Our First Foster Dog: Momo

By Jamie
Foster Care Provider and PB SOC Volunteer

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Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to foster a dog? Or what it feels like to give up the dog when the perfect family comes along? I did too before Momo came into our lives.

My husband wasn’t into the idea of fostering a dog. He felt like we had more than enough animals and chaos in the house (two kids, a dog, a cat, two rabbits, and a snake!), and he worried that we would get too attached to the dog and want to keep him or her for ourselves. I was sure we could do it well though and let go of the dog when the time came. I also wanted our kids to experience firsthand what it’s like to help an animal in need and to suffer some inconvenience for the benefit of others.

IMG_9117My daughter needed to do a community service project, and knowing her love of dogs and her talent for training our own dog, I thought having her help with the care and training of a foster dog would be an ideal project for her. In addition, as part of her project she could help educate other people about the experience of fostering and the need for more foster families. So I convinced my husband that just this one time, we could surely foster a dog and then give him or her up when the time came.

After getting in touch with PB SOC to discuss the ins and outs of fostering, we showed up at the shelter one Sunday morning to see who most needed to be sent to a foster home. We were paired up in a play kennel with an adult pit bull named Mr. Moe, a big, brawny, fawn-colored guy who’d had the misfortune of being left in a back yard tied up alone until he managed to get himself tangled in his restraint and it was embedded under one of his front legs. He needed to go to foster care while the wound healed. He connected with my daughter right away, and I decided to trust that he’d be a good fit for our family based on that observation alone.IMG_9066

With some trepidation, we gathered up supplies at the shelter (leash, collar, kennel, food–all free to foster families) and took him home. He was calm but a little scared in the car, and every time we glanced into the back seat at his giant head and sweet eyes, we found ourselves more and more smitten. Still though, it’s a little intimidating to take a large, powerful, unknown and clearly neglected dog into one’s home for the first time, and I couldn’t help worrying about what might go wrong.

The next hurdle would be getting him into the house and past our large male dog. Reno, a pit bull mix, is dog friendly but his high energy and rough play style can be a bit much for some dogs. Also, we had no idea if he and the foster dog would get along or if the new guy would be okay with cats (or rabbits!), so our plan was to crate and rotate (keeping one dog in a kennel at all times while the other roamed free in the house, so they could get used to each other safely). This sounded a little intimidating with two large dogs in our very small house, but I figured for a little while we could manage anything.

IMG_9203We got Mr. Moe home and settled into the one room of our house that has a door, where we all took turns hanging out with him and bonding. We realized right away that he was a great dog, very affectionate and eager to connect with people, quite mellow, and just thrilled to have a lap to rest his big old head on. We didn’t like the name Mr. Moe but also didn’t think we’d be allowed to change it. To soften it a bit, my daughter started calling him Momo, and that name stuck (although we didn’t know it at the time, foster families are welcome to change a pet’s name to whatever fit’s the dog’s personality, a fun benefit of fostering).

Slowly we introduced the dogs to each other on leash, and Reno was eager to launch into high-energy play, while Momo didn’t seem to know what to make of the situation. He appeared friendly enough though, and over the course of a week, we gave the dogs more and more face to face time with both on leash, until we were able to confidently let them be in the room together freely. We took intros slowly and made Reno back off of playing, because it was clear Momo didn’t know how to play (yet!). Reno was great about respecting our boundary that Momo was not to be played with.IMG_9268

And the small animals? We did the same slow introductions with the cat, using crate and leash as tools, and Momo proved to be very perceptive in understanding that the cat was not to be messed with. We didn’t bother introducing him to the rabbits since we figured it was unlikely his new home would have that kind of furry friend, but when he viewed them through their fence or through the window, he was respectful and calm. Also, it only took a short time (and some guidance and supervision from us) for Momo and Reno to develop a gentle play style together that helped introduce Momo to the world of doggy play.

PB SOC asked us to send a great photo and description of Momo to be posted on the shelter website, and we did so right away. I took probably 50 photos to get a couple of good ones for his shelter profile, and my daughter and I wrote up the very best description of him we could, highlighting his great behavior around our dog, cat, and kids. We had started training him with our daughter’s help right away, and he was a quick learner of all his basic commands, on top of being affectionate and well-behaved, so it was easy to make him sound appealing. One of his biggest challenges, oddly enough, was learning to walk on the hardwood floors in our house. Lots of treats and patience were a big help in training him to overcome that fear, and by the end of a week, he could walk pretty confidently on all floor surfaces.

It only took a few days in our home for Momo to start feeling like a family member. This being our first foster experience, we all struggled with the idea of giving him up, and we wondered how we’d possibly find the right family for him. Luckily we weren’t alone in that endeavor. PB SOC oversaw screening of potential families, and we were very lucky that because of Momo’s appealing photo and bio, he got applications for meet and greets quickly. One application stood out though, a family looking for a dog companion for their two other dogs–one who could respect an elderly cat as well. Their commitment to their current and past pets impressed me on paper.

IMG_9181We scheduled a meeting, and it was love at first sight. Momo had a tendency to cower and run from some men, and even though he cowered at first meeting with the man in his potential family, he clearly overcame that fear right away. He spent a good part of their meeting sitting close and gazing lovingly at the guy. More important though, I felt like his true family had arrived. All my worries about never finding people “good enough” for him vanished, because they were sitting right in front of me, and I could see that Momo felt it too. With tears in our eyes, we sent Momo off to live with his new forever family.

Over a year later, Momo is living out his happily ever after with his family. His name is Oliver now, and with care and exercise, he’s gone from being a big, brawny guy to being a very big, strong, brawny guy. He does beautifully at the obedience classes he attends, and he is a wonderful companion. We’ve stayed in touch with his family and count them as friends now. I love getting photo and video updates of Oliver (who can often be found zooming around the house with his chihuahua playmate).

I really can’t think of many things in my life I’ve done that have been more rewarding than providing a temporary home to Momo/Oliver and the dogs that have come to us since. We’ve fostered many more dogs since, thanks to my husband’s infinite patience with my desire to help more animals. It’s never easy to give them up, and each dog brings along challenges to overcome, but each one has made us better dog people and has expanded our circle of friends and life experiences in ways we could not have imagined.

If you’re curious about how fostering might fit into your own life,
please contact sacramentocountydogs@gmail.com with questions.

Oliver and his adoptive family:

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With first the help of his foster brother, Reno, and then his adopted canine siblings, Bert and Jade, doggy play comes naturally for Oliver these days.