Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Switcheroo

Jack is a handful. He wants to be king of the world. There is no doubt about it. Over the last few weeks, he has taken it to the next level—being possessive over his bones (OK—acceptable), growling when I pet him (what?), and guarding our bedroom (I just want to sleep!).  Then, at adoption days, he has been less-than-friendly to some people who approach and pet him. [If you recall, these are some of the behaviors that the adopters noted.]

What happened to the gregarious dog that we knew? Surely he wasn't feeling well and was cranky. So we took him to the vet. Was it a thyroid problem or Lyme or something else? Probably not. He showed no signs of lethargy or loss of appetite. Was it a simple ear infection or intestinal parasite? Nope, not that either. What was it?

I'm convinced it's us—his foster people, but specifically me. Jack is Jonathan's sidekick, his partner in crime. The vet pointed out that we both need to be equally firm and in charge. We should do our equal shares of working with him, feeding him, and walking him. Well, therein lies the problem. Part of the deal for continuing to foster through this hell-ish semester of grad school was that Jonathan would take over much of the day-to-day responsibilities. I spend so much time at work, in class, commuting, and doing school work that taking the dog for an extra walk at night has just become impossible.

Maybe it's our fault for even agreeing to take him in the first place. A Border Collie in a condo? We thought it would be fine for a week or two. If we had ever imagined it would be 3 months, then we might have said no.

The last straw came on Saturday. A very nice couple with lots of Border-Collie experience came to adoption day with the hopes of adopting Jack. That glimmer of hope quickly vanished when Jack growled and barked every time the couple approached him. I knew these people would be great with him because they kept trying. They approached different ways, with different treats, in different locations. But it didn't matter. Jack wanted nothing to do with them.

With time, resources, and some space to run, we might be able to work with this dog. We see his potential. But right now, we just can't do that. We can't give him what he needs.

So we asked another foster with more behavioral experience and a big backyard if we could do a "switcheroo." She kindly (very, very kindly) agreed. On Sunday, we went to her house, dropped off Jack, and picked up her Karina. (More on Karina later.) We know that the change of environments is stressful for the dogs, but we hope that the situation will be better in the long run.

I cried as we drove away. We always joke about "foster failures"—those that end up adopting their fosters. But here, I felt like a failure for giving up on a dog that I loved. His needs are just beyond us; he has shown us what we still need to learn.


  1. Kim, you do a wonderful thing by fostering dogs and saving their lives. You didn't give up on him, you placed him in a foster home with more dog-aggression experience, thus giving him an even better chance at adoption.

  2. Thanks, anonymous. It's just hard when we've put so much work into him to not be able to see him through. I'm confident it will be better for him (and Karina) in the long run.

  3. I've been there. I imagine every foster home has been, even if its something we generally don't want to talk about.
    The dogs that aren't right for our homes, no matter how temporary.

    Mine was a 60lb bull in a china shop pit bull mix. I stuck it out for 2 months and then, exasperated, asked the rescue to find another foster. They were reluctant, but they did and that home adopted him :)

    This can only mean GOOD things for Jack. And Karina!

  4. I agree with Jen. Do not feel like a failure; not every dog is right for every home. I have been in this position before & it is too easy to beat yourself up.Thanks for all that you do :)

  5. Thanks, all, for putting this in perspective. :)

  6. Trying something new is NOT giving up! You didn't kick Jack out on the street, or take him to the shelter and say "Get him out of my sight!" You came up with a new plan that may lead to Jack finding a home more quickly. Nothing wrong about that at all!

  7. It's not giving up. You needed to do what was best for him, and it's sadly not what you can give him. I think it takes great courage to admit defeat and let someone else have a go at the issue. I'm just like Jack, I'm not particularly chummy with strangers. But one day I found Momma-1 and the rest is history. He'll find his soul family soon, I'm sure.