Miss Dorie came to Monadnock Humane Society with several other chihuahuas from a hoarding situation. MHS volunteer Wendy offered to foster her even though she already had four large dogs at home. Dorie was extremely withdrawn and needed special attention. Wendy was working from home due to the pandemic, and she felt she could manage the extremely shy chihuahua and help her emerge from her shell.
This was uncharted territory for Wendy. She only had experience caring for large dogs. This little pup was approximately ten pounds and would be a completely different experience. Also, Wendy had worked with dogs at MHS who were emotionally “shut down” where she would sit in a room reading/talking to the dog, but it was not often. This was going to be a new journey for Wendy, but she was determined to be a great foster mom and help this little girl.
When Dorie went home with Wendy, she stayed to the back of her crate, shaking non-stop. She was terrified of noise, movement and human touch. Wendy was worried about her, and did her best to keep her in a quiet, small space that she could explore when she was ready. For the first day or two when Wendy entered the room Dorie would run into her crate and hide. Wendy would sit on the floor, read to her and talk softly to her. Slowly she began to come out to sniff Wendy’s shoes and would bravely sniff a little further into the room each time.
Wendy began to pick her up (which she did not like initially) and would hold her in a blanket, talking to her and stroking her under her chin and behind her ears. In doing this, Dorie’s body would relax. Over time she enjoyed being held, and would fall asleep in Wendy’s lap.
The MHS shelter staff graciously helped Wendy with her concerns knowing she wasn’t accustomed to fostering a small dog. They advised her on how much and what kind of food to give her to help with any digestive issues. Things were progressing nicely…or at least Wendy thought so. Then she began to hear stories about the other chihuahuas from the same hoarding case who were being fostered at other homes. Wendy read about how other dogs from the original group were more outgoing and seemed to be adapting quicker. She became disheartened and her immediate reaction was to wonder if she was doing something wrong. Dorie was taking a lot more time than the others to emerge…physically and emotionally. She had heard it could take months and sometimes even years for a traumatized dog to come out of her shell and trust a person. She remained committed to caring for Dorie and giving her everything she needed – especially love and attention.
At some point, Wendy began to see a parallel between herself and Dorie. Wendy had come from a family with five siblings. She herself tended to be more introverted and her siblings were much more outgoing. She recognized that Dorie was more like her. This realization combined with her experience in the field of social work gave Wendy more insight into how to care for Dorie. She needed to give Dorie the time she needed to adjust to a new life, to trust humans and to come out of her shell in her own way. In fact, she felt a closer bond to Dorie knowing they shared similar personality traits.
Over time, and given the patience and understanding she needed, Dorie became a brave little dog. She would come closer and closer to Wendy, and the first time Wendy saw her play with a toy, Wendy cried. Dorie began to run zoomies and feel good about herself. She began to explore more, and became more confident. She also became more affectionate and cuddled, climbed, played, rode in the car, went into the yard, walked a little on a leash, gave kisses and even barked now and again. She had become the dog she was meant to be. And, Wendy was falling in love with her.
But, Wendy knew deep down that her life circumstances (working full time again, caring for her 4 other dogs, volunteering, and all that comes with running a household) would not allow her to give Dorie the love, time and attention she needed and so deserved.
Wendy had been sharing Dorie’s story with her work team and sent them pictures of her progress throughout her journey. When she told them that she decided Dorie needed a permanent home, one of her teammates told her that they wanted to adopt Dorie. It was bittersweet for Wendy to say “goodbye” to Dorie, but she also knew that Dorie would finally have the loving home and family she needed.
Dorie’s new family tells her that their lives have significantly changed for the better since she joined them. She continues to be a delight and enjoys a good cuddle – something that she was fearful of just months before. She fills a void they never knew they had. They couldn’t love her more and she continues to inspire and teach them new things.
As she reflects back on her “Small Dog Foster Experience,” Wendy is mostly grateful to Dorie for helping her to see how she and Dorie were similar and reminded her of how important it is to pay attention to pets as individuals. In doing so we help them become who they are meant to be. An important concept for humans, as well!
If you are interested in fostering a pet, please contact Ashley Okola at MHS (Ashleyo@humanecommunity.org). If you would like to support the important work of Monadnock Humane Society, please visit the MHS website to make a donation – www.monadnockhumanesociety.org.