We welcomed our first foster dog this past weekend. Becca, Coordinator for Homeward Bound, brought her to my office Friday evening as I was getting off work. I was introduced to a sweet, frightened little girl. Cordelia is a five month pit mix weighing about thirty-five pounds who was found on the street several months earlier. Becca told me a little about her as we moved her crate and dog food to the back seat of my car. She is terrified of riding in cars so we quickly but gently placed her into the crate for the thirty minute ride to my home. By the time I arrived home she had drooled so much from fear she was literally lying in a pool of slobber. The first order of business was a bath which she handled very quietly.
Once she was clean it was time for her and Kirby to meet. I had been talking to him since I got home but hadn’t yet let him out of his kennel. Needless to say, he was not very happy with this new situation and made his feelings quite known. First, I took them outside so they could take care of business. Other than a look now and then Kirby ignored her.
Next I prepared their dinners. Kirby had his Honest Kitchen meal which has a really fresh delicious aroma. Cordelia had kibble which I placed in a bowl. She decided she only wanted Kirby’s food which I solved by mixing some of his food with her kibble. Dogs do know good food when given a choice!
The only sign of aggression I saw was when she growled at Kirby as he walked close to her food bowl. The rest of the weekend I fed them at opposite ends of the kitchen while I stood watch in the center. Whenever I gave them treats, however, both would sit somewhat close to the other and wait for their individual treat. She never growled or tried to take Kirby’s treat.
Maybe it was being in a new place but Cordelia pottied in the hallway that first night. Cleaning it up I said “Bad dog” in a stern voice. Cordelia just backed up and watched me. Kirby, on the other hand, began barking, loudly, at me. When he was being housetrained I would say that to him and watch him walk away with his head held down. I think he wanted me to know he didn’t do this – it was her!
Later that evening everyone settled down in the living room, Kirby on the recliner with me and Cordelia on the couch. Each dog watching the other. But then something happened. Cordelia got up and begin investigating the house. I followed just watching. She quickly discovered Kirby’s toy box much to his chagrin. When she began playing with one of his toys Kirby jumped in to take it back. Suddenly they were playing together. From that point on they were friends. Whenever Cordelia got too rough, Kirby would warn her with a growl or nip. Several times Cordelia would chase Kirby around the house which is a game he already loves. That’s pretty much how the weekend went. Play, nap, eat.
When it was time to go to bed I placed Cordelia in Kirby's kennel. She whimpered for about ten minutes then settled down for the night. Both Saturday and Sunday mornings she had us up before 7 am ready for the day. Both days went quite well. They played inside, they played outside, they took lots of naps. I baked some dog treats Saturday and on Sunday I decided to make them some Scrambled Eggs & Tuna for breakfast. She always asked for more so I think it’s safe to say Cordelia enjoyed her food. Except for the one growl this little lady had excellent manners. She knew the command ‘sit’ and would immediately do so whenever asked.
This weekend happened to be Halloween so we had several trick or treaters Saturday night. In preparation I hooked each dog to a leash which I then attached to my heavy coffee table. Cordelia kept her seat on the couch while Kirby went from the recliner to the door and back again. Every time I answered the door Cordelia would simply look at the children. Kirby, on the other hand, was very vocal with his dislike. He absolutely did not care for these strange looking creatures who kept coming to our door.
I also have two cats who had different reactions to Miss Cordelia. Kaitlyn, the younger one, simply went about her business pretty much ignoring this new strange dog in her home. She had no problem being in the same room but refused to allow Cordelia to get close. Chelsea, the older and wiser one, chose to stay outside as much as possible, only coming in for a quick meal. Kirby happens to think one of his many jobs is to herd the 'girls' in at night. Cordelia liked this idea and tried to help which only infuriated Chelsea. A loud hiss and swat convinced Cordelia this wasn't such a fun game afterall.
Becca came to the house Sunday evening to pick up Cordelia who didn’t appear to want to leave. She jumped into her chosen seat on the couch and looked as if she were sulking. She probably didn’t want to get back in a car but I’d like to think she wanted to stay with us. I’ve thought about her every day since causing me to realize I am going to have to guard my heart since I can’t keep them all. I think Master Kirby has missed her too.
I knew this experience would be good for me. It turns out Cordelia was good therapy for Kirby. He had been afraid of large dogs since he was bitten and now he is finding that not all big dogs bite. It also turns out Kirby was good therapy for Cordelia. When Becca picked her up Sunday night I showed her a video I had taken of the two of them playing with a tennis ball. Becca got choked up and told me they had not been able to get Cordelia to play at all.
I have always known dogs have an uncanny ability to help people whether it be rescue, overcoming fears, or something as simple as companionship. Now I know dogs have the ability to help dogs.
Originally posted November 4, 2010
Update 8/24/11: A few weeks ago we went to a pooch pool party in Starkville. There was this particular dog who started playing with Kirby that really caught my attention. Upon meeting her owner I couldn't help but mention that her dog looked so much like Cordelia, a foster we once had. To my surprise she responded, "That is Cordelia".
She was fostering and came to the conclusion that Cordelia belonged with her so she took the next step of adopting her and re-naming her Kori. To actually see "Kori" so happy and healthy as she ran and jumped and played was good for my heart. To know she finally had a forever family of her own was good for my soul.
I hope Kori and Kirby have future play dates at the dog park!