Marmalade was my very first foster dog. I was living down in central Massachusetts and teaching at the time and missed having a dog but didn’t want to commit to a dog. I had my own (first) house and wanted to give a little back to the community, so I contacted a local humane society and asked them if they needed a volunteer. After going through the training program, I asked what they needed me to do, and they said they needed a quiet foster home for one of their longer-term dogs. Sue warned me at the time that Marm might be a long term foster, and I said that was ok.
Marm was a sweet shepherd mix of some sort. I have no idea what her history was except that she was very obviously hit and/or yelled at some point, probably with a stick or bat, and probably by a man.
How do I know that? Well, she had a huge fear of anything sticklike. Brooms and mops were regarded with terror or aggression (I lost a broom to Marm when I left it in the living room with her). She would hide in a non-broom-containing closet whenever anything would make a loud noise or crash unexpectedly. Marm would cower in fear if anyone around her raised a hand higher than about shoulder height, which was heartbreaking. And finally, Marmalade HATED men. Women were fine, children were scary (a natural reaction in a dog who wasn’t raised around kids), but men were something to be attacked.
Marm was the one dog I’ve either owned or fostered that was absolutely obsessed with her stuffie toys. Every other dog I’ve had has the determination to shred their stuffies as soon as possible, which is why I rarely buy them any more. The 10 seconds of joy the dog experiences is just not worth the cost. Marm, however, was a stuffie toy hoarder. She wouldn’t shred them, she would mouth them, carry them around, and pile them up and lay on them until you could tempt her with a new one. It was adorable.
Marm also, unusually, refused to eat nearly every type of food I put in front of her. The humane society had given me Science Diet to feed her which she wouldn’t touch. I tried Iams, Pedigree, and then moved upward on the price range of kibble. I added gravy, wet dog food, meat, and veggies to the kibble to no avail. She would eat a tiny fraction of whatever I put in front of her and would wander away to her stuffie pile. I didn’t get a chance to figure out what she actually liked to eat before my time with her abruptly ended.
I hadn’t realized how much Marm hated men until she met my neighbor Dave a few weeks into her stay with me. He’s good with dogs but is used to labs and very friendly, outgoing dogs. He walked right up to say hi to Marm, who promptly cowered, snarled, and attacked Dave’s feet. Dave was uninjured but much more careful of Marm after that.
I didn’t think much of the incident besides that perhaps Dave had gone about introducing himself incorrectly to a fearful dog. Right up until my dad came to visit me at the house and Marm went directly after his feet and actually bit through the shoe. Dad has a fear of any dogs besides his own to start, and was bitten as a child; Marm’s introduction didn’t help.
I called the humane society and told them that I was uncomfortable keeping a dog in the house who had a history of bites, and they agreed and took Marm back. She was placed with another humane society volunteer nearly immediately, much to my relief, and the wonderful woman ended up adopting her. I got updates occasionally from her over the years including an adorable photo of Marm laying on top of an enormous pile of stuffies that she had accumulated over the years. She even said that Marm had grown affectionate – after a long time and a lot of treats – to her husband, and no longer cowered in fear and actually snuggled with him occasionally.
Marm, if she’s still alive, is a very old dog now. I’m content in that she lived her life from 2007 on in a safe and happy home.