This week, a few fosters we know that had gone to forever homes found out that it was not forever just yet and came back to their foster families. It got me thinking about my first moments with Melvin.
When I adopted Melvin, I vowed to champion his health issues. I pumped myself up and knew that we would overcome. I, for lack of a better way of putting it, would fix him. The first hour he was in my home and we were alone, I thought ‘crap, what have I done’. There was zero doubt that Max was going to leave me soon and extreme guilt set in that I had brought his (as it seemed) replacement home as if to say ‘we’re good, you can go now’. I looked in the mirror and saw a terrible person. I was certain Max would die that very first night, of sadness.
Also, all his health issues aside, Melvin was the canine version of Sid Vicious. I’m not joking, he was beyond energetic, for all I knew he could have been on crack. I thought he was deaf since he refused to listen to me, he didn’t know a single command. He chewed everything in sight, he rammed the glass doors trying to charge squirrels. He refused to sleep and if put in the crate would bark and howl and if let to be out of the crate at night, would leap on and off the bed, non stop. He apparently did none of these things in foster care. Walking him gave me panic attacks, when it was time to take him out, I would hide in the bathroom and cry. I said the words ‘I can’t do this’, 1,000 times. While I may never have gotten to the point of saying ‘he has to go’, I came very close. I was overwhelmed, I was in over my head, I was only human. Knowing that I had to lose Max, I didn’t feel very empowered to tame a wild beast.
There were many failures, many, so many, countless. Max died and weeks went by where I can’t say Melvin and I made very much progress. But in the same sense we were not making huge advancements, I had to admit, we’d at least persevered. He may not have sat when told or been easy to leash or walk but he’d learned to count on me. He knew I’d come home, he knew I’d feed him. I was there when he (finally) fell asleep and I was there when he woke up. That was more than he’d likely ever had. And I had gotten to know him too. Part of the reason he didn’t sit still was because he was so itchy. Walking on leash, well 1. he’d never been on a leash before and it was likely scary for him and 2. I was at the other end of that leash, giving off a nervous energy. It’s no wonder he lashed out every time. Also, I was in grief stage-one, the ugly, snotty, inconsolable phase. Melvin didn’t get the best of me at first. Max was gone, but Melvin was there. And slowly, as it was supposed to be, that became ok.
I was not the same person back then. In fact, Melvin is the dog that made me understand what commitment looks like. Max was easy. Melvin, he and I have ‘grown-up’ together.
I could have called the rescue and said take him back. I didn’t do it, but I could have. Some dogs and owners, from the very first moment, it’s magic (or it’s at least pretty ok) and that’s great! Thank God for those matches. Some first moments are heavy and scary –for dog and human and it takes a while to realize it’s good, right, meant to be. Some people need to hand off and take a deep breath and take a step back. Some of them find composure and come back. Some don’t. The ones that don’t, well I have to believe that is for the better. If they can’t be there in the beginning, they are likely not going to be there at the end.
We can’t control it all but we can applaud foster families and rescue groups and shelters whose doors are always open. Thank you to all of you who provide that interim forever. Thank you from the dog mom of a one-time-wildebeest-rescue-turned-soulful-bundle-of-love-and-joy.
And to those just embarking on the wonderful ride of dog ownership — we send you off with the words ‘forever home’ and it is forever and that is how you should approach it. But you should also realize that we have all been there and every forever begins with the first minute and then the second minute. Next thing you know you’ve gotten through a day. Then tonight will be better than the last few nights. Next thing you know, a few weeks have gone by, then a few holidays. Forever was not built in a day. But forever is awesome, so we are all hoping you get you there.
I can totally relate. When I brought home my Susie from boxer rescue, I remember the first night thinking to myself “what have I done”? Within a week or so we were crazy about one another and the transition was pretty much complete. I think that any time we change the dynamics of our family and routine whether it is a baby or a pet, we need to not be hard on ourselves and enjoy getting to know one another.
Exactly! I have had several friends with babies ask in desperation “why did the hospital let me leave with this child!”!
Ah, the post I needed after last night. Real forever homes do still exist.
-Corbin’s momma Jenn
You were one of my inspirations! As per usual.
When we brought home Avery she was a 65 pound “puppy”. I had to watch her every second of every day or she’d destroy something. She wasn’t potty trained, counter surfed, escaped from her crate, and cried constantly. I’m pretty sure she thought we were evil kidnappers who took her away from her wonderful foster family. It took a LONG TIME (and patience and training classes) but she’s such a silly, happy, loving girl now that it was all totally worth it.
Amen!!! I think it’s so easy to see someone and their dog and think ‘yes, i want that’ and then they find out that sometimes, it’s work! Good work, but work!
