I am a foster mom. A four legged foster mom and I love it! Like most things in this world where my life revolves around animals, most of which are homeless, the overwhelming sense I have when I talk about it is how lucky I am to have found this world. And have found that I can be of value and of purpose in it in a way that makes my life full, happy and focused.
Yet I can remember a time when I thought the concept of fostering an animal in my home for any length of time was impossible if not improbable. Those people who foster guide dogs for a year and then give them up must have some sort of will and discipline that allows them to do so without falling in love with them. Some sort of strength that allows them to care and yet not be heartbroken in letting them go at the end of that time. Albeit that discipline and strength may be useful, I’ve come to understand that those aren’t the qualities that are really essential. It’s much simpler than that. It’s understanding that your real value and purpose is to help many and not just one! It’s understanding that you can help many….experience many…love many by being a foster.
Amelia is just one of many. This year alone I’ve fostered 114 animals. Mostly puppies and kittens and fairly often, BIG litters. Biggest litter ever was 16 coonhound puppies and thankfully that’s been the exception. But Amelia was one of only four. Amelia was born in our shelter, just one day after her mother arrived. I would bring her whole family home the next day where they would stay until old enough for adoption or to go to rescue. And nine weeks later, Amelia is going home and I couldn’t be happier.
Not even her soon to be Mom is convinced that I won’t be sad or that it won’t be hard to give her up. Rest assured, I am happy! Happy for her to start her new life. Happy for her new family, who I know will provide her the best life ever, to begin enjoying this little puppy as I have. Happy that I had a chance to be a part of her life. Maybe a little happy to have my bathroom back to use as a bathroom rather than as a nursery. Happy that I now have room for another…the next baby that will take her place that needs me. As Amelia no longer needs me. And what I’ve learned is the need to help homeless animals is much more important and influential to me than my own needs.
A shelter is not a good place for new born babies and as such Amelia and her family needed me then. When Amelia became very sick at five weeks, she in particular needed me and I moved her into my house for special attention. When she was sick, Amelia needed that extra attention, forced feedings and a watchful eye. She doesn’t need that now. Well maybe a watchful eye as she’s getting into that ornery stage and ate her first flip flop yesterday.
I don’t say any of this to promote praise or appreciation for my efforts…I don’t want that at all! Nor do I need it! The greatest appreciation comes when you can help save or change the lives of these animals. When you know what you’re doing or have done has made a difference. Knowing that I helped save Amelia’s life, helped her prepare for a new life and helped to find her that forever home, is ALL the thanks I need. More than enough.
I share it in the hope that others will understand that in fostering there is great joy. That in fostering there is such a tremendous opportunity to find purpose and fulfillment. That it’s not nearly so much about loving them and losing them, but more about the lives you can help change simply by opening your heart and home to them for a little while. I share this in the hope that others will try fostering. It took me years to try and that is my only regret. That I waited so long to change my own life.
There were moments I thought I would lose Amelia. That I couldn’t do enough to save her or that she wasn’t strong enough to make it. And while it would have broken my heart if she wouldn’t have, I would still foster again and again and again. Losing her would have been very sad and in fact, I’ve lost a few over the years. But losing one…whether a foster baby in my home or any of the animals in our shelter that our staff and volunteers have spent weeks caring for and loving is not failing. Not trying is failing. Not caring is failing. For me, not fostering is failing to do what I know I’m supposed to do.
But I’m wasted on Amelia now, as her new family can provide her with everything she needs. Knowing that, I’m ready for her to go home and start her happy little life. I’ll come home and clean the bathroom and wait for the next Amelia. As a foster, one thing is for certain…someone else needs me now.
There are too many someone’s out there. Please consider becoming a foster for your shelter. If not feasible, please get involved with your shelter wherever you are. There is so much you can offer…a cuddle to a cat that spends all day in a cage waiting for their lucky day. A walk around the block for a shelter dog whose life is limited to the four walls of their kennel. Don’t let the fear of having your heart broken keep you from trying. I assure you the risk is far outweighed by the reward of opening your heart.