The Kind of Post I Never Thought I’d Write

My friend Morgan, over at Temporary Home, Permanent Love, wrote a really difficult piece last week (here). While she struggled with sharing the contents with her readers, it gave me the courage to share with all of you something I have definitely been procrastinating.Β Usually when I begin to write a post, I am anxious to get my thoughts out on paper the screen, because it is clear to me what the ‘mood’ will be… sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes serious, sometimes silly. Rarely, is a post such a mix of emotions. And I don’t really know where to start. So I guess I will just say it, and hope that you, my readers, will be gentle and understanding… at the very least, I hope that you will read through to the end before you judge. Here goes nothing.

Georgia's first night in our home

Giving kisses

We. Are keeping. Georgia (. or ! or ? or ?!)

Where We are Now

We are thrilled! Georgia has become an integral part of our family, and of our pack. She came to us a worried little bundle of rolls and wrinkles, who didn’t know how to play, was scared of raised hands, and would rather be alone than in the company of others. She was so intimidated by other dogs, that she would snarl and snap if they came too close… but we learned pretty quickly that she really was all bark, and no bite. These days, it is rare to find her anywhere but cuddled up on top of you, and when she is not cuddling, she is wrestling and bitey-mouthing and tug-of-waring with our pups over toys. She is truly like an entirely different dog. While I always held out hope for her improvement, Georgia now possesses a confidence that I truly never could have imagined that she would acquire. She wags her tail when passing even strange dogs on walks, is friendly with other pups at obedience school, and is happy to do anything we ask.

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Once upon a time, many people urged me to consider placing Georgia as an ‘only-dog’. While I appreciated their guidance, in my heart, I couldn’t resign her to that fate. I felt strongly that if we took things slowly, she would be able to face her demons and overcome them. Most importantly, in the back of my mind, I even believed that she would one day learn to find solace and comfort in the company of other dogs. Not a day goes by, that I don’t feel pride and satisfaction in the outcome we have all achieved together. Still now, months later, I make Jonathan come running into the room each evening, when I see the dogs curled up in a puppy pile, or sharing their toys. We ooh and ahh, and bask in the glow of our little pack’s happiness and contentment.

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How We Came to this Conclusion

When we had our first meet-and-greet (back in November, I think?!) Jonathan brought up the idea of making Georgia a permanent member of our family. I know I sound like a crazy person, but each time we took her to meet an adoptive family, she was petrified. Although I tried to deny it, for the sake of our sanity, neither of us could ignore the signs. She would cling to us, looking worriedly back and forth between our two sets of eyes, and sometimes even refuse to leave the car… it was like she knew we were considering sending her someplace else. We would try to make it a happy and pleasant experience, and I certainly don’t think we were exhibiting any negative body language that would deter her from feeling comfortable. Finally when we got home, she would velcro herself to our sides, following us even to the bathroom, and keeping her eyes on us at all times… ever our lazy couch potato, her anxiety even prevented her from sleeping soundly. Worse still, her digestive system would take a cruel hit, and it would take a few days for it to recover.

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Nevertheless, I was convinced that once we found a family that was an ideal fit, it would feel right. We had a number of meet-and-greets, and they were all unsuccessful for varying reasons. One did not work out because Georgia was not friendly with their dog. In a few instances, the adopters backed out just before the meet and greets, for personal reasons. One adopter, whom I had my heart set on, felt that it was just not the right time for her to bring home a new dog. Jonathan would always give me a million reasons why each family wouldn’t fit, but I would quiet his fears, and I remained optimistic that we would find a family that could give her everything she deserved.

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Finally, we found a family that was perfect on paper, and ended up being even more ideal in person. Jonathan and I woke up early one sunny, Sunday morning, and drove 4 hours (one way!) to meet them. To say we were invested and hopeful, would be an understatement. We met them, and it was a great match. Georgia was, of course, sweet and gentle with their children. She still clung to us, but the mother had experience with force-free training and the two week de-stress. It was all so perfect, and yet something just did not feel right. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach, and literally experienced a moment of sheer panic. My head started to spin, my vision tunneled… I needed to get out of there. We politely said our goodbyes to the family and the people from the rescue, and got in our car to hurry away. We both sat in momentary silence. It felt like someone was trying to take OUR dog away. It was in this moment, that I knew we just couldn’t let her go. On paper, everything was perfect, and there were no excuses that either Jonathan or I could come up with. But somehow, we were panicked at the thought of saying goodbye.

