by Bryana Walters
It’s been two months since my foster dog Gramma Rose, passed away. I fostered through Old Dog Haven, which is a non-profit that places dogs in permanent foster homes right out of shelters. Most of these dogs would never get adopted otherwise due to their age and various health problems. The founders are wonderful people who realized that there were many people willing to take these dogs into good homes, but didn’t always have the resources to pay for the huge vet bills that some of these dogs can have. My dog, “Gramma” Rose, had several health problems including a severely deformed hip joint, dry eye, Addison’s disease, as well as a neurological dysfunction in her brain that caused her to have episodes of some seizure-like activity. She took several medications, eye drops, and I brought her to the vet every four weeks to get an injection to manage her Addison’s disease.
With the proper care and love, we watched our old dog become young again. She would frolic outside and play; she loved to roll in the grass on her back. She would chase our other dog while he chased the ball. She would get down in a play bow at my husband and then take off running sideways all silly. She made all these funny noises “gggrrrrrrr” but kind of high pitched like she was singing. She would grin at you and show her teeth when we played; we thought it was hilarious and called it snarly teeth. We even starting grinning at her and we could get her to do it back. She took stairs like a pro, even though when we first got her they said she could never take stairs because of her hip. And we did have to carry her up and down any stairs the first couple weeks we had her. She became just a young lady again.
Something about taking in an old dog also made me realize that whatever time we did have with her was most likely going to be shorter than what many people get to spend with their dogs. That’s the reality of fostering, whether you are doing it for old dogs or a temporary foster situation where the dog is still looking for a forever home. Somehow that makes it the gift, and the heartbreak. Knowing that, we tried to spend her life as if every day were a bucket list day. We did all kinds of things together. She has been everywhere in Washington, all the beaches, all the mountains, and everything in between. She visited Idaho with us and played in the snow. Every day was treat day and fun day.
Living this way, selfishly, gave me a lot too. She made me live every day like it could be the last. She taught me to live in the moment. She made people happy so I loved taking her places. She was always smiling and she was so beautiful and people were just drawn to her. It gives you the opportunity to meet and talk to all kinds of strangers that you wouldn’t have met otherwise. Taking care of her was never a burden but a gift, giving her eye drops six times a day, all her medicines and vet trips. It made me feel so good to help her and see her blossom. She was a kind, gentle, sweet soul. So she only deserved the best.
On our last day, it came as a shock. She had a bad neurological event and it was her time to go. We knew saying goodbye was going to be hard when we got her, but I don’t think we ever imagined just how much we would fall in love with her and how much she touched our lives. Our whole family was devastated. My husband and I must have cried for several days. Our other dog had an upset stomach and wouldn’t let us out of his sight. Our cats sniffed her collar and jacket that we brought back from the vet, without her in them. The love we shared was so special and no different than if we had her for her whole life. She was our lady.
And I would and will do it all over again. For every tear I cry, I remember that smile she always had, and it makes it all worth it. I’ve heard somewhere that the heartache is all the love we have with nowhere to go. But we can choose for it to go somewhere else than letting it go all together. She will always have a piece of my heart, forever. But my love will go to another dog someday, when my heart is ready. And I know I will fall in love with that dog, and when they leave me, I will be heartbroken all over again. But the joy and love they give will always overcome any amount of pain I feel.
If you have the right home, maybe you should consider a foster dog. There are short term situations for dogs in shelters who are very unhappy in that environment and do better in a home. There are dogs who need surgery and need help recovering. There are mom dogs with litters of puppies that are going to do much better in a home environment. There are breed specific rescues. There are dogs with behavior problems that need an experienced foster parent to help them. I’ve even fostered a single puppy so it could get fixed and get adopted without having to be alone in a cage, but rather at my house playing with my dogs and learning socialization skills.
And of course, there is Old Dog Haven. I appreciated this unique fostering experience and the fact that I was going to be the permanent home, even though I would lose the dog to old age. There are so many dogs needing you, if you can help, please consider fostering.
About Bryana: I started working with animals in 2004 and earned my Veterinary Assistant Certificate. I have worked in an animal hospital, animal shelter and most recently as a professional dog trainer and pet sitter. I earned my CPDT-KA dog training certificate through the Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers and an Applied Animal Behavior Certificate through the University of Washington. I have also volunteered in shelters for several years and currently work with Pasado’s Safe Haven animal sanctuary. In November 2014, I became the proud Final Refuge foster parent of “Gramma” Rose and had her for four years until she passed in December 2018. My husband Jeremy and I also share our home with our 11-year-old border collie mix Puppy, and 2 cats Quiggly and Ziggy.
Please visit my website for more information- www.imyourgirlpetbehavior.com