Friday, November 28, 2008

The Return of Bandit

In case nobody noticed, Bandit came back to us a few days ago. The people said he was destructive while they were at work full-time. I won't comment on that right now.

It's not uncommon for dogs to be returned to us unfortunately. In fact, I've been calling 2008 the Year of Returns because virtually every dog we fostered this year was a return. Some were returned for understandable reasons, most in my opinion weren't. Usually, if a dog is returned, they are returned within the first few weeks as unexpected issues arise that the people are unwilling or unequipped to deal with. Anybody who's read any of the adoption ads I've written know I tend give too much info. I write everything I can think of about the dog, and even append it with the blog. I want people to know what they are getting, good and bad, and I don't want there to be any surprises because surprises usually equal returns.

But it's impossible for me to foresee how any dog will react to their new environment. They are treated differently, the interactions are different as is the routine. So to some extent, there will always be surprises in store for the new owners.

When I adopt a dog out to someone, it is with the expectation that they will care for the dog enough to work through these surprises, barring extreme unforeseen changes in circumstances. I would never give a dog to anyone who I suspected would not. But it's hard to really know that about a person. After all, they are virtual strangers to me when I first meet them, even with a fairly intensive screening process, and I usually see them only at their very best. Sometimes I think it would be more useful if I could see them at their very worst.

People think that the hardest part about fostering a dog is dealing with the sadness of adopting them out. Nuh uh. For severely undersocialized and fearful dogs, the hardest part is knowing that they will once again feel fear, fear of the new people, fear of a new place, confusion and uncertainty of having their world completely changed again, after they had already begun to feel safe with us. For all other dogs, the hardest part by far is trusting that they are being placed in good hands. Every dog has a place in my heart and even when they go off to live in their forever home, or at least what is supposed to be their forever home, I still consider them ultimately my responsibility. For whatever reason, at whatever time, I will always take that dog back. There will always be an unbreakable bond between us.

There is invariably an emptiness when a foster dog is adopted, but it is surpassed by the satisfaction and joy in knowing that the dog has finally found his Forever Place. Except by now, I know there's always the possibility that it turns out not to be his Forever Place, so that even what is supposed to be joy is surpassed by fear and worry. After all, I don't really know the people I have placed my trust in, in many ways the greatest trust I could possibly give to a person. I am gifting to them somebody I love dearly, somebody who will rely completely on them for his or her well-being. It's a scary thing.

And by that token, it's not the worst thing in the world for a dog to be returned to me. I can think of so many worst things. At least when they come back to me, I know they will be safe and cared for. So in a way, I can thank my lucky stars for that.

It's unfortunate that it didn't work out for Bandit, but I am thrilled to have him back. The entire time we had him, he was recuperating from surgery so we never actually got to see him being free and 100% Bandit. We never had a chance to see him play like crazy or run without restraint. It's wonderful to see him now--even though I'm still not used to his leg being all healed and sometimes cringe when I see him tumbling or leaping.

He and Popeye took off right where they left off.

And this time around, Boomer and Phoebe are getting along better with Bandit because they are free to play together rather than hearing me yell at Bandit to stop trying to play with his injured leg.

Of course, Bandit hasn't been perfect. See these patches I sewed on the dog bed?

And this electric tape my father put round the lamp cord to connect the 2 detached ends?

Guess who we can thank for that?

And he did it right under my nose. So what was his punishment?

New chew toys.

And my reward?

Tired dogs.