Even though our initial commitment to Balton wasn’t intended to be forever, there were a lot of moments at the beginning where we just weren’t sure we were the right foster family for him. In addition to his reactivity issues (a beast of their own) he often seemed frantic and completely lacked impulse control. Mouthing my arms every time I came home (and it hurt when he did) and regularly invading my purse, pulling its contents out and chewing pens for no apparent reason, were just a few of the charms he came with in those early days. Of course, those behaviors weren’t really huge problems in and of themselves, but our learning curve with the reactivity was hard, and there were moments when I thought he might be better off with someone more experienced. I’m glad he didn’t now. Landing with a stubborn fool like me was probably the best thing to happen to both of us.
I have zero doubt that you and Balton were meant to be! Zero!
Oh my gosh. So true. I’d had dogs around me my whole life, but my first few weeks with Marvin were so hard. I was crying on the streets during our walks. More than a year later were are in such an amazing place, but it did happen overnight. Rescuing can be hard, but the reward is so much sweeter.
Hahahahah, finding out you are not alone is half the battle in life! So while I’m sorry you were crying on the side of the road, I love it! Had I been there, I would have hugged you!
Nail on the head, friend. Nail. On. The. Head.
Reminds me of a couple convos we had about some of your fosters! Who have all found the ‘right’ forever!
What a beautiful read! You’re such a wonderful, dedicated, forever mom! Those boys are sure lucky.
Thank you! As you know, it’s the humans who are the most lucky!
Great post, very eloquent. We don’t always have the answers, but as long as we’re committed, willing to learn and ready to keep working that’s all we can do.
Exactly! And I think we need to look at some of the harder moments as things we will most certainly laugh about in the future!
Beautifully put! As someone who fostered a ton before finally adopting, I know how heart wrenching it can be to see your temporary pup get sent back for reasons that seem so minute. There’s always the right home out there for every pup though!
I thought you might have had buyer’s remorse about the stroller. 🙂
I know what you mean though, I went through a lot of it with Miss Maggie. She didn’t eat for almost a week when we brought her home, and she was already skinny. She was afraid of EVERYTHING except me; then it turned out she was especially afraid of men when she started getting used to everything else. A few times I thought that we should try to find her a home that didn’t have a scary Mr. Man, and he was the one that said “no, she’s our dog.” He gets to pick the next dog, since I always pick the project dogs. 🙂
hahahah, the stroller arrives today so we shall find out! And LOVE your scary Mr!!!
I can so relate! Great post.
I know you can!!!
I hope you don’t mind…I shared this with our rescue on FB. Such a great post and message. Thank you!
I’m honored!!! Thank you!!!
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! We’ve said it before, we were ready to boot Ed to the curb within 2 days. I cried — feeling like not only a failure, but also a total jerk. But we stuck it out and were rewarded a MILLION times over by how much we love him now! As much as I love Tess because she’s so easy, I love Ed because he’s been so difficult – he’s made us better dog owners and a bigger part of the canine community here.
Ed and Melvin…our blockheads!
Such a great post! I could have written the same words — been there, done that. Bless you and all the others who foster and/or adopt rescue pets. I think for some of us, it is our lot in life to love the sometimes unlovable until we win them over with reassurance, trust, cookies and kisses. Personally, I can’t imagine not doing it.
I agree, Patti!!! Life would be incomplete without that part of the journey!
This post was funny and moving at the same time i enjoyed so much. Your “forevers” are so cute! im so glad i’ve found your blog.
Thanks for reading along Iris!
This could be my story because brady and I had the love/hate thing going there for awhile, my now 12 year old golden harley is so mellow and was so sad when his dad died. That was why I wanted to adopt and we went to a rescue and they bring out this crazy 9mo old puppy and they met and kiss and bam home he came. In the weeks to follow h e had anxieties when we left and managed to destroy a cell phone, books and various other things that were my daughters not mine! Guess he knew who fed him! We’ve had him almost 3 years now and we love him to death. He loves leaping for frisbees and dazzles anyone watching him. He keeps harley young and I think at times he’s part cat rolling on you if youre on the floor…not aware he’s almost 80 lbs…yes I’d say were the lucky ones..thanks for a great story
What a very gracious and thoughtful post. As someone who pet sits for a living, I’ve seen a lot of this, and been there myself since all of our four-leggers in the house are rescues. It can be a bit of work, and sometimes the fit just isn’t right, and it is good to know when you’re not the right person for forever. But so thankful when it does work.
This is beautiful. And such great insight. I know we have struggled initially with some fosters and wondered how adopters will go through those things! One we did have to admit was not a match after a trial weekend – not for us, but for Gambit, since it would have been emotionally damaging for him if we kept her and he was already struggling with having been uprooted from his old home and routine.
A very lovely tale. Thanks for sharing!
Great post! Even tough I never experienced these feelings with any member of my pack, I do understand what you are saying. I’m really enjoying your blog 🙂
Have to be honest and say that we are the pretty ok ones. Donna never gave us much grief at all. I don’t think I will have the tenacity you have really. *thumbs up*
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