by Allison Renee
My fiancé and I started fostering in May, and in just 4 months we’ve had 5 dogs and 4 cats go through our home. The decision to start fostering was an easy one… we were both big-time animal lovers looking for a way to help. We were excited about the variety fostering provides, but we’ve gotten so much more out of the experience. Caring for our fosters has brought us even closer together as a couple, and it’s taught us so many important lessons:
Beauty isn’t lost with age. It’s refined. All of our foster dogs have been seniors, meaning they are seven years or older. There is something so endearing about that touch of silver around the nose. Though their puppy-faced cuteness is far behind them, they are nonetheless charming in their own way. Senior dogs have a grace about them that only comes with age. Unlike puppies, senior dogs usually require little to no training. They also tend to acclimate quickly. Most of them are settled and claiming their spot on the couch the first night they’re home with us. They have their playful moments, but they are also more than happy to nap in a sunny patch of grass. We’ve found that the grey is not a sign of age, so much as the mark of experience, wisdom, dignity.
Gratitude for the little things. After seeing the difference it makes to our fosters, we’ve come to appreciate what we have more. Dogs are generally easy to please, but this is especially true for rescue dogs. For us, it’s a simple act… we open our home, adjust our routine a little. We already have a dog and 2 cats… having a foster just means there’s one more dish to fill, one more leash to hold, one more belly to scratch. But to them, it’s saving their life. It’s giving them a second chance. It’s providing the sustaining basics of food, water, shelter; but it’s also supplying the emotional nourishment of love, compassion, companionship. And while they can’t just tell us “thank you,” we can see it in their eyes; in the deep, peaceful sleep that they fall into the first night out of the shelter; in the tail wags and wet kisses they greet us with. Beyond that, we are rewarded with seeing the timid and dejected dog we brought home from the shelter blossom into the happy and confident dog that gets adopted.
The art of letting go. I’d be a liar if I said we never got too attached to a foster. In fact, we’ve wanted to keep just about every one of them. There was Bubba, the 10-year-old bloodhound with the big floppy ears I love so much…. I mean, c’mon, how often is a purebred bloodhound just gonna fall into your lap? There was Bandit, a splendid boxer-lab mix who fit impeccably into our little fur fam and lifestyle… laid back, good on the leash, and loved belly rubs. Magnus, the ultimate lovey, snuggly lap cat. Blue, a super sweet, petite pit bull who was never happier than when snuggled up against you. It goes on and on. So many, who all seemed a perfect fit, right here, with us. So why not keep them?
Why not? Because, shortly after the “I wanna keep you forever” phase comes the enlightenment. We realize that if we keep this one, we won’t have room to foster another. Then we remember that we like fostering so much because of the variety it affords…. we get to house all kinds of mutts, the occasional purebred, and even cats! And finally we admit to ourselves that keeping this dog would be selfish. That quote comes to mind: “If you love something, let it go…” Because deep down in our guts, we know there is someone out there with a heart just as big as ours who needs this dog. Someone who can give them everything we have, plus so much more.
The family who adopted Magnus and his sister Magenta has three little girls who now give them all the love and attention they can handle (and deserve.) The woman who adopted Bandit was retired and living alone; they both found their perfect companion that day. And the family that adopted Bubba the bloodhound…they have a large fenced-in yard where he can roam around leash-free and an in-ground pool that he loves to swim in. With keeping in touch with the adoptive families, we see just how much that animal was meant for them. We are but a stepping stone between the shelter and a forever home. We are their guardian, their friend and confidant, their advocate, but we are not forever. So, we love them while we have them, and then we let them go.
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