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The hardest part…

There is no chance that I’m thinking of writing a book about all the things I’ve learned so far as foster parent to a wayward dog from South Carolina. No way. It’s absolutely not necessary and besides, there are already wonderful books on the topic. And, it’s not a good use of my time. I’m an educator and a musician…. not an author. But, if I DID decide to write such a book, I’d title it, “It’s just a Hunch” and I’d already be on page 127.


The journey with Aaron began with a hunch… a suspicion that this dog, formally called Beaver, was a dog to save. Well, that’s a bit silly, because most every dog in a high kill shelter slated for euthanization should be saved. But this dog was the one who I locked eyes with. Of course, I’d tweeted many dogs before, sharing their images and pleas for help on Facebook. So, why this dog? There’s no concrete explanation other than this: Something happened. Forget the locking eyes part. That’s just a more sane way of saying this dog… screamed at me? Whispered to me? Pleaded with me? “Please. Help. Me. Please. Please. …. help me. Just… help… me.”

Okay. It was a hunch. I’m good with that…I did what it took to help him. I had the “talk” with husband, John. I tweeted back and forth till 2 am with my anipals one night. I sent emails to trusted colleagues and had a number of phone conversations as well. I secured a local rescue to “over see” this dog, with a promise to list him on their website when he’s ready for his permanent home. And through the patient efforts of South Carolina rescuers, Beth Leermakers and Susan Blakeney, who both had hunches of their own, we got him here. He’s not “Beaver” anymore. He gets a new chance at life and he needs a name that, I think, is more fitting. It was a hunch, sort of a premonition, and it came to me one day shortly before his arrival: “And his name is Aaron” It means Mountain of Strength. Yes. I figured he’d need that..there’s power in a name like that.

But it isn’t enough to just get the dog here. You still have to listen. You have to listen to your gut. To the voice inside. The little one. What’s the voice saying? What’s the dog saying? What’s your spouse saying? That’s a lot to figure out and now I don’t have time for that. I want us to make immediate progress. I begin using different foods to communicate with him. What I really want is to hurry up and slow down. I want this dog, Aaron, to take his time becoming acclimated to this new life. And I also want him to hurry up. I want him to prove something. I want to prove something. And I stop listening to this little hunch I’d had when he first arrived…

And my hunch was this: “feed Aaron the same food as he was eating in the shelter in Darlington, South Carolina. Don’t change things too fast. Yes. You want to communicate with him and food seems to be the way to do it. But don’t give him too many foods that he isn’t accustomed to eating. He’s never had plain yogurt. He’s never had kefir. And, pumpkin for loose stools? I doubt it. He’s never tasted beef heart. Beef jerky, even for dogs… never had it, probably. Almond butter…. are you kidding? Ricotta cheese… even a little bit… may not… work… so … well. Keep it simple… stupid.”

But I did it anyway. I fed all those new foods and more! We were forging ahead toward the goal! He learned to come out of his crate in search of all these cheap doxycycline tablets foods. He willingly exchanged touches for a tasty morsel of beef tongue. He learned “Sit” and “Down”, eeezy shmeezy. So what if his stools got a little looser each day? I ignored that. We ran a fecal on Saturday to rule out parasites… giardia…Not there. So why the diarrhea? Stress? And then the vomiting began. So did the medications: Metronidazole, Drontal Plus, Imodium.

Last night I had a foster dog with stomach gurgles that I could hear in the next room. And he wouldn’t eat or drink anything. He curled himself into a ball at the back of his crate. I wish I’d listened to that voice. Followed my gut. I should have fed the same old boring kibble then mixed in some chicken and rice after a day or so. I should have waited on the yogurt, kefir, beef heart, kidney, almond butter, etc….

“Okay, lighten up, Mary Doane,” says @barrie. “This is on-the-job learning and it’s not easy.” She’s right. If fostering a dog from unknown origins, background, whose likes and dislikes were easy and straight forward, more people would do it. But it’s not a simple task, in fact, fostering a dog is complex on many different levels. . . not the least of which is learning to follow each and every hunch to its end. It’s the hardest part. Really, it’s the “crux of the matter, isn’t it?

My Seminary professors used to say, “And the crux of the matter is….” Well, in Seminary “the crux” concerned matters of omnipotence, omniscience, original sin, and “ground of all being” As in, questions about immaculate conception, univeral law and divine plan….As in, I could never answer that.

Aaron the foster dog

Not your average dog

But Aaron is a dog, not a theological principle. He’s a dog with a gurgly upset stomach who, last night, had fluids coming out of both ends. Nutritional overload. The crux of the matter is that I wanted this dog to hurry up yet take his time. I set him on the road to a speedy rehabilitation when he arrived from SC so he could prove to the world what a great dog he is…Throw on the harness, tear it up, throw on another harness…get outside….push, push, push. Oh, the truth, it hurts so. The crux of the matter continues: I wanted Aaron to prove me right. See how fast he’s progressing? I’m on the right track, correct?

Well, yes…. and no. He’s not ready to wear a harness yet. And, despite what friends and colleagues say, my hunch is that he’s not ready to be outside yet, either. I’m sure his scruffy, thin canine body was not prepared for that rich variety of foods I offered and he gladly accepted. He’s not ready to come up the basement stairs into the living room. He’s not ready to hear talk of his bio posting on the Puppy Angels Website. What he is happy to do is move somewhat freely between the two rooms downstairs. He’s more than willing to carry yogurt containers from one room to another. He is taking great pleasure in making off with my coffee cup. He’s pleased to follow me around, if I have food for him. He’s prepared to accept a brief touch or two from John and I, so long as there is something in it for him…


Belly up

Aaron is showing absolutely wonderful signs of being one of the nicest fellows on the planet. And, he is very willing to snooze belly up in his oversized crate while listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on Pandora radio. And, he seems to like Mozart and Brahms as well. But Yanni? He could take him or leave him….

He’s a good dog, that one.