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[personal profile] tenderpaw08

    Who's that little dog over there?  That's Maggie.  She's our foster dog.  Yes, we still have our other dog.  No, we're not going to adopt Maggie even though she's incredibly sweet and adorable.  We're going to take care of her until she gets to go to a new home that will take care of her for the rest of her life.  Why did we decide to foster dogs?  Well, they need help that we can give and we love dogs.  Where did she come from?  Well, that's a whole other story.  I don't know the whole story, either. Yet I'm going to talk about the parts I don't know so you can understand more about why dogs need to be rescued and fostered, and how that happens.  Hopefully you'll appreciate that it takes a lot of people, mostly volunteers, to help a dog like Maggie get from a bad situation to a great one.

  It all started less than two years ago.  A female dog became pregnant.  We don't know where she lived, what she really looked like, or if her owner even wanted her to have puppies.  Many dog breeders pay close attention to when their female dogs can get pregnant and are very careful to only let a male dog that they believe would be a good match near one during those times.  Some breeders take excellent care of their dogs, others do not.  Those with only a few dogs who are their pets might only breed their dogs a few times if at all.  Yet others will try to get as many puppies as possible so they can sell them, and they don't really care how it affects the mother.  There are also many unplanned pregnancies, often for owners who are not experienced dog breeders.  Many of those happen when dog owners take no precautions to avoid pregnancy even though a simple operation can be done for both boy and girl dogs so that they cannot have puppies.  Every year there are unwanted puppies born, often from very different parents so they don't always look as nice as what folks call a purebred.  There are many different breeds of dogs, most of which were developed by careful breeding over centuries by people who wanted specific characteristics for hunting, guarding, other jobs, or merely appearance.  Dogs like Maggie, who look like they might be from more than one breed, are often called mixed-breeds or mutts.  All we really know for sure at this point is that Maggie was born, probably in the fall of 2011.

    Maggie wasn't the only puppy born that day.  We don't know how many brothers and sisters she had.  We know she had at least one sister, currently named Piper.  Though they have some similarities they don't like a lot alike.  I say currently named because we don't know for sure when they got these names.  Many times when dogs are rescued there is nothing at all known about them and they might have had different names as puppies or in the time before they got rescued.Back to the story, though!  As the weeks went by and the puppies got old enough to leave their mother, other people probably took or bought some of them for pets.  Puppies are extremely cute, and almost everybody likes them.  It's possible that Maggie and Piper stayed with the folks who had their mom on purpose, or because nobody picked them, or that they both went to live with someone else.  They might have had more than one home.  What we know for sure is that they were still living together until around the beginning of March, 2013.

    One day their owner left them at a shelter.  She or he did what is called surrendering, which basically means they gave away all rights to their dogs and would never come back for them.  Surrendering might happen if someone loses a job, has to leave their home and move somewhere they cannot have a pet, becomes ill, or for another reason does not believe they can take care of their dog any more.  Their owner might have believed that they did the best thing in giving them up, and they even might have tried giving them away to others first.  The dogs were in good health and the owner left them in someone else's care instead of abandoning them or neglecting them.  We don't know why Maggie and Piper were surrendered, only that they were left at a shelter and lost everything that had been familiar to them.

    Let's talk about shelters a little.  The word shelter makes us think of safety.  It's something to protect us from the weather and other harm.  For dogs, though, a shelter can be a very scary place.  Dogs pay a lot of attention to how things smell, it's how they figure out what's going on and a dog can smell a lot of things that people cannot.  A shelter with a lot of different animals is going to have an overwhelming amount of strange and different smells.  A dog walking in is going to notice if other dogs have been scared, mad, or sick.  There are smells of cleaning fluids and other chemicals, too.  Instead of carpeting, most shelters have concrete or tile floors that can be cleaned more easily.  Instead of being allowed to walk freely from room to room, dogs get placed in a wire cage or kennel of some kind.  It's very different from being in most houses, that's for sure.  Those things might concern a dog, yet that's not why they need to be rescued from some shelters.  All shelters have a purpose of keeping dogs from being homeless, and that's where stray dogs get taken.  Yet remember how I said there are unwanted puppies born every year?  Those grow up to be unwanted dogs, sometimes neglected, sometimes strays, sometimes sick or hurt, and sometimes doing dangerous things to stay alive and eat.  Many shelters get filled with such dogs, and in some places when there are too many dogs they kill them.  Not all shelters kill dogs, yet some states seem to encourage it as a means of decreasing the unwanted dog population.  Certain types of dogs are more likely to be killed than others.  Dogs that are very big or of a breed that has been used for fighting are less likely to get out alive.  Dogs whose owners surrender them can be killed very soon after arriving if a shelter is full and nobody does anything to save them.  Dogs can be rescued from shelters, though, and there are a lot of very caring people who do just that.

