Why I foster scaredy dogs As a new volunteer at the Front Street Animal Shelter several years ago, I chose to do laundry and dishes rather than have direct contact with the animals. I feared being seduced into adoption by their adorable faces, doleful eyes and pitiable situations. Due to a major health issue, I had to stop this dirty, smelly work. (Hats off to those who do it every day!) I turned instead to just what I had tried to avoid—direct contact with the animals by becoming a foster “parent” to timid and fearful scaredy dogs. My first scaredy dog was Tito, an eight year old, unaltered Chi with languid “yo quiero Taco Bell” eyes. Tito freely roamed his family’s apartment complex, probably fathering generations of equally randy Chi’s, until neighbors reported him to animal control. Sadly, his family did not want him back. A feisty and impish charmer, Tito, agilely scaled the gate confining him to the kitchen even though he was wearing the cone of shame following his required neutering. The little climber soon found a happy home with my friend Yvonne and her resident Chi, Princess. Next was a stray female Chi I called Blossom because her personality bloomed as soon as she got home. Highly intelligent and ever so cuddly, this sweet little girl quickly owned my heart. We watched TV together, me rubbing her belly and teasing her, she mouthing my hand in gentle retaliation while wriggling up alongside me. One day, I had to leave her longer than usual. Before I left, I walked her into the bathroom, pointed to a puppy pad and told her if she needed to potty before I got back, she could use the pad. Smart girl that she was, she actually did. The shelter has an effective policy for reducing the pet population: no unaltered animals are released to new families, or even those who reclaim lost dogs. So Blossom was only with me until spayed and given to her new family. I hopefully offered to take her if her new family didn’t show. They did, and it was on to fosters Numbers 3 and 4—two pups. One pup was a beautiful Chi mix that resembled a tiny red Australian shepherd. The other was a floppy Schipperke mix who melted in my arms like a ragdoll kitty. Because they didn’t have all vaccines, I kept them inside, with the goal of training them to use puppy pads. Ha! Their chosen “puppy pad” was the living room rug. I tried to protect the rug by covering it with the puppy pads, but their exuberant play sent the pads flying. I can still see the two of them marching together through the house with my slipper in their mouths, for all the world as proud as the color guard in a parade. Even though the pups were the smartest, most remarkable dogs ever (of course), it was a relief when they went to their adoptive families and the living room rug was replaced. Then there was Chewy the Maltese mix, who got his name after chewing off most of his fur due to an easily treated skin condition. Chewy would howl ever so softly whenever I left the house. Once his fur grew back, this endearing little guy was quickly adopted. Chewy was followed by Sammy, also a Maltese mix, who was so grungy from life on the streets, it took multiple washings to reveal his true colors. Salem, a shy little Chi who secretly loved dress up, was another short-term resident. The saddest was Boss, a dangerously emaciated young pittie I took over Christmas. Boss did not let his dire condition derail his gentle nature or his relentless zest for playing fetch and chewing up all the dog toys. My last foster, Reggie, had heartworm and suffers from a chronic neurological condition that looks like doggie Parkinson’s. Caring for him for months convinced me he should become a “foster fail”, and so I finally adopted him. Reggie began his stay being nippy and highly territorial. A year later, his inner “mayor” has shone through: he visits all the neighbors and greets everyone that walks by our house. I’ve included a picture of him in his “chariot” at the Scoop Scoot walk in July, helping to raise money for the shelter. When people learn I foster dogs, most say they would end up keeping every foster, or they find the whole business depressing and say they just couldn’t do it. Here is where I admit the selfish part of fostering. I am so lucky, not only to witness the dogs’ transformation from reject to star, but to receive the amazing, unconditional love these animals give. Each dog’s capacity for resilience and affection is as surprising as it is heartening. As for the depressing part, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need foster parents—or shelters for that matter. As these places go, however, the Front Street Shelter is a jewel in the heartrending world of animal rescue and its volunteers are amazing.

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