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Fostering our Westies...by Karen Simondet
Whenever I go to the dog park with 4 to 7 Westies in tow, inevitably, the conversations I engage in with other dog owner’s lead to “fostering”. I ALWAYS hear the same response; “I could not do it; I would not be able to give him up; I would worry about his new home; I do not have what it takes,” etc. etc. I readily admit that I too am very emotional when it comes to our animal companions, BUT if I can do it…YOU CAN DO IT TOO!
As a child, my family was constantly rescuing strays. I was eight years old when my first Westie showed up on our driveway. She was an older girl, believed to be around 8 years old. We already had six dogs, a pony, chickens, rabbits, a goat, a lamb, and a handful of ducks. What difference would one more make? So, I fed her and gave her a bath. She went everywhere with me, slept under my covers at night and soon enough she was a member of the family. That nurturing experience as a kid was the beginning of my love affair with Westies.
Throughout my adult years, I toyed with the idea of “fostering”. I already had two extraordinary Westies, but fostering was no longer a thought. It became reality. I was nervous. I worried about the “new” dog getting along with my boys. What if one bites the other? How many things are going to be peed on? Yes, I was scared.
My first foster
And then, a remarkable thing happened. I met a rescue dog who had been introduced to inside living for the first time, and my fear slipped away. There is just something amazing about a rescued dog. Most are unsure, some are needy, some are frightened or broken at first, but as they begin to realize they are safe and loved, their personalities begin to shine. For the first time in their life, they are enjoying being a dog!
They are accepting of all things. They quickly overcome their past. They are innocent, forgiving and they want to please. To watch them experience their first toy, hearing them bark for the first time, playing racetrack down the hall, or laying flat on their back fast asleep, is such a wonderful gift that you can not help but smile. This once scared and shy little thing becomes a big dog in their own mind. And yes, you do fall in love.
My first foster was perfect for me because her skin was so dreadful that I didn’t think about the potty-training or whether the boys would welcome her in. She was a six year old. She had been relinquished to a shelter. As I read the “Intake” paperwork from the original owner, I could not help but thank God that I found her. She spent her first six years of life in a garage and was not allowed in the house because she wasn’t potty-trained. The moment I saw her, my fostering woes instantly disappeared because I wanted nothing more than to give her a soothing bath and bring her some relief. She was a long-term foster – 3 months to recover from her skin condition. She grew a beautiful thick coat. Her potty-training took all of 7 days!
Wesley, an exceptional Westie
Wesley was exceptional from the moment I met him. He didn’t move around much and never made a sound. He showed very little emotion when he first arrived and he spent his days staring at me. I thought he was sizing me up to see if I was really worthy of his love and devotion. I truly believed he could see through my soul. Wesley suffered from a severe case of Malassezia Dermatitis. Daily medicated baths and a special diet put Wesley on the road to recovery. After several weeks, he engaged the other dogs in play, barked at every sound, and was sure to cut in on any other dog getting their ears scratched. His life living in a backyard neglected and passed off by his previous owners are far behind him and he shall never look back.
Molly, oh so rewarding
Molly just had to be the sweetest girl around. Not a mean bone in her little petite body. She loves bugs and leaves and watching her run around the dog park makes me smile big! She too was a garage dog, kept for breeding, so watching her explore a new big world and play with the other dogs was so rewarding.
Trooper, an amazing transformation
Trooper came to me with 80% of his hair missing. He was brought to a high kill shelter by his owner who requested he be put down. He was only 4 years old. The little hair he did have was matted dreadlocks and it was obvious he was never bathed or brushed. He was grossly underweight. Like Wesley, Trooper was not interested in anything but sleep. He now plays with all dogs and can always be found on the top of my pillow at night.
Adoption Day, bittersweet but just fantastic!
Then there comes the time when your foster baby is ready to be adopted. It is bittersweet. But then another amazing thing happens. You meet the adoptive family and it hits you…..you are not the only person capable of loving a dog. I have somewhat cheated here…since some of my fosters have come back for visits, some write me letters and send me photos and some I see at our Westie events. Since many of my fosters live in the area, I am grateful that I get to enjoy their company often. Even though they have their new family, I still get to love them. This was made possible because I opened up my home when it was so desperately needed. The alternative was an unbearable thought. I could not sleep at night knowing there was an innocent creature abandoned to a shelter, or living a life condemned to a garage, or left alone outside no matter the weather, or hungry and thirsty, or suffering from untreated and painful injuries. To me, that was much more difficult to accept.
The greatest reward - look at all these happy faces!!
Please, will you help these deserving Westies?
Yes, I fall in love. And yes, I cry. But knowing that I was able to help these dogs find a family of their own that loves them as much as I do make it all worthwhile. I can tell you, it is all for the dogs, but maybe it is really for me. The rehabilitation of a dog in need is, in fact, a rich endeavor, one you are unlikely to regret or forget. So when you say no to fostering because you fear the unknown, or are afraid to get attached or fall in love, remember this…to THAT dog, you are the world and his second chance. You are his stepping stone to a wonderful new life.
If you are alone, divorced, retired, an empty nester or have time in your life for a needy Westie....then please consider being a foster parent for a few short weeks.