I am Susi's Foster Mom

written by Wendy Paquette

I am Susie's foster mom.  I have been providing foster care for two and a half years. Susie is the first dog to ever come to me who I am left to wonder about.  I know little of her history.  I picked her up about a month ago from a couple that no longer had time for her.  They had her less than a year, having purchased her so she could provide them with puppies to sell.  She did her job well.  The puppies and stud are now gone, sold to whomever would pay the price.  We were then contacted to come and get Susie.  This is Susie's story so far.

As I stand in the parking lot, chatting with Susie's mom, I get my stick of string cheese out.  I offer her a piece and she just looks at it.  Susie's mom says, "Oh, she's never liked to take treats."  This is a first for me.  Never, ever in having 20+ foster Airedales, have I encountered one that refused to take a treat.

It's time to leave.  She is clearly stressed and doesn't understand, but obligingly climbs in the back of my car.  Her owner doesn't give her a good-bye hug or even wish her well - nothing to reassure this poor girl.  But then, why would I expect that?  "This girl has been an outdoor dog her whole life," her mom says proudly. "When we bought her, she lived in an outside 8 x 10 pen.  At least with us she had a whole yard to live in."  She also tells me that Susie's original owner was in her eighties.  That is the sum total of information I have about this poor girl.  So, we start home and I wonder...

I wonder...when we arrive home and I open the back door to let her meander outside, she takes one sniff and backs up.  It's as if she knows that she is now an inside dog and says, "No way, I don't have to go outside - I am an INSIDE DOG NOW!"  I chuckle at her.

I wonder...as I let all of her new foster sisters and brothers outside to surround and greet her, how will she react?  What does she think?  She responds only to little Molly and visiting Gilligan, a Bichon-Cocker Spaniel mix.  Does she think that Molly is one of her pups?  Or Gilligan...who in spite of his two years of age, he still acts like a puppy?  She LOVES him.  She follows him wherever he goes.

I break out the hot dogs.  I WILL get her to understand that treats are a good thing!  She shows little interest, but finally takes the piece that I offer her.  Her foster siblings are vying for position to get that hot dog - that DOES get her attention.  The second time around I don't have to coax her too much.  And by the third bite, she's first in line!  All I can think is, this poor girl - she's never known what a joy treats can be.

She is clearly depressed and confused.  She is flea bitten and covered with tick scabs.  Her ears are crusted with dried blood of fly bites.  Her skin and fur are pitiful and her eyes are encrusted with "goop".  She also has a horrific yeast infection in both ears.  She is stoic as the vet examines her.

I wonder...why she doesn't understand about petting or TLC.  She sits no closer than three feet to be petted.  She likes it, but can't come too close.  She won't come into my "space" to cuddle.  She doesn't trust it yet.  What will it take for her to trust?  I continue to wonder as one week turns into two.  The coordinator says, you need to write up her bio.  I say, "I can't, I don't know enough about her yet."  She isn't "giving" me anything.  Her eyes are haunted.  After the second week I wonder if I will ever get her to come around.  It is hard on both of us.  It is usually one of those things I know I am good at - bringing these babies out, letting them know they are loved - and she is simply not responding.

We watch television one night.  There are kittens mewing.  She runs to the screen as if to say "Are those my babies?"  Perhaps a clue?  Is this about her missing babies and the end of life as she has always known it?  I start talking with her - telling her that she will never be abandoned again.  She will always be an inside dog.  She will always be loved and protected.  This is my goal in her life - to insure that she will always live with someone who loves and respects her.

I wonder...in the beginning of week three when I hear something wimpering in their sleep.  I go to investigate.  It is Susie and it is pitiful.  I quietly retreat from the room.  The dreams continue, less frequently now in week four.

I also wonder...when it storms.  She doesn't like thunder and the lightning, even from inside the house.  She wakes me regularly whe it storms and it is a good feeling to know that she trusts me to comfort her.  One morning early on, I open the back door to see what her response is.  She backs up and refuses to "go" outside.  That day there were accidents to clean up.  It was a minor thing - she was afraid to go outside in the rain.

She now crowds in to get loving and attention.  She is beginning to blossom, but her eyes are still haunted.  She plays more frequently, too, and even instigates play with her foster siblings.  She tolerates quite well the new 16-week old foster brother's attempts to be the dominant boy.  She runs to the kitchen for treats.  She joins in outside when everyone runs to the back fence to protect the yard from those critters in the woods.

And, I no longer wonder.  She will come around and we will find a good home for this baby.  She is a doll.  She is a gentle soul.  And, she is learning to love and be loved.

I could not do this without the support of my own five dogs.  Lily, who is always willing to encourage and help show the new dogs the "ropes".  She is always gentle and understanding since she showed up abused and neglected.  Molly who loves them and forever wants to play with them.  And, Chloe, Barney and Sherman, who as the old dogs (and the first rescues) in the house - understand that this is an important thing that WE do.  I am forever in their debt for the love and patience that they show to both the foster dogs and to me.

There are many Airedales just like Susie who are available for adoption.  If you are intersted in helping these dogs along their journey to a whole and happy live, please visit our Web page that feature their stories.


ATRA Needs Your Help

We are always in need of foster homes.  If you would like to consider becoming a foster home, please click here to fill out an on-line application.  If you cannot foster, we understand, but perhaps you can help by making a donation to help defray the cost of boarding for our dogs waiting for a foster home.  If you would like to donate towards our boarding expenses, please follow the links here.

To make a credit card donation, click here.
To make a paypal donation, use AML9848@comcast.net
To to make a donation by check, make your check out to "ATRA" and send it to
    1123 Vesper Road
    Ann Arbor, MI  48103