When a Foster Dog Leaves

scrappyA foster dog never leaves my home. Their memories are forever embedded in my heart. I look at their favorite spots, whether it be on the couch or in the yard, and it reminds me of their happiness. I provided a temporary, but very stable, nurturing home. They had gotten bathed in my tub to wash off the shelter filth, a different collar to give them a new identity, food, water, and a comfortable place to sleep. They played with an abundance of toys, received numerous treats and bully sticks, and were on schedule of two working humans, looking to give back and make a difference in the world. The foster dog gets its pictures and biography posted online and volunteers await applications, ready to begin reference and background checks. Meet and greets take place to see if the dog will be a good fit for the new person or family. If all goes well, the foster dog leaves to its furever home. I feel a mixture of emotions when my foster dog leaves, which I can compare to a cocktail; two parts happiness mixed with one part sadness, topped off with worry, shaken with relief, and poured into a half-full glass.

I am happy, because they have a new home.

I am sad, because they are leaving me. My labor of love ends.

I am worried, for the next 48 hours, hoping they adapt well to their new person/family and environment.

I am relieved, that I had a helping hand in making my foster dog an adoptable canine companion.

Before I meet with the potential adopters, I always spend some alone time with my foster dog. I pray that they always be cared for and loved. I give them a treat, belly rub, and kisses. I tell them I love them and was happy to be given the opportunity to take care of them. I let them play with Bailey, my 2-year-old rescue, in the yard, one last time.

I reflect on their progress. They arrived broken and leave mended, by life’s greatest virtue: love.

farrahWhen the adopters arrive, I appear nonchalant, but secretly, my insides ache. My heart drops into my stomach. I hold tears back from streaming down my face. I remind them that if it doesn’t work out, to call me, and I will take the dog back, no questions asked. The dog that doesn’t want to leave my home is the most painful to watch. I turn away, or the composure I work so hard to maintain will be lost. I enjoy watching the dog that leaves confidently, as I often wish I could tackle new adventures as fearlessly as they do.

As my foster dog is leaving my care, I must repeat to myself:

The next dog you rescue will probably be worse than this one. They need you. Let this one go.

This dog is going to a happy, healthy home. It will work out. Be positive.

I can’t keep all the dogs I rescue, so continue fostering, educating, and advocating.

Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love. When they depart, they teach us about loss and acceptance. New dogs never replace the previous, they only expand our hearts and allow us to grow. Every dog I foster comes with a story, I just hope to give them the happiest of endings; a perfect forever home.

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