When “foster failing” is actually a success!

In the winter 2018 issue of Pet Tales, we requested your stories about being a foster fail–stories about how you fostered or cared for a dog, cat or even a rabbit, thinking it would be on a temporary basis to prepare them for adoption, but, instead, they captured your heart forever. Enjoy this story about one such fail … actually, a giant success, Hector!

Over the years we have been fortunate to have several wonderful dogs, all from shelters, that have been as special in their own way as our children and grandchildren. After saying goodbye to our last dog, Miley, last spring, we decided to wait awhile before adopting again. Or so we thought. Then, we saw 2-year-old Hector’s picture in a Foster Department email, and we were intrigued by his story and his eyes. He needed a foster home because he was unsocialized and fearful. He was not making much progress in the shelter. We had never had a Terrier but thought we might be able to help him overcome his fear and become an adoption candidate. We left a leash attached to his collar so that we could approach without stressing him to take him on walks. He was tentative and sensitive to new sounds. On walks around our Estes Park neighborhood he avoided people, dogs and bunnies that we encountered. Through weekly phone consults with Amanda in Behavior, we relayed his progress and got timely suggestions to help him build trust and confidence.

Gradually Hector became more comfortable with his surroundings and his routine and began following us from room to room. He loved his walks, and he soon began to put fear in his past. He started approaching us for reassuring petting, gentle massage and brushing. On walks he would pounce in the mountain grasses trying to catch imaginary critters. When he saw snow for the first time he bounded into it as if treasure was underneath. When we took him to the off-leash dog park we saw him play-bow and wag his tail for the first time as he enjoyed games of “chase” with his newfound friends. At home he would perch on the back of the couch to watch the deer and elk who frequently graze in our yard.

We knew Hector was now ready to go back to the League, and we were confident he would pass evaluation and be a great dog for his new owner. But by now we were smitten and wanted him to be a permanent part of our family. We adopted Hector on September 4, which is also our wedding anniversary. Already he has added so much joy in our lives. We marvel at how “normal” he has become, and how far he has progressed in just a few months. He has become whimsical, playful, affectionate, gentle and, most of all, happy. Thank you to every person at the League who played such a vital role in Hector’s success story … from Transfer to Intake to Animal Care to Behavior to Foster. Now we can’t imagine our lives without him.

Steve and Shai, Estes Park, CO