Foster Failure

In the dog rescue world, the phrase foster fail often has an ultimately positive meaning.

Rather than going to a new home, a foster dog turns into a forever dog. Whether he bewitches his temporary peeps or just never gels with new ones, it’s all good. He’s safe, with people who love him.

I wish I had a foster fail story like this. But I don’t.

My foster failure story sucks. It involves intense bonding, intense fear, blind love, sharp teeth and a needle.

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you already know a lot of the story.

Almost two years ago, my boyfriend and I found a black dog.

Wayward dog #3 - Charlie Machete

The big mutt did not want to be caught, but Zach, my hero, managed to loop a leash around the snarling beast’s neck and gain his trust within minutes.

So began our adventures with the dog who came to be known as Charlie Machete, a striking black mongrel with a shovelhead, feathery tail, a lean, wiggly body and no manners.

He tore up our yard, bounced around our house like a “pinbull” and perched on countertops like a semi-domesticated panther.

He also occasionally growled at our friends, and tangled, expensively, with our golden retriever.

But for all the chaos Charlie Machete wrought, he could also be quite charming, trading tricks for treats, jogging tirelessly at my side for miles every day and snuggling close all through the night.

black dog on a walk

Best. Running. Partner. Ever.

We always knew that, for many reasons, he could not be our dog forever. However, we could see Charlie Machete’s potential. We loved him so much we were sure someone else could fall for him, too.

And they did – twice. But each affair was short-lived, and the second time he came back to us by way of a shelter three hours away.

Back under our care, he seemed a little calmer and a little more fearful. He was accepted into a rescue group but never liked meeting strangers at adoption events. He sometimes peed submissively in the house.

Eventually, Charlie Machete and our golden seemed to have worked out their issues. Charlie Machete even got himself a very tiny girlfriend and joined playgroup a few times at daycare.

But his distrust of most people – even some with whom he interacted regularly – persisted.

And then, recently, his fear came out in a rage against someone who inadvertently approached him in a way that made him uncomfortable. When I yanked on his leash to keep her safe, he redirected his frustration toward me.

No one was hurt, thank goodness, and the dog behaved calmly as soon as I removed him from the situation.

But that moment, the latest in a handful of close calls over the past year and a half, changed everything.

If I could build a bubble around this dog that I love so much, I would do it. But I cannot. And I cannot continue to risk him hurting another person out of misplaced fear.

Machete bat ears-crop

Tomorrow, the vet will come to my house, and I will give up on my foster dog for good.

It will be the hardest day I have had in a long time.

I’m sorry, Charlie Machete. I know that in ways I have failed you, despite my love for you. Thank you for all you have helped me to learn.

About crystalwayward

I live with two formerly wayward dogs. I care deeply about the environment, and I think gardening is a revolutionary act.

Posted on April 25, 2013, in Dogs, Dogtography, Fostering, Machete and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 57 Comments.

  1. Crystal, if I were closer, I would be there to give you the hug you need.

  2. Our thoughts and love to you…

  3. Oh, Crystal. I’m so so sorry you have to go through this. Sometimes life just throws stuff at us to make us stronger and maybe that was Charlie’s purpose all along. If I can do anything, please let me know. But I will definitely be thinking of you tomorrow and the following days, knowing what a hard decision that is.

  4. Think of all the love you gave Charlie and this is also your last act of love for your foster buddy. Sending you a virtual hug

  5. Crystal, I am so sorry! Love you lots. xoxoxoxo

  6. Awww, man. That was a beautiful tribute. You tried your absolute best.

  7. Thoughts, prayers, and love to you, Crystal. Everyone knows you tried your absolute best. You were a huge blessing to Charlie Machete.

