Thursday, August 25, 2011

The ones that grab your heart

I've loved all my foster animals, but a few have really forced me to call into question whether I could really do this foster thing, or whether my personality is more suited to cross the line from "Foster" into "Hoarder."  

Zula and I had a special connection. How often does a stray dog come and SIT ON YOUR BACKPACK while you're waiting for a bus? How often does the same dog come back to you three times because you ask her to, trusting that you will help her because you said you would? 

OK, I'm anthropomorphizing --but is that amazing, or what? 

Lars moved me deeply as well. Such a scared thing, and it seemed like I was the first person in a long time to show him the love he deserved. So rewarding to stick my nose against that long, slightly curved shepherd nose and receive sweet kisses, after not being able to touch him for the first three days he lived in my yard. 

And now there's Fozzie. Over the year and a half I've had him, my feelings about Fozzie have evolved along with his personality and his growth into an incredibly sensitive, loving, responsive, and intelligent companion. When I first met Fozzie, he was described as "a lot of dog" by the shelter staff who begged me to take him. A lot of dog he was, and at first I didn't know how to handle that much dog. 

He is still a lot of dog, still has boundless energy and takes a bit of finesse to handle, but every bit of investment in this big bundle of muscle and love has paid off. To think that this dog, who has cuddled with us on winter nights and looked at us with big worried eyes when he thinks someone is upset, who takes treats so gently, with a velvety mouth that feels like it's all lips, who rests his head on the arm of the sofa so his mouth mushes up, who kisses and actually hugs his humans, who has a beautiful brindle coat and white markings....was going to be killed at the shelter! To think that this creature, who sits so attentively and looks deeply into my eyes and wraps his arms around me and loves children was deemed unadoptable just because he failed his evaluation, an evaluation that was structured and set up precisely for dogs like him to fail, to relieve shelters the burden of actually committing to help the ones that will take a little more work. 

Admittedly, Fozzie is not for everyone. But like most of the ones with issues, he is just a really special dog. And after a year and a half, how do you let go of an animal who has become part of the family?

These are the deeply emotional reasons that prompt foster failure. The connection, the bond, the love, the wordless warm swirling maelstrom of delight that a foster person feels when his or her nose is buried in a certain furry sternum.

Then there's the rational. How can I justify keeping THIS one, when so many others need my help? All animals are incredible delicious little frito-flavored buddhas; I'll love the next one just as much. The world needs more foster parents, the revolving door needs to stay open for the good of those on death row. This is how all the other wonderful foster parents out there continue to do what they do, and what has kept me from adopting PJ, Parker, Star, or any number of the other just about irresistible dogs who have come through my home. 

The rational has won out so far. But for how long?

For Fozzie, I think my rational instinct--to find him a home, so Lamar can have some rest, and so we can take in others--is correct. The right adopter for Fozzie has still not surfaced--but I am certain that eventually St. Francis of Assissi (or equivalent) will send in an application, telling me he lives on 7 fenced acres that back onto woods in Maryland and is married to a positive dog trainer. And that I am welcome to visit anytime.


  1. You have just typed out what has gone through my mind 100 times. Tonight we bid Stevie Wonder farewell as she goes off to her new home. My eyes are tearing up right now just thinking about it. Of all my fosters, she has burrowed the deepest into my heart. And yet, this new family showed up, and they are going to be perfect for her.
    A year and a half is a long time. I think that after that amount of time, my resolve would weaken and I would start to wonder. Am I this dog's One?
    Either time or fate will show you to the right resolution.

  2. What a lovely post and what lucky dogs have come through your life. It must be rewarding but also heartbreaking to bring together dog and human.

  3. Alex, my heart goes out to you! It is so devastating, but remember how wonderful it is to get those photos and success stories! She will love her new family and you will love the next foster dog.

    Thank you Jan! They have been an amazing crew. We'll see when and from whence we take on the next one :)

  4. Letting go of a foster that you have lived with and watch grow in so many ways would be incredibly hard. Even when you know it's the right thing. The fact that you have done it so many times, with no feelings of regret, and keep doing it, is pretty special. Fozzie is pretty lucky to have found someone as dedicated as you. I hope one day I can do half as much.

  5. This post hits home for me too!

    Fozzie does seem like a gem of a dog for the right person. They are out there! I've talked to rescue friends who have a dog who is "a lot of dog" that do end up finding their forever home eventually! And its always an amazing one.

  6. A year and a half is such a long time, it's got to be difficult considering letting a dog go after so long. This morning my boyf said that if we didn't get the right home for our current foster within a couple of months we should just keep her. While it's incredible to see this avowed big-dog person falling for a weensy chihuahua, my rationale is the same. How could I keep this one if it meant I couldn't rescue others?

  7. We fostered Greyhounds for a long time, before the inn became full. We had our two and room for one spare to move through. When Lilac came in, though, she had plans and didn't care that I told everyone that she was simply foster number 18 as she wrapped her head around me and squeezed my neck. We'd had fosters for longer amounts of time, but there was absolutely no interest in her through the adoption group, and after several months, we realized she wasn't going anywhere. I enjoyed fostering and I think a lot of it is your mindset going into it!

  8. Jen, he is such a good boy. I don't know why we've had him so long but I've turned away a lot of adopters who weren't quite right. Thanks for the encouragement!

    IBW, I know the struggle! To me it feels like such a head vs. heart thing--although my heart also goes out to my poor old guy Lamar, who sometimes just wants to rest without a teenager around!

    HT, that is so wonderful that you foster greyhounds. I would love to do that sometime. I can certainly understand being a foster failure with those beauts.

  9. Fozzie is GORGEOUS!! We've had our foster Ginger for about six weeks now - I am already getting attached but I am trying to keep my eyes on the goal of fostering more dogs, and keeping Ginger would dash any hope of that. I can't imagine how hard it would be to foster a dog for a whole year and not find their forever home. Whatever you decide (adopt yourself and keep looking for Fozzie's forever family), Fozzie is one lucky dog because I know you'll do what's best for HIM.


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