Frightening Foster

My husband warned me not to get into fostering.  I couldn’t help it!  I just have so much love to give our furry friends.  And I am always looking for ways to help these poor creatures.

After searching some local groups’ websites, I made my decision to become a foster parent.  The rules were fairly simple:  You must bring the dog to at least 1 adoption event a month and you must not take the dog to a different veterinarian than the one listed on the foster agreement.  Easy enough.

I was so nervous when we attended our first adoption event.  These are held every Saturday from 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.  There were so many dogs!  Which one would we choose?

We watched the other volunteers in action.  They made quick work of assembling metal crates and placing fact sheets with photos of each dog on top.  Matt and I did our best to read the stories and memorize them.  Pretty soon, we were connecting with new people and verbally “advertising” the dogs.

I made sure to always highlight things that I noticed, such as being good with children or not barking excessively.  The nerves melted away as my mission to find forever homes for these deserving dogs took center stage.

During the day, I had taken to an older Terrier named Toby.  His is a sad story.  Toby’s owner recently passed away and no one in the family wanted him.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with Toby.  He was a healthy, happy pooch with lots of love to give.

It was decided that Toby would be our very first foster.  I was quite giddy on the way home.  It was like adopting a new dog.  Our fur babies took to Toby right away and Toby was thrilled to have so many pooches to run around with.

We brought him to the next adoption event the following Saturday.  Everyone passed him by because of his age.  He is already 8 year old.  And while I felt bad that Toby didn’t find his forever home, I was glad that he would at least get to come back home with us.

At work, we have an electronic bulletin board where we can post items for sale, inquire about items and services and post upcoming events.  I decided to share Toby’s biography (that was listed on the group’s website) and photo.  My mom did the same at her place of employment.

I received a call from a co-worker of my mother’s.  This woman’s dog had recently passed away and she and her husband were finally ready to adopt again.  My heart soared.  This is what fostering is all about!  Connecting the perfect people with the perfect pup.

We set up a time for them to come and meet Toby.  They loved him!  But, they wanted to see how he would react to their granddaughter, since she would be frequenting the house.  We quickly set up a meeting for the following evening.

Then, disaster struck.  The woman rang our door bell and my husband opened the door and stepped back.  She proceeded to hold the door open for her granddaughter who was entering our home very slowly.  Before I knew it, Toby had pushed past the little girl and ran out into the street while the woman just stood there, still holding the door open.

Matt and the lady’s husband raced after Toby.  They called for him, but, he kept running in circles.  “Lauren, come outside,” Matt screamed.  “He’ll come to you.”

Sure enough.  I walked outside, stood at the corner and yelled: “TOBY!”  He happily came running up next to me.  “Well,” said the woman’s husband, “I think you just sealed your fate, buddy.”

To be honest, I’m glad that the couple didn’t still want Toby.  They had confessed at the previous meeting that they wanted a dog that was EXACTLY like their old dog. She didn’t need to be on a leash or have a fenced in yard (even though they lived by a highway).  I fear that they wanted a robot, not a dog.  

Besides, with as well trained as my dogs are, if I stand at the front door and hold it open, they will run outside.  Remember, dogs are natural creatures.  They love nature and following as many of the wonderful smells as they can.

The next day at work, I received an e-mail from a woman in another department who was interested in Toby.  This time, we decided to set up an in-house visit.  The woman had recently become widowed and was looking for a companion for her Schnauzer.

As we stepped into the house, I could not believe my eyes.  It was gorgeous!  There was a huge living room with a beautiful fireplace.  Not to mention the nice tile flooring.  And the backyard was fairly big and, most importantly, fenced in.

The woman showed me that she even had a doggie door.  She had even invited her best friend over who brought Toby a brand new toy!  I was excited.

Toby loved the tiny Schnauzer and seemed to take to the woman.  Plans were made for a trial run in two days.  We would let the woman “try Toby out” to see if he would be a good fit.

Tears filled my eyes as I dropped Toby off.  I knew that he would be well taken care of.  But, things would seem so different at home without him.

The next day, I was preparing to go to work when my cell phone rang.  “Lauren?” the woman asked.  “Toby’s gone.”

My heart dropped to my stomach.  “G-gone?” I stammered.

“Yes.  I said goodnight to him last night and then this morning, he was gone,” she replied.

“How did this happen?” I questioned.

“I don’t know.  Well, there was a small hole in my fence. But, I was going to get that fixed this weekend,” she stated.

ARE YOU SERIOUS?  Matt and I walked around the woman’s backyard and looked to see that she had a chain link fence.  We didn’t go up to the fence and inspect it.  Why didn’t she tell us about the hole before?  We would have been more than happy to either a) Hold Toby for her until she was able to get the fence repaired or b) Helped her repair the fence.

But what happened next stunned me the most.  She said, “What are you going to do?”

Me?  ME?  What does she mean “what am I going to do?”  She lost the dog, not me.  She then proceeded to say that she was getting ready to leave for work.  I informed her that I had recently been hired and needed to go to work, too.

I was stressed the entire day.  All I could think about was poor, lost Toby.  I quickly created some “Lost Dog” fliers and posted one on our bulletin board.

That night, as soon as I got home, my mom picked me up and we drove around for hours in the dark.  I stuck my head out of the passenger side window screaming his name and shining a flashlight on every bush and alley.  I also handed out “Lost Dog” fliers to the local vets, grocery stores and restaurants in the area.

