Fostering During A Pandemic Part I

Greyhound or Child, Things Have Changed

Erin and I tend to be pretty analytical people. We overthink things, we have high personal and professional standards, we pretend to be organized, and we like to know facts before making a decision. With that being said, as the Covid-19 pandemic continued to affect everyone and everything around us, we noticed this past spring that we weren’t receiving as many calls from DCS regarding foster placements. Unfortunately, it made sense.  As Indiana went the way of e-learning, the children were no longer physically in the presence of the school’s staff and teachers – the ones who typically make the calls for suspected abuse or neglect. Slowly this summer, as children started going back to services such as day care and summer camp, we started receiving more phone calls from DCS. Most of the calls were regarding possible placements that we are not prepared to care for at this time. Commonly it is because the child is out of our specified age range or has experienced abuse that we don’t feel experienced enough, as foster parents, to help the child work through. But the conversations with DCS also had us asking a lot of questions, specifically in regard to the pandemic. At the end of the day, through no fault of their own, DCS just didn’t have the answers. So, you can imagine, as people who want to know facts before making decisions, this was driving us crazy!

Thankfully, fostering a greyhound during a pandemic is a much different story. After a few months of working from home due to Covid-19, I unfortunately had to transition back to going into the office.  I made that move back in May and remember missing our foster, Dutchess terribly. Things got a little easier with foster Ant. If you had been following Erin’s Instagram posts from when we were fostering Ant, she never really warmed up to me.

The face coverings didn’t always go over well with the fosters, but based on foster Ant’s smile, she didn’t mind!

She would always get excited when I would come home from work, but I believe that was just a response to Callie and Six Pack going crazy for my return. Shortly after a few pets and kisses on the head, she’d run away from me like I was opening and closing an umbrella in her face! And then there’s foster greyhound Pepper. Envision if you can, Six Pack’s response when I open the door after being at work all day. It’s a frenzy of tail wagging, hopping up and down, slobber, and his big butt knocking into everything and everyone that gets in its way. Now envision the complete opposite. That’s how Pepper acted when I came home. I don’t want you to think that she’s being timid or meek, because she is not. She just quietly sneaks in between Six’s butt fury and Callie’s tail wagging to kiss my hand and subtly let me know she missed me.

Fostering, however, isn’t just the only aspect of volunteering that we do. We also host a monthly Meet and Greet at Metazoa Brewing. Unfortunately, this is the one thing that I miss the most. Due to the pandemic, Metazoa has had to cancel most of their in-person events at their location.  With football season coming up, I was looking forward to hanging out with our greyhound friends, getting to see some of our favorite bartenders in the city, drinking beer, and watching the Colts. The future of the Meet and Greets at Metazoa is still TBD, but Erin and I both are optimistic that we will be able to return soon. We were fortunate enough to sneak in one event at Metazoa in July. Although it rained cats and dogs, and we had to wear our masks while inside the entire time, it did provide a small sense of normalcy.

“Ryan Doesn’t Get Any More Dogs!”

Prison Greyhounds has had two extremely successful large dog drops, along with several smaller hauls, during the pandemic whereby almost eighty retired greyhounds have been brought up from Florida. Some of the greyhounds are brood mamas, which are highly sought after. These are dogs that were bred after a successful racing career. They tend to be a little older, extremely affectionate, and very gentle dogs. A lot of the greys, conversely, are younger dogs, some which have never even raced! That is the case with two year old Dutchess. As scar-ridden as her coat was, and as quick as she was when she ran out the back door, she had never raced even once.

Everyone knows Erin runs the show, especially when it comes to her foster greyhounds. And trust me, when it comes to the dogs that Prison Greyhounds brings up, they are all her fosters. Erin is on top of the important things like where the greys are going to stay, their medication schedules, whether they are cat friendly or not (that’s another blog post in itself), and other issues the retired racers may have. I can sum up my responsibilities in one word…! Often times, when I get home from work, I’ll get a “Can you please take them for a walk?” or “Just go play with them!” So, to be fair, when I fall in love with one of these dogs or one (or more) of them falls in love with me, it should be expected. I do the easy stuff. That was the case with Dutchess. While Erin was busy keeping Dutchess alive and healthy, Dutchess and I were trying to find new ways to irritate Six Pack, and I was spoiling her with new toys and treats to chew on.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely believe that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That was the case with Dutchess’s first adopters. On paper, this family was going to be the only family I would let take my Dutchess away. They lived close by, so there was a good chance I would still get to see her from time to time. They had two young children that interacted with her well during introductions. The family had a large, fenced-in backyard. And they had another dog that also interacted and played well with Dutchess during our meeting. That last point was an important one, because although Six and Callie were kind of irritated by Dutchess, she absolutely loved following them around and imitating their every move. This family checked all the boxes, right? Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be. During her short stay with this family, Dutchess had accidentally stepped on something sharp and split open her paw. When her adopters went to investigate the wound, she reacted aggressively. Therefore, it was decided that Dutchess would return.

