By Nancy Kerns
Usually, when I foster, I choose a smart and cute wayward adolescent who needs some training and guidance, and I actively participate in the search for an appropriate home for the dog, and then provide guidance and advice to the new owner. Or, I foster a litter of puppies who are going to be adopted lickety-split. Either way, I usually feel great about the whole thing – getting to help a dog become more likely to succeed in his or her happy new home. Today, though, I’m sort of miserable and sad.
As you may have read here before, my most recent fostering project is a heartworm-positive mama hound and her seven puppies. The puppies, as ever, are going to fly off the shelves – that is, they are certain to elicit an ample number of applications from the website of the coonhound rescue responsible for taking on the whole mess and finding the family appropriate homes. But the mama – who is going to take the mother hound?
I did not particularly enjoy having the mama hound at first. She was so emaciated and neglected when she arrived, 10-day-old puppies in tow, that it was understandable that she was rather protective of her food. I had to make sure no other dogs were anywhere near her food – not even her own puppies, once they began crawling around. She would get a little harsh in guarding her meals from them, and even taking over their food from them if she got a chance.
It was obvious to me that she has received very little handling and training. If you snapped a leash on her collar and pulled on the leash (either to prevent her from going somewhere she wanted to go, like back into the kitchen to eat the puppies’ food, or to get her to go somewhere she didn’t want to go, like outside to eat her own food), she would just sort of sink to the ground, the ultimate in passive, uncomprehending resistance. We made headway only when I armed myself with my all-time favorite, most powerful, not-at-all-secret dog-training tool: Stella and Chewy’s Chicken Meal Mixers, which I have been using in copious amounts to lure Mama in and out of the house, to reward her for potting outside on cue, and to follow me and the leash.