Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lesson Learned

I made a terrible mistake in judgment last night.

I’ve had dozens of foster dogs over the years, including various Jack Russell Terriers and mixes. But last night, I made an unwise choice. I allowed a foster dog, a JRT, Darla, to remain uncrated with my dogs while we went to Good Friday services. All the dogs had eaten, and been exercised, and we were only gone an hour and a half. Everyone had a bed to retire to, and I figured we would be okay.

I was wrong.

My husband came home to find the cabinet where the dog food bins and leashes are kept was nosed open. The leashes were spread all over and a box of dog biscuits (the only unbinned item) was on the floor. As best as he could figure, the Jack Russell had nosed the cabinet open—I had caught her nosing a different cabinet open earlier in the day (she's a smarty-pants) and had corrected her. He picked stuff up, chalking it up to the things dogs do.

He leashed all three dogs up for a final quick walk, which was shortened, when our 9-pound Rat Terrier mix, Cross began yiking and squealing. My husband hadn’t noticed, but Cross had been bitten in the scuffling over the biscuits. It turned out that she had been bitten quite badly—at least half-a-dozen punctures and the same amount of scrapes. The worst bites were on her neck, with the deepest puncture below the jaw on her right neck. She also had puncture wounds on the top of her back and inside of her legs. The JRT was unharmed and my other dog ended up in a room with the door closed, so he wasn’t involved.

It turns out, once I took her to the Emergency Vet, that she may have a punctured salivary gland (number one cause, according to the vet: dog-on-dog biting; number two cause: lunging too hard against a pinch collar or other rigid collar.). Unfortunately, this sort of injury doesn’t generally self-heal, so we’re probably looking at a pricey surgical correction due to a near-fatal mis-judgement of pack-order and a foster dog’s readiness.

So…$265 later (so far), 2 injections (pain control and antibiotics) plus Clavomox, and two other pain meds, we came home.

The dogs had gotten along well all week. They had been fed in the same room. There were no scuffles at all--just butt-sniffing and body-pushing. And Darla has a charming personality. I was already falling in love with her. But she hates the crate. I thought we'd be fine.

But the temptations of the biscuits proved too tempting to Darla, who came to me as an owner-throw-away. I don’t blame her—I’m the one at fault. I should have crated her, which is my normal (and now mandatory) rule. Since we had no toys or chew bones out (all those were put up) I figured the dogs would get along. But they didn’t.

I spent today getting Darla into a different foster home. I love JRTs (see my previous post) and know she was just doing what her breed often does. She wasn’t happy to be back at the Shelter, and let me know it with her barking. I feel bad that I had to put Darla into a different foster home after she’d just settled in, but I had no other option. My husband and daughter were adamant.

My little dog is doing okay—eating well, and a lot calmer now that she doesn’t have to cut a wide berth around the JRT. I’ll take her to her regular vet on Monday to find out what we need to do next. My husband dotes on our little dog, but thankfully, he hasn’t bawled me out for making an unwise choice in letting the dogs remain unattended. I’m doing an excellent job kicking myself. This is the first time I’ve had anything other than yowly scuffles and damp fur or maybe a small nick between my dogs and a foster.

I’ve learned a hard lesson about dealing with my fosters.


  1. The whole episode is just awful, fortunatly Cross will be okay, and Darla, too. You must not take the guilt on... even with rescue dogs that have been with us for a long time, things crop up out of nowhere. Easier said than done. Returning Darla to the shelter is the right thing to do. Rehabbing food agression is a long, often-times impossible process. As a rescuer, it's important to know where you draw YOUR line, and you have done that.

    I'm just sorry you and Cross are suffering...yeah, and Darla, too. Makes me want to go find a human and smack them around some.

  2. We all make mistakes. You are owning up to it and learning from it which makes you one smart cookie. The tragic thing to my mind is when people deny, justify and ultimately repeat-repeat-repeat mistakes. There's no point in any of that. YOU have a point. And thank you for sharing it with us so that we all can learn.

  3. Oh, I'm so sorry.
    Good for you to admit the mistake, and let other people know, so they might avoid making the same one. JRT's are terrors, aren't they.

    (patting you on the shoulder)
    I've made terrible mistakes too. Try not to beat yourself up too much. You do such great work, you still need to know you are human, and not perfect.
    The dogs think you are.

    what everyone else said, too.

  4. Thanks everyone for the feedback. Cross is stable, but we'll have to get the deepest puncture checked out tomorrow as there is still drainage.

    I'll post an update on both dogs when I have more information!

  5. Let us know how it goes. Sorry to hear about this. We do all make mistakes - it's hard to predict everything all the time. The important thing is to learn from our mistakes to prevent them from occurring in the future, but it sounds like you already have.

    Keep us updated on Cross!



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