A Dog Foster's Open Letter to Open Hearts

A Dog Foster's Open Letter to Open Hearts
Goofball Penny is living with her foster mom until she finds a home of her own.

When rescue friend, Candice, recently commented that her dog fostering experience has made her wonder why anyone would not do it, I was anxious to hear more. Everything about her honest and heartwarming answer touched me as I hope it will you. Maybe she will even inspire you to team up with a rescue near you to give a pup (or kitty) in need a helping hand.

Candice with her 'foster failure', Nova.

Candice with her ‘foster failure’, Nova.

Fostering is hard. Let’s get that out of the way. Bringing in a wayward, or even broken, soul into your life can be very stressful; even bringing on a well-adjusted, “easy” foster means stretching your time for the tasks of daily care.

That being said, nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

Fostering has certainly been one of the most challenging yet equally rewarding experiences in my life. I’m not that good at it either. I’m not that good at a lot of things- I’m terrible with time management, forgetful, and sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) overwhelmed.

Luckily for me, being a foster is not something you need to be a champion to be successful at.

I never intended to foster, I got into it because a friend of a friend of a friend had posted a 6 month old pup on Facebook who was listed as an urgent case. Due to shelter overcrowding, she was at risk of being euthanized.

Euthanized not because she was sick or aggressive, but because there were simply too many of her kind.

Too many. Too many loving, feeling, living souls that were unwanted and discarded, and then arbitrarily scheduled to be chewed up by the system to make room for more unwanted animals.

novaI couldn’t take it. I got involved with Players For Pits, who approved me as a foster. I had never done this before, but I had many dogs in the past, so I figured it couldn’t be too hard, right?

Well, I failed.

I failed from the moment I saw her, I knew she was mine. I had Nova for 2 months before I adopted her.

“Well, I officially suck at fostering,” I told myself, as I signed her paperwork. I resigned myself to never fostering again. I still did work with various rescues, doing high risk retrieval from some dangerous situations and freedom rides (transportation from shelter to rescue) but I knew I’d probably never foster again.

Then Penny happened.

Penny was emaciated and uncared for before her foster mom scooped her up.

Penny was emaciated and uncared for before her foster mom scooped her up.

Penny was abandoned in the back yard of a known squatter drug house in south Chicago. I had to get her, I had to get her into rescue, I had to do whatever it took. I picked her up the next day after rescue volunteers were able to catch her. She was emaciated and skittish, basically she was feral and not trusting of anyone. She was “that” case, the hard one, but she deserved a chance. The moment I saw her, I made a connection with her, and I promised her that I would do everything I could for her. I took her home and began the search for a rescue to take her.

After exhausting every bully rescue in my area and as far as Indiana, it was clear- there were no fosters available to take her. Every single one was desperate for fosters.

Penny rocking her mani-pedi. Or maybe it's a pedi-pedi?

Penny rocking her mani-pedi. Or maybe it’s a pedi-pedi?

What were my options? Surrender her to a shelter? Sure, they would take her, but knowing how emotionally distraught she already was, it would be a death sentence for her. She would shut down, and they would label her fearful, and she’d be just another number in the system, processed and forgotten.

So I did exactly what I didn’t want to do, I fostered her.

I got in contact with It’s A Pittie Rescue, like others, they were completely overwhelmed with dogs, and I went through their process of being approved as a foster, and Penny and I were set to hit the ground running. I had the support I needed to get her vetting done, keep her fed, train and house her, and most importantly, the emotional support of other fosters within the rescue.

It was rough from the start, she was extremely fearful of my fiance, she would growl and bark at him viciously if he went anywhere near her. If he walked into a room she went into flight mode and tried to get away from him. It was clear that she had not had good experiences with males. My fiance was often visibly upset and broken hearted by her response to him, and I could tell this would be a long road.

penny-snugglingAs discouraged as we all were at times, we stayed the course. My fiance continued to be patient with her, I had to train HIM to be sensitive about the fact that not all dogs would be cuddly and outgoing, especially knowing (and not knowing) what she had been through.

It has now been four months since I picked her up. Last night we met a new person, a man, and Penny was sweet and cautious, giving him gentle kisses and allowing him to rub her all over. She clearly wanted to engage with him, and we know that she would have connected with him had they spent some more time together. This was not possible a few months ago, and the feeling of pride, accomplishment, hope and happiness nearly made my heart burst with joy.

Tonight, as I am typing this up, I occasionally look up to see a scene that never fails to touch my soul: my fiance sitting on the couch, Penny snoozing next to him, head in his lap, visibly content and feeling safe in his presence. The only displeasure she displays around him is an occasional grumble or huff when he gets up and her perfect comfy is ruined.


Later tonight, we will go to bed, always the dogs and myself first, my fiance will be along shortly. He’ll walk in, Penny will get up to greet him, tail wagging. He will walk up to her, take her face in his hands, and give her a big smooch on top of the head and then a hug. He’ll climb into bed and she’ll snuggle up against him, with her legs wrapped around him and her head nestled against his chest.

Nova cuddling with adoptable foster dog, Penny.

Nova cuddling with adoptable foster dog, Penny.

She is whole. She is safe. She is loved. She is alive. What an amazing thought. This “hopeless” dog is ready for her forever, and it would have never happened if I didn’t step up and fight for her.

Is there anything better than watching a pup snooze in safety?

Is there anything better than watching a pup snooze in safety?

She is on her way to her happy ending, but Penny is only one dog. There are thousands of dogs within driving distance RIGHT NOW who may not get the chance that Penny has. Most of them don’t even need the intensive care that Penny did. They just need a place to lay their head at night, a little support, and a lot of love to buy them some time until their happy ending finds them.

Nova helping her foster mom feel better when she was ill.

Nova helping her foster mom feel better when she was ill.

Volunteer work can sometimes be thankless, but fostering a dog is one that rewards you every moment with the unbreakable love of a dog that somehow seems to understand that you are giving them a second chance, and you’ll find that you get as much from them as they do from you.

If you have the ability and the will to help, please consider doing so, because right now, most shelters are at an all time high for intakes. They are bursting at the seams with dogs that will likely be doomed to an anonymous fate having never known love or stability.

To read more about fostering, see this article.

Thinking of adopting? Here is why you should consider adopting an animal in foster care.

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