On this woman crush Wednesday (that’s still a thing, right?), I’m dedicating this post to my current foster dog, this lovely lady Lucy.
Just when I thought I’d gotten over my jet lag from our two-week trip to Germany and Belgium, my foster dog decided she needed to wake me up at 4AM to go to the bathroom. After she chased a bunny in around the yard. After I let her out, wrangled her inside, and crawled back in bed, I started thinking of all the things I need to get done today and couldn’t fall back asleep. So, naturally, I crawled back out of bed and instead of doing any of those things keeping me awake, am writing this blog post.
My husband and I foster dogs through the Safe Harbor Lab Rescue organization, based out of Golden, Colorado. I started fostering dogs when I lived in DC (and my husband – then boyfriend – lived in Connecticut) and long hours during busy seasons kept me from having a dog of my own. After we moved to Colorado, I did some research and submitted a foster application to Safe Harbor, and I’m now on my 5th Colorado foster. To paraphrase Dickens, it’s the best of times, and it’s the worst of times.
Lucy is my current foster and she’s amazing. In addition to being adorable, she’s fully house-trained, knows lots of commands, and likes to snuggle but isn’t glued to your side 24/7. I suppose I should counter all this praise with reiteration of the fact that she might also wake you up at ungodly hours of the night/morning to take a bathroom break, but I’d much prefer that to discovering a puddle by the door later. Plus, I can’t make it through the night without a trip to the bathroom, so it’s hard for me to criticize.
And this face! How could I ever be mad at this?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the dog fostering process, here’s a quick breakdown; it’s pretty similar across most organizations. When the organization (in my current case, Safe Harbor), takes in a dog (this could be from another shelter, the pound, or an owner surrender), the dog is vetted and screened to make sure they don’t have any serious behavioral issues (aggression towards people or other dogs, food guarding, etc.) that would need to be addressed by a trained professional. The dog is tested for any diseases or illnesses (heartworms, rabies, all the good stuff) and is proscribed medicine if necessary. Safe Harbor pays for all vet bills and medications. Another volunteer evaluates the dog to (try to) determine whether the dog is potty-trained, good with other dogs, knows any commands, and other information that a prospective foster parent or adoptive family would need to know. Then foster volunteers (like me) are matched with a foster dog.
Foster parents are responsible for paying for food, treats, and toys, and are charged with providing their foster dog a safe place to call home (temporarily), teaching them basic commands and manners, and – most importantly – giving them lots of love. Lucy is an owner surrender and hasn’t been majorly traumatized, but some of the other dogs I’ve fostered have come from deplorable circumstances.
Jack, my first Colorado foster, was left in the care of a mentally-handicapped family member after his owner died. The family member was utterly unqualified to care for a dog and simply didn’t feed him for weeks and kept him locked up inside. When a neighbor finally realized he hadn’t seen the dog in a while, Jack was rescued and brought to Safe Harbor 20 pounds under weight. Despite having been horribly misused by humans, Jack was loving, sweet, and pretty perfect. I managed to add 10 pounds to him in the week he was in my care, then his adopted family rechristened him “Waffles” and proceeded to feed him and love him back to his healthy weight.
The day Jack was adopted, I cried for 2 hours. Happy tears, sure. But also selfish, sad tears. I fall in love with these dogs and then they leave. I’m now on my 10th foster. It doesn’t get any easier. Every time one of my fosters is adopted, I tell the family how happy I am for them (and I wholeheartedly mean it), and then run inside and sob. The rewards outweigh the heartbreak, for sure, but man that heartbreak is real and it is painful.
My current baby, Lucy, is no different. She’s going to be hard to let go. We’ve had her for just over a week and my husband and I are pretty smitten.
I always try to go into fostering with the mindset that this is not my dog. This is someone else’s dog that I’m babysitting for a bit. I cannot have a dog right now because of XYZ. Sometimes these mantras work. Sometimes they completely fail.
Does anyone have any tips for hardening your heart against adorable labs?
At the end of the day, though, we foster because we know that we are making a difference. We’re taking in dogs who might have run out of time in a kill-shelter, who might have languished in a kennel, who might have never been rescued, and allowing families to see their true potential so they can find homes. Forever homes. With amazing families. And if heartbreak is what it takes to get them there, then heartbreak is worth it.
With that, I’m going to stand on my soapbox just briefly.
If you are planning to bring a dog into your life, please, please, please consider a rescue dog. Go through your local humane society or another rescue organization. There are dogs of all ages, backgrounds, and dispositions available, just waiting for you. If you’re interested in a certain breed, there are breed-specific rescue organizations for almost every breed under the sun – just do a quick Google search to find one in your area.
If you have any questions, about fostering, about labs, about adopting a dog, about what I’m going to eat for breakfast, about whether Lucy was able to fall back asleep after waking me up at 4AM (spoiler alert: she was), I’d love to answer them!