Friday, July 29, 2011

From Foster to "Forever"

Arnie, the dog who stole our hearts!

In early May, we started fostering Arnold from PAWS Chicago. The day I arrived at the PAWS intake center in Little Village to begin another fostering assignment (our sixth), a Chihuahua was brought out. Although I had once cared for a dog of this breed, I prefer more "furry" dogs and I asked if there was another option.

We had to look no further than the reception area, where a draped crate was temporary home to a Terrier recovering from his first heartworm treatment. Arnold tentatively emerged from the crate, licked my hand, and sealed the deal.

Arnold was to be kept on a strictly-limited activity regimen. He would undergo two more injection treatments in the next 2 1/2 months, supplemented by daily meds. He had to be carried up and down the stairs for his brief "outside" visits. We couldn't play with Arnold as we would with other dogs. Nonetheless, he quickly settled into our domestic routine, and after nearly 3 months, we couldn't imagine our home without him.

Just 4 days ago, I drove Arnie down to PAWS-Little Village for his blood testing. He stayed overnight and was neutered the next day. On Wednesday, the PAWS van transported him and other ready-to-adopt dogs to the north side, where the PAWS adoption center is located. Steve and I had made an appointment to meet with an adoption counselor, and after an informative and thorough 1 1/2-hour session, Arnie was brought in to reunite with us. What a pleasure to bring him back home and have him settle into his familiar territory!

Hats off to PAWS for giving Arnie the best of medical care during his heartworm ordeal. We will do our best to give him a healthy and happy life!

Monday, September 20, 2010

At Last...A Dog in the House!

Despite all good intentions, Maggie and I parted company two months after her arrival. Fortunately, a colleague of Maggie's deceased companion was able to add another cat to her household...and the cat chapter in my life came to a close.

During the summer months, I attended the basic orientation and Level I training at the PAWS adoption center on the north side. This enabled me to sign up for shifts at "Dog Town," the wonderfully-designed (and cage-free) haven for adoptable puppies and dogs. The hours flew by, as potential "pet parents" perused the selection of canines and made initial contact. These sessions were physically and emotionally demanding, but nothing could beat the sheer happiness of seeing a dog go home with loving and caring people.

PAWS Chicago, an amazingly well-organized operation, also offers fostering opportunities. I filled out an application online, and received a call from Julie at the Little Village intake center. Not 24 hours went by before I was zipping down Lake Shore Drive to pick up Lily, a darling 1-year-old in the "crisis" program (families affected by foreclosures). Lily has been at our home for nearly 2 weeks, and she's a continual delight.
The first week, she wore an e-collar as part of her post-spay recovery. She is now enjoying her freedom from the e-collar, and is adapting well to our environment. All I can say is, it's hard not to get attached!

Thanks to PAWS for bringing us together, if only for a short while...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fostering a Cat

I am a dog person. I am a dog person. I am a dog person. I am a dog person.

Nothing has changed. Scamp (AKA Scampi) left this world six months ago, and not a day goes by that I don't think about him, and even cry a little. Yesterday, I enjoyed a frolic with a young Maltese across the street, and as he happily licked my cheek, I thought fondly of my own dear Maltese.

But now I'm fostering a cat. A cat! After nearly two months, Maggie allows me to brush her (at her request, and only at her request). She will let me gently stroke the top of her head with my fingers. On occasion, she will even jump onto our bed...but unlike Scampi, she simply perches at the corner and does not curl into my somnolent pajama'd body.

Can I expect Maggie to behave like Scampi? Pas du tout!

That would not be fair of me. At all.

So what keeps us together? We are both grieving...I lost my canine companion last December, and Maggie lost her human companion in March. I keep hoping that our losses will bring us closer together--although Maggie's constant hissing during her first month did not bode well for our relationship. Her whining meowing didn't help, either. Perhaps my frequent absences made her feel less than welcome. So, like any relationship, I decided that a commitment would be needed. I started spending more time at home, trying to lose my fear of her hissing. Now, when I brush her, Maggie will lick my hand if I pause for a few seconds. Cold comfort? Or the start of a possible, real friendship?

How long, I keep wondering, does it take to build up mutual trust with a cat?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Saying Good-bye...

This weekend, I faced the moment that every pet owner dreads. Even though Scamp was 14 1/2 years old and suffering from congestive heart disease, I kept him going with the help of numerous medications and a wonderful canine cardiologist, Dr. Eva Sikorska. She had just seen him on November 30; less than a week later, it was all over. I had taken Scamp along on a car trip to Wisconsin, where he enjoyed day boarding at the Woofdorf Astoria while I attended a board meeting at the DeKoven Center in Racine.

He had slept much of the time, but when I came in the door, he scooted out from under the desk in the reception area (Woofdorf often keeps senior dogs within view). We enjoyed an evening at a hotel in Madison, and drove back to Chicago on Saturday morning. Overnight, he started barking/coughing and chasing his tail. It was unlike his usual wheezing, so I waited to see what happened. An hour later, he repeated this sequence, so I called the animal ER center. They recommended a dose of Lasix and also of Hycodan. The next morning, I took him to the car to drive him up to the center in Northbrook. He came out with the most horrible coughing, and just minutes later, he was limp in my arms. I took him to a nearby ER center, where Alice very kindly let me say my good-byes and took a paw print for me to keep.

Losing Scamp is something that I was not fully prepared for. For the last few days, I have felt his absence in every corner of the house. My husband Steve put away all of the crates, gates, blankets, feeding bowls, toys, etc., so I am even more conscious of the emptiness. How hard it is to go into my small study and not see Scamp resting on the couch...or sleeping next to my side of the bed, and perching himself at the edge of the mattress each morning...or begging for treats in the kitchen.

After talking to the vets, I realized that this was the time for Scamp to leave. His disease had severely weakened his heart, and he could not continue. I can only be grateful to Scamp's loyal and spirited companionship, and hope that I was a good caretaker. My 5 1/2 years with Scamp has made me marvel at the special relationship and communication possible between people and their pets; it is a wonderful gift, and one I hope to enjoy at some point in the future.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Scamp goes Out West

I just returned from a 2 1/2-week driving trip to a Ford Econoline... accompanied by a good friend, his bike, two sleeping bags, and my trusty Maltese, Scamp. I give Scamp credit for adjusting to various conditions of desert, mountain, and ocean without complaint. He was a contented traveler, nestling in his canvas crate in-between the two front seats. I left the top flap unzippered, so he could poke his head out every so often to indicate a need for food or water.

As we drove through the region, I came to appreciate the dog-friendly motels, cafes, and shops that welcomed us. I also became frustrated with inflexible motel policies ("no pets")--especially in Death Valley, where (let's face it) how many lodging options ARE there? And how much damage would a 13-pound, 14-year-old non-shedding Maltese inflict? I even use a doggie diaper at night in case of...

Special thanks to Amy and Dan at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort in the Death Valley area for their especially gracious hospitality. Dan and Scamp developed quite a rapport!