by Erin Mangrum
I am scrolling through Facebook one day and see a post from Country Roads putting out a plea for fosters for a litter of puppies. “Must go in pairs at a minimum.” Being a naïve newbie, I of course responded that I would take them all. Because that seems smart and sane, right? And that’s how my fostering journey started. I could tell you it’s been all rainbows and unicorns, but that would be a LIE. There are days when fostering puppies is beyond hard, both mentally and physically. But with that said, the hard days, as trying as they can be, are what make the good days that much sweeter.
I tend to strive for perfection, with order and organization being my friends. Knowing I was going to be receiving these fosters, I had everything set up and ready to go. The puppy pen was set up, food was bought, collars were laid out, etc., etc., etc. The only thing I couldn’t do was make time pass faster until their arrival. So, the time finally came, and I picked them up. Now, there I was with a litter of seven puppies, so cute and sweet. All bathed, fed and sleeping so soundly. I felt like a new mom again, looking into the playpen at sleeping angels. I felt accomplished. I felt secure. I felt pride. How hard could this be? Fast forward four hours when it's 2:00 a.m. and their dewormer has kicked in. I never verbalized it, but the thought floated like a neon sign flashing in my brain, “WHAT HAVE YOU GOTTEN YOURSELF INTO?”
I spent the next several days rearranging, revamping, reorganizing and trying to figure out how to get control, not only the situation, but of the seven tiny puppies running around. Even with their fat bellies and stumpy legs, they were fast and constantly under foot. It took a few days and it finally came to me; I had my “Ah Ha!” moment. Organized chaos… just roll with it. So that’s exactly what I did. I started laughing and enjoying the little things with them. I was not only their advocate by duty, but I became their biggest fan. I loved them, hard. I knew I would be giving every one of them to a new home and my goal became to make them the best puppy possible. One with the confidence of coming from a loving and nurturing home. After five weeks my goal was completed, they were off to their forever homes. But they weren’t just forever homes, they were the perfect home and perfect family for each puppy.
But just like with my tattoos and eating potato chips, I couldn’t have just one. I couldn’t stop. My home became a revolving door for puppies, and I loved every second. I admit I never quit trying to make my “puppy setup” better, but I did quit worrying about the small stuff. When I would lay down layers of puppy pads in perfect symmetry for the day, and a puppy would run and dive on them like it was their personal slip and slide, I laughed. I would straighten them up and try again. Sometimes several times in a row, but I laughed (maybe not the fifth time, but most of the times). I learned that the little things are progress. Shredded toys meant they were happy and playing. Chewed up potty pads meant they were ready to start potty training. Needing to tiptoe past the puppy pen so they wouldn’t see you and cry meant that they loved you, trusted you and craved your attention. As fosters, our time with them goes too fast. I learned to treasure the trivial. I learned to cherish the moment. I learned to live in the now. I learned.
I also gained a whole new family within the rescue. Between asking questions, receiving and sharing advice, sending questionable pictures of poop to each other, you become a family. I am a stubborn person by nature and usually determined to do things by myself, refusing to admit weakness or defeat. I never in a million years would have thought I would share my struggles with people. I specifically remember one situation (and it’s been made clear that I will never live it down), allow me to set the scene in a “G” rated version. Eight puppies with tummy issues. Yes, EIGHT, with very bad, no good, horrible, terrible, yucky tummy issues. After a stressful day at work, the puppies had destroyed the puppy pen. I’ll spare you the details, but I should have just called a Hazmat crew. I sat there on the floor surrounded by…. well, you get it, eating a Rice Krispy Treat and messaging some of the other fosters to formally admit my defeat. What did they do to help, you ask? They laughed at me. They laughed and it was contagious. I started to laugh. They also offered words of encouragement and shared their own stories. Laughing gave me the oomph I needed to tackle what was literally surrounding me. My point is, they aren’t just other fosters, or friends, or family. They were and still are my support system. They showed me that I didn’t have to struggle alone. Admitting defeat is not a sign of failure, it is an opportunity for your support system to lift you up.
I will do everything in my power to pay that support back to them, as well as pay it forward to every foster within the rescue.
