I’m Charlie! I’m a Catahoula hound mix. I was on my own at only 6 months old, I was SO hungry and SO scared. They say I had something called parasites and people referred to me as a skeleton….neglected. One day, a homeless man gave me water and a woman saw this and scooped me up and dropped me off at a shelter clinic where they said I would probably be put down because I didn’t look too healthy. They said it was sad and they would try to find and prosecute the person who did this to me.
I had no more energy, I collapsed on the floor, panting (they didn’t know then that I had heart worm too), I didn’t have any hope, this was the end and my eyes said so. But there was a woman there having a kitty neutered. She said she was delayed in picking the kitty up for some reason. She kept watching me. Then she spoke with the people and the next thing I knew she put me in her car. Whew – just before animal control arrived to take me to my death. We went home together. She gave me food and water and then we got into a bed together and she hugged me all night. I was in love, I thought I was dreaming….maybe heaven! I kept opening my eyes to see if she was still there. She told me she wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me again. She named me and I decided then that I would never let her out of my sight.
Mom and dad (there’s a dad too…….and kitties and a dog that didn’t like me at first) started talking about separation anxiety. I didn’t know what this meant but I knew I’d keep my promise not to let mom out of my sight. I jumped the new fence because mom went over to with talk a neighbor without me. One time I went through the window because I didn’t want to lose sight of mom. I whined and cried and sulked on the couch whenever mom had to go away. Dad tried to console me but nothing helped until I saw mom again. One time, I ate half of a whole turkey in one gobble off the counter when no one was looking at Thanksgiving – I wasn’t supposed to do that I learned, but it was just days after I was brought home and I was still very hungry and learning what’s ok to do and not. I was (and still am) afraid of thunder. Whenever I heard anything that sounded like a gunshot, I would flip onto my back , feet straight up and lay there terrified, motionless. Mom and dad said I had doggie ptsd. I had terrible nightmares that went on for more than a year. I had a few ups and downs but I kept my promise – I would never let mom out of my site. I even escorted mom through the house – wherever she settled, I settled.
A few years later, my parents started an animal rescue – they were going to rescue more like me! Imagine that! They said it was heart breaking to see all the abandoned and stray animals on the reservation and that someone should help them. Apparently the light bulb went off in dad’s head and he said WE are the help. So, new cats, dogs, puppies and kittens started to arrive periodically and I was so lucky because I got to help take care of them. My days became very busy! Since the rescue started, life has been one big party. Mom and dad say THEY’RE lucky because I help with all the animals that come through to visit before they go to their forever families. Some stay longer than others, some need more help. They call me their concierge dog (a phrase mom’s auntie came up with) because I greet all the new arrivals, sense what they need (socializing, some space, food, bathroom, manners), and help mom and dad give the new foster pet what they need.
Right now we have puppies and kittens and they’re the best. The kittens LOVE me – they greet me and purr for me and I let them practice batting me on the nose and tapping me on the rump when I walk by. Sometimes they have really fun toys (but dad says I can’t take them because I might swallow them). Kittens are hysterical – they do this crazy dance where they arch their back and run sideways. I like that. It’s funny. It makes me bark and do my, “hound howl”. Sometimes I lie down and the kitties pile on top of me. Sometimes we just curl up together for a nap and mom sneaks a picture. Mom and dad say my job is very important and they’re very grateful that I help so much. That makes me feel good. I like fostering!
The puppies are another story all-together. First I sniff each one to see if they’re male or female. Then I bow my back and do my hound howl. Sometimes this scares them and they run for cover. But they usually figure out pretty quickly that I’m their, “Uncle Charlie”.They follow me everywhere (just like I follow mom). I run and play with them (there’s usually more than one…..sometimes there’s a litter). We run until they’re tired. Mom and Dad say this is good because the puppies sleep well. (I think mom and dad don’t get enough sleep). I just run around because it’s fun and I can howl! I teach the puppies to play many games like, Chase Me. Sometimes I lay down and let them try to jump all over me so they think they’re winning. Ha! Interesting…. not one of the puppies I’ve fostered has learned to howl like me……I guess I have THAT market cornered. Sometimes the newbies don’t know how to tell dad and mom that they need to go to the bathroom…..so I alert them for them. Sometimes they’re outside and want to come inside so I alert my parents about that too. All of the friends I’ve made eventually move on to their forever families. Once in a while they come back to visit (they stay overnight to get to the vet for spay and neuters – oh boy) and it’s great to catch up on things and get a couple of chases around the tree! Sometimes they come back because their new home didn’t work out, but this just gives us the opportunity to enjoy naps together. There’s always a new friend that comes to stay.
Mom and dad say it’s important that we have this fostering system in place because all my friends are alive and were able to get forever families that love them. But they told me not everyone understands this. They said some people are afraid to open their hearts! Afraid to open their hearts?! I’m here to tell you that I’m living proof – it’s better to have helped a friend to move to the next phase of their life than to turn your head away and let them die. My parents are sometimes sad because there’s often not enough attention brought to the importance of fostering. Without this system, dogs like me (and cats) would starve, be shot, be very afraid and lonely, be hauled off to the kill shelter to die, or be hit by a car or even become prey to wildlife. I don’t want that to happen to my friends. I hope everyone makes the step to foster a dog or cat and have a foster system in their house so we can all love and live. My friends and I want you to understand – we need humane human assistance to help us understand the human world. We cherish our humans so much it hurts, so please help us understand what is expected of us to live in a human world. Foster, teach my friends, be patient, give them the tools they need so they can live up to that expectation and be rewarded with their very own forever families.
I’m now 9 yrs old, they say I’m still a puppy. My parents got me healthy and rid of my heartworm and tape worm years ago, I no longer have nightmares, I no longer freak out when mom steps out and I’ve learned that dads are a whole lot of fun to be around. I was broken, but with love and patience I’ve healed and I give back to my animal community by fostering other animals. I pay it forward and they call me a hero. I foster dogs and cats and I love my job!
So how about you? Who are you fostering this month? How are your animals helping? We enjoy your comments and questions!