Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Accidental Foster Parent.

We have been quiet for a very, very long time and much has happened since.

We fostered hounds twice, facilitated the transfer of another and had one overnight until reunited with his parent. As you might know, this house is already filled to the end of the couch with Bassets, so the fostering process was a bit strange and had this human slave feel a bit overwhelmed at times. Not one of these were planned ventures. I simply reacted to an emergency.

Our first encounter with a lost Basset brought to light a strange thing. The local community seems to think I am a collector of Bassets and will always need more, or, when one is found, it must be mine. A young couple dropped Napoleon off one afternoon, they had cats and could not keep him until his owner was found. He was still very young and definitely knew he lost his way home. He would not let me out of his sight. Anywhere I paused for a moment he would lie down with his head on my foot. Lesson one: a stray / lost dog is very insecure. Make them feel safe. Napoleon's story had a happy ending in that it was resolved quickly. Within a day his poster was up at every vet in the area and he could be reunited with his parents (who got an earful from me on Basset care).

We met David Copperfield. He was bewildered, frightened and cried a lot when he arrived. Also very insecure, he became my shadow. David Copperfield did not know what and who he was. He did not know how to be a dog, did not understand pack rules, he knew he wasn't human and he was not at ease with anyone other than me. It was clear that he grew up in an enclosed space, isolated from animal contact and that he only saw a human when he was fed. I had to speak softly to him and take care not to frighten him with behaviour that is quite normal in this house. The exited playtime barking of the others unnerved him for he could not read their body language in order to discern between aggression and playfulness. At night I had to literally tuck him in before he would settle down - he was unsure of where he was allowed to be and unaware that he had a choice.

First night.

David Copperfield became Butter's pet project. She taught him first, how to be a dog, second, the pack rules (which she made up on the fly), thirdly, that he was more than a dog (a Basset), and most importantly, that he could manipulate humans into submitting to the uber qualities of a Basset. She taught him how to play and when to back off when the situation warranted it. He eased up fairly quickly with the help of the other hounds. He was no longer afraid to own and be in his own space.

Butter's pet

It was my turn to take over the education and start applying rules and establish guidelines before he became too cocky and subsequently an undesirable pet. This phase took somewhat longer. I had but to speak in a stern voice to make him understand when I was not happy with his behaviour. Butter made it difficult for me to be serious and stern of voice in these moments by body blocking me from David Copperfield when she felt 'he was just being a kid and didn't mean to...' (Take food of the counter, play on your bed, mark the couch, and so forth). Rewarding him when he did the right thing meant that everyone queued up for a snack or a cuddle. No one was denied anything. It was as like having to retrain everyone.

And if I don't listen you'll do what exactly?

David was with us for a couple of months before he was adopted. He now lives in a house with other brothers and sisters and is adored by his parents. It was difficult to let him go. If not for the guidance and advice of a friend experienced in adoption and fostering, I would not have known who to trust with his future.

7 Lessons learned:

1. As a place and state of transition, a foster house is invaluable to an animal before adoption. It is a (hopefully) safe place and a space where trust and confidence can be built and manners taught. This minimizes adoption failures since people almost always expect an animal to be so grateful that it will automatically behave exactly as they want it to, whether or not it knows what is expected of it or even how to do it without help.

2. Animals in transition are traumatized. Accept this. Be supportive, research, use your brain to solve problems. They do not have the resources you have access to.

3. It helps to have one or more stable hounds in the house. Dogs are quick learners and will take cues from their peers faster than they do from you. There is no language barrier.

4. Feed the foster child in another room, keep the door closed until everyone is done. You cannot possibly know what issues there might be concerning food. Manage it. It might be necessary for you to stay with him/her until they are finished with their food. Walking out and closing the door behind you might trigger abandonment issues.

5. The kid needs it's own bed where all the other beds are. She/he might not be ready to or yet know how to be part of a group.

6. Patience.

7. Let go when the time comes.

Next post, another foster experience, another happy ending with a surprise twist.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A pair of birds have decided to roost in our roof, probably thinking it is safe to have a nest of Bassets downstairs from you. Let the Jones' compete with that.

They are a modest little family, no doubt preparing for the joys of parenthood. I can hear them get up in the morning and I am pretty sure that they have tapped into our electricity since it is still dark when they get up. Besides, I can hear their little kettle boiling as they tidy the nest, polish the egg(s) and do some general pecking about. 

The Bassets sleep like the dead in the morning, so none of this bugs them. They don't have to worry about the electricity bill. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Raising the Lawn.

And carrying it inside...

The facial expression that states: I know what you want to say but already, I don't care.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

While Searching For a Hound Friendly Vet...

Horton and I recently looked up some more local vets. Our preferred vets are far from our home, someone closer as backup makes perfect sense.

Vet 1 just around the corner. Probably a fresh graduate with little practical experience. Loves her own voice, wants to put Horton on phenobarbital to prevent the once a year seizure he has. Wants to put him on a special diet in spite of me repeatedly saying 'new food is a trigger...' Prescribes antibiotics without testing for bacteria. No points scored by Vet 1.

100% scored by Horton who was a big star in the waiting room while we waited to pay. He charmed 2 cat lovers into giving him belly rubs, befriended one of the crated cats, exchanged phone numbers with a Staffy girl in a hot pink collar and convinced a scared little human boy to relax enough to reach out and stroke his ears.

Vet 2 a little further away, also a holistic vet who sometimes uses homeopathy to obtain the desired results. First thing he noticed was Horton's size. He called him 'big and sturdy'. When I asked him if he meant overweight, he said no, Mr. H is not quite there yet. Vet 2 scored big points right of the bat!

Vet 2 had a lot of sensible stuff to say about what dogs eat and are supposed to eat and how any type of grain (even rice) should be avoided. He was in favor of home cooking or an organic food (which he happened to have on the shelve). Vet 2 knows how to absorb, integrate and connect information and results.

Vet 2 also made no promises about the immediate relieve of H's symptoms but asked that we report back every seven days so that we can adjust the medication until it is near perfect. More points.

At the end of the visit (where I produced my credit card and paid for a consultation, medicine, a small bag of holistic food and the bone Horton stole off a shelve) , I noticed the list of ingredients on the bag of holistic food: Brown Rice, Chicken and Linseed. And with that Vet 2 lost some crucial points for having said that grains should be avoided but recommending a food that contains one. But we will give him a chance to redeem himself. And we will educate him at the same time.

Wipe your mouth after eating.

Bark.. growl...


Clean face. Cool as ice.

A little nap.

Bofa is always the hound in the house with the sweetest face when he sleeps. Except for this one time.

Pay attention Human

Whenever Butter thinks I might miss the Dinner Deadline, she gives me a little dinner show by lying on her back running with her legs in the air. One night I failed to notice the show that was offered in exchange for food. She improvised.

Every time I tried to put a hand full of stuffing back Butter would push her head into the hole to prevent me from doing so.

Dinner first Human! Stuffing later. Unless you're planning to serve a stuffed turkey...

Hounds. They rule this house with a wicked sense of humor.