Expanding your heart

I love fostering.  With animal overpopulation as it is, puppies and kittens are pretty much a constant at my house.  My neighbors grandchildren think I run a zoo and sometimes it feels that way.  But not having fosters, even with my six dogs and plethora of cats, can make this big house feel empty.

Most people don’t understand how fosters can care for animals in their homes and then let them go.  “It would break my heart to love them and let them go” they say.  And I say each time that by fostering I not only makes room for others in our overcrowded shelter but I also help with socialization and for the babies it keeps them healthier too.  Oh, and it’s fun too.

Of course I’ve kept several fosters over the years.  We all have foster failures as we call them.  For that matter, all of my current dogs were once fosters…except for Oliver who I brought home this summer knowing from the moment I put him in my car that I would keep him.  It’s a long story for another day but he would help to begin a healing process that I would soon begin.  But most often my fosters stay for a week or two and then head off to their forever homes or to one of the rescues we work with.  Last year I fostered over 200 animals.

One of my fosters left yesterday.  She was a purebred Dachshund that arrived at our shelter a week before Christmas with two babies in tow.  The man that brought her said he’d found her in a park.  A little hard to believe but whatever.  Anyway, the puppies were the cutest ever and healthy little buggers. Gracie puppies in a bowl So here they came.  Just a few weeks later they leave me having needed little more from me than a warm safe place to get a little older before they were separated from their mom.  And yes, those are the puppies in a lovely Christmas gift of a bowl on my dining room table.

And mom, well she might be one of the sweetest, best dogs that I ever scooped into my arms.  Perfectly well behaved despite being pretty thin, she refused to use the bathroom in the kennel where she and her puppies would stay at night.  She’d hold it all night awaiting to be let outside.  She was delightful with my dogs.  She’d give my cats a glance and maybe a light hearted chase now and then but otherwise, she was a gem.20131221_190440

Within a few days she’d leave her puppies behind when the opportunity arose to join me in the family room with the rest of my dogs to curl up on my lap or at my feet in one of the cushy dog beds.  She’d follow me everywhere….quizzically looking at me when the other dogs remained curled in their spots as if to say say “Why don’t they want to come with us?”  A gem!

I’m a self-professed big dog person at heart but can fall in love with the little ones when the opportunity arises and with this girl, the opportunities were limitless.  She was just wonderful!

Almost by accident I stumbled upon a friend who knew someone that was looking to add to their Doxie family and would only do so through rescue rather than a breeder. It seemed like fate.  They couldn’t be nicer, more caring, compassionate people.  As if they were made for her.  Before they even met her, I asked them what they would name a new dog if they found one.  Almost immediately their response was “Grace.”  She’d have their name before she’d even have their hearts.   And she would undoubtedly as she’d grabbed mine.  An old hardened, experienced foster and big dog lover that I am!

How could I let her go?  A dog this perfect and lovely and sweet and easy?  Because its what I do.  Yes, I’d warn her new family there might be a tear or two when I gave her up. And when I handed her into their arms, there were.  But I watched her being carried away from me and into her new life with a happy heart not a broken one.   Because I knew what was to be.  And the next morning when I received the message that she’d slept all night curled up against the chest of her new mom, near her heart, it only confirmed what I knew was inevitable.

Sure I miss her.  But whatever ache there is in my heart for her is replaced in full with the knowledge that she is already very special and very much loved by her new family. How could I deny her that?

And how could I deny the next Gracie that will take her place here in my home and in my heart…even if ever so briefly?  Fostering…it doesn’t break your heart, it expands it to make room for each and every one that needs your love.

Categories: Fostering

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