Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pooches: Admitting When Things Aren't Working

We know how fostering does directly save lives, but we also know that not all pups are going to work for all homes. 
Even for us.
And it makes us feel like we're letting everyone down.
During break, we were so enamored with little Jack Frost and his heartbreaking story we thought we could take him on while we were not at work. We have a soft-spot for older pups, and we thought this little Elder-Shi was the perfect fit. He blends right in.
But we didn't follow our own rule. And while the dogs all get along amazingly, and we love having the little guy, we're realizing we may not be the best foster fit. 
Here's our story about admitting when things aren't working, and what we need to remember to continue having positive foster experiences.

Know what you and your pups can handle
Jack Frost is 'Too Sexy' for his Santa Outfit
We know fostering should be a positive experience for all the pets and people involved. We recognize the types of dogs that do and don't work well with our own pooches. We do know Mr. B gets nervous if dogs try to play with him, so we don't foster younger playful dogs or puppies. We also try to choose males who are more likely to get along with Miss M and her bossiness. 
When we introduced Jack Frost to our pups we realized they all got along. He respected Mr. B's space, eventually chose to lay with Miss M, and he enjoyed hanging out with the pack.
The biggest thing we always check before fostering is making sure we can crate train the pup. Mr. B is allowed to roam free when we're not home, and we don't like leaving pups who are still getting to know each other alone all day. In our excitement over having a smaller dog, we made the terrible stereotype that all small dogs could just be put in a crate or in a room. We soon realized how much our little Jack Frost was just like Mr. B. All he wanted to do was hang out in the house without being contained. And exactly like Mr. B, crates, closed doors, even baby gates made him nervous.

Realize What Can be Worked On...and What isn't Working
We know foster dogs are adjusting to new experiences, and how important it is to help them through the transition. We did work on crate training and trying to see if there was a way we could partition both of the dogs while we were gone. Seeing how neglected he was, I'm guessing Jack Frost spent much of his life contained and even behind a baby gate he was completely miserable. Mr. B also gets anxious if he senses a dog in distress behind a closed door. We knew each dog was completely fine just hanging out in the house, and they had never had a single negative interaction, but I also didn't want to take that 1% chance that unattended Mr. B could race down the hall and smoosh little Frost, or even accidentally sit on him. They are still in the getting-to-know-you phase also.
While we were working on all of this E, who is allergic to cats, realized he was allergic to Jack Frost. As Jack's hair was growing back, E just kept getting more allergic. And we wouldn't be able to have him in the bedroom where all the dogs slept because E was becoming so sick. While we struggled with trying to make it work, we realized the discomfort of E, Mr. B, and Jack Frost might not be worth it.

Work with a Rescue Group you Trust
We know there are some situations where once you commit to fostering, you need to make it work even if it is uncomfortable for the pups and people involved. We unfortunately know someone who was berated when they felt a foster they tested--and didn't even begin fostering--was not a good fit with their dogs. We understand it's disappointing, but it's also not a good idea to force situations.
So many of our positive foster experiences can be attributed to Miss M's rescue group, New Leash on Life Chicago. They recognize the importance of matchmaking--making sure it's a good fit for both the people and the pups--rather than just trying to adopt out dogs. They don't over-extend themselves and they really just want to make sure the fosters are a good fit and they are very honest with their fosters and adopters. They even become familiar with the foster homes and actively seek out dogs knowing what would be a good fit for that home.
While we were sad we couldn't make it work, the rescue group has been working for another placement.

Right now he is staying with a friend, where he can just hang out all day at home. Since she travels a lot, we were hoping to find a more permanent foster home...or even better adoptive home!
We have had some weekend visitation, though we are beyond disappointed that we couldn't see him through to his adoption.
Jack Frost is our 6th foster dog, and I guess we are still learning about what can work in our little home. (Ironically, it was our 90 lb foster pup who was our best fit).
We felt like we were letting little Jack Frost and everyone down.

How much our pups love Jack Frost
Working on Crate Training with a Foster Pup
How we choose Foster Dogs 
Adding a second dog to your home


EquiDanes said...

Hi there, I read your blog faithfully, but rarely ever comment or make a sound. But after reading today's story I just had to say you made an excellent (and difficult!) choice. I have way more respect for someone who can admit when it's not right for every party involved, than someone who will power through no matter how upset it makes everyone. Kudos to you guys, you never cease to amaze me in your infinit doggy wisdom :) I hope to someday be as good a foster parent or dog owner as you when the time comes I can have a 4 legged friend, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Good for you guys! While it's admireable to "stick it out," I think it's even more brave to admit when things aren't working. We always say that our furever pooch, Oscar, is our number one priority when we foster - if he's not comfortable, it's not happening. Period. Jack Frost is lucky that you four were there to be his temporary shelter from the storm when he needed you most, and now that he's safe and healthy, he's ready for more permanent accomodations. I'm so glad NLOL is so supportive, that's SO important! Thank you guys for being there for Jack Frost!

