Almond Joy was the first dog I ever fostered when I was about 22-years-old. She was a Jack Russell mix and totally stole my heart. I first fostered her for a month or so back in 2009.The shelter in South Carolina adopted out of their building, but they also had a weekly event at PetSmart where people could come by and see their dogs. One Saturday afternoon she ended up getting adopted by an older gentlemen. I will forever remember that when she was walking away from me with him, she looked back, as if she was saying, “Where am I going, mom?!” It breaks my heart and I honestly tear up just thinking about it.
A few weeks later, I was volunteering at the same adoption event. I walked by a crate and said to the Adoption Coordinator, “Is that Almond?!” She had been returned by her original adopter. At the time, I didn’t think to ask the reason. I agreed to foster her again. She was a snappy little lady that liked to run and cuddle and hang out with my cats. To date, I think she was the only dog my cats have ever really liked, or at the very least, tolerated better than other dogs.
If you’re expecting some story where I tell you I adopted her, I didn’t.
I dropped her off at the event one Saturday and she ended up being adopted by a young woman who I was told was a runner. To this day, I still think about Almond. For about three years, I checked the shelter’s website every now and then to see if she had come back. I never thought to ask where she ended up, I just wanted to know she had a good home and hopefully she was happy.
This dog changed my life in that she opened my heart to the idea of fostering. She was one of two dogs I seriously considered adopting. By the time I left South Carolina, I had fostered about 15 different dogs, learning more and more with each experience. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that dogs are very resilient and transferrable creatures. At first this hurt, because of course, I wanted to think that every dog loved me the most, but of course, most dogs love most humans.
Fostering exposed me to different types of dogs, not only breeds but also temperaments. I learned how important it was that when adopting, temperament and personality should always come before even breed or looks. Fostering also introduced me to small dogs. Growing up, most of my exposure was to big dogs, like labs and German shepherds. I had no clue about small dogs and breeds that would eventually capture my heart.
The experience of fostering also shed light on issues that dogs have from separation anxiety, resource guarding, biting, mange, and trying to eat my cats (no joke). I even had a foster one time named Nelly who managed to break out of her crate with a cone on her head. She then broke into the garbage and dragged it all over the house. Needless to say, fostering gave me a pretty good insight into the full spectrum of dog issues.
Eventually, I did end up adopting Captain, who was my first foster dog in Austin (you can see him on my Instagram).
Fostering can sometimes feel like a very alienating experience, or at the very least one that often left me thinking, “What the f@$k am I doing?!” My friends Melissa and Catelyn have started a brand new project called This Foster Life, which helps people who are fostering or have questions about the fostering process. (You can also follow them on Instagram.) While many shelters have really great foster programs, there can always be more avenues for support during the process of readying these pups for their fur-ever homes.
I encourage anyone who’s interesting in fostering to check out This Foster Life! It’s a very wild journey, fostering dogs, but very well worth it!