Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Starfish

I remember hearing the story long ago of the little boy walking on the shoreline. It was low tide and thus for miles in each direction thousands of starfish lay on the sand, scattered between rocks, seaweed, and whatever else kept them from returning to the water. As he walked, the young boy carefully picked up a starfish and tossed it back into the water, watching it float to safety before moving onto the next one. When another older gentleman approached and asked what he was doing the boy answered that he was throwing the starfish into the water. With the sun growing stronger in the sky, he explained, if nothing was done the starfish would die before the tide would be enough to bring them into the water. The older man was a skeptic, reminding the boy as if he didn’t already know that there were miles upon miles of beach, each section full of starfish. There was no way he could possibly make a difference. Upon hearing this the young boy reached down, picked up the closest starfish, and threw it into the water turning to this man he replied “I made a difference for that one.”

Although I must admit that while visiting Oregon this past summer I did search for and find a few starfish to throw back into the water, that is not the first thing that comes to mind thinking of this story now. The first thing I think about is Oreo.

Meeting Oreo 

We didn’t really have the time (or the space) for another dog. Harley was enough dog for anybody. But after joining a group for Rescue Rovers, it became clear that we could make room for one more. I wasn’t looking for a dog, but when Rescue Rovers posted pictures of nine or so dogs that were in shelters with a euthanization date set for the next day along with a plea for anybody who could take them in and foster, there was no way I could just sit idly by. After showing it to Kyle, he was a bit skeptical, not necessarily in the prospect of having two dogs, but because our schedules were so hectic. At the time we were both going to school full time while working full time, my time being stretched between two jobs. We wrote out the email to Jodi and let it sit for a couple of hours, talking through the pros and cons, not just for us, but for a dog we would foster. Sometimes you just have to stop overanalyzing things and go with your gut. We clicked send.

I can still distinctly remember Oreo’s face in her picture. There she was cowering against the side of the shelter kennel. Out of all the dogs in the pictures, she looked the saddest of all. Her head was bent low, avoiding the gaze of those looking in. Even though in the email we described our situation, stating we would foster for any dog that needed it, I remember feeling for Oreo more than any of the other dogs on the list. After nine years of living with her owners who she had grown to trust and love, they left her at the shelter, not giving a second thought to her fate.

The next day Jodi called and asked us if we could take Oreo. She told us that because she was a senior dog there was a good chance it could take some time for her to be adopted. We met her after work to pick up a scared and shivering pup. Every time you would look back at her while driving home, her tail would thump, nothing compared to the dangerous whacks Harley’s can give when she is excited, but enough to show just how appreciative she really was.

As soon as we introduced Harley to Oreo, she began licking her face. To this day Oreo just tolerates it when this happens. For the first couple of days Oreo was scared, always hiding under the bed, shaking when standing on the hardwood floor, and not reacting much to human interaction. It took a lot to get Oreo’s trust, but once we did, she completely transformed. She no longer hid under the bed, but made sure to be right in the middle of the action, always close to her people. Rather than standing in the next room watching us she would find her place at the foot of the couch, lying on our feet on the carpet during a movie. The biggest change of all is finding out just how strong of a personality Oreo has. Some of her favorite things to do include:

·         Sleeping on her Costco dog bed. If Harley is on it Oreo will go stare at her until Harley moves (which she will, she would do anything for Oreo)

 This picture pretty much sums up Harley's life.

·         Belly rubs, if you walk near her while she is lying down, she will roll over, exposing her belly to you. It’s almost like she does it subconsciously sometimes.
·         Play with other dogs. Her number one buddy is Harley, who she will stick with no matter what, but her other buddies include Daisy, Max the puppy, Bella (who she gets to hang out with every time we go out of town), Atticus, and Scout.
Here's when Erica's kids and Atticus stayed over for a couple of days. Don't worry, dogs were kicked out of the kitchen before breakfast started!

·         Treats! There are a few words Oreo knows, and “treat” is one of them. Her favorite tricks to do are speak and sit pretty, which she will do even before you ask her to if there are treats involved.
·         Walks, you can’t get out the leash without her going insane.
·         Hikes, by far Oreo’s favorite thing to do is go on a hike where she can be off the leash, meet new dogs, and explore. 

It became clear after just a couple of weeks that it would be too sad to only foster Oreo, plus I didn’t want to break the trust she had just gained in us. We became what is known as “foster failures” and decided to keep her. Although she is now 10, you would never guess her age.

Become a Foster! 

Now if you’re still reading, here’s the whole reason I began writing all this about Oreo Dog. Currently there are many dogs in the foster program who are considered “seniors”, the one I have in mind is Maverick, who is thirteen. Most of these dogs are put into shelters by their owners after many years of love because of a lifestyle change, or the inability to keep them any longer. We all go through changes in life. Nothing is definite, but here is something to keep in mind when you do this: many older dogs do not get a second chance. The demand for cute puppies is much higher than an older dog who already has a name and a history. Although I’m all for puppies, here are a few reasons why adopting or fostering an older dog has its advantages too:

·       Both of our dogs came potty trained. We didn’t have to worry about cleaning up messes at any time.
·       Oreo is so calm inside, yet take her on a walk and she goes nuts! I take her and Harley running with me all the time, especially when I was training for a half marathon. Oreo was able to keep up even better than Harley.
After a very long run.

·       Oreo knew many tricks when she came to us, all of which she eagerly does.
·       Maybe I’m just imagining it, but I feel as though she is grateful to be out of the shelter, and appreciates what she has.
·       You’d be surprised how fast an older dog will become loyal to you.

I can’t promise every dog will be as awesome as Oreo (because she really is the best) but I can say that you won’t regret fostering through this program. Fill out the Rescue Rovers adoption or foster form to make a difference. It’s a small effort for a large reward.