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 Frank and Oreo, who taught me that big boy dogs are sometimes the best ones.
I would never have had the pleasure of listening to Whoopie or Carla howl as only a hounddog can.
I would never have enjoyed so many hours of snuggles and smiles that puppies offer in abundance or been awed by canine examples of motherhood like Edith or Schuyler.
I would never have been taught by Chuggy and Okeriete and Flannery O’Connor that small dogs are not large rodents, but actually enormous dogs in tiny bodies who provide endless entertainment.
I would never have met Gala, who taught me just how complicated and beautiful a dog’s soul can be.
I would never have met Estelle and Darlin’ and Dixie and been privileged to witness the miracle of seeing puppies come into this world.
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.
I wouldn’t know the heart-wrenching wonder of seeing a terrified, shut-down dog come into its own as I did with Hadley, Meredith, Bambi, and now Daisy.
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 my blogs and books, visit CaraWrites.com or subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter (which is rarely monthly, but I’m working at it…everybody needs a goal).
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.
I love hearing from readers, so please feel free to comment here on the blog, email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram.
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
14 thoughts on “If I Never Fostered Dogs….”
Your posts always lift my spirits and keep me wanting to foster. Thank you for sharing your life and stories.
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I’m glad Samantha! someday you will!
That was really beautiful, Cara! Thank you for writing it.
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Perhaps you could post stories from your book onto this blog in a series of blog posts? Then, people who may be on budgets and unable to get a hard copy of your book could read them, or people who’ve read your book but would like an easy way to share a certain story could do so through your blog’s post-sharing options. I’m working my way through your blog, reading through your older posts in reverse order, from newest to oldest, which is the easiest way for me to navigate your page. I enjoy dog stories too, and encourage you to keep writing and posting videos.
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Thanks Ana – if you go all the way back, you’ll hear most of the stories in the book, but the hardback and even the audiobook is also available at most libraries. I just heard from a reader in Ontario who listened to the audiobook from her library!
I loved reading this. I understand. I will help in someway.
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I’m not crying, you are! 😉
Thank you so much for all that you share. I can’t wait to have a home of my own where I can foster. For now, I’ll donate, and live vicariously through you ❤
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Thanks Kelsey! I can’t wait for you to be able to foster too!
I didn’t know that there was an audiobook as well. Did you record it? I’ll look for it… audiobooks are always nice.:)
I didn’t record it – the publisher uses actors for that, but the Xe Sands, the woman who reads it does an excellent job (and she’s a dog person!).
Thank you for the read, I enjoyed it very much. Your feeling on fostering are the same as mine. After my wife and I passed a hundred fosters we stopped counting and that was a couple of years ago, the question I am always asked is “How can you let them go?” and my answer is always the same “If I don’t let them go , I can not save another.” Here is the reason I foster:
The Reason ! To Foster
I would’ve died that day if not for you.
I would’ve given up on life if not for your kind eyes.
I would’ve used my teeth in fear if not for your gentle hands.
I would have left this life believing that all humans don’t care
Believing there is no such thing as fur that isn’t matted
skin that isn’t flea bitten
good food and enough of it
beds to sleep on
someone to love me
to show me I deserve love just because I exist.
Your kind eyes, your loving smile, your gentle hands
Your big heart saved me…
You saved me from the terror of the pound,
Soothing away the memories of my old life.
You have taught me what it means to be loved.
I have seen you do the same for other dogs like me.
I have heard you ask yourself in times of despair
Why you do it
When there is no more money, no more room, no more homes
You open your heart a little bigger, stretch the money a little tighter
Make just a little more room…to save one more like me.
I tell you with the gratitude and love that shines in my eyes
In the best way I know how
Reminding you why you go on trying.
I am the reason
The dogs before me are the reason
As are the ones who come after.
Our lives would’ve been wasted, our love never given
We would die if not for you.
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This is beautiful Joe! Did you write it? I’d love to post it on my Another Good Dog facebook page. Thank you for opening hour home and hearts to so many dogs! While I hope to follow in your footsteps and foster hundreds of dogs, I also dearly hope that someday our work is no longer necessary. Blessings to you and your family.