Monday, January 19, 2015

My Dog Problem

We waited for the snow, and it finally came...and in true PNW style it got rained on & melted away after springlike conditions. I got 8 long days of 12 hour shifts in, with a bunch of overtime (at minimal wage) and it was so necessary for me to have to report to a job after months of waiting. Was enjoying my days off and got a call that the resort was CLOSED. I no longer had a job. And no snow in the forecast. Was just getting into the groove of cold outdoor work and was loving it.

A month after Fergus died, I was bringing home my first foster dog for the Multnomah County Animal Shelter. I had been compulsively looking at doggie pictures on and the various
rescue groups in the area. I was going to shelters every day. I couldn't stop myself but I also didn't see anything wrong with it. My heart was broken and I was filling that massive dog shaped hole in my heart by loving on other dogs in these places where there are so many sweet little pups just waiting to be scooped into someone's arms and taken home. I have never understood how anyone could obtain a dog any other way than through a shelter - it almost seems criminal to me, but that is probably being too judgmental. The amazing part to me was that capacity of the love I had for a potential new dog. There was no comparison to Fergus (though I am attracted to only small dogs), but his death seemed to magnify and make urgent the dog-love-bond that I had taken for granted for 17 years. After filling out a foster application and getting approved right away, I was about to begin my journey with Good Boy.

At first it seemed selfish and irresponsible to me to be bringing this poor dog to my house. I wanted to hold and cuddle with a doggie, with none of the long term responsibility...he had "issues" in the shelter, was aggressive and snarling at people, but the second I opened the kennel in my house he leapt into my arms and snuggled with me like a baby. Within the hour we were in my warm cozy bedroom under piles of soft blankets, him sleeping with a smile on his face in my lap. He had a "home" and was very grateful for it. I was soon to find out that a foster dog is a lot of work. They remove them from the shelter for a reason - they are not adoptable and need to be made that way. This one only bonded with one person and every one else was a threat. I was to socialize him by having people come over or me take him around places, and I did that as much as I could but it was too hard because of his unpredictable nature. I ended up just bounding home after outings or work to have a love fest with the giddily happy dog. Almost 5 weeks passed before someone asked about him. I was feeling the wrenching sense of how awful fostering was: the dog bonds and starts to feel totally safe a secure in a home, and then he is toted off & dropped off at a stranger's house, to have to start the bonding process all over again. I was starting to panic. More for me than for him. I was totally attached to this dog. He was mine and I was his. I was a true love affair, as great as the one I had with Fergus. And I was about to experience deeply felt loss again.

After meeting with two different families (spending all day with both of them) he finally got adopted. He was only $25 because of his age and how long he'd been homeless, and the night before I dropped him off at his new home I didn't sleep a wink, feeling like I had done him a big injustice fooling him that he had me forever. I dropped him off at his new home and feel comfortable with them as his new owners, but it is me who is bereft, confused, heartbroken all over again. Was I masochistic to put myself through this pain again? After a couple of days of "freedom" I was very very sad. I bought a plane ticket to Texas so I wouldn't get another dog. I went to the shelter again to ask if they had one I could keep just until my trip. They had a sweet little girl, but we decided to wait until I got back from my trip. I used the shelter worker as a grief/guidance counsellor as I had a lot of confusing feelings about my role as a foster parent. She assured me my grief was typical, and that the best way to do it was to get another one immediately! Ok, I could do that. It seems so indulgent, but I think that will have to be the way I get my dog need filled for now. I almost cancelled my trip to Texas so I could have another dog right away, but that just seemed weird and compulsive, so, as lonely as I am, I'm still going to wait until I get back mid February. This part sounds like it could be titled "my dog addiction".

I didn't think it would be this way. I thought the second Fergus died I'd just drive outtta here and travel and just be drunk with my freedom from responsibly. But the opposite is sort of true (and it is still early, I still may be not ready to be that utterly free), having cared for a dog for so long, I cannot imagine my life without one. It just seems WRONG to be in a cabin by myself with nothing to love on. I don't have close connections with people around here, so I really need that dog love connection. I am looking at the possibility that I have changed. That this fantasy I had in my head this past four years may have just been a fantasy of freedom from responsibility, but the reality is that I need responsibility. I have applied for all the antarctic jobs I feel I am qualified for, and am hoping that I do get a job this upcoming fall, but in the meantime I need that dog love...I now understand those people who go out and get another one right can't help yourself! And there are those that never get another one - I thought I would be one of those. This blindsided me. Maybe it's still the pain of the loss, or the emptiness of my life right now, but fostering that dog gave my life meaning and purpose, and a whole lot of love. And for the first time I had an experience that was truly gratifying - gratifying in a way that I now understand when people talk about service and giving of themselves. I was the one who was fostered, loved, cared for...I'm hoping that this two week trip will wake me up to a reality that is not centered on dogs, but if it doesn't, then this will be my new reality. And that is fine with me..... :-)

I hope that I did right by him. Fostering is tough on the heart: you have to ready to utterly let go of this precious animal that you have loved to bits for a short period of time. And I was blindsided by how much I loved him. I know that being a dog, he will bond with his new owners just like he did with me, and that makes me happy...but what do I do with the new squishy me that I don't even recognize as me? Was she birthed from the ashes of the ancient pup that quietly changed her psyche over 17 years? Is this just a factor of being middle aged and not having human grand babies? Or is it a cosmic joke played by a trickster god who knows that it's no coincidence that dog is god spelled backwards? I think the alchemy of love is strange and unpredictable, and never did I not think my source of it wouldn't be a human man; but this, a soft smiling face, the same face, on every one of them.
"Good Boy" - my first foster dog