Sassy Sue wows the bark park visitors with her catching and retrieving.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sassy: Still Waiting - Foster Owner's Story

I stood on the curb at my house and watched my current foster dog, Moxie, drive away with her new family. Moxie watched me from the window of the car, looking confused. At that moment I felt waves of emotions wash over me. First, happiness, after all she had found her forever home. Next came the sadness, tears began to well up in my eyes. I was about to lose a part of my family. And finally, relief. I sighed deeply as I began to think about how me, my husband, and our dogs would spend a much appreciated break from the demanding work of fostering dogs.

I smiled as I headed back to the animal shelter where I work. But as I walked through the door at the shelter my smile faded. There she was: my new foster. I knew it from the moment I saw at her. She was on the floor, curled up in a fetal position, tail tucked completely under her, her eyes wide with fear. She was shaking and every now and again she would let out a little yelp. The man on the other end of the leash continued talking to my co-worker but his voice was just noise to me. I was completely focused on this scared, wonderful, little girl that needed my help. I began to wonder what her life had been like. Did she like children? Did she like other dogs? Did she like to camp or hike or swim? I knew that the answers to these questions would come soon enough, as I had already decided that she would come to stay with us. I quickly snap out of my daze when I noticed something wrong with her back right leg.

I manage to ask, “What’s wrong with her leg?”

“Oh she got kicked by a horse in April,” he replied.

“April? But this is August,” I muttered.

“I know, but we just couldn’t afford the medical care,” he replied.
Such a common answer in my field of work but for me heart wrenching to hear. I began to fear for this little dog’s well being and worry about what the future might hold for her. I scooped her up and took her to the shelter vet right away. The x-rays revealed a compound fracture that had been healing improperly for several months and the doctor informed me that the leg couldn’t be saved. I buried my face in this beautiful little dog’s fur and began to cry. Tears of joy? Tears of sadness? I’m not sure which it was but I suspect it was a little of both.

Sassy, at the very young age of a year old, had her leg amputated later that week and came home with us a couple of days later for a long road of recovery. She was amazing! She put all her trust in us and ran that long road to recovery in a very short amount of time. She quickly learned to walk using three legs, and then how to jump onto the couch using three legs, and then how to jump into the bed using three legs. She continued to amaze us when she chased the other dogs around the park, went on long walks with her foster doggie siblings, and went swimming at a local lake. But we knew that she would be just fine when she went hiking with us and literally had a tantrum when Mark tried to carry her up a very steep hill. She was going to do it by herself. That has pretty much been her attitude during the whole ordeal, it Sassy’s way or the highway.

Mark and I consider ourselves very lucky to have met Sassy and to be able to care for her. For all the things that we may have taught her during her stay with us, she has taught us just as many. Among her lessons: perseverance, trust, confidence, the ability to overcome, and the ability to smile when things aren’t so great. All lessons that each and every one of us should practice. I know that those waves of emotions will wash over me once again when Sassy finds her forever home, but that’s why I do it. Fostering can be the best and the worst feeling. But every time she looks up at me with those big brown eyes I know she is grateful for what I was able to do for her and I look forward to the day I stand on the curb, tears welling up in my eyes, watching her drive away with her new family, with that incredibly silly grin on her face.

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