Friday, July 27, 2012

Help Them, Don't Hoard Them

The Lie You Keep Telling Yourself:
"I could never foster dogs, because I would keep them all!"

We have fostered five dogs for Project Rescue Chicago so far this year. I don't have the means to give back to my favorite rescue. I feel like I owe them millions of dollars for saving my doggie soulmate and giving him to me. Fostering dogs is something that I can do for them. It's how I can give back. We have a perfect household for showing the world that these dogs are not "damaged goods" and can, in fact, live and thrive in a home. We have a dog, two cats, a 1 ½ year old, a grandpa, and two adults living in our home. If a dog does well here, they can pretty much do well anywhere. And if we can foster dogs, I mean, come on. You can probably do it, too. Without a doubt, the sentiment I hear more than anything else is "How could you do that?! I could never foster dogs. I would keep them all!"

Tilda and resident dog Callen

Well, I think you're lying. I think you CAN do it. Here's what works for me and it may just work for you.

1. Be honest with yourself. Or lie to yourself. Whatever it takes to set yourself up for success. It's all IN YOUR MIND.

First, I tell myself, these are not my dogs. These dogs belong to someone and I need to help them find their families. I can give them somewhere to stay while their families find them. They are someone's doggie soulmate and I cannot rob them of that and stop helping the others that are waiting for my home to open up for them while they're in their transition phase. I am here to help them. Not hoard them. I know my limit and if I adopt one more dog, I will not be able to help any more. When I strike it rich, I'll consider adopting one of my fosters and donate money to Project Rescue instead of fostering. And probably foster a third dog... :)

Former foster Effie

Sometimes it's a matter of fooling yourself, as with any other thing that requires will power. I sure can't convince myself to exercise regularly (although walking the dogs does help!), but it's pretty easy to convince myself to help an animal in need simply by having a "doggie sleepover." My dog gets to have a buddy over for awhile. And that dog gets to hang out at my house until their house is ready for them. Pretty simple. It's not my dog. Gotta keep the B&B open and running efficiently. Each dog is going to be awesome and have tons of reasons to convince you that you should keep them. That's the point! They're awesome and SOMEONE should keep them. You can help find that someone! If you were waiting tables in a restaurant and the food on a plate looked really, really good and you really, really wanted it, you wouldn't just snatch it. You're the server. You take that plate to the person that the food was made for. Suck it up and do your job. ;)

2. Foster with a good rescue that knows its dogs, knows how to evaluate dogs properly, and will support you NO MATTER WHAT.

I will only foster through Project Rescue Chicago. Because they are REALLY good at dogs. Like, really, really good. They have always found us great fits, even though it's just temporary. You know how you see pictures of dogs whose "time is up soon," "please pull now," etc? Well, I'm not going to save those dogs. Not unless PRC pulls them, evaluates them, and matches them with me as a foster. Why? Because temperament testing isn't for everyone. You need massive amounts of experience with rescue and a whole lot of intuition and spot-on instincts to be a rockstar at it. Leave it to the experts. It will help ensure your fostering success. If a dog isn't transitioning well in your home, they should respond with, "No problem! We'll take the dog back and find the right fit." Also, if something comes up and you need to leave town, your rescue should have a plan for you. When my official "foster dog crate" was falling apart, PRC provided one. When money is too tight to feed an extra mouth, PRC gives me food for the foster dog. You are a foster mom/dad. You are amazing. There should be mutual appreciation and support between you, your rescue, and, of course, your foster dog!

Former foster Koorie
3. Imagine your foster dog in their perfect home with their perfect family. Or wait for the updates to come and be proud of yourself for helping that dog get there.

