Two months ago I agreed to foster a German Shepard named "Penelope" or as we like to call her "Penny" she was Born December 31st 2012. Two weeks later and Penny was "officially adopted" by "US." We moved to a new place two days prior to her arrival. Exactly one month later January 31st Gallagher was born and had the opportunity to come up on transport from Tennessee. I got a call about a week sooner about being a Foster parents again. My heart ached. "I responded ... I'll talk to my boyfriend"
His response was "NO, are you crazy? Have you literally lost your mind? You can't possibly think this is a good idea. We haven't even unpacked moving boxes, we have a four month old puppy, a 110 pound Golden the size of a Deer, and don't even get me started on your turtle! You run your own business for christ sakes not to mention I work the night shift. This is not a good idea... My response..."I agree it's totally wrong, it's such a bad idea, we have so much on our plate. I could not possibly agree with you more it's a terrible idea.... But if we won't do it who will?"
His eyes met mine and he shook his head and pointed behind me. Penny was peeing behind me on our new carpet as Tobin watched her in complete utter disgust. I turned around and blankly looked at him. Dumfounded, I looked for words. But he was right. He knew it...Deep inside I did too. I sunk my head down and picked up Penny to take her outside to the bathroom muttering under my breath "your not helping my case kid."
I walked downstairs and heard a yell from upstairs: "Adrienne I swear! You better not get attached!"
So whats the point of my bittersweet dog story?
730 hours ago I drove two hours to arrive at a transport shelter. Disheveled, Hair a mess, fishing through my pocket book for paper work. I said to the woman "I'm here to get attached to a dog I can't keep!" She looked up from her desk and smiled. Whats the name? "Gallagher" I softly replied. An eleven pound German Shepard. Chow. Akita. Lab Mix. (Yes, a mouthful of a mix) was brought from the back room and placed at my feet. I read and signed the paperwork as his leash followed behind him wondering around my legs and tangling beneath me.
His eyes paced around the room in worry. He sniffed the floor. His tail between his legs, he shook in fear. I finally untangled myself enough to bend over and pet him. His fur grazed the palm of my hand and I first noticed how soft he was. "Nice to meet you. I'm your new foster mom."
His eyes finally met mine. They were a sparkling shade of the ocean. Such a blue I had never seen, in a dog's eyes nonetheless. I looked deep into them and wondered what he was thinking. My feet suddenly became warm and then warmer. I took two steps back, looked at my sandals my bare feet covered in dog urine..."Fantastic, nice to meet you too!" He sat quietly in the back seat sleeping for the two hour drive.
Day 1: I entered the house a little weary of what would happen with the dogs. He sniffed penny she sniffed him. They started running around the house wrestling and playing. I was relieved they liked each other. Tobin lifted his head off the couch cocked his head to the side looked blankly at the two dogs wrestling. He watched them nip at eachothers ears and necks for a few seconds. Placed his head back down on his paws, closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep.
Night 1: He whimpered in his crate. Penny in the crate next to him desperately trying to claw her way into his. More whining, more clawing. We all finally settled to sleep...many many hours later.
Day 2: After having a full 2 hours of sleep that night I realized this was not going to be as easy as I thought. I moved 3 computers home and set up a mobile office in our dining room so I could work from home to watch the dogs during the day. Things seemed to slowly be fitting into place. I struggled to potty train not one but two puppies. Frequently carrying both of them down the stairs outside every few hours. The first time I placed Gallagher on the ground his paws delicately walked over freshly mowed grass. He was unsure of the ground beneath him and I came to the realization a shelter puppy may not have gotten out as much. This was probably the first time he felt the tickle of grass under his feet. I'd continue this ritual after every meal and often throughout the day. They would sit staring blankly at me. I used phrases like "do your business " and "go potty."
Night 2. Maybe we should put them in the same crate with a divider? I placed the divider up. They whimpered and whined for a few minutes and then silence. I fell asleep smiling like a new mom who had finally gotten her newborn to sleep. The next morning I groggily woke, I looked over to a dog create that looked like it been something out of a Jurassic Park movie…I focused my eyes again to make sure what I was seeing was real. Panic flushed my body, I became hot thinking the worst. What the hell happened?! I stumbled out of bed and over and found the divider completely removed from the wire grips. The wires were distorted bending upwards. In disbelief I found two peacefully sleeping dogs. Cuddling next to each other in the smallest area of the crate they would both fit. They continued this night after night softly curled up to one another. Sometimes they would snuggle, other times they would each pick a side. But at all times their paws needed to touch, maybe they found comfort in that.
Day 3-30: Working from home was not as easy as I thought. I was frequently distracted. They chewed carpet, ate plants, traipsed delicately over brand new furniture following each-other. Penny used remotes as chew toys and Gallagher choose computer wires to floss. They tore apart at least 1 dog bed a week. Gallagher had a habit of climbing directly into clean laundry baskets to relieve himself.
