I wanted to share Sarge’s story because, he is our second foster. And I have this insanely strong feeling that in five years I’m going to look back and remember falling in love with him as a transitional point in my life.
Before Jack died I did my best to gingerly imagine life after him. I was dreading the idea of life without him. Many days the idea alone made me crumble into pile of goo. Anticipatory grief is real. But still, I felt this need to find something to hold onto to that was on the other side - to see what this terrible loss might make possible. For me, my heart kept screaming foster. So I held onto that. I held onto this picture of bringing dogs into our tiny home and being a safe and kind place for them to land before they went off to their new lives. I wanted it to be part of Jack's legacy. I wanted him to live on through us helping these foster dogs.
I remember revealing wanting to foster to a few loved ones. The concerns were reasonable, but I was stubborn. “Oh god, Lauren, you’re going to adopt the first one you foster.” “Wait doesn’t Gus want to murder like every dog he meets?”
Then the day came. On September 23rd, I held the paw of my best friend of 13 years as he quietly and peacefully slipped away. I had adopted Jack when I was 19 and he was around two years old. Thirteen years is a lot of years. Even more so when those years take you from your teens to your thirties. Navigating the grief taught me a lot and it changed me.
About a month after Jack passed, I was vending at a work event at Optimism Brewery here in Seattle. I had this amazing candid conversation with a woman about loosing her dog and about fostering. We both were low key crying in the middle of this event. I wish I could remember her name. But I’ll never forget what she told me. When I told her I wanted to start fostering, she said “you have to promise yourself you won’t keep the first one. No matter what.” She explained that if you did, then you wouldn’t be able to help all the others that would have come after. I went home that night and told my spouse Justin what she had said. And he agreed. So right then and there we promised each other, no matter what, we wouldn’t keep the first one.
On January 14, three and a half months after Jack, we got our first foster Tim. And he tested that promise. He wasn’t perfect but he was insanely cute, sweet, and loaded with potential. We loved him. Which brings me to the second hesitation most people brought up - Gus.
After Jack passed, we still had Sophie our 12 year old and Gus is our three year old. We rescued Gus from Seattle Humane on January 4th, 2018. About three weeks into having him he revealed to us that he was both people and dog reactive. We went through some deep and heavy training with him to address his reactivity (shout out to Ahimsa Dog Training!). Doing our best to learn as much about dog behavior as possible. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but wow that process taught us a lot. And brought us closer to Gus. So we had to do everything in our power to make sure we wouldn’t set Gus up for failure with a foster.
To the best of our knowledge, Gus is an Australian Cattle Dog (ACD). Maybe one day we will do that DNA test like we did for Sophie and Jack. But we mostly assume he’s 100% ACD. Although he is dog reactive, he has dog friends like Arthur, Bailey, and Luna. We have been able to have those dog friends in our home and even dog sit them. So when I submitted our foster application to Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue, I made sure to highlight Gus and his reactivity.
In my bonkers mind, Gus might have the best chance at success if we fostered other ACDs. So when the time came to do our home inspection and make sure we were good candidates for fostering, Marie was amazing. She was able to see Gus for what he was, just an anxious goofball doing his best.
When our first foster Tim came home, we took it very slow. I mean slow. I was hyper vigilant. Every door in our tiny house had a baby gate. We did crate rotation. Gus wore a muzzle. I guess all fairly normal stuff for people in the dog rescue community, but I was like a new mom nesting. I didn’t want to mess this up.
The real magic happened on pack walks. I would walk Sophie and Tim while Justin followed us with Gus. Over a few weeks we finally felt good about Gus and Tim mingling on long leads. It went fantastic. And we kept taking small steps. Then sooner than we knew it they were best friends - cuddling, playing all the time. The caution was no reflection on Tim, it was a just our first time. You know? We felt like newbies. We didn’t want to fail Tim or fail Gus. Thinking about the progress that was made is kind of nuts. Patience yielded some beautiful things.
Our first pack walk with Sarge, the day we brought him home
We fostered Tim for five weeks. Then six days later we picked up Sarge. When Sarge came home, we did our first pack walk. Followed the same formula. Me, Sophie, and Sarge up front while Justin and Gus followed. It almost seemed like the progress made with Tim transferred right to Sarge. Gus was curious but not stressed on the walk. They even booped each other. We still took it slow, didn’t want to push our luck. But wow, the bond Sarge and Gus made blew us away. Seeing our dog Gus fall in love with Sarge as much as we did was magical.
We fostered Sarge for five and a half weeks. The more we got to know him and learn his story the harder we fell for him. It feels good to document this experience. It feels good to share it too. I want something to come back to, something to mark this point in my life. The story of everything Sarge made possible.
Stay tuned, I’m going to share more of his story over the next few days as we prepare our home for our third foster dog.