How Not to Fall in Love with Your Foster Dog

Any advice here people? It certainly is no secret… We all know I’m not good at this.

IMG_0469I can tend a bloody wound with stone-cold precision. I can cuddle the confidence into a scared dog, and train the structure into a wild one. I have soothed the fear from an aggressive dog and have mended the heart of an abused one. But what I have never been able to do is keep myself from falling head over heels in love with one. While hearing me wax poetic about all of the reasons I love our little K-man, Foster Dad said it perfectly, “Yeah, but I’ve never seen you meet a dog you didn’t instantly love.” Hmm. Well, that may be true, but Kingston is proving to be even more lovable than your average squishy-faced pup.

How do you not fall in love when your foster dog acts as though his world revolves around you? His dissatisfaction over short separations are marked with voracious naughtiness, while your arrival is celebrated with more joy than a little child hugging his parents after being lost in Disneyworld. Kingston’s is the exuberant greeting of a happy dog, twirling on two legs, reaching up to you for petting and kisses, happy beyond all measure just to see you at the end of a long day.

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How do you not fall in love when your foster dog is an expert snuggler? He hops up onto your bed with quick agility, perhaps not so much due to his coordination or athleticism as it is that he knows the sooner he gets settled, the more likely it is that he will be allowed to stay. He finds that perfect spot nestled up against you, like a missing puzzle piece. You snooze together peacefully, letting the rhythmic rise and fall of your hand on his ribcage lull you both to contented sleep.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog when you watch him discover the wonder of the world for the first time? Peanut-butter-filled kongs, squeaky toys, leaf piles, mud puddles and car ride adventures just to name a few, the way he delights in the simplest of pleasures reminds you to relax and do the same. The dog who came to you a sensible and reserved old man at only one year of age now displays puppy antics, complete with play bows, head tilts, and around-the-house-zoomies, his spirit as playful as a young dog’s should be.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog when he learns to have confidence by leaning on you? The world, once a scary and intimidating place, full of fear and pain, is now happy and bright since you have come into his life. Rather than reacting to the world around him, he looks to you for guidance and reacts with consistency, trusting without question that you would never put him in an unsafe situation. He becomes your shadow, latching onto you like velcro, in the very best of ways.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when the head that used to duck at your hand raised to pet him, eventually sidles up on your lap to lick away your tears? That head that used to duck in fear, now snuggles in under your neck during movie nights on the couch, letting out a deep and contented sigh. That head also holds his tongue, and boy, he knows just how to use it! He seems to know when I need to smile, and uses those precise moments to cover my face in slobbery love.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when he starts to forget the specifics of how he ended up so broken and tattered and abused and mistreated, and starts to remember only the new things you’ve taught him? When despite the past he has endured, his favorite pursuit is not a ball or some cheese or the cat, but is in fact making new friends. When although all he’s known is fear and pain, but he never resorts to aggression, even when it might be justified.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when he resembles a cartoon? Ears like swiveling antennaes, flickering this way and that, trying desperately to read the signals of the others in his environment. Wiggle-butt jiggling here and there in his best attempt at “twerking,” eliciting smiles from all who are lucky enough to meet him. He doesn’t walk anywhere, but constantly hops and jigs and skips and bounces along to his next destination, whatever it may be, his hind legs trailing along at a twisted angle. He has an uncanny ability to make the world fall in love with him, and that is something I could use a lot more of in my life.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog when they pass through the world with an accepting spirit that welcomes all they meet without judgement or exception? It is a trait I’ve rarely seen in a dog, and never seen in a person. He loves without restraint or restriction, and brings out the best in everyone he meets. How do you not fall in love with your foster dog when he believes that everything in life is better when shared? His kong, your bed, his dinner, or yours… it doesn’t matter. He knows that friendships are more important than possessions any day.

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How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when they remind you of all the lessons you have yet to learn in life? Like the amazing power of putting your heart right out there and making yourself totally vulnerable to those you love. It’s something that we humans are so hesitant to do, but your foster makes it so clear that it’s the best way to live.

How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when they come into your world without warning? One day you are the happy leader of a 3-dog home, minding your own business, until someone tells you about a pup that needs help. You forget to put your guard up, or build a wall around your heart, and before you know it, a sad little guy with his deep brown eyes and comical ears has burrowed his way into your life, sure to leave a permanent hole when he moves on.

How do you not fall in love with your foster dog, when his presence in your life restores your faith and pride in humanity? When a little underdog needed a hand, a community of so many people we had never met joined together to offer compassion, prayer, kind words, financial donations, and even things like food and toys and beds and sweaters.

The answer? You don’t. You fall head over heels, b. spears-crazy,  irrevocably in love. Just like the rest of the world, you are hypnotized by his bouncy, carefree spirit. You give away little pieces of your heart in order to mend his. It is an amazing thing when a sad little dog teaches so many people about resiliency, love, dedication, and the power of second chances. All I know, is that Kingston’s forever family will be the luckiest people in the world. ❤

72 thoughts on “How Not to Fall in Love with Your Foster Dog

  1. First of all, this is exactly what I needed to hear today. The feelings that I am having at this very moment completely resonate with your article. My heart is breaking because I am returning my foster dog Finn in hopes he will find his forever home very soon. We were initially going to adopt him, but ended up fostering for the last 2 months. Needless to say, we are pretty attached to each other. A big piece of my heart is going with him. Such a bittersweet moment. I hope he knows I am just trying to do what is best for him. I hope he doesn’t feel abandoned, again. Thank you again for such a beautifully written article. I commend you for the selfless work you do everyday!

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