As I prepare to send the last of Autumn’s puppies that were born here 9 weeks ago off to their new homes and to a wonderful Lab rescue who will then have the pleasure of helping to find homes for each of them, I am as always filled with mixed emotions about saying good-bye to them.
Being a foster parent for our animal shelter is as with all that surrounds helping animals in need, one of the greatest blessings of my life. But time and time again people express the same sentiment to me when I talk about fostering. “They couldn’t do it.” “It would be too difficult to let them go.” “They would end up keeping them all.” And in some ways I understand all of those sentiments.
I used to think I couldn’t do it. And yes, it can be incredibly difficult. In some ways it is sweet sorrow. And in fact I have kept a few of my fosters over the years…rarely if ever puppies or kittens and most commonly older animals that fit in with my pack so well that I chose to keep them. But hundreds and hundreds of others (I’ve had over 150 fosters in 2013 already) have come and gone. And five more will go tomorrow.
How could one love and care for them, nurse them back to health, help them come into the world, relish in the joy of watching them develop their individual personalities, and then hand them over to someone else? My answer is simple. How can I not let them go?
If I don’t let them go, I can’t foster more. If I keep them all, not only would I be insane as not even I could deal with raising five lab puppies, I couldn’t take others. I’m not a puppy person by nature. I like old animals and I’m surely addicted in some way to the joy of adopting those that otherwise might never find a home. It’s a feeling like no other. But what is even more motivation for letting them go than the craziness that raising puppies would bring to my life is the fact that in letting them go, it provides space and time for me to foster others who need me too.
Where would the 150 or so puppies and kittens go if I didn’t have time and room to foster over the last year? I won’t dwell on it but that’s not a pleasant thought I assure you. We don’t have enough fosters and hence, my home and garage is a constant haven for them. And if I shut down the puppy and kitten motel, many would die. And I won’t let that happen.
Autumn’s puppies don’t need me or her anymore. They need their own homes, with their own families who will be thrilled (and challenged I’m sure) to add a new puppy and watch them grow and love them and cherish them as they so deserve.
Yes, I assure you I’ll be crying in the morning when I say good-bye to these beautiful, sweet babies. And there will be times I will wonder how they are and pray I’ll hear from their new families about their lives. But it’s time to let them go and ready things for the next litter that needs me. And there will be another. And another. And another. And I will love them too. I will cherish my time with them as well. I will care for them. Feed and clean up their messes. Nurse the sickly back to health. Or just enjoy watching them grow big and strong enough to be on their way too. And then I’ll say good bye to them when their time comes.
It’s the cycle of a foster. It’s the purpose of a foster.
It’s really about loving them all enough to let them go. Even when letting each one leave takes a bit of your heart with them when they do. It’s knowing there will be more babies that come into your life that will help to fill it up again. It’s about loving them enough to give them up so you can love another.
Now someone remind me of this tomorrow morning as I say good bye to my sweet babies….Aurora, Quinn, Amelia, Deli and ornery girl Bailey.
I will love them forever if even from afar.