Last year something inside me changed. I knew that I was overwhelmed with rescue work and needed a break, but I couldn’t stop rescuing. That break came inadvertently in February after my long time foster, Bunny, was adopted. That very same weekend, I had taken in Callie, a 15 year old chow mix that we found just days later to be diagnosed with renal failure. She had come from a woman who had lost everything- her husband, her home, her own health, and now she was moving again and was losing her pets. I adopted Callie because I was determined to give her the best care and treatment possible, something I was wary of expecting an adopter to do, and I wanted to help her poor “dogmom” who had cared for and loved her for so long.
My world came crashing down when Ross then put his foot down and said “no more fosters!” I didn’t realize it at the time but it was what I needed. I had been fostering so many dogs and animals, and for so long, that I was merely existing on the momentum I had created. It didn’t seem so bad to have three dogs at a time, or six foster guinea pigs in addition to my own. I was getting by and doing rescue, which I loved. I hate to see the rescue’s website looking empty and being that I have few foster homes (one at that time) to help alleviate the burden, I tried to make up for the deficit by taking in more animals and just keeping them here. What I was doing, though I wasn’t acutely aware of it at the time, was trying to bury my clinical depression in a pile of “good deeds” and work that would make me feel better. It was still there, though, and in my quiet moments I could feel it. Ross is an amazing husband and allowed me to do whatever it was that it seemed that I needed, but the stress had taken its toll on him, too.
Taking care of Callie, just one “extra” dog, was more work than all three dogs I’d been fostering when 2010 rolled in. She was constantly going to the vet’s office for bloodwork, she was on medication and supplements, had specially balanced home cooked diets that I had to make every couple days and then as time wore on and her stomach started to give her problems due to the acid reflux caused by her disease, I had to experiment with meals three times a day to try and get her to eat. After she spent a weekend at the vet getting her system flushed out, I gave Callie fluids twice a day at home until it became too much for her. She was painful and let us know how much she hated the experience despite all our efforts to use counter-conditioning and just make it as comfortable for her as possible. She would run away if she saw me walk toward the kitchen where her bags of fluid were stored. She would try to bite when I tried to insert the needle… it became a matter of medical quality of life versus emotional quality of life and there was NO winning scenario. The day we stopped Callie’s fluids, we started a downhill slide that took many days off her life. But what would those extra days have been if she was no longer interested in allowing me to pet her, if she was fearful every time she saw a bag of fluids or I simply stood and walked to the kitchen? I needed her to trust me. It was a little too late for that, unfortunately, and she and I never had the same relationship again although she was much happier once the needles and lactated ringers were put away for good.
Callie was with us for five months before the time came to say goodbye. She was not eating very well at all and had lost weight that she didn’t have to lose in the first place. I knew when I made the appointment for the vet’s office that this was probably the end for us. I was as prepared as you could be- I had five months of watching this dog survive with advanced renal disease and had seen her decline in the last few weeks. I was determined that she would not suffer. We did bloodwork that day to confirm that her kidney values were off the charts and that aside from leaving her for another weekend for an IV flush and putting her back on fluids, there was no hope at all that we would see a change. I said goodbye that day. The next morning I was back at the vet to pick up the tiny urn that now contained the dusty remnants of almost sixteen years of living, love and the wonderful dog that had come to be such a huge part of my life.
It had been five months since I was able to take on a new foster. We were adopting out- slowly- some of our long term guinea pig residents and we had decided to adopt our long term cat foster, Tally. My home was becoming less a place of chaos despite Callie’s enormous presence. She filled the void that fostering would have made otherwise, while at the same time making it possible to take a step back from my rescue work. When I came out of the experience with Callie, my head was more clear, I had more time on my hands, and I was a better, calmer person. Instead of go-go-going at the whirlwind pace I had previously been keeping, I was able to get out for classes with my foster dog and then my own dogs. We adopted out our long term fosters- all of them- and built a huge new cage for the guinea pigs, giving them a better life than they’d been living (not that they’d had it all that bad!) I’ve even been able to adopt a trio of senior rats for myself, because of the extra room and space. Friends and family noticed a difference in my confidence, attitude, and overall happiness. The depression I had been squashing down started to recede on its own and for the first time in a long time, I felt in control of my life. The panic and anxiety caused over my recent (and ongoing) missing dog scare has taken some of that away from me but it’s still there. The happiness that I had waited for so long to feel is right there, and in my quiet moments I can feel it.
That is how Callie rescued me.