I agreed to foster dogs a LONG time ago.  Having never been called, I was surprised to hear from them, and even more surprised that I was being called in as an emergency temporary foster.  A dog named Bear was surrendered in Wilson County, NC.  He was covered in dredlocks, having not been brushed or groomed in ages.  For the last year, he had been living outside, as his family could no longer properly care for him due to severe medical problems and financial constraints as well.  In addition to the dreds, he had worms, ear mites, and the potential to be aggressive.

I picked him up less than 24 hours after getting the call.  He was clean shaven, shaken and a bit tentative.  I put him in my car and he happily came home with me.  After 18 hours with Bear, we had discovered a few important things.  He wasn't neutered, and he wasn't housebroken.  That's a recipe for him lifting his leg to pee on furniture.  He had no idea how to walk on a leash, and the pads of his feet were so soft, it was obvious that if he did once know how, he had long forgotten.  He knew commands, was food motivated and eager to please me.  I spent several hours with him working to build trust, playing fetch with him, cuddling him and working to further solidify his commands.  He also did not like the bearded giant.  At.  All.  In fact, they couldn't be in the same room together.  Knowing that I was going to be heading out of town for a long weekend in Virginia with friends, I got the process started to find him a new foster home.  As we are a household that relies heavily on having both of us take care of the animals, having Bear around wasn't good for us and it wasn't good for Bear.

Because of his aggression, I was directed by the dog rescue folks to have him evaluated by an animal professional.  The woman that I took him too said that he was borderline - he could either learn to be a well adjusted animal or become more aggressive and untouchable.

Armed with that knowledge, we sought a new foster home.  Bear seemed to be fine with the woman who picked him up to foster.  She agreed that if he could get along with her dog, she could keep him past the weekend.  Less than 3 hours later, she was on the phone calling to say that he had growled at her.  She was truly shaken, and I understand her concern.  He is a terrifying guy when he wants to be.  At this point, I was starting to see how the story would end.  I spent half of the drive to Virginia sobbing.  Bear was sweet and kind to me - but only me.  And I had abandoned him, as his family had, and here I was starting to see that he may, indeed, be untouchable already.

She had called both the foster coordinator and myself, we both directed her to keep the dog crated for the duration of the weekend, only bringing him out for minimal bathroom breaks and for food.  She wasn't comfortable with that at all. At this point, an emergency all call to the foster network went out.  We needed to find a foster home for Bear that was willing to work with him ASAP.  No one responded.

The conversation quickly turned to finding a place for boarding the dog for the weekend, but at noon on Saturday, there are no places available.  In hopes that we might find a place, I started thinking of ways to get them Bear's paperwork and rabies information, which I had with me.  The conversation turned yet again to simply taking him to the SPCA, Humane Society or the like, where he would certainly be marked for euthanization.  We pleaded with his new foster mom to, again, just keep him in the crate or to try feeding him pill pockets with half of a Benadryl in it.  A sleeping dog can't be ferocious.

In the end, he did get to stay the weekend with his new foster mom, but she wants him gone, no one will take him.  He is one very damaged dog.  There are a number of not so good breeders around and he may or may not have come from there.  Or, he could have been damaged by the behaviors of his owners and his previous experiences.  We're not to know or understand, just to cope with.

This is one of the hardest things that I have ever gone through.  I'm exhausted, stressed out and very, very sad.  I wanted this to work out and have a happy ending.  If Bear had not been terrifyingly aggressive to Alex, we might have kept him as our own.  He is great with Ellie, the cats and me.

If anyone reads this and has space in their home, heart and life for a damaged English Springer Spaniel, please let me know.  Otherwise, I already know how this story is going to end.

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