Sweet Viva has been in her forever home for just about a month. Her mom has sent us a number of updates and all has gone well. They adore Viva and clearly Viva knows she is home. As usual I was worried about the transition since Viva had behavioral issue and she had been with us for well over a year. Luckily I had nothing to worry about. Since we were so specific in making sure she went to the right home she didn't miss a beat.
In waiting for her ideal home, a lot of what we were looking for had to do with the environment and how it was set up so she that could be successful. I cannot stress how important the environmental set up is for a dog. While we were a good enough foster home for Viva, our environmental set up was not great for her. What do I mean by this? Well, she needed a quiet fairly dog free area in which to live. Viva's main behavioral issue was extreme dog reactivity with unknown dogs. We live in an urban area with lots of dogs. We also have a very small backyard and Viva was also uncomfortable with Catty. Finally we work full time and Viva does have some separations distress which increased from our work schedule. So, while we did our best to work with this set up it still created stress for Viva.
As I said, we knew we needed to find a different environmental setup for her and that's what we did. She now lives in a quiet suburban neighborhood, has a large fully fenced backyard with a doggie door, no dogs along the fence lines and a very laid back/gentle older rat terrier brother. Her mom is also retired so, she is home with the dogs for a bulk of the days. And we wanted a family that had terrier experience which Viva's family has. They've had jack russell and rat terriers and all of their dogs came from the shelter or rescue organizations like New Rattitude. Clearly we love terriers but, they are not a breed for everyone and with Viva she needed someone who understood the terrier traits and general temperament.
Here's Viva on her first day and she was in heaven with hunting in her new backyard.
First night and she loves her fancy new bed. Viva's parents allow dogs on the furniture but, due to an incident with Catty back in July Viva has always made the decision to rest on a bed on the floor. The incident was that Catty was sleeping on a chair, Viva didn't know she was there and jumped up. This created an unpleasant experience for Viva (and it's an example of why Viva and Catty were never left alone, unsupervised) and that one event had kept her off the furniture. We had disclosed this information to Viva's parents and they said no worries and bought Viva this fancy bed so she had her safe place. She's always welcome on the furniture at her new home but, her parents wanted to offer her choice and that was a wonderful decision. Giving Viva choice has clearly helped in her transition.
When Viva first came into foster care in August of 2015 she was strung out from shelter stress. The shelter experience was not kind to sweet Viva and we quickly began working with her to reduce her stress and provide her new choices and then reinforcing those choices. One of the new choices/skills was learning "go to mat". Viva caught on quick to this and it provided a lot of things for her. It gave her a safe place to go, kept her from having to share space with D'light and Catty and finally in the kitchen (and other rooms) she was never under foot because she would station on her mat. Here's an early blog post talking about "go to mat" & other skills What are we putting in Viva's tool box? Part 1
During the application process we are very transparent. We have a lot to say and we want interaction with an applicant. We want to make sure the applicant is the right home for the foster dog and that the foster dog is the right dog for the applicant. So, we do ask about deal breakers and general concerns they have about a dog coming into the home. Then we talk about this with the applicant. We also have another New Rattitude volunteer who is our adoption coordinator who also drills down to sort out if this is a good match. Something that came up in the application process was around Viva in the kitchen. Viva's new mom hoping Viva wasn't an "under the foot" dog. I said "nope and Viva will impress you with her skills". I had told Viva's family about "go to mat" and that I would send Viva's mat home with her.
Below is Viva on her first day in the kitchen at her home. Her mom was so impressed that Viva would wait on her mat. This skill was important for Viva to feel safe by consistently having a safe place to be. It also gave one of many opportunities for Viva to connect with her family. Her mom was so thrilled with this behavior that increased her connection to Viva - a connection built on happiness, trust and excitement. This is why I believe skill building is so important in foster care and why we are only foster one dog at a time. Skill building takes time and with our schedules and two personal dog we only have so much time. With increasing positive indoor/outdoor skills, the easier the transition of the adoption and the quicker the relationship can be established between the foster dog and their new family. That's what we want!
I'm going to digress... As a foster parent Brett and I have the mindset that the foster dogs are not our dogs. We are pet sitting this dog until we can find them a forever home. This mindset helps a lot with "letting the dog go". And the reality is that we don't want to keep our foster dogs as we have two of our own dogs and that's plenty. We are just a bridge to help a dog in need. What we do is provide basic needs (food, safety and shelter) to the foster dogs and work to help expand their world while they are in our care. Some dogs that we foster are what we call "drop in dogs" meaning they don't have behavioral issue just bad luck of ending up in a shelter and will transition easily into a new home. Other foster dogs are on a spectrum of behavioral issues. I feel that it's our job as foster parents to work on these behaviors while they are in our care. No dog is perfect ( and we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking they are. When dogs are adopted they may still have behavioral issues (like Viva) but, that's why we are transparent and why we keep working on better alternative behaviors while the dog is in foster care with us. So really with all the dogs we are trying to help them improve their skills as they interact with us humans and other dogs. This means working on indoor and outdoor skills which create, improve and solidify desired behaviors.
Here's Viva and her brother Jack. This was on the first day and all has gone well with these two. We were pretty sure Viva would do just fine with a mellow/laid back dog and that was correct.
Viva's mom let us know that they are just smitten with this sweet girl and they could not have found a better dog! Way to go Viva you are an amazing girl who has found an amazing family!
Happy, happy story for all of us but, most of all for sweet Viva!