I am a dog lover. Don’t get me wrong, I like cats too, especially the farm cats we grew up with, but I love dogs more and cannot imagine living without them. I have two rescue dogs right now. One is a Pug Shitzu who looks exactly like an Ewok from Star Wars if you would put a little leather helmet on him, and I have a Sheltie who was surrendered because he has a genetic defect in his front leg joint. We got him as a puppy and he is now ten years old. He limps sometimes, but does pretty well.
I grew up with dogs on the farm and we had mostly mutts, but at the height of gas and cattle stealing, we had a Doberman. He was a really nice dog for us, but if a stranger drove in the yard he looked like he was going to attack. It really cut down on the salesmen visits. We had one dog on the farm, Prince, who pulled a red wagon in a harness my grandpa and dad built. One of us sat in the wagon and the others rode bikes down the driveway, and that dog would run down that driveway giving us the ride of our lives. Prince was a nice dog.
When my kids were young they wanted a puppy, and so did I, and so started the parade of pets we had at our house over the years. We had fish, birds, a rabbit, a turtle and of course the dogs. We had our own dog, but we also did foster care for the Humane society. The kids always wanted puppies to play with, and so I thought our best option was to do foster care for puppies. It was perfect. They came for about two to three weeks to be well fed, to play and grow, and be socialized. Just long enough so that everyone was tired of cleaning up after them, when it was time for them to go back to the humane society to find their forever homes.
Our first assignment was to care for and socialize six black lab puppies that had lost their mom. They were as cute as could be. The puppies were high energy, exploring everything and crawling around on the kids. The kids were so gentle with them, but wow those puppies put out a lot of poop. We luckily had a large mud room with a linoleum floor that we fenced off and covered in plastic and than heavy red paper used in the construction industry and then layers of newspapers that could be changed frequently. We went through a lot of newspapers. The Humane Society gave us stacks of them and we could come and get more anytime we needed.
Luckily it was summer and the kids took the puppies outside a lot on the lawn to play. They liked being outdoors and the kids had a blast. A lot of their friends came to see the puppies and play with them. We had a deck in the backyard that was about a foot and a half above the ground. One of the puppies strayed under there and the kids did not want to crawl into that abyss of spider webs and darkness under the deck to retrieve the lost puppy. Guess who had spiders crawling in her hair after that rescue. Those kids owe me big-time.
We had a big loud family and our house was always full of commotion. Kids coming and going, and TV’s on, and loud music. I always said our house was the best to socialize puppies. They were not afraid of anything or anyone when they left us. They were used to loud noises and used to being held and handled. I had to get up early every morning to change their mat of newspapers covered in puppy poop and feed them mushy food and change their water. That was the largest group we ever had. I was very happy to see them go to find their real homes. I was tired after a few weeks and while the kids helped a little, it was still mostly me and it was the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night. After that, we only had one or two or three at a time. Never six. It was just too much. Live and learn.
We once had two husky lab mix puppies and they were my favorite. The kids always named the pups, and with the huskies we had one that was mostly white with a little black and had one blue eye and one brown eye. It was a beautiful dog. The kids named her Bobby. She was smart and kept escaping from her pen. I would be cooking and all of a sudden she would be walking around my feet. She stood on things jumped on things and could escape that pen no matter what we tried. After a while we gave up and let her roam, but we had to potty train her and that went as well as could be expected.
Once we got a call from the Humane Society that they had a pregnant dog that needed foster care. Her name was Penny and we were glad to take her. I had been a Labor and Delivery nurse, so having a dog that would have puppies was a fun prospect for me, and I was glad to have my kids experience that as well. We had a nice bed for her and we followed the directions we got from the Humane society to give her space and let her nest and rest. She was a small dog and cute as a bunny. Very gentle and well behaved. Not sure why someone gave her up. She was such a nice dog.
We kept watching for those puppies and one Saturday afternoon there was one squirming little puppy. So cute. Black tan and white just like Penny. She had another puppy to be born, but it just seemed to be taking too long. I called the humane Society, but they always said the same thing. Just let nature takes its course. Probably good advice. The kids and I watched and waited giving Penny her space, but keeping an eye out occasionally. Finally, the second pup was born, but it was not breathing. Penny tried her best to get it going by vigorously licking it, but to no avail. When she stopped, I took the puppy and tried
to give it gentle mouth to mouth and chest compressions. If I could have built a defibrillator with two forks and the toaster I would have. I felt so bad. I wanted to save that puppy, but despite my best efforts, I could not save the puppy.
The kids had watched me try and I finally gave the puppy back to Penny who had been standing by patiently waiting for me, as if knowing it was not meant to be. She nested with her lost puppy for a while, but after a few hours, pushed it out of the nest and focused on her live squirming bundle of joy. It was good for the kids to see real life and death and to know that despite our best efforts sometimes things were not meant to be.
The first puppy grew fast and was loved and held constantly by the kids. They would watch movies with Penny on the couch and the puppy would be crawling all over them. Most of the time it was no problem to separate from our foster puppies, but Penny and her puppy were special. They were a little harder to return to the Humane Society, but they let us be there when both were adopted and we were glad to see them go to good homes.
It is important to have our children see and experience sadness as well as joy, happiness, separation and letting go, as it is a part of life. We cannot have complete joy without having experienced sadness and we have to know how to deal with all of life’s ups and downs. On the farm it is easier to experience and understand that death is a part of life. That was a harder lesson to teach in the city. We started doing foster care to have puppies to play with. We did not appreciate that it would teach life lessons in such a personal way.