To Fail is to Succeed
Fiona, Ella, Echo, Trixie, Freckles, Peter, Paul, Mary. Each name evokes a special memory and a smile. These were my foster dogs before I became what we call a “foster failure.”
My husband and I were already owned by Beagles. We had two; both were rescues. One was a beautiful, calm, lemon-colored female named Abigail. Beagle two is a tri-color male who has a great deal of difficulty staying out of trouble. In the first two years we had him, he tangled with a herd of javelina (animals that resemble pigs) and was bitten by a rattlesnake. He’s named after my husband’s favorite baseball player, Mickey Mantle.
Fiona, our first foster, was a golden-eyed, long-legged Beagle who was, to put it diplomatically, a very free spirit. She loved to run and roughhouse with her foster dad, and I spent hours in our family den with the door closed teaching her to “leave it.” We got to the point where I could place a treat at her feet, and she wouldn’t touch it until I gave the okay. This was no small feat for a chowhound Beagle. While we were on a short trip, and Fiona was staying with another foster mom, my husband and I thought seriously about making her a permanent part of our pack. Lo and behold, when we returned, Fiona had been adopted. We didn’t even get to give her a goodbye hug, but we did escape becoming foster failures.
Ella was the Beagle version of Queen Elizabeth—it wasn’t hard to imagine her in a hat, white gloves, and a purse on her paw. She was a Reubenesque tri-color with an allergy that caused certain parts of her female anatomy to swell to “much larger than life” size. She was adopted in less than a month and now lives in a beautiful home in the foothills. (Many of our fosters end up living much better than we do, but then again, they deserve it.)
Echo looked a lot like Ella. She had lived with the same family since she was a puppy, but their youngest boy was horribly allergic to her. Having tried everything, the family turned Echo over to our rescue, and it wasn’t long before she was adopted from our home by a couple who had previously adopted from our group. Their earlier adoptee had succumbed to cancer, and they were still paying those vet bills when they adopted Echo. In a second stroke of bad luck for this family, it wasn’t long before Echo woke one morning and couldn’t walk! The vet diagnosed her with some problem no one could pronounce and suggested that surgery might be able to fix her. To help this couple out, our rescue went deep into debt to get Echo fixed, but it was worth it. She is now happy, relatively healthy, and very well-loved.
Trixie was another tri-color, plus-sized girl. She slid right into our pack and our hearts as if she had always been there. She was adopted by an older couple who travels a lot, and I’m sure she’s seeing the USA via their Winnebago. She was the first foster whose adoption brought tears to my eyes.
Then there was Freckles. Ten years old, graying but full of life. She had been named Freckles, I guess, because of her spotted belly, which she loved to have rubbed. Everyone who met her loved her, and in turn she remembered everyone she ever met and loved them right back. After I took her home with me, she developed problems urinating. We went through test after test after test. One vet repeatedly said it was a urinary infection, and when a wonderful couple wished to adopt her, the vet thought she would be okay.
But she wasn’t. Soon there was blood in her urine. The adopting couple, who loved her dearly (they have a web page dedicated to her to this day), couldn’t cope with the vet bills, so Freckles came home with me again. There were more tests leading to the dreaded diagnosis: untreatable cancer in her urinary tract. She lived, played, and loved with our pack for a full year, until one day the pain was just too much for her. Rest in peace, dear girl.
Peter, Paul, and Mary. No, not the 1960’s folk group. They were three littermates from a puppy mill in Missouri. At just eight weeks old, Paul, the smallest, fit in the palm of my husband’s hand. But, oh, they were so sick! All three had giardia and a respiratory infection. Aside from being the smallest, Paulie was also the sickest, and he came to us because his foster Mom had too many other dogs to care for. The first night we were sure we would lose him, but miraculously he made it through. The next day the veterinarian said he had less than a 50/50 chance of living and decided to try keeping him in an oxygen tent for several days. Paulie was a fighter, and his health improved. In the process he won the heart of one of the vet techs, who took him home with her at night and then back to work each day to nurse him back to health.
Meanwhile, his brother and sister were getting sicker, so we took them in, too. Mary, the next-smallest, improved ever so slowly. Peter was soon well. They became increasingly attached to one another, and we took them both. When the rescue wanted to separate them while Mary was still ailing, we just didn’t feel she could handle that stress…or maybe we couldn’t bear to part with them. Thus we became foster failures, adopting them and renaming them Ike and Mamie. Now we’re living happily-ever-after with our pack of four rescued Beagles.
To those who say they could never foster because they would get too attached, I say, yes, that’s a real possibility. But the rewards in seeing your fosters go to their forever homes to be loved and cared for as they deserve make the risk well worth it! –Carol Meyer