He exited the transport volunteer’s vehicle hyper-salivating, his belly dragging on the ground in an attempt to make himself appear small, tail tucked and shaking. Utterly confused and terrified. Pitiful.
This is what my first foster dog looked like the first time I laid eyes on him. He was a beautiful 8-month-old, black tri male named Gage.
The first few days with him were rough. He jumped at any new noises and spooked so easily, unsure of us and his surroundings. As he began to trust us, realizing that the hands – our hands – reached out to him to deliver care, not discomfort, his personality began to evolve.
We spent the next 3 months nursing him through a few health issues, training him, socializing him and most of all, loving him. He was my shadow, following me everywhere I went, never leaving my side. In those 3 months he became my dog in every way possible.
One Monday morning we received a call about a retired gentleman who was interested in meeting and possibly adopting Gage. We were asked to do the home visit and take Gage along to meet the family and if everything went well, to leave him. My husband was quite sure that we would be bringing him back home, but I just had a feeling… I packed up a care package with a fresh bag of his kibble, a new Nylabone, a few new toys and treats and tucked it in the back of the vehicle, just in case.
The man was wonderful, a retiree who was looking for a companion dog to take with him everywhere he went. The dog would be spoiled with swims in the lake, days romping at a farm and sleeping next to his owner at night. Gage would never be alone and would be loved very much. It was a perfect home for him, everything I would have wanted for him if I wouldn’t be keeping him for myself.
When the man said he’d like to adopt Gage I walked out to our car to retrieve his care package. With a heavy heart, I choked back my tears as I said goodbye and quickly got into the car for the drive home. And what a drive it was. On this journey home, I forged a trail of tears. Not little tears, big tears accompanied by sobs and sobs. I cried for the next few days as I walked past his empty crate, washed his bowl and remembered our time together. My heartache was so overwhelming that I began to wonder if I’d ever stop weeping. After all, we had accomplished so much in those 3 months. He had been my dog in every way and I loved him very much.
It has never gotten any easier for me to let one of my fosters go, and I don’t suppose it ever will. During the fostering process you give animals in need hope by nursing them back to health; by healing the pain of their past; by loving, teaching and guiding; and finally by giving them the best gift in the world – a forever family who will carry on what you have begun. YOU SAVE A LIFE. Can you imagine a greater honor than that? YOU SAVE A LIFE.
Maybe that is why I cry. Because I feel honored to have been a part of their lives. Because they touched my soul more than I could have ever imagined. Because my heart is singing happily with the thought that they will be forever loved. Because they gave me far more than I could ever give them.
Fostering is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. What’s the luckiest thing about it? I get to do it again and again. My heart will heal and the love goes on forever.