One Dog, Two Dog, Red Dog, Blue Dog

June 26, 2012  

A longtime foster shares some her thoughts and stories of the pit bulls she has fostered

By Shana Markwis

Everyone knows that puppies are quite possibly the most sunshiny, wonderful thing on the planet. Puppy breath in your face and a squirmy ball of fur in your lap should be a regular form of therapy. I love puppies. I love to look at puppies and hold them, squish them and play with them.

And then I gladly give them back. …

With adult dogs, you know what you’re getting. There are no hidden secrets behind their looks, shedding level, personality, temperament, likes/dislikes, or energy level. Foster homes are the best thing ever invented because when you are ready to adopt, the parent can tell you everything you need to know about that particular dog to minimize any mismatches. Adult dogs commonly will be referred to as “used” by people unfamiliar with the animal rescue world. We are working hard to change this perception at Carolina Care Bullies. We are extremely proud of our adult dogs and excited about the potential they each have. Adult dogs, especially ones in foster care, are [often] already house trained, crate trained, know basic commands and are working toward individualized goals of polite leash walking or appropriate behavior with guests in the home.

We, along with every other dog rescue, have a handful of wonderful (and I say wonderful not only because I want them to be adopted, but because they really will melt your hearts, heal your soul, and care for your kids and family) adult dogs that are waiting for you. Or your brother. Or mother. Or sister, cousin, stepdad, friend, coworker, or boss.

Adult dogs will give you puppy-like love with grown-up-like manners. And honestly, who could ask for more?

Spread the word: Adopt, don’t shop.

Meet Mama Kris

Kris holds a special place in my heart because she was my first foster. She was taken in as a stray with her four tiny puppies. With a 72-hour stray hold looming over her head, “white pit mix” did what she could on a cold, hard concrete floor to care for her babies. Although just a pup herself, she knew that their future was bleak. She tried not to panic when workers came around, but everything was just so loud and scary, and she could only cuddle her puppies and close her eyes.

One worker, who probably doesn’t even know it, saved four small babies and a mama pup that day because she took the time to take a picture and post it on the “Please rescue these dogs before they are killed” databases that get shot around Facebook at supersonic speed every day. Someone from Carolina Care Bullies saw the picture, fell in love with them and did some mass networking, pulling all five of them that day from the shelter. Still without names, CCB likes to dub litters with a theme, i.e. the “Seven Dwarfs,” “101 Dalmatians,” etc. This all-female litter was no different and quickly became the Kardashians. Mama Kris, Kendall, Kylie, Khloé, and Kimmy had been rescued. Without the help of that one worker, everyone at Carolina Care Bullies who networked in order to get a temporary foster home, transport from the shelter, then on to get spays, medications, then to separate them and get individual foster homes, these little lives would have been snuffed out – probably thrown in a metal barrel somewhere on top of other dogs just like themselves, dogs that didn’t have a chance from the beginning because they were dealt the wrong color fur, or a boxy head, or muscular legs.

This is why people like me – everyday, normal people that work normal jobs and do normal things – are so incredibly needed. All I provided Mama Kris was a place to sleep, get love and learn how to live in a house. But really, what Mama Kris as well as the other four Kardashian pups were provided was a chance to live. Think about that. They would no longer be a part of this world if Carolina Care Bullies had not seen their picture and decided to rescue them. And Carolina Care Bullies wouldn’t be a rescue at all without fosters like myself. So please consider fostering today. I’m not any more talented or special than you are – yes, you can do it.

As a foster parent, I made a personal goal to tell three new people a day about my foster dog. I feel that word of mouth is the most powerful tool that a dog has at getting adopted and I want to increase that possibility as much as possible. We go to Petco, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Home Depot, anywhere that allows dogs or has high-traffic areas that we can walk by and get some people to see us. While sitting at Jason’s Deli outside with Kris, I had a woman walk up to Kris and I. “Love at first sight” isn’t even accurate. She wanted to take Kris in her car and adopt her right then, forever and ever. After a few days and all the required necessities had been taken care of, it was settled, Kris was being adopted.

Yes, I cried. Yes, it broke my heart in two when she strained and yelped on the end of the leash because she didn’t understand why I was leaving her with strange people. But as I drove home with tear-blurred vision, I was so happy. Kris was home. She will be able to feel loved, wanted, and taken care of for the rest of her days. So I walked in my now dog-less house feeling renewed; I can handle a few days of sadness in exchange for a lifetime of happy.

Teaching Bindi

Although Bindi’s previous life is mostly unknown, I do know this: I know, without a doubt, that she was unsocialized, untrained and unfairly stripped of her future potential to be adopted. When a family goes to the shelter looking for a dog, they are looking for an easy dog, an obedient dog – basically put, an adoptable dog. Bindi was not this. She was not even close. Yes, she could pass a temperament test by not eating the fake hand put in her food and not biting the face off the pretend child that is in the same room, but as far as home life goes, Bindi would have been deemed as unadoptable, which in the shelter world can also be a death sentence. She would have been returned to the shelter time and time again. Failed, time and time again. Not only had this poor dog been abandoned and then forced to live in a shelter with cold concrete walls, but now she’s expected to be perfect the second she walks in to a home, expected to magically know and abide by all of the rules of that particular house.

When a person rescues a dog like Bindi, they have to realize that their background is not all sunshine and flowers. There is a learning curve for the dog, for you and for your relationship together. There’s a communication level that is going to take a few days, weeks, or months to get right. Unfortunately, today’s world demands immediate gratification and waiting has become unacceptable. So, that leaves sweet Bindi. Due to the humans that raised her, or the lack thereof, it now gives her a slim to none chance of being successful in a home life. Thankfully, there are foster programs full of people that understand a dog’s need to unwind, gauge the people around them, and learn to trust and respect the boundaries and limitations placed before them.

Bindi is one of the lucky ones. She would have never, ever have made it out of the shelter alive and lived to see old age without help. Because, you see, Bindi couldn’t do anything in an acceptable fashion. She had no control over her body, her mind, or her energy level. This created chaos for every single moment of the day, for her and me. That’s a stressful way to live, no matter how happy she may look on the outside. She was sleep deprived because for weeks she was unable to actually relax enough to sleep. She was so over excited and stimulated that she would scratch me daily from not being able to control herself. She was dangerously focused on my kitties.

It took two weeks – 14 entire days – for her to be able to walk through the house to go outside and potty in a somewhat normal fashion (and I say “normal” very, very loosely). It took over a month for us to go outside and even attempt to take a walk. But regardless … the amount of work, effort and training I put into Bindi doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that I had to fix someone else’s doing. I had to undo two years of unacceptable behavior that she has learned because somebody refused to give her the time of day. Or night. Or ever.

Bindi can now walk on a leash, knows an insane amount of commands, listens like a dream, gets along and sleeps with my kitties, does awesome in a car, and as I type this, is snoring on my lap, which she will do all day long if given the opportunity. All of the previous things took two months of hard work and patience to get to. … So if you choose to go to the shelter, which I hope you all do, please don’t turn away from the dog that’s jumping up and down incessantly, or barking, or spinning in circles. In each of those cages is a dog that has the potential to be anything you want them to be; they just need to be given the chance to succeed.

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Comments

13 Responses to “One Dog, Two Dog, Red Dog, Blue Dog”
  1. Fostering is a hard job but you gotta love it.  It’s hard to see the condition they sometimes come with, hard to watch them leave but the love they show, they love the foster family shows and the love of seeing them go to a furever home whether the foster failures home or their new furever home it make it all worth wild! We love to foster

  2. blazer says:

    Love that last paragraph!!!!!

    • StubbyDog says:

      [email protected] Us too, puts everything into perspective!

  3. What a wonderful story. I’m sure there are so many dogs that are like Bindi — people just don’t want to give them the time of day because they aren’t “adoptable” enough or “normal” enough for their tastes. They don’t want to put the time in. Thank you for doing so with Bindi…it clearly paid off! 

  4. KalinMagruder says:

    Would LOVE to get your advice on how you calmed/refocused Bindi’s energy. We adopted a year and a half old Red Heeler/Pit mix in October (she turned 2 in April) and even though working with her and a “manners” training class her energy levels in the car and on the leash (outside of her normal/recognized walks) are still out of control. We love her to death but would love even more to be able to take her more places!

  5. Matt.S says:

    That’s real commitment. Thanks for all your hard work with Bindi, and all the dogs in your care.

  6. SusanLawrence says:

    I’ve got a Bindi, named Hazel. She’s currently enrolled in a behavior class that was advertised as “Wild Child.” The technique is positive reinforcement, e.g. a click & treat for going to “her mat” when a visitor comes to the house. She is roughest on the people she likes — jumping up and so forth. It’s a long road but we think worthwhile. Manners are important : )
     

    • Matt.S says:

      [email protected] Thanks for giving Hazel a home and a loving family!

  7. SusanRodriguezArmstrong says:

    Great piece – you hit the nail on the head in so many ways and I commend you for your commitment.  We need a million more people like you who are ready to jump in with both feet and save animals.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for the good work you do.  I too am a foster momma and your phrase “I can handle a few days of sadness in exchange for a lifetime of happy” summed up perfectly how I felt when saying goodbye to my last foster furry kid.  I hope your life will continue to bring you joy and fulfillment. 

    • StubbyDog says:

      [email protected] Thank you Susan and thank you for fostering too. It’s the most rewarding act possible and we treasure those who foster.

  8. ShanaMarkwis says:

    @KalinMagruder – so far it sounds like you are doing everything right! Where I started with Bindi was inside – she was great inside after the first month so we needed to start under her threshold and teach her the necessary skills there then go where she had trouble. We strengthened our commands, REALLY focusing on the watch me commandant using anything as a distraction – opening doors, squeaky toys, anything to get a choice that looking at me was better than the distraction (of course, high value treats were in order). Clicker training/using a meeker word and doing a high rate of reinforcement is key. Highly distractible Bindi needed a reward every two to three seconds for being even remotely attentive or glancing at me or trotting in my direction, etc. leash pressure was the next step. Teaching her that the tug of a leash means to go in that direction sounds basic but it’s a skill some dogs need to be explicitly taught. Anytime the leash gets taught, holding constant slight pressure, reward for any movement in the direction of the leash. Lots of repetition until she could do it second naturedly while we were doing commands, then we practiced that in the backyard. Once the backyard wa mastered, then at night at the park. Just working under threshold all the time, over threshold would mean that we move bck to previous location and strengthen more. Small, meaningful and consistent sessions was my goal — to leave her wanting to train more. If you’d like more info, or have questions, you can email me at [email protected]. Thanks!!

    • KalinMagruder says:

      [email protected]@KalinMagruder Thanks for the reassurance :-)!!!