Without a big deadline hanging over my head, my life returns to regular priorities such as tracking down the entry point for the ants in the kitchen and searching for the source of the smell in the house (spoiler alert, it was the water in the vase. Holy bacteria, Batman!).
In the midst of all the living room work, I had a home visit from the greyhound foster coordinator. My hopes were really to fail fostering which means you’ve adopted the dog. It feels kind of soon after losing Frankie but I may never feel ready after losing that kook. He was truly a special furkid and losing him has been devastating. But the greyhound adoption folks were bringing in a bunch of dogs and were desperate for foster homes and I wanted to help.
So, a couple of weeks ago, they brought Ketner to stay with me. Ketner was a terrible name. It was her registered racing name; Bob’s Ketner. Clearly she was never called this because she didn’t answer to it. Or maybe she just disliked it as much as me. Anyway, I started calling her Coco.
Coco came right from a track and is nearly 5 years old which is the mandatory retirement age for racing greyhounds. Moving into a home environment can be bewildering and scary for these dogs. Everything they know has changed. Even if it is what we think of as all good changes, they just know it is different and they don’t know what to expect. The sliding glass door, even with stickers on it to make it visible, will still get bumped into. The screen around the fireplace and even the fireplace. WHAT ARE THESE THINGS? Mirrors are an enormous curiosity. Endless hours staring in there and then watching me through the mirror. Stairs are these evil things that go up to the sky. WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME DO THIS? All these new things are frightening to dogs who have only known a kennel environment.
The entire first day Coco watched Oscar. She watched to see what he did, how he navigated this strange world, and she watched to see if he was frightened of anything. He wasn’t so she stayed relatively calm. Until she saw the sprinkler head. That thing was clearly just plain evil and she backed away from it slowly.
It wasn’t until the second day that she kind of started noticing me. Or maybe it was after I gave them their evening kibble. She thought that was pretty cool. She proceeded to gobble up great big mouthfuls and then coughed it all out all over the floor. And then ate it up. Hey, it’s a process.
The second day she started watching me. She saw how Oscar got up on the couch and cuddled and watched that very intensely. Sometime during the day I was giving him big noisy kisses on top of his head and she came running over to see about getting some herself. That was when she discovered that she really liked the love stuff. REALLY liked it!
She started getting up on the couch but she would stand on it with shaky legs because it was a soft surface and she didn’t feel terribly secure walking. She was willing to risk it though as she glued herself to my side. I mean, she didn’t just get up to sit next to me, she would turn herself around to get as much of herself up against me as possible. She wanted all the loves and wanted me to just envelop her. She will sit there just looking up into my face.
It’s a little heartbreaking to see such a need for the loves and touching. This actually started to worry me because if she bonded so closely to me, would she have a hard time moving into an adoptive home? Would it tweak her to leave the first home she knew? I’ve seen that before with fosters. Most fosters do just fine and they love the foster home they come from as well as their adoptive home. But once in a while you get that dog that is too insecure for that switch. I was really hoping this wouldn’t happen to Coco.
The big question about whether or not she could stay here was how she would do with Scarlet Kitty. Coco was very curious about the cat but hadn’t shown a strong prey drive. Scarlet also seemed pretty comfortable and I was paying attention to that because Scarlet used to be a street kitty so she’s pretty smart. When do you know though? When can you confidently say that Coco is cat-safe?
After a couple of weeks I was starting to almost feel pretty good about the cat-safe question but I think I kept waiting for that definitive moment when I “knew.” When I could be certain that everything was going to be all right. I know. I
say write that out loud and I see how silly it was to be looking for certainty. Coco is very different from Frankie. If I’m honest, what I wanted was Frankie back. That isn’t going to happen. I know that logically. I just tried really hard to be present for Coco. To give her what she needs. To celebrate little things like when she learned she can jump. She’s been wanting up on the bed but couldn’t figure out the jumping thing. She would just put her front paws on the bed and move her back legs like she was trying to crawl up but couldn’t get purchase on the mattress. Then she would cry and go back to her giant, soft, luxurious dog bed. Her dog bed that was, like 6 feet, away from me. It might as well be miles to her. But Sunday, she figured it out. She jumped, and she was up! All the beds are all hers now.
I also got a call from the adoption coordinator who felt like she had a prospective home for Coco. I realized that while I may not have made up my mind, Coco had. Coco had adopted us and it wasn’t an option to let her go somewhere else. Somewhere new that she had to learn and someone new she had to decide to trust. I may still be grieving for Frankie, but I didn’t want to grieve for Coco too.
So I told them that she wasn’t up for adoption anymore. She was already home.