10/07/2012 06:47 pm ET Updated Dec 07, 2012

Fostering Pringle

His name is Pringle. Well, that's the name the rescue folks gave the scrawny Yorkie-mixed breed they'd found dumped on the streets of a neighborhood known for their high kill shelter. He is my first foster dog.

It's been a couple of years since I toyed with the idea of caring for a foster dog in order to be a way station of sorts until there is a permanent home available. Until now, I had reasons (excuses?) not to do it -- a daughter's wedding, an elderly father whose life was diminishing, and the fear of the unknown. Just what kind of dog would I be strapped with? Well, my daughter has since married and my father recently took his last breath so it was just a matter of fear of the unknown. Yet, I did adopt Harpo (who was named Rufus when he came into the North Shore Animal League) about a year and a half ago. He'd been saved from a kill shelter and is a very sweet boy who has found his forever home with me. His only demand is that I pet him -- a lot. Still, after watching the documentary One Nation Under Dog and reading about the puppy mills and seeing all the animal rescue places that need help, I decided to put my fear aside and take the challenge, which is how I got Pringle.

Often, we see the after photos of these dogs that have been saved. They look healthy and groomed. Pringle, who is about nine years old and has no teeth, was as well-groomed as he could be, but I have to admit that, initially, I was a bit disturbed by his appearance since his facial features reminded me of a possum. I hate possums. They freak me out. Still, I faced my discomfort for the dignity of this little one.

When I first got him, about four days ago, he was trembling and shell-shocked. He put up with me petting him, but preferred to go to his little bed (one that had been Harpo's that Harpo wanted nothing to do with) and curl up there. It seemed as though Pringle didn't want to be a problem. Yes, of course I'm projecting here, but that is how I took it since he never relieved himself in my home and would eat the mush I put in front of him, licking his bowl clean. He was frightened of the stairs, seemingly having little idea how to navigate them; therefore, he allowed me to carry him up and down, but that was as close as he preferred me to get. He didn't respond to my whistle or when I encouraged him to come to me and, upon eating his food and doing his business outside, he would just skulk to his bed, after I carried him upstairs. I worried that he might be deaf since he didn't seem to respond to any noise.

The second day, Pringle followed Harpo outside, but didn't express much interest in him. When he came back inside, I sat on the floor, seeing what he'd do. Hesitantly, he wandered over to me and rested a paw on my leg. Be still my heart. Then he shifted away. I work from my home office upstairs so I carried him up with me. Later that afternoon, he wandered into my office and rested on the blanket I had put there for that very reason. When I went downstairs to prepare dinner, I didn't bring him down with me, but waited and watched. Sure enough, slow and steady, he came down the stairs to see where I was. Then, when I asked Harpo if he wanted to go out, Pringle dashed to the back door. He heard me! Then, later that afternoon, a slight growl came from his skinny, little body when he saw Harpo outside on the deck waiting to come inside.

Now, on the fourth full day, he navigates the stairs quite well and comes up to me, placing his paws on my legs and lets me pet him. He even allowed me to run a brush through his fur. And, he dashed away when he saw me heading his way with a wet paper towel to clean off his snout after eating. (A dog with no teeth needs a bit of help to clean up afterward.) I laughed out loud to witness the energy he suddenly had.

I went in to this venture with the mindset that my home is going to be a stopover for these dogs that were abandoned, abused or ignored, but I've been asked by some friends, how will I be able to give Pringle up to a forever home? That is part of the challenge, but it is very much the reward, too. However, I expect each foster dog that I take in will come with his own story and some will give me a far bigger challenge than Pringle, who helped me overcome my fear of the unknown. You can see a photo of Pringle here.