She went to their home, and experienced the normal transitional stress that we would expect with any dog, getting used to a new routine. But surprisingly they reported that she was warming up to them quicker than any of us expected. We were thrilled!
Then, 10 days after her adoption was final, I got a call from somebody who said they had heard the mom had been bitten by Zora. I frantically called them, to see if it was true. Sadly, it was. I was terrified for Zora! My sweet loving Zora who had never offered to bite under any of the stress I exposed her to! The adoptive mom reported that she had been carrying Zora up the stairs to the bathtub because her feet were muddy. As she went up the stairs, the other dog was getting in her way, and she called to her husband to contain the other dog. Zora was in her arms, and her husband lunged up the stairs to grab the other dog. As he grabbed the other dog, and started back down the stairs, Zora bit her in the face.
They understood exactly why she would feel threatened enough to bite, that it was completely out of fear. Because the bite caught her on the lip, and needed several stitches, Zora was forced to be surrendered to the shelter and placed under bite quarantine. The adoptive family determined that although they loved her already, it would probably be best to return her to the rescue and asked that the city follow their wishes. Unfortunately, paperwork needed to be filled out, red tape needed to be navigated to make that happen. During the 5 days Zora was forced to spend in the shelter, she was absolutely terrified. The adoptive mom, and her previous foster mom tirelessly advocated for her return to the rescue. The foster mom applied to officially adopt her, after all, she had spent 7 months in their home without incident and they loved her dearly! I worked on the paperwork end of things with the assistance of the foster mom.
Zora has been officially returned to her foster family. She is still under bite quarantine, but she is obviously happy and relieved. She now has a forever home that will ensure she never has to worry about being placed in a position of fear again.
The whole incident raised a lot of issues for me as a rescuer and a trainer. Every dog is a loaded gun sitting on the table. I feel like I had failed Zora by not ensuring that the adopters realized she had that potential if they were not careful to watch her signals and see when she was in a fearful emotional state. The reality is that things happen for a reason. I understand that these dogs have a lot of potential to be great companions for the right situation. I perhaps was a little too eager to make her a success story. Adopting her to this couple was a double edged sword. I love Zora, she is extremely special to me. I had hoped in the back of my mind to be able to welcome her into my own home. I was not in a position to do so, when they applied for her. I convinced myself this was what I needed to gain the respect and the admiration of others, to turn this tragedy into success. The day they signed the paperwork I cried for hours. I don't know how her foster mom reacted. I didn't care. I only knew there was a hole in MY HEART, but eased it with the knowledge that Zora was at least in town and I could see her from time to time. The day I heard the news, I was completely locked in the grip of terror that I would lose her forever. I was frozen in fear, and for the 5 days she was in the shelter I felt like an elephant lived on my chest. I learned that it is possible to love and let go, I learned how to detach and deal with a difficult situation. I am grateful for the grace and love with which the adoptive family and her foster family responded to the situation. I learned I had many people in my court, who support me and who loved this little dog as much as I did. I learned this is much bigger than just me. I learned that I need to rely on the help that is offered. I learned forgiveness in it's most pure form the moment Zora jumped into my lap upon her release and licked my face and shook until she arrived at her new home. She was instantly fine. She was home.