I was visiting my friend Elena in South Carolina and I no sooner had sat down on the couch after 2 days in the van and she says to me, “You should take Trey.”
Or something to that effect. Elena had pulled Trey from the shelter and placed him in foster with the promise (that should read ‘hope’) that she would place him in his new forever home in a couple weeks.
But that couple weeks turned into a couple months and still he had no permanent family. I was down to 4 dogs at the time, as we had recently lost one of ours at the age of about 15. That’s a guess, of course.
I was pretty comfortable with the pack of four, but I was also open to hearing about Trey.
Trey was about 11. They guesstimated. And he was very sweet and that was pretty much all they knew about him.
The current foster stated he was friendly with all animals, all sizes and that was pretty much our only prerequisite.
I texted my brother. I explained he seemed to have no options. That was pretty much our only OTHER prerequisite. He said it was up to me. We’d make it work.
I thought about the drive home. I had no idea if he was a good traveler or if I’d be cleaning up vomit every few hundred miles. Two days in the car to get from Charleston, South Carolina, to the Black Hills of South Dakota with a dog I had yet to meet.
However, I had a certain amount of trust built with Elena and my brother and I did put ourselves out there to take dogs into our family who have limited or no other options.
Trey seemed to fit that bill. I agreed and Elena went to pick him up.
Transition From Foster Dog to Adopted
Now, Trey had apparently been to a few fosters and possibly a few shelters. When I went out to the car to meet him, he was very forlorn.
I mean it was gut-wrenching. He had definitely felt he was part of that family and now he was asked to leave… again.
However, this is NOT a piece on the pain involved in fostering dogs. Keep reading. Trey is the story we’d like all foster-parents to hear.
I knelt down to meet Trey and his head was very low and his tail
fairly still. We brought him into the house and I just let him be. I
watched how he interacted with Elena’s perma-dogs and probably a foster,
I don’t remember.
He seemed fine. He seemed to just want to be alone. He seemed sad and lonely and as if he had given up. But not at all aggressive.
When I visit Elena, I usually come home with a van full of stuff. It helps pay for the trip. Trey had enough room to stand up, if he wanted. But for most of the trip, he laid near the front and slept or watched me.
The 2 day drive home, with one night in the TARDIS (my minivan) at a truck stop, was uneventful. He let me know when he needed to get out and he never got sick.
Arriving Home… to the rest of the pack.
Arriving home, we let him out of the van and then let the Littles (our little dogs, we refer to as a single group or entity). out to meet him. He was still very sad and quiet and no wagging. But there was no aggression as the Littles excitedly sniffed him and jumped up to be eye to eye… or as close as they could get, but to be honest his head was so low, that this was not much of an effort for them.
Then we let Max out. None of our kids have great social skills. They are friendly, but often quite rude. Max is no exception. He can come across as somewhat aggressive because … well… he is an idiot when it comes to social graces.
Trey and Max met, and Trey didn’t seem to care much. About anything. Again, it was heart-wrenching to see him so sad and uninterested in life. But, we knew from talking to his foster family that he was like that the first couple weeks with them, too, and then he started to come out of his shell.
So, we let him just be. I praised him gushingly and let him do as he wished. I expected that this time might take longer as he had been through this before. Thinking he was home and he wasn’t. We were prepared for it to take as long as he needed it to.
I think it took about a month for Trey to start to come alive. In the month in between, he would occasionally wag his tail or lift his head in excitement, but it seemed guarded and short-lived.
After about a month, we met the real Trey.
The Real Trey
Trey had an unusual gate. It seemed a bit elderly, which was expected, but also just an odd cadence, as if he had had back or hip damage at some point.
His eyes were a bit cloudy which I learned later was age related, and not damage from an accident. His teeth were perfect. And when I say perfect, I mean he had the best teeth on the property and that includes my own.
It was because of his teeth that I thought he might be far younger than initially estimated. I thought he might be only 7. And that his gate was due to an accident.
Later, I would learn that while he likely did have some sort of damage done to his hind end, he really was at least 10, likely over 11.
Trey has turned out to be one of the sweetest and most loving and comfortable to be around dogs I’ve ever had or known.
Trey Gets Attacked
He was seriously injured by a dog who was on our property as a ‘guest’ and we thought we might lose him, and most certainly lose his leg.
I jumped into the middle of a fight where Trey was being dragged by his nearly severed hind leg and I was doing all I could to beat off the other dog. He finally retreated.
Luckily, my nephew was home and we splinted Trey’s leg and bandaged it and while my nephew drove, I called the vets. We are about 45 minutes from town.
I yelled directions to my nephew as I held Trey down and did what I could to keep him calm.
We had to go to an Emergency Vet as the vet I had used in the past was out to lunch and even if not, was not prepared to deal with this sort of emergency.
I called my brother and told him what had happened and said I would be surprised if he lived and if he did, he has lost his leg.
This was a problem because as mentioned before, Trey had already shown signs of a damaged hind end. His balance was wonky. And I just wasn’t sure if a prosthetic was possible for him. I also just didn’t think he could get by on 3 legs.
One of the Littles? Almost certainly yes. But Trey was already a bit precarious.
