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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fostering Addiction

Once you’ve fostered a few dogs, the addiction sets in. Instead of the, “I’m not sure I could give it up,” monolog running through your brain, you hear, “I can save one more.”

Thinking about the dog that just left your home sometimes hurts. I miss them. In the short time they lived here, they crawled into my heart. When they leave all the quirky little things they did, like running into the kitchen every time they heard the cheese being unwrapped, or cuddling next to me as I watched TV, or greeting me when I came through the door after work, suddenly seemed like big things. Big things that weren’t here anymore. And I think about them a lot! Are they okay? Does the family love them as much as I do? Will they remember me? Most importantly; Do they understand why I gave them away?

I think that last one bothers me most of all. I loved them, I fed them, bathed them, took them to the vet, tucked them into their little bed at night and made sure they were safe. Can they understand that I was just the bridge to their forever life? I hope so.

I haven’t fostered for a few years because my last foster was unadoptable. A hoarder dog, Cupcake was an incessant barker, resource guarder, and did not want to be touched. In fact, in her first 9 years on this planet, Cupcake had never experienced human affection. She’d been kept in a yard, over bred for cash, and never touched by human hands except when they were taking her puppies. She came into my home thin and scared. It soon became clear I couldn’t take her to adoption days because of her fear. No applications came for this 9 year old Chihuahua over the internet.

Cupcake just settled in here. Found a spot on the couch with her blanket and began to appreciate living in a house. Eventually, she learned to take treats from my hand and accept a pet on the head. Then she’d let me rub her back. I could pick her up if I moved really slow, but she’d be stiff as a board, as if waiting for something. I can only wonder what she went through before she arrived. I made it a practice to pick her up once a day; very slowly up, pets and ear rubs, then very slowly down. With lots of praise.

One day, after she’d been in my home for about a year, we sat at opposite sides of the couch. I reached over (slowly) and picked her up and placed her on my lap. She stood stiff as a statue while I rubbed her back and behind her ears. When I stopped she ran back to her corner of the couch and stared at me. For two weeks I repeated this once every night. One night I sat on the couch after dinner and she jumped into my lap, ready for the rub down.

Of course, this unadoptable dog had found her forever home right here in my arms. Because she still had a lot of fear and other issues, I stopped fostering. A few years passed and she developed an enlarged heart and went into heart failure multiple times. I would run her to the vet to sit in an oxygen tank, adjust her meds and hear the vet say it might be time to make that heart breaking decision. Working with my vet, we brought her back every time. The last time after oxygen and more meds, she never really came all the way back. Her breathing stayed labored and we couldn’t get the water off her heart. It was time to say goodbye. I held her in my arms as she passed and took a little piece of my heart with her. She was a good dog. Maybe she came into my home not knowing how, but she wanted to be good. All dogs want to be good. Some just need to learn to trust.

When you foster and end up keeping the pup, they are affectionately known as foster failures. Or maybe I’m the foster failure? My little foster failure taught me patience and the gift of time. Some don’t need that much time, some need extra time. Cupcake didn’t sit on my lap for the first year she lived here. By the time we said goodbye she would leap into my lap every night. I miss that. I miss her joy and affection and yes, even her little quirks.

Sometimes fostering gives you such a gift. Sometimes you foster and give that gift to someone else. Now, with Cupcake gone to the Rainbow Bridge, I’m ready to foster again. The rescue group I work with sent me this picture.

I stared at it for hours. This Feist/Chi mix is 8 months old and found in a shelter in North Carolina. I have a 12 year old Shih Tzu. I need a dog who will get along with her. Puppies usually love everyone so I’m hoping they’ll cuddle and play. One thing about puppies, they usually don’t spend that much time in the foster home. People love to adopt young pups.

Then the fostering addiction kicks in again. Once her health is cleared by a vet, this little pup will be placed on a transport and welcomed into my home.
Updates to follow…

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