My Big, Goofy Foster

January 1, 2012

Carl and Ava


After our first foster, who was with us for four months, and I might add they were the wet, muddy winter months, we went almost immediately into picking up our second foster.  That foster was only with us for a few weeks before being adopted right here in the neighborhood by a greyhound owner that I used to run into in the park.  But more about that later.

When that foster was adopted, I said to Mike, “You know, I’ve got a few projects I’d like to get done.  I think I’ll wait a while before taking on the next foster.”  And of course, I told our entire Sunday greyhound group that I was taking a break.

That afternoon I get the call from Barbara.  The kennels are full to overflowing, with more dogs arriving the coming week.   Could I possibly take another foster?  I said, “I need to run it by Mike when he gets home, then I’ll call you back.”  I think I was hoping he’d say, “Are you crazy?  You’ve got all these projects to do.  What about our poor dogs who are suffering terribly and getting no attention?  Absolutely not!  You care more about those dogs than you do me.  If you do this, it’s over. I’m divorcing you!”  Actually he said, “You know I’ll support whatever you decide to do.  I just hate to see one of those dogs suffer.”

“Hello, Barbara?  We’ll pick him up on Monday.”

Monday rolls around and Mike is sick as a dog.  Oops!  No pun intended.  Poor guy.  He drags himself into the van to keep me company on the 45-minute trip to the kennels.  He stays in the car, and I go in to pick up the dog.  Inside, Shana says, “Oh yeah, he’s right down here.”  We walk down the line of individual dog kennels and she stops in front of one.  I look in and there is the most gorgeous greyhound I have ever seen — a blue brindle with the most incredible amber eyes.  Truly a handsome boy.

“Oh!  He’s beautiful!” I exclaim.

“He is, isn’t he?  We just got him in.  His name is Smythe.  And this,” she says as she opens the next kennel door, “is Carlton.”

She snaps a leash on and hauls out the biggest 2 ½-year-old male brindle I have ever seen.  He is all head and feet with a really long body in-between.  She loads me up with food and paperwork, we say our goodbyes and I load Carlton into the van.  Mike, whose head is leaned against the window on the passenger side of the vehicle, seems oblivious to the fact that the tires of the van sort of groaned as Carlton happily hopped in, tongue hanging out, tail wagging as if to say, I’ve been sprung.  Step on it before they change their mind!  Who’s the dead dude in the front seat?  Can I lick him?

We make it home; I pour Mike into bed and introduce Carlton to Ava and Alex.  They all do the ritual mark-every-bush-in-the-back-yard-twice routine and again I remind myself never to eat cumquats or oranges from the lower branches.   And we start all over with a new foster.

This dog is wonderful.  And he loves me.  He really, really loves me.  He is anywhere and everywhere I am, gazing up at me telling me he loves me.  And I am flattered.  I begin to think I must really be wonderful.  Before you know it, the feeling is mutual.  I love this dog.  I really, really love this dog.  And he looks at me so adoringly!

Mutually smitten

We do a lot of bonding the rest of that week, taking walks and acquainting him with the outside world, and he is happy.  This is a happy dog.  On Sunday, we pack up the dogs for our weekly trek to meet up with our greyhound peeps, Carlton in tow, all excited and ready for whatever, although he hasn’t a clue what’s happening.  We get there with our new, extra large dog and everyone just looks at us grinning as each and every one of them reminds me of my clearly stated fact that I was taking a break for a while.

Too many feet, tongues and tails

We unleash the dogs and they all go running off and around, happy to be free in a securely fenced area.  A few of the dogs take off running and there goes Carlton after them, tongue hanging out, each foot (looks like about five or six) sort of going in its own individual direction and each leg at its own pace!  It seemed to take him about four good strides to finally gather all his body parts together for a coordinated effort.  Okay, so he’s young.  He’ll learn.  And so it continued.  He’d take off with what appeared to be five or six feet until he got everything going in the same direction.  But so happy, always running back to me as if to assure himself that I was still there; and to put his head up against me to be hugged.

He didn’t respond to his name at all, so the second week I started working with training him to come when called.  We all know how easy that is with greyhounds!  So I’ve found it’s just easier and less time consuming to just go for the food bribes from the get-go.  I’d stand there yelling “Carlton” and he’d stop, look at me as if to say, I love you so much, then continue whatever he was doing when I made that funny sound I kept making.

Then finally, one day I called, holding out the bag of treats, which I intended to later just turn into an outstretched arm hand signal (that’s the plan and I’m sticking to it), he looks up, tongue hanging out, and comes charging toward me.  It is an electric moment; just woman and beast working in perfect harmony. . until he reaches me . . and keeps on going.

Wrongway Carlton

I am happy to say that he did finally learn his name, after we changed it to Carl.  Immediately he responded as if to say, now that’s more like it.  And he did finally get his four feet coordinated and moving at the same time.

Carl’s and my love affair continued.  He loved me so much.  I loved him so much; and the longer I kept him the more I wondered how in the world I would let him go.  I think Mike wondered too.  He knew I was hooked.

And then the call came.  It was Barbara saying she had a couple in the bay area that was really interested in Carl and they wanted to take a look at him.  They had a male brindle borzoi/greyhound mix for whom they were seeking a playmate.  My stomach dropped.  We set up a time for that weekend; then I hung up and had a good cry.  The weekend rolled around and when the couple showed up with their dog, I met them outside and told them we’d go into the back gate so the dogs could get acquainted in the back yard before we let them all into the house.  We walked down the driveway toward the gate, and there is magnificent brindle Carl standing at the gate waiting, tongue hanging out, tail wagging.  And they were hooked.  After a few minutes all the dogs were doing so well together we let them off-leash and Carl and their dog, Finnegan, took off like best friends, romping and being silly together.  And suddenly Carl didn’t seem so big.  Finnegan was bigger!

I think it took everyone all of five minutes to know this was a great match, and before I knew it, we were signing papers and I was telling Carl goodbye.  Yes, it really, really hurt.  But it was also good for me in a way.  It told me I could let go; that I could be unselfish and give the fosters the chance to go home to wonderful families that would love them and care for them as much as I ever could; and that by doing this I was making room for the next wonderful dog that would enrich our lives.

His new life

Carl has a wonderful new home, a wonderful new family, a wonderful lifestyle that I could not have given him and a wonderful new name that he responded to immediately.

Ahhh!  Life is good.  Right, my beautiful boy?

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