(l to r:) Shadow & Sasha
Sometimes an adoption really is just meant to be, regardless of how the first few days go! Erin and Paul first met Sasha and Shadow when they offered to dog-sit for a week while the long-term foster, Judi, was out of town…
“We stumbled upon Sasha and Shadow very much by accident, a couple years ago. After having lost our last rescue, Shylo, to stomach cancer, the house just never seemed right. My husband was hesitant to let another furball enter his heart, but my boys and I yearned for someone to meet us at the door and to cuddle on the couch with.
In February 2013, a friend posted a “Dogsitters Needed” poster on Facebook. There were a few adult dogs and some puppies that needed a place to lay their paws for about a week, while their lovely foster Judi was away. While Paul was watching TV, I quickly mentioned that a couple medium-sized dogs needed a home for a week, and that I thought it would be nice if we could help out. We knew that they would only be here for 7 or 8 days, the kids and I could get our fix, and then they would be gone. I did my very best pout face, and hubby nodded his head, with a strict “BUT THEY LEAVE AFTER” warning.
I quickly messaged and laid claim to the two most senior dogs. Knowing that they would likely sleep through the night, wouldn’t have accidents, and wouldn’t eat any furniture. On March 7th, we drove out to Judi’s house in St.Andrews in our small little cars, and waited in the driveway for Judi to get home. We saw HUGE dogs barking in the windows, and I assured the family that NO, the dogs we were getting would be much smaller.
We stepped into her home and dogs surrounded us. They were all different sizes, shapes, and ages; there was barking and whining – it was a flurry of fur! We spun around petting every dog that approached us, and wondered which medium sized dogs were ours?! There didn’t seem to be any older looking dogs of a medium size. I gulped and asked Judi which ones were ours. She pointed “that blonde one with the big tail, and the black one over there…we call him Grandpa”. Our medium sized dogs were pretty darn big!! Sasha weighed in around 90 pounds and Shadow was almost 80 pounds. They stood as high as my 5 year old!
I immediately started second guessing the decision. We were used to small dogs…30 pounds at most. These were horses! Reluctantly, after seeing how good they were with my kids we loaded up and headed back home to Winnipeg.
It wasn’t long until we realized our new friends DIDNT TRAVEL WELL. On the 45 minute trip home, there was non-stop barking, pooping, peeing, vomiting, and a lot of tears (mostly from me). I thought I would have to call the rescue and back out of the babysitting – there was NO WAY we could handle this.
We finally got home and the dogs ran into the house, smelled around, and then peed and pooped in the living room. Shadow couldn’t seem to settle, and we were all overwhelmed by their presence. I went to the bedroom and cried. I crawled into pajamas while Paul manned the kids and dogs.
By the time I came out, red eyed, Paul and Shadow were on the couch, watching TV, and Dyllen and Brayden were laying next to Sasha on the floor. The TV had lulled everyone into calm, and life seemed good. We went to bed, leaving Sashy-Monster and Shadow-Boy in the living room. Shortly after the lights were out, we had two dogs in bed with us. Not at our feet, but laying across our faces. They craved attention!
The next morning, things were much more calm. They seemed to feel safe and all was well. We went about our day, getting Dyllen and Paul ready for a Scouting trip. They left that night, and Brayden and I headed to a family dinner.
After being gone for about 20 minutes, my neighbor texted to ask if we were okay. “Of course, how are you?” She responded that they were very worried given that it sounded like our house was being ransacked. Something was hitting the windows and banging on the walls. We left the meal immediately and drove home. As we pulled into the driveway, we saw Shadow bouncing off the front picture window. When we walked inside, there was poop and pee everywhere, all three couch cushions were torn to shreds, the garbage had been dumped, and curtains were ripped down. But boy, were those two furballs happy to see us!
It turned out that Shadow suffered extreme anxiety. The rescue worked with us to help get them more calm. By the 4th day, we were able to kennel Shadow, and Sasha would quietly lay next to him.
The kids settled into a routine of helping feed, walk and brush, and there were lots of cuddles. Our older son, who has autism, had become a different kid. Using time with the dogs to settle his worries and stress. Paul started calling them adorable names “old friend” for Shadow and “pretty girl” for Sasha. He would call them up on the couch and check on them in the night. Dyllen had begun to share toys with them. I watched the calendar knowing that in a few more sleeps, we would have to send them away.
I inquired more about the story of how they came to MUR. It turns out they had been dumped, had been fostered at several homes, adopted, and were then returned after being mistreated. They had been to several adoption fairs, but never really “showed well” next to little puppies or other calm seniors. Although Jessica (the director of MUR) assured me that the right home would come along, and it was ok to return them to Judi, I knew in my heart that they belonged with us. I said NOTHING to Paul because he had been clear that they WOULD be leaving. I knew the kids would be heartbroken, but I had to hold up my end of the deal.
Judi arrived back in Winnipeg and called to arrange to get them back to her place. While I knew she was a loving and kind foster home, I just couldn’t send them back. My heart ached. While I was on the phone arranging things, Paul whispered to me, “or maybe we should just keep them.”
That was it. They were ours. We arranged to sign papers, and make them our own. We thought about changing their names, but with so many nicknames already, we left the names as is. We bought them their own bowls, and their own beds (laughable, since they have never been used). Sasha and Shadow were home to stay!
Our interactions with Manitoba Underdogs Rescue have always been great. Through them we got a chance to meet Harper, who then found a home with my best friend. We spent a few nights with Alice, who easily could have worked her way into our hearts as well. We have helped move puppies, and collected blankets and food. To say it has been a rewarding experience would grossly understate how great an organization this is.
Thank you, MUR, for letting us be Sasha and Shadows FUREVER family. We weren’t complete until we met them.”