Fosters are the life's blood of animal rescue. If you are one of the many animal lovers out there who are 'foster curious' but have hesitated...never the right time...not really sure you are cut out for it...this honest account of a foster's first pup may encourage you to take that next step.
"Having been a volunteer at a local shelter for a few years now, there’s a lot I’ve done in the service of homeless pets. I’ve walked them, transported them, accompanied them to swim lessons (yes, really – it was awesome!). But one thing I was never able to do, living in an apartment, was foster them.
When my husband and I purchased our first home this summer, I was eager to welcome a foster dog into our lives. It was easier said than done, however, with all the unpacking, endless cleaning, new-found chores (hello, lawn mower!), not to mention helping our own dogs adjust to their new home.
Ah. Yes. Big question there. We have two 15 pound, neurotic, naughty, insanely-lovable-but-sometimes-frustrating beasts.
Could we even find a foster dog who would work in our circus?
Meanwhile, I was still volunteering at DuPage County Animal Care and Control, also becoming involved with newly established Pittie Please Rescue, who had begun pulling many dogs from the shelter. It was exciting to see them starting up and their founder, Carolynn, whom I'd known for many years, asked me to foster a few times. I knew I wanted to, but it had never seemed to gel. Either the dog didn't seem like the right fit, or my husband was hesitant, or I was traveling for work.
But then, it happened. I still wasn't sure I was ready but Carolynn arrived at my home with Miss Sasha Fierce: a 27 pound, all-black, 12 week old pit mix who was recovering from cherry eye surgery and had been newly pulled from animal control. Carolynn handled the meet and greet with my dogs seamlessly, and everyone was in the house and coexisting within minutes.
My husband was skeptical, but I was smitten.
Initial infatuation soon gives way to doubt...
The next morning, I noticed that every time Sasha came near me to snuggle, my own dogs beat feet.
If Sasha moved too quickly, my youngest, most nervous dog would correct her in an instant (from which she just wiggled away and moved on to the next adventure, as puppies do).
Fearing I had made a mistake, I texted Carolynn and told her I didn’t think this was working, my dogs just couldn’t adjust. Carolynn talked me through my doubts, encouraging me that Sasha was likely to be adopted quickly and to give the dogs more time to adjust. I willingly hung in there but I have to admit it took some work. For the next few days, I watched the dogs' interactions like a hawk, followed Sasha around the house so she couldn’t make a mistake (because...puppy), all while treading lightly in interactions with my (awesome yet understandably) frustrated husband.
I was exhausted, and I didn’t understand how anyone would choose to do this over and over again.
And then something wonderful happened.
Be it the passing of time, or Sasha’s persistent, desperate desire to be loved by the WHOLE household, everyone settled in. I would catch them all snuggling on the couch together.
Or investigating that same noise in the kitchen together.
The day they all played chase in the yard for the first time, I held my breath – and nearly cried. It was working. We were fosters!
We had visitors over to meet the puppy constantly, and Sasha knocked it out of the park every time.
My feelings about the situation eased, then changed completely.
We began to work hard on training. We took outings just to get used to the car. We went to Home Depot and wandered the aisles, politely greeting people. We invited over friends’ dogs for all sorts of play dates. We snuck her into our Pulp Fiction themed Halloween costume (as the cutest $5 milkshake you ever saw!). I was completely in love.
Then came the letting go
When Pittie Please Rescue found a family that seemed like a perfect match for Miss Sasha, my heart stopped.
We had only just gotten in the rhythm of life with a new puppy – how could we let her go?
We debated keeping her for ourselves, and there were many late night talks about the prospect of not fostering anymore with three resident dogs. We ultimately made the difficult decision to let her go to a wonderful family so that we could welcome another in need.
On the day Sasha left for her new home, I carefully packed her toys, sweaters (yes, I’m that dog mom!) and food. We took one last group nap, went for a walk, and then off we went to her Happily Ever After.
I loved her parents, her new dog brother, and her permanent home. I felt awesome about the adoption decision.
Even so, the moment we walked out their door without her, I sobbed. And continued to cry for days. I may still be stifling back tears as I type this.
And that leads me to the question you are likely wondering.
Would I do it all again? Yes, I would. And I will.
Fostering is the most amazing and most difficult dog-related journey I’ve been on yet.
Every emotion you could possibly feel is crammed into a short amount of time with a dog on whom you hope to impress manners, love, and security before they make the next step. You’re a bridge, and while being a bridge is important, it’s also transitional. Temporary. Heartbreaking.
And while this may sound like a gut-wrenching experience, I hope each time my heart will grow bigger, just as it has through all my shelter work. More full of love. More ready to take on the next one. I do know this...I can’t wait to take on the next one.
If you’re ready for this amazing experience, I urge you to take the leap and try fostering for yourself. Pittie Please Rescue provided the crate, blankets, food, bowls, toys, leash, harness, and everything we needed to succeed. They were constantly there for support and ideas, and checked in on us frequently to make our first foster experience great. I cannot imagine having done it without them. To learn more, please LIKE Pittie Please Rescue on Facebook, or better yet, fill out an application to foster for yourself."
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Filed under: Foster Opportunities