Through the trials and tribulations of fostering puppies, it has brought more joy to my heart than I can ever adequately articulate. Watching animals completely transform from the saddest things you have ever seen, into amazing, happy and healthy animals is the most rewarding thing that I have ever done. It has become a way of life for me, so much so, that I committed to it. We received a foster on December 19th, 2019, she was tiny and pretty much fit in my hand. In January of this year, she fell ill with Parvo. It was the hardest week of our lives while she was in the hospital. I will never forget the flood of emotions when the vet called with those sweet words, “Emmy can go home!” We were over the moon ecstatic, she beat it! She beat Parvo. She was a survivor. She was OUR survivor (we just didn’t know it yet). She came home looking like skin and bones, missing her front teeth from biting the cage, and then developed kennel cough. Those weeks that followed were so hard on her, myself, and my family. We medicated her, loved her, and tended to her every need. My daughter carried her around everywhere in a sling so she could be out of her quarantine space. We gave her the time, love, and all the resources she needed to heal. And heal she did. But by this time, she had us, hook line and sinker. She had been home all along. We officially Foster Failed Emmy, and we could not possibly be happier about it.
Rescuing is a way a life. It is now my way of life, and I am honored and proud to be a part of it.
By Lindsay Long
I was introduced to Country Roads Animal Rescue in 2018 when I adopted Maverick. I had lost my two dogs in a cruel twist of fate and was looking for a new companion. I had seen Country Roads on social media, but didn’t know a whole lot about them. Long story short, I have always been partial to labs, black labs in particular, and they had two brothers at the time. Maverick has been the best – he’s chaotic, fun, has a huge personality, and a confidence that some don’t understand (mainly because I tell him at least 15 times a day how handsome he is).
Since adopting Maverick, I have continued to follow Country Roads on social media and watching their call for fosters. In February 2018, they posted a black and white pit mix that was on death row, super skinny, and trembling at the shelter. For some reason the look in her eyes stopped me in my tracks. I was sitting in a work conference at the time and couldn’t stop looking at the video they posted of her. I contacted the rescue and said if they couldn’t find another foster for her, I would be willing to foster her. The day before she was set to be euthanized, I was contacted because no one else had stepped up
When I picked her up, she was nothing but a bag of bones! I think I could probably count every bone in her body. It was quickly discovered that probably due to her rough life, she was not going to tolerate Maverick (nothing anything new for Maverick) or my cats for that matter. Betty is a special foster. She is basically boarded in my house because she does not like my animals. She stays in a kennel in a bedroom on her “down” time because she and Maverick do not do well at all; partly because of her, but partly because of Maverick too – he’s a lot! Yet she still seems happy and she knows the routine and the rotation and seems good with it. While I think eventually, she needs to go to a single animal home, for now we make do with the situation.
Then, last week, I guess I was bored or needed a challenge and decided I could handle two puppies. The puppies have been great! They’re puppies, so they are a lot of work, but I knew that before I agreed to take them. It took me a LONG time to decide that was I was ready to give puppies a try. That decision took some time because I had Betty to consider and I had my life to consider. Would I have enough time to devote to them? Would Betty suffer because of new puppies? Logistically, how would juggle everything? Months…I thought about these things for months before I felt confident that I could take puppies on knowing I may have them for 2 weeks or I may have them for 6 months.
Rose (left) and Oliver (right)
Fostering is a BIG commitment. A dog may be in a foster home for 2 weeks or 2 years, there’s no guarantee. Sometimes a dog may be dog friendly, other times it may want to eat everything with 4 legs. Going into it, I know fostering isn’t a lifetime commitment like adopting a dog, but I also consider what happens if I have the dog for an extended period of time. The situation with Betty isn’t ideal, but it’s what I signed up to do when I signed up to be a foster. Dogs aren’t perfect, they require time and attention and training. And rescues depend on fosters to help save these dogs.
Country Roads provides a tremendous network of fosters that are more than willing to offer advice and support to other fosters. They have helped me in my times of “what the heck did I just do”, when things don’t go as planned. For every difficult, or less than ideal situation, there are 10 times more rewarding situations when it comes to fostering. And sticking with it has proved even more rewarding that one could ever imagine!
Charli Bear's Legacy
Written by Charli's loving foster family
Charli came to us on a hot day in June 2017 with 3 new puppies. She looked like your typical street dog-cauliflower ears, dull coat, skinny and multiple abrasions, scars & her bottom lower teeth completely ground to the gum. It was clear she had lived a rough life. Charli was not a big cuddler or tail wagger, and in the beginning it was hard to read her.
