Every day, I think about you… people that may stop by and check in (even if you are imaginary). I apologize to you that I have been so negligent in my writing. Between my full-time job, my new part-time job, remodeling a house to be doggie friendly, fostering five amazing canines (photography, adoption fairs, vet visits, fundraisers), and this annoying thing they call “sleep”. I continue to fall behind. But there are a million things I want to tell the world about – things I feel like “normal” people just can’t grasp. So I will continue.
This week a potential foster family (yay!) asked a great question… why? Why do you foster dogs? I have thought on this awhile.
For me… it is like this.
When the world is silent, even if only in my head, it wonders to only one place. That fuzzy gentle feeling of fur against my face, the warmth that encompasses my heart when I know they are safe for the first time or the look of joy in their eyes when they hear me call their name, that relief that I feel when I receive an update from an adoptive family, telling me that their dog has been the perfect fit for their family, it fills me up. I think back to picking him up at the shelter - shaking, confused, scared, only hours left to live and I know I made a difference. There is something about all of that. It makes me who I am. It creates my being and existance. My purpose. I prayed for years to find my purpose. Then a tree fell on my house. Coincidence?
Fostering is hard. I started to write difficult, but that would be a lie. It isn’t difficult, it is HARD AS HELL. A hard-core foster deals with constant disappointment in people, urination on the walls, shedding, dog fights, muddy paw prints, disease, worms, parasites, death, overpopulation, euthanasia and perhaps the worst of all – the reality that we cannot save them all. We may not even make a dent.
But when someone feels it… really feels it, they cannot ignore it. The feeling starts at the bottom of my toes and eases through my body one nerve at a time. I push it aside, rationalize why I cannot help the one I just read about on email, knowing that I am at my limit. Eventually the stimulation reaches my brain and I can no longer ignore it. It is like a drug, impossible to live without. Withdrawal starts shortly after adopting someone to their new family (sometimes before)… I have an empty space and need to fill it. Sometimes there is no empty space, I just need to save someone, period. Fortunately, there is never a shortage. Unfortunately, I think a drug addiction may cost less! Bringing a new one in is my temporary high. Knowing that I somehow improved the life of another, someone that would have faced devastation, fills me up and pushes me through – overlooking the wretched stench that fills the air, the matted hair that will consume hours of grooming or the midnight feedings that bottle babies will require. None of it matters, I have my fill, I can be at peace for awhile.
Yes, I am an addict. I am a dog-rescue addict. I have told myself I can live without it – tried many times. Sometimes life changes force you to give things up for awhile – but even that didn’t work. Dogs make life changes really difficult and there have been many in mine. But even living in a rented 800 square foot house, with a small fenced yard, in the middle of town, I still found space for five foster dogs (plus my three dogs). Space may have meant that they lived on top of me, but it was there just the same.
I have fought it, told myself I can live without it. But, why? Why fight what I am certain I was put here to do? Not to mention that I always fail when I try to pretend it isn’t who I am. Nothing fills me up and pushes me forward like this.
Sometimes, I get jealous. I hear co-workers at the Bank talk about new furniture. I have had new furniture - for a week. After that, the dogs claim it, make it their own, take over, and I regret spending the money. They don’t care if it is new, matches or from a garage sale! Sometimes, friends talk about trips they take. Finding a pet sitter for eight or more dogs isn’t easy. Possible, yes. Stressful, oh yeah! So, I like to avoid those. People show up for work in pristine suits and shoes, no teeth marks, no fur… just like they came off the rack. All of my money goes towards heartworm treatments and paper towel, there is no off the rack for me. But I am not complaining, just asking for understanding. Secretly, I know something they don’t – the feeling of knowing a soul that is full, if even for just moment. That is something not many people get to experience.
I hope the new foster family doesn’t read this and find discouragement in it. Just the opposite. I hope they understand that fostering is not easy, but it is worth every sacrifice. It will change who you are, maybe even create an identity you never knew before, show you value where there was none. It can open your eyes to a world other people cannot see. It has amazing power. Personally, I have seen it have the power to create a successful new rescue group, develop impenetrable friendships with every kind of person there is, save dozens or more lives and even fuel human souls.
Even if all they become is a ”normal” foster and not find this crazy addiction, they will make a HUGE difference to that one or two or three! The numbers never matter (or they shouldn’t), it is the kindness that matters. It is opening one’s heart to the unknown. Scary and limitless. Just as the saying goes, we may not be able to save the the world, but we can save one from the world.