Fostering For Love
Zoe is one of Peggy's Puppies Born on 7-16-10
We first came to know AADR back in 2007 (it was Southern States Dachshund Rescue back then). My beloved Alice, a Dachshund mix we adopted from the Humane Society in Jacksonville, FL had recently died from a heart defect. I wanted to honor her in some way; she had given so much of herself to our family. I felt our family could offer our love and our home to dogs whose lives were at risk.
I found AADR online and filled out an application to FOSTER. I capitalize that word because we didn’t make it past our first foster: we adopted him. I think we got him on a Tuesday and by Friday we had decided to adopt him.
Hunter is the Robert Redford of Dachshunds. He’s a long hair standard red whose hair flows when he walks…like one of those slow-motion love scenes from a movie. Hunter is all that and then some. He is a deeply happy dog who doesn’t let the little things in life get to him. It was love at first sight… at least for us it was. I don’t know about Hunter. He was probably just looking for a warm meal and a soft bed and a yard to run in. Hunter was the missing puzzle piece in our canine family. Our other dog Max took life a bit too seriously. We had adopted him from Happy Tails Humane and unbeknownst to us, he had issues. Hunter was a beautiful Costello-type to our type A Abbott, Max.
After Hunter, we didn’t foster for a while. I don’t know if it was just a lack of need on AADR’s behalf (unlikely considering the number of dogs our rescue takes in and adopts out) or if Diane knew that more dogs sent to us to ‘foster’ would only result in adoption and then she’d be out of another foster home because we’d have too many dogs. Additionally, my husband considered it extremely risky work because we were 0 in 1 in our attempts to foster. I too was concerned about our foster record. I wondered “just how do people let go of these pups after fostering?” Wise woman that she is, Diane didn’t contact us to foster again until early 2009.
In March of 2009 Diane called to ask if I could foster two young pups who had been abandoned with their mom in a parking lot in rural Kentucky. “Hmmm” I thought, “this could be dangergous:
One: I’ve never fostered puppies before. I don’t even know how to potty train or care for such young dogs and Second: "They’re going to be really cute. How am I going to resist adopting these two?”
Jewel, another of Peggy's Puppies, is dangerously cute
But, still, Diane needed someone to foster and I wanted to help. I hadn’t fostered for a while and frankly, I had an internal battle to overcome: I wanted to prove to myself that I could foster and actually let the dog(s) go without adopting.
Diane committed she would help answer any questions about caring for puppies (they were six to seven weeks old at the time). I checked in with my husband, who was traveling a lot at the time, to see how he felt about it. Understandably, his first concern was we were going to end up with four (adopted) dogs and that this whole fostering thing was just a devious cover-up on my behalf to adopt more dogs. His second concern was how I would handle four dogs (and two kids) on my own since he would be out of town frequently and we already had a really busy life. I assured him I was up for the challenge and with his support we took another stab at ‘fostering’.
Diane called to arrange the time we would meet and she warned me “these guys are REALLY cute”. “Oh no” the voice of reason warned me inside my head, “you need to stick to your guns on this Melissa and not fall in love with these two”. So with great excitement for both me and the rest of the family, I drove to meet Diane to get these two new fosters. Boy was she right. Robbie and Callie were adorable mini Dachshund pups with some wirehair mixed in. They were adorable. But I held tight to my commitment and feigned detachment as I introduced the puppies to the kids. Of course, the first thing out of their mouths was “can we adopt them?” “No,” I said with a definitive tone, “we are fostering and I’m sticking to it”. It was hard not to fall in love with those two so a week or so in I just gave up and fell head over heels in love with them. I cried when I wrote their bio’s and was like a commando as I drilled each applicant to determine if they were the right home for these two.
Fostering was going well. We had fostered Robbie and Callie for three weeks and had not filled out an adoption application for them. This was good news because it meant my resolve to just foster was working. Diane must have also noticed this because she called me to say AADR had received another puppy that had some abnormalities. The puppy had two life paths:
- Be destroyed because no one would adopt him or
- Be surrendered by its breeder.
Diane asked if we could foster this little guy too. I agreed. I though “if I have three puppies then I will be so overwhelmed by the amount of work that I won’t even think about adopting”. It may be warped logic to some but it worked for me. Buddy came to us the next day. We adopted him two weeks later; so much for my logic.
But we didn’t adopt Robbie and Callie. After many applications and extensive conversations with potential adopters, we found the perfect family for Robbie and Callie out in Arizona. The goodbye was messy by any standards. I cried the day we found their forever home. I cried each day we worked out transportation arrangements. I cried as the days approached for the final goodbye.
Our whole family fell in love with this brother and sister pair. The day I took them to the private transport driver was messy too. Women know there are pretty cries and not-pretty cries. That transport driver was a special guy and obviously he had dealt with others like me who just fell apart as they said goodbye and let some stranger take pieces of their heart and transport them to places unseen. It didn’t help that Robbie and Callie were crying too. Bless that gentleman, he just hugged me, told me he’d take very good care of them and that he would call me along the way and as soon as he arrived and met their owners.
