At 7.5 years old, Aafke had to leave the only home she’d ever known due to allergies in the family. KRO was told that she was a nice dog, healthy, but skittish. We really didn’t get to meet her when we picked her up because she hid from us.
I realised as I tried to get her from the car to my house (by leash and through a closed garage) that she was a lot more than skittish; it was like having a colt on the end of that leash! Once inside, she quickly found a safe spot behind a chair and that’s where she spent most of the next two months.
The initial vet check was an eye opener. She fought us hard; it took three of us to hold her still but the vet had do the physical and trim her nails. Her untrimmed nails were curved in and under and the vet was concerned that it was affecting Aafke’s ability to walk properly and in comfort. In her sheer terror, Aafke lost control of her anal glands, her bowels, and her bladder. The vet expressed concern that she would frighten herself into cardiac arrest.
Aafke didn’t eat for 13 days. She drank a bit from the outside water bowl but not from the inside one because it would mean leaving her hiding spot. I added electrolyte powder to the outside water bowl to help mitigate the dehydration diarrhea she had but still, four or five times a day I had to take the garden hose to her britches and give her a gentle wash. That didn’t go over well!
I tempted her with everything: the food she’d always been fed, raw steak, vanilla ice cream. Luckily she was carrying a bit of extra weight but I was terrified that she’d decided life wasn’t worth living.
She rarely showed any interest in my two Keeshonden though I tried my darndest to entice her to play with us. However, she watched my two dogs very closely and all the time.
On the 14th day, Aafke broke her fast with boiled chicken, rice, and broth. This was a major turning point in her rehabilitation and readiness for adoption.
Aafke began to participate in our family life, though progress continued at a snail’s pace. It was only after a couple of months of living here, that she allowed us to approach her and give her pets and rubs. She was terrified of strangers so I gated her in a quiet room and asked guests to ignore her. Aafke was always able to watch the activity through the gate, though, and slowly she started to show a bit of interest.
About four months into her stay with us, I started to take her with my other Keeshonden to their agility lessons. She was allowed to sit beside my husband on the edge of the field and watch. One day, as I was taking one of my dogs on the Dog Walk, I spied Aafke trying to run alongside the Dog Walk with us. I was so excited to see a bit of interest from her!!
And so began the Great Agility Experiment: I signed her up for beginner’s lessons with the express purpose of giving Aafke a feeling of confidence. After the first three or four very short lessons (10 to 15 minutes was all she could tolerate), Aafke began to see that agility was fun. And best of all? The super special treats that Foster Momma reserved JUST for agility!
From this point on, we got to see the dog she was meant to be: curious, bossy at times (‘I want my walk NOW!’), food-obsessed, and sometimes even a little bit naughty! Whoohoo! We also found out that she has the best smarl (that Laughing Dutchman grin) that I have ever seen on a Kees.
If ever there was an adoptive home designed for Aafke, she got it. Her forever Mom is a vet tech who brings Aafke to work with her almost every day. Brilliant! Aafke is always encouraged, gently, to participate in life and she is not allowed to retreat back into her shell. She continues to learn how much fun other animals and humans can be – especially the ones with treats in their pockets. She lives on a small hobby farm and helps look after chickens, kittens, and the horses with her big brother, Jake. Her forever family is head-over-heels in love with Aafke, which is nothing less than what she deserves for all the bravery she has shown us.
Fostering dogs can be a lot of fun and it can be a lot of work and often it is both. It can be especially difficult when the dog doesn’t acknowledge your love and you spend weeks and weeks being actively ignored – and even rejected -- by the very dog you are trying so hard to help. It’s not for the faint of heart. I was very lucky because I had advisors who had worked with emotionally damaged dogs and from whom I got a lot of support and encouragement – the encouragement was desperately needed at times because there were a number of very DIS-couraging days.
Enjoy your new life, Aafke! You deserve every bit of happiness that comes your way. And thank you for all you taught me.