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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.

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