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Why We Ultimately Made this Decision

Over the next week, the topic of saying goodbye to Georgia was never far from my mind. A Christian at heart, I prayed daily for clarity in this decision. It was almost uncanny (or, as my mother-in-law would kindly remind me, perhaps providencial) but throughout that week, we took Georgia more places than usual; the vet’s office, local parks, the pet store, etc. Each time we went out, more often than ever before, people came up to us and asked to hear her story. By the end of every conversation, each person kindly and gently left us with words that were eerily similar… “But she looks like she’s meant to be with you,” “it seems like she’s already made the decision for you,” and “I think she is right where she belongs“. Before he left for work in the morning, when he called me around lunch time, and when he arrived home at night, Jonathan and I would always discuss her future and our decision. While he was adamant that her place in life was with us, I couldn’t shake the worry of disappointing everyone. A people-pleaser by nature, I didn’t want to think about delivering the news to the prospective family, my friends at the rescue, and of course, to all of you here on the blog. I had made a commitment to fostering, and I was going to stick with it. I was NOT going to be one of those ‘foster-failures’. I am not self-centered enough to believe that you all follow this blog with such loyalty that you would take our decision personally. However, with my dedication to fostering, and my previous “rants” against becoming a foster-failure, my pride had prevented me from considering this option all along.

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I reached out to a few people about my struggle. One of them was my friend Morgan, and the others were friends from the rescue, Alanna and Casey. Everyone reminded me that I needed to put Georgia first. But what does that mean? To me, that was my greatest struggle… It had always been about Georgia for me, and in my mind, it would be incredibly traumatic for her to go to another family. At this point, she was finally integrated with both of our dogs in the house, and I was so proud of the strides she was making. She was completely settled into our family, and the thought of putting her into a whole new environment sounded cruel. When I thought about dogs like Gaige, I thought about dogs that were hardy and resilient. Put Gaige in any situation and environment, and she was likely to come out unscathed and happy. Georgia just isn’t that type of dog. She is sensitive and gentle, and always worried about having approval. You could even go so far as to call her emotionally needy… at least when compared to our little spitfire, Gaige. Maybe I was anthropomorphizing, but I thought that Georgia would be sitting in her new house, missing Jonathan, Tonka, Gaige, and me, and wondering what she did wrong. I couldn’t get her sad little face out of my head.

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Where did we go wrong?

I’ve asked myself this question many times. I know some of you, particularly those hardened foster families, have been reading this post and are rolling your eyes. You think I’m making excuses for keeping our foster, when in reality, I just couldn’t let her go. Guess what? Maybe you’re right. I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you that my decision was 100% selfless. What I can tell you is that I did not want a third dog. I especially did not want a third dog that wasn’t always fond of other dogs. But when I thought about Georgia, and Georgia alone, I kept coming back to this decision. It was the only one that felt right.

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After having Georgia as a part of our household since October, perhaps the problem is that we kept her too long. Especially being our first foster, having her with us for 5 months makes her feel like one of the family. At the same time, it only took a few minutes for us to fall head over heels in love with her, so maybe the length of stay had little to do with it.

Georgia says thanks!!

Another possibility is the investment of time and effort we made in overcoming her struggles. I know from my years spent competing with horses, that achieving a lofty goal with an animal is the surest way to form an unbreakable bond. We spent so much time breaking down Georgia’s walls and building up her confidence, that I felt we had become a team.

With his girls

 

Worse still, maybe I am just not cut out for this lifestyle. I hate to admit that to myself, but perhaps I am not capable of loving and letting go. Finally, ome of you may have guessed that Jonathan and I experienced some unsettling loss this year, shortly after Georgia came to our home. I certainly would be naive if I did not believe that this had an effect on our attachment.

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Yes, there are still times I feel immense guilt over our decision. Typically, that is when I am glancing into pleading puppy-dog eyes, staring out from behind bars, on my computer screen. But when Georgia was brought into my care, my commitment was to make decisions that were in HER best interest… not anyone else’s. I will always stand by the fact that I have done just that. This decision was not the ‘easy’ one. I didn’t make this decision because I needed Georgia in my life, or because I didn’t trust anyone to care for her the way we would. I made it because I believed in my heart, that this was meant to be, that she would be happiest with us. When Georgia faces a situation that is new or challenging, she always looks to me for guidance. Each day, she looks at me with grateful eyes, tail wagging gently against her sides, and I could swear she was thanking me from her heart. So while there are days that I wonder where we went ‘wrong,’ I can’t help by think that just maybe, this was part of someone’s plan all along… though whether that someone is Georgia or the Lord, I’m not sure we will ever know. Maybe there is a reason that God is dog spelled backward…

 

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Disclaimer: I wrote this all as it came to me… no editing or deleting or re-reading. I needed to be as honest as possible with all of you, and I felt that was the only way to do so.

