Top Ten Memorable Mishaps: What I’ve Learned (so far) While Fostering Dogs

1) When washing a shelter dog, do not forget to wash his head. I learned this lesson early. When I brought home Chester, my first foster, to say that he “smelled like a dog” would be an understatement. But, then again, I do have a superhuman sense of smell.

One of my best friends, Tracy, and I set about washing him. Scott had given me permission to foster, as long as I would do all the work. “I like my life to be EASY,” he constantly reminds me.

When he got home, though, he said, “He stinks!”

“We know!” Tracy and I wailed. “But we don’t know WHY! We bathed him!”

“Did you bathe his head?” Scott asked.

Oops. No. We did not bathe his head. We couldn’t remember why. — either we didn’t want to get soap in his eyes or we just forgot.

“His head has fur too,” Scott said exasperated, and then gave him a proper bath while T. and I watched. Lesson learned.

2) Do not allow your children to lift dogs half their size. Or put them in situations where they’d think they might need to.

My very petite six-year-old wanted to walk our second foster dog, 22 pound Chester Berkeley. I said, “Sure.” She walks Emma, our miniature dachshund, often with no problem.

I did not predict Berkeley would pull away from her, or that he would take off immediately afterward. Or that Arina would chase him, screaming and crying, not having faith that he would come back to her or to our house. Or that, when she finally cornered him in a neighbor’s doorway, she would try to pick him up and carry him home.

Having heard her scream, I ran outside and watched as they both fell over, Berkeley’s long snout poking her in the eye.

The next morning, it was black and blue and swollen. I was convinced we were going to get a call from the school counselor, demanding to know who had given our first-grader a black eye. I was almost equally afraid of Arina’s explanation: that her mother brings new dogs into the house all the time and that one of them “bit” her, which would take the abusive charge to negligent.

I received no calls, thank goodness, although I wonder what her teacher thought when she read the following in A.’s school journal: “My eye is sowlean. My adopdedid dog bit me under the eye! I’m ok now. My mom put some metusen on it yesterday.”

3) Never promise a prospective adoptive parent that the dog is [fill in the blank here]. One of the selling points I used for Chester Berkeley is: fully potty-trained. And, indeed, he never had a potty accident inside our house. But, as soon as I used that as a selling point, he pooped on the floor in the first two potential homes he visited. Bad boy. And bad foster mother for jinxing it.

4) Dogs are not sheep.

Scott and I went to his parents’ house one weekend with Chester Edisto, with plans to build them a deck while they were away on vacation. Mrs. Fisk has a dog, but she does not let him jump on her furniture. Of course, the first thing that Chester E. did was jump on her couch.

“No, Chester Edisto,” I said pulling him down. “Here’s your bed.”

He jumped up again.

Repeat this at least twenty times.

Enter Scott. “Well,” he said, “Shepherds use crooks to herd their sheep.”

Me: “We don’t have a shepherd’s crook.”

Scott: “We have this,” getting a broom. “I’ll sweep the couch, on the opposite side from Chester E. I’m sure he’ll jump down. And he won’t jump back up b/c who knows when the couch will be swept again.”

I looked at him doubtfully. “It’s herding,” he said.

And Chester E. did, indeed, jump down as soon as Scott touched the couch with the broom. BUT, he jumped so far across the room that he very nearly overturned the Fisks’ new and probably very expensive LCD television.

And Edisto was so traumatized that we had to spend half an hour calming him down. He slept on the couch the entire weekend. Sorry, Mrs. Fisk.

5) Don’t fight in front of your children. Or your dogs.

Scott and I adore each other. We rarely fight, but, when we do, it’s of the Heathcliff/Catherine in Wuthering Heights variety. It’s . . . well . . . stormy.

We know not to have these blow-ups in front of the kids. But the kids were in bed, fast asleep. I don’t even remember what, exactly, we were fighting about. — only that it had something to do with Scott’s Battlefield Two computer game obsession. I always say that we have our fiercest to-dos over the game, because Scott’s adrenaline rush from playing seems to make him particularly volatile.

I probably asked him to stop playing to help me with some mundane chore. He probably told me “no” or that he wants to do what he wants to do. But he said it loudly, whatever it was.

Me: “Stop it. You’re being mean.”

Scott: Not stopping.

Me: “Stop it. You’re being mean.”

Scott: Not stopping.

Me: “Stop it. You’re being mean” as I aim a rotten tomato at his head. [yes, i know that i shouldn’t have done that, and who knew i’d have such perfect aim?]

Scott, with tomato juice dripping from the back of his head: VERBAL EXPLOSION of some sort, while breaking the pepper grinder against the floor.

