In Memory of Griffin

When you serve as a foster parent to homeless dogs, people often say things like, "Oh, I could never do that. I'd want to keep all of them." Well, once you do it for a while, you really don't think in those terms. You simply can't keep the dogs. For starters, your neighbors would be pretty pissed. Plus, for each dog in rescue, there is generally another one on a waiting list who also needs a foster spot (and a shot at a "forever" home). You need to place the current one so that you can help the next one. Rescue work is a perpetual exercise in "one step forward, two steps back." All we can really do is to try our damnedest to keep up with the flow.

In 8 1/2 years of fostering, I've lost count of how many dogs have passed through my door. I have to imagine that it is well over 50 dogs. Some have been adopted quickly, while others have lingered for months. Most have peed on my carpet at least once. Most have been thin. All have been beautiful.

In 2004, a skinny white Boxer arrived in my home. His name was Griffin. He was picked up as a stray. He was stone deaf and had one blue eye and one brown eye. Griffin was all white, save for a brown splotch on the top of his head. His toes were splayed - we believed he had spent a lot of time in a wire-bottomed crate of some sort. He had horrible black tear stains on his face.

Certainly, I'd seen dogs in worse shape than Griffin. In past fostering experiences I'd dealt with a broken femur, an embedded collar, and tumors the size of my fist. But, there was something about Griffin that made my heart flutter when I met him. I set about the task of putting Griffin through the rescue's veterinary protocol. I fattened him up and had him neutered (and he subsequently tore out the sutures, resulting in a scrotum swollen to the size of a softball - he was a tough little bugger). I worked on his tear stains and began teaching him a few hand signals.

His was a pure spirit - he drew me in and I adored him. I felt like Griffin was supposed to be my dog, but there was a major problem. My husband and I were knee-deep in the home study process so that we could adopt a child. A social worker inspected our home, asked us deeply personal questions, and handed us a pile of paperwork thicker than my thigh (and that, my friends, is some kind of thick). Knowing that a potential birthmother might be concerned about how a baby would fare in a home with so many dogs, we decided that we would not foster for a while after the child was born. We also decided that it would be best to stick with the two dogs we already had and not add another one. I was truly smitten with Griffin, so it was hard. Right dog, wrong time.

Right about then, a family applied with the rescue and indicated an interest in Griffin. They came to my home to meet him and seemed like a good match for my little guy. They were willing to commit to the additional requirements for adopting a deaf dog, like having a fenced yard and taking him to obedience classes. With a heavy but hopeful heart, I drove Griffin the considerable distance to their home. I had left him, I thought, in good hands. I called my friend Brenda on the drive home. "I just dropped off my boy," I told her between sobs. After fostering so many dogs, it was rare for me to get teary. Normally, my happiness in seeing a dog trot off to a "forever" home overrides my sadness in losing that dog from mine.

It didn't take long before Griffin's new family began to complain about him. He barked at the kids, he acted squirrely around visitors, he did this, he did that. "What the . . . ?" I thought. Are we talking about my sweet little guy with the magical blue eye? Realizing that they would never love Griffin, I began imploring them to return him to me. For months, they refused. Then finally, much to my relief, they did.

Griffin was returned to rescue in approximately the same condition in which he had arrived the first time. He was unreasonably skinny and his face was once again blackened by tear stains. I was simultaneously saddened by his condition and furious with myself for having chosen the wrong home for him.

However, Griffin's luck was about to turn again. The first time he was in rescue, I'd needed to go out of town one weekend. I asked an adoptive family, one that I trusted and with whom I was on very friendly terms, if they'd take Griffin for me. Mary and Sandy happily agreed and I dropped him off for an uneventful stay at their home. I picked him up that Sunday evening and soon he was adopted. I didn't give that weekend another thought.

When Griffin was returned to rescue, Mary and Sandy spotted him on the rescue's website almost immediately. "We want to adopt him - right away," they said. As it turned out, they had been kicking themselves all that time because they didn't adopt Griffin after he'd spent the weekend with them months before. They didn't want to waste any time on giving Griffin the care and attention he deserved. We expedited the adoption and soon Griffin was home. For good this time.

For the past three years, I have not had to worry about my sweet boy. I knew that he was living with someone who loved him just as much as I did. I joked that he was my dog, but who just happened to live with someone else. I was rewarded with frequent photographs and updates, and even a few visits. In September of this year, Mary and Sandy brought Griffin to the rescue's annual Boxer Bash fundraiser. I was busy, but couldn't wait to kiss his jowls. "Griffin is so upset that you haven't come to say hello," Mary teased me. I knelt down and gave him a smooch. He was as adorable as ever, with his brown splotch and his magical blue eye.

Last weekend, Griffin and his family were enjoying a weekend at their new cabin. At their regular home, they have a securely fenced yard. But at the cabin, Griffin was on a tie-out attached to a stake in the ground. Somehow, he was able to break away and was hit by a car in the briefest of moments. It was no one's fault and there was nothing that could have been done differently. It just was.

I take solace in knowing that Griffin was very much loved and that the last three years of his life were, without a doubt, the best three years of his life. Thank you, Mary and Sandy, for loving him so. I still cannot articulate what it is about that little Boxer that caused him to cut such a wide swath through my heart - which suddenly feels frail and . . . not altogether resilient.


Susie said…
May Griffin rest in peace, and the memories of all who loved him live forever. I'm crying as I type this . . .
Mary said…
I'm so sorry for all involved. It's so very hard to lose a dog... for any reason. He surely wouldn't have known anything good if he hadn't made it to rescue and found a great home. Rest in Peace sweet Griffin.
Drasch23 said…
I don't know what else to say, other than I am sorry.
Anonymous said…
I am so sad for you, he looks like he was one of the sweetest boys ever! Missouri Gurl
As a boxer rescue mom, I know your pain. just after we got home with our adopted human son, one of our foster (a 5 mo. old) was returned to us. it broke my heart that i made the wrong decision for him. i would love to keep the vute little guy and he tugs at my heart strings when he curls up next to me in bed, but i just cant right now with a newborn in the house (we are still oging thru our post-placement visits). we have someone coming to visit him this weekend and possibly give him a forever home. right dog, bad time. i know how it goes. RIP Griffin!

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