One of our favorite stories of her was the story of the stolen Mac & cheese! Charli had taken a pan of leftover Mac & cheese off the stove (using the handle of the pot & without making a sound!) She took it to her bed to share with her babies (see photo above for precious babies). She ate whatever was left after they were finished.
As time went on we realized she would talk to you with her eyes and then she started “talking” a lot. She became a very vocable girl!! She fit in well with a retired couple who enjoyed their walks 2x a day. She loved the walks to chase squirrels, eat elm leaves and became the neighborhood nosey rosey, stopping at every driveway to see what the neighbors were doing. Her pitty smile came, her tail wagged and she would to talk to us and all who visited. The granddaughters visited and she became their gentle friend. The girls called her Charli "Bear" cause she looked like one. She became the love of our daughter's dog - Brink's - life (also a CRARS alumni).
Life was good for all of us for several years.
Now her talking has stopped and her tail wags rarely as she battles her mammary cancer. But her eyes still talk to me. I hope she sees how much she has brought to our lives and how glad we are to be part of her last journey.
Last night her eyes were tired. She looked at me and I knew what needed to be done.
Today Charli Bear closed her brown eyes. Her battle is over. And another piece of my heart is replaced with her memory.
Charli Bear's foster family was in the process of formally adopting her when she crossed the Rainbow Bridge on September 11, 2019.
By Ally Schreck
About a year ago, almost to the day, we started our fostering journey. We (by "We" I mean me, my husband said yes so I wouldn't keep adopting dogs!) knew we wanted to foster eventually, but agreed it was best we wait until we were settled in our new home and our second resident pup who would soon be coming home was fully vetted and trained. God had other plans.
Through a bizarre series of events (a story for another time), instead of picking up our new pup, I found myself scrambling to get a senior pittie mix and a baby hound to safety. Shout out to Nicole, another CRARS foster mom, for helping us accomplish this! It was clear both boys were dehydrated and malnourished, but despite all they had been through-- happy. Dogs are resilient like that.
Old Man's first day with the Schrecks
The senior pittie, Old Man, like many other senior pets up for adoption, aren't easily adopted... Thus, we have learned all of the quirks that come along with senior pets! He walks like an old cowboy and needs help getting up and down stairs, due to arthritis and old breaks that were never reset properly, but not so surprisingly he is always spry enough to get on the couch! At some point in his pre-CRARS life, he was chained up with only rocks to eat, which left him almost toothless- he prefers watered down kibble to canned wet food. At night he has to sleep with a visual of where we are, or he cries all night. Baby gates will not stop him if he desires something softer to lie on in the next room. If he decides it's not time to go outside, Old Man goes boneless blocking the whole doorway with his body. He sleeps 60% of the day in a bed that is way too small for him but he insists it works. Old Man also has the biggest smile that makes all the bad of the day melt away- not so much a quirk, but definitely a perk.
Old Man soaking up the sun
So a year later, he is still here. We are giving him the life he has always deserved and we will continue to do so until the right adopter comes along! Old Man deserves someone who will tear up when they talk about how much they love him. All dogs do. And that is why we foster, to allow dogs the chance to find that love.
by Christa White
I love doing what I do. I love being a dog momma to so many. There are some days I’m exhausted. There are some days I wondering if having wrinkles by 25 is worth it (I’m only 21, not a good look for me). Then I see these faces. I love that I get to work/volunteer with such an amazing rescue. One of the most heartbreaking rescues we brought home was Khloe. Khloe was set to be euthanized at 3:30 April 3. I was asked if I could go up there and do a temperament test with other dogs because they told me she had gotten in a fight and is “dog selective”. I lived too far to make it in time. (I had 15 minutes to get there when I lived 45 minutes away). Thankfully I was granted an extension to get there. This beautiful girl had been through more than any of us will ever know. Not only does the awful ear cropping job tell us that, but the winces she did when I moved too fast, or when she would hop in the shower because she was too scared to not be next to me. She was not dog selective, she was not scary. She was scared.