25 thoughts on “The Kind of Post I Never Thought I’d Write

  1. Aww, congrats to you guys & Georgia! No one should be rolling their eyes or judging you. You found a forever dog, and Georgia found her forever home. Somewhere that she is loved and comfortable. That is all that matters! Being a “foster failure” is a positive thing! And thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

  2. I’m so happy for you and Georgia. I totally understand why it was a hard decision for you! Writing my blog and not wanting to fail in front of my followers is what, in the end, helped me give Hank to his new mom. Letting go is ridiculously hard especially in a case where you put in so much work. As a “hardened foster parent” I still feel like I’m hurting dogs when I give them up. I still feel like they’re going to be in pain wondering why they dont get to stay with my family. Its the worst part of the job 😦 again, as a “hardened foster parent” I DO believe Georgia could have become a great dog for another family, but that DOESN’T mean it’s so wrong that you kept her. You can always find other ways to help. At some point it wont be possible for my family to foster, whether its because we have children, we just need a break, or we end up adopting a third dog. I plan ahead for this and make plans for therapy certifying my pit, getting involved in other aspects of helping pitbulls, and I think about how much joy I get out of spending time with just MY dogs, and the relief of not constantly worrying about the pain and stress of finding new familiies for my fosters. In the end you did what felt right. Whether it was the easy thing for you, or the best thing for Georgia doesn’t matter, just celebrate πŸ™‚

  3. I first would like to tell you that I am wiping tears from my eyes right now. I secondly would like to say, that I felt like I was reading my own story about my own foster failure! I knew Fawn fit into our home, our family, my pack perfectly and she taught me to see life through her eyes as I gave her the love and a home that she never had experienced. Bless you and your decision to keep Georgia, I know all too well that it isn’t an easy one. I also know that moving from having 2 dogs to 3 is a BIG change but it is so worth it!!! I couldn’t imagine my life w/o all three of my babies. I was always drawn to Georgia because of her story and the fact that she never really had a place to call home or people that were truly her family…. Until now! I am soooo utterly happy for you and I do hope that you will continue this blog so we can stay in touch w/ Georgia along the way!!!!! XOXO

  4. I think anyone that has ever fostered knows that the term “foster failure” doesn’t have the negative connotation you would expect! Ditto to tailsofafostermom, your goal in fostering Georgia was finding her a caring home that would give her all of the love she deserves and help her work through her issues – and I think she has that right where she is. And no, you didn’t disappoint anyone but yourself – and you got a best friend out of the mix!

  5. Where did you go wrong? You didn’t go wrong at all!!! You did what was clearly right for Georgia and your family. I can’t imagine anyone judging you harshly for that. We think it’s wonderful that you did what was best for Georgia and also for yourself. Please don’t be hard on yourself for that.

    Garth & his mom Rebecca

  6. Foster failure isn’t a bad thing in my eyes, it just means that the dog who was searching for his or her forever home found it and it just happened to be with you. Don’t look at yourself in a bad light or feel that others will judge you for your actions, instead be happy that you took a sweet, scared dog, helped her gain confidence and in the end gave her a loving home. Congrats to you all!

  7. First of all, congratulations! Second of all, the heart wants what it wants! Georgia is lucky to have found her perfect forever home in you (and your pack)! Can’t wait to hear about how she continues to grow and thrive with your family!

  8. My nephew adopted one of Georgia’s pups and I have been following your posts about Georgia. I wouldn’t call what you are doing a failure, rather just the opposite! I have always felt that Georgia is a member of your family, so adopting her seems the most natural thing to do! This is a heartwarming, happy ending for all of you and your followers. Best wishes to you and your whole pack and keep the pictures coming!

  9. Tailsofafostermom said it all. Your ultimate goal was to find her a forever home, and you did just that! πŸ™‚
    I have 2 failed fosters. Actually the first one Maddie Mae doesn’t really count. I planned on adopting her when I took her in to foster her through her amputation and heart worm treatment. Levi….well he’s an all out Foster Fail and I can’t imagine life without him.

