Adopting a pet is never a decision to be taken lightly, especially a dog. On many occasions, owners are not aware of the responsibility that owning a dog requires. Sadly, when some people do come to realise the challenges, a lot of these dogs are abandoned. My family are avid dog lovers and I’m almost certain my parents love their four-legged best friends more than they do me at times. That is why when you give a passionate pooch lover too much time, they might consider another addition. But this time around was a little different for me.
To start, fostering means giving a dog in need a temporary home whilst the rescue company that you assist work to find them a loving permanent family. While my mum has previous experience fostering, this was definitely rather new for me. However, it was something I was willing to learn from.
As a student, who is now based entirely at home and online, I was home enough to put the time and attention that was needed into this decision. With life slowing down a bit, this was something that I probably would have not had the chance to do if were not for the given circumstances, so I thought why not?
Once the applications, house-checks and various other protocols went through, we were assigned our new foster rather quickly after applying. This part of the process does vary for everyone, including the time you foster the dog for.
With our current three dogs being raised from puppies and given an overwhelming amount of pampering and care – when we saw the predicament that our new addition came in, it was quite shocking. Nistor had come to us from the streets of Romania, the company we fostered him from having saved around 200 dogs just like Nistor. These dogs were about to be put down as a consequence of them taking up a lot of the street space.
Even though Nistor was only two and a half years old, he had already had a very rough start. The morning of his arrival, we had a family friend take care of our three dogs to give Nistor the space and attention he would need for the first couple of days. In addition to this, it was also important that we purchased a crate for Nistor to have as a safe space if ever needed. While this was not something we forced on him, it was something we encouraged and that he did indeed utilise quite often.
The first few days were quiet and careful as Nistor became used to his new environment and caught up on some much-needed rest. Quickly, we came to note his calm and sweet temperament and I had never encountered a softer dog. Even my own dogs were prone to temper tantrums and unsettled growling every now and then. However, not once in his entire stay with us did Nistor ever growl or do anything besides bark if he was caught off guard. Loud noises were a definite no go just till he was more settled, but we found that Nistor was typically calmer with some sort of background noise going on.
As someone who struggles with silence herself, this was something I understood most. So, a lot of classical and soft music was played non-stop around the house just to get him used to normal commotion. This was the perfect backing for studying and at first fostering a dog while still doing university online wasn’t so difficult.
Fast forward a week later and Nistor was definitely coming out of his shell. He was constantly at my feet and had become a lot more vocal. If anyone is familiar with the Husky breed, they will without a doubt have experienced their intense desire to be heard. Even with Nistor only being part Husky, he definitely had the vocal range of a purebred. He would howl, bark and whine in his desperate way to communicate which, most of the time, was his way of expressing his excitement for new things. However, when you’re in the middle of a Zoom meeting and you have a howling Husky at your feet begging to be given attention… things get a little difficult.
While Nistor was overall a well-behaved dog, there were the more difficult moments for both him and me. The most challenging part for me was understanding the difference between him and my own dogs. While I would instinctively mess around and play chase with Belle and Rosie, I quickly learnt how bizarre and actually scary something as simple as playing would be to Nistor. The first time I tried to play and jump around with him as I would my own, Nistor got very scared very quick, and it took a lot of cuddles and calm words to get him settled again.
A fair few times I had forgotten how truly insane the concept of fetch and tug of war would have been to someone who’s never experienced anything like it. While it made me more grateful for having taken Nistor out of his old environment, I felt even worse knowing that there were so many other dogs who had the same experiences he did.
Then comes the attachment issues, and yes this came from both sides. It was rather challenging to complete everyday tasks without Nistor having to be with constantly at my side. Having been on the street his entire life, Nistor was not familiar with the idea of having someone to take care of and love him. He was evidently super appreciative to have a home. He’d wag his tail and howl whenever we came home, always had to be beside us when cooking or watching tv – he even would try to follow us to the bathroom but that’s where the line was drawn. Affirmation was a big thing for Nistor and something as simple as eating required the constant reassurance of ‘good boy’.
Going out without him was also super hard as Nistor would just cry constantly. When in those first few days he appreciated the alone time, he soon came to hate it. Leaving the house without him was nearly impossible without the risk of our neighbours thinking something was going horribly wrong. University work also became a lot harder given the amount of time and attention Nistor required but with the help of family, it was all manageable. While I knew taking care of a dog took time, fostering a dog is a whole new ball game at times.
Of course, Nistor wasn’t the only one who had gotten attached. I got so used to having breakfast with him, to having him howl along to music, having him curled at my feet while doing zoom meetings and taking him along with our afternoon walks that when it came for him to go, I was devastated. Adopting him did indeed cross both my mum and I’s mind, but this was a time to be practical.
Eventually, I would be moving away for my master’s degree and already we had three dogs: one of which was still cautious with Nistor even after two months of sharing his space. While we adapted, this wasn’t something we intended for forever. Luckily, we found the perfect couple for him who still send us monthly updates of Nistor and his new loving life.
The best part about the experience was how rewarding it really is. In just two months it was amazing to watch Nistor go from being so shy and timid to this vocal, rambunctious dog who was just so happy to find out he was safe. It taught me a lot of patience and mindfulness and while I would advise people to be cautious with this decision as there are a lot of requirements, it is something that is so worthwhile once you have done it.