Foster or ‘Foster Fail’..?

It has been quite a while since I last posted anything to my blog but I haven’t been just sitting around idle.  Summer is typically the time when my blog production drops off in favor of more outdoor activities and social engagements.  Only the darned mosquitoes can put a dent in such activities and this year they truly did so.  But I’m also experiencing a brand new situation for me, one which is proving to be extremely rewarding albeit often time consuming.  But first, a bit of background…

In March of 2018 I was sure my beloved 8.5 year old female Alaskan Malamute (Anana) didn’t have long to live; she was slowing down dramatically and spending so much time just sleeping.  Sadly, I was correct as my ‘little’ angel passed away in the wee hours of May 4th.  I had been concerned about my male GSD (Qanuk) and his reaction to the loss of his life-long pal and mentor.  As such I had thought about a companion for Qanuk when Anana passed on; thankfully, I discovered one of the staff at the Sunshine Community Health Clinic (Crickett) – I sit on their board – was very active in ‘AK Cat & Dog Rescue’.  As an aside, this is another example of the rewards from volunteering!  I spoke with Crickett a number of times about getting a rescue dog as a companion for Qanuk.  She was very knowledgeable, helpful and understanding.  During our discussions she suggested I might look at fostering canines for the organization.  At first, I couldn’t see myself doing so as my four legged companions are family members and one doesn’t just give them away at some point.  But the more we spoke and the more I reflected upon the idea the more I thought I might like to give it a try.  AK Cat & Dog Rescue did a thorough background check and decided I was acceptable as a foster; this thrilled me but also generated a bit of concern as both rescue canines and fostering were brand new situations for me.  I’d always had purebred canines but now felt I needed to give something back to the canine world which had given me so much in previous years.

Early in the week of June 10th Crickett notified me of a brand new rescue needing a foster.  I am listed as preferring larger canines at least a year old with no preference regarding gender or color.  An emaciated Black Lab had been rescued while wandering aimlessly and was close to starving to death; he appeared to be a senior dog and was in dire need of food, shelter and love.  I agreed to meet Crickett and Lisa (the head of the rescue) at the Trapper Creek Trading post the afternoon of Saturday, June 16th.  I brought Qanuk with me to insure he was ‘okay’ with the potential foster.  I met a rail thin, energetic, curious and playful male Black Lab without a name.  He wasn’t neutered and had an inactive micro-chip.  The poor guy had been found wandering south of this area and was in sad shape.  As Qanuk appeared okay with this dog I agreed to foster him and we went through what was required; we knew he needed dental surgery for an abscessed tooth, had to be neutered and needed an active micro-chip.  All these procedures were arranged to be handled by Dr. Hagee in Trapper Creek.  But first I needed to get some weight on this boy to the tune of fifteen to twenty pounds.

Shadow's 1st Day

Shadow’s first afternoon at our place

I brought him back to our house and immediately took him around the property encouraging him to mark his territory.  I wanted to insure if he every wandered off he could find his way ‘home’.  As soon as I let him in the house it was obvious he had been a house dog as he was completely comfortable with lounging/playing inside.  That night he climbed into my bed and spent almost the entire night sleeping next to me.  He was potty trained but as his age was originally estimated at 10 to 12 years I treated him as a senior canine and made sure he went outside around 01:00 in the morning.  He is a voracious eater and literally attacks his food bowl.  I’d been warned to feed him small amounts many times a day as he literally inhaled his food and often this would make him sick and he’d lose the meal.  Dr. Hagee told me of a trick which has worked wonderfully; I place two fist sized rocks in his food dish and then add his food.  This forces him to ‘eat around’ the rocks and really slows down his intake.  What a great idea, so simple yet effective!

Shadow Attacking Food Dish

Shadow Attacking His Food Dish

In the five weeks Shadow has been with us he’s become a true ‘wonder dog’ in so many respects.  He really helped Qanuk who was obviously much more impacted by the loss of Anana than I realized.  Although a bit standoffish at first, Qanuk had almost no choice but to succumb to Shadow’s playful nature; ever so slowly Shadow drew him out of his shell.  As he had no name I was allowed to name him; the name ‘Shadow’ actually works on a couple of levels.  He is always under my feet or within a few feet of me so he really is like my shadow.  And his shiny black coat makes him look like a shadow.  He has a marvelous sense of humor and a deep mischievous streak which I find so adorable.  Every morning when I arise I go on a ‘scavenger hunt’ to locate my socks; Shadow carries them all over the house during the night.  He and Qanuk really play indoors; the scrappy now 65 pound Black Lab more than holds his own against Qanuk’s 96 pounds.  Shadow has also helped my own grieving/healing process; the loss of my beloved Anana hit me very hard and initially I couldn’t see getting another canine.  But Qanuk needed a pal so I waited a month and then pursued the idea.  A friend told me she suspected Anana had something to do with Shadow coming into my life; I can believe it.  Actually, Shadow is much like Anana in his innate love of anything on two legs, his friendly outgoing personality and that previously mentioned deep mischievous streak.  Although it has hardly been five weeks since Shadow came into our lives the magic he has worked for both Qanuk and I is amazing!

