We brought home a 5 year old foster dog from the shelter. She was rescued from a puppy mill and had never seen the outside world before. Once her last litter of puppies were weened, the shelter began socialising her but she was too terrified for kennel life so she came to live in our home for 6 weeks.
I have watched so many videos on the internet, of people taking in foster dogs. Within about 3 minutes (the length of most of these videos) the dog goes from a terrible condition to being happy and lively, without any problems. Of course, none of these videos try to pretend that this change was achieved in 3 minutes, many even have a timeline included, showing it took months or years.
However, seeing only a short snippet of this transformation can still be subconsciously misleading. Although the bad clips are usually included in the beginning, we hardly ever see the setbacks or the random mishaps the foster home encountered along the way. It’s usually just a plain before and after view into a long, bumpy journey.
Due to this, I had skewed expectations, so when we went to pick up this dog, my mental bucket list looked something like this:
- Take dog to the beach
- Let her it ice-cream
- Have her run off leash in the forest
- Organise a birthday party for her
- Go through a drive-through and buy her a (one off) junk food meal
- Teach her to run alongside my bike
- Have her become best friends with my own dog
- Teach her basic commands such as sit, stay, down
- Have her sleep in my bed and cuddle her all day
Well, we are embarking on our 6th week with her this week. I guess it doesn’t come as a surprise that other than sleeping in my bed (yay), none of these objectives have been ticked off of my list. Instead, my biggest achievements with my foster dog look a bit more as follows:
- She drinks from a water bowl on the ground
- She eats on the ground – usually
- She can go up and down the stairs all by herself
- She tolerates my dog being in her space
- She can walk around the apartment when she is following someone
- She goes in her crate at night
- She can get in the car with almost no help
- She takes treats from our hands
- She comes when we call her name on a walk
- She doesn’t lay down anymore when she’s unsure during walks
- She likes swimming
- She has laid on a dog bed a few times
- She has played with a tennis ball once
- She eats dental sticks
- She also chews on sticks during walks
- She has tried to dig in the park
- She has wagged her tail many times
- She had her first ever zoomies!
- She went to a terrace restaurant with us
I am so incredibly proud of everything she has achieved. I now realise that likely none of the things on the original list would have made her happy, due to the anxiety they would have caused her. She is slowly getting braver and leaving her couch spot more often to explore the apartment and to interact with us.
While this doesn’t seem like anything major, my perspective on achievements has shifted and I believe sometimes we have to just live in the moment rather than expecting to achieve something grand. I have no doubt in my mind that with time, maybe a few more months or a few more years, she will be ready to catch up on everything that I hope for her to experience. But if she isn’t, that’s okay too, as long as she is happy and comfortable.