Thursday, December 16, 2010
I first heard about this little 4 yr old pit bull named Sunshine who was chained on an 8 foot chain in the NC mountains thru Facebook postings that kept circulating and pleading for a foster home. One of my FB friends, Tammy Townsend, kept sending out her story and one weekend in November, it got into the low 30's in my town, and I knew Sunshine was located in the NC mountains, a colder climate by at least 10-15 degrees. This made me very angry, and I quickly posted, "Won't someone let her into their f-ing garage for the night????". The answer was no. The family who had Sunshine also had three other chained dogs as well, who they apparently "loved", but were not willing to share their home with.
It was then that I made the decision. I would foster Sunshine. Mind you, I have three other pit bulls that I own and live with, and there were a mountain of unknowns about this decision....this was a dog I'd never met! Would Sunshine be aggressive after living on a chain her ENTIRE life?...How would I acclimate her to indoor life when all she's ever known is living on the end of a cold metal chain? She's been on a chain every day, 24/7 for her WHOLE life...how would she even know how to behave if she came inside? Where to start? So I decided to think logically about the steps it would take to get this girl ready to live the life of a pit bull princess, which of course is every pit bull's dream...but to go from one extreme to the other....logically how would I do it?
I thought about it, and I thought logically it would make sense to ease her in, little by little, by starting off with her outside as she is used to....I mean, bringing her inside, plopping her into a crate and leaving for work was NOT going to work out....THAT I felt sure of. So I decided to get her a pen. Mind you, I live in downtown Raleigh, where dogs are not kept in pens...that is what people who live in the country do....BUT I was determined to make Sunshine's transition from chains to princess life a gradual one, so as not to freak her out too much. I didn't want to scare her. I wanted to slowly teach her just how great (and comfortable!) life could be when you lived as part of a family...inside! I set out looking for a really nice pen. The one I really liked was for sale new at a farm supply store for $500...but I didn't have $500! I really wanted to borrow a pen....I didn't have any plan to have a dog pen inside my backyard for an extended amount of time. After reading up on pens, I discovered that pit bulls who are determined to escape (and they are known as escape artist dogs) can chew through chain link because it is made of a soft metal. The pen I had found at the store was made of welded wire, and a very heavy gauge, where it would be very unlikely to be escaped. There was even a top piece you could buy for an extra $150 to make it more difficult in case the dog got any ideas about climbing out. Of course I would also need a dog house...she couldn't be expected to just sleep on the exposed ground!
I searched on Craigslist and in no time at all I found the very pen I had seen at the store! It was in good shape, and the people only wanted $250 for it! With the help of FB folks who had been following her story and who donated to her cause, it sounded great to me! A friend offered to drive me out to the country to pick it up with his truck and trailer, and when we got there, the seller offered the top piece thrown in! They even gave me their old dog house. I was so excited for Sunshine! We got it all home and sanded off the rough spots of rust, repainted it and set it up! It was perfect!! NOW I was ready to have Sunshine move in!
Sunshine came to me through a highly choreographed group of five transporters, arranged by Tammy T., who assigned each person a leg of the route to bring Little Miss Sunshine a step closer and closer to me at each handoff. Kathy Carrico was the last person who drove Sunshine to actually hand her off to me. We visited for a few minutes outside the cars and Kathy walked Sunshine while I printed some adoption bios for the very next day's Positive Pit Bull adoption event. Then, after we took a few pictures, me with Sunshine and Kathy with her, I put Sunshine into my car (i had set up a crate but I put her on the front seat to ride beside me) and we went driving back to Raleigh, Sunshine's new temp. home with me! She was apprehensive, and understandably scared. I mean, she had never moved outside of an 8 foot square for all of the four years she'd been alive! It was a big world to her! I drove her through the Mcdonald's drive thru, where I ordered her a cheeseburger. She ate it very delicately, but was obviously excited about the TASTES of being chain-free! She seemed very happy but still very apprehensive, as if she didn't know what to expect next. After her cheeseburger, she settled down and fell asleep in the front seat!
I got her home and let her out in the back yard to explore a little. I put her into her brand new pen, doghouse freshly stuffed with hay to burrow in as well as a kuranda bed outside the doghouse for lounging. She sat on the kuranda bed staring at the back of my house, whining. I decided to go inside for ten minutes, then come back to check on her. She was in the same position, staring and whining. So I brought her in. From the minute Sunshine came inside, it was like she knew all along she was meant to be a princess, only noone ever gave her the chance. She sat on the couch with me immediately, curled up and went to sleep. Only had one accident inside, even though she has been an outdoor girl her whole life. She blended with my dogs beautifully! Of course introductions are best when done slowly, so I let Cricket outside with her to begin with. She showed only a mild interest in Cricket, but no aggression whatsoever! Next, was Rocco and Georgie, same reaction, she pretty much ran around the yard with them, but sniffing and exploring on her own mostly. Perfect! I couldn't have asked for a better progression than this! next, I wanted to see what would happen when I introduced her to the crate. I threw in a HIGH value treat. She looked at it but did not approach. I threw in another, she took a step toward and put one foot in, nose busily sniffing as hard as she could. One more treat and she went in! I quickly shut the door and walked out of the room. I wanted to give her about ten minutes then come back to check on her. She didn't make one peep, even with being in a crate for the first time in her life! When I checked on her, she was SLEEPING in the crate!!
I think Sunshine is just so grateful to be inside, where she isn't freezing constantly, where she has some companionship playing with the other dogs, and some attention from a human who loves her FINALLY, that she just knew what to do to fit in. She is happy to have traded her chains for her new shiny white Pit Bull Pearls she is wearing a lot these days. And my dogs and myself have welcomed her into our lives with open arms, our hearts bursting with love for her.
Sunshine has recently tested positive for heartworms. :( The rescue (Marley's Cat Tales and Dogs Too) who is helping with her medical bills said she would have been dead within three weeks if I hadn't stepped up to take her in. She will receive her first treatment this Saturday, then come home to stay inside her crate 24/7 for a whole month. No worries though, I'll be there to care for her and encourage her through it. It's the least I can do for a dog who has never known real love.
A foster dog can be a lot of things that aren't very attractive: trouble, more effort, sick, needy, dirty, and can seem like more trouble than they're worth sometimes. But if you've never done it, you'll get something out of it that's unexpected and you owe it to yourself to do it once. Your foster dog will teach you more about compassion and love than you ever knew before, and your heart will literally never be the same. The rewards far outweigh the trouble you thought it'd be in the beginning and you will be a better person for it. Noone can really tell you this. You have to just do it once and see for yourself. When that dog eventually does find the forever home he/she is meant to be in, you will feel like dying from your loss, but I'd be willing to bet you'll do it again.
I challenge every person to go to your local shelter and look into the eyes of each dog there. One will speak to you and you'll know that's the one who needs you most. Become a foster for your shelter today and let's work on making the world a NOKILL world!