What's It Really Like to Foster a Dog?

June 10, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

It's no secret that I love dogs - my dogs, family dogs, friend's dogs, foster dogs, shelter dogs.  I have a particular weakness for hounds.  Something about their long, floppy ears and the super sweet way they look at you with big, sad eyes even when they're happy - it gets me every single time!  So when I got the phone call a few weeks ago that a hound needed a foster home I was ready!  Ok - as ready as you can ever be for a new dog to enter your life!

To give you some background, I have 3 dogs of my own - a old, grumpy black lab, an American bulldog mix and a treeing walker coonhound.  That's my herd.  I can only imagine what people must think when they hear that I have 3 big dogs.  Messy house?  Nope.  I hate dirt.  Smelly house?  Nope - not a fan of smelly houses either.  Loud?  Not typically.  We've got our routine.  So why on earth would I want to foster another dog?! 

For me, the answer is simple.  My dogs, past and present, have always been right by my side whenever I've needed them.  They do not judge.  They do not have an opinion.  They just have love.  They have gotten me through some of the more difficult times in my life.  They know when I need them.  I will never be able to give back what my dogs have given to me.  Fostering a dog allows me to do two things - it allows me to save a life and also give to someone else what dogs have given to me.  My house is just a stepping stone on the path to where that dog is meant to be.  I'm happy to be the middle man.  Fostering has taught me more than I ever expected to learn.

(Duke - Available for Adoption through New Leash On Life USA)

On the first day that a new foster dog arrives, I undoubtedly will want to cry and ask myself over and over, "What was I thinking?!"  The new dog is unfamiliar with it's surroundings and sometimes they've never even lived inside before.  It's confused.  It's scared and it doesn't know the rules.  You just have to get through the day and remind yourself that tomorrow is going to be a little better. 

 

And day 2 is better - slightly.  This day is spent just getting to know this new dog.  It's still a bit chaotic and you are still wondering what you got yourself into. 

Then day 3 arrives.  I always call this the magic day!  Something amazing happens on day 3.  Your foster dog starts to settle in and calm down - then you start to feel calm too and you start to think "Hey!  I can do this!"

Things continue to get better each day and you can feel your heart swell with love and pride because your dog has come so far.  You start to see just how amazingly resilient dogs are.  They can come from nothing and look like they are on the brink of death, they may have even been abused, but show them just a little love and kindness, a few rules and a good bowl of food and that dog now looks at you with love and trust.  The past is in the past and you're moving towards a positive future. 

I don't do this alone.  My husband, my daughter, my son and even my dogs all have a role in taking care of our foster dog.  We figure out together how to feed multiple dogs, the schedule, walking and cleaning.  No way could I do all of this alone.  I could write a short story alone on the many ways fostering dogs has bonded my family.  Trust me when I say it's not all sunshine and rainbows, but when push comes to shove we are a really good team. 

Once you have conquered some of the hurdles you are bound to face with any foster pup, you start to settle into a routine and you start to see that the dog is more and more comfortable every day.  You start giving him nicknames and singing him songs (or is that just us?).  You try not to think about the day that they will leave your home.  You know they will be taking a piece of your heart with you when they go, but you push that away, you don't have to deal with it now. 

Then that day finally comes.  The day you have to say goodbye.  I will not do this day justice with my words.  But I'll try to give you a good idea what this day is like since it is one of the most frequent questions I get when people hear that I foster dogs.  "Isn't it hard to give them up?"  Of course it's hard, but the rewards definitely outweigh the sadness.  You will want to cry every time you look at your foster dog and realize how far they've come in such a short amount of time.  You'll think about tomorrow and what it will be like to have one less happy tail waiting to greet you.  You will tell yourself you can't go through this again - it hurts too much (but you will).  But the moment your dog sets eyes on his new family and you can actually feel the connection between them you know that it's right.  You know that your foster dog's forever family has finally found him.  It's the happiest sad day.  Like I said, I can't do this day justice with words, but it is one of the most amazing days. 

I always thought that I was doing this to save a life, to give a dog a second chance.  I never realized how much this small kindness would do for me.  I don't know that I ever would have learned so much about patience, resilience, adaptability, teamwork or love had I not started fostering dogs. 

After sending our 3rd foster dog to her forever home, a friend sent this quote to me. 

"Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss.  A new dog never replaces an old dog, it merely expands the heart.  If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big."  - Unknown

My foster dogs {all of my dogs} will be part of me and part of my family always.

♥ - Kristi


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