A few weeks after we received Goose, and about a week after we said goodbye to Licorice, my phone started lighting up with messages from the rescue. Possibility of a owner surrender, yorkie/dachshund mix, 10 years old; could I take her? Otto has always said we have a two-dog maximum. Well. I had just one dog, now, and even I was growing tired of my moping around and spending all my spare time crying (side note: my parents were very much of the “shield young children from death” variety, and while I’m not blaming them for the profound grief I found myself mired in after Licorice died, allow me to suggest to any parents with younger children that death is indeed a part of life and trying to keep your children from realizing that may bite them in the butt later on), so I said yes, sure, let’s get her.
It was a group effort; one volunteer worked out the surrender paperwork, another went and fetched the dog, and then I went to her house to do pick-up. It was a sad story: Rosie had belonged to a single, older owner for most of her life; when the owner died, her adult child claimed her, but couldn’t keep her. The dog I picked up seemed friendly enough. I now have a “doggie carseat” type contraption in the back of my car (because of course I do) complete with a seatbelt that attaches to a dog’s harness. I loaded Rosie in, buckled the seatbelt, and away we went.
About 30 seconds after I started driving, I noted that Rosie managed to flip herself out of the doggie containment and was now seated next to it, in the middle of the backseat. Hmmm. Well, okay. And then we were just a couple miles from home when Rosie jumped into the front seat. I did NOT drive into a ditch when that happened, so YAY ME. She had somehow slipped the harness—the one provided by the rescue as escape-proof, mind you—and it remained securely buckled while she made herself comfortable right next to me. Huh.
Originally I had thought I wouldn’t give her a bath right away, because I didn’t want to stress her out, but our short trip in the car made it clear that a bath could not wait. Ahem. I carried her upstairs (no small feat, as she was a low-slung and portly creature Otto likens to a bag of wet cement) and put her in the bathtub, whereupon I discovered there was a lollipop stick embedded in her belly fur. I extracted it and started the water. I had to wash her twice before the water ran clear, and I will spare you the details of the… uhhh… bit of fur-trimming I determined to be hygienically necessary. Rosie tolerated all of this well, but drew the line at the hairdryer. Finally I freed her from the bathroom, where—with alarming speed, given her size—she burst forth, ran down the stairs, and immediately went and hid under the nearest piece of furniture.
She came out a few times, over the next few days, to briefly stretch out near our feet, but mostly spent her time curled up under a nightstand in our room. Still, when she came out, we could see that she was confused and sad, and sometimes I would lie down on the floor across from her and quietly tell her, “Same, girlfriend.”
Rosie was happy to amble outside to pee whenever asked, and happy to eat food offered to her, but other than that, please do not look at her, DEFINITELY DO NOT TOUCH HER, and goodbye, she was headed back to the nightstand.
I took her to the vet (using a different harness, this time, and she stayed contained) and they diagnosed her with a UTI and put her on antibiotics and scheduled surgery a week later to remove her left eye (advanced glaucoma; oh how the universe loves to repeat on me). When we got home, she went back under the nightstand.
On the… fourth or fifth day, I can’t remember… she decided she was safe. She trotted out from under the nightstand, never to return. She wagged. She flopped over on her back for belly rubs. She decided she should always be near someone and that someone should also, preferably, be petting her. After a week of quietly sleeping in a crate (which, admittedly, we were shoving her into each night), she decided she was All Done With That and barked for an hour, one night, until I moved the crate into our bedroom. She then whined from the crate until I opened the door, and eventually settled in a dog bed on the floor (where she’s been sleeping ever since).
Rosie and Goose sniff one another respectfully but mostly do not interact. One day Rosie got excited about something and started barking and jumping in the kitchen, and Goose looked at her like she’d lost her mind. But then I found the two of them chewing on the same toy, one day, and they immediately stopped when I walked into the room, as if caught misbehaving. Goose is tiny but equipped with a full set of gremlin springs and so goes wherever she damn well pleases, which meant that Rosie was often on the floor trying to figure out how to heft her girth onto a couch while Goose sprung from lap to lap, finally stretching out on an armrest like a furry vulture, and doing everything short of actually smirking at Rosie.
So it was a fun few days while all the dogs were happy and I was mostly feeling better and not crying all the time.
