Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Here's the first in a series of posts about fostering and adopting some special dogs, beginning with the story of Stella, as told by her mom JoAnna.

I got very very lucky. I knew I wanted to foster as SOON as I was in an apartment of my own (my entire family did their best to dissuade me, stating that there was no way I could foster without trying to adopt my dogs. I was determined to prove them wrong - after all, I was in no position to adopt a dog at this point in my life! But I still needed to help somehow so I would foster and foster only).

I had always liked pit bulls (even though I never had much personal experience with them...although I made a mask in elementary school that was supposed to represent my interests and it had a feather, a Friesian horse, and an APBT on it) and since POPB seemed to be the only large-dog only rescue in the area I wanted to go with that, since I wanted to avoid small dogs at all costs. But I had seen a lot of nice seeming posts by Phoenix and someone I knew fostered for them, so I decided to go with them since I really wanted to get involved with a nice community comprised of sane people and that is what they appeared to be on the outside. As I was about to fill out the app for them, I got a very nice email from Rachel, encouraging me to submit a foster application. It was this email that saved me from falling into a horrible horrible situation, and I think almost weekly about how lucky I was that I was sucked into the wonderfulness that is POPB instead of another, less desirable rescue.

First, I was assigned to Annie. As luck would have it, dogs needed to be moved around and Pat didn't want Annie going anywhere until it was to her forever home so I got reassigned to Stella. I cracked up because I'd stalked Petfinder hard and I was aware that I went from the least pit bull-y looking dog possible to the most pit bull-y looking of our lineup. I found a cat that week that I was supposed to get her and I tried to delay getting Stella because she was not cat friendly. Luckily, Katie offered to house the cat for me until her people could be located (no such luck) or a home found. After much difficulty arranging a time to get Stella from Lacey (this was during my pre-car days), Lynne dropped her off with me. I brought the little wild thing up to my room and tried to decide if I should allow her on the bed. Stella solved that problem for me by making it the very first thing she did. (Since then, I can't sleep comfortably in that bed without Stella as my pillow/foot rest/space heater.) Stella sat up on my bed, offered me her paw, and smiled reaaaaally big. That was when I knew it was going to go well.

5 months later, her holiday foster wanted to adopt her. I was an anxious wreck for WEEKS trying to decide if this would be a good situation for her and trying to decipher how much of my hesitation was due to me being an overprotective first time foster mom and how much was legitimate concern. The wonderful team at POPB took my concerns into consideration and we eventually came to the conclusion that Stella would not be staying with her. As time passed, more and more evidence came to light that we absolutely made the correct decision. Not many rescues would take so much care to see if a home was worth it, especially for a difficult to place dog, and not many would listen to the foster home as carefully as POPB does. One night (while Stella was still with her temp foster/at that point possible adopter) I found out a little black pit that I had saved from traffic had been euthanized at ACAS (I tried to house the dog here but Stella was not having it and at that point I did not know how to manage her nearly as well as I do now). I sobbed and sobbed and did not have Stella with me to comfort me. That felt so wrong. Months later I would think back on a horse, Honey, that I had loved (and lost) in a similar situation to my current one with Stella (she was in no way mine and I couldn't make her mine and her future was uncertain because decisions about her were not mine to make) and Stella came over and gingerly climbed up on my lap and licked my tears and between my sobs I told her that I couldn't let her go. But I was lost because I knew that my future held extended trips out of the country to countries that would not allow pit bulls. I didn't know what to do. Lots of stress and fruitless begging of family members and periodic bouts of panic ensued. Sometime in this time period I would start to slip up and call her "my dog" instead of "my foster dog" and friends were shocked that she wasn't actually mine and my family members called her "JoAnna's dog."

Fast forward 11 months from the day that I started fostering her, and I got a phone call from my mom that I needed to go home, get Stella, and call her. She wouldn't tell me the news until I was with Stella. When I found out my dad had died, Stella was the only one there to comfort me. In the next few hours, she was as attentive and gentle with me as any human could have ever been. When I met up with the rest of my family, Stella not only comforted me but also did her best to show everyone some much needed unconditional love.

 At one point my brother pointed out that Stella was shaking because I was, and everyone noticed that she would sit outside of the bathroom door, staring at it, as I showered, and that she invariably slept with as much of her body touching me as possible. The night before the funeral, my mom told me that she could not watch me go through what I went through with Honey again and that Stella was a "forever friend" to our family from that point on; I immiately wrote the board. My mom called up her landlord and told him that she was moving out because he didn't allow pets and she would have a granddog living with her soon (he told her he was going to make an exception for her until she told him the breed....knew I always hated him for a reason), since her daughter was going to Australia. She told all her siblings that they could expect to live with a pit bull when she/they go to take care of my Grandma, even though they have terrible close-minded opinions of pit bulls typical of the Detroit area. You'd think after 11 months of Stella not killing me in my sleep (as they predicted) they would be less judgmental, but nope. They need some immersion therapy with the real thing for that! She has already converted my uncle...the rest will follow suit.

I LOVE how my entire immediate family likes Stella and considers this a gain not just for me but for all of them as well. Chris constantly would cuddle her and must have told her what a good dog she was 20x in 5 days. As soon as Karl read about the murdered ACAS puppy he came right over to Stella and scooped her up and professed his love for her and the breed over and over and over, and then told Stella a bed time story about the time he carried a 45 lb pit bull named Tiny 5 miles out of the Hawaiian jungles on his shoulders after she was injured by a boar. Mary let Stella in her car and come over to her apartment without a crate and even let her onto her couch (a big deal for her). Steffi is overjoyed at having a new sister and can't wait to play more music to her and be silly with her. And my mom babies Stella more than anyone, even though the prey drive/reactivity is something completely foreign and intimidating to her. She is taking every opportunity to learn about management and actually listens to my explanation of behaviors (most people do not) and before anything else makes sure Stella is comfortable and happy and knows how much of a good baby she is. I love more than anything when those I love appreciate each other, and this is one of those cases. While Stella is in many ways the opposite of the black lab we had for 15 years growing up, she is becoming just as accepted by my family and that makes me almost as happy as Stella herself does. Stella is not without her challenges, which also means that I get to grow in my understanding of behavior and training and dogs in general as we work together on these things. I am very excited for a future with her.

Plus, I justify to myself, what kind of photographer can grow without a beautiful muse with soulful eyes for inspiration (who may or may not work for hot dogs).

                                                                                           - JoAnna Platzer

No comments:

Post a Comment