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A Foster Parent’s Worst Nightmare

June 21st, 2012 | Posted by Emily in Blog Love | Bumming Out | Doggies! | Fostering. | KC Pittie Pack and Friends | Opt to Adopt | Super serious.

I received some news this week that is the kind of news that every foster parent dreads. It was about my favorite black dog, Charlie Machete, being discovered at an animal shelter in Omaha just months after being adopted by a (seemingly awesome) guy – and just one failed temperament test away from being euthanized.

Photo courtesy of Wayward Dogs

Charlie was fostered independently by my good friend and co-founder of the KC Pittie Pack, Crystal, who writes the Wayward Dogs blog. After eight months of fostering, Charlie was finally adopted in March by a guy in Iowa who seemed completely legitimate. His dog had recently died and was the spitting image of Charlie, so it seemed as though they were a match made in doggy heaven. Crystal seemed a bit uneasy with the fact that this guy was slow to respond to “check-in” emails she sent in the weeks and months after the adoption was finalized, but she trusted that his silence was due to being busy or not computer savvy or something. The few updates she did get were positive so she believed that Charlie was safe and loved.

Photo courtesy of Wayward Dogs

Until this weekend when Crystal received a phone call from the Nebraska Humane Society in Omaha alerting her that Charlie had been left at the shelter by “an unknown party” – but definitely not the guy who adopted him four months ago. Crystal was still listed as the contact person on Charlie’s microchip, and she offered to break him out of the slammer right away. The only problem was that Charlie was behaving in a less-than-stellar manner in the shelter (who could blame him?) and he was put on the euthanasia list. A few quick calls to Crystal’s rescue contacts in Nebraska and Charlie was pulled from the euthanasia list and picked up by Crystal’s boyfriend Zach on Monday. He’s safe now at home with Crystal & Zach, but his story could have ended very differently.

Photo courtesy of Wayward Dogs

The adoption agreement that this man signed clearly stated that if for any reason he could not keep Charlie, he was to make arrangements to return Charlie to Crystal. For whatever reason this guy decided to re-home Charlie on his own. Luckily he never got around to updating Charlie’s microchip, enabling Crystal to learn of his predicament. Crystal is obviously frustrated and upset that Charlie has been put through this, but she is trying to look on the positive side and see it for the valuable lessons she’s learned:

1. When you adopt out your foster dog, let the adopters know that you will be contacting them periodically to check up on the dog. This way, they are aware that you are not just going to forget about the dog as soon as it leaves your care. If they don’t respond to repeated attempts to contact them, there might be a problem. I get periodic updates on each of my foster dogs and their new families let me know when they are dealing with issues and try to help them in any way I can. Sometimes even this is not enough (as Crystal experienced) but it definitely helps.

2. Trust your gut. Crystal told me several times that she wasn’t 100% sold on this guy but was hoping for the best. We have intuition for a reason – trust it! If you aren’t totally confident it is the right home – take a pass. The right one will come along eventually.

3. Microchip your fosters (if your rescue group doesn’t do it – do it yourself)! If the new adopters are too lazy to change it (like the man who adopted Charlie), you might luck out if they try to leave the dog at a shelter. If Crystal hadn’t microchipped Charlie, she would have never known what happened to him.

I am not sure what else Crystal could have done to avoid what happened. To any fosters reading this – what do you do to ensure your foster dogs don’t end up back at the shelter?

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13 Responses

  • avatar Jessica says:

    As the rescuer you can ask the chip company to keep your contact information on the chip forever. It can’t be changed without proof from the person requesting the change that you, the rescuer, have asked to be removed from the chip. I had a Cane Corso mix surrendered back to me after 3 years with his adopter. I had to jump through serious hoops to get adopter #1 removed from the chip and add adopter #2.

    Chip companies don’t make owner information changes lightly!

  • avatar Teresa says:

    Aww poor Charlie. At least he is back in a loving home poor thing can’t imagine what he went through. This guy shouldn’t have animals by the sounds of it. Hope Charlie finds a loving home that deserves him. I know I always go with my gut on decisions. The gut doesn’t lie.

  • The thought of finding Laynie in a shelter makes me want to cry! Fostering is a really tough job sometimes, but I am so happy Charlie is back in loving care!

  • The rescue we volunteer with also clearly states in the adoption contract that the dog/cat is to come back to us and we are very clear to verbalize that as well upon adoption. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we have still had to “collect” several dogs from various shelters over the past couple of years.

  • avatar Laurie says:

    Wow, that was kinda scary to read but I’m so glad Charlie is safe. Such a beautiful dog~

  • avatar Emily says:

    I feel so bad for Charlie but I’m glad he’s safe now.

    That is so frustrating! I hate to say it but this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about something like this.

  • Thanks for sharing our story — and for offering endless pep talks. As the comments indicate, the dumping risk exists even folks who cross their t’s and dot their i’s better than we did. But we sure hope we can get him into a rescue organization this time and minimize it next time. And for now, we’re gonna try to overdose him on love.

  • We always ask for our microchips to have a secondary contact on them. If the owner, who very well SHOULD update the contact information, does so – our information also always remains with the dog. This way, should anything happen to our dogs, we will always be the second point of contact for anyone who finds them.

  • avatar tholupka says:

    I’m thankful there are so many wonderful people in the world (like foster parents) to balance out the people that suck. It’s just sad that instead of a human dialing a phone number or emailing Crystal, Charilie had to go through a re-home and shelter stay (with death pending).

  • Wow- that is such a scary situation! One thing I find so hard about rescue is that, at the end of the day, you have to trust that human beings will be decent. When I foster now, I try to form some sort of personal relationship with the adopter. I want to get to know them on a personal level, even if we only meet so many times. But it’s true that intuition plays a big role in it. If something feels off, it usually is. I’m just glad Charlie is back in a safe place!

  • Wow, that’s unbelievable. I’m so glad that he is now safe and sound. Thanks for this valuable information!

  • avatar Megan says:

    Emily, I just want to say that I think it’s awesome that you do this. I don’t think I could ever have enough emotional stability to take care of a dog, let it go, and then on top of that, find out something like this. You and your pet-rescuing friends are awesomeballs! That is all. : )

  • Well, thank g-d Charlie is now safe and sound. I hope that your friend Crystal isn’t beating herself up because she did her best. I’ll never understand why people try to rehome dogs themselves …. so glad that there was a happy ending for Charlie.