Thursday, September 13, 2012

How do you know you're a forever home?

Corbin's momma here... taking over the blog today.

As most of you know, we're a dog foster family.  We've helped rescue, foster and home over 25 dogs in the two years that we've been fostering.  I work with a rescue that has a very high turn over rate in an area that's very pro adoption. 

With a high rate of adoptions, you would think there would be a significant rate for returns, however, our rescue has an application process, vet check, reference checks, interviews, home visits if needed and follow up communication to make sure the adoption is working out. Our dogs are all vetted and behavior tested before coming to us, and by being in a foster home, we can further assess the dogs behaviors and likes/dislikes and provide some training while we have them.  We try to limit returns as much as we can and have a less than 5% return rate.  If there's an issue with an adoption, we offer our behaviorist to work with the family to see if it's a resolvable issue.  Most of the time she works wonders and the dog is able to stay in their home.  Sometimes, it's just not the right match or the family just isn't willing to put in the time.  We always take our dogs back, me especailly. 

I try my best to get to know each and every dog that walks into our home.  I try to recognize what I think this dog will need in their forever home and I do my best to make sure everything is lined up for the dog to succeed.  I tell each person interested in my dog all of the bad things I can think of about each dog... if you know the worst and you're still interested we've got something to work on.  If I hear that there's an issue with one of my dogs, I know there's something wrong in the household that isn't right for my foster dog...

I believe each and every one of my foster dogs to be my own dogs.  They all have a place in my heart and will forever have a place in home.  So, to me, returning one of my foster dogs is personal, very emotional and also a little frustrating.  I put in my time to screen you to make sure you would be good enough for my dog.  I told you the ugly, the bad, the good and the best aspects of this dog and you either chose not to listen, lied to me about your ability or willingness to work with them or didn't think through the time, effort and energy it takes for a dog.  A lot of you were around for Oreo last year and her heartbreaking history of returns before finally finding her perfect home.

But, how do you know that you're a forever home?  Is it the love you have for the dog?  The perfect environment you may have for the dog?  The best schedule to accomidate a dog?  The connection between you and the dog?

This post comes from a phone call I received Tuesday evening from Brutus' dad.  He's worried that he's not home enough and that his schedule isn't fair to Brutus.  I know the thought that Corbin might be happier in a different home has crossed my mind plenty of times before.  Maybe our yard isn't big enough for him, he'd be happier with a bigger yard.  Maybe someone who is home more often to spend time with him, we work every day and sometimes have things going on at night and he's left alone.  Maybe it's really not fair for him to bring him to the lake and take him out of the comfort of his home for a weekend -we weren't able to do that this year because of his mystery medical condition and heart medications, but we did last year and plan on it again pending Corbin's health.

How do you know your dog is happy?  How do you know that keeping your dog is a mutual love and not just a selfish act on yourself to have a faithful companion?

I no longer think that Corbin would be better off in another home, I haven't thought that for a while.  I know very few families that would have put the time into Corbin in the beginning, and the continued training we do with him to keep him a happy, friendly dog.  I know very few families who would have spent over $6,000 on a mystery pain that we still have yet to diagnose.  Corbin didn't need long to figure out we were his people, and maybe that made our decision to adopt him easier.  He knew he was home, he was comfortable in our home and he captured our hearts like no other.  Would he like a bigger yard? Absolutely... but is he complaining about the size of his current yard? Nope, plenty of room to chase his ball.  Would he like us to be home more often? You betcha... but does he complain when he goes in his crate every morning?  Nope, he runs down the hall to his crate so fast, I can't keep up.  I know in my heart that Corbin is happy with us.  What we provide for him is enough and he's happy and grateful for every second he gets with us.

I explained to Brute's dad that he was treated as our own dog.  We didn't feel guilty if we had to run out after work and were gone for a few extra hours, and that he was semi used to that schedule.  Brutus is the type of dog where it doesn't matter what you have or how much time you really have to spend with him... as long as the time you do have for him is 100% for him and he can sit on your lap and be pet while you watch TV, he's a happy happy dog.  I also gave him a few options... possibly hiring a dog walker on his long days, or scheduling him to go to doggie daycare.  Maybe having a family member or a friend stop in to spend some time with him for an hour or so.