    The shelter where Maggie and Piper were surrendered is in a state that allows a lot of dogs to be killed, even really healthy, cute, little, sweet dogs that wouldn't hurt anyone.  People who keep an eye on different shelters know that one has what is called a "high kill rate," which probably means that they get a lot of dogs and don't wait as long as some other shelters might before killing them, and they might pay more attention to the number of dogs than the dogs themselves.  Other people do pay attention to the dogs, though.  People from rescue organizations regularly take dogs out of such places.  They can't save every dog, and many rescue groups have specific kinds of dogs that they save.  They might make exceptions, yet many will only save a dog if it looks like it is a purebred such as a Husky, German Shepherd, or Bulldog, or a more exotic dog like an Akita or Shibu-Inu, because purebreds are more popular and can make it easier to find homes.  The group that saved Maggie and Piper focuses on saving lovely large dogs that might intimidate some people, dogs that might weigh more than some people, even!  I know, that's not what you think of when you look at Maggie, but they made an exception for her and Piper.  You might say they are exceptional dogs.

    One day a normal everyday hero walked into the shelter and saw Maggie and Piper.  She took pictures and contacted the rescue organization she works with, even though they aren't the kind of dog they typically save.  Whether she got on the floor and took pictures that made them look big, or the camera captured how much love and joy these girls have to give I don't know.  What we do know is that she received approval to get them out of there, and she did.

    That's far from the end of their story, though.  It takes a lot of effort to fully rescue a dog, and there are rules that have to be followed.  Maggie and Piper needed to be away from other dogs for a while to prove that they didn't have any diseases.  They had to be examined by a veterinarian, get shots, and have surgery so that they would never have puppies of their own.  Through all of that they needed people to take care of them, clean up after them, and get to know them.  That last part is pretty important for helping a dog get a new home.  People want to know a lot about a dog, such as does it like other dogs, cats, and children, is it afraid of men or cars, and whether or not the dog is potty trained.  Knowing that there are more dogs going to shelters every day, rescue organizations work as quickly as they can to get dogs ready for a new home legally, physically, and even mentally.  They take pictures so potential fosters and adopters can see the dogs, which is how I first found out about them.  Maggie and Piper travelled to a different state and stayed in different foster homes.  Along the way they got to meet dogs, cats, kids, and people.  Someone got them matching green harnesses to wear.  Then, they and a lot of other dogs took a very long ride to New England.  The transport people were very nice, and made sure they had everything they would need for being on the road for more than a day, including walks.  I know the rest of the story pretty well, because we're the ones who got to walk Maggie off the transport vehicle when she arrived.

    Maggie seemed pretty happy to be able to stretch her legs and sniff new things, though it's a little colder here than where she left.  We walked her away from the crowd so she could investigate things and relieve herself if necessary.  She was a little out of sorts and didn't want to walk a lot.  When we walked her towards Piper, though, she picked up the pace.   As she approached Piper I told the gentleman holding her leash that they were sisters so he wouldn't be too concerned. It was very cute to see the two of them greet each other with jumping, typical doggy butt sniffing, making sure they were both okay, and climbing on each other a bit.  I walked Maggie back to our car and let her inside so she could hang out for a bit while I went through her paperwork to make sure everything was there.  We walked a bit more and she was very friendly with all the other dogs and people before we headed home and Piper went to her foster home further south.
    The next day the person who had previously fostered Piper in the south posted a picture of her on Facebook looking adorable and commenting on how well she had behaved in their home and with their pets.  Many people commented on how beautiful and extraordinary Piper's fur is, and how they would love to have a dog like her.  As a comment to it I mentioned that Piper's sister was also still looking for her forever home, and included the photo and link to Maggie's information.  Then a few people posted that they would be interested in having either of them, and some filled out applications to adopt and began that process.  Having digital photos and posting them to Facebook so thousands of people can see them is a great way for rescuers to get attention and interest from people who might want to foster or adopt a dog.

    Maggie and Piper have been very happy to be with people now, and still act a lot like puppies.  They are well behaved and try to get along with everyone.  Maggie doesn't really know many commands, like down, sit, or stay.  Most dog owners find that it is helpful for their dogs to know basic commands as it helps the dogs know what to do in different situations.  Though it isn't as much of a safety problem with little dogs, if a very large dog likes to jump on people and never obeys when asked to get down it could cause someone to get hurt even if the dog believes it is only being friendly.  Maggie and Piper are very eager to please, and in only a week Maggie has started to sit down when asked (it helps if there's a treat, yet she's done it without one).  My guess is that their former owner didn't make much of an effort to teach them, yet with time and patience they will enjoy learning.  They seem pretty smart, and I'm sure their forever homes are going to be very blessed to have them.

    Piper has already been adopted and moved into her new home.  Her new owner doesn't live too far from where she was fostered, yet it's hours away from us.  A friend of her new owner, however, has applied for and been approved to adopt Maggie!  She and her family will meet us later this week and if all goes well Maggie will go home with them.  Maggie and Piper have been fine living apart from each other, yet I'll bet they'll enjoy it a lot if they get to see and play with each other again from time to time.

  Sometimes it takes longer for foster dogs to find permanent homes, sometimes they get adopted from the rescue without needing multiple foster homes.  Each dog is different and they each have their own story.  Large or small, each of them deserves to be loved and cared for in their own home.  There are a lot of other dogs who need to be rescued and their future families will need help to find them.  We want as many of them as possible to have happily-ever-afters, like Maggie and Piper will.
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