The first rule of fostering, if you have other dogs, is isolation.
This is isolation:
1. walk downstairs
2. get undressed
3. put on all new clothes
4. feed dog
5. medicate dog
6. take dog for walk
7. give dog lots of love
8. put dog back into crate
9. get undressed
10. re-dress in regular clothes
11. CLOROX WIPE EVERYTHING
13. repeat steps with other two resident dogs
It is a LOT of work.
So when we had a vet appointment for the new foster dog just two days after his arrival, we were hopeful that the vet would give us the green light to introduce him to our pack very soon.
Then the dreaded cough began. The cough that meant we were in for several weeks of, not only, isolation, but additional medication, breathing treatments, and the constant fear that our dogs would catch the respiratory infection.
Vet's orders: lots of rest, antibiotics, nebulizer, and fluids for infection, and every-other-day baths for a bacterial skin infection.
How do you bathe a dog in the second floor bathroom, when he is banished to the downstairs in an effort to avoid exposure?
You don't. You focus on healing and hope for the best.
It has been two weeks now. The other dogs are already sick, despite our very best efforts (see steps above), and this little guy was crusty and scabby and smelly.
Today, Atlas had his first bath. Preparing for this is another blog post entirely, but it is a milestone that I am really happy to have made it to.
He stood trustingly in the bathtub as I sloughed scabs from his pink, inflamed skin. He licked my hands while I carefully rinsed his bald legs. He rested his head on my knee while I put cotton balls into his cropped ears, hoping not to let water in. I laughed at his pouty little bottom lip, exposing his drastic under-bite each time he opened his mouth.
Moments like this, the milestones, the every day firsts that prove to me over and over again that the spirit of a dog is hard to break, they make all the extra steps worth it. We take a chance on an animal that we know nothing about, invite him into our house, take him from his worst (sometimes health-wise, sometimes behavior-wise), and teach him what it is like to be part of a family. Then, when he is ready, and we know it is time, we wish him a happy life, and we cry, and we let him go.
Fostering saves lives.