Our latest foster is Shelby who came to stay with us on July 12, 2012. She was found wandering around a convenience store in Greenwood, Mississippi, with another little poodle mix. Their coats were filthy and badly matted. Under those coats was nothing but skin and bones. These babies were in bad shape and needed help quickly. The girl who rescued them is a student at MSU so she brought them to Starkville. Since she couldn't have pets in her apartment, she kept the two dogs in a kennel outside and cared for them as best she could. This is where Homeward Bound stepped in to help.

The poodle mix went to one foster home and Shelby came to ours. The first day she was very quiet and somewhat withdrawn. Our fosters always are, just scared and wary of what to expect. She immediately took to Kirby but seemed a little unsure about me. I could easily feel every rib so getting good food into her was my top priority. When she first started eating she would gulp down the food as quickly as possible. I wondered if she were afraid it would disappear. Weeks later and she patiently watches me prepare her meals, sits when asked, then calmly eats every bite in the bowl. She has never shown any food aggressions whatsoever. When it came to treats, I had to keep an eye on Kirby since she would finish hers first and then take his from him. Weeks later and she simply sits close to watch him eat the remainder of his treat.

Shelby eats a small breakfast of dry kibble in the morning and has a dinner in the evening. I prepare most of Kirby's meals so she eats what he eats. I haven't found anything she doesn't like. I can say she probably loves sweet potatoes the best. She gets a treat every night before bed. Of course there are treats through out the weekend and evenings. She also loves a good chew - pig ear, bully stick, chicken jerky, fish jerky, even a cow hoof!

I work Monday through Friday so Shelby stays with Kirby in his playroom, an extra bedroom with a gate on the doorway. Before I leave I place their kibble in several interactive toys, one she is really good at and one Kirby especially likes. When I get home both dogs sit very quietly in front of the gate waiting for me to open it. This is a manner I taught Kirby which Shelby picked up on right away. Very smart girl!

Bath time is easy with Shelby. Kirby is my therapy dog so maybe that helps since I bathe them together. I lather up Kirby then Shelby. I rinse Kirby then Shelby. I towel off Kirby then Shelby. I've clipped Shelby once too. She watched me clip Kirby first then when it was her turn she was easily manageable. Alas, Kirby hates the hairdryer so Shelby won't have anything to do with it. (She is watching him!) Luckily they both have coats that dry quickly. Shelby also very much enjoys being brushed and combed.

Now about her personality. She is a wonderful pup - smart, playful, and sweet! She's young, between one and two years, so she loves to play. She and Kirby play off and on all day. I know this during the week because he is a tired dogger! She loves to run around the backyard, and she is very interested in my two cats. She also likes to cuddle. In the evenings I try to spend a little time in my large recliner working on my laptop. Both Kirby and Shelby find a spot to snuggle with me. However, if Kirby settles on the back of the couch, Shelby is on the cushion right below him.

Did I mention fearless? This girl is brave. I know she can hear because I can whisper softly behind her and she responds. So I am pleased to say she is not afraid of thunder or the vacuum cleaner. She is not afraid of Chelsea, my cat, who can be rather mean. Shelby gives what she gets so those two have had a few tussles. Fortunately neither one has hurt the other so I think it's all show. Kirby on the other hand runs from Chelsea. One time we were coming out of my bedroom and ran into Chelsea in the hallway who began hissing. Shelby immediately got between Kirby and charged Chelsea as if she were protecting her little brother. Our other cat, Kaitlyn, has been known to sit very close to Shelby too.

I don't think she cares for swimming. We took her and Kirby to a doggie pool party where Kirby pretty much swam the entire time. I held Shelby by the handle of her life jacket and lowered her into the pool a few times. She didn't act scared but clearly wanted out. There was so much going on so I didn't want to stress her. She seemed content to run around the perimeter ever watching Kirby. She did great with the many dogs, large and small, who were there. She didn't play with any of them since she seemed intent on keeping an eye on Kirby but she never shied away from any who came to check her out.

One time I was sitting on the edge of the pool and a large dog needed help getting out. I reached over and pulled him up by his collar. He was heavier than I expected so as I pulled him out I fell backwards as he scrambled over me. Suddenly Shelby was between us barking at him with such an urgency. That dog was so close to me I actually saw the fear in his eyes. Seconds later everything was fine but this is a good example of Shelby's determination to protect her loved ones.

Shelby is different from our other fosters since she prefers to follow me yet she seems to have taken on a motherly attachment for Kirby. She watches and learns from him but easily steps in if she feels he is threatened in any way. We know she has had a litter so I sometimes wonder if she considers Kirby one of her pups.

I don't know what she went through before she came to us but I can't see any lingering problems. She is a well-adjusted, happy dog. I seriously considered keeping her but when I started fostering one of my rules was that I would love each one but then let them go. So I will cry but I will send Shelby on her journey north to her forever family because there will be another scared and hungry foster needing our help.

Besides, who could resist this beautiful face? She's the whole package - sweet but brave, playful but well-mannered, and so soft to cuddle.

I actually wrote this post Tuesday night and found out Wednesday morning that our little Miss Shelby will be leaving us this Friday nite. It's gonna be a depressing weekend because I will surely be missing her and poor Kirby is always sad when they leave. Another piece of our hearts is traveling north to her forever family. God speed little angel, God speed.