  8. So sorry to hear this.

  9. My thoughts and compassion are with you and yours.

  10. i am so, so sorry to hear your story. i had to do the same thing in january, only he was my one and only dog i’ve ever had. at some point i had to accept that it was beyond my control, something was wrong with him that no amount of training, medication, exercise, changing diet, management, etc. could fix. i had to accept i didn’t fail him. you have not failed charlie machete. i don’t know about the shelter where you live, but here, if it weren’t for someone voluntarily taking care of a stray dog, a dog like charlie probably would have been euthanized in the shelter long ago. you gave him his best chance. it isn’t because he’s a bad dog or an evil dog. something just went wrong somewhere along the way for him and the best he’s ever known has been with you and therefore you have been his champion. and you ARE building this bubble for him. he will no longer know this fear he and you can’t understand. bless you. i don’t know you but i’m praying for you.

    • So sorry to hear you have been in this situation, too. You are right – Charlie wouldn’t have had much chance if not for us. That’s why we originally kept him out of the shelter and pulled him out of the one he landed in after his failed adoption. We always had hope for him. Thank you for your kind words.

  11. Crystal-my heart breaks for you. We had to say goodbye to our very much loved family dog in this manner too, because of human agression. Many of us in the rescue world have walked in your shoes and our hearts cry for you as to say goodbye to Charlie. He was well loved, knew nothing but happiness and he last sight will be of the person who loved him the most. You are doing the right thing by him. Many hugs and warm thoughts to you and Zach today.

  12. I’m so sorry to read this. I can’t imagine how difficult this decision must have been.

  13. The fact that you are able to make this difficult decision means you are nowhere near a foster “failure”. You’re doing what is best for him and his quality of life. *hugs*

  14. I wish I could come give you a hug. I know how heart wrenching a decision like this is and I am so sorry that you have to make it. Ultimately, you gave Charlie something he likely never would have had otherwise: love. Do not discount that, it means more than anything else in the world. I am so, so sorry for your loss.

  15. This is my first visit to your blog and I’m sorry it has to be on such a heart wrenching occasion. You have certainly not failed him. You have done and are doing the best for Charlie that anyone could. Tomorrow, he will finally be at peace and he will cross the Bridge knowing that he is loved beyond measure.


  16. Thoughts are with you! I too had to make this very tough decision for a foster, it was horrible but in the best interest of the dog. That decision forever changed me but now I know she feels no more pain and no longer lives in fear of the world. Take comfort in all the love you gave!

  17. I’m crying at work. Don’t tell anyone. I’ll love you forever Charlie Machete. ❤

  18. I’m so sorry to hear this. You did more for him than anyone, and for that reason and many others, you are not a failure. It was great to get to know Charlie through your blog. He will be happy in heaven with all the other dogs that we’ve all loved and lost throughout the years.

  19. So sorry to hear this, but you did everything you could.

  20. So sorry – your post brought tears to my eyes – you did everything you could remember that.

  21. Crystal, I am so sorry about Charlie Machette. You gave him the best home ever for 2 yrs and made him a better boy. Their are some things we can’t fix with love. Tears in my eyes for you. Give both your boys a hug from me. He will never be forgotten . In my thoughts , such a difficult but right decision. Xoxo. Sammy and Lacey’s mom. Sherrell Fick

  22. I am so sorry Crystal. I wish you and the machete peace with your decision. He’s a special, troubled guy and he was very very fortunate to have found someone to take responsibility for his life.

  23. I am so sorry you are going through this. I know that you gave Charlie such a wonderful life while you could. I had to go through losing a foster due to similar, unpredictable behavioral issues. While he was only with us a week, we visited him a few times while he boarding at a training facility. In the end, there wasn’t much anyone could do to help him out. A peaceful goodbye is a kind parting gift.

  24. Reblogged this on Oregonmike98 and commented:
    Great blog and a very sad story about a foster dog

  25. I am so, so sorry. I don’t consider this a foster failure or giving up, it sounds like you did everything you possibly could over a longer period of time than what most people would. Thank you for sharing your story, my thoughts are with you.

