I try to keep things really positive around here, but I have recently realized that in doing so, perhaps I am not always as up front as I could be. I wanted to take a moment to be really, really honest with all of you.
Fostering is hard. While that may not be something I want to share on a regular basis, because I wouldn’t want it to turn anyone away from trying to make a difference, I also don’t think it is something that many are unaware of. One of those things that is often unsaid, yet understood. It is hard to bring a dog who is at its lowest into your home and into your family, fall in love and nourish it back to physical and emotional health, only to have to say goodbye and trust a new family to care for him or her as well as you could.
But there is more to it than that. It is hard to give up date nights week after week, because it would make more sense to allot those funds to a bag of dog food, not to mention that the dogs have been kenneled all day while you’ve been working. It is hard to deal with extra fur and even sometimes ticks and fleas. It is hard to take time off of work to drive to the vet, and set aside time in your evenings for training and communicating with the rescue and prospective adopters. It is hard to see your own dogs upset or sad or even angry to be isolated from you in order for you to spend time with your foster dog. It is hard to have friends or family members or acquaintances ask you if they can adopt the dog, when you know it might not be an ideal fit. It is even harder when people criticize you for not keeping your foster dog, when you know it wouldn’t be ideal for anyone involved. It is hard to disappoint others when you have to cancel plans because you need to make sure your foster dog gets his medications on time. It is hard to feel judged by others for the way you choose to spend your time and money, in the hopes of making a difference. It is hard to balance all the guilt and sadness and anger and other emotions… guilt toward all of the dogs, and deciding which ones get your time and attention, sadness for your foster’s situation, anger toward the person who selfishly put this burden in your life, and everything else that goes along with this job.
It is really hard when you discover that your foster dog has separation anxiety. It is even harder when you see evidence of his tantrums. It is hardest when you imagine what could make a dog panic to the extent that he is so destructive when you leave him for just a few hours.
But you know what makes all of that not only easier, but actually worth it? When your foster falls into a deep sleep in your arms, and you realize that this is probably the safest he has ever felt. It’s easy when you watch him play with another dog, bouncing and smiling and play-bowing, his antics showing a pup much younger than his age might suggest. It helps when you see the light bulb flicker on during a training session, and you see a glimpse of the perfect family dog he is becoming. It is easier when you see him greet a child, and he becomes a gentle, wiggly thing, giddy at the chance to kiss the fingers of a person right at his own height. When you proudly watch him share his toys with another dog or politely greet a new person, using the skills you’ve shown him. And of course, you can’t help but smile at the simplicity and clarity of it all when you remember that this dog exists, in no small part, simply because you chose to inconvenience your life in exchange for the continuation of his. Not such a hard bargain, if you ask me.