Foster Lesson: How a “Small Difference” Makes a Huge Impact

Updated: Aug 18, 2018

“Walden: once dumped like a piece of trash is now… KING OF THE TRASH! Check out his photo session at Landfill Park!”

I was trying to think of an Instagram caption, when this metaphor really struck me. Before you ask yourself, “Huh? What is she talking about,” let me explain a bit of Walden’s history, as well as his favorite park.

Walden is our foster dog, who was in the process of being left in the overnight drop box at Orange County Animal Shelter, when an employee who was still at the shelter confronted his owners. They said they could no longer afford to keep him, and it was clear they hadn’t paid for vet care in quite some time. He was underweight, had a bulging eye (which we learned later had glaucoma that went untreated, causing blindness), a bad heart murmur/heart disease, and a mouth full of rotten teeth. The owners were asked to follow up with his records, but they never did. He was cared for by the shelter for a month, then Hope Animal Rescue decided to pull him and I was asked to foster.

The first few weeks with Walden entailed several vet visits and eye medication to see if his eye could be saved, as well as getting him on medications for his heart. Eventually, it was determined that the eye could not be fixed and should thus be removed, since it was likely causing him pain. This surgery could be done along with a dental, which he would need to remove rotten teeth that were also likely causing pain (you could smell it from a few feet away!). Typically, both of these procedures are routine, but given the fact that Walden has advanced heart disease and a heart murmur, surgery would be risky. After some thought, we all decided that Walden deserved the chance to live a pain-free life. We didn’t know what the outcome would be, and if the surgery didn’t work out, at least we tried for him.

Based on the fact that I am now posting photos of Walden, you can correctly assume that the surgery went well and he is now doing great a couple of months later. His favorite thing to do is go for walks, he loves an adventure! However, I started getting bored with walking up and down our street every day, and needed to get creative. I did some research into new spots that were close by and have short trails or walking paths. I came across Green Hills County Park in North Raleigh and read up on it a little. This park was formerly known as Landfill Park because it was built on top of a—you guessed it—landfill! Eventually, due to growing population, the landfill was at capacity and closed… years later a park was built! I found this so interesting and immediately was sold.

Walden and I have since been to Green Hills several times to hike their short, but step Top of the Hill Trail. Walden blazes the trail, pulling ahead with his wagging tail to propel him. I’ll admit, I do carry him for a small part of the way up (let’s not forget he has a heart condition!), and he likes that, too. We are rewarded with the best view of Raleigh I have ever seen: 360 degree views over the horizon, overlooking the entire city, with downtown in the distance! We then rest, recharge, and meditate (or, like on this day, take photos)!

I have begun to appreciate these adventures I get to take with Walden, and that I was able to contribute in some way to his complete turnaround: from being a dog who was discarded like trash, to one that hikes up a giant mountain of trash and can see the whole world in front of him. Now, did I enact huge change and solve animal homelessness? No. Did I even single-handedly save Walden? Definitely, not! (While I had a role in his recovery, it was the work of many who made it possible: the staff at Orange County Animal Shelter, Hope Animal Rescue’s director who decided to pull him knowing he would be costly, Raleigh Community Animal Hospital who partners with us for discounted vetting, and all of the people who donate their hard-earned money to help fund Walden’s expenses). But did I, as well as everyone else who helped, make a huge impact? Yes. Because what might seem like only making a small difference in the grand scheme of the world, is an entire future to a dog we are saving.