Our foster homes sign-up to be part of our program for many various reasons. This is the story of Ann and her experiences fostering, Chyna, a pit bull in Washington State.
I am a believer that most really bad dogs are the result of bad owners, not their breed. While some breeds may truly be inclined toward aggression, it’s the owners duty and responsibility to curb that inclination and train them properly.
Having said that, I myself have rehomed a rescue, due to aggression. It’s not something I am necessarily proud of, but there was no way to know exactly what her personality would be until we got her home. She had good potential to be a great dog, but I was not prepared for the help she needed. And I think it’s ok to know your limits. If you can’t do the job right, find someone who can. A bad dog will only get worse, without the right help.
I’ve been looking to foster for a while, but my husband is very specific about what he will (and won’t) put up with. When Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet contacted me regarding Chyna, his first question was, “What kind is she?” He’s one of those people who are hesitant of pit bulls, because of their reputation. He doesn’t hate them or want to ban them, but he is leery of them.
Through Janna, the Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet volunteer, Chyna’s owner supplied us with a full description of Chyna’s personality, quirks, and behavior. I have always thought pits got a bad rap in the news, so I was more than willing to give her a chance. The hubby needed convincing. We asked, and were asked, a lot of questions of Chyna’s owner, to not only make sure that we knew what we were in for, but that we would be a good fit with her. We were assured repeatedly that Chyna has never shown any aggression toward people, only other dogs. Well that was fine, we have no other pets. Chyna’s owner also made it clear, if we didn’t set the rules, Chyna would rule us!
We finally got to meet Chyna on a snowy Monday morning. Since her owner could not find a family to take Chyna in before she deployed, Chyna had been at a boarding kennel. I guess most folks who are willing to foster a dog, already have pets, and with her aggression toward other dogs she was not as easy to place.
It was obvious right off the bat, she is a lover! She’ll give you lots of kisses if you let her, and has a tail wag so strong it almost bends her body in half. We knew the true test however, was going to be when we got her home. My husband was still cautious at this point, but we designated this first week as a trial run, and he’s optimistic.
I suppose it’s only natural that there would be adjustments on both sides (us and Chyna) and it’s been interesting so far. We were unable to get her personal crate, so one was borrowed for us. We discovered that first night, she doesn’t like it! As well crate-trained as she was supposed to be, she barked. And barked, and barked. We finally just put her in the kitchen and closed the door; tired and a little disillusioned. Well, come to find out, the donor of the crate had a handful of dogs herself, and Chyna was probably reacting to the overwhelming smells of them. Her owner said it would be better to just get her a new crate, and go from there.
We thought, she’s such a good dog, maybe we don’t even need one, so the first time I had to leave her home alone, I put up a couple gates and closed her in the kitchen. I was only going to be gone a couple hours. I assured myself she’d be fine. Well, a couple turned into a few and I was a little nervous walking through the back door. I expected wags and kisses, but got silence. The gates were down. I called for her. Nothing. I looked in the family room. No Chyna. I checked the living room and saw a cardboard box torn to shreds, but no dog. So I yell for her, thinking, “Jeez, I haven’t even had her a week and I’ve already lost her.” One last room was open, so off to the bedroom I go. Empty. I’m now starting to panic. What am I going to do? Then I notice, my bathroom door is shut tight. It closes on it’s own, but is never all the way shut unless someone is in there. Sure enough, she must have come searching for me and locked herself in. Thank goodness. Who knows what else she would have destroyed, left free to roam the house.
So OK, we have to get a crate. Well, I don’t know how many of you have shopped for crates lately, but they are expensive! I know what kind of pay the military gets, so I hate spending extra money if we don’t need to. I found a soft side travel crate at Costco for less than half of what a plastic one costs. It was the perfect size, and may be handy for Chyna’s owner to have for travel in the future. Perfect.
The night we tested it, was date night with some friends. Again, after a few hours we were eager to get home and check on her. I walked in the back door hoping to see her huge smile looking back at me from behind the zippered screen. What I found was a broken zipper. AArrrgggggh! Back through the rooms we go, calling for her. Nothing seem destroyed this time, but still, no Chyna, until I check the bathroom. She did it again! It was lucky for me, too, as my husband is more than slightly irritated at this point.