And then Rosie had surgery. In addition to the eyeball-plucking (oh, sorry, they call that enucleation, I guess), she was also slated for a dental cleaning. I guess she’d never had one before? And as a reminder: this dog is TEN. They ended up pulling 11 teeth, and I don’t know if you know this, but THAT IS A LOT OF TEETH. The good news is that her breath is now delightful. The bad news is that enucleation is a rough surgery for an older dog, and the pain of losing all those teeth on TOP of that was a lot. So I picked up a very stoned dog in a cone who had no idea what was going on, Did Not Like The Cone Of Shame, and was mostly just very dopey at pick-up. I was assured she was “doing fine.”
Reader, she was not doing fine. And allow me to assure you that my neuroses as a mother are only multiplied when it comes to mothering creatures who cannot tell me what they need. Plus I had not realized how traumatic Licorice’s last night with us really was, and how much caring for another dog in a lot of pain was going to bring me back to that terrible time. Rosie was fine when we came home because she was still completely stoned. But she had no interest in eating anything, which meant that I could not give her her pills. No antibiotic. No pain pill. Well, we would try again in the morning. Rosie went to bed without issue, but began moaning and crying in the wee hours. She did not want water. She did not want food. And she most definitely did not want any pills, even though I HAVE YOUR PAIN MEDICATION RIGHT HERE YA DUMMY. Nope, no-how, no way. I tried to keep her comfortable until the vet’s office opened—this mostly consisted of lying on the floor with her and crying myowndamnself—and then they told me they’d call me back after talking to the doctor, so we waited another hour, and then they called and said to bring her and the meds in, they’d give her the pills for me. Uh, okay. Off we went.
And listen, I’m not saying I’m GLAD that they also could not get anything into her, I’m just saying that when I was sitting in the waiting area and could hear Rosie SCREAMING at their attempts to pill her, I may have felt the barest FLICKER of satisfaction, because both the foster coordinator (with whom I’d frantically texted) and the vet’s office had acted like I just needed to open her mouth and shove the pill in, what’s the big deal? Long story barely shorter: they gave her a shot of pain medicine, because she was not opening her mouth for love or money. It was… maybe 9:30, by this point, so I asked how long the injection would last. “Oh, about 8 hours,” they told me.
“And then what?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” said the vet.
“Then what if I still can’t get her to take the pill? You’ll be closed.”
“She’ll probably take it then, and if she doesn’t, come back tomorrow morning.” I agreed, but I was uneasy. That injection would wear off in the evening, and the next morning was a long way away.
Sure enough, by evening she was lying on the floor, shaking, crying, and her breathing was raggedy. Every attempt to get near her mouth caused her to get up and run from me before collapsing in a heap and crying some more. Even Goose was concerned. I texted with the foster coordinator and another volunteer who is a vet student. They gave me various suggestions on how to get meds into her. I wasted pill after pill. (Nope, she did not want peanut butter. Nope, a syringe with a pulverized pill suspension caused her to thrash and scream and I’m pretty sure I injected it into the base of the cone rather than her mouth.) At this point she hadn’t eaten or had water for over 24 hours, she simply laid down and cried whenever we took her outside, and Otto was threatening to take her to the big vet hospital and pay for it out of pocket because she was so miserable.
Somehow, after what seemed like hours, I carefully pulverized a pain pill in hot bacon grease, cooled it off, loaded it into the syringe, and managed to squirt it on the inside lip of the cone without her seeing me do it (I guess it was helpful that she’s missing an eye). While I held my breath, her nose quivered several times, and then she licked up every last bit. PHEW. I settled her into one of the dog beds and sat down next to her with some leftovers for my own (belated) dinner, and I saw her nose going, again. I offered her a small piece of shrimp from my pasta. She ate it. I licked the spices off the rest of the shrimp and continued feeding her tiny pieces. She kept eating.
I could actually feel my body flooding with relief.
Meanwhile, Goose stood two feet away from us, glaring at me. HOW COME CONEHEAD GETS SHRIMP? was the clear message. I finally offered her a piece of spaghetti and she continued glaring, not in the least bit fooled. Poor Goose.
The victory was short-lived. Although Rosie slept that night, the next day began a several-day dance of trying to find food she was willing to eat AND her throwing up just about everything she did consume. Eventually her stomach (and my nerves) settled, and she is doing just fine, now, though she still really, really hates the cone.
In fact, the first two times she flipped over the entire water bowl with the cone, I thought she was clumsy. Now I think she’s doing it in protest. (Watch your step in the kitchen.)
The mouthiness we saw with the crate situation has only increased. Rosie now has full-fledged separation anxiety, and you’d better not leave the room, or you’re going to hear about it in a weird amalgam of yodeling, grumbling, and barking if you do. Monkey has taken to calling her Foghorn Doghorn, which just gets funnier every time he says it, and anyone in her orbit now automatically says I WILL BE RIGHT BACK, CALM DOWN if moving away from her.