Faye said...

I have never fostered, but wanted to. I do know the turmoil caused in the home by adopting a strong breed--Willie my grand old pit mix--and bringing him to live with other equally dominant dogs. You had to make a hard, but ethical, decision for the benefit of all concerned. No one who reads your blog could doubt your commitment.

bigalrlz said...

Please don't feel bad! You've already helped Jack Frost more in a few weeks than his original owners ever did. And giving him the exposure your blog provides is another HUGE helping hand which WILL lift him to his happy ending eventually. You guys are amazing, thanks for admitting the less than perfect side of fostering, that there are no MAGIC answers.

Debra@Peaceabull said...

Ditto all of the above. You gave Jack a good start and with the help of your amazing rescue, he will find a great forever home. Imagine how valuable his experiences with two larger dogs is for his "marketability."

Anonymous said...

Oh, no! PLEASE don't feel like you let anyone down! You've done so much good with your fostering. Sometimes it just doesn't work out and it's nobody's fault. While you may not have been able to see him through to his adoption, you helped him along on his journey. And now you know even more about yourselves and the kinds of dogs you CAN foster. You guys are great. Don't forget that!


sweetemaline said...

Thanks for being so honest. It helps ALL of us to be better dog parents and foster parents! :)

Love you guys and the work you do for doggies of ALL kinds!

Emily @ Our Waldo Bungie

Corbin said...

I love that you posted about this. We follow many bloggers who foster and each and every one of them has a different foster situation. Ours seems to be very similar to yours with the way Mr. B reacts. Please know, if you didn't step up to offer him a temporary home, he might not have made it out of the shelter. You gave him those extra weeks, you made sure he was saved, and now he'll find a better fit for a foster home or, even better, his forever home. Fostering has so many ups and downs, and sometimes things just don't work out. But, the most important thing is that you tried, you saved him, and he's so much better off now, because of you. Thanks for having the courage to post this. We wish the best for little Jack!
-Corbin's momma Jenn

jet said...

who would have thought a cat allergy would indicate a shih tzu allergy as well!! Fostering is something I would really love to do more, but at this stage I can just take dogs for weekends or when someone is home as they can't be left in the yard (poor fences and fence fighting neighbour dogs), and I can't just nip home at lunch time to let any fosters out for a wee break. I'm considering fostering a male cat though.

Ms. Pesavento said...

Thanks for writing this post. I don't think people understand the commitment and mental and emotional energy that goes into fostering, especially fostering with bullies. We have 2 bullies and have over the years fostered 4...some that have definitely gone better than others. Only once did we have to find another foster home, but it was a tough decision. We felt like failures to our own dogs and the ones we saved. Thanks for making us feel a little less alone!

Unknown said...

You are not letting anyone down most of all Jack Frost! Can we talk about all of the exposure you have gotten him? Not to mention the great care & love that he received while in your home. Oh & the adorable pictures!! Not every dog is a great fit for every home. Even with our "foster house" & "foster bedroom", we have had to return a couple. Did that mean that we did not care about the dog or that we did not feel bad about returning them? Nope, we did care about them & of course we did feel bad about it, but these things happen. The point is you did help Jack Frost & you were also wise enough to know when things were not working. The rescues that we work with of course screen foster homes, but surprisingly I know of a couple of times that a foster home (without any word to the rescue) has taken the foster dog & dropped them back off at the kill shelter!!! That is the only way I would have an issue with a foster home not keeping a foster, but that I guess should be a story for another day. Thanks for all that you have done for Jack Frost :)

Anonymous said...

I know exactly how you must feel! When we first signed up to begin fostering, we were assigned a female dog that sounded like a great fit. However, as we learned more about her, we had a good feeling that she would not be compatible with our pups. We felt horrible that we were letting the rescue down, but it turned out best for everyone... that dog is now adopted, and we were able to take in another wonderful foster girl! Please don't be disappointed in yourselves. You made the best decision for everyone, which is really what being a foster is all about. You still helped the little guy, and I'm sure you will go on to help many more dogs. THANK YOU for what you do! <3

Anonymous said...

You can't beat yourself up over this! You have the best interests of Jack Frost and your own pups in mind and even though it was the difficult choice, it was the best choice. I know a forever home is out there just waiting for little Jack Frost!! He'll get it.

Trissi_V said...