I remember him taking his first weary steps down a staircase. I was exuberantly waiting at the bottom coaxing him each step. He reached the bottom step and made a leap into my arms. Gallagher from this point on would take his time on staircases, slowly stopping each on each step and sitting before placing a paw on the next. Penny on the other hand used the staircase as her own private slide. She would have run up and down the staircase at least 3-4 times before he even made it to the bottom. Gallagher, never made it up the stairs in our time together. I tried teaching him for weeks. I couldn't figure out if he was lazy or just enjoyed being carried. My arms snuggled around him as we walked up the steps he would rest his head on my shoulder. Part of me never wanted him to learn.
Both of them only a month apart yet so different in so many ways. Penny was a curious exuberant puppy. She never stopped moving. Climbed everything and anything. I would find them together, her fearlessly walking across the dinning room table like a tight rope walker. Him bellow mellowly sitting only his eyes moved watching each of her steps. He was the calm to her storm. His eyes followed me around the kitchen as I cooked. Penny on the other hand stuck her head in every cabinet opened, made a habit of appearing when the refrigerator door opened. The dishwasher became a jungle gym filled with snacks, licking plates as she climbed over. Gallagher would eat, as he made it towards the end he would catch a glimpse of himself in stainless bowl. Confused he would bark at himself, which would cause penny to bark and then Tobin in suit would follow. Soon I switched him to a plastic bowl and dishes began piling in the sink because one dog made a habit of climbing in the dishwasher and the other was afraid of his own reflection.
Gallagher always loved human dinnertime. We would all sit and he'd circle around underneath the table finally settling on a place to sit, sprawled directly across someones feet.They made me laugh, they made me smile, sometimes curse. But, my heart felt whole. Pieces I did't know I had missing inside me suddenly became filled. We never left a room without a shadow of two dogs following. Penny out of curiosity and Gallagher, well Gallagher just followed her.
The dogs played every waking moment. Gallagher licked our faces, licked our neighbors faces, licked the mailman's face. He greeted everyone he met with a wagging tail. He made hearts melt. He became a fixture in our home. In our hearts, and everyone who surrounded our lives. Friends and family would stop by to visit him. My mother always buying a toy for him or a matching handkerchief to Tobin's for his neck. I reminded her we would not be keeping him. "But that doesn't mean he shouldn't feel left out or like he isn't apart of the family"
She was right. He was apart of our life and I realized something. I did the very thing I said I wouldn't, I got attached. The dogs, my boyfriend, my parents, friends. They all got attached. Some of my clients, the mailman, our neighbors, our neighbors kids....even the crazy cat lady down the street who hates dogs somehow got attached.….So it was not just me, everyone got attached.
I got the call from the rescue group. "Adrienne we think we found a good fit" Or so they thought. probably turned down four applicant's before them. We set up a meeting and the possible adoptive parents drove 3 hours to meet Gallagher. I had anxiety, what if they are a bad fit? What if they don't take care of him? What if he misses penny. What penny misses him. I cried over and over and the thought. They arrived, we answered the door and shook their hands. I felt a lump forming in my throat. I nodded my head at basic conversation topics. Then Tracy said "We've been waiting 3 years after our last dog passed. No dog was felt right. Then I saw a photograph of him next to a fire hydrant online. It just clicked, I fell in love at the computer"
My boyfriends elbow jabbed my side. I admit it was ironic. I smiled and replied "I'm a professional photographer I took the photographs for his adoption file and application" The words tasted bad coming out my mouth and the lump in my throat seem to get bigger. I wish I had another profession, why didn't I become a Dentist I thought to myself?
Then Tracey looked directly into my eyes and said this must be really hard for you?
My eyes watered embarrassed I quickly turned and said "Well ill go get the little guy!"
I carried him down the stairs this time, I wanted to feel him against my body "the dog I wasn't supposed to get attached to" I placed Gallagher at their feet. They looked down at him and smiled. Full of hope, they both bent down and began petting him, he licked their faces. His tail wagged....Then...they stepped back and gawked at me in shock. I looked down at the puddle of urine surrounding them. I cleared my throat and apologized. I flashed back to the day I picked him up my feet warm. Maybe it was fate, or his way of telling us, this is them. My heart stopped aching, the lump in my throat diminished. I wasn't worried, scared....I was just overcome with a feeling of faith and joy. I couldn't have picked a better home for Gallagher. His new parents are not only adopting him but were somehow convinced to adopting his brother "Garrett" I'd like to take credit for it but I think it was as they watched Gallagher and Penny wrestle in the grass and they felt all the things I did when I saw them together. They are the most adoring people I have come to meet and I couldn't be more happier about his forever home.
So for those of you who say "I could never foster. I would get attached."
My response to you is this. You might not...But if you are lucky enough, you will. You'll get attached and it will be the most precious feeling you've ever felt. When that dog finally makes it to a family you will have been apart of something special…Maybe even a little but of a miracle because without foster parents the system would fail. The dogs that spend that short amount of time with will learn. Whether it be companionship, patience, obedience or even taking some steps down a flight of stairs. Now what you don't take into consideration is the realization you will learn more from them.
Because of you, those new parents will have a dog...and not just a dog a best friend. They will feel things like unconditional love, constant companionship. A warm heartbeat at the foot of their bed, and a wagging tail to greet them with every return home.
"If you won't do it who will?"