Rosie is very sweet and not terribly bright (favorite pastime: sniffing the ground, getting her cone stuck, wrenching it back up, forgetting this just happened, sniffing the ground and getting stuck again, repeat ad infinitum) and my fervent Christmas wish is that an older retired person decides to give her the retirement home she deserves, one where she gets lots of belly rubs and chin scritches, and she is rarely alone.
MEANWHILE, what else has been going on? Well, I’m glad you asked. I put in an application on a young adoptable dog I’d had my eye on for a while, and never heard back. I also put in an application on another young dog and eventually heard back that she’d already been adopted. I applied for a third dog at a local area shelter and her owner reclaimed her on the day her stray hold was up.
So maybe it’s just gonna be fostering for the foreseeable future, I figured. And that’s okay, I guess. Rosie has needed a lot of care, and Goose has been here… geez, longer than she was supposed to be. Like, way longer. Because 1) Goose arrived with a cherry eye and we assumed she’d need surgery on it, but then the vet was like “Here, smear this ointment in her eyes twice a day, maybe it will help” and so I prepared to lose a finger (but actually she’s totally chill about it) and the ointment DID help, but surgery was still inevitable, I figured, but the vet kept “waiting and seeing” because also we had another issue. And that is: the rescue only puts animals up for adoption which have been neutered. And 2) no one could figure out if Goose was spayed.
At first, when her skin was so terrible, the vet said “she doesn’t have a scar, so she’s not spayed.” But then her skin healed up and lo and behold: she has a scar. But. That could be from another surgery. Best to do a blood test to see if she’s fixed, they said. Okay, fine. She had the blood test. One week later: Sorry, results inconclusive. Please bring her back in so we can do it again. I brought her back in. They took more blood. One week later: Sorry, results still inconclusive.
Goose—blissfully unaware that any of this was happening—continued… being Goose. By which I mean: she alternated her time between demanding to be in a lap and being a vulture on the couch armrest.
Her fur had finally grown in enough that I figured she was ready for a real groom to even her up, so one day I got out the table and the harness and my tools and commenced making her even more adorable. When I got to her feet she acted like she was being tortured, and so I enlisted Monkey’s help in holding her still while she yowled and complained and tried very, very hard to bite me, all because I was committing the unforgivable sin of shaving the hair out from between her paw pads. Fortunately, a couple of treats later, all was forgiven.
And people kept asking if we were going to keep her, and I said of course not, she’s a foster. She’s my FIRST foster, and she’s all wrong for us, anyway. The shelter said she was 3, and then the vet said she was 10, and then we got her healthier and the vet said Okay, wait, maybe 6 or 7, and let me tell you, I just lost two dogs in the space of just a few months. 6 or 7 is too old. I can’t do it again that soon. I CANNOT.
She kept being delayed. They were “trying to decide how to proceed” on the spaying issue. I saw a tutorial online for making dog fleeces, and as Goose is still missing most of the fur on her chest, and requires additional warmth, I bought some fleece and attempted it. This one isn’t quite right, yet; I’ll try again.
Most evenings I end up with her nestled in my lap, or—if I dare to stretch out on the couch—on my chest and face. I think if she could crawl inside my skin, she would.
One day one of the foster coordinators called me, which was weird, because we all usually text. She explained that the next step was to go ahead and schedule Goose for surgery—she needs a dental, and we had one more eye follow-up to decide if she would need repair to her cherry eye, and they would just “go ahead and open her up” to see if she was spayed.
“What?” I said, sure I’d misheard. “Her blood tests are inconclusive so they’ll just slice her open on the chance she needs to be spayed?”
Oh it’s very safe, no big deal, she assured me. Go ahead and call the vet and get on the schedule, they can tell you more, but we have to make sure she’s spayed, we jeopardize our license otherwise if we adopt her out and she’s not, so this is what needs to happen.
We got off the phone and I called the vet to schedule the surgery. I asked them to make a note that I wanted to talk to the vet at Goose’s eye check-up, first, though.
The more I thought about it, the more upset I got. Can you imagine having abdominal surgery just to take a look? And that’s as a human who can understand what’s happening. Goose has been through so much already and her grasp of English is tenuous at best. My money was on her already being spayed (she has a scar, and even though she was picked up as a stray, she had a microchip; plus she now acts like she owns the place, so I am 110% certain she had a loving home at some point), and the thought of her being opened up essentially for no reason just really bothered me.
