Saturday, December 17, 2011

Don't touch the burner

This is Milo the foster puppy. He was hours from euthanasia when a rescue group intervened, assessed his temperment, and decided he was worth saving. He'd arrived with a severely broken leg -- the likely result of being used as a bait dog -- and prognosis of imminent amputation. He just needed to clear up a nasty case of ringworm first.

We gave him a temporary home at my urging. They needed a pet-free home, and the sad circumstances of late September enabled us to oblige.

It's been a challenging few weeks. On top of realizing (in neon) that puppies are much tougher than older dogs, Milo has some issues that I'm struggling to get my head around. Sure, he does some puppy things that puppies will always do -- chews pillows, begs for food, whimpers in his crate -- but he's also got a nasty propensity toward biting that seems to go beyond playful antics. What's he thinking up there in his tiny, adorable puppy head? That he needs to defend himself, and if so, against what?

Is he angry? Befuddled? Borderline aggressive?

Am I food? A nemesis? A threat? A chew toy?

Our foster commitment comes to a close before Christmas, and I'm hopeful he'll find a home that can give him both boundaries and limitless love, and perhaps the answers to those questions. I know in my heart I'm not part of that equation, and I feel like a daily failure for it. Especially since so many friends predicted we'd keep him, as if it was inevitable we'd fall in love. How could you not? Look how adorable he is. But we haven't. I haven't.

There have been some good lessons in all of this, and it seems worth listing them here, as someday this period in our lives may be just a fuzzy blip in a long line of animals we ideally come to know, perhaps even make homes for.

1) The best intentions don't always produce the best results

2) It may have been too early for us to take this on

3) I don't have a handy arsenal of tools for conquering things I don't understand

4) Puppies can hurt your skin

5) Puppies can hurt your feelings

6) A lousy potential adopter can be a bang-up foster, and sometimes you need to flip this switch

7) I miss Inez

8) I really, really miss Inez

So there you have it. Another one of my bright ideas that will go unfinished -- one that's left me with a healthy dose of ambivalence and perhaps a dash of self-loathing. I hope we've at least given Milo some structure and stability, and though he won't remember us, I hope we've made it easier for those who might adopt him permanently. May they be patient, loving people. May they welcome a challenge on four clumsy legs. May they hold dear things like fragility, complexity, and unpredictability. May they have thick skin in body and mind. May they count themselves lucky for knowing him. May they make him better, and may they get the same in return.


Rosemary said...

He's damned cute, though.

But seriously, I think you're both amazing to take on pet fostering at all. We have some friends who've been doing it for years (and have adopted a couple of the dogs they've taken in), and my sense is that their lives are completely structured around the current "dog culture" in their house. There's no way I could do it, but my hat's off to those who can. There aren't many of them, and it's no shame if you've discovered you're not among them!

Adriane Harrison said...

I am so sorry that sweet Inez is gone and that your heart has not yet healed. So sad. Nonetheless, Milo is lucky to have you and I am sure this experience was a good way to help you recognize when you actually are ready to have a forever dog. We got a new cat very quickly after our sweet cat, Joe, died. I still miss him (two years later) and I don't love our new cat. Like you, I feel like I should, and feel like a bit of a failure that I don't. I like her, though, and for now that is enough. Good luck with your journey.

Christy said...

Thanks to you both for your kind words and especially your understanding. We'll be dropping Milo off at the kennel this morning as we head out of town, and from there he goes to a wonderful new home with a fantastic couple we met last week (after I posted this blog entry), so it's gratifying.

Of course it's also bittersweet, as we've gotten pretty attached to this hot mess of a puppy. That was the hardest part: We'd think about keeping him and we'd be overwhelmed; we'd think about giving him up and we'd be agonized about facing another loss.

But in this case, the head will trump the heart, in a way we can feel pretty good about. Let's hope that feeling holds, and that when we get to a point of taking in a new pup for good, we're ready to jump in with both feet.

Rosemary said...

Good for Milo, and good for you and John. Undoubtedly there's another "kismet" dog in your future. It won't be sweet Inez, but it'll be a whole new amazing relationship. Any chance you two are coming to C-bus for the holidays...?

tracy said...

Ugh, I can't imagine how tough that whole situation was, emotionally speaking. I saw my mom go through the same process, but she actually adopted the dog before realizing it really couldn't be a permanent situation...and she's still feeling guilty.

On the other hand, I'm so happy to hear that Milo found a home! You and John helped to make that possible, and probably prodded him toward being a better puppy for the next home. Good for you.

leslie said...

To me, puppies are more work than toddlers, and the toddler stage is what kept us from having more kids. They're a lot of work! Adorable, though.