In Your Neighborhood

Fostering in Foster, RI

A reflection on the art and practice of fostering dogs

Photo by Betsy Taylor

Alfredo, a foster dog in Foster, R.I., is looking to find a forever home.

By Betsy Taylor
Posted 6/21/21
A wagging tale of a story about fostering a dog named Alfredo.
How has the coronavirus pandemic changed the behaviors of humans in seeking out pets to adopt? How many people who have pets find themselves carrying on conversations with their animals as part of a daily routine? How do cats and dogs find an equilibrium in sharing space together within the same family? How do pets benefit our health? Should there be health insurance premium cuts for pet owners, similar to those given to people who regularly work out at the gym?
On Twitter, there seems to be an abundance of posts created around cats and dogs and even turtles, as a kind of therapy during the enormous stresses of the coronavirus pandemic.
Alex Goldstein, who has created a Twitter account called “Faces of COVID,” in an attempt to tell the personal stories of some of the nearly 600,000 Americans who have perished, has recently taken to Twitter to share his adventures with his dog, Tillie, in day trips to Western Massachusetts and to the North Shore.
In similar fashion, Twitter feeds have been created by staffers at Kaiser Health News to share the adventures of their respective dogs and cats.

FOSTER – As I sit in my kitchen nook at sunset, Alfredo is leaning against my back, howling like a banshee. He stares intensely through the bay window at my calico cat, Odette. She is expertly woven into the forested landscape, tucked in so well with the speckled foliage that I need my husband’s eagle eyes to point out what the heck Alfredo is troubling over.

It’s hot today, and as he squirms and alerts us to the presence our cat, I can feel his bristly white fur rubbing off against my shoulder, sticking to my back. I take the spray bottle and nonchalantly squirt water at the back of his head. This immediately breaks his feline-crazed focus and, once again, all is peaceful in the hollow.

I teach English language learners and I foster dogs. Right now, I’m fostering a white speckled American Bulldog mix named Alfredo. His tagline on the adoption site is: “It’s imPASTAble not to love Alfredo!”

He is three years old, has spiky gremlin-like ears, two different colored eyes, and is a compact 40 pounds of solid muscle. Translated, he’s a total love bug.

But oh, the shedding. Our Roomba is engorged with Alfredo fur. Any day now I’m sure it will start belching smoke. I had to get the regular vacuum out today to combat the layers of spiky keratin snow accumulating on the stair runs, along the edges of the walls. There seems to be no escape. When I empty the lint trap in the dryer, I am confronted with a blanket of short, bristly white hairs. I’ll probably dream tonight of all those hairs dancing in some Lawrence Welk routine.

And, is he funny! Yes, he has a gift for making comical expressions, but this is not what I’m talking about. Why, today he jumped on the kitchen island [bad boy!] and found two black bananas and a piece of ginger in the fruit bowl. He ate both bananas in their entirety but magnanimously decided to leave the ginger on the living room floor.

A couple of weeks ago, he found a bag of decomposing asparagus slated for the compost that he carried around like treasure from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Let’s not even go into the dozen eggs he got into.

Today, as I was re-reading Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy while enjoying an icy ginger ale, Alfredo decided that my drink looked good and started to lap it up. He’s also pulled this rather gauche act with my Whaler IPA.

As you can tell, boundaries are not yet in his wheelhouse, but we’re working on them. I find that it’s best to let dogs settle in and feel safe before expecting too much. First and foremost, trust must be built. In time he will learn that the fruit basket is not a self-serve buffet and that my IPA is not his personal watering hole.

Because he respects the spray bottle so much, this tool should make training corrections pretty straightforward.

Metamorphosis
Since we opened our home to Alfredo about a month ago, we have seen him go through an inner and outer metamorphosis. With each hair he sheds, a bit of the uncertainty and fear that he arrived with, carrying the burden on his wiry shoulders, is released. This is one of the things that make fostering so rewarding.

Alfredo’s transformation is just beginning. He is going to make someone a 10/10 best friend. Despite being abandoned at a rural kill shelter by his previous family, he holds no grudges against humanity.

All he wants is to be loved, give love, and be by his person’s side at all times. Even when I’m in the shower, he’s there, making sure I don’t somehow disappear behind the curtain.

Hard of hearing
Did I mention that Alfredo is deaf? At first, I was a little hesitant to take him, simply because of my ignorance of deaf dogs. Someone else with experience will step up, I thought. Then I noticed how nobody else in the foster pool was volunteering.

My heart ached for him. Adorable little puppies were getting snatched up, but nobody wanted the older deaf dog. It got to the point where he was going to have to go into a boarding facility if nobody could take him. I caved. The fettuccini boy was coming to live with us.

There are perks to having a deaf dog. Thunderstorms are no problemo. Fireworks? What fireworks? Doorbells, knocks, street traffic, and loud music – none of that is going to bother a deaf dog. The only drawback I can find to having a dog who can’t hear is that we can’t get his attention in the way we usually do with our hearing dogs, which is to say their name or make a sound.

But after a moment’s reflection, this is not really a fair comparison when I consider how many times my dogs selectively don’t hear us or, with impunity, completely ignore commands.

As I finish this article Alfredo is in his default position: tucked in close by my side, curled up like a fuzzy little roly-poly angel boy. I know that soon a forever family will find him, and he will finally have the lifelong home and unconditional love he so deserves.

He will undoubtedly leave a hole in our hearts, a silence in our home, and we will once again start the cycle of opening our home to another precious soul in need of compassion and love.

I believe that it is through selfless acts of kindness and acceptance that one’s life is made worthwhile. Each foster dog gives me a fresh opportunity to follow this practice and try to make myself a better person and the world a better place. Damn the fur, full steam cleaner ahead!

For information on how to adopt Alfredo, please contact Betsy @elizabethbree73@gmail.com or through the adoption site, https://www,waldorescue.org/

To get involved in a life-changing fostering adventure of your own, or to help support dogs rescued from kill shelters in the South, please visit www.waldorescue.org/get involved

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