Khloe scared in jail
Shelter dogs are the epitome of never judging a book by its cover. I’m so thankful I was able to get that extension, like many dogs she deserved so much more than what she had been given and used for. I took Khloe home that day to temporarily foster her until a more permanent foster was found. Well, instead she found a permanent home with me and my others. She has several brothers and sisters ( 13 siblings and 5 fosters siblings) that she loves dearly and plays with everyday. She is no longer scared to be away from me, and she has learned to be a real dog. She's not a breeding machine, not a back yard object who didn’t even know what a toy is, but a well-loved, happy couch potato who LOVES tennis balls. April 3, 2019 will always be a day I’m grateful for not having anything to do and being at home on the couch.
khloe busting out of jail with her dad
The happiest girl in the world
Khloe snuggling with her sister
Khloe's adoption day with family
By Theresa Santiago Adams
**Content warning: Images in this post are VERY graphic, but Theresa wants to show the horror of shelters and abuse, healing, and the power of fostering**
I knew the minute I brought him home, he needed a new name. His old name didn’t fit. A new name for a new life. I googled, and searched and hemmed and hawed. And finally I found the perfect name: Wyatt.
His name means “survivor”. And that’s exactly what he is.
The first time I laid eyes on him, he was cowering in a corner, groggy from pain meds, his head wrapped in bandages. After being abused, neglected and dumped at the shelter, he was placed in a kennel with two other large dogs. A common practice given the level of overcrowding the shelter experiences. Even as a 60 lb Pitt Bull, he was no match for them.
Those two dogs attacked him; ripping his ear in half, tearing huge gaping holes in his neck and mangling his face beyond recognition. Dozens of stitches covering his face, neck and legs. And yet, his eyes were gentle. He wanted help. He wanted to be free of pain.
He wanted to be loved. And I knew I could give him that.
Wyatt the day he was pulled from the shelter
Image on left: Wyatt's ear and neck post-attack
Image on right: Wyatt's leg post-surgery
I brought Wyatt home, placed him in my office which I decided was the best place for him since it was quiet and I could shut the door. That first night he cried. Imagine: alone, in pain, frightened, in a strange new place with strange new people. Could he trust me? Would I hurt him too? I went and laid down next to him. He slept. I didn’t. The next several nights were the same routine; go to bed, wait for him to cry, go lay on the floor with him while he slept.
After about 10 days, I weaned him off his pain meds. He was healing. Wounds were scabbing over, scars were forming where there was once raw skin. The swelling on his face was going away. I could finally see Wyatt’s beautiful face. And he could finally sleep on his own.
For many more weeks, we worked on getting to know each other. I slowly gained Wyatt’s trust; approaching cautiously with hands open so he could see I wasn’t going to hurt him. I would give gentle pets on his head, careful to avoid his wounds. Over the course of several months, he came out of his shell. Little by little. Day by day. One day Wyatt suddenly ran in the backyard with the other dogs. Another time he spontaneously came to me and nuzzled my hand for pets.
He began playing with toys, asking for treats and breaking (minor) rules. In short, Wyatt was becoming a dog. And it has been one of my greatest joys to watch this sweet, gently boy blossom into the silly, goobery, playful dog he was meant to be.
People often ask me why I rescue dogs. This is why. This life I saved, this boy I helped. Wyatt is the reason I rescue. Yes, it’s hard. It’s challenging, and frustrating and stressful. My house is always a mess. It’s never completely quiet. Someone always needs attention or discipline. But I love what I do.
I love these dogs. I love that I can make a difference, that I can save a life.
It’s often difficult to impress upon people the need for foster families. It’s almost impossible for them to wrap their heads around the staggering numbers of animals admitted to shelters and rescue groups across the metro area, let alone the state. People often say to me, “oh I could never be a foster parent, I’d get to attached”. Well, I do too! I fall madly, deeply in love with every single one of my foster babies. And I hand them over to their new families with mixed emotions, knowing I will likely never see them again, but at the same time understanding that it’s the best decision for them.
Being a Dog Mama and fostering are the most rewarding things I have ever done. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to help animals reach their potential and have a better life. And no, not every foster dog is a serious medical and psychological case like Wyatt. In fact, most are perfectly well adjusted dogs that just need a chance at life.
Give fostering a chance - you could save a life too!
handsome wyatt fully recovered
Wyatt loves almond butter snacks!
Socializing a foster Dog
By Janne Ruhnke
Janne is fostering beautiful Australian Shepherd girl Ginger. Janne has all these wonderful stories and examples of how she socializes her foster girl. Oftentimes fosters come to us and have to learn to play and just be a dog. We hope you love reading about Janne and Ginger's adventures together.