Chesters Edisto and Florence: Both run upstairs to Jack’s nursery. Edisto jumps in the chair beside Jack’s crib. Florence hides beneath it.

Scott and I, shamefaced, spend the rest of the night (1) cleaning up the stairs, since one dog pooped on the way up them; and (2) explaining to Chesters E. and F. that foster mommy and daddy sometimes fight but that we love each other very much.

And there’s nothing like cleaning up dog poo and comforting fur babies to make you feel like a team again.

6) Do groom your dog. For some dogs, grooming and cleanliness are closely intertwined.

Only having short-haired dogs, I never thought about the importance of grooming until I brought home two very neglected poodle mixes that were recently rescued from the Marion County kill shelter.

Both were so frightened that they pooped when I picked them up. And their tangled mess of hair acted like a net for it. Laurie, who runs Sandy Crest Kennels (where the boys were being temporarily housed), tried to wipe Chester Gilbert before I put him in the car with me, but wiping only seemed to make it worse.

Chester, featured in #1 above, smelled like a dog. Gilbert (and later Hampton) smelled like a sewer. My mother, who was driving, sped home. I mentioned that she was going to get stopped for speeding, to which she replied, “Well, then, I’ll just tell the officer to stick his head in the window, and he’ll see why.”

Something I never thought I’d do: Cut days? weeks? months? worth of dried poop out of a dogs’ fur. I’ve done that now. Twice.

7) Never aim a syringe full of dewormer at the ceiling.

Really, enough said. The vet prescribed Gilbert and Hampton 3-days’ worth of dewormer in a syringe as a precaution. They were both so terrified during their vetting that he didn’t want to traumatize them further with a fecal exam.

The dewormer was of pepto bismol consistency, only white, and each syringe was capped with blue plastic, to keep it from leaking. The plastic cap was stuck. I thought that I would put the tiniest bit of pressure on the end of the syringe to pop it off. The result: Dewormer dripping from the bottom of my kitchen cabinets. Then, me, frantically trying to collect it, so that I could give it to the boys.

8 ) Do not underestimate a pregnant/nursing mother’s ability to get around.

While pregnant, Chester Iva was too big to be believed. Since giving birth, she looks too emaciated to be believed. Chester Iva, in both states, seemed/s like she should not be able to move quickly. But, if she spots Emma or Mr. Knightley or Chester Edisto near her pups, she will level her huge ears and charge towards them, like a bull. They scatter like bowling pins. Needless to say, E&K&E leave Iva’s pups alone, and Scott and I are more careful about assuring her when other dogs are around.

9) You may know the difference between male/female, but don’t assume that you can tell the difference with newborn pups.

I was sure that I would be able to pick up pups on the day they were born and sort them, male or female. I sat down, with a pencil and a sheet of paper, and started inspecting and recording. When I looked at my completed list, I was reminded of those times in grade school when I would throw in a different letter in “ABCD” choice questions for good measure, when it seemed time to see one.

So, I had to educate myself, Hermione Granger style, before I understood the secret to sexing puppies (i.e. boy part is right below the umbilical cord; girl part is between the legs).

Also, puppies are squirmy. But I’ve already written about that mishap:

10) Remember: Sometimes rescue commitments fall through.

After Chester Iva’s pups were born, I got an email from the rescuer in Philadelphia who was planning to take them all a week or two after the birth. She was no longer able to do so. PANIC. I was terrified to tell Scott. This had the potential to be more than a “mishap.” It would be a genuine crisis.

I didn’t tell Scott until I had emailed several rescue organizations, hoping to find another one willing to help. I tried to take a nap that day, but I kept waking up because of strange dreams/nightmares. In one, I secured a rescue, only to discover that Chester Iva had turned into a cat and all of her pups into kittens.

“I’m sorry,” the person who had committed to rescue said. “We’re a dog rescue, not a cat one.”

“But they were dogs this morning,” I wailed, before waking up.

Thankfully, there’s something else to remember; namely, that the world is full of good people. Special thanks to Jen at Save-A-Litter Pregnant Dog Rescue in Logansville, GA. Her organization will be taking Iva and her thirteen. She will find them forever homes and has secured a wonderful foster home for them until that happens.

I’ll be writing a special post for them when the time comes, but until then, look up Save-A-Litter Pregnant Dog Rescue on facebook and give them a big thumbs up, on Iva’s (and Jefferson’s, Kline’s, Lydia’s, Marion’s, New Ellenton’s, Oates’s, Patrick’s, Quinby’s, Ruby’s, Sumter’s, Taylor’s, Ulmer’s, and William’s) behalf.

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