I know he really loves Brutus, how could you not love that slobbery moose?  But how do you know that you're not being selfish in keeping your pet? 

34 comments:

  1. I think for us (and we've gone thru a spat of hard times recently and talked about it) would be if we couldn't afford proper vet care or good dog food. Other than that, we know the boys sleep all day, they sleep during this time anyway when we are home - so we don't think they are missing us. We come home and devote our time to them, we walk them, play with them, and never get too busy to pet them.

    Sam

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  2. I applaud you for being there to answer questions. I know when I first adopted I had so many questions. Casper whined the first two nights we got him and having someone to bounce questions off of gave me the confidence and skill to work through it. With the right routines and training, most dogs are highly adaptable and I think it's awesome that you are there for the new owners to help them gain that confidence and perspective.

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  3. I too admire what you do and your perspective, but worry about all the dogs who are left in crates for very long periods every day. What tugs at your heart when you go to a shelter is the fact that the dogs are all in cages most of the time... so taking one home and keeping it in a crate (cage) ... well, how is that so different than being in a shelter? In fact, a dog just being cooped up in a house all day (not in a crate) seems wrong to me, but I know that's the life many of them have.

    Kathy

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  4. Thank you for doing what you do. Without you, many of these dogs wouldn't be around anymore. But when you foster a special one, it's also very hard to send them on their way when the time comes for them to move into their forever home.

    We tried fostering with Jack Russells. We failed miserably at fostering but now have 5 very happy Jacks living with us in their forever home.

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  5. Casey's Momma here. I know exactly what you're talking about. After I first adopted Casey, there were times I broke down in tears that I wasn't doing the right thing for him or for my cats. But we got peace on the kitty front with some hard work, and like you said, Casey let me know that he was home and this was where he wanted to be. I sometimes feel guilty when I have to do things that take me out of the house for too long, but then I'll take Casey on a special trip to the dog park or to get hamburgers and he'll just beam at me like he couldn't imagine a better home.

    I've had two of my foster dogs returned, and both times it utterly broke my heart. I'd promised them I would find them a forever home, and here they were losing it?? Returns are the most depressing part of rescue, no matter how rare they are. :(

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  6. I think the key thing to remember is that dogs live in the moment - something we humans could learn from them - and so long as you give them 100% of what you are able to give them - they are happy. If that is two hours a day then give them 100% of that 2 hours and of coarse having food for the tummies and a safe place to live - what could be better - and there is always weekends when you can go walkies and do lots of great things together.

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  7. Corbin's Momma: What you provide for Corbin is a palace compared to what he might be provided elsewhere. And you have a loving, happy environment - the number one thing a dog needs to behave properly.

    Kathy: I want you think long and hard about your proclamation. Do you truly believe that a dog in shelter who receives a quick walk or two a day, maybe a small pat on the head every once in a while but mostly just lays in his own excrement listening to a hundred dogs cry is comparable to a well-fed, fetch-playing, bathed, rubbed, treat-given, human-bed sleeping member of a family? By the sounds of it, I wouldn’t guess you had a dog. Dogs are den animals. After initial resistance, they love their crates. Their crates turn into safe places. And that’s the whole point. It keeps them safe from themselves – from the couch-chewing and mailman-barking habits that us cause us humans to get angry and withhold love upon our return to the house. I come home to a happy, excited Pitbull ready to fetch the ball after a few hours in his crate. And he loves his life. His shelter alternative wasn’t the shelter at all. It was a needle.

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    1. I was not referring to a dog who spends "a few hours" per day in a crate. There are many of them who are crated for 10-12 hours (and sometimes longer) each day. I know this is true... I hear it all the time.

