Sofie: “I’d really love to get a dog.”
The topic popped up many times before and it always ended the same way:
Me: “Yes, I love dogs too but we both have fulltime jobs. It’s not healthy for the poor animal to be alone all day! Most of the time you will be taking care of it, as I’m gone to work for 11 hours a day. To be honest, I’m not sure I want to spend my two hours of free time a day walking the dog. And what about our traveling plans?”
Yes, getting a dog is a decision you should not take lightly. Doing so will change your life: you need to be willing to invest both time and money. People often underestimate it, resulting in dozens of abandoned animals every year. This happens most frequently during summer, in the holiday period. Things have improved: stray pets that are microchipped can be traced back to their owners. The sad reality is that all too often the owners have moved or the original owners sold their pets and the microchips were not updated with the details of the new owners. Some owners even manage to act surprised when their dogs are returned to them, claiming their beloved pet was “lost” for several weeks. Whatever the case, it still happens way too often.
We didn’t want to feel like owning a pet was a burden, so we never got one. Recently some things changed: Sofie is currently in between jobs and has started a three-year bachelor course to fulfill her dream of becoming a gardening / landscaping architect. At the same time she is looking for a part-time job, closer to home. As a consequence, she spends a lot more time at home nowadays. Evidently the dog question popped up again.
Owning a dog suddenly became a possibility, but still owning a dog is not something you do for three years. Getting a dog is for life. Its life anyway. After completing her studies, chances are that Sofie has to return to a full-time job.
So Sofie went looking for another way to help. First she wanted to take asylum dogs for a walk, as their cages were cleaned. The dogs were excited and happy to stretch their legs, but the walks were so timed and strict, that she couldn’t bear putting them back in their cages after just a few minutes. She craved a more personal connection with an animal.
SOS Stray Dogs
Not long after, she found a solution in SOS Stray dogs, an amazing non-profit organization in Turkey, ran by two passionate Belgian women. Long story short, we contacted Julie from SOS Stray dogs and got excellent information on how we could help. Sofie decided to put us up as a temporary foster family.
We said it before: you can always find excuses for not following your dreams, the trick is finding solutions that help you realize it!
Being a temporary foster family, you do everything in your power to increase the dog’s chances of getting a definitive foster home. Everyone prefers an animal that is housebroken, doesn’t chew on things and is able to walk on a leash. Most stray dogs are pretty young so temporary foster parents have to teach those things so the dog can become a good match for someone.
People who are looking to adopt a dog often want to meet the animal in real life. For dogs coming from Turkey, this is only possible thanks to temporary foster parents. Interested people can visit the temporary foster homes to see up close and personal whether they have a connection with the dog. Because the dog feels at home, it is at ease, allowing people can get a glimpse of its real character.
SOS stray dogs first did a few routine background checks on us: did we have enough time and space to care for this animal? The organization allows you to use their leash and bench and pays for all dog food. It can take anywhere between a few weeks and a few months for a dog to find a definitive foster home. In case you wonder: the dogs are young enough to cope with the temporary nature of their stay. The alternative, roaming the streets in Turkey, is far worse than an additional change of environment and master.
After all was clear, we chose a dog from their site. Not an easy task, believe me. They are all heartthrobs, every last one of them! Luckily all dog profiles contain a character description, which narrow it down a bit more. You wouldn’t want to experience a mismatch on Tinder, well, you don’t want one with a dog either!
A few weeks later we were able to welcome a lovely stray dog called Oilily to our home. At ten months old, she was a mixed breed, but mostly Turkish shepherd. We decided to call her Lily for short.
Personally, I thought she was a bit large to keep indoors, she was still growing, but we knew it was temporary. It also turned out she had some abandonement issues. She really didn’t like being alone and could be quite vocal about it. Sofie had a blast nonetheless: she taught Lily how to walk safely on a leash (even though she managed to chew two of them to pieces when we weren’t paying attention at home). She also instructed Lily to wait her turn at the dinner table and housebroke her. Even though she remained shy: she refused to do a number two anywhere but behind her favorite tree in the garden, completely out of sight.
Make no mistake, being a temporary family for a dog is not like owning a fluffy cuddle pet for a few weeks. You have your work cut out for you: fixed feeding and fixed walking times, coping with any anxieties the animal might have and of course cleaning up after it if it isn’t housebroken yet. However, if you really love animals, neither of that is a problem. You get so much love in return and you see how quickly they grow accustomed to our busy streets with cars and cyclists. And it feels good that thanks to you, this wonderful character of a dog can find a decent home and the love she clearly deserves. That’s why you do it.
Lily spent three short but memorable weeks with us, here’s a short video:
Inevitably, the day came to wave her off. Yes, there were tears, from the both of us. Even though she was only with us for three weeks. Even though we both know she couldn’t be better off.
Our Lovely Lily was adopted by a female veterinarian and her husband. A match made in heaven: they just moved into a new house with a garden for Lily. She even got her own couch! And you remember how she didn’t like being alone? Well, we’re happy to say that she is allowed to accompany her new master to work every day. That’s right, Lily will meet new dogs and a wide array of pets on a daily basis. How can you say no to that? How’s that for a foster home? How’s that for a “golden basket”? We did it!
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”
– Karen Davison
Farewell Lovely Lily, we wish you a long and happy life!
We will never forget you!
Want to know more about what SOS Stray Dogs (Turkey) stands for, what they do and how you can help? You can visit their website (in Dutch) or like their Facebook page. Stay tuned for future posts which will zoom in on SOS Stray Dogs as an organization, the people behind it and last but not least: how you can help these two amazing women continue doing their work. In case you wonder, yes, you can help without adopting dogs or making a donation.
Living outside of Belgium or the Netherlands and thinking about adopting a dog? Temporarily or for good? Be sure to check out asylums or local initiatives around you. There are stray dogs (or cats) to be helped everywhere!
PS: Lily was not the last dog that Sofie helped… more in a few weeks…