Thoughts on fostering
Andrew and I decided to start fostering dogs about four months ago. It was right before Christmas and our local shelter Centre County PAWS had sent out an email asking for temporary fosters for Christmas. They were trying desperately to get every dog into a temporary home for the holidays since they would be facing a severe shortage of volunteers.
We spent that afternoon tossing around the idea and inevitably came to the conclusion that there was no way we could welcome a dog into our home for just a few weeks and then hand him or her back for the shelter to deal with again. No sir, if we were going to foster, we were going to do it properly – we agreed we were in it for the long haul.
My first and deepest concern is that we would immediately adopt the first dog we fostered. That would be kind of a failure, wouldn’t it?
Our first foster was Gingerbread.
As a puppy, she was dropped off at a dump. As in landfill.
I ask you, who does that?
Luckily, someone rescued her and gave her a home. She lived with her owner and another dog until they both died within a short time frame. Add to that the fact that Gingerbread was left in the house alone until a neighbor came and you get one anxious dog. Gingerbread came into our home nervous, on guard. It took a little while but she steadily relaxed and revealed her playful, loving nature. She also revealed her superpower of utterly decimating a stuffed animal in 17 seconds flat.
Sawyer and Gingerbread quickly became best buddies, chasing each other around the back yard until Sawyer would retreat to his safety zone of the picnic table. Sherlock warmed up to her – at least to the point where he’d only mildly snarl a warning if she ventured too close to his beloved stuffed toy.
A month later, Gingerbread went off to her forever home, ready to love and be loved (and probably not be allowed around anything with a squeaker :)).
I admit, I wondered if we were doing the right thing by letting her go. Shouldn’t we adopt her? We could certainly give her a wonderful home. But I knew her new family could too – they were ready to shower her with love. So we sucked it up and handed over this dog we had grown to love so much to another family.
It was tough.
Our second foster was Precious.
She was drastically underweight – to the point you could count her vertebrae. Her former owner gave her up – or more accurately gave up on her – because she vomited and peed in the house. Instead of being taken to the vet, poor Precious was surrendered.
Turned out she has canine diabetes. Unregulated glucose levels led to increased urination and dehydration. Since Precious was kept inside for long periods of time, she had little choice but to relieve herself inside. Another side effect was increased appetite, causing Precious to scarf her food down so quickly, she immediately threw it back up; ultimately, this caused significant weight loss. When we brought Precious home, she was skinny, fatigued and had nails so overgrown, they were crossing over each other.
Despite all of this, Precious was pure joy. Pure affection. This dog who had clearly been neglected knew no other way than to exude contentment and love.
With proper care, tons of love and regular insulin injections, Precious transformed into a healthy, energetic girl. She went from sleeping most of the day to following Sawyer right up on top of that picnic table (to his great surprise). And guess what? Not once did she have an accident in the house or throw up. Her waking hours were filled with constant tail-wagging and that infectious happiness won over everyone who met her, including her adoptive family.
Saying good-bye to Gingerbread was hard. Saying good-bye to Precious was even harder. She had become part of our family so quickly, so easily. We wondered again if we were making the right choice by not adopting her ourselves, by letting that joyful presence go. But, again, we knew this family would love and care for her well – would embrace her as part of their family. And so we handed over the leash, so to speak.
Luckily, before my eyes had a chance to fill with tears, the knowing people at PAWS introduced us to our third foster, Wally.
Wally was a stray, arriving at PAWS by way of another animal shelter. However, this little guy craves human companionship, so he has definitely had a home at some point in his past.
Wally = Sherlock several years ago.
Supposedly they’re the same age, though I don’t buy that for a second. Wally is full of youthful energy and beagle mischief.
Wally has completely made himself at home, claiming whatever lap is available, burrowing deep under the covers of our bed and gleefully joining us on runs through the park. He also has a strong belief that all tables, be they coffee, dining or picnic, are made to be walked on but we’re working on that 🙂
And this is when it happens.
When we fail as foster parents.
Meet Wally*, the newest member of the Hunt household and another pup who has found his forever home.*We’ve actually dubbed him Sir Walbert Raleigh – he likes green beans, running and NC State Basketball. He also goes by Wallifer and Wall-e, pronounced in robot voice as Wa-AH-lee. More nicknames are likely to come.*
As long as Wally leaves his tennis ball alone, Sherlock’s cool with it.
For now, we’re taking a short reprieve from fostering while we work on some of Wally’s ..ahem…finer qualities (such as furiously digging a tunnel to our neighbor’s yard, barking like a banshee at movement that only he can perceive and straining to get wherever we’re going faster than physics will allow.)
But this is not the end, my friends – we will foster again. Fostering has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Dogs are unconditional love on four legs. Sometimes human interaction forces that love to be pushed down and hidden out of fear. As a result, a dog may be perceived as hostile, wild, snappish. There’s a saying: the more time I spend with dogs, the less I like people.
That saying is not unfounded. I have seen some incredibly sad cases of neglect and mistreatment.The beautiful thing – the miraculous thing – is the ability of a dog to bounce back, to forget and forgive, to wag that tail again. Dogs are incredible creatures and not to overdo it but I thank God for giving us such fantastic companions.
So do me a favor, or actually two:
1) Go hug your dog (or if your dog’s not the hugging type, a good belly rub will suffice).
2) Donate to your local shelter: money, time, talent – whatever you’ve got, they can use.
I promise you’ll be repaid a thousand times over in doggy kisses.