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    2. Yep. My little guy included. I work a normal 8 to 5 schedule. If I didn't go to work, there would be no food for him to eat or couch for him to lay on when I got home.

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    3. I'm the same way, Kristen, although I am fortunately able to go home at lunch to let them out sometimes. While obviously the ideal would be for dogs to have free run 24 hours a day, that's just not practical for most people. Dogs sleep most of the time we're gone anyway! As long as the dogs are getting plenty of exercise the rest of the time, then being in the crate isn't detrimental.

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    5. This post was written because Brutus's new dad was worried that he's not home enough and his schedule wasn't fair to the dog. I think it's a valid concern for those people who work long hours, travel etc. Pets are a responsibility and you probably shouldn't make the commitment to have one if you don't have the time. Seems like common sense to me.

      And Kristen, I'm entitled to my opinion without your condescending remark "By the sounds of it, I wouldn't guess you had a dog."

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    6. Casey, I do get to go home for lunch, although that wasn't always the case.

      Kathy, you are entitled to your opinion, but not with or without my response. And since you brought it up, what is your objective in voicing that opinion? The only outcome is to make dog parents feel guilty if they can't spend as much time with their pets as they'd like. By pointing it out and saying you think it's not being a good dog parent, you're the one looking down your nose at us. We all obviously love our dogs, and just like anything else in life, there is more than one way to care for them. I'll care for mine in my way, you care for yours in your way. The good news is there are less dogs in shelters or six feet under because of people like you and me and the other posters.

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    7. You're right Kristen. All those words you just put in my mouth are absolutely right and my only reason for commenting was to make you and the others feel guilty. Feel better now?

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  8. We think Corbin has a great home, on that takes in other Dogs, so Corbin is happy by doing his part to help them along. As Dogs making OUR Peeps happy is one of our Jobs, when they are home THEY make us happy, when THEY are not, we have each other, like Cobin and all the Rescues you have roam through. Great job!!!

    Your Furends
    Susie & Bites

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  9. MayzieMom here. You want to know the WRONG home for a dog?

    It's a home that ties a dog up outside 24 hours a day in all kinds of weather with no shelter and very little human interaction. It's a home that provides the dog with so little socialization and new experiences that she freaks out the first time that she sees a ceiling fan. It's a home that doesn't spay their dog and lets that dog have unwanted puppies. It's a home that neglects to vet the dog. It's a home that "forgets" to feed the dog and lets that dog turn into a pile of skin and bones.

    That was Mayzie's first home.

    Before I worked from home, the pets were here by themselves from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. We did have a dog walker come in the middle of the day for 30 minutes but they were here by themselves the rest of the time. Did I wish that they didn't have to be by themselves for that long? Sure. Did I feel guilty? A little but not much. And you know why? Because when we are with them, they are HAPPY. We take walks. We hang on the couch. We take them for car rides. They are full-fledged members of our family. And like so much else in life, it's not the quantity, it's the quality. I know my dogs (and cats) have a great quality of life with us. And I have no doubt that Brutus has a great quality of life with his new dad. I mean, he WORRIES about Brutus' quality of life. That alone tells me that he's a great dog owner and that Brutus has found a great home!

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  10. Our home is not perfect (no one's home is) but I've never doubted that our dogs are where they belong. They are family. I would give up everything in my life before I would give up my dogs. That might be selfish but most would balk at the idea of giving up their children just because they were impoverished and my dogs are my kids. Luckily, I am more than able to provide for their needs.

    I think the truth is that most dog owners have jobs, have social lives and that our dogs spend a lot of time chilling at home by themselves. Does that make our homes any less desirable than those who can come home every few hours for an hour of play or walks? Or those who can afford daily dog daycare? Nope. I guarantee that our dogs are happy where they are, with what they have. We should learn from them - to be happy with what they have and live in the moment - not doubt if we're enough for them.

