Dogs in Distress - a good cause and a great experience Part Three

Continued from Part Two

"Look at you," I could see him thinking. "You're here RIGHT NOW! We could go out and explore RIGHT NOW! Can you explain that one, Mister?" And sometimes he would bark at me.

He didn't really like his dog food. He often ate on the go - he explored a bush at one point, and before I could stop him, he had consumed an entire spare rib bone that he had sniffed out. Job done, he wiped his little paws in the grass, as if coming into a house on a Welcome mat, and he sprang back out of the bushes onto the street again to continue on our way.

Marie and Kathy at Dogs in Distress were very helpful. I probably spent more time detailing the dysfunctional dynamic that was developing between myself and my charge over email, than I actually spent sitting down with the little guy, telling him to behave. I should have been more common sense about it, as I said.

I was messing the little guy up, when there were any number of things I should have and could have tried to get him feeling happier with his circumstances. Hobo was going to leave the apartment once he found a good home anyway. But his frustrations started to manifest themselves in stopping on our walks, refusing to go in the direction I insisted on. We would stand together at one spot, each of us as stubborn as the other.

On his last day here, at 7.30 in the morning, he saw me waking up, and he started barking immediately. The tyke had already been out on the balcony, looking at activity going on like jogging, and dog walking, and I imagine he'd been looking out for an hour or more, as he had slept like a log while I had been at the keyboard the night before, writing my psychological assessment journal to Dogs in Distress.

Getting dressed quicker than a Lothario fleeing from the home of his lover whose husband has just arrived home unexpectedly, I threw him into the car, and drove him to my parents', making clear how very unhappy I was with his attitude, not letting him avail of the potential steering-wheel burn of which he was so fond. He had spent a lot more time napping than I had, I told him, and one of us needed some more sleep.

He knew he shouldn't have been barking so early. In fairness, I had seen a look like he had wanted to bark in the dead of night on occasions. He hadn't done it coz he knew darkness and night-time weren't barking time, even in the uncivilised world in which he had found himself plonked. But at 7.30 am, the sun had been splitting the stones for an hour already at least, and I had had him out on previous mornings at 8 a.m. He didn't know which way was up with me. He couldn't be expected to sense the mood any more than the forum readers would have in the next paragraph.

I put him in my parents' back garden where he could bark to his heart's content, without fear of reprisal or reprimand. I uploaded a post to the charity that was probably more mean-spirited than I had intended. But the other forum readers probably wouldn't have appreciated the tone. The post fell deadborn from the press, politely ignored by the administrators.

My departure from my parents' house, abandoning Hobo for a few hours, was probably a very bad idea, as I had spent every waking and sleeping hour with him for a couple of weeks. But he knew my parents, and he liked their wonderfully ordered home and garden, as he had been there twice before.

My mother spent some time with him while I went home, texted Kathy at the charity to give her the details of what had happened, and submitted the post which was rejected. I explained to Kathy that I hadn't wanted to reward this early morning barking with a walk. I could've actually taken him to a friend's garden around the corner from where I live, but I was unsure if there would be somebody there all day, and he hadn't met my friend yet, and I didn't want to give Hobo the impression he was going for any kind of a constitutional for being a little Narky Barky McBarksters.

I turned up again in the afternoon at my parents'. Mother told me that with every noise in the house, he had pricked his ears, as he thought it was me returning. Poor little guy. And he was delighted to see me, but I was conscious as I took him home that the accommodations were unfair, that he was forcing himself to be happy in a place where he wasn't, that ideally he needed somewhere else to stay, or I needed to sort out our arrangement and let him know quick-smart that he was being a bit of an Aretha.

Then Kathy - wise to all of our Odd Couple frustrations, maintaining contact all the way through his fostering - texted me with the details of a fosterer a mile down the street, the wonderful Amy, who worked at a pet-shop and had a bigger house with more than herself in it, with a garden and a second small dog, to accommodate and befriend Hobo. I told Kathy I was sorry I didn't get to sort out the issues for which I had ultimately been responsible.

They know their stuff, though, these charity peeps, and they really, really care for the dogs.

I drove down with Hobo and all his stuff - his toys and the great, tasty, high-quality food from the charity, his doggy treats, and his big dog bed cushion (very little cost associated with the fostering, all provided by D-in-D) - and I parked in a square near enough to his new home. Amy came out to meet me with her dog, and she took the lead while explaining where I ought to actually park. I drove up the street while she and the two dogs walked back to the house. I parked and waited at her house door with the stuff from my car. Amy arrived a half minute later than I had expected, carrying the little guy in her arms with her dog still on the lead.

"He refused to walk, so I had to pick him up," she explained.

See? There's the difference between a good fosterer and a bad one. I would've been standing there waiting for him to realise the error of his ways. It would've made more sense to scoop him up, instead of giving him equal footing as a decision maker on where we went walkies.

I didn't say goodbye to Hobo. Whatever minimal closure I wanted, I didn't feel it would have been fair on Amy trying to get him to settle. I told her to contact me to meet if he was upset, but I didn't want to confuse the little guy, and I certainly didn't want to trouble them with an insistence that I see him again. So I resisted the urge to take up her more-than-generous offer to visit if I wanted to. Maybe that's me overthinking things again.

It was unfortunate that I couldn't give him more routine, and that I didn't have the time to iron out the problems that had manifested themselves: If I was out late at night, he was with me.

Our latest night out had ended at four a.m. on a weekend visit to friends, and that can't have been good for him. He had gone everywhere, my best little pal. I'll know to do things differently if I have the privilege to foster again.

Amy found a new home for him. She claimed that he seemed to prefer the name Bobo, which might explain why he had so little interest in answering to "Hobo!" when I called him.

The charity does need fosterers, and they will match the right people with the right dogs, and if it doesn't work out, they find somewhere else. That isn't easy. It doesn't happen just like that, in the words of Tommy Cooper. But sometimes it has to happen, as in my situation. And the pool of potential fosterers needs to be a deep one. Kathy had said that another dog - maybe a few years older than Hobo's estimated four years, and a bit more chilled - would've probably been perfectly happy at my place. And there are various circumstances - bad weather, say - where Hobo might have been happier a little more indoors. (He had been a little put out by thunderstorms, hiding under my desk, and had required cuddles. And he seemed to understand and agree with me that going out in rain was just silly.)

I encourage people to volunteer for this cause or to make a donation - whether it's simply to try out pet ownership, or to take in one of the lovely animals as a permanent family member. I think, from what little research I've done, it's one of the best organisations of its kind around, in terms of how it goes about its work. So do it! Do it now!