Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 6, 2010 - You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello


It's been an interesting day here at the Shady Rest.  We did Orville's adoption today, to a fine family about an hour outside of Columbus.  Cj and I both feel/felt SO good about this one!  We've never yet had an adoption of a foster about which we felt bad, but some just seem to be so very right, and this was definitely one of those.  The family, mom, dad, toddler girl and infant boy, had met Orville at the Dogs Rule Doggy Day Care Center Adoption Day a couple of weeks ago.  They were smitten with him, and as far as I could tell, he with them, but they were smart. This was no impulse.  They'd come because they wanted to adopt a rescued pug, and though they thought Orville would be good for them, they met all the other pugs too, just to be sure. They asked questions, lots of questions, and good ones, about the breed and about the individual pugs.  They have a dog, a delightful black lab named Gracie, but never a pug before.  They wanted to do it right. After meeting all the pugs that were in attendance (and there were quite a few), they filled out an adoption form on the spot, with Orville's name on it.

At some point in the process, there was a misunderstanding.  Orville wobbles when he walks. His back end has some weakness and loss of sensation; nothing dramatic, but he wobbles.  The new family had been told he had degenerative myelopathy. For those unfamiliar with degenerative myelopathy, it's an ugly disease, blessedly uncommon in pugs but seen fairly often in larger breeds, like Belgian Malinois.  The cause is unknown, but the sheaths surrounding the nerves start to degenerate and die. When the protective sheath dies, the nerve follows.  It starts at the tail and works forward, a progressive, crippling process with no cure and no treatment. Ultimately, the affected dog will die when the paralysis reaches the diaphragm and the dog can no longer breathe.  The process itself is painless - dead nerves don't register pain.  We lost our first pug, Petunia, to it.  First her back legs gave out and we got her a cart. Then her front legs went, and we put her in an infant carrier. We spoiled her rotten as long as we could, and as long as she had some quality of life and was enjoying herself, we kept going right along with her.  The day finally came that she told us she wasn't having fun any more, and the vet confirmed that it was only a matter of days until she started having trouble breathing, so we let her go.  It was an experience for which I will forever be grateful, and one I wouldn't wish on anyone who loves dogs.

So, anyway, they thought Orville had this condition, but unlike so many people would have, they didn't walk away or request another pug.  They just dug in and started researching the disease, to see what they'd need to do to make his life as filled with love and joy for as long as they might be able to.  Amazing.  Meanwhile, I got on the phone with his vet and after a nice chat, was happily able to confirm that no, he didn't have DM at all.  Orville has an old, stable spinal injury that left some nerve damage behind. He doesn't hurt, and, best of all, is quite likely to never get any worse, but will be wobbling along for years to come.  

Orville arrived at their home and obviously remembered them all, right down to the baby, who greeted us with a HUGE grin.  The little girl was so excited to see her friend again.  At first, I think she thought we were just bringing him for a play date, thanking us for bringing him to visit. When we said he'd be staying, she jumped up and down, then ran to remove his harness and leash, "because he's not going."  Then she had her mom help her carry him upstairs to show him her bedroom, because she wants him to sleep with her.  I didn't notice Orville showing any aversion to this plan. 

I had jokingly commented to some friends that, given the way things usually seem to work here at the Shady Rest, we'd probably get a call to foster another pug within five minutes after Orville's adoption.  I was wrong.  The call came in an hour before the adoption and the dog is a Daug (half dachshund, half pug), not a pug.  :)  His name is Sherman. He's about six years old, very handsome and incredibly shy.  He won't come near me yet, though he's learning to trust Cj. Whenever something scares him, like me walking down the hall or Freya barking, he runs and ducks under Cj's chair.  I hope he'll come around, some at least.  If he's just shy by nature, he may never be the outgoing beast the rest of the Shady Rest inmates are, but that's okay.

So, for all those people who ask us, "How do you do it?  How can you foster a dog and then give it up?  I'd want to keep them all," or "you must be SO unselfish because you foster," there's your answer.  No, you won't want to keep them all, and Cj and I are incredibly selfish. Few things in life are as feel-good rewarding as handing over a homeless dog to a family that's in raptures over him, ready and willing and eager to make the rest of his life as happy and healthy as possible. It's a huge pleasure for us.  Not only that, but think about the numbers.  If you limit yourself to, say, two dogs at a time, you live to be 80 and each dog has a mean life span of about 13 years. That means in your life, you'll only get to meet, interact with, learn from, and enjoy about 12 dogs. I'm greedy - I like meeting new dogs, loving on them, spoiling them, teaching and learning from them. Fostering adds bunches of dogs I wouldn't have otherwise gotten to enjoy.  Again, selfish of me.  I wish more people would indulge themselves and their love of dogs through fostering.  It's one of the few forms of selfish indulgence that does a world of good.

Well, that's just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care.


  1. You're post is wonderful and made me teary eyed. I'm so glad Orville found a perfect family for his forever home. I remember fostering El Guapo and I truly fell in love with him. It was so hard to give him up, but I get many updates from his family, one of which was to tell me that El Guapo made their family complete. That makes it all worth it.

    I'm looking forward to following Sherman's progress. I'm sure he'll come around as soon as he sees how wonderful you two are.

    Shannon and the Gang

  2. Yeah, Orville! Sounds like a match made in heaven.
    Fostering is very bittersweet. Eema is only my 6th foster (I foster only one at a time!) and I've had her longer than any other. I will cry when she finds her forever home but will also rejoice in it.
    Pug hugs :)

  3. Aw, thanks! It was such a perfect match for Orville that neither of us even sniffled on the way home (we'd both expected to - we had gotten kind of attached to the boy). Sherman's already showing signs of coming out of his shell, finally approaching me for attention last night and letting me put him in bed with us. It's a good start.

  4. Thank you so much for taking care of Sherman. I put a note on Mr. Puggle's blog to get the word out.

  5. Aw, thanks! Sherman's a dear. He's starting to come out of his shell already, running with the Shady Rest pack, poking my hand to get ear rubs, and hopping into my lap this morning for some cuddle time before I went to work.

  6. I feel the same way about fostering. I am not limiting myself to one breed and so have had the pleasure of meeting and experiencing a whole bunch of breeds and mixes and have a pretty good idea what fits me best. Without fostering, there is no way, I could have learned so much in so little time. And you are right, when one of my fosters goes to a new, very well researched home, I am as happy as can be. No longer is he one of many, but now - the center of the universe! And I got him there! Selfesteem boost - you betcha'>