    • Thank you, Debbi. It will always feel in a way like we could have done more, if we had more time or more money or more expertise. But I think that’s the way with every hard decision in life.

  26. I’m so sorry Crystal. You’ve done so much for him. A kind, easy passing with someone who loves him, to a place of no more fear, is sometimes the kindest option. You did not fail Charlie Machete. You never gave up on him, nor did you dump him in a shelter or put him on a chain. You loved him and vowed to follow every avenue to help him out of fearful hell. That is not a failure, that is a hero. Good Boy Charlie Machete, that’ll do.

  27. So sorry to hear this. It’s a fear that’s always in the back of my mind with fosters. No matter how badly we want all dogs to be fully rehabbed, it’s just not always possible to overcome their fears. You guys gave Charlie Machete a huge amount of love, effort, and time that shelters would not have been able to give him.

  28. Loving a dog unconditionally means making extremely tough decisions on their behalf. You aren’t failing him, you are loving him. And at times that line seems blurred and incomprehensible but make no mistake about it, it’s true love. I have no doubt, that Charlie knows this. We are thinking about you and will take some deep breaths on our walk today as Charlie leaps over the rainbow bridge to a life of ease and fear free days.

  29. This is such a tough and brave decision, but seeing how hard you worked on everything it is evident it needs to be done. It sounds like the world is a really scary place for him and I can’t imagine the anguish and anxiety he must have on a daily basis. I think what you are doing isn’t giving up on him, but doing what’s right for him. Thinking of you guys.

  30. My thoughts are with you today. I know it’s a heart wrenching day but please take comfort in knowing Charlie will finally be at peace.

  31. Oh my, Crystal. I’m so very sorry. You’re incredibly strong and you did everything you could have done. This is the kindest thing you can do for him. You did your best.

  32. Crystal I am so sorry that you had to make this decision as it is such a hard one. BabyGirl also has some of the problems that Charlie had. But I live isolated and it is easier with BabyGirl because of that. BabyGirl will be 8 years old this May. I have been bitten by her 4 times. She also has gotten better as the years have went by. I really liked Charlie Machete as he is so cute. I have wanted to take him myself but because of BabyGirl that was not possible. Midnight worked out with her because she doesn’t have those issues. My thoughts are with you and Charlie.This makes me so sad I can’t imagine how you must feel. You gave him a great home and love while he was here. He knew you loved him and a lot of dogs don’t get that kind of love.

  33. Very sad. My heart goes out to you.

  34. So very sorry and sad that you have had to make such a difficult and heartbreaking decision. I can’t imagine what it must be like to go through such an experience, my thoughts are with you and the handsome Charlie and I hope that he finds peace.

  35. I am so sorry that you have had to make this decision. We all want happy endings for our beloved animals. Know that the years he was with you made his life so much better.

  36. I am heartbroken for you to hear this news. While it’s not even remotely close to your decision, we had to put one of our babies down last week. He had lymphoma, went through the grueling chemo, and had 5 months in remission. We could have chosen to do another round at over $10K but our vet said he would probably get less time than the 5 months he got the first time.

    The decision wasn’t made solely on the money but it still felt like it was. He was failing again, but on the outside, you’d never know.

    My heart goes out to you for just having to make that decision. I know it was so hard and I wish I could make it easier for you. Be confident in knowing that you helped him peacefully cross to the Rainbow Bridge where his aggression and fear will be gone.

  37. How incredibly sad for you to have to make that decision – i’m so very sorry for you. You tried everything you could but if you cannot guarantee everyone’s safety, you had no choice. Big hugs.

  38. I wish I could give you a big hug. I think you’re so brave and so amazing for fostering and giving animals another chance, even Charlie, even though he did not find a permanent forever home. I wouldn’t call this a failure. I think you gave him something that no one else would have been able to give him.

  39. I am so sorry to hear this! You did your very best for Charlie and gave him a great life.

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