Needless to say, I barely slept that night.  I made sure to contact the rescue group and inform them of the situation. They assured me that this was not my fault and that no one was mad at me.  That didn’t comfort me at all.

As I logged in to my computer, I noticed that my e-mail box was full of e-mails about Toby.  One co-worker suggested alerting Kennelwood Pet Resorts.  They actually issue a MIMI ALERT to all of their customers as well as post it on their Facebook page.  The people at Kennelwood were fantastic and advised me to keep “liking” Toby’s alert to keep it up near the top of their page.

My husband and I drove around again that night, this time in the rain.  I had made up more fliers to hand out to the local libraries, police stations, etc.  I screamed for Toby until I was hoarse.  And cried myself to sleep again.

But, the next day at work, reports of Toby sightings came flooding in.  One person said that she always carries a leash with her, but, Toby got spooked when she approached and ran off.  What made me hopeful was that the sightings were all within the same area.  Toby wasn’t going too far.  He was just very good at hiding.

Matt and I decided to organize and early morning search party for that Saturday.  We drove around again on Thursday night, hoping for a miracle.  None came.

Meanwhile, what was the woman who lost Toby doing?  Absolutely NOTHING.  That’s right, nothing. She didn’t offer to make fliers, post fliers, drive around and search.  She just went to work every day like normal and then went home.  How heartless can you be?  That dog was like family to us and this woman acted like it was no big deal.

It was now Friday afternoon and I had about an hour left of work.  There was much to prepare for the impending search party.  That’s when I got the call.

“Lauren!  This is *Suzy. Toby’s been hit by a car.  Someone took him to Four Paws Animal Hospital and YOU have to go and pick him up because they close at 4:00 and they do not keep dogs over night!  You need to call the rescue group right away.  They want to talk to YOU!”

Yes, ladies and gentleman. Suzy is the woman who lost Toby.  She called me and screamed that entire message into my ear.  She had completely washed her hands of Toby.  Convenient since I didn’t know if Toby was even alive when she called.

I was furious.  And who wouldn’t be?  Now, I was going to have to call the rescue group on my work phone and ask my new boss if I could leave early to take care of this whole mess that Suzy caused in the first place.  I politely, but firmly told Suzy that we were no longer going to be fostering because of her and this whole situation.  I think she realized that there was no way in heck that she was getting Toby back.

I quickly called the rescue group only to be chewed out.  “Who authorized Four Paws to take care of Toby?” a woman barked at me.  

“No one!”  I shouted. “A good Samaritan found him on the side of the road and took him to the nearest animal hospital.”

“Oh, well, you need to transfer Toby to *Happy Pals Animal Hospital.  That’s who we have our agreement with.”

I hung up and then dialed Four Paws Animal Hospital. Toby was alive, but, his back leg was broken.  And, his liver may have been damaged.  I knew I would need help with the transport.  Thank goodness for my mother-in-law.  She does not work and agreed to take me as soon as I called.

My boss was super fantastic and told me to go and not worry about docking myself the 30 minutes.  We raced to Four Paws and Toby perked up as soon as he saw me.  My mother-in-law had the brilliant idea of bringing a laundry basket to keep Toby in so that he wouldn’t move his leg around too much.  Toby tried to jump out of the basket as we were leaving the hospital because I was walking behind him and he couldn’t see me!

On the way to Happy Pals, Toby seemed content in his basket.  I kept petting his head and thanking God that he was not a pancake.  The people at Happy Pals were expecting us and took Toby right away.

A few days later, we picked Toby up.  He now had a pin, rod, screw contraption sticking out of his leg. The vet told me and Matt that we would need to try to get Toby to start walking on that leg so that it would heal.  Luckily, his liver was fine.

In the meantime, the rescue group was not upholding their part of the agreement. We were supposed to be supplied with food.  They always seemed to “forget” to put it in the van.  We even ended up paying for special food for Toby after his surgery.  What about our own fur kids’ needs?

But, we loved Toby and wanted him to get better.  And we wanted to adopt him.  Over the next two weeks, Toby got stronger.  But, so did the smell coming from his bandage.

“Look at his paw!” my husband exclaimed.  “It’s huge!  That bandage is on way too tight.”  Sure enough, the super smart people at Happy Pals wrapped the bandage too tightly around Toby’s paw.  His blood flow was constricted and his paw felt cold.

We had to take Toby back to the vet for an impromptu visit. Turns out, his leg was infected! That is where the delightful smell was coming from.  And yes, they HAD bandaged his paw too tightly.

Weeks passed and Toby grew stronger.  I don’t know how we did it, but, we taught him to use his repaired leg again.  I e-mailed the rescue group and announced our intent to adopt Toby.  Their reply left me stunned.

Apparently, an elderly woman saw one of the “Lost Dog” fliers with Toby on it and claimed that she had tried to adopt him months ago via the application on the Internet.  I was told that Toby was hers.  What happened to “the foster parents get to pick the forever home?”  I guess they were going to ignore that part of the agreement the same way that they ignored the “providing food” part.

The worst part was that we didn’t even get to meet the woman who adopted Toby.  And I made my husband take Toby to the adoption event that day.  I couldn’t bare to let Toby go again.

I assume that he is happy and healthy.  At least, that’s what I tell myself.  But, Toby will always have a piece of my heart.

 

*Names have been changed

 

 

 

 

 

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