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.
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.
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.
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?