[Resolution] #28 Foster a Shelter Animal

This is Luca.

She is not a foster dog.

We just flat out adopted her.  Because we can’t do anything that involves giving back something (someone) we love.

Also, before I get ahead of myself, yes that’s Resolution #1 there on my arm, but I have one sitting to go before it’s done so I’m waiting until then to post about it.

So, let me tell you about Luca, because I still can NOT believe how life works out sometimes and puts you exactly where you need to be, with exactly who you need to be with, for exactly the right reasons.  First, the back story.

Nick and I knew going in that we weren’t just going to be able to foster a dog.  When I made that resolution we were in a very different position, with uncertainty around jobs and futures and all that, so fostering seemed like a good way to do something good without the 12+ year commitment.  But, things have changed since then and we felt far more confident about giving a dog a forever home.

So, last weekend we went out to “Austin Pets Alive!” We adopted our cat Mana from them about a year ago, love what they do and what they stand for (they’re a no-kill shelter that takes in animals bound for euthanasia) so we decided to go back.  Long story short, we found a dog that we fell in love with.  Personality, size, affection level, all perfect for us, but we couldn’t take her home that night since we still had preparations to make in the apartment.  So, we thought that with only an hour and a half left before they closed we’d be able to come back first thing in the morning and get her.  But she was gone, adopted just moments after we drove off the lot.

The rest of the day was spent sulkily searching other shelters for an equally awesome dog, but to no avail.  The rest of the week was about the same.  We searched shelter sites, craigslist, more shelter sites….some more craigslist.  We put in an application on a puppy at the Central Texas SPCA but were passed up for another family who’d applied for the same puppy a few days earlier.  Just. Awful. Luck.

Even Friday night Nick and I agreed to go back to the SPCA to look again (since we were already approved by then) but due to a miscommunication we both went to two different shelters, opposites sides of town, in rush hour.

So Saturday, with a whole day at our disposal to search the shelters of Austin, TX, we set out again.  Austin Pets Alive! was our second stop.  We walked Manny, the rambunctious lab puppy.  Gazed longingly at Sally the Catahoula Leopard Dog who was beautiful but a little too high energy for our 750 square feet.  Then we came to “Bonnie.” A shy, remarkably quiet Blue Heeler mix who, despite being just 6 months old, was sitting completely still, gazing at us from her crate.  Kind of sounds like every “I found the one” story, but actually this was the reason we were afraid she wouldn’t be the one.  Nick really wanted a playful pup to wrestle and play frisbee with.  But, something about her spoke to us so were took her into the play pen to get to know each other.

Nick was apprehensive.  She was a little calmer than he’d hoped and he wasn’t a huge fan of the blue merle coloring, but after about 10 or 15 minutes of her following him around the pen, leaning into him for snuggling and staring at him with the most precious-can’t-say-no-to-it face, he was in love, and so was I.

We went through the adoption process.  We got the lecture about Blue Heelers being high energy, highly intelligent dogs, got advice on how to keep her happy, went through recommendations for trainers, etc.  (On top of doing good deeds, they are VERY knowledgeable and helped make sure we were more than equipped to be good parents.)  But they left out one BIG detail….

We got her home and of course she was pretty scared. She was slow to walk around but very curious, sniffing, she found her crate, had some dinner. While we followed her around there was plenty of baby talk and “good girl,” but after a while we started to realized that she wasn’t responding quite like we were used to dogs responding to voice, calls, or noise.  “She’s just tired,” we guessed.  She was also on medication for Kennel Cough so we were sure she was just lethargic.

“Gee, I hope she’s not deaf.”  Nick joked.

…Not a joke.

It actually got me thinking.  Wow, yeah…we’re calling, clapping, clicking, and she doesn’t even flinch.  ….Is she deaf?

I slept on it, and when there was no reaction in my sleeping dog when I entered the kitchen and turned on the faucet in the morning, it prompted me to go through the take-home folder they gave us that had her full history inside.  Sure enough, there in her history, clear as day, was a previous observation (from either shelter or vet) noting that she was indeed deaf, or at least VERY hard of hearing.

I panicked.  I won’t lie.  We now had a special needs dog.  One that could never be off leash, one that would never know her name, one that would be far more challenging to train and care for. There was a bit of anger at APA about preparing us for everything but arguably the most important detail about this puppy.

But, after talking it through with Nick, taking the dog (who we’d now changed from ‘Bonnie’ to ‘Luca’ since she did not know nor answer to ‘Bonnie’) on her morning walk, loving on her, and of course getting some advice from our parents, we soon discovered that not only were we okay with it…we almost loved her even more because of it.  She was special, and despite her deafness was undeniably the most gracious, sweet and affectionate dog we’d ever encountered.  It was like we’d saved her, and she knew it, and thanked us with every wag of her tail.

I hate to say it, but if I’d known up front that she was deaf, I would have turned her away.  I’m just being honest… I would have been too scared to take that leap, but now that she’s ours I can’t imagine having ANY other dog!

We’ve been getting advice up and down about training deaf dogs, finding resources in our friends and in recommendations for professionals.  And, in the meantime Luca continues to make huge progress in warming up to her new home.  (Example: She was terrified of stairs when we brought her in, and now handles them like a champ).  We love her more than thought we could love any animal and are so happy to have this beautiful and special new addition to our family.

Life works in mysterious was, but I’m sure as hell glad it does.

Update: As of writing this post, we also received an e-mail from Jen at APA! (I e-mailed them about the situation this morning) who reminded us that it should NOT have happened that we were not notified of Luca’s deafness, has notified the adoption team so that it won’t happen in the future, and also gave us a great set of information on training with hand signals as well as some recommendations for trainers in Austin with experience with deaf dogs.  Despite the fact that her condition was not mentioned to us, I continue to be pleased with APA! and the way they do business.  Thanks again to them for another perfect addition to our family!


One thought on “[Resolution] #28 Foster a Shelter Animal

  1. I am so glad that you are happy with your decision, “special needs” dogs are very hard to adopt out just for the reasons you mentioned above. I think you will find at the end of the day she is just as love-able and not more difficult at all. I am considering fostering through APA! in the next couple of months. If you ever need a doggy date, let me know!

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