I know 2020 has been a disaster, but personally, my 2019 was worse. First I lost my job, and then I went through a difficult breakup with my partner of several years. When I had to move as a result, I purged most of my belongings and immediately regretted it. And just as I thought I was starting to get my bearings, my dog—sweet little best friend—died.
Thus, by the time Covid set in, my confidence was the size of a pinto bean. The mandatory shelter-in-place orders were just a cruel, ironic slap in the face right when I was telling myself things could only get better. I felt like I was being sucked into a black hole. Advice like “Get some exercise!” and “Eat healthy!” came frequently and from well-meaning places. But I just couldn’t. The only thing that was bringing me joy was sour cream and cheddar Ruffles with white wine. I sorely needed a way out of this prolonged, self-indulgent mope.
I love dogs. After Billy passed away, I considered adopting again, but I wasn’t sure I was ready. One compromise seemed to be fostering. I could take care of a pooch temporarily and help it find a home without having to go through another painful loss. So a couple months into the year, I applied to be a foster with Muttville, a senior dog rescue in the Bay Area. Not an original idea, it turned out. Muttville received 700 adoption and foster applications within the first two weeks of the shutdown. Five months later, they were finally able to match me with a dog in need: an 11-pound, 12-year-old, one-eyed chihuahua named Radish.
Why a senior dog? There is something inherently rewarding about how pathetic they look—this geriatric creature needs me in ways that a puppy does not. Everyone wants puppies; not everyone wants a decrepit goblin with dental disease. Perhaps part of it, too, is some kind of weird schadenfreude—at least I am not as pitiful as this animal. So while some of my friends were using Covid to get designer poopadoodles and shitzapoos that they could train and take on hikes and post on Instagram, I was washing doggie diapers full of vaginal juices because Radish’s uterus prolapsed (don’t Google it).
Radish had a mess of things wrong with her. She only has one eye that can see—the other eye is there, it’s just small and blue and nonfunctioning, and I have no idea why. She had severe decay in her mouth that made her breath so bad that every time she yawned I had to dive for cover. The vet diagnosed her with allergies, and until she started on regular doggy Claritin, she was basically Sneezy the dwarf. Her jaw was broken (caused by the mouth decay, according to the vet), and she had a crusty growth on her nose. She just looks hilarious, I’m sorry. Every time she gazed up at me, I’d start to giggle. For the first few days in my apartment, Radish was afraid of her own unsightly reflection in my full-length bedroom mirror (which, honestly, I related to). I had to cover up the mirror at night or she couldn’t sleep, growling at the damn dog that wouldn’t stop staring at her.
social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/story/fostering-radish