Someone tagged me on a post this week from HSOV foster mom (and so much more) Amber DeLong who shared about fostering two dogs that after two years now have a potential adopter, and reading the emotion filled comments by some who seem almost aghast that she could even considering letting them go after all this time, I got my little itch to blog.
I suppose mostly because I want people to understand what being a foster is really about. Not so they will understand why Amber will let these dogs go after two years as much as I want them to consider doing it themselves. The reality is that the more fosters we have the more lives we can save. By fostering you not only help the animal you foster but you make space in the shelter for the next animal that comes in the door.
And yet even the most devout animal lovers often can’t imagine fostering an animal in their home for any length of time, let alone two years and then letting them go. Hell there was a time that I couldn’t imagine it either and while usually the duration of a stay in a foster home is as short as a week and as long as a couple of months, I’ve had a few fosters for months. Two years is extraordinarily long but not unheard of but knowing what I now know and doing what I do, allows me clarity on how it’s possible to even let ones that must feel like family, go in the end.
Simply put, it’s not about me. It’s about them!
It’s not about how sad it’s going to be when you have to give your foster up. Yes, you will fall in love with them. Some more than others. Yes, you will get attached. Again, some more than others. When I had 13 puppies for two months I was not very attached to them and admit that I was happy when it was time for them to leave. When I had one puppy for a week living in my house and sleeping in my bed, I was VERY attached and cried all the way to the shelter. This was last week by the way and her name was Button.
When they have settled into your routine and your other dogs love them too and you begin to wonder if maybe you should just keep them as it’s all so easy now, it can be challenging at times to curb the urge to keep them. It’s only realizing that if you keep this one, that it may mean you’ll have to stop fostering altogether. And while you’ll save the life of that one animal, it will surely cost the lives of the many others that you could have saved. Even as a seasoned foster I have to remind myself now and again that someone else needs me or soon will. Sure I’ve failed and adopted my fosters…usually mothers of litters that I’ve grown attached to or dogs with behavioral issues that by the time I’ve rehabilitated them I found it too hard to give them up. But I haven’t let these “failures” stop my fostering. Just my adopting. 128 fosters this year already.
Fostering is not about how disruptive it might be to your daily routine. No matter how disruptive having 8 puppies pooping up your garage for two months while they grow big enough for adoption may be. (Even though I do feel like I’m on a mini-vacation this week with only one foster puppy. Woo hoo.) It’s about NOT having these puppies taking up much needed space in the shelter when it will be weeks before they are old enough to be adopted along with keeping them out of the mainstream shelter environment that makes them too prone to diseases like kennel cough.
It’s also not about how you work full time and are really busy and just don’t have time for anything else in your life. It’s about no matter how busy you are, you can somehow find time and energy for things that are really important. And fostering and saving lives could be one of those. I actually have very little tolerance for people who try to suggest to me that they are just too busy to foster. Follow me around for a day or two before you make that claim. It’s about what is important to you. Fostering is one of the top priorities in my life. No, my house is not as neat as it used to be. No, my underwear is no longer folded in neat stacks in the drawer. And no, I don’t belong to the country club anymore. But I find time for what is important.
As much as I may preach that fostering is about the animals we’re helping, what I also know and suspect every committed foster has also come to realize is that fostering is actually about making your own life more meaningful and rewarding. I may attest that it’s about saving the lives of animals but truthfully even in those moments when I’m crying my eyes out after handing over my foster to their new family or loading them onto the rescue van on Saturday morning and weeping all the way to Sams, fostering is about how it makes me feel like I’m making a difference in the world. How being a part of something bigger than myself and my own needs makes me feel good. And how it makes getting up every morning, even when I know there are going to be 16 piles of poop to deal with before that first cup of coffee, all the better. Much better in fact.
Last but not least, I know too that there are other people out there that get it. People that have given up the things that used to seem so important for fostering. Who have lost time with friends or friends altogether because of fostering. Have missed events or vacations because of fostering. Have few clothes that aren’t stained or dotted white with bleach because of fostering. See their veterinarian more than their hairstylist because of fostering. And despite the fact that they too will cry themselves all the way to their shelter today, put their foster babies into the arms of their new forever family and then turn around and cry all the way home, they too will do it all over again. As it’s an addiction of sorts.
Just like Amber, who will return home and find that she is waiting. Not just for word about how they are doing in their new home or for pictures of them curled up on the couch in contentment. We surely long for those. But in the midst of it all, she’ll also be anticipating the call that will send her scurrying out to her car and rushing back to the shelter and opening her arms and heart wide to her next foster.
To start falling in love all over again.