The anticipation of a foster dog coming is full of excitement and nervousness. Will they be ok? Will they get along with my dog? Will they like me? Do I have everything ready?
When they arrive, anticipation turns into a warm feeling that washes over me. I look into their sweet face and wonder... What was their life like before? Are they missing someone or were they a street dog? Did their family abandon them or have to give them up with a heavy heart? At this point, that’s all in their past. They’re here now and I’m the one that’s going to love them, care for them, and get them ready for their new life. How privileged I am!
The trip here is usually very long and stressful. They have no idea what’s going on or where they’re going to end up. I take them from the back of the car in a parking lot and welcome them into mine. I turn to look at them and say, 'This is the last car ride of the day. You’ll get to eat, drink and relax shortly.'
But, before any of that can happen, they have to meet my dog, Marty. She’s a Black Lab/Boxer/Doberman mix and is very good with my fosters. She’s got a good temperament and invites the dogs eagerly into her home.
Now, my new foster can come into the house where I show them where the water is, then they eat. They usually eat their food enthusiastically before going through the house and sniffing around. They seem to find the bed I have prepared for them and they cautiously, with one eye open, try to fall asleep. Marty is a good girl to leave them alone while they settle in.
I choose to sleep in my living room with them. I want them to see a friendly face if they happen to wake up during the night. I want to tend to their needs, as necessary. If they have to go outside or are looking for water, I’m there. If they wake up not knowing where they are, I’m there. If they’re sad, I’m there. Trusting me is the first thing that I want to teach them and being there for them is a good start.
Caring for a foster dog is something that I take seriously. I feel like a new mom every time. It’s exhilarating. It’s scary. It’s challenging. And it’s rewarding. I want nothing more than to help them. To let them know it’s going to be okay. That I’m here to show them the way to their new life.
Now, I get to learn about them. Are they shy or outgoing? Are they going to pull me down the street and make me look foolish in front of my neighbours or will they be an angel on the leash? Are they affectionate or standoffish? Are they housetrained? Crate-Trained? Friendly with people? Kids?
My ten-year-old grandson, Chaysen, loves that I foster! He comes ready to meet a new one and sad that the last one is gone. He understands that they’ve been adopted and he’s happy for them but tends to miss them. He welcomes the new ones with cautious open arms. The dogs generally love him. He's been taught how to be around new dogs and listens well. He’s learned a lot from watching me foster. He gets to be a part of it and I think he enjoys that. I have tons of pictures of him with them. Tested with kids? Check!
So, I spend my days feeding, walking, encouraging, petting, loving, cleaning up dog hair, and picking up poop. And, enjoying every second of it! I think the most surprising thing I enjoy is talking to them. Seeing their ears go down and their tail wag is such an amazing sight! When they come to me for pets is wonderful as that means they’re trusting me, which also means they’re that much closer to being ready for their new home.
You never know how long a dog will take to get adopted. I don’t worry about that. They’re with me until. Until the right adopter comes along. The process to adopt from Pets Alive Niagara is thorough and that makes me feel confident that we will find the best home for them. Our Adoption Coordinators do everything they can to find the right match. Asking questions of the adopters according to my foster's needs. Making sure the home will allow them to thrive. Letting the potential adopters know what they’re like. That they’re timid and need time to warm up. That they are best with older children because they scare easily. Or, if they’d rather be the only pet in their home. The Adoption Coordinators have a tough job because they have my foster's life in their hands. Much respect to them! ♥️
Meeting a potential adopter is nerve-racking! You want so badly to have it work out. That my foster will love them and they love them back. Will they understand their needs? That their shy now, but will warm up? That they like their toys with a squeaker in it? That they tend to pee in the house when they’re scared? That they need extra snuggles when there’s a thunderstorm? That they eat in stages instead of all at once? That they like stuffies to sleep with? To be patient with them until they trust you? I make sure to tell them as much as I know about my baby. Yes, my baby. They’re mine until their adopted. Until they’re picked up and put in their car. They’re under my care completely and fully until then.
Oh, the day they go to their new home is one of happiness and sadness. My heart breaks and beams at the same time! I’m not sure I can handle it. Can I let them go? Did I do right by them? Are we letting them go to the right home? Did I prepare them enough? Will the tears stop flowing? Will my heart stop hurting?
See, they don’t understand what’s going on. They don’t know that I’m just a stepping stone to their new life. That my job is done. Their face, when they look at me for the last time, is something I always remember.
But, the lump in my throat will go away and the tears will eventually dry up. My heart doesn’t always stop hurting but that’s okay. Knowing that I did what I could for them is satisfying. Knowing that their new home will be their forever home is comforting. The pictures I’ll get to see of them enjoying the life we designed for them is the most rewarding. The updates from the adopters are what helps me move on.
And move on, I do. On my way to the parking lot to pick up the next one.
-- by Michelle Murray