Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Dog I Couldn't Save

In the world of Animal Welfare, when we say one of our foster animals was a “Foster Failure”, it’s tongue in cheek.  It usually means the foster parent couldn’t part with the animal they were fostering and ended up adopting them.  It’s usually a happy accident!  Usually.


This was my foster dog Rudy, who I fell in love with!
One of my fosters, Rudy, who I fell totally in love with!
Buttercup was an adorable little Chihuahua mix that I fostered about a year ago.  She was my first Foster Failure, but it wasn’t the happy accident that usually defines “Foster Failures”.   This one was a true failure.  Buttercup turned out to be beyond my abilities.  I had to admit that I couldn’t help this one, I couldn’t save this one.

My Volunteer Coordinator Deb contacted me and asked if I could foster a sweet little dog named Buttercup who wasn’t doing well at the shelter.  She felt that Buttercup just needed a few weeks away from the stress of the shelter and she would be fine.  In a calm environment she might not be so skittish, which was impacting her ability to connect with potential adopters and find a new forever home.


Howdy was a foster dog that had minor issues with dominance, but he quickly overcame that after just a few days in foster care
My foster dog Howdy, who had minor behavior issues but quickly turned around
A couple of months before, I had fostered a little black dog named Howdy who had some minor behavior issues.  After just two weeks in our peaceful home with our well adjusted, well behaved dogs he was able to go back to the shelter and was adopted shortly afterwards!  I was still feeling good about Howdy and was ready to take on another foster dog, so I brought Buttercup home.

As always, my dogs were curious to meet their newest houseguest.  I put her in the guest room, a.k.a  The Foster Room, and put up the puppy gate.  My dogs sat outside the puppy gate as they always do, noses in the air trying to get a whiff of their new friend.
 


We use a puppy gate to do a slow introduction between our dogs and a new foster dog
My dogs outside the puppy gate greeting Howdy for the first time
I got Buttercup settled in her crate, giving her a doggie bed, water, and a bit of food.  After awhile I allowed my little dog Phoebe into the room to meet her, and later I brought my Husky, Isis in for a greeting.  This period of time is usually marked by curiosity, lots of sniffing, and a touch of wariness as personalities begin to emerge.  But this time it was weird.  My dogs seemed to sense something odd in Buttercup.  They quickly left the room and avoided her for the next two days!  Highly unusual.  Oh well , I thought, maybe they’re just not that into her.

In the next day or so I realized that Buttercup was more than a little bit skittish.  She was over the top skittish!  I had never seen such an anxious dog.  OK, no problem.  I can handle that.  Over the next few days I tried everything I could think of to ease her anxiety, but nothing worked. 

She chewed the plastic all around the plastic crate liner.   When I secured the liner to the crate with zip ties she managed to get underneath it and get stuck there.  She later chewed underneath the holes in the crate, making holes in the carpet.  She wouldn’t potty in the yard if we were out there so we put her in the yard and went inside for 15 minutes.  When we came out she had chewed off one of the wooden planks on a gate and squeezed through.  Thankfully, it was an internal gate that didn’t lead to the outside of the property, otherwise she’d have been long gone! 

There were many other expressions of extreme anxiety and I came to the conclusion that I couldn't deal with it on my own.  I assessed that she would probably need several months of fostering with someone more experienced than I in dealing with extreme anxiety.   I called my Volunteer Coordinator and shared my thoughts on Buttercup’s fostering needs.  She arranged to take Buttercup back.

You're probably wondering why I didn't post a photo of buttercup.  Actually, she looked a lot like Rudy, who you see pictured at the beginning of this post.  I searched for one of the photos I took of her during Buttercup's brief stay with us but couldn't any!  Perhaps I deleted those photos because I didn't want the reminder of my first foster failure.  I felt so awful that I couldn’t help Buttercup, it was a huge sense of failure. 

I found out later that Buttercup was transported to a rescue in another state that had the resources and the time to work with her on the anxiety.  After several weeks I was happy to learn that Buttercup was doing well in her new environment.  So in the end Buttercup got the help she needed, it just wasn't from me.

I try to tell myself it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t able to help little Buttercup.   Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, you come across a dog or cat that you are unable to help.  You have to acknowledge that and try your best to find someone who can.

 
Have you ever had a foster pet you felt was too much for you to handle?   Leave us a comment and share your story, we always love to hear from you!

35 comments:

  1. it is hard - but it wasn't a failure at all - through your assessment you realized she needed more help that you could give and she was placed some where where she could get that - that is a win in our books.

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, I really appreciate it! Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I don't see what you did as a failure, but as a success. You recognized that Buttercup needed more than you could provide at this time and got her the help she needed. That is awesome. I have never fostered, but living with an anxious dog with issues I can tell you that it takes a lot. I am a behaviour analyst and I still struggle with my Hailey some days and wonder if she is/was more than we should have handled.

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    1. Thanks so much for saying that! It means a lot, I really struggled with it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. You tried your best and did what you could do. At least she is still in a good place with people trying to help little Buttercup
    Snorts,
    Lily & Edward

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    1. Thank you for that, it means a lot! I'm glad that in the end it worked out for Buttercup and she did get the help she needed. Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words!

