I’m jumping right into todays post because it is so dear to my heart. I want to introduce you guys to Gretchen from the “Boxy Colonial”. I’m so grateful that I got to know Gretchen better the past couple of months. She’s totally what was missing in my daily blogroll and I never even realized it. She is a woman of my own heart and I couldn’t be happier to share her story with you today. So here she goes:
Thanks so much to Julia for having me here today as part of this fabulous series on her amazing blog! I’m so excited to be on one of my favorite blogs talking about one of my favorite things today.
I’ve been reading all these posts in this series from people with one or two or three pets and admiring their restraint. We have five: three dogs and two cats (and four kids; you might gather that we don’t know how to quit while we’re ahead). There’s Gavroche the orange tabby:
Athena the moody Siamese cat:
Gable the shaggy sheepdog:
But today I’m going to focus on our two latest additions, Fiesta and Rory, and on our experiences fostering dogs, which is how they came to join our family.
My mom has fostered dogs on and off since I was a kid, so I guess maybe it’s hardwired in me. It was definitely something I always knew I wanted to do myself someday. The first time we fostered, I had a four year old and a two year old and was pregnant with my third. Our second foster was a very sweet and goofy and active and BIG lab named Thunder. Having Thunder was like having an 80 pound toddler in my house. When he finally got adopted, we took a six and a half year break from fostering.
Next go round we fostered through a very large rescue group in our area called Angels Among Us. This time we told them up front that we could only foster small dogs. This is my rule number one for fostering, by the way: know your limits! This is harder than it sounds, because there’s ALWAYS another dog who absolutely must find a foster home TODAY, and it’s really tough to know that you could save that dog and not do it. It’s awful, it’s tragic, and it’s completely unnecessary, but it’s also true that you can’t save them all. You could have a dozen fosters at your house, feel completely overwhelmed, and there’d STILL be more dogs needing your help every day. So it’s far better to take on only what you can handle and avoid burnout and the six year fostering hiatus that we took the first time around.
But back to the happy stuff.
Our first AAU foster was a little chihuahua dachshund mix named Cocoa. We had Cocoa for a few weeks before she went to a great new home. The day after I took Cocoa to her new family, I went to pick up our next foster. Fiesta was a little beagle who had been rescued from a rural shelter very, very pregnant. She’d had her litter of seven adorable puppies shortly after being pulled from the shelter, but now the puppies were weaned and it was time for her to go to a separate foster home.
Here she is in the shelter, the first picture we have of her:
The first thing most people say when they hear that you foster dogs is some variation of, “I wouldn’t be able to do that, because I’d want to keep them all!” I’ll say that I don’t have much trouble saying goodbye to most of our fosters. They’ve all been great dogs, but most of them haven’t felt like OUR dog. We love them while they’re here, and we miss them when they leave, but I’ve found over and over again that dogs and the people they belong with tend to find each other. So I wasn’t worried when I went to pick up Fiesta. I distinctly remember telling people, “we won’t be tempted to keep this one; I don’t even LIKE beagles.” Ha.
All of things I don’t like about beagles? Fiesta has them. She is stubborn. She’s kind of stinky. She’s a little indifferent about house training. She doesn’t come when you call her if she smells something more interesting than you. And yet…..she felt like OUR dog. She loved everyone. She could cuddle with anyone–kids, adults, other dogs….even Athena the grumpy cat. I started to dread adoption events because I knew I might come home without her. At the same time, I was kind of annoyed with everyone who didn’t jump at the chance to adopt her; what was WRONG with them? Couldn’t they see how WONDERFUL she was?
And so Fiesta became our first “foster failure.” And now it’s like she’s always been here:
We showed a little more willpower the next time we tried fostering. The group my mom works with had recently branched out from being just a Cocker Spaniel rescue to include all small dogs. Working with my mom is great, because it’s very easy to say no to her ;). It’s a small group, and we have a lot of say in what dogs we foster.
This time we fostered SEVEN dogs in a row and didn’t keep a single one!
Then came Rory (although he was “Lance” back then). Rory had been in another foster home in our group for quite awhile with no one interested in him, which seemed crazy to us because we could tell immediately that he was a really fabulous little dog. I guess it must have been because he was supposed to be ours.
If Fiesta had to teach me that I love hound dogs, Rory only had to remind me how much I love terriers. There’s nothing I love more than scruffy, sturdy, confident to a fault little terrier. A great thing that Fiesta brings to our family is that she loves everyone the same. A great thing Rory brings to our family is that he is totally and completely the kids’ dog. He likes us grown-ups well enough when kids are not available, but he much prefers hanging out with his boys, given a choice. He goes upstairs with them at bedtime, loves to run with them in the yard, squeezes in behind them on chairs and couches when they read or play video games. If I come in the house at the same time as one of the kids, Rory ignores me completely while jumping enthusiastically on the kid then follows him into the kitchen without giving me another glance. I absolutely love watching them together.
All the dogs get along great, but Fiesta and Rory are especially close. Second best thing to watching Rory with the kids is watching the two of them together:
My husband was actually the one who first suggested the Rory needed to stay with us. He’s been so gracious and indulgent about my tendency to collect living things that I couldn’t possibly tell him no. And, anyway, who could resist this twelve pound bundle of scruffy adorableness?
So there it is….the best kept secret about fostering dogs: you get to test run dogs and keep the best ones for yourself ;). Not really! The perfect dog for us is not the perfect dog for another family….but I do feel very lucky that fostering has brought these two little dogs into our lives.
We’re still fostering now that we’ve added Rory, but at a slower pace with more breaks in between dogs (and we absolutely, positively CANNOT keep another one!) I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a way to help out with the enormous homeless pet problem we have; the stories you hear are absolutely heartbreaking. Rory was relatively lucky in that he was dumped (in the parking lot, is the story we heard) at a suburban shelter with good facilities and a vet on staff where a young, healthy, small dog like him had a good shot at getting adopted. But many of the underfunded, rural shelters in our state (like the one Fiesta came from) have euthanasia rates of 70, 80, or 90%. I can’t think about how easily my amazing little Ro and Fi could have just not been around any more without tearing up. No dogs are perfect, and not all dogs are easy, but, for all its challenges, fostering is both hugely rewarding and really fun. I still get excited every time about meeting and getting to know our new fosters!
Gretchen’s story speaks to me in so many ways. While I hear the “you can’t save them all” from my husband all the time and it drives me insane, I look up to Gretchen for being able to help like this. My husband would never agree to do this with me but I also have the tendency to collect living things. And Rory is exactly what I have been dreaming of in a dog. I want him in the worst way. I have mentioned my love for scruffy terriers before 🙂 I also can’t believe that the euthanasia rate is 70-90%! That is completely heart breaking and such a waste of precious life. When will humans learn that pets aren’t disposable pieces of trash. It gets me all upset. Make sure to head on over to Gretchen’s blog by clicking HERE. She is quite the funny writer! And she just updated her home tour too (click HERE to see). I can’t wait to meet her this summer in person at Haven. Happy Friday my friends and talk to you on Monday.