Shadow & Qanuk at Play

Shadow encouraging Qanuk to play

But, as a foster, I have to be ready to surrender my charge to an approved adopter when one is found.  Of course, I could keep Shadow myself and become what is referred to as a ‘foster fail’.  To be honest, if no one steps up once Shadow is ready to find his ‘forever home’ I will gladly keep him.  But I also believe Shadow would do best with a younger family with at least a couple of kids and maybe another ‘canine friendly’ dog.  Shadow craves attention and lives to run and play; as such I feel a family would offer him all the affection and activity he might desire.  I try to give him what he wants but it is beyond my available time and energy.  He is so sweet and affectionate!  It breaks my heart when I have to ask him to ‘back off’ when I have other chores to handle.  He is the perfect companion in that he’s always ready to go, full of energy, wants only to be loved and shown affection and – of course – needs lots of play.  Dr. Hagee believes he is actually around seven years of age and I can believe this is the case.  Qanuk lives to run yet Shadow keeps up with him on our two plus mile walks with no problem.  Given all this and most importantly the fact I want the best for Shadow I would surrender him when that time comes although not without remorse!  He deserves the very best!!

Shadow Looking Soulful

Shadow looking soulful

I’m sure when I have to surrender him I will be hurting for a while but as long as he’s going to a better situation I believe I’ll be okay with giving him up.  As with so many things of this nature, I won’t really know until it occurs.  On an intellectual level I’ve gone over the possibilities ‘ad nauseum’ but there’s such a huge emotional component to such situations one cannot really know how they will react until they are actually involved.  Regardless, I’ve learned that rescue animals can be truly amazing and often their only ‘crime’ was being born.  I love the warm feeling I get when I realize I’m helping a wonderful canine find a bit of stability and love in an otherwise cold and unfriendly world.  And the desire to continue to do so burns very brightly within my essence!  It is truly amazing to see these poor abandoned and/or mistreated animals blossom with just a modicum of care and love; the unconditional love they return is boundless!!  They really seem to want what all of us desire at our most basic level; shelter, food and a bit of love and affection.  I’d often read or heard that taking in a rescue animal is a most rewarding activity; I can now confirm this is spot on and I suspect acting as a foster will increase the rewards by orders of magnitude… 

Here They Come!

Shadow with Qanuk in trail

10 thoughts on “Foster or ‘Foster Fail’..?

  1. Sounds like you have found a ‘deserving’ replacement for the time that you devoted to your radio show. Plus rather than not knowing if anyone is listening
    you have immediate feedback from love you are giving.

    Great posting thanks for sharing your thoughts

    • Hey Buddy – Thanks for the kind words; I really liked your perspective! While live radio was fun and I do sometimes miss it what I’m doing now is so much more fulfilling. Breaking news – I should have my second foster up here sometime this evening; ‘Izzy’ is a Pyrenees/Lab mix who was apparently abandoned in King Cove. She’s being flown into ANC on Ace Air Cargo arriving around 14:30 this afternoon. Although I offered to meet the ‘relay’ in Willow or Wasilla to make the transfer a generous volunteer is going to drive her all the way up from the airport! These folks at ‘AK Cat & Dog Rescue’ are just the greatest!!

  2. I call Foster Fail! Hooray for Shadow…hooray!

    • Hey Kiddo – I’d be fine with a ‘foster fail’ in Shadow’s case but I really think he deserves a family around him who can smother him in love, attention and, yes, play. I’m currently working with a new foster (Izzy) and it has been a difficult previous fourteen hours. Izzy is a two year old Pyrenees/Lab mix with a sweet personality but was apparently traumatized by an adult male at some point in her life. I’m working at gaining her trust; the poor baby had a really tough couple of days being flown into Anchorage from King’s Cove yesterday afternoon and then driven up here. She’s nervous wreck and struggling with anxiety induced bloody diarrhea. I think we’ll eventually ‘get there’ but it is currently tough sledding.

  3. Great to hear about your good deeds. Keep it up and spread the happiness.

    • Wilfred Was II

      Thanks for the positive feedback! I now have a second foster who is another precious soul. Izzy is a two year old Pyrenees/Lab mix who is just such a sweetheart. I will try to give her the stability and love she deserves but I have a feeling she might well be my first ‘foster fail’ as she and my GSD (Qanuk) are already good buddies. Shadow is in good shape after all his ‘work’ but he hates wearing that ‘flower pot’. However, it is necessary for around ten days so his surgeries can heal. I’m finding accepting rescue animals is so rewarding and fostering the same even more so..!!

      • I have seen one purebred Pyrenees in my life. He was huge and adorable. You are in trouble 🙂

        • Wilfred Was II

          Izzy is a real sweetie and has a build like a Greyhound and she runs like one! At two years old she’s a third the age of Shadow or Qanuk but even so she runs circles around them. She is just adorable; I’ll post some images of her in a bit. I’ve never known a Great Pyrenees although a friend has one and says they are wonderful canines. Given Izzy has already bonded with my GSD (Qanuk) and she is just so sweet she could well be my first ‘foster fail’..!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s