Stranger Danger!

Good, bad, or just silly?  I’ve got the full spectrum covered in my house.  Yesterday my brothers came over for dinner (if you can’t tell, I hang out with them all the time) and while we were out in the yard I looked at Maggie and thought she most certainly was thinking, “Stranger danger!  Stranger danger!  There are strangers, there is danger!”  (Yes, this random thought is what sparked the idea for this post.)

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Now, my brothers at this point most certainly should not be considered strangers to Moo, but she keeps her distance and even lets out a throaty little half growl/half bark every now and then when they first come over.  After oh, say, two hours, she will settle down and let them pet her, but even then you can see that she is in flight mode in case they try anything funny.  Part of me finds this just plain silly because the other dogs, whom she looks entirely up to, adore my brothers, I clearly adore them, and if it’s true that dogs can sense if a person is good or bad (which I 1,000% believe it is) then she should know they are about as good as it gets.  The other, bigger part of me, is completely heartbroken.  Here is a dog that was so damaged in her first year and a half on Earth that even after living with me for over a year still is scared of strangers.  She has improved vastly, a year ago she literally would have lost control of her bowels if a strange man had come over, but she still has so far to go.  Will she ever rid herself of this intense stranger danger?

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Then we have the middle child, Tag.  Middle in age, and always middle of the road in personality, she is the perfect cross between the two extremes that I call Buddy and Maggie.  Tag is never one to be scared necessarily of a new person, but she usually hangs back to see what Buddy and I think of them.  Tag (short for Tag-a-Long) is the epitome of a follower.  If we like them, she likes them.  If we trust them, she trusts them.  When people are over she generally prefers to sit by me (not to toot my own horn, but this dog will never, ever love anyone the way she loves me) but if someone wants to engage her in a game of catch, or better yet a belly rub, she is all for it.  Happy-go-lucky Tag will always just go with the flow.  Stranger indifference?

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And of course, there is Buddy.  Buddy has literally never met a stranger.  In fact, back in the day when Buddy and I were a couple of single kids, livin’ the good life, my house got broken into while I was gone one night.  I’m still pretty sure Buddy reached up and opened the door for them to come in.  Another time I was playing catch with Buddy in the front yard when he saw a woman pushing a stroller on the other side of the very busy street and took off at a dead sprint.  Why?  He obviously needed to introduce himself and make friends with her.  Talk about a near heart attack.  We joke that Buddy loves everyone else more than he loves us because as soon as someone comes over to the house, he smashes himself up against them and moans and groans with delight from the attention he gets.  Buddy would probably be happiest living in a frat house so that he could constantly be surrounded by hoards of people to dish out the attention that he so loves from strangers.  Stranger danger?  You gotta be kidding.

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So which is the best?  Is there a right or wrong?  For the most part, I think Tag probably wins in this department.  I don’t have to worry about her bolting down the street to say “hi” to someone, but I also never have to worry about having people over and if it will upset her.     Do your dogs have stranger danger?  Are they at either extreme of the spectrum?

I’ve Made A Huge Mistake.

If you follow TH,PL on Facebook, you already know the news: there is a family interested in adopting my Maggie.  And therein lies the problem.  She was never supposed to be my Maggie.  And at first, she totally was just my foster dog, but somewhere in the last year (A. Whole. Year!) she kind of just, well, wasn’t anymore.  Something changed and I started thinking of her instead of as my foster dog, but as my dog.  Have I made a huge mistake?

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I know a lot of people that foster dogs create some separation between their permanent dogs and their foster dogs.  For some, it’s not allowing them on the couch or bed.  For others, it’s calling them by a different name or not cuddling.  I never created that division though.  Maggie was so scared and timid when I got her that I poured 110% of myself into working with her and making her feel, really feel that she was loved and part of the pack.  I wanted her to feel just the same as my dogs so I could work to overcome her other fears.  And I don’t regret that because she has done damn near a full 180 in the time that I’ve had her.  But for my sanity, should I have?  Have I in fact made a huge mistake?

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After saying goodbye to my first foster, Dash, I wrote this post about how you really can do it.  You can say goodbye to your foster dog that you have grown to love because it is for the greater good, and that is why you foster in the first place.  But now I’m not so sure.  Can I?  Am I strong enough to trust someone else with her?  Ever since I spoke to the family that is interested in Maggie I have felt like I’m going to vomit at any second, had a giant lump in my throat, my heart has been beating faster than a hummingbirds, and I’m pretty sure there has been an invisible elephant sitting on my chest.  Because it feels like they want my dog.  And to make it even worse, they sound perfect.  Yes, that is worse.  Because when I meet them and they are in fact perfect, how am I going to make an excuse to justify saying “no” to them so that I can keep Maggie all to myself?

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I know that I might be getting a little ahead of myself here.  First the family has to meet Maggie (tentatively scheduled for tomorrow) and they have to like her.  And Maggie has to like them.  And then there will probably be a trial weekend or even week.  And then the final decision would be made.  So there are a lot of things that need to go right before I actually have to make the decision to say goodbye to her, but I’m already dreading it.

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And here’s the thing: I am dreading it more for Maggie than for me.  I know, you might not believe me, because it’s painfully obvious that I love her dearly, but I really am more scared for her than anything.  I know saying goodbye to her is the right thing for me to do, because it would allow me to save so many more and help them the way I’ve helped Maggie.  But I have a paralyzing fear that Maggie will get let down again.  I don’t ever want her to feel, even for one tiny second, scared or alone or confused again.  And if she stays with me, I can guarantee that that won’t happen.  I can guarantee she will always be understood.  I can guarantee she will never be put in a situation that might not set her up for success.  I can guarantee her weird quirks will be adored.  I can guarantee she will be protected.  But I guess I just have to have faith?  Faith that this family will love her as much or even more than I do.  Because isn’t that what it’s all about?  Without trusting adoptive families to treat our fosters as well as we do and just keeping them ourselves, our efforts would essentially come to a screeching halt.  And then what about all the future dogs that need us?

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So, while I have probably in fact made a huge mistake by allowing myself to think of Maggie as my dog, I will swallow that enormous lump, and say goodbye to her if everything goes well.  Because this is why I foster.  So I can take the broken dog and make it whole again.  I can teach them to love and trust.  I can do that so they can complete a new family.  And I can repeat the cycle.

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