Leimkuhler: Falling for our first foster dog

In April we became first-time dog fosters to a black male dog named Stevie.

I was nervous; not only about fostering for the first time, but also because Stevie was blind. I’d never cared for a blind dog before and I hoped we’d be able to properly meet his needs.


In hindsight, I will say this: Stevie was the ideal dog. But the experience wasn’t easy. The first thing any potential fosters or adopters should know is that, no matter what, the first week will be hard. The transition will be difficult for both humans and canines.

Stevie was beautiful and sweet. He had a soft, shiny coat, and at 50-ish pounds he was a good, manageable size.

He walked well on the leash and loved to ride in the car. However, he did not like to be confined so we decided not to crate him. This was easy at night, but during the day this intelligent dog found plenty of mischief to get into: counter surfing, eating an entire quesadilla dinner, opening the dog food container, toppling the garbage can, and unwrapping and eating an entire loaf of bread. But with proper dog-proofing and vigilance, we managed to make it work.

We also had to block off the stairs so he wouldn’t fall down them, and there were a few — though not many — accidents.

I’d been told by the rescue that the average time for dogs to be with foster families was a few days to a few weeks. After Stevie had spent nearly two weeks with us and not a single person had expressed interest, I started to worry that, as a blind dog, maybe Stevie was unlikely to get adopted. I wondered if the rescue had paired us with an unadoptable dog. Stevie also had a few minor health issues during those first weeks, which required several time-consuming round-trip treks to the rescue-approved vet.

Had we bitten off more than we could chew?

I also worked hard to be Stevie’s advocate, posting pictures and sending updates to the rescue so that his profile would be current and appealing, in hopes of helping him find his forever family. But the rescue, run by volunteers, didn’t process this information very quickly and my persistence and enthusiasm seemed to rub some people’s fur the wrong way.

By the time I took Stevie to his first adoption event, we were all falling for this sweet, silly, smart boy. I felt protective of Stevie and wary of any potential adopters. When the event ended and Stevie hadn’t been adopted, I was surprised to feel relieved and was happy to get out of there and take “my dog” home.

Stevie had become my good and faithful walking buddy.

He went everywhere in the car with me, he loved people, he was gentle with kids, and he got along wonderfully with Luna — our 9-year-old female dog — if, at times, he played a little too exuberantly for our senior girl.

We all began to think it was meant to be, that maybe we should keep him.

And then we got the call.

A couple from Pennsylvania had recently lost their elderly blind dog, and their remaining 6-year-old female was lonely and missing her canine companion. The couple drove nearly three hours to meet Stevie and, like us, they quickly fell for him. When Stevie hopped in the car with his new family, we were happy for him but admittedly brokenhearted to see him go. I was not prepared for the tears we all cried for Stevie who — we later thought — was perhaps “the one who got away.”

In all, Stevie was with us for a month, and the rescue had been right; Stevie’s blindness never held him back and it certainly did not define him. To us, he was simply a dog — not a blind dog — and we quickly learned that he did not need his eyes to see; he saw the world with his heart.


Columnist’s Note: This column is the fourth in a multi-part ode to all the dogs I’ve loved.