If you follow us on Instagram, you've already been introduced to foster pup Sal. About 2 weeks ago on Thursday, Barley's mothership posted a few pictures of a new intake and said he was 10+, underweight, and had terrible teeth. I saw the pictures, thought he looked like a nice dog, showed his picture to my sister, and I logged out of Facebook and went about my day.
But the next day, I was still thinking about that dog. I called my mom and told her I was thinking I might foster a dog. Fostering isn't something I've ever really considered because I pretty much fall in love with any strange dog on the street, so I was pretty sure if a dog came into my house, it wasn't coming back out. But my sister fosters through Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in DC and my aunt works with a dalmatian rescue (although she doesn't foster because on her one attempt, she failed--but she does transport dogs to foster homes), so I figured if they could do it, I could try it. I thought about it some more. I worked all day to clean out my two downstairs bedrooms and told myself I'd contact the foster coordinator if I finished unpacking the boxes in those rooms.
As you'e probably guessed, I emailed the shelter that evening. The foster coordinator and I chatted on the phone the following morning and she told me that the shelter is so crowded right now (according to PetFinder, there are 95 adoptable pets at the shelter--but they seem to be getting more every day) that all of the dogs have kennel cough. I told her I'd need to talk to our vet--who was already closed for the weekend--and since dogs can only be picked up for foster when the shelter is open and it's closed on Mondays, Tuesday was the earliest I could get him if the vet gave the ok.
|Poor Sal couldn't get out o the car on his own.|
I wasn't too worried about Barley. She's a tank and she's had the bordatella vaccine and is around other dogs regularly, so I felt confident that if she did catch his kennel cough it wouldn't be too bad, but I was worried about her spreading it to her agility classmates. The last thing I wanted to do was bring another dog into her life and then keep her from her favorite part of the week. After talking to the vet's office, who said a two week quarantine would be a good idea, I decided to foster Sal.
|Such a scrawny little fella.|
When I picked him up, I was shocked at the condition he was in. He looked sad in his Facebook pictures, but they were taken from angles where he didn't look awful. The dog I saw in front of me was mostly undercoat from the shoulders back to his tail and was severely emaciated. He looked like what would happen if Snoopy's brother Spike in I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (before Rerun's mom fattened him up) and the mangy wolf rom Ice Age had a baby.
The shelter was chaotic when I picked him up. Crates stacked on top of crates in the reception area--dogs on the bottom, kitties on the tops--and people were coming in surrendering animals and bringing in strays the whole time I was there. I got a little advice about feeding him and exercise and fresh air from the girl at the front desk, but I didn't get much information about him.
He was completely skin and bones when I brought him home. You could feel every single vertebrae and his hip bones. I was afraid to touch him past his shoulders because he was that frail. Luckily for Sal, his foster mama grew up in the South, so if there's one thing a Southern girl is good at, it's fattening people (or in his case dogs) up.
The shelter had told me that he needed several small meals while his body got used to food again, but there was no indicator of what small meant. So, I spent a long time on Google. I ran ideas by my best friend who is a human doctor, but knows about refeeding syndrome in humans who have been without food, so he at least had a better idea on if I was on the right track than I did.
The first few days he was so weak. He'd sleep so hard that when I went in his room, he wouldn't even stir and I couldn't tell if he was breathing--on more than one occasion, I was afraid he was dead. I took him for a short walk down the street--it was unplanned and I'd left the front door open (except for the storm door), so we only went to the stop sign in the middle of the street, about .1 miles, and we got 3 or 4 houses down from mine on the way back and he couldn't walk any farther. I had to carry him home. He couldn't go up the three front steps into my house for the first week and I had to carry him up.
|About a week later, he's put on some weight and some fur.|
|I got him his own bed, but he has no idea how to use it--this is the closest he's gotten.|
|He loves being outside.|
Even though he spent a little time in the backyard his first couple days here, a follow up email to my vet suggested that he should be in the front yard instead of in the backyard where Barley plays so that she didn't catch kennel cough from walking through grass he'd coughed or sneezed on, so he's spent a lot of time on a long line wrapped around the trees in the front. He's helped me with yard work and cleaning out my car.
Every day, he's getting stronger. About a week and a half later, his hair is growing back in softer and shinier (maybe because I'm spoiling him and making him eggs every day), he's now able to walk .4 miles at a time 2 or 3 times a day, and he can usually go up the front steps on his own.
His hip bones are still scarily prominent and I try not to pet him past his rib cage because it freaks me out, but I know that every walk we take and every time he goes up the stairs, he's gaining more muscle mass and that boniness will disappear soon.
Right now, the days have felt extra long because I'm splitting my time between the front yard and Sal's room--and then retracing all of our steps with the can of Lysol before letting Barley out of the bedroom. Then I spend time snuggling Barley, walking her, and playing with her in the backyard before the switch happens again. Of course, the days also went by really quickly because school was starting and the end of summer always goes by too fast.
Sal loves to snuggle and if you're not petting him, he will nudge you until you pet him. It's not enough to just have your hand on him--you have to be actively petting him or he will let you know that he's not satisfied.
As he's getting stronger, he really loves to play with toys. He won't play with some of Barley's old toys I gave him unless I play with them with him. I think his bad teeth make it hard for him to hold onto toys and carry them himself, but he definitely wants to play.
He does not understand lesson planning, so when I'm hanging out with him, it's really all about him--which right now means that he's getting less time than I'd like to give him because I have to get work done, too.
He needs some grooming, but he'll have to get stronger before that happens--until then, he has toes that remind me of the Grinch's feet with curly hair at the end. It makes me laugh--and doesn't seem to slow him down at all.
He's already housebroken, so we've been focusing our training on his selfie skills--so far there hasn't been much progress ;)
Next week, his quarantine will be over and I can start integrating him into the rest of the family--Barley's actually already introduced herself to him (but that's a story for another time) and Soth has watched him from a distance while I've taken him outside and he's given Sal a few quick sniffs a couple times, so I have high hopes that it will go smoothly.
Everyone keeps asking if I'll fail or telling me I have to keep him--and I'll never say never--but I don't think he's my dog. We just don't have that chemistry. From the second Barley came out of her kennel at the APL, she was mine. Sal and I like each other, we enjoy each other's company, but he's not overly attached to me and I guess the feeling's kind of mutual. I'm rooting for him and love seeing him make progress every day and I enjoy having him as a houseguest, but he doesn't feel like a permanent part of my life. Maybe Barley will fall in love with him and my views will change, but I don't feel like his journey ends here.
If you're interested in Sal, you can find more info on adopting him here. He's a great guy with a really funny personality and the stronger he gets the more his looks are going to match that great personality!