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  11. I also struggled with this when I first adopted Blueberry. I mean, I am it as far as her "pack" goes. But I know now that because I do what I can to keep her happy, she is happy. I can tell by how relaxed she is and how eager she is to try new things. She's not destructive even though she's alone the entire day. She knows that when I come home - it's all about her. When I am home with her on weekends, I watch to see what she does - and really, she either sleeps a lot or watches the squirrel in the yard. Same things she no doubt does while I am at work. That's essentially her "job". I get her out for walks mostly every day of the week, car rides, I take her with me on errands.

    Are there people that treat their dogs even better - absolutely. But like Mayzie's mom said - a poor home is one where the dog is ignored, left in the back yard, tied up, not fed regularly - the list goes on and on.

    So yes, Corbin's mom - you are right - Corbin is right where he should be. Hopefully Brutus's dad realizes that he IS providing him a great home. Dogs don't need entertainment 24/7.

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  12. Well written, Corbin's Mom. I think it is normal to have doubts. So many times the thought crossed my mind that I was unable to raise a puppy, but each time Ray shows a "growing up and maturing" moment, it is a success. My perfect job would be where I could either work from home or bring him to work, but that isn't in the cards, so he is at home (with a dog walker to comes to let him out) and I am here at a desk and make the money that allows me enough to keep him well fed, treated, toyed and exercised. Is he happy? Yes. He is loved and he knows it.

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  13. WOW... 25 fosters in 24 months.. That is an average of ONE VERY LUCKY DOG EVER SINGLE MONTH!!!!!!!!!! I am so humbled by your total commitment.
    As to dogs who are left home while their peeps's Work.. WELL that is a SHORT time in the whole scheme of things. WHEN the peeps ARE home they spend QUALITY time and THAT is the important thing.
    Corbin is the PERFECT EXAMPLE of that. You are there with him doing things FOR him.. every possible second. WE know that.. we see PROOF of it on this blog. He is LOVED and CARED for as much as humanly possible.. and REASONABLE. Corbin is a VERY VERY LUCKY DOG. BRAVO to Y O U fur what you do fur Our FUREND and fur the Fosters.

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  14. I have to admit I've thought about that a lot with my dogs too.

    When I first got Shiver, he was a puppy. He was very rambunctious all.the.time and loved to chew. It had been a very long time since I'd been around a puppy, so I didn't realize how much work it was. Thankfully, things got better as he got older. I know he loves me and he gets very upset when things aren't as they're supposed to be, so I can't even imagine getting rid of him.

    One thing that disappointed me with Chico's former owners is that they didn't really seem to care much about him or where he went. He originally came from a puppy mill that got busted, where he was kept in a cage and only let out to go potty or make babies. The owners I got him from said they usually kept him outside or in the yard because they had a new baby and didn't have the time to put into him. They did virtually no background check or anything on me. Anyone could have gotten him and who knows what could have happened. They were only interested in the fact that I paid for him in cash.

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  15. When I adopted my first dog, I was still going to school (taking mostly online classes and was home writing papers a LOT) and working part-time from home, as well. It definitely helped that she was 7 months old and required potty training... and I was around enough to do it.

    Fast forward two years later, add two more dogs to the mix (two large, active pointers), and now an 8-5 full time job (how else could I afford a place big enough for them and foot all their expenses?). I'm usually gone from about 7:30 and don't get home until around 6pm on most days. I rarely can get home during my lunch hour, so they are alone for almost 11 hours most days. One dog is crated (he's older and has cancer) while I'm at work and the other two roam the house freely. Mostly they sleep while I'm gone and have adjusted rather well... at first I felt guilty. And remembered people in the past when I volunteered with a rescue group denying people from adopting who work as much as I do and don't have a dog door (I rent and my landlord won't let me install one). But I also know that my dogs are as happy as they can be, with me. We walk between 2-5 miles each evening (or in the mornings, if I get up early enough), they are often included in social plans and I like to go out to eat where there is a dog friendly patio.