    I wish y’all a life filled with happy tail wags and lots of licks! Georgia is HOME β™₯

  10. Ok, all I can come up with is YAY for Gorgia and YAY for you! You took her in and promised to find her a forever home — mission accomplished! I applaud you from day one to today! Some times, the right home is the one they are already in. Kuddos to you for welcoming her into your family and do not lose sight of the fact that by foster failure-ing her you RESCUED her.

  11. Personally, I am really glad to hear that you are keeping Georgia. Think about it. What is the reason for fostering? You want to help the animal overcome any potential issues and do your best to find it the best forever home possible. You have done both. I think your home is perfect for her and you have helped her past so many fears she had. Georgia obviously belongs with you and it is not, in any way, a foster failure. It’s a foster success, with one times very happy dog to prove it.

  12. You have nothing to be ashamed of! I became a foster thoroughly expecting to fail someday. I have said goodbye to one and my second will leave Friday. I know in my heart that one day we will keep one! That is a part of life! Then we will just have three dogs plus a foster. (If I can talk my husband into it!) Congrats on adopting Georgia! You belong together!

  13. I’m happy for you! I fostered my first litter of puppies last fall. The last one was adopted the weekend just before Christmas. He was the one I desperately wanted to keep. The one who walked right into our house like he knew he belonged here. He thought he was ours. I nursed him through sickness, then fought his battles for him when his siblings were adopted while he was passed over time and again because his looks were not those typically expected for his breed. He fit in with our other 3 dogs much better than his siblings did, and even our 4 cats loved him. My husband, however, balked at the idea of having four dogs and felt we were at our limit. It wasn’t til the day of the fateful meet-and-greet that hubby finally realized just how attached that puppy was to us. And then it was too late. Putting him in the car with his new family (he didn’t want to go), and watching him stand, paws on the window, yelping, as their car turned left while ours turned right absolutely broke my heart. I felt like we had betrayed him. Like he wouldn’t understand, like I’d broken his little baby heart. I know exactly where you are coming from and I’m glad you had the courage to keep Georgia. Even though I knew all along that I wasn’t meant to keep any of them, that I was doing what was “best” for him and “right” for everyone by letting him go be an “only dog” with a family instead of keeping him as “dog number four” around here… I wish I’d done what I wanted and what felt right for me. He’s fine, very spoiled, but learning to let him go and be somebody else’s dog is still hard to do. I find myself looking for him everywhere.

  14. Love it!! Georgia is one lucky dog, and I truly believe you and Jonathon are lucky as well to have such a wonderful dog family! πŸ™‚ I think the fact that Gaige got used to Georgia and vice versa (despite all your worries), is a true miracle! Yesterday, I actually saw your picture of all 3 dogs that said, “how can anyone have a bad day waking up to this” or something like that… and thought to myself “I wonder if they will keep Georgia!” I think this is great news! And I don’t look at you as a failure at all, but that you simply thinking of the best fit for you all!! Not only that, but Georgia is obviously a very likeable dog, as we have all grown to love her! (I myself would of adopted her given different circumstances….like you, having 2 dogs myself….haha, and hubby can’t stand all the hair lol) – so I CANNOT BLAIM YOU AT ALL FOR WANTING TO KEEP HER!!

  15. Oh goodness, don’t be so hard on yourself! I am so very happy to hear that Georgia is your forever dog!!!

    I know it can be tough to say goodbye, but it also sounds like she’s a perfect fit and you made the right decision. I fostered dogs for 5 months that I never truly “clicked” with and said super sad goodbyes to dogs that were only in my home a short time. Rufus was the one for us, and we knew it right away even though we continued to foster him for five months before making the big decision.

    Congrats to all involved!

  16. Love that first picture – I miss rolling PA hills and farms like crazy. The term foster failure has no negative connotation! When we started fostering, the clinic staff said to call when we decided to adopt Moca. We couldn’t handle another puppy’s potential vet bills at the time, but once we are ready for a three dog household with a second perma-dog and the right one walks into our lives, we fully intend to become foster failures. Initially we thought it might happen with Nellie, but it turned out she was my dad’s.

  17. This is such great news =) Thank you so much for sharing and for being so honest. Personally, I would never think differently of you whether you kept Georgia as your own or not. You and Jonathan are both amazing people for all that you do for so many dogs. I can’t wait to read more about how life is going with your new addition!

  18. Yay! I am so happy. I have been secretly hoping you would keep her all along! I don’t think being a foster failure is a bad thing at all. In fact, it is one of my personal goals- to find ‘the right dog’ to add to our family through fostering. Congrats to you, your pack and Georgia!

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