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.