It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Foxie.
I knew that I wanted to write about my rescue dog adoption experience but it took a while for me to figure out what approach to take. I knew straight away that I didn’t want to delve headfirst into the “adopt don’t shop” debate. There is already a lot of quality content out there, particularly Unleashed, End Cruelty and Pet Rescue. Nor did it feel apt to take an analytical approach to what lies behind the human-dog relationship. In the end it felt right to take a very personal approach and simply share my experience with you.
This isn’t going to be another finger-poking, tut-tutting, guilt-trip on why you should adopt a rescue dog instead of buying a puppy from a breeder so please keep reading. That being said, yes I do think that people should adopt a rescue dog instead of buying a dog from a breeder. In my view, why buy a dog from a breeder when there are hundreds (if not more) dogs in rescue shelters and pounds being put down (often unnecessarily) every week? These dogs need us and should be our first priority. But I also think that everyone is entitled to their own views and to make their own decisions. However, this decision should be the result of careful consideration on the latest and most accurate information available. There is no valid excuse for blissful ignorance.
…everyone is entitled to their own views and to make their own decision. However, this decision should be the result of careful consideration on the latest and most accurate information available.
I’m all about keeping it real. Adopting a rescue dog isn’t for everyone and it doesn’t always have a warm and fuzzy ending (both literally and figuratively see for example ‘What I’ve Learned About Adopting a Dog…the Hard Way’). Nor should it be a hasty decision (even though ours was but every situation is unique). You don’t need me to tell you that getting a dog, especially adopting a rescue dog is a big decision that requires a lot of thought (but there you go I’ve told you anyway).
I must emphasise that no one should even consider purchasing a dog from a pet shop or from online classifies such as EBay and Gumtree. Most (if not all) of these dogs, particularly the puppies, are sourced from puppy farms. To find out more about the puppy farm issue, I recommend this recent news article from the SMH ‘Cruelty, squalor, disease at puppy factories in NSW detailed in RSPCA report’ (please note that it contains material that some may find confronting).
What a tale she has to tell! Foxie is a rescue dog and (like most rescue dogs) we don’t know a lot about her history. I burn with curiosity and have so many unanswered questions. How many owners has she had and what were they like? When is her birthday? Has she had any puppies? Why doesn’t she bark and why is she obsessed with human food?
Here is what we do know. She is (most likely) a ten year old Fox Terrier/Corgie cross. According to her first adoption profile:
“Foxie was found on a lovely person’s doorstep on New Year’s Day. Luckily for her the family took her inside and tried their best to find her owner as she wasn’t microchipped. Eventually she had to go to the local pound but the wonderful family contacted No Kill Pet Rescue to let us know that there was a scared blind dog at the pound who needed us and they hoped we would be able to help as they knew she is one very special girl.”
Imagine that. What would you have done in this situation? What would have happened if she had been found on a different doorstep? So many questions! God’s grace and sovereignty never ceases to astound me. That January 1st truly was the start of something new not only for Foxie but for everyone in her life.
Nothing could have prepared me for the moment when I suddenly stumbled on footage of her in the pound before she was rescued. She was so thin. Tears immediately welled up and it felt like a cold hand gripped and was methodically dismantling my heart. She was quietly standing at the front of her long and narrow concrete and brick pen when a hand reaches out and gently rubs her chin. Although she was blind it didn’t take her long to tell that Heidi from No Kill Pet Rescue was there. Her tail immediately started swishing from side to side and she gave the hand a few licks. You can see her lightbulb moment. She starts to steadily pace back and forth ‘looking’ for a way to get closer to them, poking her nose through and hopping up onto the wire to get closer to and gently lick the affectionate hand. Incidentally, that footage was posted on my sister’s last birthday who would go on to adopt her and become her Mum/pack leader. Foxie was soon rescued from Hawkesbury pound by Heidi.
If that wasn’t astounding enough, there is much more to Foxie’s tale. After being rescued from the pound, Foxie went into foster care with Nerida, a volunteer foster carer with No Kill Pet Rescue. Not only did she spend a lot of time, effort and money to get Foxie happy and healthy again, she had the difficult task of finding a permanent home for her. In June 2014, only a short distance from my apartment, Foxie was at Furever Pet adoptions in the hope that the people she met there would adopt her. She met lots of lovely people who donated to her cause but she was not adopted that day. After many months of campaigning, and despite her sweet and gentle nature, no one had expressed a genuine interest in adopting Foxie. The fact that she was blind made people hesitant and the adoption process more difficult.
In response, a fundraising campaign was launched to raise enough money so that Foxie could have the surgery that she needed to be able to see again and to have some tumours removed:
“This year for Christmas Foxie, a blind homeless doggie in the care of Furever Pets and No Kill Pet Rescue has asked for a special present, she would like to be able to see from one of her eyes in the hopes it will help her find a family.”
