So Galina is still here. I guess we assumed she’d have a home by now since she’s such a little sweet heart, even if she is a mischievous devil at the same time. For the past three weeks we’ve been treating her like an honored guest – feeding her as much as she wants, letting her sit on the good furniture, and fawning over her at every opportunity.
When you have a guest and they accidentally break something like your reading glasses or computer charger cord or your ottoman, you let it slide. You don’t want the guest to feel unwelcome. Maybe you joke about it, even blog about it.
And when a guest leaves a mess – like an entire deck of cards spread across your living room floor (a few half-eaten) or maybe the guest discovers an irresistible roll of wrapping paper under the bed and decides it would be a perfect snack. You let this slide also. It’s kind of funny, really. And cards are cheap and you never liked that wrapping paper anyway.
But now she’s been here long enough, she’s more like family. So we scold her and grumble at her and yesterday I snapped at her (granted she had just stolen the sock I was trying to put on my foot). It’s become evident that she’s getting awfully comfortable.
So this week it was time to instill a little order, a little discipline. Enough of the free ride. For the past few days, Galina has not been allowed free reign of the house unsupervised. She’s spent much more time in her crate. I know that seems cruel, but the crate is full of toys and she gets a treat every time she goes in and, most importantly, she goes in happily. She never even whines when she’s in her crate. And yesterday when I snapped at her about the sock, she ran in her crate for safety from the loud woman.
Now when she’s out of her crate, someone is in charge of her. She hangs out with Ian in the playroom while he’s playing games on the computer. She snuggles next to Nick on the couch when he’s reading. I bring her in my office with me, along with Gracie who is her best babysitter. But when it’s time to focus on something that might prevent me from noticing a small guest dragging a bag of coffee filters out of the cupboard, that’s when she goes in the crate.
She’s also been put on a diet. In just the few short weeks she’s been here, she’s already plumping up. So I measure her food now and halve the treats she receives each time she does her business outside (which is most of the time – yeh!).
She’s getting dedicated exercise. At least one long walk every day and a quick run around outside every few hours in the hopes that this will dispel some of her energy. It’s helped, but G really has two speeds – full-on-happy and snuggle-mode. No matter how far I walk/run her, that doesn’t change.
Galina is thriving with the structure – less destruction, fewer accidents, happier (is that possible?) dog. And Gracie is also enjoying the structure as Galina was running her ragged with her endless irresistible invitations to play.
In retrospect, we should have given Galina more structure from the beginning. We were just SO EXCITED to have her and her happy energy was infectious, so infectious that we let some bad habits develop. But now we’re smarter fosters, we know more.
We say the same thing about the kids – we made our mistakes on the first one, got better with the second, and now the third one’s the charm. Kidding. But our first foster experience has taught us a lot.
Galina has taught us that we have a job here – it’s not just to have fun with our little charge, it’s also to prepare her for her forever family so that when she arrives there she has a few manners and is much less likely to eat the furniture.
1 thought on “Older, Wiser We Are”
Now I understand when you mention how you learned to care for your fosters with a firm but gentle hand, insisting they respect boundaries and follow your commands regularly. I think parents of small children and owners of dogs everywhere sometimes struggle to find the right balance of structure and nurture. I’ve heard that the average dog has the cognitive functioning of a typical two-year-old child, which explains why they need to be supervised, given plenty of playtime and have important concepts reinforced regularly for them. Also why they can only understand simple commands, but can also come to understand the firm voice that means an owner means business. We all have a snapping point. You did, and still are doing, a good thing.