The Toughest Part of Fostering a Dog: Letting Go

 |  May 2nd 2011  |   1 Contribution


Fostering a homeless shelter dog is one of the most rewarding things you can do. But when the time comes to let go, it can also be wrenching.

Once you've become attached to a sweet dog, it can bedifficult bordering onimpossible to say goodbye. Many people, recognizing their limitations, have told me flat-out that they couldn't possibly foster because they quickly form a bond and cannot let go.

This is why so manyanimal rescuersbecome "foster failures" - i.e. they wind up adopting a dog they initially planned to house on a temporary basis. How do you say farewell to a creature you've fed and played with, medicated and cuddled? As one rescuer I know memorably said, "Failure never felt so good."

But that doesn't mean foster success feels less good.It feels great - and it frees up room in your home and heart for the next needy K9. But before you can experience the joy of foster success, first you -the foster caregiver - mustfacesome serious separation anxiety.And that ain't easy.

As foster caregivers, we strive to do what's in the best interest of the dog in question. And in the case of my beloved Lady Bug,the right thing to do was let go. So that's what I did yesterday: Ientrusted herto an excellentrescue group that already has a beautiful permanent home lined up and waiting for the perfect Chihuahua.

Which is precisely what Bug is. I'll never forget how calm she remained when the ceiling in my apartment fell in. Or how perfectly housetrained she is. Or her adorablehabit of jumping into my lap.

I'm a big-dog person, and I'm a sucker for aK9 in need. That explains how I came to have 6 large dogs,each of them clamoring for my attention 24/7. My mother never fails to let me know that each one of my dogs wants to the the only dog. She always delivers this line with a disapprovingshake of her head, as if I'm subjecting the members of my pack to the worst kind of emotional torture imaginable.

Perhapsshe is right - unfortunately, like most Moms, she's almost always right.

In my defense, I'll say what I always tell my Mom: That mybig dogs enjoy each other's company enormously. But Bug is a different story. Let's just say she's not a dog person; she's a people person. She loves getting attention from members of the human species, and returns that attention a hundredfold. She fits my mother's profile of a dog who wants to be an only child.Bug wanted me all to herself. And sadly, what with my prior commitment to my family of big dogs, this is not something Iwas able togive her.

I can, however, do my utmost to see to it that Bug gets exactly what she wants out of life:A wonderful, caring home in which she and her amazing, gravity-defyingears arethe radiant center of attention.

As we waited on my stoop for the car to come and pick her up, Bug nestled sweetly in my lap. I buried my face in her neck; she gave me passionate French-Mexican kisses, slipping her tongue into my mouth. It was always difficult to photograph her because she's a constantly moving target, wiggling at high speeds andmoving her head from side to side to take in every detail of her surroundings.

This time, however, I was able to get some amazingly pensive shots of my little girl - that's how relaxed she was. The most casual observer would've had a hard time not noticing how very attached to each other we'd become, my Love Bug and I.

Thenher rideappeared.

I handedBug over to the driver, then ran inside to get her paperwork, postponing the inevitable for just a few minutes more. As I came back down the steps of my building, I nearly called the whole thing off when I sawBug sittingin the driver's lap with her ears perked up, watching and waiting for me with laserlike focus.Her worried expressionnearly broke my heart! She clearly expected me tojoin herin the vehicle. But I maintained my resolve, handed over the papers, kissed her twomore times- then turned around andwent back inside.

I'll give you the Bug update as soon as I have it. It's hard to believe a creature weighing just 9 pounds could leave my heart so heavy by her absence. That littledog will be missed in no small way.

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