Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Welcoming Charlie: Bringing an injured foster dog into our home

If Charlie wasn't injured, we probably never would have met him. The lovely rescue volunteer who found him has several other dogs and, with Charlie's fresh wounds and cone of shame, he couldn't be around these other pups lest they reopen his stitches.

Bringing home any new animal is an adjustment for all involved. Nervousness, confusion, stress -it's all part of the transition. As an animal foster home, we'll have to get used to that. In Charlie's case, there were some added elements due to his recent car accident that left him missing an eye and with a cone on his head. His vision was obviously drastically restricted from what it had previously been. His stitches were itchy and he was in pain. Plus, he had to deal with a Canadian and an Irishman speaking English around him all the time, likely a new experience.

In this post, I'm just going to talk about how we initially introduced him to our home.

The first few days

Day 1!

We set up a "bed" made of a yoga towel and one of Cathal's dirty t-shirts. He figured out instantly that it was meant for him. We initially included a cushion but he used it to scratch his wound so we removed it. He eventually added one of my slippers to this set up, which I didn't have the heart to take away for a few days. He didn't chew it, just put it in his spot. The little wiggler knows how to pull the heart strings!

For the first few days, I had the luxury of being at home 24/7. I pet him, talked to him, and played with him pretty much all day. 
Answer to to the question: What do you do all day?

We bought him a rope to play tug of war which was wildly successful, especially when he would get overcome with itchiness or pain. Distracting him from trying to scratch through the cone or crying was usually just a matter of pulling out the rope. (Some people are against playing tug of war with dogs. I think it has been great for Charlie and will explain more in a post about toys for blind dogs.)

On our walks, I talked to him the whole time, getting him used to my voice and his name. He was understandably disoriented and would often stop during walks. Several times per walk he would stare into the distance or walk in circles; we would give him a gentle touch on the back to remind him what we were doing and then he would snap back into focus. Almost all of our walks took place in our apartment compound so he was consistently walking in the same place, getting used to familiar surroundings. 

Giving him his own space

For his own safety, we realized after a couple of days, Charlie could not be allowed to roam the apartment. He had discovered he could use edges of furniture to scratch his eye, causing the wound to reopen. Plus, he kept walking into things and didn't seem to be learning the layout very well. 

Lucky for us, we have a fully glass-enclosed balcony. As we're on the second floor with trees right outside our place, our view is terrible. We don't use the balcony for anything except housing our washer and dryer. The balcony retains heat really well and is often warmer than the rest of the house. Voila, Charlie had a home. 

Actually totally happy, I swear

We moved his bed and used treats and food to coax him outside. Throughout the day I would go outside to pet him and play tug of war. He got used to it very quickly and would make his way out there naturally after walks. It also gave him a view of the outside compound where he would watch people and dogs walk by all day.

Similar to crating (which wouldn't have been doable with the giant cone), this gave him his own little dog cave to call his own.

Realizing his limits

In the first couple of weeks, the rescue occasionally had to take him away to go to appointments. When he came back, he went through a bit of stress all over again. One day we took him on a walk outside of the compound right after he returned from a vet appointment. He became very distressed and vomited on the sidewalk. Lesson learned: especially on days when he had been jolted out of his comfort zone, we would keep him in his routine, on familiar ground.

His vision was obviously an issue. On walks, I tried to give him fairly free reign to sniff around wherever he saw fit. Sadly, he kept walking full speed into low lights and rubbish bins in our compound. We got into a routine of quick tugs on his leash to keep him out of harm's way or to warn him that there was curb.

Stairs were very stressful for him. To get out of our apartment, we used the ramp for weeks before we pushed him to try the stairs. Overall, I think giving him time to feel comfortable first before attempting things like stairs, taking him to new places, and teaching him tricks was key to keeping him calm and happy.

All in all, Charlie's transition into our home was not bad at all. Shoving pills down his throat and squeezing antibacterial fluid into his eye socket twice daily were not the most fun for any of us. But I think by showering him with love and creating stability, he was as comfortable and content as any one-eyed cone-laden pup could be.

Unfortunately this idyllic scenario was not to last. More on that another day!

If you have any other tips for helping an injured foster dog feel at home in your home, please comment below!

1 comment:

  1. Awwww such a sad story but absolutely amazing kindness of you both :-)