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  4. I have never fostered, but I can only imagine how incredibly hard it would be. And don't look at it like you failed. If we could save all dogs in the world, it would certainly be a better place, but unfortunately some things are out of our control. You tried your best, and you did amazing!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

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    1. Thank you Jenna, you're so sweet! I did try my best, but I had to admit that my best wasn't enough. I'm glad she ended up going to a place where they could help her. Thanks for stopping by Jenna!

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  5. I don't think I could ever foster, so I admire anyone that even tries. It sounds like Buttercup ended up being where she needed to be, and I hope you didn't let it get you too down.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. Fostering is so wonderful and rewarding. Sometimes it's hard to let them go, but I tell myself that it frees me up to help the next one who needs it. Not being able to help Buttercup bothered me for a long time but I'm ok now, especially since she did get the right help. Thanks for stopping by Janet!

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  6. You did what was the best for the dog. That isn't a failure.

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    1. Oh, thank you for saying that Carleen! I appreciate the support. Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. I've fostered three dogs and kept the third one (Boca). My first, a Norwegian elkhound, was a challenge and stayed with me for almost three months. He chewed up a comforter, several pillows, curtains, a remote and a PHONE. I also had a transport Norwegian elkhound that I couldn't get out of my car - he was snapping at me (lesson learned to never detach the leash). We had to have the vet staff come with their catch pole - it was really sad and made me not want to transport again but I've done it since. I'm glad Buttercup was able to get the help she needed and it sounds like you've made a difference for a lot of dogs. Howdy was adorable!

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    1. Wow, you really hung in there! I admire your commitment and determination in continuing with transport! You had a couple of difficult cases for sure. I'm glad you didn't let those incidents deter you from helping dogs who need you! Thanks for visiting us on the blog and for sharing your stories!

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  8. That was a heartwarming story of the dogs you were able to save and you sound like you truly tried with Buttercup and that is so wonderful of you!

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    1. Thank you Robbi, I appreciate that! I did try with Buttercup but she was beyond my abilities. I had to admit that and find someone more qualified to help her. Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. We had to return our first foster dog who we had for 24 hours because he was an excited urinator and howled horribly in his crate... and we live in a condo with carpet. I had specifically told the rescue that we needed a dog with no separation anxiety because of close neighbors.

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    1. Oh wow, that is a tough case for sure! You definitely need to be matched with a dog that will be a good fit for your home and living situation. It sounds like you didn't let it deter you from fostering again, which is great! Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. Thanks for sharing your difficult story. The way I see it, you did help Buttercup. It's important to recognize when a situation is too difficult for us and to get more expert help, which you did. Thanks to you putting her needs first, you became a stepping stone on her journey to getting the help she needed.

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    1. Thanks for putting it that way, Val, I appreciate that! Thanks for stopping by and offering your kind words!

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  11. Thank you for your honesty, it's refreshing! It's incredibly difficult to foster, especially with two other dogs. It it wasn't for you and your insight, care and guidance, she wouldn't of found what she needed. You brought her to the correct place... You were successful!

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    1. Thanks, it's a tough thing to admit especially to a large audience of pet lovers. As you would say, I had to exercise some #DigitalBravery! I love that saying, it actually helped motivate me to write this post - and I first saw it on your blog so thanks for that!

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  12. Thank you for sharing this. Animals are just like people; not everyone can live together or work together. You did what was best for Buttercup and it sound like he got the help he needed.

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    1. That's true, not everyone is a match in terms of skill or temperament. I'm glad she eventually got the help she needed. Thanks for stopping by.

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  13. You definitely did your part to help save her. I hope one day you see this as a success rather than a failure. You gave her a chance and from there she was able to find the place that was better suited to her needs.

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    1. Thank you for saying that, I guess it was good that she came to me and I was able to recognize that she needed a level of skill I didn't possess. I really appreciate your input (-:

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  14. To me, that's a win, not a failed foster. She needed particular help that is not in your skillset -- it happens, especially with dogs that may need medication and a handler familiar with the problem. Anxiety is terrible thing to witness in a dog and it's great that you didn't try to tough through it, but got her on the right road to the help needed by assessing her for your coordinator =) Congratulations!

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    1. Thank you so much Mary, that is so sweet of you to put it that way! Your support means a lot to me, thanks!

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  15. Despite it was awfully hard for you, we think you did your best, and that that "fail" is indeed a win : she won, thanks to you, the chance to get what she really needed. Paws up for you ! Purrs

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  16. I have fostered twice and I am ashamed of sorts to admit my heart cannot handle the letting go. I cant keep them but I get too attached.

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  17. Thank you so much for your honesty. I know how hard it must have been to write this.
    And I am so glad that there was a happy ending also

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  18. I've never fostered a dog but Gretel was super anxious when she came to live with us. Much like Howdy, she calmed down a bit once she was in our stable home with an even-keel dog as an example. I wouldn't have the skills to deal with a dog that anxious either.

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  19. What a great and honest post. Instead of feeling any guilt, you should pat yourself on the back for knowing when you were in over your head and Buttercup needed an expert. I think wisdom is knowing what you can do, what you can't do, and when to ask for help. Good for you and good for Buttercup!
    --Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

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  20. I don't consider that a failure. Fostering a dog with special mental needs is really challenging on lots of fronts. I sometimes wonder if Kilo would have been better of with someone with more expertise as I have made limited progress. You did the right thing!

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  21. It is absolutely not your fault! If anything you helped by assessing her anxiety further. It is hard for people to accept when they can't help or handle something like you did with Buttercup. I'm one of those people!

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