Sometimes your heart knows before conscious thought can start its argument. You find yourself besotted with a photograph of a dog that, like a spear thrown with dead eye accuracy, lodges in your heart and says, “Pay attention to me.” If you stay in dog rescue long enough, you’ll fall umder this exact same spell. Over time, you’ll learn to trust that jolt of awareness because of what you learn the first time. What you learn is that there are always going to be those one-of-a-kind dogs that steal your heart in a finger snap and you will do everything that you can to save them.
It’s also one of the best things about animal rescue groups that build their programs around in-home foster care. Bringing dogs into homes where they can be with dog-savvy humans and other dogs provides a loving, consistent framework and much needed socialization. If a dog coming into rescue is physically sick, the odds of their making a full recovery are better within the support system of good foster care.
One such organization, Rescue-a-Bull, will tell you that falling in love with dogs in harms way happens a lot with their volunteers. It’s the slippery slope of rescue: giving your heart to a dog knowing that you’ll be a temporary haven to prepare that dog for a lifetime with someone else. If Rescue-a-Bull does this job well (and they do), they are able to match the dogs in their care with individuals and families that are best suited for each dog. Every dog is different and every dog has a story.
We thought you’d like to hear about one of the dogs that came under Rescue-a-Bull’s care over a year ago. He’s come a long way from that bleak time when he was found on the streets. With the love and care of his foster-mom, he’s waiting and oh so ready for his forever home. His name is “Jack” and his foster-mom’s name is Kate. She’s become Jack’s ambassador and tells his story on behalf of Rescue-a-Bull.
Kate: Jackie was pulled from Animal Care And Control of NYC (NYCACC) on October 22, 2011 where he was originally named “Kenneth.” He was listed as a pit mix. He had mange and had contracted kennel cough. He was slated to die the next morning. I got his picture on Friday, October 21, 2011. At six months old, he was larger and older than other dogs I’d fostered. He was tall and lanky, more shepherd looking – without the traditional, wide-set head of a pit bull terrier.
I kept going back to his picture and there was just something about him … I couldn’t let him die. I had to save him. I really don’t know what it was that clicked with me. He didn’t look scared, he wasn’t any sadder looking than a dozen others, he wasn’t even traditionally “cute” because of his mange. He didn’t even look anything like a pitbull! I’ll never know why I needed to save him. It was just meant to be.
The shelter was contacted the next morning to give them notice that I would take him. We waited for hours to find out if he was even still alive. Thank God he was. He was picked up and spent the night at the vet where he was started on antibiotics.
I picked him up Sunday morning. He looked a mess but he was the sweetest baby. He got his “I’m alive” burger on the way home and all that afternoon, he played in the yard. Two days later, Jack stopped eating, got a runny nose and couldn’t settle down; couldn’t get comfortable. I stayed the night with him and the next day he went back to New Jersey (to the vets) where he stayed for two weeks.
I stayed the night with him and the next day he went back to NJ where he stayed for two weeks. He tested positive for canine influenza. His tiny lungs were filled with fluid; severe pneumonia had set in in record time. Canine Influenza is not typically a fatal disease but just like in people, the young and immune compromised had a greater chance of succumbing. Jack was already battling mange and the fluid in his lungs did not seem to be responding to the meds. I visited him a few times (including during the freak snowstorm – took me me 3.5 hrs to make it home instead of the 1.5 it usually took) and he was always in high spirits, wanting to play. I would bring him treats and toys and spend some time with him.
Sure enough, his lungs finally started to clear up. Unfortunately though while at the clinic Jack contracted ringworm. After he was well enough to come home I still had to quarantine him from my dogs for eight weeks. This was a bit of a nightmare. Jack hated being crated while the other dogs were out. He wouldn’t even eat in there if he was alone. I worked with him on being crated alone but it was very difficult. My dogs needed attention too.
It was a very very rough time.
