Tonight my household is a little larger. I have joined the ranks of the Saints' fosters and welcomed Isaac, a shepherd cross, into my home. We are still sizing each other up (or at least Isaac and Charley and Allie - one of my dogs and my cat - are sizing each other up) but my considered opinion is that we will do just fine.
I told Carol the other day that I was ready to take on a foster and she didn't waste any time taking me up on the offer. Today she and Leila checked out this old guy, then sent me out to see how I felt about him. He took my liver treat gently, and allowed me to put a leash round his neck to take him out to the pound yard for some one-on-one time. I sat on an old soccer ball while he limped around the yard marking everything in sight (groan, says I, another unneutered male!), and then suddenly - to my surprise - came and ever so briefly laid his head on my lap, just the way Francis used to do. I knew at that moment he would be coming home with me. We went for a little walk - I'm not sure who was walking whom - I just kinda followed wherever he wanted to go but he was a gentle leader. On the walk he did his business, which suggests I just may be fortunate enough to have a housebroken and continent foster - that remains to be seen. Then I opened the back door of my vehicle and without hesitation (though with some difficulty due to his very weak hind end) he clambered onto the floor behind the passenger seat. And there he sat. He has the same big happy grin and smiling eyes that I saw in Francis, and the same incredibly soft fur around his neck.
I talked to him a little on the drive home, and he looked at me every so often but mostly ignored me. He was nameless at this point, so I tried out a few names I happen to like but with no response. Suddenly, as clearly as if he had said the name out loud, I heard "Isaac" - not a name I ever considered for a dog. I said it aloud, and Isaac's nose came through the space between the seats and poked my arm, his ears came up, and I could almost hear him shout "YES!". So his name is Isaac.
He was an excellent passenger. When I made a brief stop at a friend's to pick up my laundry (my well is dry as usual), he clambered onto the back seat from the floor. Every so often he changed position, or stuck his head between the front seats, or looked out the back window, but mostly his shining eyes just looked alert and curious.
When we reached my place, he explored (and marked) every inch of my large fenced yard. My dog Charley (spayed female border collie cross) allowed him to check her out until he got a little too familiar and then she growled - Isaac showed no response. When the tables were turned, and Charley tried to check Isaac out, there were some momentary altercations with Isaac airsnapping and growling but as soon as I called Charley away Isaac settled down.
Isaac likes to lie in the dirt (oh no....another one who drags dust into the house...) under the trees near a fence, and seems relaxed and content and very tired. He has trouble with kibble but loved the Natural Balance canned duck and potato dogfood he was offered for dinner.
With Charley in the house, I sat on the lawn and Isaac came over and head butted me a couple of times before beating a hasty, almost embarrassed retreat. I'm pretty sure he is deaf as he shows no reaction to the neighbour dogs barking loudly at the fence, the motorcycles tearing past on the road, or my whistle or call from across the yard. He does notice movement somewhat, and moved toward me when I motioned with my hands. I have a feeling this dog won't take long to start enjoying human contact.
I can't decide where to put him tonight - he will either sleep in the mud room or in the barn until I have had a chance to assess him with my cat who is currently watching him, eyes as big as saucers, from the loft window. This weekend I prepared the stable in the barn for Martin, the abandoned alpaca, so it now has a gate and is a large, secure area with soft wood chips for bedding. Martin is not yet at the point where he will come to the barn, so he won't mind I'm sure.
And that was the other fascinating event this evening. Usually Martin will sound the alpaca alarm when a new dog (or person) enters my property. Isaac was lying near the gate where I feed Martin when Martin came for dinner. Martin was not the least perturbed, ate his food from my hand as usual, and Isaac just looked at him as if alpacas were an everyday part of his world. Martin on one side of the gate, Isaac on the other.....as if they'd been together all their lives. The only one who was a little perturbed was Charley, who usually holds the coveted position of guarder of the gate! She just watched from a few feet away to make sure Isaac wasn't going to cause problems for her dear friend Martin.
Tomorrow will bring some challenges - where to put Isaac while I go out - a farm dog, probably not used to tie downs, houses, or being enclosed. He needs a health assessment - his back end is terribly weak and his "waist" is very very thin although his head and chest are broad. His teeth look poor (which may explain the kibble problem), and he needs to be neutered. There is a lot in store for this boy, but I have a feeling he's going to be quite a sweetheart. I just may fail at Fostering 101.
And here he is:
And making himself right at home: