Missing Max  

Posted by — Kim in , , , , , , , , ,

Thoughts on Fostering

Tomorrow is going to be bittersweet. Tomorrow, I'm going to say goodbye to one of my sweet foster dogs, Maximus..."Max" for short. He's found a "forever" home with a wonderful couple who's been waiting and searching for just the right dog for their family, and Max is it.

He really is. He'll be perfect for them, and they for him. And I know it's right, and I'm happy they found little Max...but I'll still miss him.

Little Max came in a few months ago on a transport* from a rural downstate "kill shelter," where the rescue often finds and saves dogs because they have a better chance here in a big city to be adopted. He arrived looking like a walking skeleton...literally – just a head, ribcage and fur.

He's a Chihuahua mix, but too big for the typical Chi-lover. He arrived adult but young, not neutered, of course. A dirty, scared, oversized puppy. A dog with no history.

He had a wound on his side where he had been attacked by another dog in the previous shelter, and he was traumatized. But in spite of his obvious starvation and abuse, he was also amazingly forgiving...he was, alas, by nature, a dog.

Sweet, cuddly and gentle, he looked up at me through the bars of his crate with his sad, dark eyes, and I knew I had another foster to love for awhile. So, when the Vet told me he wasn't eating well at the shelter because he was still a little overwhelmed, I offered to bring him home to fatten him up.

Max had originally been named "Magnum" by the workers at the rescue, who in a burst of creativity had come up with it in order to name him something macho. But somehow, after I brought him home, my husband in a fit of mind confusion started calling him Max, and it stuck. Maximus, for a minimum-sized dog. It fit. And Max seemed to like it.

Max thrived over the next few months. He ate and ate, and gradually came out of his shell. It was obvious, at first, he didn't know what grass was. Could he have been a puppy mill dog? Or just crated his entire life? He would poop in his crate at first, his skinny little back end up against the bars so as not to dirty himself. When I would take him outside, he would stand a foot away from me the entire time and stare at the trees and sky, and sniff the wind. Then, he would come inside and run to his crate and poop.

After awhile he began to get the hang of things by following my other dogs around the yard...I would always pair him with my best "poopers": Alex or Beau, a Chi/Peke and Mini-Schnauzer. He learned to sit, to take treats gently, to wait for his food on his little rug by the door. Chachi, my other Chi, taught him to tunnel under warm laundry and Beau taught him how to play.

At night, he learned to sleep in his own little bed next to my own.... I forced myself to teach him not to sleep in my bed more for my own sake, not his; I knew I was getting attached, and I thought it would be best to teach him some independence...but many mornings, I would wake up to feel soft warm fur snuggled up against my back, and I'd lift the covers and there would be Max, happy as a clam. He'd crawl out and stretch and yawn and give me a kiss, then roll around on his back as if to say, "Ha ha, Mom! Surprise! And what a wonderful day!!!" I'm really going to miss him.

But tomorrow, Max is going home...to his real home this time. And though he doesn't know it yet, he is going to find more love then he has ever known. His new mom has been busy all week getting ready for him, getting his food, his treats, his new little bed. I have been his transition home, as I was supposed to be, and my husband, my boys, my daughter and I have been in his life for awhile to love him out of his shell, give him some security, then let him go to where he is supposed to be. To prepare the way, so to speak. To love and release. That's what fostering is all about.

In a way, his little story is the story of so many things in life. It's only ego that tries to tell me I could be or do the best for him, or any of my fosters. I need to step back, and step out of the way. If I really love them, I will.

And like the Vet told me once: "The more we can place, the more we can rescue...." There are so many more little Max's, and Alex's, and Beaus...sad dark eyes peering through cage bars. Sometimes bones and fur, sometimes obese to the point of hardly being able to walk. But the eyes are always the same.

I love Max, but tomorrow he will go to hearts that will love him more than I. And he won't leave next time.

And I will love another, again.


*Volunteers who rescue dogs from "kill shelters" in areas where there is little chance of adoption, and drive them to shelters in more populated areas.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 14, 2009 at Thursday, May 14, 2009 and is filed under , , , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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