I had planned on moving back to Phoenix (an event thankfully avoided by the width of a nostril hair) and had told the folks at AGR I would not be able to foster after my last foster dog found a permanent home.
Then I got the call. AGR had heard rumors that I hadn’t moved to Phoenix and were wondering if I would foster a special needs dog for a few days while she recovered from being spayed. I said yes and on a Wednesday in mid-December 2008 brought home a totally doped up dog, Wheezy. She was a challenge - wouldn’t eat anything so I couldn’t give her the pain meds which meant she didn’t feel well so wouldn’t eat anything. Snackies, cheese, peanut butter, chicken, steak. Nope, nope, nope. I finally tempted her with yogurt and peanut butter and snackies mixed together and, as a result, she got her meds. She started to feel better, started drinking when tempted with chicken broth and I stopped panicking that she was going to have to go back to the vet to be treated for dehydration. By Saturday she was behaving normally so she joined us at play date, though since she was still recovering from surgery, she stayed on the lead and we just walked around the enclosure.
Sheryl was there with Breeze and Opal and by the time Wheezy and I had finished our lap around the field she had decided she wanted to take Wheezy home with her. The only catch was that she was already at her 2 dog maximum. I suggested a trade, foster for foster. After Wheezy passed the husband acceptance test with all As we contacted AGR and did a foster swap. Not quite like the original Freaky Friday, I suppose one main difference was that it was on a Sunday and, you know, they weren’t related, though they were fosters. Anyway…Wheezy got her permanent home and a new name (Isabella aka Izzy) and Breeze got Willow and me.
Keep in mind, I had seen Breeze a couple of times a week over the past month and she knew Willow; and still the first days at my house were pretty rough. The first day I just left the back door open because she wouldn’t come inside. She just stood in the furthest corner of the yard, one leg up, tail tucked, turned in on herself, ready to run. I would occasionally catch her laying down in the grass for a moment between frantic pacing and scanning of the area each time she heard the slightest noise.
I managed to catch her in the house the first night so I could close the door for the evening. When she was in the house, she divided her time between hiding in the crate in the family room and making sure there was something; wall, couch, table, anything, between her and I. I followed her lead and stayed as far from her as possible so she didn’t feel threatened. Well any more than she already was. Trying to read her body language, I spent a while figuring out what freaked her out. Specifically. I based it on when she stood up. How close I could walk towards her, which route I could take from one room to the other, how fast I could move, how high I could raise my hands. I learned not to trap her into a room where there wasn’t an escape for her. To not make eye contact. That I couldn't carry anything. Let me tell you, it was a well deserved night of sleep for both of us.
The next morning she looked at me in terror as I came down the hall, searching about frantically for a place to hide. Trying to help avoid a complete panic, I didn’t look as her directly, going with coy glances from under eyelashes to see where she was, managing to run into only one wall, before getting the back door opened. The minute I was clear she bolted for the outside, to her safe spot. Knowing I wouldn’t get her back inside and that she was used to a doggie door and non-scheduled potty breaks, I left the door propped open when I went to work.
When I got home that evening I was greeted with Willow, who I noticed was quite happy to have a roommate, and a glimpse of a brindle tail disappearing out the back door. I tried snacky treat bribes to get her inside. Nope, me by the door was too threatening. That’s been tried before, thank you very much, that way leads to hands on and that is just unacceptable. Just slide it on out here and back away slowly.
Fortunately, that night I learned if I made ‘good girl’ noises to Willow and hugged and petted her, Breeze was intrigued, cautiously peeking around corners to investigate what was going on. Willow was quite proud of all the good things she didn’t know she was doing. She could have been nominated for the greyhound Nobel Prize with all the good deeds accomplished. Cure for dog drooling, helping free other racing greyhounds in South America, feeding starving greyhounds in Africa, teaching racing peace and saving countless bunnies all over the world.
I surreptitiously watched Breeze trying to figure out why Willow would be remotely interested in going near a human. I also caught glimpses of her longing to be with the two of us, she wanted to be involved, there was just too much fear physically limiting what she could do, it was shutting her down.
With that new bit of insight, Willow continued to get accolades until Breeze came entirely into the house. It was like watching a squirrel take a nut you’ve left on the deck, one hesitant step at a time, pausing to check surroundings, retreating then coming forward again, to finally get it and run off to the safety of their tree. Well I wanted the tree to be inside that night, so by taking the long way around and keeping her on the other side of the divider I managed to get the door shut before she could retreat to her nest and we were able to retire for the night with all doors secured. All in all, a successful day in the new foster home.