    Is my current home and life ideal for my dogs? No. My house is small, my yard is way to small for such a large active breed (they are all different types of pointers... hunting dogs bred for stamina & drive), and some days I am just straight-up exhausted. But I started out w/ two of them in a studio apartment... now I have a small but nice house with a yard and the next time I move it will be to a bigger place with either a much bigger yard or a small piece of property. We do the best we can, with what we've got and I think that's the real sign of a loving and responsible dog owner.

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  16. If the love is there it is a forever home, even if it is quite most of the day!

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  17. You're right, it's the Brutus time that counts. If Brutus isn't making noise and trying to escape, he's happy.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

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  18. Corbin's Mommy,
    That is a superb post. Dogs are a lot like kids. They would LIKE more, but in the end all they need is you and LOVE!
    Love Noodles

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  19. Thank you for all that you do to help doggy pals find good homes. Corbin is lucky and so am I. I was rescued and have the best furever home!

    Loveys Sasha

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  20. I am in the category of a working Mom also. Gone from 8:30-6pm, although my two are not crated and have access to roam the house. My two sleep all day and actually get frustrated when I am home on the weekends and interrupt their beauty sleep, so no, I don't think they are neglected in any way. I do think it really helps that there are two of them so that they have a buddy. They don't whine or get upset when I leave in the mornings for work. When we are home, our time is ALL about them and they know it. The point is, we should all do our best for our pups. I have seen many dogs in horrible conditions and know that basically ANY home with a caring owner would be better then what they had been living in or as someone else mentioned, being put to sleep. I sure do hope Brutey's dad finds peace with the situation and stops being so hard on himself.

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  21. Blimey Charlie. Corbin's mum, we think you are exceptional. Corbin seems like the most loved dog in every way. Everything you blog about (including all of your foster dogs) shows us your love of Corbin and what he means to you and your hubby. We can't all provide the perfect scenario but we can provide unconditional love and care for our pets as you have shown us you do. Corbin is a lucky boy, don't you ever doubt that. Take care all. No worries, and love, Carol (and Stella and Rory)

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  22. We know Tucker wouldn't want to be anywhere else when we look at him and he's smiling. I look at my husband and tell him "Tucker's best day ever, again" because I'm 100% sure each dog seizes the current day and doesn't worry that on last Tuesday Mom and Dad had something they had to do and he had to be alone for a couple hours in the evening.

    And about that yard. Ours is pretty large with a 6 foot fence. Tucker prefers to be inside all the time. They are like kids, you give them something and they won't want it anymore, lol.

    And Corbin, we all know he is loved and that he loves you back. Just look at your first picture - Corbin is proud of his mom.

    Tucker's Momma

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  23. We got Delilah for Sampson, because I felt bad that he was home alone when we were at work. In retrospect it was probably the wrong reason, and I think sometimes with the challenges she has brought that it was the wrong decision, but I'm not letting her go. I think for the most part it is about the love, if they are loved they are happy. There is no doubt that you love Corbin and he you.

    I know a lot of 'dog people' who feel bad they are gone as much as they are, but as long as your dog's needs are getting met it's all good, right? :-)

    Bless you for what you do!

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  24. I think a lot of dedicated dog owners fret that they aren't doing enough. I have my own worries. I feel like I don't do enough to expose the boys to new situations and that I am often so rushed that I "make do" with a 15 minute tennis ball session rather than decent walks or training. I think it goes with the territory of being empathetic with our furry friends.

    There are signs when dogs aren't getting what they need, sometimes. I suppose a dog that acts out is one indication (although that could also just be a dog with general anxiety).

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  25. Omg, Brutus. I hope you get to stay in your new home!!

    I have the same doubts about des sometimes: we're not home enough and not rich enough to do daycare/walker; we don't feed him the best most perfect home-cooked diet; he has no doggie pals at home; we sometimes don't play with him when he wants to but we are tired; we don't have enough time to devote to his training and anxiety issues. But I feel like more than anything, I'm being way too hard on us--and am often comparing myself to some of the seemingly super-human bloggers. I think it's one of those things you just know.

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