The 9-month-old Husky was completely infested with foxtails. She was thin, matted, and covered in wounds where the foxtails had burrowed into her skin. Willow had just arrived that day from a shelter in the Central Valley. Upon seeing her condition, our medical team decided to perform her spay surgery that day so they could remove some of the deepest foxtails while she was already under anesthesia. They pulled two foxtails from deep in her ear, and found that one of her eardrums had been ruptured. They cut and shaved her fur down to the skin, and removed as many foxtails as they could find from her body.
It was a long, difficult surgery, and Willow would need time to heal afterwards. Our foster team got to work right away looking for someone to take her in, and Rebecca and her family stepped up immediately. Rebecca’s family had fostered 73 dogs in their time as a foster family, but this would be their first time fostering with us. Willow was incredibly nervous around people, and Rebecca was notified ahead of time that she would take some time to warm up. But as soon as Rebecca and two of her kids pulled up to HSSV to pick up Willow, something incredible happened. When Willow spotted the kids, she ran straight to them and started jumping on them and licking them. It was love at first sight.
Once home, the love affair continued. Willow followed the kids around, often curling up next to them for comfort. She cried and howled if she was separated from the kids at night, and only settled down if she could sleep next to their beds.Willow bonded especially close to Rebecca’s oldest son, William.
Willow was slowly gaining confidence, but her medical journey wasn’t over. After a week in Rebecca’s home, she had an appointment at our medical center to see how she was healing. Her skin had improved in areas, but our medical team could see that there were more foxtails embedded under skin. They performed exploratory surgery to find the foxtails that had been hidden, and found 12 more. To help her heal, she would need to continue on antibiotics and pain medication, and was sent back to Rebecca’s home.
Finally, Willow was healed. It was time for her to come back and find her forever home. Watching her children say good bye to Willow broke Rebecca’s heart. She was especially upset about her son, William, who had bonded so closely to Willow and was clearly experiencing the most intense feelings of loss.
Just a few days later, Rebecca got a phone call. During her medical exam, more foxtails had been found, and she needed another exploratory surgery to find the remaining foxtails and remove them. She needed to go back on all her medications, and our team felt it would be best for her to recover from the surgery in a foster home. They asked if Rebecca could take Willow back, and she immediately agreed.
Willow’s reunion with her kids was sweeter than she could have imagined. She was so excited to see them, and overjoyed to be going back to Rebecca’s home.
In Willow’s second stint with Rebecca and her family, her confidence grew. She started to bond more with Rebecca and her husband, was doing better in public around strangers, and began to accompany the family on all kinds of outings and adventures. Rebecca and her family live on three acres of land, complete with horses, goats, and pigs, and Willow loved to follow Rebecca to feed the horses. She started to love spending time with Rebecca’s other dogs, romping and playing with them in the pasture.
A few weeks later, it was time for Willow to finally return to HSSV for the last time to find her forever family. That night, Rebecca and her family sat down to have a serious talk. Willow had become part of the family, and had blossomed so much during her time with them. Rebecca knew that Willow belonged with them, and she couldn’t bear to break the bond that had formed between William and Willow.
Rebecca contacted our team, and it was final. Willow was home. Since joining her family, Willow has continued to flourish. She’s joined the family on trips and adventures, is learning to swim, and her special bond with the kids is strong as ever.
We are so grateful to incredible foster families like Rebecca’s. With their dedication, animals like Willow get the second chance they deserve. Thank you to everyone who supports our work and helps us save animals in need. We couldn’t do what we do without you.
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