There are SO many things I wish I knew before first becoming a dog foster. Today, I want to address the most COMMON concern I hear about fostering. It’s the #1 reason people give for why they can’t foster – they imagine it would be too hard to give up a foster. I hope my story on giving up my first foster can convince even ONE person to foster.
When I first met Maddie, I had a BAD habit of spending hours cruising Facebook at night – like so many others. I have always wanted to help animals in some way, so I found several local dog rescue Facebook pages to follow. One rescue, then named New Beginnings, posted pictures of dogs in need of rescue and foster care.
And there she was one day – Maddie.
She was a BEAUTIFUL Australian Shepard, who also happened to be deaf and blind. Unfortunately, that’s not all that uncommon (can we make breeding merle to merle illegal yet?!)
I couldn’t stop checking the picture of her. Reading the post responses, it seemed that everyone was afraid to foster her – wondering how in the world a blind and deaf dog could possibly function. Some even questioned her quality of life. I was also curious, but it seemed like New Beginnings believed she could live a next to normal life, so why shouldn’t I believe that as well?
I’m a – I’ll figure it out – person, so this was the perfect time to use that mindset! I applied with New Beginnings for my first foster, was accepted, and expressed my desire to open my home to Maddie. Thank goodness they also believed I could give her a good home, despite knowing nothing about special needs dogs.
From the moment Maddie was in my house, she was an angel. An expert navigator, potty trained, good on a leash, and polite – this was one special dog.
I was continually amazed that she simply adapted to using touch and smell to almost mimic her other senses – often tricking people into thinking she had all her senses. The only thing that made it obvious she was different was that she had no eyes and would lead with her nose everywhere she went. She taught me so much, including using touch and smell to help train special needs dogs.
My older Husky, Solomon, took it upon himself to be her protector at the park – blocking her from running into people and things as she would roam around. They LOVED each other.
I thought about adopting her, even put in the official paperwork. But after I submitted the documents, the rescue called me – someone else has also applied to adopt her! It was something I never thought would happen. I just figured, despite her being so good, that I was the only one willing to “figure it out”. It was a shock and a delight to know there were more people like me.
I struggled with the decision. I had met her potential adopter – and I knew she would provide a good, caring home. She lived relatively close to me, so I knew I could potentially see Maddie again. I spent time checking my own gut feelings and figuring out where I wanted, and needed, to be in this dog foster world.
Did I want to adopt Maddie and call my journey in fostering over, or let her go and help another dog in desperate need of a temporary place to stay? After all, those who don’t get foster homes are left to languish in a shelter, or are often euthanized.
I decided my role was to help more dogs like Maddie find fur-ever homes. I let the rescue know they should approve the other applicant.
One of The Best Decision of My Life
Looking back, this decision was one of the most important decisions of my life. Not only did this adopter give Maddie a perfect home (and renamed her Dhalia), she FOUNDED the rescue Speak! for the Unspoken. Speak! rescues special needs dogs throughout the United States and, to this day, helps so many dogs. I cannot say enough about the hard work and dedication of everyone at this rescue, as well as the other rescues throughout Ohio.
Because of Maddie and, ultimately, my decision to let go (and a TON of hard work from countless volunteers and supporters), hundreds – heck maybe thousands – of dogs now have a second chance at life.
So, if you thought about fostering and think you won’t want to give your foster up – remember this story. If you had a chance to help a hundred dogs by letting go of one, would you do it? Because chances are, that is what your fostering will do.
Side note: social media can be wonderful as you can often see update pictures of all your past fosters in loving homes.