It took a couple of weeks to recover from our first official fostering experience but I learned I could do it. It’s a different kind of love when you foster. It’s deep and soulful just like any other love, yet you learn to love with detachment. Not a cold detachment of indifference but a deep love surrounded by knowing that God is everywhere in this world and that your love is just carrying these pups onto another path in their life.
So in October of that year (2009) said goodbye to Robbie and Callie and we now had three dogs of our own: Max, Hunter/Robert Redford and Buddy, our one-eyed wonder pup. I discovered I really enjoyed fostering the puppies and so did the rest of our family. Our household full of kids and a revolving door of friends coming over provided ample opportunities for puppies to become acclimated to kids and their energy levels (we were/are a very popular house in the ‘hood because of the puppies).
I told Diane our family would love to focus on fostering the puppies. I thought, “Gee, how many times do they get puppies in a year? Probably not that many and then we could have some built in breaks from fostering throughout the year.” Remember this is similar logic to what I used before when I said we would foster a third puppy.
So six weeks later Diane calls to say they have a pregnant dog and could we foster. “Yes, of course” I heard myself saying to her but inside my head I was saying “Melissa, you have absolutely no experience in this!!! What are you doing??? What if she runs into trouble during the birthing process??? How are you going to handle this? What if she goes into labor while Bob is out of town and you have to leave to pick up the kids or take them to one of their extracurricular activities? Just how Melissa are you going to do this?” But the yeses just kept pouring out and Diane and I arranged to meet so I could get the dog.
We named her Bella. She was the most beautiful (yet emotionally scarred) Dachshund I had ever seen. We nurtured her to health and in the process, healed parts of our spirits as well. Bob (my husband) worked with her daily to help her feel comfortable with men (she would scurry out of the kitchen each time he approached). The kids loved on her and enjoyed just loving on her. I fed her scrambled eggs, salmon, chicken and any other food we felt would give her the proper nutrition she had been denied. Within a couple of weeks her coat glistened, her tail wagged and you could tell she felt at home.
We prepared an area for her to deliver her pups in the private confines of our laundry room. Each night we watched for signs of labor. Very early on the morning of the 21st of December, 2009 we woke to find that Bella had delivered her first pup. We woke the kids so they could see the other pups being born. It was such an amazing experience to witness the transformation of Bella from a scared dog to a confident and protective mother. She was an amazing dog. All of the pups including their mom Bella found phenomenal forever homes. And we in turn, found phenomenal forever friends.
We had not even said goodbye to the last of Bella’s pups before we got another call from Diane saying two more puppies were on their way: Wilson and Sparky. Then came Dexter and Otis and while we still had them another pregnant female came in. Peggy delivered her seven pups on 7-16-10. Then while still fostering Peggy’s pups we received yet another call from Diane saying they had another pregnant female who had also given birth to seven puppies and could we take them too (we’re in August of 2010 at this point)? Remember my logic when deciding to focus our attention on fostering puppies? Obviously it was as flawed as the logic I used when I told Diane we would take on fostering Buddy while we had Robbie and Callie because it would deter me from adopting. Remember? We adopted Buddy.
The work of fostering gives far more than it takes. Through fostering we’ve learned to love without attachment and to give without expectation of a return. My kids have witnessed broken spirits rebound through the simple act of kindness and love. We have experienced the great joys of happy endings for all of the dogs and puppies we’ve fostered. We have come to know phenomenal people whose hearts swell with love as they meet their new family members. We have been a witness to a world created out of love and to see how love grows when we give it freely and without condition. Most importantly, my kids have seen how just a few acts of kindness gives birth to boundless love that continues to multiply each time that love touches another life. It never ceases to amaze me how the right family emerges at the right time to adopt the dog that is meant for them. It also gives me great joy to see how the dogs change the lives of the families they become a part of. God is expressed so beautifully in animals. I’m honored to be a part of a process that can be a part of that.
So for the year of 2010, we’re 23:0. We’ve adopted out all of the dogs we’ve fostered. Those are pretty impressive numbers considering my humbling early results. We are known as ‘the family who fosters puppies’ at the school my kids go to. The neighborhood also knows us as the Dachshund family because they see my husband taking the dogs/pups on walks (sometimes seven at a time…it’s comical). Many of us ask why we do it, others ask how we do it and my mom keeps asking “are you done doing it?” But it doesn’t seem like work once you do it. You begin to ‘get’ how dogs communicate and what they’re saying to you (with the help of Nikki Ivey; dog trainer supreme). In the end, the joys far outweigh the little dramas. You do the work because, quite selfishly, it feels good. It feels good to give back and it feels good to be part of something larger than yourself.
All of Peggy's Puppies. So cute it's lethal!