Emma, our latest foster dog, went to her forever home recently. You can read a bit about her here.
A huge thanks to my Grandpa and Grandma for letting us use their beautiful home as a meeting place for us and Emma's new family.
If you've been following, you'll remember that our family volunteers for Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota (RAGOM), which is a rescue organization for Golden Retrievers and Golden Retriever mixes. RAGOM serves several states, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa. Emma arrived in March, and she was our second foster.
Here she is:
Emma was rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri. She was one of 29 Golden Retrievers out of 500 other dogs that were being auctioned off in the liquidation of a commercial breeding facility.
Emma came to us not socialized, terrified of humans and basically helpless. Many of the gals rescued were pregnant, and the rest were very young. I should add that every single dog was met in the cities at RAGOM headquarters and was triaged. Meaning, they were assessed for wellness and pregnancy, received rabies vaccinations, and treated for any infections such as fleas, worms, etc..
Emma's short life (she was six months old when she was rescued) consisted of living in a 4x6 kennel run. Her food was literally thrown in her cage, and she was never allowed out to play, be free, or even take a simple walk. Her only purpose in life was to give birth. Thankfully, she was rescued before she was bred.
When Emma arrived at our home, she was under weight, terrified and sick. The only way we could get her to come out of her crate was to let our resident Rudy, and our foster Molly, coax her out. After all, other dogs were all she had ever known. Humans scared her to death. To get her in and out of our house to let her "use the facilities", we had to prop our door open, and Craig, myself, and Murray, would have to hide in another room so that she felt comfortable enough to follow our other dogs. She didn't even know how to use the stairs. This went on for months.
At first, Emma didn't drink or eat for days. For a six month old, malnourished puppy, this was very scary, but we had 24 hour access to top-notch vet care, all at the expense of RAGOM. We also were connected with a list serve and hotline so that we could connect with other fosters who were dealing with the same issues.
It was baby steps for sweet Emma.
First, we worked to get her to drink water, because she refused to eat. It took over 30 hours upon her arrival, but she finally took several tentative laps of water. The first time I heard her little laps, I cried happy tears. I was so afraid for her; worried that she would need to be vetted and hydrated via IV, which would have sent her into even worse anxiety.
Next, we were on to food. I tried each day, several times a day, to get her to eat. We started with smelly treats like hot dog pieces and peanut butter crackers, which she would not take from our hand - her little nose was buried in the far corner of her crate - we gently placed them close to the outside of her bed. We mixed her dry puppy chow with cottage cheese, peanut butter, broth, or green beans. After the first few days, I would sit by her crate and hold my hand out to coax her to eat. When she mastered taking food and treats from my hand, she began to eat out of a bowl while in her crate, and finally, she got brave enough to eat her meals outside of her crate, with Rudy across the room, and us in the same vicinity. It doesn't sound like much, but for a girl like her, it was huge progress. Keep in mind, this took several weeks.
Once she began to eat, we worked on socializing her. What a task that was! It took months, but she finally would come to me on her own for pets, and she loved, loved, loved Murray. Craig? Not so much. We think that men were part of her scary upbringing, as every time Craig would open our chain link fence, she would cower and bark. She got over it, though it took longer for her to get used to Craig than it did Murray and me. It turned out that she was the most comfortable with Murray, and she began to follow him everywhere. She was his "velcro" dog.
When she finally decided that she could pretty much trust us, the puppy in her emerged. It's been over 20 years since a pup has been in my life, and I forgot how much of a challenge they can be. The chewing, the jumping, the barking, oh the barking, the counter-surfing, the hoarding of objects, and did I mention the chewing? Oh, and I can't forget the potty training. Miss Emma was quite the handful. That said, the fact that she finally was brave enough to be naughty made my heart soar. She lost her timid nature and was getting confident enough to test us (much to our chagrin).
The experience with Emma has taught us a lot, and we are blessed to have had her, challenging as she was. It was wonderful to watch her grow and change, even though we had our moments.
Fostering dogs is certainly not for everyone. Trust us, Emma was our most challenging foster so far, but we'll continue to work with RAGOM.
Even Craig has accepted fostering and has found pleasure in loving these dogs (though, we've agreed to not foster a puppy again). We'll take a break until we find a hound who will be a good fit for Rudy and our family. I know that a lot of people think we're crazy, but after helping two (to this date) sweet gals find their forever home, we can't help but look forward to helping lead another pup to The Golden Life. Animals don't have a voice, but as humans, we can speak for them.
Rescue, Re-home, Repeat.