Nina was our very first foster dog with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. I had started handling dogs at adoption events a few weeks after going through Lucky Dog’s screening process and adopting Ollie. From there, I sort of fell into fostering. The story goes something like this:
I was hanging around at an adoption event, chatting about this old-ish Jack Russell Terrier I was handling named Rasmus. He had recently gone through Heartworm treatment, and also had bad skin, bad teeth, and no foster. I pondered out loud bringing him home, but he ended up with another foster…who ultimately later adopted him, so it worked out quite well for him. Meanwhile, I thought divine intervention had perhaps prevented me from going home with a dog that day.
Fast forward about 30 seconds to a lone dog who looked in sad shape at the foster check out table. Evidently this dog also had nowhere to go, and…well…I was there. So they asked if I would please take her. She had kennel cough, so couldn’t go to boarding, and I had effectively opened myself up to the possibility of going home with a canine friend. Saying no was going to be tough (okay, for me, it was going to be impossible), and so began my foster journey.
Following some questions about crates, food, just how contagious was Kennel Cough to my dog with his Bordatella vaccine, and some paperwork, I was putting a 36 inch crate in my car for a 12 lb dog (it was all they had), and soon after carrying a small black & white beagle with an old man whooping cough to my car (for she was too scared to walk). Her name was Nina, and she was going to be staying with us for a little while.
Scared as she was at first and on the car ride home, she came around rather quickly and she and Ollie almost immediately developed a love connection.
We only had her for about two weeks before Nina was adopted, but they were eventful. We learned that keeping her crated in the bedroom next door, our initial action plan with the foster, was not going to be a super solid one if we wanted to get any sleep at all.
The crate wasn’t the issue, she actually slept beautifully in it – the sleeping alone was. Cried, cried, cried her Beagle howl until someone came in for her. So, since I didn’t want to sleep on the floor for an undetermined amount of time, we found ourselves with two dogs in our room – suffice it to say this pattern pretty much stuck with future fosters.
We also learned how challenging and rewarding fostering can be – especially when you’re still working on things like housetraining with your own dog and a new pup comes in who needs to start from scratch. There was also an occasional dispute over a toy, and I found myself taking a crash course in doggy body language and understanding play styles. Much of the time I thought the dogs were fighting, they were actually just playing.
Still, there’s just something lovely about starting with a dog who won’t walk on a leash and then passing the leash of a sassy little diva dog that saunters around and wins the hearts of the neighbors. Not sure if this is the case for all fosters, but as our first foster dog, Nina was definitely the one I cried most irrationally for when she left us for her family.
Nina also had a gross challenge that we thankfully haven’t had to address since her departure – she would eat, or attempt to eat, her own poop. To this day I am horrified to talk about it, and I felt like I was a terrible foster mom when I let it happen. Fortunately, most of the time she was leash walked and I would intercede as pick-up patrol before she could get to it. But man did she want to snack on it, I had to be quick.
But a couple of times, when I wasn’t paying close attention as I should’ve been, she would saunter up to me from a different room and her potty mouth breath would be a dead giveaway of what I had managed to miss while my back was turned. In fact, Nina’s potty mouth remains one of our final
less-than-sweet moments together. I was packing up her stuff and getting ready to bring her to her weekend foster, where she would be going before heading off to her adoptive home the next day.
As I was packing up a few of her favorite toys to send with her, Nina came sashaying up to me and lovingly attempted to give me a sweet puppy kiss when it became apparent that while I was upstairs packing and not paying attention, she was downstairs taking care of business and subsequently having herself a snack. Feeling disappointed in myself, and equally worried and grossed out for her, I got the doggie toothpaste and quite literally washed out her potty mouth just before her sendoff.
On out way over to the weekend foster, Nina laid in the back seat – looking a bit sad. I suspected that of course, she was as irrationally sad as I was that she would be leaving us and not coming back.
As it turns out, she was actually not sad, but somewhere between carsick and nauseated from her morning snack. Moments later, Nina hurled all over my back seat. It was the first of many foster brandings to be left on that backseat, and a hard life lesson that laying a sheet down on the spot for the dog is an excellent idea if you don’t have leather interior.
But, she did feel much better afterwards, and I heard no follow-up reports of poop eating after that event. And Nina and her adoptive family have been spotted at a few Lucky Dog events after her adoption too. So…I like to believe that maybe we helped her outgrow that phase in her life?
As it turns out, poop eating, otherwise known as coprophagia, is considered a fairly common behavior, sometimes done as the result of poor nutrition or simply because they “like the taste” (seriously). Victoria Stilwell did a short piece on it in her “It’s Me or the Dog” training tips column – which addresses some of the stuff to do about it. At the time, we were feeding a high quality diet and picking up immediately when we could – so by all accounts I can feel good about how we tried to work with the odd behavior in our limited foster newbie knowledge.
Still, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t still haunt me a little today. Maybe my public soul (and Nina’s palate) cleansing can finally give me a little closure on this chapter of my life. Have you ever experienced any gross or strange habits with in your own dogs or former fosters?