My wife and I have been talking about this for a long time. We really have always wanted kids and hopefully, after our next fertility treatment, we will have kids to raise. In the mean time we discussed how best to share our love. It started with Kweli who we miss. Bella was getting lots of love too. Finally we added Kaia and Mason to the mix. A happy family. But we still have lots of love to give. So we discussed for a long time, we weighed the pros and cons and finally we took the leap. We became a foster home.
This all started with a poorly planned trip to an Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society event. They were at a business near our house. Honestly I can’t even remember the name of the business. We got there and they had five very cute little puppies. One little girl was brown and black on her face with a grey and white body. Her fur was incredibly soft, like a down pillow. She seemed to enjoy meeting us early on and she wanted to hang out. We spent about 30 minutes playing with her and basically hogging her affection. She would climb up on my arm when I put her inside the pen.
After we left we decided to go home and get our two dogs and bring them over for a visit too. The lady at the event explained the foster program. We already knew about it because we had been considering it for a while. This seemed like a great time to jump in. The dog was great with us and our dogs seemed pretty cool with her at the event. Tiana quickly filled out the online foster information and the lady at the event texted the foster coordinator. That was Saturday afternoon of a long weekend.
Tuesday rolled around and early in the afternoon we found out we were good to foster. More importantly they were holding Aurora for us and we could pick her up at their safe haven. I was in Vulcan that day for work (about 45 minutes from home). I got home with time to swap to our family car and grab some dog treats. I was pretty excited to get to see the little cute monster again. I grabbed Tiana from work and we made our way up to the safe haven to pick up our friend.
The safe haven is in a city industrial park up north. The building is a brownish red brick building. A set of business sit in the strip off a side street. On the one end is the AARCS Safe Haven. A temporary home for the puppies. Inside is a white painted reception area and a couple of small offices. Even the paint is clearly completed by volunteer help, heavy with paint runs in it. Above is a mezzanine that hosts the break room for volunteers and small room they use as a shot clinic for updating vaccines. You pass through a white door from the reception area (at no point has a receptionist been on site when we have had to be there) and into a back bay. Most businesses would have shelves and maybe some machinery back here. At AARCS a large metal shelf, running the length of the wall, is packed with tuperware containers full of donated toys and other puppy supplies sits to the right. Also on the shelves is tons and tons of bags of dog food, hopefully mostly donated. Underneath these industrial shelves are tons and tons of dog crates. All sizes available. A small full black cage crate sits in front of the shelves, a dog in isolation being treated for an infection howls inside of it. He obviously misses being with his litter mates. A dusty concrete walk way is ahead all the way to the bay door and to the left of that sits the dog pens. In front of each pen is a foot bath to make sure that parasites and other hangers on don’t move in and out and around. Each pen has a dog or a small litter of puppies in it. In the first pen sits a wonderful looking german sheppard type dog. It is full grown and it takes a little bit of interest in us as we pass by. We pass a group of 3 brown puppies, too busy napping to care about us. After a couple more pens we see the litter of, now, three puppies that contains Aurora. She is sleeping on the bum of one of her siblings. The wonderful aroma of dog shit has now settled into my nose. I look around, but not a single pen has dog feces in it, and I realize that with so many pets this must be a smell that is more ambient than anything. To the right hand side of Aurora’s pen is another with a single dog in it. The dog has no discernible characteristics of any breed I can recognize. Its fur is streaked with black throughout and it has a greyish white main coat colour. Her entire face is a black circle. She lays in the back, totally uninterested in the people in front of her, barely lifting her eyes to take interest. On the front of her cage is a plastic orange tag “Experienced Volunteers Only” says the tag. As the coordinator fills us in and gets Tiana a bag of dog food and a collar she explains it is Aurora’s mother. The dogs came from a whelping shelter on a nearby reserve. The pregnant mother was found, totally feral ready to have its puppies. While Tiana talks to the coordinator I can’t help but let my curiosity lead the way. On the front of each cage is a clipboard, kind of like doctors put in front of all the doors at the clinic. On the clipboard is the dogs name and some information. The comments section is filled in with a remark about the fact the dog has no interest in going outside and has to be carried out. It then cannot wait to get back in. The dog doesn’t really do anything it would see,. So Aurora’s Mom is obviously battling depression, poor girl.
