Black and White, Right and Wrong – and everything in between

Bea, Beatrice, Beeee-Beeee.

She came to us at the end of May, hugely pregnant. 12 hours later, gave birth to 11 puppies. She’s a small dog; 11 puppies is a lot for any dog, but a little one like Bea, how is this even possible. Bea was an amazing mama – every single puppy thrived, even the two scrawny, skinny, littles.

While we focus on puppy development, I use the 8 or 9 weeks of puppy growth to tell Mama’s story too. But with 11 puppies, it was difficult to give Bea her 15 minutes of fame. She was ok with that; she hung back. I should have recognized this…

All of the pups found their forever homes. It took some time, and it was kind of a slow roll-out of puppies going to their homes – actually just perfect to give adopters time and information to get the puppies appropriately acclimated.

Again, Bea took a backseat. But I wasn’t worried. She’s a small dog. Right now, in ‘the industry’, shelters are full of big dogs. A small dog adoption should have been quick and easy.

After the puppies went to their homes, Bea started to show us her true colors. She was not too happy to share space with another dog. Ok, we can work with that! While we searched for a ‘no other dogs’ household, we worked on getting her more comfortable with our dogs. That was going well.

We had some adoption applications. To be honest, right now, adopters have their pick. There are A LOT of dogs available for adoption. So, full transparency of Bea’s skills – would do best as an only dog, unknown if she’s ok with cats – were deterrents to getting folks interested in this amazing little dog.

And we constantly reminded ourselves that we would wait for the best fit for Bea. Even if that meant another mom and puppies would have to remain in a shelter. We definitely operate under the edict that the dogs in our care, get their best care. Yes, this is a position of privilege, yes this means, at worst, moms & puppies are being euthanized, at best, they are growing up in a shelter (not the best…), but at least they’re alive, with the hope of adoption. This is a level of stress for us, but nothing near what shelter staff go through every day, making the euthanasia decisions and then being present for a dog who is being euthanized. All of that deserves a post of its own…

Last weekend, we received a great application for Bea. As usual, I held my breath through the email communications to coordinate a visit. Would this be ‘the one’? When they asked about the process and if there would be multiple visits before she could go home with them, I found my heart in my throat. I follow my gut; the goal is to get dogs into great homes; I have to let the process play out.

The in-person meeting was absolutely perfect. Bea RAN into their laps. She loved their daughter. Everything went great. Why NOT make this adoption happen?

This family had a lot of things going for them, looked great on paper. But they’d been denied or passed over for other adoptions because of the age of their daughter. At this moment in animal welfare, while there is more supply than demand, you’d think that they would have found their match. Yet, they had not. I was grateful.

I do not have hard and fast rules about kid’s ages, or fencing requirements, or number of hours the owners will be at home. Again, I follow my gut. If the adopting family has a plan, and most importantly, if they communicate well with each other, I give it a try. Yes, I have denied adoptions, not because of the age of the kid or that they all work full time, but because they say things like ‘we’ll figure it out when it happens’. RED FLAG!!!!! My puppies (and mamas) are awesome and they would acclimate to this, but they shouldn’t have to. Likewise for my mama dogs, maybe even more so…

Bottom line – I sent Bea home with this amazing family, on the spot. With all of our adopters, we try to build enough of a relationship so that when we ask for updates, we get them, willingly. Bea’s first day went great – she loved the cats, no accidents in the house, slept through the night on a dog bed, not even needing a crate.

I breathed easier, and said YES to foster another mom and her puppies. The need is so great right now, how could I take a break?

Then, two days later, I got a text that Bea had escaped, was lost, the authorities had been alerted, the adopters would keep me posted. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced these emotions – I questioned my initial adoption decision, at the same time I could not even imagine the anxiety that Bea was feeling out there in the world alone and so scared, and so mad at myself for taking this chance, putting Bea in danger, at the same time realizing that at our current animal welfare situation, chances are necessary. All of that went through my mind in about 2 seconds.

OMFG. What to do?

The most important thing was to get Bea to safety. I knew that Bea wasn’t bonded with her new owners yet, so the only 2 people on this planet who could find her and comfort her were me and Kevin.

In the middle of our workday, we dropped everything and started searching. (It’s pretty amazing that we both work for incredible organizations who understand ‘family’ is more than just the humans in the house.) So, we started to follow the leads of people reporting sightings of our little Bea. We walked creek trails and talked to everyone we met, asking about a little brown dog. Nothing, absolutely nothing. At one point, in the heat of the afternoon, I yelled her name into the universe and just crumpled into a sobbing mess. How could I have failed her so badly.

We drove around, we yelled her name, we followed the social media leads, we tried to think like a dog.

And then.

‘I saw her at 4:30 at Raley’s’. We circled that parking lot. ‘Bea, come on, let’s go, Bea’

‘I just saw her 5 minutes ago in the Kaiser parking lot.’ A tour bus emptied, family picking up family, no way was Bea going to show her face in the middle of all that commotion.

We walked the train tracks, some huge shepherds running in the open field. No way was Bea going to show her face in the middle of all that commotion.

We drove, we cried into the night, we KNEW that she was close, we knew that we would not leave without her.

And then.

The owners of the shepherds said, ‘there she is! She ran that way!’

Kevin and I had split up at that point. He was at one end of the industrial parking lots, calling her name, with his special whistle. Bea shot out of the bushes, straight toward him. The SMART train went by, scaring her back into the shrubs. But the bond we’d built, was just too strong. In tears, sitting in the middle of dark parking lot, Kevin called for her and whistled for her and she jumped into his lap.

I eventually caught up, sobbing. Kevin said, ‘hurry, she wants you, but I’m not letting go.’

This little brown dog finally relaxed in our arms, covered our faces in kisses and probably wondered what the heck was going on.

And there’s more.

Now that Bea was safe and had consumed more water than we thought possible, what should we do?

I called her adopter, to let her know that Bea was found, and that we were heading to the vet. Without hesitation, she said she’d meet us there.

Together, we got the vet’s ok that Bea wasn’t dehydrated, the pads of her feet were worn, but not burned or in need of care.

So we sat in the quiet lobby, discussing what would be best for this little brown dog who had stolen our hearts.

Black and white, good and bad, right and wrong are very comfortable places for me. But in my experience, they are rare. Does one mistake ban a person from dog ownership?

Rewind to a few weeks ago. One night, my newest dog, Tashi had enjoyed a wonderful romp at the off-leash dog park which included rolling in feces – brown streaks all over her beautiful black coat. And this dog is afraid of water. We tried to bathe her in the driveway using the garden hose. Rookie move! She slipped her collar, and headed for….you guessed it…the park. I ran after her. Oh, what a fun game! Person you love is joining you on your jaunt to the park, the place of great things to roll in! Meanwhile, Kevin had hopped in the car and was able to get ahead of her. She, of course stopped and accepted his Uber back home. Relief. But that could have ended very differently. Did that experience, ban us from dog ownership?

Kevin, Bea’s adopter and I talked about all of the possibilities, all of the measures that any home for Bea would need to take. We thought about her well-being; we thought about the dogs in our care; we talked through the scenarios; we talked about the possibilities for this dog and the rewards for the family who could make it happen.

And we sent her back home with her adopters. We promised to stay in constant communication (and we have), we promised that no matter what, we were all in it for this dog. We all left our judgements and our ‘happily ever afters’ for another place and time, and moved forward, working with what was in front of us, now.

Since her return home, Bea has slipped into life at home: ate scrambled eggs on the couch, napped a lot, storytime, and lots of lap time.

Bea is loved.

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