The technicians met us in the parking lot with a rolling table and we took Trey inside, with me hobbling along next to him.
Did I mention that I had been bitten a couple times during the fight? Yep… so that happened. I will say here that I knew as I was rushing in that I was likely going to be bitten. And I quickly weighed that against Trey who was likely going to die. I figured I would survive and I did.
So, the tech behind the counter asked if I needed to go to the hospital. I said I was fine. And by that time, I thought I was. I had stopped bleeding. Just had some fat tissue sticking out of a few holes in my leg. It wasn’t too bad.
They took Trey and stopped the bleeding and took x-rays. While it was clear visually that his leg was quite broken, they wanted to determine if it was broken elsewhere.
It wasn’t. The vet came in and said that she was not confident in her abilities to save the leg but she was pretty confident in the surgeon down the road.
She said she could amputate but cost-wise it would be only slightly less than the surgery to repair the leg.
Could Trey Possibly Keep His Leg?
I asked a few times if she really thought that leg could be saved? I mean.. it was a mess. She had faxed over the x-rays and was waiting for the surgeons response, but at the moment Trey was stabilized and she thought it was worth the effort.
The surgeon called and said he thought it was worth the try. He would do the surgery 2 days from then as he was booked up in the meantime.
The techs at the emergency vet had stabilized the leg with a proper splint and gave Trey some pain meds. And we packed him back up and went to the other vet.
At both clinics, I’d be hard-pressed to find anything to complain about. Very friendly and professional and sensitive.
I was not ready to just leave Trey at the vets. I thought he had only recently accepted he was home with us and here I was, leaving him alone at the vets, which probably sounded and looked like every shelter he’d been to.
They let me hang out in his kennel for a while.
I had been given a cost estimate of $2500 for the surgery and initial care.
When I say that’s a lot of money, it’s an understatement. At the time, I was unemployed and working to get a home business going. But I had a credit card with nothing on it.
If I can give you some advice, it’s to always have a credit card with a decent limit, at least $5000 or so, and keep it paid off. Designate it as your emergency card.
I called the clinic that night and asked how Trey was doing. A tech sent me a text with a pic of Trey and her. I think I cried a little. He was in good caring hands. I called the next day as well. Another picture in response.
The surgery went fine, but they wanted to keep Trey for another day or so. This was really hard for me. I wanted him home. And I didn’t want to visit him because he needed to be kept quiet and I just didn’t know how he would respond to seeing me.
I got text messages from whichever tech was working the various nights. When I was told they’d like to keep Trey ANOTHER couple days, I asked more questions. The doc said that he still needs his bandages changed every day and the leg needed to be cleaned and looked at.
I asked if it was just once a day, because I could drive him in every day for that.
The doc said that would be fine and I went to pick Trey (and several medications) up. I put the charges on the credit card and we went home.
The next day, we went back to the vet for his bandage change and Trey was more than happy to take the trip. He loved the car ride, he loved the lobby, he loved all the techs.
When a tech came out to retrieve Trey, and leave me in the lobby, I asked if I could come along. She seemed surprised, but said of course I could. Another technician met us in a room and the two of them, with a little help from me, changed his bandage and cleaned up his leg and the vet came in to check and it was doing ok.
And after the 3rd day, it was just the single tech and I changing the bandage. And we talked and they asked how this happened and I told them and when I went to pay that weeks charges, I was told they were just going to charge me for the materials- bandage, vet wrap, gauze, ointments and meds.
I was floored.
I might have cried a little bit.
Trey was on the road to recovery.
Every day for 6 weeks, then every other day for a couple more, then once a week for a couple more… Trey and I made the trip to town.
Trey never tired of the car rides.
As spring finally arrived, we started going for short hikes again. He was in a brace for a couple months. We started slow and built up to longer jaunts. I had 5 dogs on those hikes, and my hands full. But I still took video of Trey on the trail and sent it to the vets office. And they responded with how great he looks and how happy they are to see him doing so well.
A year later.
So, it’s been a year since the attack and Trey is doing great. He still has a somewhat wonky walk, but he is full of joy and silly exuberance.
I cannot imagine my life or family without him. And I cannot imagine a better experience with a vet.
Trey would have had no real chance if his foster family had not been there. Trey was not the sort of dog to be himself at a shelter. So, while we can say it was hard for him to go from a foster home where he thought he had family, to another and maybe another, he recovered and now likely remembers none of that.
He is part of our family and will be till he passes. And in the meantime, he can be on the bed, the couch, the chair or the lawn. I tell him (and the others) every single day how much we love him and we are so grateful he is part of our family.
If you are thinking it would be too hard to be a foster parent, please give it more thought.
Is it easy? No.
Is it hard to let them go? Yes.
But knowing they now have a family and a real chance at life is amazingly satisfying.
And know that Rusty (my generic term for all adopted dogs) will have some emotional upset in the process. It’s ok. Because it will all turn out well and what Rusty will remember is all the good stuff. And it might take Rusty a month to settle into his new home with his new family.
But he will. He will settle in.
I’m trying to convince Elena to share a couple stories about her adopted kids and being a foster, and her ‘foster fails.’ If I get her to share her stories, I’ll link them here.