Tuesday, 14 December 2010
I have talked about missing a dog and may have already mentioned the fact that I was trying to be a foster mom. I have been in touch with a dog shelter here in our area and was cleared to do some fostering for them. They call references and do home visits before they deem you reliable and responsible to care for their dogs. This was all fine with me. I was very excited to get started.
As soon as my girlfriends went back to the states in October, I told the foster coordinator for Leicester Animal Aid (Linda) that I was now available as I didn't have any traveling lined up for a month or so. The next day Linda showed up at my door. With her was 50 pounds of an excited, wiggly, muscle bound, Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Bubba. He ran to me immediately sniffing me and wanting to be petted. Then he took off to explore the house. I knew right away that this was no shy, shrinking violet.
Linda told me Bubba's story. He was given up by a man and wife who split up. Apparently they had him for four years (they had adopted him from the shelter when he was one). The man drove a truck for a living and Bubba went with him in his truck everyday. However when the man moved out he couldn't take Bubba to his new home. So Bubba stayed with the woman. She worked and was gone nine hours a day. She couldn't seem to understand why Bubba (who had hardly been left alone) suddenly was messing in the house, barking and tearing things up! She dropped him off at the shelter telling Linda that they probably couldn't home him because of the above issues and oh, by he way, he hates other dogs and chases cats.
So Bubba ended up with me because he was at the moment a basket case. Besides these other issues he was overweight. Our home would be perfect as there are no other pets or young children, we have a fenced in yard and I am home all the time. The shelter provides all the food for the foster animals along with vet care if needed. They also make arrangements to take the animals back when I travel. That was a must for us.
I should say that Joe was not real excited about this new venture for me. He likes dogs (his favorite phrase is "I like OP dogs", meaning other people's), but would rather not have one in his house. He doesn't like messes, dog hair, us being tied down, all the things that go with having pets. But he knows how I feel about dogs and more importantly that I needed some companionship while he is working long hours and traveling. Without a car, things can get pretty mundane around here. We didn't want to adopt because then we'd have to get it back to the states when our gig here is over. Also, we do travel a lot. Reluctantly he agreed that fostering was probably a good thing for me. Also, there is a real need for foster mums, as they call us here.
As it happened Joe was out of town when Bubba arrived. After Linda left, Bubba jumped right up on the couch next to me. I made him get down as my first idea was to not allow shedding dogs on the furniture. He promptly jumped down when I said, "no". However about 15 minutes later while I was using my laptop he suddenly appeared next to me on the couch and put his head on my knee. Well, that was the end of that rule! That afternoon Bubba and I became quite acquainted. He nuzzled me, tried to lay ON me, and licked me all day! I could not believe the affection that this dog craved. Naturally I responded to his every need. Later we took a walk and I saw the negative side of this love bug. There is no love in him for other dogs!
Bubba is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. All bull terriers, the Pit Bull, American Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier originated in Great Britain. During migration to America they were gradually introduced there. They were bred along different lines for different purposes changing their looks slightly and eventually becoming three different breeds. However, they all look so similar they are many times confused for one another.
Consequently the Bull Terriers as a whole have a bad reputation in the media, especially the Pit Bulls. Staffies don't actually have as bad a rep here in the UK. They are the most popular dog breed here, so of course they are the most prevalent in the shelters. I have heard so many different reasons for their aggression to other dogs I really don't know what to believe. I've never dealt with this breed before. Bubba was raised by one family (after one year old) and as far as I know has not had much contact with other dogs. But when I took him for that first walk that day, he was extremely aggressive to any dog that we walked past. To the point that I almost lost control of him. So is it in the breed? Sure seems like it to me. It is a common personality trait in the Staffies, equally as much as their affection to humans.
I noticed that Linda had brought a nose guard with his leash. It was just a strap that went around his nose that reminded me of some kind of muzzle. But she had said it wasn't a muzzle. I sat down on the computer to see what the nose guard was all about. Turns out it is a very popular tool for walking dogs who pull at their leash. It goes around their nose and hooks to the leash. It doesn't hurt them or keep them from barking, eating or drinking. Its purpose is to pull their head to the side when they start to pull away and not allow them to get their body behind a charge. I have used it ever since that first day. Bubba still gets crazy when he sees another dog but I can at least control him. It is not fun to walk him and have him make such a spectacle of himself. But he needs walking (losing weight and using up energy) so I go. We walk an hour a day.
