Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gone to the dogs

I’m sure many of you have been wondering what happened to me as it has been several weeks since I posted anything. But have no fear, dear readers, I did not fall into a deep abyss (is it necessary, or even appropriate to qualify an abyss as deep? Isn’t an abyss deep simply by definition? You wouldn’t really pass a small hole or impression in the ground and think “whoa, check out that abyss. I mean, it’s not a deep one, but it’s an abyss all right!”). You see? I am still here, pondering the important things in life.

Well, maybe figuratively speaking I have fallen into the abyss of dog-fostering, but really, I’d say it’s more of a pool than any abyss. It’s like a pool that’s about 5’10” deep so only if I stand on my tippy toes can I keep my head above water and even then I might falter and go under, sucking in just enough water to cough and choke for a moment, or a wave could hit me and temporarily make it difficult to see what’s coming so that when I do regain my focus I realize that someone has thrown a large boulder into the water and if I don’t get out of the way I am definitely getting beaned so I had better get moving and fast! Yes, that’s sort of what the last two weeks have felt like to me.

For many months I have been following several dog rescue groups on Facebook and one in particular, Secondhand Hounds, has cleverly caught my attention and made me want to care for virtually every dog in the world who has ever been mistreated or abused or tied up to a tree and ignored. Maybe because I find humans so annoying (in general, of course, not any of you specifically) I am drawn to dogs and their seemingly innocent faces, their earnest expressions and furry eyebrows and the way they really look like they are listening to you when you talk. You really find me interesting, I think to myself, when their ears perk up at the sound of my voice. I saw one dog on their page, some sort of scruffy terrier mix named Shirley and there was just something about her mismatched tail and ears and fuzzy face that made me, somewhat impulsively, fill out the online application to foster a dog. Well, it wasn’t Shirley who ended up in my care, but instead, about a week after completing the application, I met Lacey, whose impossibly cute face is featured in the photo above. And that is why the blog has been so quiet for the past few weeks.

Secondhand Hounds appears to have some of the most amazing volunteers working for them because there are many people who care for several dogs at once. Several can equal anywhere from 2 to 8 and possibly even more. It’s quite a feat. I can barely care for myself with one dog and a high-maintenance child around so now with two dogs, I am treading water and damn, my legs are getting tired.

One of the difficulties I have encountered in my foster dog journey is my other dog, Carson. Carson and Lacey clearly live in two different planes of existence. We have always known that Carson was kind of a crotchety fellow. But Lacey’s good-natured affection and youthful exuberance has really served to underscore what a grouchy old man Carson is. Being the male, as well as the resident dog of the house, I expected him to enthusiastically accept the alpha dog role. However, he seems much less interested in dominating and leading and more interested in running away from things that bug him while casting a sheepish glance (if a dog’s glance can really be said to be sheepish) over his shoulder as if to say, “please, please don’t ask me to be assertive here. Just let me go pee on some stuff.” He is conflict avoidant. He does not wish to engage in playful tussling or butt-smelling but neither does he wish to speak up about it; he’d really rather just find a nice warm blanket to burrow into or a rodent to bark at. Lacey, on the other hand, might be willing to lead the pack if only Carson would follow. It’s hard to be the leader when your troops just shrug and walk the other direction. The task of alpha dog is left to me I guess. I worry about Lacey's self-esteem, however, when she'd really like to play with Carson and he rejects her. Oh Lacey, don't take it personally. If you were a potato chip he would pay more attention to you. Boys can be like that.

Lacey is mostly potty trained, averaging about one accident per day. I am starting to think that we could lower that figure considerably if only Carson would stop peeing all over the house. I’m not sure why Carson has “accidents.” I hesitate to call them accidents when they seem so very deliberate on his part. We know he’s old, we know he doesn’t like the cold. Sometimes he just refuses to go pee outside and eventually he’ll have to go so bad that the coffee table leg will begin to look more like a verdant oak and then we find a puddle on the carpet some time later. There are other times, though, when the cause is not so clear. For example, he may have just gone on a long walk and “marked” (i.e. peed on) about 500 different objects in the span of 30 minutes. Feeling confident that his needs have been attended to, we will decide to go on some family outing. Inexplicably, Carson will assume that he, too, is going on a family outing. When we pull out of the garage without him, Carson’s little wet dog nose is pressed to the glass of the back door, his expression somber. We return home a few hours later and there it is, the tell-tale puddle. Why Carson? Why did you do that? What exactly are you trying to say to us?

So although we try to be vigilant with our orange spray bottle of ‘Nature’s Miracle Orange-Oxy Stain and Odor Remover,’ there are no doubt an untold number of spots or splatters around the house that smell distinctly like a fire hydrant. I imagine that Lacey and Carson are working out a little dance around the house where one sniffs out a potty spot and thinks “hey! Get a whiff of that! That makes me feel like having a little tinkle… don’t mind if I do…” Humans rush in with orange spray bottle. Minutes, possibly hours pass. The other dog finds another similar spot and thinks “well, I saw the other one do it. I guess it’s okay if I have a little wizz myself.” Again, humans descend with spray bottle. Then dog #1 finds another spot, maybe the first one, figures he/she’s not the first, what’s the harm. And so it goes. Who started it is a moot point. The question is, who is going to end it? Doesn’t either one of them want to put their little paw down, once and for all, and cease this mindless peeing indoors? Huh guys? Don’tcha?

The weirdest part of all is that, almost on a daily basis, I think I want to adopt Lacey and keep her forever. Almost every day since she came to live with us, from the time I get out of bed each day until last thing before I go to bed, I feel as if I am clawing my way through an endless list of chores that are constantly preempted by trips outside with one dog or the other (or both) in anticipation of some form of evacuation. And there are always still more things that never get done. I feel hopelessly behind, inundated with the needs of others. Yet, Lacey has the sweetest face, the softest hair behind her ears, and the most contented-looking grin when she’s getting a good scratch and she looks so damn happy to see me whenever I appear in her line of sight. There is a young couple coming from Duluth to meet Lacey this weekend and I am hoping for a sign that these humans and this dog have a potential love connection. She deserves her forever home without a grumpy old man around who refuses to romp and play. But it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to her, hard for me to leave the swirling pool of chaos I’m drowning in. Sometimes we all need a little rescuing. I love you, Lacey!