I LOVE UPDATES FROM THE FAMILIES! It's what keeps me going. Jubilee was our second foster dog. Each of our foster dogs averaged 1-3 weeks in our home. Except Jubilee. We had her for about 10 weeks. But it wasn't the amount of time we had her that made her a challenge to send out into the world. It was that she and Callen were like long lost siblings. They LOVED each other. And the cats...well, the cats transitioned really quickly with her. I won't call it love, because they never admit to loving anyone but themselves (unless they're hungry), but Jubilee had this absolutely perfect and gentle persistence. There wasn't going to be anyone in this house that wasn't going to like her and she was going to make sure of it. One night she slowly and carefully crawled into the papasan chair with our female cat. Jubilee was going to cuddle with that cat. She was determined. She paused, asking permission. When the cat said "no, thank you," but it wasn't "NO WAY," Jubilee moved in a little closer and popped herself right beside her, facing away, and laid her head down. Clearly, as non-threatening as it gets. The cat lay there for a bit with her head up, looking incredulously at Jubilee. Then she, too, laid her head down. Then relaxed. Then closed her eyes. Then they both slept. She was just so good with everyone. And so goofy and funny and cuddly.

Former foster Jubilee, sans her cat buddy

So. That was a tough one. And I was feeling a teeny bit of regret after she left. Ok. Maybe more than a teeny bit. It may have been a lot. BUT. Then we got an update from the family, along with a picture of Jubilee wearing a cap at her training class graduation. She's sitting there with her family and she has the biggest smile on her face. And they said, "She fit in seamlessly and perfectly, as if she had always been with us." I AM SERIOUSLY CRYING JUST TYPING THIS RIGHT NOW.

That update took away absolutely every ounce of regret I had ever felt and made my personal mission like, one bazillion times stronger. Ugh. It's just too amazing. Too perfect. I am so proud of that dog and happy for that family. And I'm proud of us for letting her go to the place she was meant to go and with the family she was meant to be with. After that update, we're pretty much invincible! (On that note, send updates on your PRC dogs! Even if I didn't foster them, I love reading them and each and every one keeps me going. Everyone loves a happy ending when it comes to rescued dogs!)

4. Fail. If it's right, it's right. Then find another way to help out.

I kind of hate the term "foster failure," even though I will continue to use it because it motivates me to succeed. However, if you can't bear the thought of your foster going to an absolutely-in-every-way-perfect-for-them family that isn't your family, then adopt them. If you don't want an update about how much their new family loves them, adopt them. Then recruit others to foster, donate time, donate money, walk dogs, hold a fundraiser, design a poster, write a blog, just do something else. There are a ton of ways to help out. I don't know how it can be failing when there're so much love involved, you know? But I will say, adopting one, versus fostering many.... But if that's what you gotta do, then do it and be proud. Don't call yourself a failure. Adopting a dog will NEVER make you a failure. If you are so attached that it is unbearable to think of giving that dog to another family, if you can't stand the idea that the dog's family may be out there and looking for your foster dog, than YOU are the family looking for that dog. You already found each other. If that's the worst thing that can happen from fostering a dog, well.... It really does't get any better than rescuing dogs, does it?

Mark, former foster Hendrix and resident Callen

Project Rescue Chicago is a truly amazing rescue. They are doing life-changing work and are a group of talented, inspiring individuals. I will continue to help in any way I can. Rescuing dogs, fostering dogs, promoting adoption, this whole dog thing is really pretty incredible. You can totally be a part of it. I believe in you. You can do it.

The infamous Svengooli, Amy (as Callen) and Callen (the original)

Amy (and Mark, Wayne, Tilda, Callen, KisseFace, & DragonWagon.... I only named Tilda and will not take responsibility for the other names, I swear! But I do love Callen's name. Thanks, PRC :) )

Disclaimer: I, Amy, sent this to Project Rescue Chicago, without prompting. Any opinions or views are mine and only mine (but if they happen to be yours, too, *fist bump*) and do not necessarily represent Project Rescue Chicago.

1 comment:

  1. This is perfectly said! Falling in love with your foster kind of IS the point, and isn't something to be afraid of. The restaurant service analogy is perfect (although, I can't imagine sobbing over the loss of an awesome steak with quite the same intensity). I fostered a dog once and completely fell in love with him, but when I received the update from his family saying how much they loved him... I knew I did the right thing by not adopting him. It was very hard though, but... deal with it! All important jobs are hard. And as they say, "it's better to have loved [foster dogs] and lost [them to an awesome home], than never to have loved [a foster dog] at all," right?