I talked Joe into walking with us one Sunday. He had never seen Bubba turn into the growling screeching monster that he does when faced with another dog. It was so funny because we passed about three dogs on our walk and each time Joe would walk towards the other people explaining that "this isn't our dog, it's a dog we are fostering". Of course he was so embarrassed by Bubba's behavior and didn't want to take any responsibility for it. That also happened to be the last time that he went for a walk with us.
Bubba and I settled down to a nice routine. He would wake me up around 8:00 in the morning, sniffing my ear and licking my face. Then he'd go to the bathroom and eat and we'd go out for our walk around 9:00. He just loved his walks, but I always could tell his ears were perked for other dogs. He'd look up any street we crossed and up into driveways on his search for canines. I was looking too for the opposite reason! He soon learned that if I abruptly changed directions or crossed a street he'd look back knowing that there was something interesting there that I didn't want him to see.
The rest of the day he would keep me company no matter what I did. He followed me from room to room. He was the perfect companion. He barked just a little when someone came to the door but as soon as I answered it he was right there waiting to be petted by whoever it was. In his mind everyone should love him! I told one delivery guy, "don't worry, he's friendly". The guy replied, " 'course he is, he's a Staffie". Another man was telling me that he had a Staffie that died that he loved so much. He went on to say that his wife now wanted to get a smaller dog since they had a small child. He was kind of thinking out loud about it, making reasons to go with the smaller dog when he looked at Bubba and said, "But Staffie's a proper dog they are".
Bubba would go right up to people with the littlest bit of encouragement. While walking if a person spoke to Bubba he'd run right up for a pet or jump on their leg for a real big pet! I always tried to warn them. Workmen, the mail carrier, it didn't matter. Most didn't care at all if he jumped. I would see this old couple walking regularly on our street. The man was a big tall guy and the woman a tiny little short thing. They are always friendly and stop to say hello. One day it was wet out and she had a nice light blue raincoat on. As we walked closer she started talking to Bubba. I held on tight so he couldn't get too close and told her that I didn't want him to jump up on her nice coat. She just shrugged, "oh, that's OK, I can just throw it in the wash". That's pretty much the Brits attitude about everything. They don't get bothered by life's little problems. I told her that Bubba had been a bad boy that day and had gone after two dogs. She replied while petting him, "Oh, he's a cheeky boy is he?" Gotta love the Brit talk!
Bubba would spend his afternoon relaxing on the couch. About 5:00 he'd start looking for Joe. He had a place on the couch he could sit and watch the front door. He couldn't really see out of it, but could see the headlights as they panned towards the door when Joe was parking. Joe doesn't usually get home before 6:00 but Bubba would start the watch at 5. When Joe did come home he'd tear over to the door to meet him. Once in a while I would open the door and let him run outside after Joe turned the car off. When Joe opened the car door to get out, Bubba would jump right in! He loved the car! Once they came into the house the game was on. Bubba would grab a toy and Joe would chase him all over the house for about 10 minutes or so. Bubba would cross under the dining room table, go circles through the kitchen, dining room, living room and entry way, run back into the bedrooms and then leap past Joe who was blocking the hall. It was a huge game that was hilarious to watch. He was just like a kid. Finally he'd have to stop, Bubba, not Joe! He'd get winded and settle down with the toy. I think that was his favorite time of day.
After having him for almost six weeks I had to take him back to the shelter as I was going to Washington state for Thanksgiving to visit with my mom, sisters and their families. I was supposed to get him back on my return, but I had to extend my stay in Washington as my mother needed to be moved. We are leaving Friday to go to Maryland for Christmas so I have not had him back yet. Linda was able to find another foster for him during my absence. Of course all this time he is up for adoption. The trouble is there are so many Staffies to choose from and of course the ones at the shelter get picked first as they are there to see. I'm not sure how long they will keep a dog like Bubba, who is dog aggressive. Not only that but he can't be left for long periods of time or he will destroy things. About two hours is the max. So he has proved hard to home. I know there are a lot of other dogs that could use a foster home too. Thank goodness that decision is not in my hands.
I told Linda that I would be glad to have Bubba back or another dog, if that is what she needed. She is coming by to talk to me before I leave Friday, so I guess she's got something in mind.