Fostering a Feral Dog

Fostering a Feral Dog

We recently took in a foster dog named Odyssey - Dessy for short. She was picked up on a local reserve as a stray. She’d be scrounging for food and didn’t have a lot of trust in people. After 3 weeks in a foster home, she wasn’t showing much improvement so I offered to take her on. She arrive absolutely petrified. We put her crate inside an ex-pen and then carefully opened the crate door and closed up the ex-pen. We needn’t have worried - she wasn’t coming out any time soon.

For the first few hours, every time I walked by, I’d toss her some kibble. She LOVED food. By the 5th or 6th time I finally got a tiny tail wag. I decided it was time to open the ex-pen. She came out slowly and explored the house. Met the dogs. Met the cats. All was great. Whenever she felt slightly overwhelmed she’d race back to her ex-pen. I couldn’t look at her without sending her running. I did a lot of walking in circles those first few days so I wouldn’t need to approach her directly.

She came around surprisingly quickly. We still couldn’t approach her but it didn’t take much coaxing to get her to approach us. She had quite a bit of environmental fear which made housetraining those first few days almost impossible as she didn’t like going outside. When I attempted our first walk she threw herself under the truck and I had to lure her back out with cookies.

She had a few things going for her. She was young - only 6 months. She was curious. She was animated. In a week we were doing off leash walks (while she dragged a line).

But then her sister needed help. Again I volunteered. I felt that Dessy had come around quickly, I’m sure I could get her sister Jemma to come around quickly too. Jemma had been in a different foster home. She’d basically been left to her own devices to come and go inside and out with their dogs, she had access to food whenever she wanted and she hadn’t yet managed to go to the vet.

When Jemma arrived less than a week ago she was just as scared as Dessy was. But she didn’t have her food motivation and she didn’t have the same curiosity about things. She still doesn’t. Jemma has been interesting. She’s very cagy. She suspects ulterior motives in everything you do. Toss a cookie 10 feet away from you and she thinks there is some sort of “catch” so she hesitates to go and eat it. The first time she was in our yard, she squeezed under our deck and wouldn’t come out. I used 3 days worth of food to repeated lure her out but I couldn’t move a muscle without sending her back under. It took 2 hours and my husband’s help to get her locked in a crate so we could get her back inside. After that we didn’t let her back outside for a few days. We blocked up the deck so she couldn’t get under but then it took her a day to trust us that going outside wasn’t a trick. She will play with Summit outside but since the deck episode, she almost instantly hides in a corner and doesn’t move when I come outside with them.

We can’t touch her. We can’t approach her. She will reluctantly eat treats from our hands but I tried to sneak in a gentle chin touch and she flinched and ran away. We did however manage to get her to the vet. She has a skin infection, ear infection, mange, and roundworms. She’s also itchy as all get out and is losing fur and dander like crazy. She got a shot for the infections, pain meds, dewormer, and flea/tick meds. We are currently giving her Benadryl to help control the itch. We also started her on anti-anxiety meds this weekend to see if that will help her adjust faster. After 5 days, I feel like we’ve progressed the same amount as we did with Dessy in about 12 hours. But at least we are progressing.

We can now walk past where she is sleeping and she won’t run away (most of the time). She will go in and out of the house no problem but she prefers if we step away from the door a bit. She’s picked up the odd toy and chewy in the house and played with it a bit. Her skin is starting to look better and the worms are no longer visible in her poop. :)

We can’t get her back in a crate without major trauma so for now we aren’t pushing it. She also won’t leave our main floor for some reason - won’t go up or down. Which is fine with us for now. She just sleeps loose in the living room with the cats for company at night. She howls a bit once she realizes we aren’t coming back but it’s not for too long.

I’ve been struggling to find good information about what to do with a feral dog so I thought maybe I’d blog about it and see where it takes us.