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Becoming a foster parent to Chloe - Part 1

- Henry Vilau's Story -

I had the pleasure of babysitting my friends’ Rhodesian ridgeback for 3 months whilst they headed overseas.  I was aware prior to the 3 months that it would involve a certain amount of dedication, as Chloe required plenty of attention and exercise.  This was particularly crucial given that not only would her masters be absent for a relatively long period of time, but because this would be the first time Chloe would be separated from them both overnight.  Chloe’s owners business allows them to work from home and Chloe is therefore accustomed to constant company.  Despite the fact that she was familiar with me, separation issues were inevitable; the new living arrangement was a large adjustment for us both and in terms of human company and mental stimulation, Chloe would be going from one extreme to another.  I had never been solely responsible for a person or pet before and I was still yet to realise exactly how immersed in my role as foster parent I would become. 

Though I’m sure Chloe appreciated my attempts to flood her with attention and snacks on the night of her owners’ departure she spent a great deal of time pacing around the house.  Unfortunately I also had to prepare myself for sleep and work the next day.  I would be spending the night in my friends’ room, which incidentally, Chloe shared in her own dog bed.  She was reluctant and quite clearly not her usual happy self as I went through my nightly routine.  Chloe’s facial structure, particularly the wrinkles on her forehead mean that her emotions are very much reflected in her expressions and it was telling me that night that she was unhappy and worried.  Nevertheless, she settled in her own bed and went to sleep.

Leaving Chloe to go to work was an emotionally challenging situation.  I had to first attempt to trick her to remain outside by distracting her with snacks far enough from the door to give me ample time to close it and make my escape through the front of the house.  This plan failed me several times, luckily for Chloe who was chewing down the snacks each time.  The problem is this distraction method was not working and I couldn’t help but feel like I was abandoning her as she looked up at me closing the door.  The fact remained, I had a job I had to go to and after I was convinced I had compensated her with enough pats and rubs to abandon her for the day, I left for work. Listening to her bark while I was waiting for the tram was unsettling.

Upon returning home from work that night I was somewhat relieved to find that Chloe appeared to be in high spirits.  I think she was just as relieved to know that I had returned after a long period of solitude she is not accustomed to.  That night I took her for a walk; something I felt would be mandatory for her each day.  I also ensured I spent as much time playing with her at home and showing her affection.  I felt very unmotivated to discipline her or assert any authority because all I wanted to do was compensate for the absence of her owners.

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Chloe playing in the garden


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