Monday, August 8, 2016

Adventures In Fostering

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published August 10, 2016] ©2016
Recently I wrote about Olof and I starting to look at dogs. Olof was not enthusiastic about “foo-foo” dogs that needed professional grooming. Our vet predicted we would fall in love with any dog that ended up in our house for more than two days. And lo and behold, she was right.
It was the Fourth of July, a weekend when shelters are filled to overflowing with dogs that freak out from fireworks and slip their collars. One of the small private shelters at which we’d applied called us and asked if we’d do a one week foster for a matted scrawny Shih Tzu that had been picked up on the streets of Bonita a week earlier. Surprisingly, no one seemed to be looking for him. I even searched every lost dog site I could find.
When we went down to the County Animal Shelter, the place looked like the fall of Saigon – dogs everywhere. The private shelter had rescued Percy from the County Shelter and the hand-off was not unlike a drug deal. We were presented with a diaper-wearing dog and a plastic bag containing six cans of food, a Zip-Lock bag of kibble, and a package of Maxi Pads. Zero info available on the dog, said the harried shelter person, other than that the County vet estimated he was three. Not sure about being house trained, she said, hence the “belly band” (a Velcro strip lined with a Maxi Pad that went around his stomach). And then she was gone.
Testing the house training situation when we got home, we took off the belly band only to have Percy leave a lake on our guest room floor. While I cleaned up, I asked Olof to put a fresh Maxi Pad in the belly band and get it on the dog. Let me just say that Olof is not a Maxi Pad kind of guy. In fact, I won a first place Press Club award for a column I wrote about Olof’s world class aversion to feminine hygiene product commercials on TV. The look on Olof’s face suggested that that even under the “for worse” category, putting a Maxi Pad on a dog was not covered in the marital vows. It was unclear whose dignity was being more compromised.
It immediately became apparent that Percy was an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. Someone had obviously adored him. He was hugely affectionate, loved to be brushed and walked, and was fabulous with kids, grownups, other dogs, and even Canine Public Enemy No. 1, postmen. But his microchip had never been registered and he was not neutered (and mounted everything in sight). When I took him to our vet a few days later, she said he was closer to seven or eight than three, and his teeth were among the worst she’d ever seen. (His breath could drop a goat at 40 feet.)  Piteous doggie nightmares attested to some terrifying time on the streets.
He didn’t seem to know what toys were, appeared never to have set food on grass and knew no commands.
“Maybe he just doesn’t know them in English,” suggested my neighbor. Good point.
Since the Castilian Spanish I studied in college leaned more to Don Quixote than dog commands, I looked some up on the internet.
“Sientate! I ordered. “Arriba! Abajo! Ven! Quedate!”  Nada.
Olof said that since it’s a Chinese breed, maybe he only understands Mandarin.
One thing that was quickly apparent: the poor dog’s mouth was killing him. We told the shelter that we would pay the $500 for his neutering and his dental work which I admit was partly self-defense (see dog breath, above). Even as I drove him to the vet, Percy jumped into my lap and assaulted my arm the whole way.
Though our beloved previous dog was a non-swimming English bulldog, we never worried about him going into our pool. But the very first time we had Percy out in our back yard, he proceeded to walk directly into the pool – and go straight to the bottom. No instincts to dog paddle at all. Then he did it again two more times. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with his vision so was he just unfamiliar with the concept of “pool”?  The pool safety trainer later observed, “This dog’s Indian name should be ‘Sinks Like Stone.”
Olof observed that if we were going to keep this dog, we would have to get water proof watches.
I don’t have space to write another 50 pages on this topic or on the fact that Percy could squeeze his little body between the bars of the pool fence and nearly drowned a fourth time before we hastily strung up netting, or that Shih Tzus make the Top 10 of Worst Swimming Breeds. But it was the assessment of several experts that this dog could not be made reliably pool safe. And hence he could not be our Forever Dog. The gate to our backyard just gets left unsecured too often by gardening guys, pool cleaners, irrigation people etc.
But this did not keep us from falling madly in love with Percy during the month we had him. We made it our goal to make him the most adoptable dog he could possibly be. $900 later, he was house trained, professionally groomed, eating enthusiastically with his remaining teeth, had lost the doggie breath, knew some commands, and wasn’t mounting anybody. Tuned up and good for another 40,000 miles.
An apartment-dwelling widow looking for a companion dog adopted him – a perfect placement. It was absolutely the right decision. And still, we are #heartbroken.
Percy – the ultimate “foo foo” dog
Question: Which item does not belong? (Ans: they all do)
The un-neutered Percy greets a neighbor in his signature style
While we’re sorting out house training, Percy wears a belly band in the house
Percy appears to be unfamiliar with grass, preferring
elevated parking
Fishing Percy out of the pool AGAIN
When we discover that he can squeeze through the bars of the pool fence,
we hastily put up netting with cable ties
A world-class high jumper, Percy’s preferred sleeping place is on
Olof’s pillow
Despite some obstacles, we fell madly in love with Percy, the sweetest,
 most mellow dog ever, but realize we can’t keep him because of the pool.
Percy (with ecstatic new owner)is now the undisputed darling
of a pool-less high rise senior living center

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