Aurora is handed to us and I get to rub her soft fur as the coordinator fills us in. She is young woman with brunette hair, very quiet and reserved but friendly. She tells us how many puppies she has coming in the next couple of weeks, a double digit number, and how she was trying to find them foster homes. I almost feel guilty not prepared to offer more help at this time. All these poor animals that have nowhere to go. If people had taken time to spay or neuter their dogs that would really help with over population. Also the high number of abandoned and feral dogs is not helping the situation. Aurora is in nap mode and is nuzzled against my chest as the coordinator explains how we have to get her spayed, just call the clinic and everything is looked after. Then she explains getting the pictures completed and how we will quickly find a home for the lovely little girl, too damn cute to sit online for long. That is nice, but I am left wondering about the older dogs, the 3 and 4 year old dogs, still young and great family members but going to be tougher to find homes for. I wonder in my head if we could help them with an older dog for our next foster, but I realize quickly my wife will veto that. Oh well that is a bit down the road.
We take Aurora out of the Safe Haven and to our car, she quickly settles down as we move away and finds a location to sleep on the floor after about ten minutes. The vibration of the car quickly soothing her to relaxed. She really is a majestic little girl and we are happy to be her home for a while. The truth is, we both are weak links and could lose the battle with her. We have painted ourselves into a corner so that adoption is not an option at this time. It was a good choice on our part because we would have lost. They call it “foster failure” when you adopt the foster you bring in. I can’t imagine they look to positively on those who foster fail on the first one.
Once we get her home she quickly becomes a pleasant surprise. She is happy to follow the other two dogs outside to relieve her bladder and even walks to the back door to tell us. In fact the first four days go without an accident in the house. No puppy goes without some issues though. First off our big dog makes it clear that this will be a temporary situation. The puppy pushes boundaries walking between Kaia’s legs during dinner time and push her head ahead of Kaia’s to try and eat. Kaia growls her away. Kaia growls a bit to establish space. Some days Kaia relaxes a bit but they just haven’t hit it off when in the house. In the backyard they are fine, Kaia tolerates the puppy and even at times happy to have the trailer. Aurora quickly picks up Kaia’s mannerisms. I think Aurora really looks up to Kaia but Kaia is an Alpha and I think Aurora will be a pack leader one day too. I don’t think they would ever fully get along. Kaia isn’t aggressive or mean, just impatient and avoids the little dog. Bella is indifferent most of the time and even offers some play for Aurora, the cat realizes his strength and doesn’t want to beat up the puppy. Aurora also reminds me of my least favourite puppy trait, separation anxiety. Our dogs are crate trained (Disclaimer: If you are one of these PETA morons who condemns crate training, and I want to be very clear about this, go away. Our dogs not only are not damaged by having had to learn to sleep in their crates, they are both fond of their crates. Both use them as a safe place when they feel scared. So SHUTUP). As most people do crate train their dogs we started this with Aurora as well, she howled and awful lot. Eventually she calmed down but she really howls. She has gotten better, now she tucks in ok, we just have to let her wind down cuddling in bed for a bit first.
I want to be very clear, I love this dog, and it is my job to be the monster and make sure we don’t foster fail. I want to deep down inside but I also want to be a good foster home that helps AARCS. I am proud we could help such a fantastic organization. The people are great and they ensure so many wonderful dogs find homes. After Aurora we won’t be a foster home for a couple of months. We are awaiting the completion of our new home and are moving out of our current one shortly. But I am very excited to try this again, as bittersweet as it is.
Today Aurora actually hit the AARCS website. (You can view her profile by clicking here), and we got our first interested applicants already. I was sad when I saw her on the website, realizing she would soon be leaving me. I was very sad when we had an applicant because it got very close then. Tomorrow they come to visit, they have a large property for Aurora to play, two young children and another dog. They have been considering adding a new family member for a long time. They feel this is the right time. While my heart will break if this is the family that takes Aurora home, I will be so happy she is going to what sounds like a great home. They seem like really nice people and they can give her a great life. I will want them to send us lots of pictures so I can watch her grow, she really is a special puppy. I am glad we have been Aurora’s foster home and I am glad we will help her find her family, but I am a lot sad we aren’t her family.