Jack had no idea how to play with other dogs. Either he couldn’t read the signs or didn’t care to. I gave him short play sessions with Monkey, the more submissive of my two dogs and, frequently, Jack ended up in time out. Stella, my alpha dog, wasn’t about to cut Jack any slack and Jack was just as rude to her as she was to him. I wasn’t sure I could handle these two. Over the next 4-6 months, I stumbled through integration, doing the best I could and making things up as I went. Jack was a complete jerk.
Jack wasn’t a bad dog. He was a young, under-socialized, therefore ill-mannered, pup trying to figure out his place in the pack structure of two other dogs and their human. With one of the dogs already in a leadership role, Jack’s attempts to jostle his way into the established hierarchy were going to create some awkward and occasionally scary moments. This is where the guts of a rescue program digs in and goes to work – in the foster homes where there are at least two resident dogs plus people. Integrating a third dog becomes a complex shaping of the behaviors of three dogs. It takes a willingness to constantly interpret each dog’s idiosyncrasies within their group dynamic. You are continually watching, interpreting, interrupting, re-evaluating and assessing. Ultimately, you want to reach a state of detente where all three dogs can play … with each other.
Kate: I stumbled through integration doing the best I could and making things up as I went along. I made mistakes I’m sure. When I finally got all three dogs to the point where I could get them to play, it felt like a miracle and I’m pretty sure I cried. I wanted so badly to keep Jack and this made my heart hope that it was possible. It still took a few weeks before I could have all three out together inside of the house. Eventually, they were three peas in a pod and I was in heaven. I still had issues with Jack meeting new dogs though and hadn’t figured out how to help him with that.
Looking at photographs of Jack today, his transformation his almost complete. He’s a magnificent looking dog with a sharp, inquisitive look in his eye and a strong desire to please. He’s learned a lot and thanks to Rescue-a-Bull’s foster program, they know what his ideal home should be like.
Kate: The best words to describe Jackie are smart, energetic, goofy, and loving.
Jack loves to play – tug, keep away, flirt pole, anything that entertains his body or mind. He also loves to snuggle when he sleeps. Of course, sometimes snuggling to Jack means he’ll sleep with his face on your face. His ideal home would be with someone active who can give him a lot of attention. Jack is very trainable and incredibly smart but with that comes the fact that he gets bored. He will find his own fun if left alone too long.
I don’t think Jack would do well with cats because of his prey drive. He’s never been cat tested since I never had any but I would not trust him with them after seeing him take down a squirrel and a woodchuck. I think he would do well with slightly older kids. Jack is super bouncy and loves to jump. I imagine he would find it a game to knock down little kids. The hardest thing for Jack is meeting other dogs. He’s incredibly inappropriate and rude. Quick meet and greets are definitely not for him. He needs time to learn to be good with the other dog. He’s smart though and any dog that can win over Stella can win over anyone! He just needs an owner that can help him with that transition.
Jack’s come a long way from the very sick puppy that Kate fell in love with almost a year and a half ago. Wanting the best for him became the reason behind why she finally decided not to keep him. That she struggled with this isn’t surprising. Sooner or later, people who take on the role of foster moms or dads, find themselves arguing with what their hearts feel and what their rational selves know just isn’t practical.
In Jack’s case, all of the hard work that took place while he was in foster has given him such a head start for the person or family that becomes his forever home. What’s amazing about Jack – what’s amazing about all of the dogs that get to experience what Jack has during his time with Rescue-a-Bull – is that his resilient spirit has had ample time to blossom. He’s survived life on the streets, what might have been certain death had not someone from Rescue-a-Bull decided to take a chance on him and being so physically sick that he might not have survived that. Finding the right home for Jack is only a matter of time.
Now that you’ve read Jack’s story, if you are interested in finding out more information about him, please contact Rescue-a-Bull by going to their web site, clicking on the “Adoptables” tab at the top of their home page and following the prompts to contact them directly.