Written by Kirsten Stade of Peaceful Dog blog
The loud chorus of barking followed by the resounding crash of the gate to my front yard flying open told me that my foster dog, Fozzie Bear, had again broken out. Experience told us that he would be back, but not until he’d had a blast zooming all over the neighborhood and letting every outdoor cat within a half mile know he was there.
Fozzie was the mastiff-pit-something-mix foster dog we’d had for about three months. We’d gotten him when we made a trip to the shelter, resolved to rescue and foster a middle-aged, medium-sized, calm, highly adoptable female. But Fozzie, a large, unruly, solidly built, powerfully headstrong adolescent male, was the dog who needed rescuing. He’d failed his temperament evaluation due to his abundance of energy — which, while totally good-natured, was more than most adopters wanted to handle — and was literally hours away from death. When Fozzie, or Bullet, as they called him in the shelter, stuck his tongue out to kiss us between the bars of his cage on death row, then flung himself onto his back for a belly rub, we knew we had to accept this slight change in plan.
We’d hoped for a quick turnaround time on this foster dog, as we knew fostering was hard on our own two senior dogs. Not surprisingly, Fozzie was not that easy-to-place dog we’d hoped for. In the Washington DC area, the shelters are filled with big, muscular pit bull-type dogs. Add to the mix a healthy dose of behavioral issues, and the fact that he’s an adolescent male, and you’ve got a recipe for a long-term foster project.
So it was that three months after that trip to the shelter, we still had Fozzie when something so excited him that he made a break from our yard. Not willing to wait until he’d had his fill of terrorizing whatever fauna had sparked his interest, I followed, and after 20 minutes of crashing through the woods in the dark in my suburban neighborhood, I caught up to Fozzie in a neighbor’s backyard. Flattened into a playful crouch, grinning broadly, his tongue extending nearly to the ground, he lay not 5 feet from a tall, scrawny, off-white dog who gave off a potent smell and was also smiling and panting up a storm. Not knowing where this dog came from, I thought maybe he would follow me home so I could get a better look at him. Once I leashed up Fozzie, sure enough, the white dog followed along behind us and even came right into my front yard.
Once I was able to get a good look at him, I saw that he was a beautiful, but very skinny and very dirty white shepherd. He had obviously been on the streets for some time, and he stank to high heaven. He was wearing a collar, but when I reached out to see if there was any identification, this dog wasn’t having any of it. His nip towards my arm, while it did no damage, let me know that I would have to use more subtle methods to approach this dog.
That evening, I sat on the porch and tossed bits of hot dog his way as he looked at me warily and snatched up every bit. By the next day, I was able to touch him, and finally see that he had no tags or identification. I was even able to stroke him lightly under his chin. The next day, I was able to give him a bath, put a leash on him, and take him to the shelter to get scanned for a microchip (of which there was none). I also named him Lars.
Whatever experiences had led to Lars being abandoned, or escaping from owners who failed to respond to my online lost dog advertisements, had also left him a fearful and wary dog. Though he soon reached the point with me where he’d flop over onto his back joyously and stick his head in my lap, he remained skittish with everyone else. He loved other dogs — he and Fozzie spent every possible moment romping, wrestling, running, and tearing my yard to smithereens — but couldn’t be trusted around kids or in crowds. Like Fozzie, he had potential adopters, but the interest dissipated once they realized how much work Lars was going to require. Lars would need an adopter of unusual sensitivity and experience, and much as I wanted to place him, I was not going to place him in a home that might let him down the way he’d been let down before.
Lars’ forever home finally showed up in the form of a woman who loved white shepherds, already had three white dogs, and was ready to add to her pack. She has a large fenced yard where he runs with his buddies, sparing Lars the stresses of urban leash walks. His mom is utterly committed to her dogs, and doesn’t mind that Lars is not your all-around well-adjusted family dog.
And Fozzie? He’s right here with us. Two years after we determined to get him adopted as quickly as possible, that impulsive, “unadoptable” pit-mix pup is an indispensable member of our family. We rejoice in the juxtaposition between his awe-inspiring Olympic bodybuilder physique and his velvety-soft mouth and sensitive nature.
He hasn’t rescued any more dogs of his own, but he does play nicely with the foster dogs I bring home, while giving them gentle tutelage in adjusting to life with people. He is still impulsive and “a lot of dog,” as the shelter worker who helped us rescue him said, but he is also one of the most loving and intelligent dogs I have ever met.
While I certainly remember the feeling of urgently wanting to place Fozzie and return to my household’s pre-Fozzie state of calm — and relate to that feeling still on many days — I’m so glad that we rescued him, and that he rescued Lars. Those are two beings that needed to remain alive on this planet, and because of a couple of lucky accidents, they are alive and bringing joy to their people to this day. Brought to you by The Great Animal Rescue Chase