I was sitting right where I am sitting at this very moment when the call came in that Lucas had cancer. So when the phone rang and I saw it was the vet’s office I braced myself. Burke, my little Black Lab foster boy, had started throwing up a clear brown liquid in the middle of the week. My life isn’t simple as far as dogs go so I assumed it was somewhere between a face hugging alien and something truly lethal. But it’s just a simple upper respiratory infection. Some meds and some time and Burke will be okay again.
The woman at the vet’s office told me this morning I might not be able to take him home today. I’m fostering for a group who saves Labs and they have a policy of keeping the dog at the vet’s if he’s sick. But Burke has been abandoned before. I can’t let him think I walked off from him. He has to know I’m coming back and a three day weekend would cause a lot of the trust and training I’ve given him to fade. You really do not know how much you care about a dog until he’s sick and you’re separated from him.
When Lucas was recovering from surgery the vet called me to tell me that Lucas had stopped eating and stopped emptying his bladder when they walked him. All his vitals were good and the bleeding had mostly stopped but Lucas wasn’t responding to anyone there. Lucas was shutting down. I told them I was coming to get my dog, now. There comes a time when an animal’s mental state of mind is as important as meds. Burke cannot spend another night in a cold cage away from an environment where he knows he is safe and has a home. I told him I wouldn’t let this happen to him. He’s been failed too many times in his short life. I cannot, I will not, fail this dog.
What will become of those people who abandon dogs? How do they ever recover that part of their souls? How can they not be haunted at night with the idea they’ve destroyed a sentient being in the cruelest manner possible? I have no intentions of keeping Burke forever but I do intend on making sure that he is kept forever. This little pukey dog has a place to go home to and he always will. This is my vow as a foster. This is what I must do.
I’ve cleaned up more dog puke in the last three days than I ever have before. This morning on the way to the vet’s office Burke puked on his blanket and then tried to get away from it. He wound up with his head stuck between my stick shift and the lower dashboard console. I couldn’t shift into third or fifth gear while his head was there and he was making his, “Oh, I have to puke right now!” noises. Two blocks from the vet I hit two red lights and Burke was heaving. I managed to get him out and get him on some grass as he popped. The blanket has puke on it and my truck smells like puppy puke but Burke made it to the vet’s.
It’s been a while since I had a sick puppy. Burke hasn’t really bonded with the pack quite yet and with this bout of illness I haven’t been able to put him into training like I want. Wrex knew his name, knew how to sit, and knew what it meant when I called him, and all of this within the first week. Burke is limping along. He knows his name but sit escapes him and he sits tries to run from me sometimes. He’s frightened, still. Last night I put him on the bed and he let me hold him for a while. His body posture tells me he’s still unsure as to who or what I am or what I might do. But the bed is the place where the big dogs go and he was excited to be up where they can go. Lucas and Lilith seemed to realize what I was doing and showed great patience with the little guy exploring their territory. Lucas was very good about this sort of thing even before I began fostering and now he seems to take it as part of his mission in life, too. Lucas the Large, massive of body and of heart!
Lilith, eh, not so much, still.
Sam, The Happy Hound, is sitting this one out. He’s paid very little attention to Burke one way or another. I think Sam’s day to day struggle to survive the ravages of old age takes up most of his spare time these days. Sam gives this gangly stranger a wide berth. When trying to navigate the back steps Sam must first ascertain where Burke is before he’ll try the trip down. Burke hasn’t learned the steps are a one way street when Sam is coming down them.
So now I have a three day weekend before me. I’ll spend that time nursing my little pukey dog make to health. I plan on building a fire one day. I’m going to do some writing, too. But mostly I’ll be washing towels and blankets and getting the puppy puke out of the bottom of the crate. I’ll be feeding Burke his special wet puppy food and making sure he gets out and gets some exercise while he’s sick. He has to know that whatever is happening to him there is someone there to take care of him.
After Lucas was diagnosed I simply could not lose him. I had lost Bert too recently. I couldn’t lose another dog, no, not yet, not to something like cancer. There had to be a fight, some epic battle, were I to lose, I had to make sure I went down hard, smashing into the earth, leaving nothing on the table, leaving nothing untried, leaving my heart crushed and my soul damaged, because Lucas deserved it.
I can’t lose this Pukey little dog. He’s lost too much in his short time here. Someone has to fight for him and make him well and assure him that his life means something.
It’s why I foster.