Thanks to the generosity of strangers and Foxie’s supporters the campaign was successful. In August 2014 Foxie underwent surgery and Nerida announced that her sight was restored in both eyes:
“We have never eagerly awaited a phone call as much we did today from Foxie’s surgeon. The operation to remove both cataracts was successful and she has VISION in BOTH EYES!!!…We had faith this would be the right thing for her, her heart was so full of light whilst her eyes were dark. Not any more Foxie Lady, your world will be a bright place.“
Despite this, Foxie remained unadopted. But don’t worry. God had it all planned out. He was waiting for the exact right time and would continue to bless Foxie and those in her life.
The next chapter
We were not allowed to have furry pets growing up. Fish are nice but it is just not the same as having a dog which we so desperately wanted. So I had no idea how to be around animals and at times was sacred stiff of dogs.
My father died on the morning of 29th October 2014. In my sister’s mind this opened the door to getting a dog. In my mind, this was folly. I thought it was the shock and grief talking and so I didn’t take her seriously. My sister was one of Dad’s careers throughout his illness and I put the desire to adopt a dog down to her need to fill that space. To be honest, I tried to talk her out of it. At the time I thought I was being practical and logical. I thought that my sister was being selfish and that we would only be doing wrong by any dog we adopted. However, this was lesson number 1 that Foxie taught me. Sometimes not everything has to be “practical” or “logical” in order for it to be a good thing. Foxie was just what we needed but I wasn’t able to see it at the time.
I remember it vividly. My Mum, sister and I had just found a suitable place to inter Dad’s remains. We were slowly walking back to our car when Alison showed me Foxie’s second adoption profile. Alison was singing her praises and I read her description and saw photos. After that, I knew resistance would be futile and my head started to give way to my heart.
Yet for some reason I still thought we wouldn’t end up adopting Foxie. Not long after, I received a text message stating that Mum and Alison went to visit Foxie at Nerida’s. I was shocked and before I knew it my sister adopted Foxie just before Christmas. Foxie had had a challenging life and maybe she needed a family who had experience with life’s challenges which was why we were the ones to relate to and then adopt her. And you know what. I’m so glad we did, because otherwise I wouldn’t have experienced such joy and learnt some valuable lessons.
The day I met Foxie
I couldn’t believe that we had a dog. I got out of the car and Alison was standing with her in the driveway – a real life dog. She was telling her about me and saying “Look Foxie, here is your Aunty Claire!” Fox wagged her tail profusely and lapped up my pats. I couldn’t remember a time when I had seen my sister so happy. All a sudden the house was full of dog things. She had two beds, a pile of treats and toys and other canine paraphernalia. Needless to say I was instantly smitten.
Its funny, Foxie seemed to be so different that day compared to every other day since. She wanted to be near me and we cuddled on the couch where she had a nap in my arms. She has hardly ever done so since – probably because she is now so settled and confident. Foxie will come up to you, sniff your hands to see if you have food and, if you’re empty handed, will simply walk away shrugging off any pats. Don’t get me wrong. Foxie is a lovely dog and loves us very much just in her own way and probably not how most dog demonstrate love and affection.
That being said I am the only one who walks her and it has created a unique bond between us. When I say walk what I really mean is a series of long sniffs punctuated by brief moments of plodding along. Approximately 10 seconds into a sniff-fest she will totally forget that I am even there and that she is on a lead until she snaps back into reality and looks up at me with a “Oh hello, I didn’t know you were here and that we were on a walk but it is nice to see you!” expression on her face only for the process to repeat itself moments later. It is a different story, however, when we finally reach the oval. I let her off the lead and most (if not all) of her focus is on me and she will trot after me and we get quite playful.
As I’m sure you can probably already tell, Foxie is not what anyone would describe as a ‘normal’ dog. Rather, she is wonderfully weird. For starters I don’t think Foxie realises that she is in fact a dog. As I mentioned earlier, she is obsessed with human food. When we put her bowl of dog food down she briefly sniffs at it then looks directly up at us as if to say “Um, this is dog food where is my serve of your dinner?” Nor does she bark. In fact, I have only ever heard her bark twice. The first time was when I picked her up for the first time which made me exclaim “Oh my gosh she is actually a real dog!” The second time was when we were finishing up a walk and she saw a cat underneath a car. I looked around trying to find the dog that was barking and then looked down and was shocked to find that it was in fact my own! To top it off she has zero interest in toys and barely notices other dogs.
Everyone who meets Foxie is struck my her gentle and calm nature. She seems to take everything in her stride and she is a very independent soul. It seems like she is in her own little world of contentedness and is perfectly happy to totter around from sleeping spot to sleeping spot.
I am all too aware that this is already a long post, and, therefore, I will restrict its remainder to a few key events and focus on how Foxie has changed not only my life for the better but also that of my family.
In order to better understand the effect Foxie has had you need to know a bit more background info. The past two years have been incredibly difficult. Life before that had been very difficult, but the start of 2013 and the end of 2014 took hardship and suffering to a whole new level. My experience of grief and trauma can be summarized and encapsulated in one word – surprising. It is nothing like I expected.
