How to Become a Failed Foster

Hi there everyone. You all may think you know a lot about me, since my mom’s been clicking away on this shiny silver box thing here for months, but the truth is, you have NO idea. I’m in charge today, and it’s time you heard things from my perspective. I’m Georgia, and I have some things to say.

In general, I’m a pretty quiet dog. I like to sleep. A lot. And I like to eat. A lot. And really… well, that’s about it. I’m pretty easy. I will maybe run for like 30 seconds each day, and chew on a bone for about 10 minutes. These tall hoomans in my house try to get us to do activities and learn new things and work hard for what we want, but at the end of the day, I would rather just sleep on the couch with them. (By the way, don’t let all of those ‘cuddley’ photos fool you. I only snuggle with them because it makes for a nice place to rest my head. Seriously, that’s it.) But to be honest, all of this quiet and laziness makes my brain super bouncy, and so now I have a lot I want to share with you.

This message is not for you fosters or owners. This is a public service announcement for all of those foster pups. I know who you are and what you’re all about, because I was once one of you. It’s time to talk about how you take the foster out of your name, and insert FOREVER. That’s right, with my charm and cuddles, I pulled one over on my family, and convinced them that I was here to stay. Because of this, they call themselves ‘foster failures’ but I don’t get it… I mean, how lucky are they to live with me for the rest of our lives? Pretty darn, I’d say… nothing ‘FAIL’ about it.

Let’s get down to the basics. I call it:

How to Make Your Fosters Fail

(Without even really trying!)

1)   Be adorable

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This includes posing for photos and making funny faces (ears like mine work well for this. But work with what you’ve got.) Photos are what happen when the big clicking box comes out. Sometimes it shines bright lights, too. They will then put those photos on here, for the interwebs to view your loverliness. Bonus points if you can stand little fuzzy animals or short, noisy hoomans long enough for the box to come out, because then your hoomans will REALLY want to keep you.

2)   Play hard to get

Works like a charm

Works like a charm

See, when the hoomans come home, I act SO EXCITED to see them. More on that, later. But I make sure to only wag my tail a lot when they come home, or when they have something I want to eat. This way, they think I am sad or depressed all the other times, and want to find ways to cheer me up. They will say things like ‘Poor, widdle, wonewy peeble.’ with upside-down smiles on their faces. This is typically followed by cheese or table scraps, or other things that are Not Allowed, like snuggles on the bed.

3)   Play not-so-hard-to-get, too.

Trust me, this was all for their benefit. I'm only pretending to enjoy this.

Trust me, this was all for their benefit. I’m only pretending to enjoy this.

Okay, so sometimes you need to throw them a bone. And I don’t mean you have to share your toys. I’m saying that sometimes, you need to make the hoomans think that they are your favorite. This includes cuddling and snuggling and following them around with big, wide eyes (you know, like when you look at canned food in your bowl, or smell bacon on the stove). And really, the snuggling is not so bad. Like I said, it keeps you warm and gives you a good head rest, if nothing else.

4)   Pretend to like the other animals in your house

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This was a hard one for me. At first I was convinced that all other animals in the world were out to bite me. But it turns out, the black dogs in this house just wanted to play bitey face and snuggle. I’ve learned to get along with these other dogs in my house, and it turns out that life is better with friends. Who knew? It was weird at first, but now it’s kind of nice. I get to boss around the little one. She can be very annoying, but secretly she’s my best friend. I’m not really happy unless I can see her or know she is nearby. And I take the best snoozes when she is with me. But don’t tell her that.

The taller one and I are still working things out. See, he thinks he’s in charge, so I let him think that most of the time, unless there is a toy I really want… and usually that just means a toy another dog already has and really likes. He is a goody two-shoes, always sniffing kissing the hoomans’ butts and pretending he’s The Best Dog Ever. We get along though, don’t worry.

And then there’s the cat. That’s what my hoomans call those oversized squirrels that live inside. Who knew that cats weren’t just moving squeaky toys? Not me. But apparently in this house, they deserve to live? Whatever. Just pretend you like it, and you’re golden. THEN and only then, you can secretly plot their demise. But throw in moments like this for good measure, particularly if there is one of those clicking boxes nearby for proof. Don’t worry, none of the other dogs will be fooled. We all know that dogs liking cats would be ridiculous.

I was there first. I swear.

I was there first. I swear.

5)   Become really good at things

My most adoring fans may remember this post, where my mom showed you all the things I was useful for, like helping out around the house. If you are a handy-dog, they will not be able to imagine their lives without you! They will need your skillz and worry how they would survive without them. Be useful to them, be it guarding their house from squirrels mice with wings intruders, or being a doggie vacuum.

6)   Be bad though, too

Here is where things can get confusing. But what I’ve learned, is that there are perks to being just a Little Bit Bad. See, for one, being naughty can be kind of adorable. As long as it’s not something that is too stinky. But just little bits of bad things make the hoomans smile. It’s even better if these things make them think that you just really love them a lot. Like jumping on them, giving kisses, or crying when they leave. This will make them think that they are your Favorite Thing Ever. Even if they’re not.

Plus, if you are a Little Bit Bad, they will want to help you Become Better. Becoming Better means going to places with other dogs and having some loud hooman tell your hooman what they are doing wrong. It’s actually pretty funny to see them being yelled at for once! OH, and you get to eat TONS of yummy food in the process. Anyway, activities like this seem to make the hoomans grow more attached to you. Something about being a team, and reaching goals and achievements.

The day I Became Better

The day I Became Better

Look, I’m no professional. I was bounced around between more than my fair share of homes. But the bottom line is that I landed one of the best. This means that I get all the walks and play time I want. Plus, there is enough food (I guess. I mean, I’m still here aren’t I? But certainly not as much as I deserve) and I get treats for doing the things they like. There are lots of fluffy places to nap, and I’m even allowed up on the hooman’s dog bed sometimes. And like I said, the other animals can be used to my advantage, so even that has its perks. What I’m trying to tell you is that if you have a foster home, it’s certainly better than the shelter or the streets. And if your family has decided to foster, they probably like dogs a lot, and maybe understand you more than the average dumb hooman. So find a way to make yourself adorable, good, bad, loving, independent, & useful, and they won’t be able to ever say goodbye! And maybe if you’re really good at all of that, they’ll even let you hi-jack the interwebs from time to time. 😉

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. 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.