I FaceTimed Chickadee to tell her about it. Our relationship has shifted since she moved out of state; we talk almost every day, and have finally achieved the mystical “adults who are friends now” status I spent her childhood assuring her we would never have if I was her pal while she was still a child.
Chickadee listened, and nodded, and said, “Mom, you have to adopt her.”
I think I laughed. Don’t be silly, she’s too old, she’s our first foster. But… if I did, maybe they could skip exploratory surgery, because I could just wait and see if she goes into heat, and if she does, I’ll promise to have her fixed?
“Well yeah, that,” she said, “but also Goose has already picked you. You’re her mom. She loves you, and you love her. She’s already home.” I scoffed again, pointing out that I love Rosie, but I won’t be keeping her, either. “I know you think you want a younger dog. I know you’re scared of losing another one. But she’s yours. We all see it. You’re the only one who doesn’t. Just keep her, Mom. She’s your dog. And she’s great with other dogs, so you can keep fostering and she’ll teach them how to use the dog door and stuff.”
I felt a small pang. Licorice taught Goose how to use the dog door. All this time I’d been saying (over and over) that getting Goose ready for her new home would complete the circle started with someone getting Licorice ready for us, but what if Licorice had approved of Goose to, y’know, stay? What if I’d had it all wrong?
I finished talking to Chickadee and waited for Otto to come downstairs. When he did, I said, “We need to talk.” I asked him what he thought about keeping Goose. He said he was surprised it had taken me so long to realize that she’s already my dog.
We talked some more, then called Monkey downstairs. “How would you feel about us keeping Goose?” I asked him. I thought his face was going to split from the immediate grin. He scooped her up and rubbed her belly and said he thought that would be pretty great.
I got back in touch with the rescue and asked if we could skip the exploratory part of the surgery if I applied to adopt her. The first person I spoke with said probably yes; she told me to check with another volunteer, who said probably no—as long as Goose is under the rescue’s care, they get to make her medical decisions, and there are risks associated with remaining intact, etc. I talked to the adoption coordinator, who reminded me that I had been adamant, over and over, about not adopting Goose, and that maybe delaying some surgery is not a good reason to adopt. I tried to explain that that wasn’t the only reason, but it was perhaps the thing that had pushed me over the edge. I am scared, I told her. I love Goose. I know I love Goose. But she’s older, and I’m scared to lose her, too. At the same time, she’s in seemingly good health now, and she’s already picked us, and sometimes when the universe talks I try to listen even if it’s not the thing I thought I needed to hear. She told me to go ahead and fill out the paperwork and that we could start the mandatory “trial week.”
I filled out the paperwork. I bought a new collar and a new ID tag and a tiny harness vest decorated in a cheerful multicolored donut print. When we went for Goose’s eye recheck, I told the vet that if her status could be determined via ultrasound, I would pay for it out of pocket to potentially avoid unnecessary surgery. The vet smiled. “You’ve got it bad for this little girl,” she said.
“I guess I do,” I said. “Will an ultrasound work?” She explained that—particularly on a dog of Goose’s diminutive size—it might be inconclusive as well, but that it was worth a shot. She said she’d check with their radiologist and give me a call later that day. That afternoon, someone from their office called and said they could squeeze Goose in at the end of the day if we wanted to come back for a scan. She told me how much it would cost (about twice the adoption fee) and I gulped and said okay.
We went back. The scan took less than ten minutes. The vet came out and high-fived me. “She’s spayed! Good call!!”
I let all of the relevant people at the rescue know, and then I checked in with the adoption coordinator. I couldn’t remember when our trial week ended. “It ends tomorrow,” she told me. “But if you want to go ahead and do the paperwork today, she’s yours.”
So I did.
That was yesterday, and Otto took an official portrait to memorialize the occasion.
She is weird and wonderful and too smart for her own good. She’ll do anything you want for a treat but pretends she doesn’t understand you if there’s no reward. I don’t know if the hair will ever grow back on her old lady chicken neck and last night after we lovingly explained that yes, we would be keeping her forever, she thanked us by sticking her entire face into my nearby glass and then realizing that she doesn’t like seltzer.
I sat down this morning to write this post and this happened.
(Please excuse my pajamas. It was early.)
Welcome home, Goosefeathers McGee. May you have a long, ridiculous life with us. As with every other love in my life, I trust you’re what I need even if you aren’t what I thought I wanted. Sorry for being a little slow to catch up. Let me make it up to you for… oh, the next 10 years or so?