You would think I could convince Erin that this was a sign and that she should just stay with us, right? That wasn’t the case, and to be honest, our home isn’t what I wanted for Dutchess. She deserved to be around kids and another dog that won’t constantly growl at her (I’m looking at you Six Pack). But this did mean that I would get to spend a couple of more weeks with her while she recovered from the seven staples she had put into her paw. Which by the way, if you have ever had to see your pet put under sedation and then recover from it, is not a fun experience. However, this also meant that with Dutchess coming back, our newest, special needs foster Samuel, was going to be moved.

Samuel was a bit of worry wart, but that could be partly due to his vision issues.

We had specifically requested to foster Samuel, as he was a special case.  He was blind in one eye and could not be around any cats or small dogs.  We had even made some terrific progress in just one day with getting Samuel acclimated to the layout of the house and backyard, but everyone knew that we weren’t going to pass up an opportunity to bring Dutchess back into our home.

Do We Have An Ant Problem?!

We knew that Dutchess’s second stay with us was going to be short lived. Her personality was going to be too much for some lucky family to pass up. Sure enough, within a week, a sweet family with a nine year old girl officially adopted Dutchess. Erin and I were ecstatic! The cherry on top was that we were going to have her stay with us until her staples were removed. So, I got an extra week of hanging out with one of my all time favorite fosters (but don’t tell Six Pack that).

Ant was pretty excited to attend the meet and greet at Metazoa

Funny enough, that’s not the end of Dutchess’s foster story. Shortly after hearing about her adoption we learned of another foster, Ant, that was struggling to adapt to her new foster home. Her name was for sure one of the more unusual greyhound names of dogs that we have fostered. But nonetheless, Ant had been through a lot in a very short time period. After having spent time at the kennel in Florida, she arrived in Indianapolis on the May 16th haul. I remember meeting her at the PetPeople dog wash and although she was a little shy, she was affectionate and curious. From there, she was fostered at another kennel in Richmond, Indiana for about a week before having to be transferred to a home on the south side of Indianapolis.  Ant needed to be moved due to some foster home rearranging to accommodate other cat/non-cat friendly greyhound fosters. Ant was getting along really well with her foster sisters in her new foster home, but was reacting to her new human foster parents in a very timid nature. Although the foster parents were experienced greyhound owners, they had just recently adopted their second greyhound, so having to foster another dog, who wasn’t quite as confident as theirs, was a little much for them.

Queue Erin and her foster director attitude of “all of the fosters are her fosters.” Knowing that Dutchess would be leaving us soon, she figured we could take Ant and would only be a four doghouse for a couple of days. Let the chaos begin! The last few days had primarily been comical in the way Ant would follow Dutchess everywhere she went. But she seemed to be adapting well. Ant spent her days on a bed in Erin’s office and her evenings running around the house and yard with her new greyhound friends. She had, quite possibly the softest coat I’ve ever felt on a greyhound. We were hoping that she didn’t get too attached to Dutchess, but if she did, Six Pack was laying and waiting for his shot to show her the ropes!

Fourth of July With “E”

Fostering dogs wasn’t about to be the only kind of fostering we did during the pandemic. One afternoon, we received a phone call from our case manager regarding a possible respite stay for a young man currently in foster care. Respite care under DCS circumstances is short term relief for the assigned foster parent. We were asked if could provide care over the Fourth of July holiday weekend for a great kid while his usual foster father was out of town. It didn’t take us long to commit to watching him for the weekend.  We also learned from his foster father, that there may be more opportunities to watch him in the future. “E” was within our requested age range, his behavior was something we were comfortable with, he got along well with dogs (very important), and he knew how to swim. It was a perfect fit!  He respected our dog’s space and took no issues to our instructions or parenting.

Fourth of July was filled with ice cream, sparklers, poppers, and so much pool time I think my fingertips are permanently wrinkled.  We also threw in a compromised amount of screen time, and sleeping in. He was a bit of a picky eater and it was a little difficult to get him to eat a healthy breakfast, but he did make things a little easier by enjoying burgers off of the grill. I mentioned earlier that we were told that he knew how to swim. This is a huge positive for us, because it’s a fun way to spend time with the foster kids and it doesn’t involve video games or the TV. We didn’t think much of it when he threw on his swim trunks the first night and we all went for a swim. We quickly realized that although “E” had probably been in a pool before, he did not know how to swim! It wasn’t a major issue because the rule is that one adult is always outside when a kid is near the water.  It also helped that one of us planned on being in the pool with him at all times (and we do have a shallow end). Especially after we got him a pair of goggles, he didn’t mind spending the majority of his pool time in the shallow end.

We had a great Fourth of July weekend with “E” and made plans with his foster father for him to stay with us for one more weekend in August. At one point while text messaging “E’s” foster father, the idea of “E” staying with us as his permanent foster parents arouse. We never asked for many details of “E”‘s past but were/are under the impression that he will unfortunately be in foster care for a while. This is the kind of situation that tears at my heart strings even more so than having to tell a placement coordinator “no” over the phone. At the time, “E” was would be going back to school via e-learning. And as much as we wanted “E” to stay with us, Erin and I both were extremely busy with work and even questioned how much time we would have in the evening to spend time with him, let alone to monitor his schooling during the day. With that being said, we reluctantly declined the opportunity to foster “E” for a longer period. But don’t worry, this wasn’t the last we would see of “E”, so stay tuned for Fostering During a Pandemic Part II and more stories about “E”, Pepper, and foster greyhound #50!

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