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GTPulse: Local Dog Finds a New Home After Being Fostered

Pet adoptions have dramatically increased since pandemic related restrictions have been in place. With people now spending so much time at home and likely experiencing at least some loneliness, it makes sense. There is no comfort or love comparable to that between a man and his dog. In this case, a woman and her foster dog. Karen Stein is a Traverse City local. She’s the owner and creative director of , a local storytelling show. She would have been wrapping up her last show for the season this month. Like everyone she has been impacted by the changes and had to alter plans. Her new plans could be worse, though. Karen has just decided to adopt her foster dog, Athena. As you can imagine, Karen is a great storyteller and the story of her and Athena is nothing less than lovely.

Karen grew up in a dog household, but as she transitioned into adulthood and her own life she found that having a cat was easier. But, the dog versus cat argument misses the point. Before anything, a desire to be a great pet parent is a desire for love and companionship.

“I’ve always been drawn to dogs and sometimes cats, so I think being a pet parent is just naturally who I am. But if “changing the lyrics to an existing song to be about my dog” were considered a skill set, then I’d say dog ownership has helped me become a master of impromptu singing.”

Karen hasn’t had a dog since September of 2019. Her beloved Jackson passed unexpectedly and the heartbreak from the loss made looking for a new pet impossible.

“He was an amazing dog, an absolute gift, and I don’t expect to ever meet another dog like him in this lifetime. Losing him just gutted me. So even though I knew I was going to want another dog eventually, I also knew that I had to be sure-sure that I was ready. So taking on another dog was pretty much an abstract concept/work in emotional progress. I would look at dogs online but my heart wasn’t in it. And then I got a super-brief glimpse of Athena.”

She had been at Cherryland Humane Society dropping off items for donation when she spotted Athena.

“She was so striking that I hadn’t even noticed the awful DIY crop job on her ears. But, I just assumed that she belonged to someone on staff and didn’t ask about her. Instead, I went for a tour of the available dogs in the visiting area. And it just so happened that the next morning a workout friend I made at the gym—the executive director of Cherryland Humane Society—was in class with me. She told me she had been thinking about me because there was a pit bull she wanted me to meet, Heidi and I are both pittie people. It was a heartbreaking case—a recent owner surrender, evidence of neglect. Just as the workout was about to begin, I mentioned, “Oh, by the way, I was at CHS yesterday and saw the most beautiful dog.”  As I described her, Heidi’s eyes lit up. “That’s her!” We were talking about the same dog. So I knew I had to go back to the shelter and meet her.”

Karen decided to foster Athena in March. When Athena came to Karen’s home she spent the first few weeks sleeping and decompressing. Karen quickly noticed that she was a kind dog and thoughts of adoption started to trickle in.

“I had started a series of “Distancing Days Dog Diary” posts featuring photos of Athena on my Facebook page and I realized I kept referring to her as “the dog I’m fostering.” And after several of these, I finally called myself out. I mean, who was I kidding? How weird would it be, after celebrating her so much, to say “OK, she should go be part of someone else’s family now.” I knew I loved that she was here. After 6 months of quiet, it felt so great to have dog energy in the house again.”

The deal was sealed on a sunny afternoon the two spent cozy at home together. 

“When I took the photo of her sleeping with her dinosaur. She had been sleeping on the couch in the sunroom then got up, left the room, came back with the dinosaur, and jumped back onto the couch and promptly fell asleep again. My heart flipped a little. It was the most endearing thing.”

The new duo will be riding out the rest of quarantine hanging out and getting to know one another more.

“Given the times we’re living in, that’s a tough one to answer. She was introduced to the household right as the shelter-in-place orders were handed down, so she has been given the mistaken impression that humans at home 24/7 is totally normal. The last time my boyfriend and I went to the grocery store, she pulled one of my shoes and one of his shoes onto the couch with her. Not to destroy, just to have them there. I assume that was a self-soothing behavior to help with anxiety over being the only one home for a few hours. I’m keeping it simple for now and just looking forward to warmer weather and introducing her to friends’ dogs and finding out if she likes the water.” 

Karen is officially a dog parent again and I couldn’t be more excited for her. Good news is always welcome here and this was something that brightened my day as I hope it will yours. Congratulations to them both.

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