I love dogs. This is not a secret to those who know me or even those who are just meeting me. I grew up with dogs, I’ve adopted dogs, babysat them, acted as a travelling companion for rescues, and had them tattooed on my body. So it was only a natural progression that I would foster them. Someone tagged me in a post on Facebook for a local rescue that was looking for fosters, and I quickly applied and was approved. There isn’t much in my house that isn’t already covered in dog hair, and my beloved furry piranha has ensured that no furniture has been left unscathed. Throw in a doggy door, fully fenced yard and some canine playmates and my home is the perfect respite for dogs in search of their forever home.
My first two fosters went off so well. Sure, there was a tug-of-war with my couch cushions, things got peed on, and nothing was left unhumped, but I was able to find loving homes for two gentle giants who wanted nothing more than a lap to fill. I had even turned down a puppy in favour of a dog that would be more difficult to place at the last foster event. Everyone wanted the puppies; my application offered up my home for the old, the broken and the tired. My only caveat was that any foster animals had to be friendly with the dogs already in my family. When I adopted my furry horde, I promised each of them that I would love them and keep them safe for the rest of their lives. As much as I wanted to foster, I would not do anything that put my own pets in danger.
My last foster was scheduled to go home on a Tuesday when I got a phone call the preceding Monday evening. There was a mother dog with 12 puppies that needed an emergency foster. Her previous foster found her care overwhelming and they needed to be moved immediately. I asked about her being friendly with my dogs and I expressed my own concern about the situation being overwhelming and my lack of experience with puppies. The responses I received were reassuring and placating. The first 24 hours demonstrated that she was not quite as friendly as the rescue had lead me to believe. She barked incessantly at my dogs and kept trying to escape her enclosure. My office became her new domain and I reached out to every contact I had to express my concern that she was displaying significant amounts of aggression and that I wouldn’t be able to provide a safe environment. I received more platitudes and assurances that I just needed to give her time. Time was not a luxury I would have.
48 hours after her arrival in my home, I put her on the leash to take her out to relieve herself. It’s a straight shot down the stairs from my office to the front door. We almost made it to the door uneventfully when she spotted my smallest pug, Wallace, from across the room and dragged me there to grab his neck. There was no warning, no growls, barks or hesitation. Suddenly my beloved dog was locked in a life or death struggle that he was woefully unprepared for. My roommate responded to my screams of horror we tried everything to make her let go. She was determined to hold on until the bitter end. Running out of ideas, I finally tried to pull his neck out of her jaws when she snapped around and bit me. I knew that it hurt but was far too concerned about my dog to survey the damage. Blood started running down my arm but Wallace’s tongue was losing colour and his gasping was growing weaker. Desperately, I shoved my wounded hand further down into the back of her throat and she finally released him. My friend came sprinting down the stairs, grabbed the dog and dragged her back to the office while I scooped up poor Wallace and carried him into the kitchen.
There was so much blood. Blood on the walls, the floor and coating the fur of Wallace’s neck. Desperately searching for injuries, it took me several moments to realize that all of the blood was mine. It wasn’t until we arrived at the hospital that I realized the top half-inch of my finger was entirely missing. Not only had she severed it, but she had swallowed it as well. The days that followed were filled with pain, antibiotics and accusations from the rescue.
It is devastating for someone who describes themselves as an unabashed dog lover to suddenly be inundated with nightmares, flashbacks and a newfound fear of dogs. I am not okay, physically, mentally or emotionally. Thankfully, my dogs are fine. I do not regret trading a chunk of flesh and bone for the safety of a wriggly little pug who thinks I am the greatest person in the entire world. I only regret having to make that decision in the first place.
Throughout this process, I have learned that there is no regulation for animal shelters or rescues in the province of Alberta. Perhaps, in time, I will dedicate my energy towards advocating for a system that values both the animals and the people who want to help them. But right now I need to heal.
And to learn how to type without using my index finger.