Everyone’s Big Brother

April 4, 2011  

How Riley looks after all our foster dogs

By Jenn Frankavitz

When I told friends and parents I was adopting – gasp! – a pit bull, they all thought I had lost my mind!

I adopted Riley from a friend who was unable to care for him any longer. I was thrilled to give him a good home, but he certainly didn’t come to us in perfect condition. He had terrible separation anxiety and no manners, and was very mouthy and destructive.

I never gave up on him, though. He was a gentle dog who was just confused and had had no real leadership up to that point.

About two years ago, I decided Riley would benefit from having a playmate. Instead of adopting another dog, I began fostering for an all breed rescue called PAWS New England. It was the best thing I could have done.

In the past year Riley has welcomed and said goodbye to 13 foster brothers and sisters who have all been adopted into loving homes. Each dog left an indelible impression on Riley and me.

Some were pit mixes who had been neglected and abused, and had trust issues. Some were even quite sick.

Fostering Sukha and Bella

Sukha, for example, had severe generalized demodectic mange. The night she arrived, Riley sat next to her kennel all night long. (He is usually a bed-hog who wants to be under the covers 24/7.) He knew she was feeling sick and comforted her from the day she arrived until the day she was adopted by a loving family.

For six months he never left her side. He became her big brother and wanted to be sure she was safe and feeling OK.

And then there was Bella. She had lived with a woman who had some addiction issues, and we were warned not to allow her near any living thing.

The first night Bella was here, I put her and Riley in separate rooms until she could be vetted. She didn’t leave that door; she just barked, growled and clawed at Riley’s scent.

She did indeed have some dog aggression issues, but they were due to her upbringing. She’d been a bait and breeding dog and she wasn’t socialized.

Riley and I worked with Bella nonstop for the nearly nine months, and I was so impressed with how he behaved toward her. He gave her the space she needed, but would still be sure to make contact with her daily, whether it was giving her a lick through the crate door or just lying slightly closer to her on the couch each day.

Eventually we were able to trust that Bella and Riley could play together as long as they were supervised. She was still hesitant and fearful, but Riley displayed painstaking patience with her. It was as if he knew that she just needed a calm dog to show her how to just be.

For example, he would lie down and often roll onto his back for Bella to sniff him, or let her have the toys he was playing with. Through the entire nine months Bella was in foster care with us, Riley let her do what she needed in order to feel comfortable. It was a tremendous thing to ask of him, and he and Bella far surpassed all of our expectations!

Bella graduated and was eventually able to play with other dogs and do so unmuzzled. It all happened during her time with us.

Riley’s patience and understanding were a huge contribution to her growth. She was a different dog when she left us to go to her forever home, and now has frequent play dates with other dogs.

Riley is truly the best brother for all our foster dogs. He is so patient and kind with each of them, and has not only taught the other dogs how to trust and helped them heal, but has also changed the minds of many people, including family and friends, who had once believed the bad hype about pit bulls.

Riley is a shining example of how friendship truly is the best medicine.

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2 Responses to “Everyone’s Big Brother”
  1. woofslc says:

    This is so great, we have had the same wonderful experience with our adopted pit bull, and now registered therapy dog Honey. She has helped us foster over 15 dogs, and like a magnet, they all just gravitate right toward her! There is no way we’d be able to help as many dogs successfully pass through our door, from other pit bull type dogs, to pugs, to puppies, to Golden’s, Honey is their mama hen and role model making them feel save and welcomed. I made this collage recently to highlight a few of Honey’s friends:


    Great job Riley, everyone needs a good role dog to show them the way!

    Melissa and Honey

  2. StubbyDog says:

    @woofslc Thanks so much for sharing Melissa. Honey is absolutely fabulous, and we are huge fans! Thanks for being so supportive of StubbyDog too!