I’ve always liked dogs.
I wasn’t necessarily a ‘dog person.’ We always had a dog when I was growing up. A steady stream of strays and dogs that just happened into our lives. Truly, I never gave it much thought. I liked cats better. Especially once I hit young adulthood and lived in an apartment.
But now, somehow, dogs have taken over my life. My days, really my hours, revolve around dogs. Currently, we have four here at the house. Two are permanent residents and two are foster dogs only here for a spell awaiting the moment when their forever families find them.
As I write, our dog Gracie is sleeping to my left and our other dog, Frankie is gnawing on an antler (a real one he found in the woods).
Our foster Flannery is flitting in and out of the room. She is ever-busy, checking on foster dog Daisy who keeps erupting in barks in the kitchen (whenever a plow or truck makes its noisy way up the hollow) and pausing at my side, paw on leg, to be certain I don’t want to stop staring at this small gray box and come play.
In another hour, I will get up and take them out for a romp in the snow, maybe catching it on video so I can put it up on my Facebook page for potential Flannery adopters. Daisy will need a walk then, too.
This morning while digging out the run-in shed, that was nearly knee-deep in poop thanks to the constant snows, I imagined what my life would be like if I didn’t foster dogs. Surely, there would be more cats and horses, since my soul has an animal-shaped need to be filled, maybe even a fish tank again.
In our first house, Nick and I had a huge tank where the TV belonged in the built-in cabinet that covered one wall. We spent a lot of time watching those fish. (Can you imagine a life where there is time to watch fish? I sure wish I’d appreciated that when I had it.)
If I didn’t foster dogs, my house would be much, much cleaner. It would probably be more tastefully decorated, and I wouldn’t need to open/shut two gates to get from the kitchen to my office. The kitchen would be more spacious since there wouldn’t be an enormous dog crate consuming so much floor space (and there wouldn’t be the huge stain on the wood floor beneath it where some anonymous dog had an accident that went unnoticed too long). My chair rungs wouldn’t be gnarled and my windows wouldn’t be snotted. I’d have a lovely garden on my sideyard instead of a puppy fence.
If I didn’t foster dogs, I’d have more time for myself – I wouldn’t have canceled my Y membership because I’d have plenty of time to take classes in step, weight-training, and X-bike like I used to. By now, I would most certainly have taken up yoga. I’d be able to wear snaggable sweaters and yoga pants without runs or a layer of dog hair.
I’d have a lot more disposable income since I wouldn’t spend it on Bark Boxes and treats and grain-free dog food and expensive indestructible toys (that Frankie can usually destruct). I wouldn’t own my Honda Element because there would be no need for a car that fits an assembled large crate and that you can hose out.
If I didn’t foster dogs, our attic wouldn’t house boxes of donated blankets and towels, extra crates, several puppy pens, garbage bags of homemade dog toys for the shelters, and other miscellaneous dog paraphernalia. Instead, maybe we would have a pingpong table or a satellite office tricked out with nice furniture. My mudroom would be filled with plants wintering over and seedlings getting started, as it used to be this time of year until it began to fill up with a constant stream of puppies.
If I didn’t foster dogs, I’d also see my friends more often because I wouldn’t be rearranging my schedule around transports, adoption events, and meet & greets with adopters. I would go out more instead of staying home, ‘hanging out with the dogs’ (although truth be told, we prefer to and it’s much less expensive).
Nick and I could get away to Florida and escape this incessant cold and snow and ice, and take advantage of free housing in the form of his father’s place. And when we did get away, we wouldn’t have to factor in whether they allow dogs and what activities we could plan that would include dogs or pony up serious cash to pay a house/horse/dog sitter.
But, if I didn’t foster dogs, I would have missed out on the opportunity to love 137 dogs and help them find their families.
I would never have met Gala, who taught me just how complicated and beautiful a dog’s soul can be.
And I would not have met Daisy and found the firm bottom of my heart holding puppies whose lives flickered out as quickly as they started.
And I would never have adopted Frankie, who makes my heart smile every day.
If I didn’t foster dogs, I would never have been surrounded by so many dog-hearted people who will drop everything to help a friend (or a dog) and show up at my house despite their own inconvenience. I wouldn’t be a part of the OPH family, people who ‘get it’ and who support me, cheer me on, and jump in to catch me when necessary.
I would never have been surprised and inspired by the generosity of strangers who help to pay the vet bill of a dog they will never meet or to fund a shelter many states away.
I would never have become a part of lives so foreign to my own, simply because we have both loved the same dog, or witnessed the ‘adoption magic’ that happens again and again proving that there is someone for everyone.
I would never have met so many heroes fighting to save lives despite all odds, too-small budgets, under-invested communities, and a never-ending stream of unwanted dogs.
I wouldn’t have met people from all over the world who, like me, enjoy a good dog story. I would never have been on television (multiple times), or radio or mentioned in People magazine or featured in the New York Post on a very bad hair day. And I would have written more novels, because I wouldn’t feel compelled to write about dogs day after day after day.
If I didn’t foster dogs, my life would not be nearly as rich. I would not know how much I am capable of doing or how strong I can be when necessary.
I wouldn’t have my heart broken and filled over and over and over again on a near daily basis.
If I never fostered dogs, my life would be much simpler, but somehow, I’m pretty sure, I’d be wondering what was missing instead of looking forward to the adventures to come, and hoping they include a lot of dogs.
I had lunch yesterday with a writing friend who has fostered a few dogs herself. She said, “Fostering is hard. I never realized that.”
It is hard. And beautiful. And instructive. And so, so, so much a part of who I am now.
Honestly, I can’t imagine my life without foster dogs in it.
Thanks for reading
If you’d like to know more about the book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, visit AnotherGoodDog.org, where you can find more pictures of the dogs from the book (and some of their happily-ever-after stories), information on fostering, the schedule of signings, and what you can do right now to help shelter animals! You can also purchase a signed copy or several other items whose profits benefit shelter dogs!
If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more pictures and videos of my foster dogs past and present, be sure to join the Another Good Dog Facebook group.
One more thing! If you’d like to follow along on the upcoming OPH Rescue Road Trip, be sure to like/follow our Road Trip Facebook page. We’ll be sharing lots of pictures and stories of the dogs and people we meet in the rural shelters.
Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available now