When last we parted, Buster the Giant Foster Dog had made clear that he didn’t like the new human mommy the shelter had chosen for him. The day before I was supposed to wrestle him into the car to go home with said mom, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning certain that I was participating in a crime against the big, sweet, lovable lug. Kinda like giving Orphan Annie to Miss Hannigan.
Unable to sleep, I prayed, turned on my computer and, voila–an email whose subject line read, “Do you still have the dog?” I didn’t know the sender, but several days earlier, I had sent an e-mail describing Buster to a dog-loving friend of mine. Apparently, a gentleman who was fixing her computer “accidentally” read the e-mail and felt a months-long depression lift. Get this: He’d had a 100 lb pooch who had sat faithfully with him while he underwent chemotherapy. Man and dog had adored each other and when the dog developed cancer and died the following year, the man was devastated. Nothing seemed to cheer him up…until he saw the e-mail.
I phoned them first thing the next morning. Certain this was Buster’s true family, I raced to the shelter, where the woman interested in adopting our convalescent pal was supposed to be filling out her paperwork. Ticking off the shelter and the woman more and more with every word I spoke, I nonetheless convinced them to give other Buster to the other family. Then I filled out the paperwork on the new family’s behalf (they lived five hours away), phoned them with the great news that Buster was officially theirs, and we had a tearful celebration on the phone.
All this took one and a half hours, during which Buster had been home alone. He’d been home alone before. This time he must have sensed something, because…
Oh, holy God in heaven.
In that exciting, celebratory hour-and-a-half, Buster, who had been resting in his usual tongue-protruding stupor when I left, had managed to rouse himself and rip my house to shreds. Literally shreds. Shredded curtains in the kitchen, living and dining rooms. (I hated those curtains, anyway.) Shredded giant picnic basket containing my shredded knitting. At some point he had climbed onto the kitchen counter and tore the café curtains, rod and all, down from the above-the-window sink. Cushions had been removed from chairs. A baby gate was thrashed. Buster had been busy. On the bright side, he was obviously feeling more energetic.
On the down side, I had to phone his new family to apprise them of this behavior, plus face my husband whose trust and faith in my judgment I had begged (yes, I’d actually said “have faith in my judgment”) prior to bringing Buster home in the first place.
Buster’s new family was easy: “Oh-ho, our Bob did the same when he first arrived. Managed to chew an entire 6 foot fence. It’s to be expected. Then they settle right in.” (And do what? Eat the drywall?) Whatever, they wanted Buster just as soon as they could get them. My friend Su and I loaded Buster (along with about half a pound of bacon as a bribe) into the back of my Outback and off we went. Busty didn’t make a sound. With the exception of a brief round of projectile drooling (I hope it was drool), he behaved like a perfect gentleman. If the drive went well, the hand-off to the new family was a moment of true heart, warmth and inspiration. Hallmark for canines. I left feeling mighty grateful to have been part of the moment.
My husband kissed me when I got home. “You did a good thing. I’m proud of you. It would be nice to take a break now from fostering dogs. For a while. Okay? I know you still miss Chauncie terribly, but–”
“Sure, honey, sure. You’ve been so understanding and so tolerant of all the dogs coming in and out of here.”
“Well, it’s all over now. We’re done fostering?”
He hugged me. “I’m not going to miss the dog hair.”
“Me either. I am finished with shedders.” Buster’s hair had blown out in black tufts that clung like webbing.
So, we returned to our peaceful, dog-less lives. I stared at photos of my dear Collie girl, the one whose passing had kicked off the round of foster dogs so I wouldn’t have time to cry. I cried a lot that afternoon, though, missing her gentle licks, the way she cocked her head as she tried to understand her people’s silly babble, the charming way she protected babies. There would never be another being as kind and sweet and easy. …
So why wait? I had agreed not to get another foster dog.
Within a week, I had Autumn , who came to us from the Humane Society. There was a sign on her cage that said, VERY NERVOUS LITTLE DOG. Little? Her paws were enormous, with extra toes. Nervous was correct, though: She was so scared in the shelter that she wouldn’t stand up in the run. As for cars? Pooor baaaaaby. Such a shy, needy dog.
Who knew she’d hate cats? Or weigh 65 pounds so quickly? and no one mentioned that she’d blow her coat twice a year and shed continuously. I didn’t know. Honest.
“I’m not walking her,” Tim said when I brought Autumn home. “I’m not feeding her or buying Frontline or sweeping four times a day. This is all yours.”
I agreed, hugging my new bff.
That was five years ago. Tim has never fed her (anything but leftover roasted chicken, meatloaf and spaghetti…). He doesn’t buy Frontline; it’s true. When he sweeps, he just happens to get some of her hair along with the other stuff into the dustpan, and he only walks her because I look like I could use a break. As for playing with her, I wish he’d rein it in; he keeps her up way too late.
Husbands, wives and pets…gotta love us.
P.S. Buster and his family are still doing great!