Fostering is one of the most selfless, generous acts of love you can give any animal. It is also one of the most heartbreaking, frustrating, but most importantly, rewarding. Countless times, I’ve received comments along the lines of, “I could never do that. I wouldn’t be able to give him away!” This may seem like a valid reason for not wanting to foster an animal, but the truth is that when it’s time, you absolutely will be able to. One foster puppy in particular proved to me that this is true. Chase wasn’t my first foster, but he was the one I had the longest and the one that captured my heart the most. We had only fostered one other dog before Chase. Our first foster was a sweet, injured pup named Faolan whom we had for only about three weeks before he was adopted by a wonderful friend of mine. Then, a couple weeks later, came Chase. The rescue I volunteer with, Okinawa Stray Pet Rescue (http://www.okinawastraypetrescue.org) was pulling two identical brothers from Ozato, a local kill shelter in Okinawa, Japan. His brother had a foster lined up, but Chase still had no one. I took one look at him and told my husband that we had to foster him. He sighed but, knowing that my heart was set, agreed. A few days later, I was the proud new foster of sweet little four month old Chase.
Chase’s first night was not an easy one. He was scared of everything and everyone. He desperately needed a bath, but he was terrified! My wonderful husband, being the sweet dog lover that he is, stripped down to shorts and got in the bath with Chase. He held him close while Chase nuzzled into him, so that he would allow me to bathe him. He spent the rest of the evening in his new friend’s arms because so far, that was the only person he trusted. Bedtime came and we decided to try to see how we would do in his crate. He cried the entire night. He did eventually become crate trained and he did well in his crate when we were gone. But, seeing as how our dog slept in the bed with us, we decided to go ahead and let Chase sleep in bed with us as well. He definitely agreed with that decision. Days passed and Chase was beginning to settle into our family and I was falling more in love with him every day. Although he had latched onto my husband initially, I eventually became the person he was glued to at all times. He was as obsessed with me as I was with him. We were kindred spirits. My husband liked to joke that he was the dog version of me: anxious around new people, obsessed with cuddling, and a bit of a crybaby. I couldn’t deny that we did have a lot of similarities and our bond was incredible almost immediately. Everything seems perfect so far, right? In all actuality, while I was completely enamored with Chase, his time with us was far from easy. We live in a third floor apartment which made potty-training a challenge. He did learn to use a puppy pad but unfortunately, fully transitioning away from the puppy pad was something he couldn’t quite grasp in his time with us. We tried everything we could think of and he did make improvements, but he never became entirely potty-trained while with us. This became a large point of tension for everyone in the home. While I didn’t blame Chase at all (he was a puppy who was learning after all), it was very frustrating. This wasn’t the only challenge, but definitely the largest. Still, to me it was all worth it. We were giving a sweet puppy who had never known love a comfortable home full of all the love he could get. In return he was giving us his unconditional love and adoration, countless laughter with his goofy antics, and all the cute puppy kisses we could ever want. Frankly, he was my best friend (along with my dog, Calcifer, of course). This is where the hard part comes in. The part that makes every would-be foster wonder, “Is this something I can truly handle?” Giving him away. Not only giving him away, but actively trying to give him away.
The entire point of fostering is, of course, finding them a forever home. There is a wonderful video made by Kitten Lady on Youtube titled “GOODBYE is the goal of fostering!” She couldn’t be more accurate. Goodbye is ultimately the goal. One might think, “Wow, if you love him that much, why would you give him away? See, I couldn’t do that.” I truly thought I would feel that way when it came time to actually say goodbye to Chase. I was shocked when that wasn’t the case. After five months and quite a few adoption events, which were difficult for both of us because of how scared he was of new people, a couple finally put in an application for Chase and he was off to his trial run with his new potential family. I had many emotions leading up to the day I dropped him off at his potential new home. Would they be good enough for him? Is this the right thing for him? How difficult is this going to be for him, since he’s so attached to me? How difficult is this going to be for me, since I’m so attached to him? Saying goodbye was difficult. But more than that, it was a good thing! I was so happy and excited for this wonderful puppy who had so much love to give and deserved his forever home. I was anxious and constantly curious about how he was doing, but I was so excited for him. I was rooting for my boy! Ultimately, that home ended up not being the best choice for him due to owner inexperience. He did end up coming back to the rescue about a month later. We were all shocked and saddened, me more than anyone else. How could anyone not want this amazing puppy?! My heart was broken for him. It can be hard for Chase to open up to new people and form a bond, but once he does, he gets very attached. It hurt me that this poor, sweet boy had to go through losing two close bonds in a month. However, given the circumstances, we all knew this would be best for him in the long run. Now, instead of being stuck in a home that wasn’t the right fit for him, he would have another chance at finding his forever home. And he did! Just a few weeks later, he went into trial with another family. This time, it was the perfect fit. The family had fostered before and were already dog owners, so they had the experience that he needed. His trial went wonderfully and he is now a beloved member of the Koon family!
The Happy Ending
Yes, letting Chase go was difficult. After five months together, he was my baby and it was not easy saying goodbye. I cried and I miss him all the time. I loved him immensely and I still do. It was very bittersweet. However, watching him flourish and thrive with his new family makes it entirely worth it. Knowing how difficult it would be, I wouldn’t have changed a thing; I would do it all over again. I’ve recently been in contact with his new mom and she’s been keeping me updated and sending me photos of him. His new name is Okami (meaning “wolf” in Japanese), which fits him perfectly. He loves going to the beach and the dog park and getting into the trash can when his parents aren’t looking. We’re even setting up a play date soon and I’m so excited to see him again! So, while saying goodbye is hard, it’s worth it and it doesn’t always mean goodbye forever. Saying goodbye to a foster animal means, “Goodbye to your journey in my home, but hello to your wonderful new life with your forever family.” You may think that you could never open your home and heart to a foster animal, fall in love, and then be able to give it away when the time comes, but rest assured that you absolutely can, because it’s the best thing for them. At the end of the day, you just want what’s best for your foster. Once you take that plunge, you’ll not only understand, you’ll want to do it again and again and again. It’s an indescribable feeling being able to give an abandoned animal love and a home and then watching it flourish. Saying goodbye, despite how difficult it might be at times, is worth it every time. Okami (formerly Chase) proved that to me and I truly hope that you are able to give a foster animal a chance to prove that to you as well. I promise, you won’t regret it.