The kennel in an animal shelter—even if the physical shelter is a no-kill rescue organization, even if staff cares for and spends as much time as possible with the pets—is no ideal place for a pet to exist for an extended period, much less a “long-term” pet to exist for an extended period. The goal is to get dogs and cats adopted to the right fit home for them, right? And if not adopted, then surely into a foster home where they’re more free to move around, where there’s less stress, and where foster parents can assess how they’re functioning in a home setting. Actually, as of more recent, a cat or dog entering a foster home has been the first goal once they enter our care at Pawmetto Lifeline, because the idea is this: let’s first learn, learn, and learn about the pet and then have useful information to communicate to prospective forever families—sooner. In either case, a pet’s time in foster care can propel, facilitate, and help solidify an adoption.
It hasn’t been easy for Lio to find a foster home during his time at Pawmetto Lifeline. Lio’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. But he is for someone, and the right foster home fit for him can teach us how we can help “make it a forever” with that someone (the adopter).
The first time my husband Matthew and I took Lio home was in April of 2016 for a sleepover. It would be the first time he spent the night away from Pawmetto Lifeline in over two years. I was determined to see what having him out of the kennel and with us would be like. We had our own dog, McClane, sleep at his Uncle Jason’s house as we really wanted to make the occasion about Lio, and not knowing how the two dogs would interact (particularly inside our small apartment at the time) could be problematic.
Here are some “snippets” from an actual email I sent to our directors about the sleepover:
“[Lio] rode amazingly in the car, loving every chance to stick his head out the window and vacuum up thousands of scents with his nose as his ears flopped up and down.”
“At first [he] was pacing nervously about the apartment (who could blame him?) but relaxed after about 20-30 minutes.”
“[He] did wonderfully with my husband. Before bringing Lio into the house, I asked Matthew to be sitting on the couch so his height (6’6”) wouldn’t intimidate Lio. [He] went over to the couch to explore and give kisses to Matthew.” (It wasn’t long before they were playing fetch together.)
“Lio had some treats rewarded to him if he did what was asked: ‘sit,’ back,’ ‘high five,’ ‘speak,’ etc. and he took them from my hand very gently. He can do this with just about anyone who is confident being around him.”
We had Lio over again one night in July of that year in our new house, McClane at Uncle Jason’s place again. It was incredibly sweet and awe-inspiring to see him take in all the scents in the backyard and run, run, run. Sleep for the night. Come up to us for back scratches. I was eager to share this experience with others who never imagined it possible that Lio could prosper in a home.
A Facebook album kept updated with Lio’s adventures and photos that captured his personality caught the eyes of a family of three. That fall, he went to a foster-to-adopt with them. We were hopeful about this placement, and he stayed with them for two months. Lio came back in early January due to them not being ready for his needs.
Lio stayed at Pawmetto Lifeline as we continued to search for a family, even if it meant writing letter after letter to other rescue organizations to find a different audience. Even if it meant asking any child-less prospective adopter if they would think about Lio. Even if it meant updating his profile picture and profile wording every couple of weeks (and admittedly, sometimes days or…hours), or continuing to share his story with rescues and “cross-posters” all over Facebook. I felt defeated but there was no way we could give up. After seeing him in a home—our home (and later, another home)—with my own eyes, I knew possible for him to succeed with the right family for him. With this said, I am not a saint. Not a hero for taking him home. I’m a gal who wants Lio to have security and success. The truth is that I think his forever person’s got to be close in proximity. If two employees in an organization of 70 of them can foster Lio—creating an appropriate environment for his needs—then his true home, a great fit for him, must be nearby.
See, I had been eager for a couple years to foster Lio, not just have an occasional sleepover. Since I understood that he didn’t care for other dogs in his face and wanted to keep to himself when it came to other canines, I was doubtful that introducing our McClane to him would be an accomplishment. In fact—and this was in 2016—I brought McClane to work and they had two introductions. Neither were enough to make me say that it would be worth it to move forward. There was a little too much interest in Lio coming from McClane one moment, and a little too much interest in McClane coming from Lio the next. It was enough to make them both tense up. Compatibility didn’t seem evident. Was I upset? Definitely. Did I want to put either dog in an uncomfortable position? No.
Fast forward to the fall of 2017 when one of our most remarkable, big-hearted employees, Rebecca, decided with her husband, Terry, that they would take a chance at having Lio at their house for long-term fostering. They proved that with patience, practice, and quite a bit of sacrifice that Lio would make a great family member. They have a sweetheart of a pit bull mix, Annabelle, who adores other dogs. What Rebecca committed to (and made very much possible for others to begin to understand) was that Lio could be just fine separated from resident dogs—still be thriving, and still in a home. Even if Lio and Annabelle had to “rotate” within the home and outside, Lio could still grow and be loved. (This is why we took the chance in reintroducing McClane and Lio; more on this soon, but yes, they are currently living in the same house.) Lio got along beautifully with Rebecca and Terry’s special needs cat, Duddles, showering him with kisses and nuzzling him on the daily. He was as obedient as ever. He finally got to experience having a yard of his own. He had people who set necessary boundaries for him, who could be greeted at the door with his tail wags, and who would provide him with love and support.
Well, let’s talk about a huge part of that love and support provided: In a recent post, we discussed resource guarding. Let us remind you that resource guarding is considered to be normal in dogs, though it can look different for many of them. Some may growl if their space, toys, or food is threatened, some may lick their lips or show the whites of their eyes in discomfort, some may bite. And this is primarily out of fear. Lio’s own resource guarding has become very manageable as determined through his foster experiences. Rebecca invited the slow feeder into Lio’s life, which has seemed to really change his attitude about food in an extraordinary way. Instead of scarfing down his food in seconds, he takes minutes to eat and is super patient during the pour. There’s a new sense of security about his food, though we still do not dare bother him while he eats. (If I reached to steal a chewy, gooey chocolate chip cookie from your plate, it’s a given that you’d be upset.) Meal time? Made easy. Thank you, Rebecca. Check out the video below.
Pretty cool, huh? “Bone” apetit.
Although Lio has switched from Rebecca’s home to mine, there’s plenty more to cover about Lio’s time in each home. There are new developments practically every day. With this said, it’s time I let Lio out to potty. He took a nice long nap after a walk, so he should be awake and, hey, close to ready for dinner.
Until our next post,
—Lio’s Foster Mom
Check out all of Lio’s special blog posts in his series: http://pawmettolifeline.org/blog/category/lios-adventures/
Check out Lio’s very own Facebook album: https://bit.ly/2wozmas