I’m a dog person. Always have been and always will be. I’ve had dogs ever since I can remember, starting with the little stray (“Lady”) we brought home when I was too young to even walk. My relationship with dogs grew even stronger when I moved out on my own and decided to adopt Max, my best friend and my closest confidant. A few years later, my then-boyfriend-now-husband, Micah, and I adopted Chase. And we can’t forget about Charlie, who’s currently living his best life with Micah’s family in Kansas. We’re a family filled with pups, and we love every minute of it.
After a whirlwind of events that would take entirely too long to explain here, Max, Chase, and I packed our bags and left the only town and state we’ve ever really known to live with my husband at Osan Air Force Base in South Korea. While in Korea, we learned how overcrowded their dog shelters are. A lot of the overcrowding comes from dogs being rescued from “farms.” It’s not something that I like to dwell on, but I do want to clarify that dogs on these farms are bred for human consumption. We were horrified and heartbroken to learn about all of this, to say the very least. I quickly determined that we had plenty of room to spare and I had plenty of time to foster. I connected with Rebel Rescue South Korea and we arranged to go meet a few of their pups.
Enter Bumper— a 12-to-16-year- old (nobody ever knew his actual age) mixed breed pup with an unkempt, shaggy coat and a lot of fear in his eyes. The volunteers weren’t sure where Bumper came from, but they knew he had been in the shelter for the majority of his life. As I was sitting on the ground trying to convince this poor, haggard old dog that I wasn’t going to hurt him, I realized that I had never even considered fostering a senior dog. In almost the same moment, I decided it was exactly what I wanted to do. Bumper needed us, and there was no way we were going home without him.
Life With Bumper
The first few days and even weeks with Bumper were honestly really hard. He wasn’t used to being in an enclosed space with people around all the time, and he had a really hard time getting used to it. Within the first week of Bumper staying with us, we discovered that nearly all of his teeth were rotten and needed to be removed. How did we discover this? Let’s just say that if you’re seated across the room from a dog and can smell what can only be described as the scent of death every time they open their mouth, it’s time for a dental check-up. The awesome volunteers at Rebel Rescue helped us plan Bumper’s vet visit for his teeth to be removed, and he lost all but two or three front teeth in one visit.
Bumper’s case is a little different than a typical senior dog’s, but we did learn a lot about what it’s like to foster a senior. Unlike puppies or even young adult dogs, seniors tend to be pretty set in their ways. I’m not saying it’s impossible to teach an old dog new tricks, but it definitely isn’t easy. Bumper came a long way during his time with us, but he never did fully master the whole potty training thing. He never got used to walking on a leash because he didn’t like to be restrained. He spent most of his time behind our Christmas tree. It was his safe place, so we left it up for him until July.
There were definitely lots of bright spots and laughs throughout the whole experience, though. Bumper eventually warmed up to the point that he would (very cautiously) grab a treat from our hands and scurry back to his safe spot behind the Christmas tree. He had moments when he did get a little frisky and play with our boys. The longer he stayed with us, the more we saw his tail wagging. We could tell that he was happier than he had been in a long, long time.
Life After Bumper
One of the hardest parts of the fostering process was knowing that Bumper was likely never going to be adopted. It’s incredibly sad, but we kind of knew it from the start. That’s why we wanted to foster him, though. We wanted to give him the best temporary home we possibly could. We wanted to get him out of that shelter and give him at least a small chance at a normal life in a loving home.
Bumper was only with us for seven months or so. We were set to come back to Alabama permanently and knew we couldn’t bring him home with us due to our finances and his health. Once we nailed down our departure date, the awesome volunteers at Rebel Rescue connected us with an amazing new foster dad for Bumper. Unfortunately, Bumper passed away shortly after arriving at his new foster home. It was nobody’s fault— we think he just finally reached the point where he couldn’t keep going.
As devastated as I was after hearing about Bumper’s passing, I couldn’t help but smile through the tears. I like to think of it this way: Bumper got to experience it all. He lived the rough shelter life, he lived a normal life with us where he was treated like a part of the family, and he lived an amazing life with his final foster dad who spoiled him to pieces and gave him the absolute best care. We all made a real difference in Bumper’s life, and he absolutely made a difference in ours. Now, I’m more passionate than ever about adopting and fostering, especially when it comes to senior dogs who just need a comfy place to call home.
Fostering isn’t for everyone, and fostering a senior has unique challenges. If you’re in a position where you can do it, though, I say go for it. You’ll be helping out a pup in need and enriching your own life more than you realize.
P.S. If you want to learn more about Rebel Rescue South Korea and the work they’re doing to build a new shelter, check out their Facebook page!
Savanna is a freelance writer and blogger. When she’s not coming up with creative content for a client, you can probably find her working on her latest writing assignment, snuggling her dogs, or browsing Reddit for hours.