You guys are so awesome. You gave little Jack Frost stability and love and a plethora of cute outfits for as long as you possible could. You are amazing in the fact you are so aware and are able to admit that it just wasn't right and that's ok...because in the end, you are still helping him and looking out for his best interest.

I am sure Jack Frost will be adopted soon and you helped to be a part of that. :-)

Christine said...

Awesome post and you did right by Jack and your own dogs by working to find a better fit for him. I think things like this are why it is SO important to work with good, responsible rescue groups.

Anonymous said...

I am firm believer in blog/dog ownership/fostering honesty! This is a place of learning and growing, not just entertainment. Most importantly, you helped Jackie Frost when he needed it most -- when he was matted and scared and homeless. Admitting you can't take him on the next leg of the journey is the right thing for everyone! I applaud you!!! (daily, but more-so today!)

Anonymous said...

I don't think you are letting anyone down, human or animal. I firmly believe you need to be honest with yourselves and the foster group about what you can and can't take on. And, to be honest and say that something isn't working and needs to be changed takes a lot of guts.

I'm sure Jack will be happier in a situation that he can fully relax in and will eventually find his forever home. Just think you gave him a place to relax after being rescued and have set him on the right path, you were a part of that!

Jenn said...

Thank you. Our society doesn't give us 'permission to fail' even though failure is part of the life process.

Thank you for posting this so others can breathe that sigh of relief and find other answers. (and not just with dogs, in all things. it's okay to not make it. find what works and grow in that direction instead.)

My Two Pitties said...

You did a great thing giving the little guy a safe and positive place to lay his head for a while, esp. after the trauma he came from:)

Andrea Joy said...

Thank you for being so honest about this, as I know it must have been difficult. I echo everyone's sentiments that you did the right thing, and all three of the pooches involved are in a better place because of your decision...not to mention E!

Annie & Pauls Mom said...

A, E, B & M,
I don't think any of you let anyone down with foster Jack! You came through for him when NLOL pulled him unexpectedly and gave him a soft place to land. You fostered him beautifully! Like you said, you have to know what works for your family. E being sick from Jack is something beyond anyones control. You were just Jacks first step on his road to his forever family. And for his little paws, he may need to take lots of little steps instead of the big leap that Bessie took. (I hope this comes across as well meaning as I intend it to.)

Hannah@Eriesistibull said...

Great post. It's good to hear that even veteran foster homes run into new issues. It's admirable to be able to admit its not working...and it's better for all dogs involved. While you're right, fostering is a commitment, your first priority is to Mr B & Ms M and the safety of all involved. And this is a great reminder to stay vigilant and not get lazy when we get comfortable. You guys do fantastic work and I admire you so much...and let's be honest, with a face like that, J.F. will be snatched right up. Keep us posted!

Heather said...

"And it makes us feel like we're letting everyone down."

Shut up. I mean it. Don't you DARE blame yourselves for this not working. You had the courage to admit that Jack Frost could find a better foster, and the strength to let him go. You took care of him and helped him along his path.

Susan Campisi said...

You guys are amazing. You did the right thing!

Dog Foster Mom said...

I want to agree with everyone else, but first I want to say that I can't stop smiling at the thought of Mr. B accidentally sitting on Jack Frost. I guess Jack Frost wouldn't like it, but it's such a funny image. :-) Your dogs are so awesome - I just love Mr. B.

I have had to return my share of foster dogs because they weren't a good fit here - it happens! You can't possibly tell every single thing about a dog before you get them to know if they'll work out or not. I'm glad you have such a good rescue group to work with, and I think they're very lucky to have you.

Marji said...

You are indeed fortunate to be fostering with a rescue that has all the resources at their disposal to ensure that if a foster does not work out, it's okay! I'm sorry this did not work out; I know how difficult fostering can be. But you gave the little guy a chance and did everything you reasonably could to make it work. And it did not, and that is okay. You are not awful people because of it.

pibble said...

You can't succeed or fail if you don't try. And try you did. Jack Frost is a much healthier and happier pup for being in your home, even for a short time. The fact that you're doing right by him and E is commendable not something to be criticized. Jack Frost's story will end well - you'll make sure of it. Just because he's not under your roof doesn't mean he's not still in your heart!

pibble said...

Sorry - one more thing. The time Jack Frost spent in your home helps in the search for his permanent home. Everything you learned and discovered along the way will help ensure a much better and more suitable placement! Imagine if someone adopted him and learned that crating or gating wasn't right for Jack. A foster that doesn't work out is one thing - but it's still a learning experience for the dog, the people, other pets... But a failed adoption is a whole different ball of wax. To sum it up - you guys rock for all you do for homeless pets!

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