Ginger is a little over 1 year old with a lot of energy! When she first came to us she warmed up to us quickly, but we realized she needed some help. She was so fearful and protective of food and her face. We think she may have had an abusive past. We didn’t let that stop us even though it was hard work. We have had a behavioralist come out and train us on how to train her. She has made amazing progress and is becoming more and more friendly by the day! She actually really loves playing pass/tag with a ball! She love balls, treats, and lots of play time and attention! She knows sit, lay down, and shake.
We're still working on "stay." She would really enjoy someone who is willing to work with her to learn even more tricks and even agility stunts! We tried the ones at the dog park today, and she almost went up it. Almost! She is crate trained though she tries to sound sad so you will let her out. She wants to steal your covers and cuddle up next to you on the bed! She is respectful of your stuff and would do well free roaming as long as you don’t leave food out. She will find it and trust me she knows how to open out car food container! We got really lucky because she came to us completely house broken and will let you know she needs out! She really enjoys being the center of attention and getting to go to the park for walks, car rides, to public events like the medieval fair, and especially Starbucks runs as long as you share!
Everyone is constantly talking about how beautiful she is! She recently learned what it’s like to be at the dog park! I was super nervous for her at first because I was not sure exactly how she would react. What I noticed is she is just a puppy in a big body. She does the iconic puppy dance moves to try to get friends to play with her. She ran and ran! Even got 4-5 other dogs following her! She loved being the pack leader! I believe Ginger would do well in a home with a yard or even an apartment as long as she go daily walks. She really does best in a harnesses or slip leashes for walking over standard leash and collar. She is a big puppy and just does not realize that cat does not want to play! She does really well with my nephews and the kids she has seen in public but has never lived with children. If you think you have what it takes to give this girl an amazing life please reach out! There is nothing more I want than to get to talk about this dog. I want to help you learn how to train her, and I want you to love Ginger that I have so learned to love.
My Foster EXPERIENCE
By Olivia Herrera
At first I had my doubts about fostering. Would I have enough time? Do I really want that responsibility? Am I sure this will work out? The answer..... YES!
Of course I have enough time, the time I spend browsing Netflix or Pinterest would be much better spent taking and adorable dog for a walk! Responsibility? Yes you do have to watch them and make sure they don't get into anything (as with any animal), but again I clearly have the time to teach them and they learn quickly what they should and should not do. And I am so happy I am doing it, because it has definitely worked out!
The dogs from Country Roads Animal Rescue that I have fostered so far (Thelma, Louise, and Seraphina) have been nothing but fun loving souls. It makes my day to come home to those happy faces knowing they were saved from the euthanasia list or even an unloving home.
What a great feeling it is to help the helpless and see a sad innocent creature turn into the playful happy one it wants to be. So if you want to be less busy and more productive, talk less and do more, then give and get a little more joy in your life by volunteering to foster.
The Good, The Bad, The Foster
by Natalie Andrews
I had been slightly hesitant with the idea of fostering. I live a “city life” in downtown OKC and wasn’t sure how fostering would really fit in. Now looking back over the past couple weeks, I’ve realized that my reasons for not fostering were completely selfish- beyond completely selfish.
My foster “MENA” is one of the greatest joys of my day. I’m not saying the entire fostering process was perfect— and hear me out… she was my first foster and she almost died the second day I had her after being rescued from “jail”. This beautiful soul had pneumonia and it was bad. I mean bad. For those of you who don’t know Maria (founder of Country Road Rescue Society), she was my saving grace through this process. Already emotionally attached to my foster I stayed in the vet ICU until they would ask me to leave. Mena was in ICU for 5 days; each day was as intense as the day before. Then day 5 happened and it was wonderful. Mena came home and we have been getting her to 110% of pure ‘Mena-ness’.
This amazing creature is incredibly smart, gorgeous and sweet beyond words. Not really knowing Mena’s past but knowing how she was treated in “jail” and that she was being put down because she was “timid and shy… not compatible” – boiled my blood, boils my blood. I look at Mena and know that she is going to make good things happen… service dog, family dog, best friend and the possibilities are endless.
Everything that happened with my Country Road Rescue foster has been worth it. When it comes to fostering the only word that comes to mind is Compassion. Take a chance, open your heart, your home and you will change a life… just maybe not the one you originally thought.