Faith, Trust, & Foster Pups

Helping dogs on the road to forever, forever finding ourselves as we walk that road with them.


The Fine Foster Line Between Loving and Letting Go

Now before you go and jump to conclusions because of the title of this post…no, Seth has not been adopted.

However, I have been pondering this general theme: loving and letting go. Quite possibly the two key components to successful fostering. I think I started thinking about it quite a bit last week, when I went to Cape Cod for the weekend to attend my nephew’s baptism and left Seth with a temporary foster from Friday-Tuesday. I actually missed the big guy when I was gone, and when I came back our reunion was a bit emotional. Maybe more for me than the dog. But he was excited to see me and upon happily leaping into my car, I got choked up and for awhile was thinking that I never ever ever wanted to leave this dog again. For the next few days I deeply pondered taking that plunge into what the Lucky Doggers call “foster failure”.

When I first started volunteering with Lucky Dog, I first thought Foster Failure was the term coined for fosters that had been blacklisted from volunteering because they did something that was unforgivable to a dog, or something otherwise egregious. Turns out all it means is that a foster fell too hard in love to let anyone else adopt their temporary house guest, thus adopting their foster and “failing” on the letting go piece. It’s a term of endearment, but in a number of cases, foster failure is bittersweet. Part of you is happy for the new human/canine pair, and part of you wonders if the foster failure will be able to foster again. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes it’s no. I tend to think that our fosters are responsible people who know their limits, and the number of resident dogs certainly plays a role in a foster’s ability to invite another into their home.

So when I was deeply considering having a begging conversation with my husband to keep Seth, I considered it again. And while I love having his big silly self around, and I am overjoyed to see the progress he has made in his short time with us, I don’t know that we are in the right place to have a second dog, and all that comes along with it to be truly responsible pet parents, not just in the short term but in the long term. And I also consider the impact that a second dog would have on our ability to foster in the future…again, I don’t know that we could have a second dog and feel confident in being able to help more dogs in the long term.

I assume this is an internal struggle a number of fosters have, and ultimately, that something clicks with that foster that is the one that didn’t get away. I feel like I have had probably that clicky feeling with a number of my fosters (I think of the last 5, I considered adopting 4 of them), but then something sets in that allows me the ability to let go. For now.

But I do completely understand why some fosters have chosen to adopt the ones they initially set out to get adopted. Seth and Suga are two dogs in particular that I have said “so help me, if their adoption doesn’t work out, I won’t have the heart to let them be up for adoption again.” Thankfully, Suga is still very much loved and in the home of her adopters, and we haven’t yet gotten to an adoption with Seth…so we’re still good.

I have read that there is a great likelihood that at some point, you will “fail” as a foster. I have also read about how when someone says “I could never foster, it would be too hard to give a dog up,” the author responds  that it’s not harder than thinking what would happen to that dog (or another dog in the same shelter) if no one steps up to foster. I think of these two things a lot, and then, before I can think about either of them anymore while I still have a particular dog, that pup goes and gets adopted. And I know it’s okay to be sad, but I also know that they are on their way to a lifetime of love and happiness with their new forever family.

So we love, we let go. We love, we let go. We love, we let go. And while I can’t help but wonder if it will stop hurting to love with the knowledge that letting go is inevitable, in a way I don’t ever want it to. Because with each foster life that touches my heart, I am reminded by these wonderful dogs what it means to be human.

And frankly, if it’s wrong feel as much love as I do for a giant lab head in my lap while we seek out his future forever, I don’t want to be right.