In the weeks after Dad’s death I was in shock and running on auto-pilot. A lot needs to be done when someone dies. There was no time or opportunity to grieve and mourn. Then when Mum was hospitalised I went numb and all my time and energy went into surviving and getting through each minute in one piece. It took months until I was in a place where I could start to actually feel anything. But by then I felt like I was on my own. A lot of my support network had moved on and thought I had too.
The grief and trauma started to consume and isolate me. Life ground to a halt. Everything (even the ‘simplest’ of tasks) was a struggle. I didn’t have the physical energy or mental space for daily tasks let alone the complicated ones that loomed over me. I felt like a robot. I would put on a mask of a functional person when I needed to. I went to work, I saw my psychologist, I went to dancing, I went to church. I scraped by and tried to be normal. But I couldn’t get out of bed for days afterwards.
I still struggle with this every day. At the moment my life is about getting through the next minute, the next hour, the next day, the next week or the next month. Next year and the future is little more than an abstract distant thought. I need time – a lot of it. This would have been a much more bleak picture if it weren’t for Foxie. She makes us laugh and it hard to be sad for long with her cuteness and antics.
Some lessons are hard to take. I crave affection but she is not an ‘affectionate’ dog in the typical way. That is just the way it is and it is helping me to develop the ability to be intrinsically rather than extrinsically comforted. One day, I could not contain my pain and emotions anymore and they exploded in a fit of tears and hyperventaliting. To my shock, Foxie immediately woke up, got up out of bed and quickly walked over to me and just quietly stood still at my feet. She had never done that before. For a dog who can’t see or hear particularly well she was very attentive to my emotions. She stood there with me mindlessly patting her until the tears stopped and my breathing returned to normal before resuming her nap, keeping one eye and ear in my direction until she nodded off. That was a very powerful moment that I will never forget. It seemed so out of character for both of us and it reminded me that people (and dogs) can always surprise you.
Christmas Eve 2014
Foxie has changed who I am and how I see myself and the world. I had an epiphany last Christmas Eve. I was sitting in an empty waiting room at the vet. I didn’t know what was going to happen from one second to the next and that weighed heavily on me. My father had just died, my mother was in hospital, my relationship with my sister was under strain and my friends were away.
Prior to Dad’s death, my coping strategy involved putting all of my time and energy into keeping my life together and moving forward through adversity. But afterwards I was exhausted and I couldn’t do that anymore. So suddenly I had no coping strategy and at that very moment it felt like my world was collapsing in around me. I felt so alone and vulnerable. I didn’t know what to do and I had no control. I had this small sick dog cradled in my arms and I felt helpless. I looked at her, fighting back tears, and she looked at me with such a calm, comfortable and trusting expression. I was overwhelmed by that look. She was more vulnerable than me yet she was so serene and quietly confident. How can anyone be so trusting particularly given what she had been through? I wanted to be that forgiving and that trusting. She barely knew me but I could tell that she loved me. I realised that I had so much to learn and that God had placed her in my life to give me an opportunity to learn some important lessons. In that moment I truly realised that I had to learn to fully trust and rely on God instead of trying to sort my life out myself. Foxie made that Christmas bearable.
I love graduations and earlier this year I graduated for a second time, which was just as, if not more significant than the first, considering what I had had to overcome in order to complete the degree. Yes we celebrated but Foxie had been very sick and was on our minds the whole time. We didn’t know if she was going to make it and I could not cope with the thought of her dying. I hadn’t been able to see her for what felt like ages and so I turned down a celebratory graduation lunch in favour of going straight to the vet to see her. Foxie had always been there for me and I wanted to be there for her. She was so shaky and had a pained expression on her face. Thankfully she accepted my offering of chicken and a few minutes into our cuddle I could feel her getting more relaxed and comforted. I gently held her close and prayed with all my might demanding that God heal her. I had already experienced so much loss and pain and losing Fox would be the last straw. It has been a long journey but Foxie is now on the road to recovery and will (hopefully!) stay a happy and well little dog.
Thank you to that family on whose doorstep our precious little Fox was found. Thank you for your compassion. Your decision has had a lasting impact on so many. Thank you to Heidi who visited and rescued Fox from the pound. Thank you for looking past all the difficulties to see dogs for what they really are and need. Thank you to Nerida who was an outstanding foster carer and for introducing her to us and entrusting her to our care. Thank you to everyone at No Kill Pet Rescue and Furever Pets and particularly to those who gave money so that Foxie could have the surgery that has made her life so much better. Thank you to Kirrawee Vet Hospital for being so accommodating towards us and for taking such good care of Foxie through all of her health struggles. Thank you also to those at Sydney University Vet Hospital who looked after her during her most recent surgery.
My heart, thoughts and prayers also go out to those who were a part of Foxie’s life before the events related above. May God bless you and give you comfort that she is a very happy, happy, loved and spoiled precious little Fox.
Want to find out more and what you can do?
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No Kill Pet Rescue saved Foxie and thousands of other wonderful dogs. NKPR relies on donations from the public to rescue and help dogs like Foxie recover from neglect and abuse to be rehomed to live the life that they need and deserve. New dogs regularly become available for fostering or adoption.
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