OK. That was a bust. I figure I’ll take the travel crate back to Costco and get a refund. Any dog crate should last more than a few hours before the zipper splits. Mind you, we live kind of out in a little country town and I don’t make trips to the ‘city’ every day, so a couple days later when I had a dentist appointment, I still hadn’t gotten a new crate. The dentist appointment though, can’t wait. I figure, she likes the bathroom so much, I’ll lock her in the spare bathroom while I’m gone. Couple hours, tops. Well, I ended up meeting my mother for lunch and then we stopped at the local thrift store so it was closer to four hours by the time I got home.
As soon as I let her out, I know something is wrong. She’s got that hunkered down, tail between the legs, “I know I was bad” look. I let her into the back yard to go potty and came back to the bathroom. I had put away the trash can, picked up anything I thought she could mess with, so what had I missed? I’m checking her pillow, the tub, the floor… OK, it looks like she spilled her water, but that’s not it… WHAT AM I MISSING?? Then it hits me, the shower curtain rod doesn’t usually hang at that angle, does it? Uuuh, no. It doesn’t. Somehow she has ripped the wall anchors that the shower rod was screwed into, out of the wall! I still haven’t figured out what happened. There aren’t any holes in the shower curtain to imply she was playing tug-o-war, so your guess is as good as mine.
We’ve also discovered, she may have an allergy or something with her food. For whatever reason, it doesn’t agree with her system. She’s going potty fine, but Oh… My… Goodness! does she have some BAAAD gas! And that smell travels far. It’s horrific. Literally, you’re nose and eyes will burn. It’s that bad. And frequent. I swear, she’d let one rip every 5-10 minutes. Under “Silent but deadly” in the dictionary, it says Chyna farts. After the first week I mentioned it to her owner, who informed me that was not normal for her. I also spoke with the Guardian Angle rep we were working with and found out that Chyna had just started on a new dog food, when her owner had deployed. She recommended changing again and Chyna’s gas is SOOO much better!
Did I mention have nicknamed her, The Destroyer? She came to us with a regular snowman-shaped Kong, and a Kong ball; both of which were seriously chewed at the openings. When she’d gnaw on the ball it seems to make her gums bleed so we wanted to get her a new one. I happened to be running to the store, so stopped down the dog aisle to see what they had. The only Kong toys they had were for small dogs and I knew it wouldn’t be tough enough. I did find, however, a large nylon bone that was touted to be “Nearly Indestructible.” It wasn’t cheap, but I figured if it was as good as the package said, it was worth a try. I swear, it wasn’t ten minutes after I got home, and she had the end of that sucker chewed off! I thought about writing to the company and telling them I thought something “Nearly Indestructible” should last longer than that, but I didn’t really figure they would care all that much.
Another thing we discovered right away, is that Chyna does not like the cold, especially in the form of snow. At one point we had a couple inches of the white stuff and we had to force her out the door. It was hysterical to watch her walk back and forth along the side of the house (where the eaves keep it snow free for about 1’) wanting to go potty, but unwilling to venture out in the yard. Finally, she kind of stuck her hind end out over the snow and went; keeping her feet nice and dry.
Chyna weighs about 35 pounds. It’s all muscle, but she’s still a fair sized dog. Someone forgot to inform her. She is convinced that when there is a lap available, she should be in it. She is a snuggle bug extraordinaire. But beware, laying on top of you will put her right to sleep, and she snores. Like a buzz saw. We haven’t had to turn the TV up yet, but she definitely adds vocal to any show. Thankfully my hubby and I both snore too, so she fits right in and doesn’t keep us up at night.
I’ve decided she might also have been a cow in another life. I’ve never seen a dog eat so much grass. I was concerned she wasn’t feeling well, but her owner assures me Chyna has always been a grazer and actually seems to enjoy it. Go figure. Oh, and by the way, did you know that eating grass will result in poopy, grass dangles? Gross.
Through it all, she is such a sweetie. All she wants to do is love and be loved. She can get a little excited when new friends come to visit, but a pat on the head, a scratch down the back, and a belly rub, turn her into a mass of quivering jelly at your feet. If you’re just hanging out, she doesn’t want you to get bored or lonely, so she’s right there looking to help keep you occupied with scratching and kisses. But don’t you dare stop, or she’ll root and nudge your hand, arm, and elbow, until you resume. She doesn’t mind bath time, because a rubdown to dry her off is pure ecstasy!
- Written by Ann, foster mom in Washington state.