On Fostering a Dog
Originally written 2/1/2015 It lasted just two weeks. It was dirty, it was tough, it was an emotional roller coaster. It was warm, it was soft, it was needy. It was a black lab puppy that my children re-named “Sammy”. It was the first time we had fostered an animal, and the second dog we had ever taken care of as a family. The first dog had been, of course, a lovable black lab named Jill. Two weeks prior, during Christmas, my husband and I decided to sign our family up for fostering through our local animal shelter. He and my daughter had been volunteering there for a few months already, and she, at ten-years-old, had fallen in love with every cat and puppy there. She told her brother (aged seven) about them, and they had both been begging for a dog since.
My husband and I knew we were not prepared to take on a dog full-time, but we thought we could compromise by fostering. The kids were excited as we explained what fostering was and what it meant, emphasizing we would not be keeping the dog. Every day they asked when we were getting our foster dog. When the foster care coordinator called to see if we could take a black lab puppy, we became as excited as the kids. My husband picked her up on his way home from work, along with a kennel, leash, collar, toys, bones, and puppy chow.
What a sweet, adorable, dog! She reminded us so much of Jill. The first night we had her after the kids had gone to bed, I cried and cried. It was so nice to have a little, fuzzy body in the house again with floppy ears that felt like velvet. It was lovely to feel her snuggle up against me on the floor or sofa while she slept. I told my husband, “I want to keep her”, and he concurred.
By the next evening some of the puppy love had diminished a bit. Sam had us up an hour earlier than usual, she kept trying to investigate our old cat who wanted none of it, and had had a couple of accidents on the floor. Towards the end of the week I was feeling somewhat frazzled: More accidents on the loveseat and floor, trying to juggle taking walks in the January cold with three kids and the dog who wanted to pull me every step of the way, attempting and failing to keep ahead of Sammy’s predilection to stray socks, not to mention the barking, the whining, the escape-out-the-front-door attempts, the dog trampling and using the bathroom in my backyard flower beds or the deck, the muddy paw prints on my clean floor and furniture, even after I had carefully wiped her feet with an old towel. And we were never allowed to sleep in.
I was glad we only had one week left, “Are you sure we can’t take her in early?” I asked my husband. But during the second week, we had all begun to figure each other out and settle into a routine. Then the shelter called: Sammy needed to go in to be spade. We could leave her at the shelter to recover until Adoption Day (Saturday), or we could come pick her up again. We picked her up after her surgery. She slept all the next day, and the following morning she had bounced back to her energetic little self. We tried keeping her resting and still, but she didn’t find that tolerable. Instead, Sammy chased the toddler, who squealed with delight, up and down the hallway.
And then it was Adoption Day. Despite our repeated warnings that it was coming (both for the kids and ourselves), we all felt a little anxious as we drove to the shelter with Sammy in the backseat, wedged in between the kids. It was a downright unceremonious drop off. A lady we had never met led us to Sammy’s prepared pen, guided her in, and quickly shut the door. Sammy looked confused, but we tried to reassure her: She wouldn’t be there long. She was too cute and sweet. I believed she would be adopted that day.
We turned to leave the poor pup amidst all the much older, much louder dogs’ carrying on. We were near the door when the toddler suddenly went back to Sammy’s cage to let her out. My son kept asking us, “Why can’t we adopt her?” We all took two steps into the quiet hallway, and my ten-year-old daughter burst into tears. No one from the shelter asked us any questions, there was nothing more to be done. We went silently home, everyone lost in their own thoughts. I felt sad, but also relief. Sammy was a good dog; we would miss her.
A few hours later I called the shelter to find out how Sammy was doing, “She was adopted today!” the lady cheerfully told me. I shared the news and the kids took it well. It’s been a few weeks now since Sammy found her new home. It’s been oddly quiet in the house, and none of us have gotten outside as much as we should have. We’ve been sleeping in a lot and socks are all over the floor. I wonder when our next foster dog will arrive?
Spoiler alert: After fostering several more puppies, kittens, and cats with SICSA, we finally experienced a "foster failure" and adopted Ginger, a sweet Lab-Pitt mix in Sept. 2015.