One of the advantages I feel we have as foster parents is that we already adopted a dog from a foster situation. Adopting a dog from a foster is typically a much different experience than adopting a dog from a shelter. For one, the dog is more likely to be acclimated to home living and will typically be at least housebroken and crate trained by the time he/she comes to live with you (a huge bonus to those of you who don’t want to housebreak). The foster family will also know much more about the dog’s particular habits and quirks than will even the most dedicated shelters. Shelter staff and volunteers love the animals in their charge, and normally have favorites that they know more about than others, but they still are mindful over many, many animals. Foster families really only have their foster to look after (and their resident animals, of course), so that gives them a lot more time to figure things out. And of course, the foster dog has the advantage of living in a home environment where there is less stress and the dog can show his/her true self better.
The best part for me about getting Panzer from his foster family though, was the analysis we received from them about him. They didn’t try to sell him to us, they didn’t cover up any of his flaws or quirks. They were straight forward with us. This is great about him, this…not so much. They told us as much as they could about his past and his medical history and didn’t mince words. They didn’t try to skirt around the issues. So often, it seems, dogs will be labeled as, “Needing socialization” or “slow to warm up” when in fact, the dog is reactive or aggressive. They told us before we even met Panzer that he was reactive to people and other dogs on a leash at a distance of about 15 feet and the radius had significantly decreased since he’d been in foster. They explained that reactivity to them meant he had a propensity to bark and raise his hackles and occasionally lunge.
In short – they were honest. They told the truth. And you know what? We adopted him anyway. I’m sure there were people who didn’t, but those were the wrong people for him. If Panzer’s foster family hadn’t told us the truth, we probably still would have kept him, but our experience with the rescue would have been tarnished, our opinion of the foster situation stained. It is because they told us the truth that we weren’t surprised when other quirks surfaced (like resource guarding), and it was because they told the truth that he didn’t get returned and ended up with a family who could handle his issues.
So when we decided to foster and it actually happened, I told myself we were going to be like Panzer’s foster family, and we were going to tell the truth about Jasper.
Inquiries are coming in and people are becoming interested in him, and we’re so grateful that the Pennsylvania SPCA is such a supportive organization and that they’re allowing us to deal with the potential adopters one-on-one, because we do know Jasper best. We’re so appreciative that they recognize it, but I’m starting to find out that it’s harder to tell the truth than I had originally envisioned.
Jasper’s been with us for about 12 days now, and we’ve come to bond with him. We like him, he’s a sweet dog, we see him for all the potential he has, and it’s hard not to try to sugar coat some things or gloss over this problem or that. I had a nice conversation with a couple who decided not to adopt him the other night and while I talked with them on the phone, Joe signaled to me to mention that Jasper’s tail is crooked, perhaps it was broken at some point and healed incorrectly, and I glared at him. Did I really need to say that? So what if his tail was a little off-kilter?
But I remembered what I’d set out to do, took a deep breath, and told them. They laughed, of course, that wasn’t serious to them. What was serious was the amount of time Jasper is going to need to work on training, but that may mean nothing to someone else, who may be concerned about the fact that he has the beginnings of arthritis. Joe’s signal irritated me, but he was right – every little thing I can tell a potential adopter about Jasper is important, because he’s more likely to get a home and keep it if all the little things align, and even if takes more time to find that home, it’ll be worth it to know we fostered truth, not just with potential adopters, but with a community as well.