After only a couple of days, our four new Cast Away Boyz are starting to relax. We're seeing more interest in exploring their new environment, more smiling, more interest in food, etc. But these fellows have a lot ahead of them. If you've never owned or fostered an "undersocialized" dog, it is an experience unlike what you'd expect. It requires time and patience beyond anything you can imagine.
Wilson's First Bath - Grooming Table? What's That?
Consider what you'd be like if you'd been born in prison, raised in a cell, then released on your 25th birthday! That's right. You turn 25, the cell door is unlocked and you're ushered to the front door. The door opens, you step out onto the dirt road in front of the jail. You've been given $50 and and a clean suit of clothes. Now you're on your own! You've never seen a blade of grass. You've never eaten a really good steak. You've never been to a party. You've never ridden a bicycle....starting to get it?
Nolan's First Bath - Hmmm... I'd rather be out there on that Green Stuff
This is exactly what a puppy mill dog, now in foster care, is experiencing. In some ways many of these dogs do amazingly well. They learn to trust their new foster person within a couple of weeks. But figuring out the rest of the world....that takes a lot longer.
When we take dogs like this into foster care, we assume they will be with us for a minimum of 3 months. It isn't uncommon for them to need 6 months or more before they're ready to go to their permanent homes with their "real" families.
The key is trust. With the right foster person, an individual who can show them infinite patience, these dogs can slowly adapt to all of the new stimuli that awaits them in a typical home environment.
Overcoming fear is the biggest issue. Everything is new and strange. They missed out on learning about the noise that a telephone makes, what it means to ride in a car, how to play with the spray from the garden hose. Not to mention how to accept people of all sizes, shapes, genders and hairstyles! (Yes, I had one that did NOT like baldness...go figure!)
They start out not knowing what a leash is, let alone how to walk around the block without being overwhelmed by all the new things they encounter. After a number of weeks/months, they become sufficiently acclimated to move on to Phase Two. That point at which a knowledgeable new owner can take them into their new home and continue the process.
We know that all four of these dogs are going to make it to Phase Two. We just don't know when. As of today, Wilson's big accomplishment was going outside to the yard on his own. He stayed out for just a few minutes, and then was ready to come back to the security of his new digs. For any normal dog, this is business as usual. For Wilson, this took a big leap of faith and a lot of courage! Hooray Wilson!
There will be a lot more leaps, and some mis-steps too, as these dogs expand their horizons. Stay tuned! Given time and space, they will amuse, delight and snuggle their way into our hearts!