I remember when I saw Pocket’s photo on a mailing that went around from the shelter to local rescues asking if someone could take the tiny being. All of about 5 pounds and unknown medical conditions swirling about her, my heart skipped a beat. Could Pit Bull Rescue San Diego afford to take on the medical risks? If so, I wanted to be her foster parent. There was not a question in my mind, as my heart had already taken the leap.
I’ve had little Pocket with me for 4 months now. She’s endured literally 20-30 hours of tests and procedures, scrutiny and research all to no avail in discovering why a dog that should now be 50-55 pounds remains around 18 pounds. A DNA test was donated by a loving fan of hers which came back essentially to show that she is a pit bull and not some sort of buffed out Chihuahua.
She’s had quite a busy 4 months. She’s won a Halloween costume contest, been shown on a news segment, is Miss April in the Pit Bull Rescue San Diego 2010 calendar, and graduated puppy kindergarten with honors. She comes to work with me every day and has played submissively with dogs from shepherds to cockapoos to rottweilers, chihuahuas and pit bulls.
However, who she has really won over, as pit bulls that are allowed to be pets always do, are the people. Other than her size, she is every bit a typical pit bull – people friendly, happy, playful, cuddly and spunky. Her ever wagging tail, apologetic nuzzling nose and stretching reaching eager tongue beg to be acknowledged whenever someone is near. I think everyone at work knows Pocket’s name and we are greeted both at the office and in the neighboring community with choruses of “Hi Pocket”, “Yes, that’s Pocket and shes’ a miniature pit bull”, “Is that the famous Pocket?”, “When is she going to be up for adoption?” and the more common one lately “Are you going to keep her?” I am Pocket’s foster mom and, for most people, I think that’s as far as name recognition for me goes – and that’s fine. The focus should be on wonderful rescued dogs and it should be on the wonderful job of creating an ambassador out of your foster pup.
Pocket will be put up for adoption on January 15. This past weekend she attended her first adoption event. We tied on a little lime green bandanna that screamed “adoptable” and she hung out with the rest of the lime and orange bandanna’ed adoptable pit bulls outside the PETCO in Mira Mesa, California. She was a trooper, kissing passers by, smiling at the children, play bowing to the other dogs and posing for a photo to post on the site. Little did she know the twinges of pain each happy wag of her tail caused me. I wanted to scream out “don’t be so cute!” or “no, not that person”. She, however, has no idea that she needs a home. That’s because I’ve done what I was supposed to as a foster parent. I’ve given her love and training and rules and security and socialization and food and shelter – in other words, a home. She has given me love and kisses and laughter and companionship and some amount of challenge and education. This is all the part of fostering that I love; welcoming a new being into my house, making her a part of my family, watching her become healthy and well adjusted and, dare I say it, adoptable. I’ve gotten the best part of fostering for the last four months.
The worst part of fostering, for me, is what’s coming up. She has now been cleared by the vet for adoption. There are no foreseeable medical conditions other than some allergies that can be managed and a pesky addiction to raisins. She will be placed on http://www.pbrsd.com and on Petfinder and I’m certain applications will start to roll in. Thankfully there is a team that reviews applications since I might be tempted to turn them all down – too big of a home, too small of a home, too many dogs, too few, too perfect of an application so there must be something wrong… However, I know from experience (I’ve had 16 fosters so far) that there will eventually be an app that comes in that outshines the rest, that is a home better for her than I could provide. I am realistic – I am a really good pet parent, but I am not necessarily the best pet home or parent for every dog. There is always something, as folks with children will likely attest, that I wish more for my baby. That person will come along where I see Pocket living a wonderful forever life with them getting something, whatever that is, that I can’t give her. I will start to feel like maybe, just maybe, I can give her up.
People often comment to me that they couldn’t foster because it would be too hard. Really, the fostering part is not hard at all. It is beyond fulfilling. It’s the giving up part that is hard. Would I pass up the 4 months of joy that I’ve had with Pocket because I’m about to have 1 week of sadness? No way! And really, when you think about it, isn’t the best part of any relationship the “falling in love” part anyway? So yes, I will cry for three or four days and probably my golden, Borrego, will go off her food for a day wondering where Pocket went. But, in the big picture, Pocket will just be gone from my house and not gone from the world as she would have been had Pit Bull Rescue San Diego not found someone to foster her. And my heart and home will be opened again to meet the next dog I’m destined to fall in love with. Unless I give up this foster, my home can’t be open to save another dog.
I really do fall this much in love every single time. Trust me, I always wonder if this is the one I’m supposed to keep. I always think “but this one is special”. I wonder if they will feel like I abandoned them. I wonder if they will love the new people as much as they love me. Sometimes I know for sure that they won’t fit into my home forever – Borrego doesn’t like them or they have a habit that’s a deal breaker for me – but I find that I am always head over heels in love with them anyhow. I’ve discovered that when they leave, they do bond with the next people as much as me; they don’t seem to feel abandoned; their recovery time from the transition is about a week but they do recover and they do love and they do make the new place their home. I typically keep in contact with all the adoptive families and I’ve been lucky to be able to meet up with many of my foster pups after they’ve been adopted. I see the joy that this dog I loved to life brings to their lives and I always know that I’ve done the right thing. Someone told me a long time ago, before I fostered my first dog, that if you can give up your first foster, you will learn that you do survive and that it is ok even though you cry just a little bit for a short amount of time. Truly, I would rather cry than know that an animal died because I was afraid to cry.
The most common excuse I hear is “But I’m afraid I would be too much in love with them and keep them.” Wow, is it really ok with you that there is an animal out there that you think you could fall that much in love with that has to die because you are afraid you will give them a forever loving home?
According to United States Humane Society estimations, approximately 10,000 animals are euthanized in shelters every single day, 365 days a year, totaling 3-4 million pets killed every year*. And those may be conservative numbers. Out of that number, approximately 2700 pit bulls are euthanized every day – just under 1,000,000 a year**.
Many of these dogs and cats are put down for no other reason than to clear space for incoming animals. Maybe they have medical issues the shelter doesn’t have the means to treat (like the testing that was needed for Pocket), or a behavioral issue that just needs a few weeks that they don’t have time or staffing for to correct, or there is simply too many of one particular breed in that shelter at the time. Maybe on the day that behavior evaluations were happening, that particular dog or cat was scared or lonely or cold or feeling a bit hormonal. For most dogs and cats, they only get that one chance to prove they have a right to live. Rescue organizations give them a second chance – a voice where they have none. One of the biggest reasons that most rescues cannot rescue all the needy pets out there is a lack of foster parents.
Please look into fostering dogs in your community because that truly is a gift beyond money.