Who Is Winston?
Winston is an American or English Bulldog that we estimate to be between 4 and 7 years old, maybe closer to 4 and 5. This curious and hefty guy didn’t get the best treatment in life and he has a lot a learn. But what he does have going for him is a great personality and a lot of potential despite his rough start.
Meeting Winston For The First Time
We first met Winston during a tour of The Animal Friends of the Valley shelter. I’ve always held the belief that if you’re going to help someone or something then you should start first with those most in need. Following that mindset, we were mostly focused on the dogs in the back of the kennels and ones that were injured or harmed. What really caught my eye about Winston, and made me keep going back, was the sadness in his eyes. He would look at us, make eye contact, and immediately his eyes would sag. It was clear he was used to being passed by and had accepted it.
Winston’s story was heartbreaking, and it was even more heartbreaking for us not to take him home that day. But we wanted to really think about it and be certain we were making the right decision. There was so much to consider such as our home environment, whether he could get along with our dogs, whether he would be a good fit for our child, and of course, budgeting for Winston’s medical bills. After some careful consideration and a lot of sad puppy dog eye’d looks, we decided to return to Animal Friends of the Valley and foster Winston.
Though Winston’s exact history is a mystery, the parts we can determine from observing his health does not make for a pleasant picture.
We could tell from the very start that when he was very young, someone locked him in a crate and wouldn’t let him out. He probably went to the bathroom in his crate, he probably ate in his crate, most of his young life was most likely spent confined. And so his bones grew wrong for the years that he was in the crate. As a result, Winston has a curvature in his spine, his hips are disjointed, and his knees are fused together.
Typically the best way to determine a dog’s age is by the health of their teeth. A bit more wear and tear on a canine’s canines is normal during a dog’s natural lifespan. However when a dog is neglected, the teeth deteriorate more rapidly which can make the dog seem older than they actually are.
When we took a look at Winston’s teeth, they were in rough shape. We might have assumed him to be an older dog if it weren’t for his crisp white coat and bright energy. And now, after spending some time with him, we’re confident that the health of Winston’s teeth isn’t age related but due to mistreatment.
Why We Chose Winston
Winston didn’t have much time left in the shelter. Shelters can often only keep dogs as long as they have space. And when that space runs out and more dogs keep coming in, the dogs that have been there the longest unfortunately, are put down or euthanized. And so, when we go to the shelter, because we’ve been fostering for a while, we really look for the dogs that don’t have much hope left – the dogs everyone else has passed by.
And for us, that was Winston. When we returned for Winston, I don’t think he knew why we there at first. But after we presented Winston with his own dog cake to commemorate the moment, any doubts seemed to leave his mind with a wag of his tail. He may not have known why we were celebrating, but he was happy to be celebrating with us.
Before we foster, we prep ourselves for weeks or months of really hard work. We are typically preparing ourselves for many sleepless nights, cleaning up restroom accidents, training challenges, integrating that dog with our dogs etc. We try to consider every concern ahead of time. For Winston, we were expecting challenges. He was malnourished and had never been rarely socialized and possibly had limited experience in a home environment.
But I have been blown away by Winston’s temperament. He might be the easiest foster dog I’ve ever had in my life, which is shocking because he should have all kinds of behavioral issues after being locked up for years. And, after gaining 10lbs in our home, he’s such a big dog and big dogs can be hard to manage. But he just wants to follow you around and watch what you’re doing. All of this is new to him and a journey and exciting. He’s just soaking it all in and that’s a really neat thing to see and not always common.
He might be the easiest foster dog I’ve ever had in my life
Giving Winston the opportunity to learn and grow is what we’re really focused on right now but there are still challenges. And it’s those challenges that can intimidate a potential foster from taking home a dog. A lot of times people say, “Oh, I can’t go to a shelter because I would want to leave with all the dogs. It would be too sad.” While Winston is a severe case, there are plenty of dogs, and other pets, in shelters that are much easier cases and who need a home just as much.
Start small, start easy, start with what you can do.
Winston’s Road To Adoption
As for Winston, we still have some work to do before he’s ready for adoption. Over the years, we’ve developed a multistep process in our fostering practice and step one is Decompression. Instead of jumping straight into training, we want to earn the dog’s trust by giving them the time and space to understand their new environment. Winston is still figuring out life outside the crate and he’s learning fast. He doesn’t quite know what I’m doing when I whistle for him, but he’s attentive and engaged with learning how to dog.
Once Winston has decompressed and learned that there are people in this world who are willing to love him, then we’ll begin searching for Winston’s potential forever home. Until that time, check back in for updates on Winston’s progress, and who knows, that forever home for Winston might just be yours!