Last month we started fostering for Great Lakes Border Collie Rescue. We thought it would be a good way to get more experience with different dogs, see how we do with a multiple-dog household, and help these great dogs that need a home.
Enter Apollo, a sweet 4 yo Border Collie / Labrador Retriever Mix whose previous owner surrendered him and his “sister,” Mackenzie, due to medical reasons. Both of them wound up in a shelter and were picked up by GLBCR. After two weeks at another home, we picked him up on July 9, 2014 and began our first foster experience.
This was all in the midst of our flooring experience and Apollo was very shut down and stressed from all the changes in his life so not much happened the first few days since we were there pretty much all of the time. He absolutely loved curling up on a dog bed next to our couch.
Unfortunately, as soon as we went back to work, we discovered that Apollo had a big separation anxiety problem. Even though we had worked a bit in teaching him the crate was a good place, he got so nervous that he broke his first crate and tore up part of the carpet. The next day wasn’t much better as he broke out of a heavy-duty wire crate and Hillary had to rush home to make sure he didn’t break anything else (we had a webcam for monitoring him).
So we made helping him overcome his separation anxiety our top priority and went back to basics such as making sure he got lots of exercise, not making a big deal of comings and goings, giving him calming collars and defusers, keeping the radio or TV on, etc. Unfortunately he isn’t very active and especially low-energy for a border collie mix so tiring him out was difficult. We found the best option to start was giving him access to the entire downstairs. This at least kept him calm enough not to be destructive until we could get him in to a vet for examination.
Since his SA was very severe and his sister who had been going through the same issues had great success with medication, we took him to a vet to see what they recommended. The goal of the medication was not to mask his problems, but to allow him to get into a mental state that allowed him to learn. GLBCR was supportive throughout this time, although it was still very stressful for us.
Fortunately, the Prozac took effect after about a week and he began having fewer panic attacks while we were gone. He spent a week at another foster’s house where he wouldn’t be alone very much while we were on vacation and we were told he did very well in his crate as long as other dogs were around. When we picked him up he looked great and seems to do well now for a few hours at least. When we know he’s going to be alone for longer amounts of time, we take him to doggy daycare. Even though it’s still a bit overwhelming for him, it’s good that he gets new experiences.
When he wasn’t alone though he was a great dog. He is very quiet, greets everyone friendly, and loves cuddling. He is eager to learn and acts very much like a puppy; not sure in a lot of things but willing to try if you’re there with him. He just takes longer than usual to get used to new things. We brought him to the Highland Games and wore a special “Adopt Me” bandana.
We’re very happy to report that Apollo has been adopted! This past weekend, we drove out to Battle Creek, MI to meet a family from Chicago that has been super excited about him the entire way through the adoption process. I don’t think it could have gone any better. Apollo, who usually takes at least a few minutes to warm up new people walked right up to the daughter and immediately decided she was his new best friend! Then he went around to everybody else and it was clear that Apollo couldn’t wait to go home to his forever home.
Here’s the family with their new family-member. We warned them that he would probably be really low-key the first few weeks and that this was normal, especially for him, but that he should warm up to everybody over time, but we heard back the next day that everybody was having a great time. We are super excited for Apollo to find his furever home!
As for continuing our foster volunteering, we will take a much-needed break and be sure that our next dog can be left at home during work. Honestly if it wasn’t for his anxiety, Apollo would have been a joy to have, but we simply weren’t equipped to handle that level of anxiety since we both have full-time jobs away from home. In the meantime, we’re going to re-focus our training efforts on Nova who is making leaps forward in her agility training.