Thursday, 16 May 2013

We need a bigger sofa...

'I know... I'm fabulous.'
We're asked quite regularly about our experiences fostering, people's questions vary from the obvious 'is it going to be hard giving her up' to the quite frankly odd, 'if a home isn't found for her soon, you're not going to let her be put down are you?'. Answers to these questions, in case you were interested... 'yes, I'll probably blub a little, but it will also be one of the best days of my life', secondly 'No, you must be mental'. 

I guess the first question is asked because some people see dogs in just the one way, they either are yours or they aren't. I think I probably subscribed to this, I have to admit I was worried that this impulse would come into play, that after Saskia had come into our home I'd feel that rehoming her would feel like giving one of my dogs away. Thing is, when you foster you are often taking in a dog who's had a hard trot, and for us knowing we could provide a bridge for Saskia has become a very cool thing. We've lived with her, she is treated as one of our family (she is) and of course we have fallen in love with her. For Al and I, seeing that Saskia has a future ahead of her has become really exciting, and weirdly her being such an easy, loving dog makes her leaving easier. 

As for the second question, as extreme as it sounds really all it does is highlight how little people know about the work that rescues do. I suppose when people think 'dog rescue' they think of the 'big boys' but they have no idea that small rescues, either breed specific or more general are operating quietly and below the radar. These rescues are desperate for funds and are often run entirely by volunteers. These volunteers need to make hard decisions, receive phone calls all through the night and work for nothing other than the continued safety of the dogs in their care. 

'Don't tell but I think this white fluffy one is O.K.'
Saskia does not belong to us, she was signed over to the rescue, and we picked her up from the pound in their name. We remain her custodians, all of her vaccinations, medical care and spaying will be paid for by 8 Below Rescue, which is why although she is staying in our home and  not a rescue centre, those funds are still needed. We will continue to be lucky enough to look after Saskia until the time that someone is even luckier, and she becomes a permanent part of their home. 

I'm sure one day we will 'fail' and a foster will stay with us. One thing I can say is that the dog we 'fail' on won't be a perfect dog like Saskia, we know she'll just be the perfect dog for someone else. Alex and I are destined to 'foster fail' one day, but unlike our gentle, quite perfect Saskia, it'll be the dog who makes our lives hell until we realise we've come too far to let them go...

If you'd like to read more about the fab Sled Dogs neeeding homes with 8 Below please visit

Thrice as nice... Keeping calm and staying chilled.

Saskia has now been part of our family for over a month, and in all honesty it’s flown by. Saskia now has her favourite spots in the garden, and if she’s not there can be found glued to Barrys side. We’ve learned a hell of a lot, about this new dog, about Barry & Mars and as always a little more about ourselves.

We had a couple of days of settling in, with a little bit of scent marking from Saskia, which after toilet training Barry this was nothing, and lots of playing whilst the dogs sounded each other out.

Barry & Saskia catching some rays
I wouldn’t like to mislead anyone by saying that adding another dog to our pack has been totally plain sailing. It’s required a degree of commitment.

Because Saskia came to us from the pound we had no idea if she’s been spayed yet, so we’ve had to keep her and Mars under permanent supervision… we don’t want any mini Husky Setters running around. This means if I want to go to the loo they have to be separated, if the door bell goes, they have to be separated, if I go to put a load of washing on, they have to be separated… you get the picture.

Then there’s Saskia and Barry, they've had the odd little scrap so yet another reason they can’t be left unsupervised. Apparently dogs not getting on is a real sticking point for a lot of fosterers. Seeing any dogs scrap isn’t going to be nice, but to expect dogs to get on immediately is unrealistic. We’ve learned very quickly how to read their body language, so we know if there is any tension building. It’s been amazing how quickly we’ve learnt spot triggers and I feel we’ve developed a better understanding of Barry & Mars along the way. 

'You have our attention, we'll have those treats now.'
Indroducing Saskia to our pack meant we knew in advance we'd have to brush up on our pack leadership stuff. We practice much of what we've learned from reading and our visits from Sue our trainer, but to be honest we sometimes let things slide. We had been warned in advance that adding a third dog could make the dynamic trickier. We have known all this time that we would have to step up to the plate as leaders to avoid chaos. Having two dogs we knew that if you give 'em inch they'll take a mile, but having a third, give 'em an inch and they'll take that mile and just keep going.

'Cuddle me Mars Bar!'
When we indroduced Mars and Barry they immediately found their place and have had hardly a cross word between them, but I knew that to ask for this again would be asking too much. You can count the number of times Saskia and Barry have fallen out on one hand, but it doesn’t pay to take your eye off the ball. We’ve found that Saskia and Barry need to be fed  in separate rooms and their bowls lifted and out of the way before they come back in  together. Oh yes, and I can’t sprinkle chicken manure pellets anymore, as far as Saskia and Barry are concerned, this is food. Delightful stuff.

 Otherwise though I think Barry will really miss Saskia they’ve developed a bond, and will spend much of their day within spitting distance of each other. Mars will spend most of the summer chasing bees, butterlfies and shadows, so he’s happy to let them get on with it…