adopters, Billie Jean, dog rescue, former foster dogs, fosterdogs, returned dogs

A Dog I Once Fostered…

Billie Jean is launched.

Gosh how I hope this time it sticks. I think it is a good match, but we never really know until she goes home.

I’m still awaiting word. I haven’t heard anything since a quick text from her adopter while they were driving home (four hours to northern New Jersey). She said Billie Jean, now Piper, was sleeping in the back seat most of the time, occasionally standing up and putting her head between the seats to give a few kisses.

This is the hard part for fosters. Many of us cry.

I rarely cry at the moment of saying goodbye. For me, it is these first few days after the dog is gone that are hardest. Especially when it’s a dog like Billie Jean who I’ve had such a long history with. We had her for two months the first time around and about a month this time too. Long enough that she bonded hard, and I fell in love with her.

So these first few days that she is in her new home are hard for me because I’m certain that she is confused, that she is missing me, probably looking for me and wondering when I’m coming for her.

 There’s no way to prepare her for the separation, no way to explain that this goodbye is for the best. I tried. She listened carefully. She has such a bright, sharp mind that I wondered if she didn’t understand a little, but then I saw her worried brow when I waved goodbye. She loves car rides and hopped happily into her new family’s car. Once strapped in, though, she waited for me to get in too, but I didn’t.

I’m anthropomorphizing in a huge way, I know that. Dogs’ minds are likely much simpler than all that. I wish I could believe that they don’t miss or mourn people who leave them, but I can’t. They endure so much more than we do and it’s unfair to say, ‘She’s just a dog, she’ll get over it.’

She will. I know that, but I don’t ever discount the pain she will go through to do it.

Dogs do seem to ‘bounce back’ much more quickly that we do. They trust the new people and give them the benefit of the doubt, despite every reason not to. Billie Jean, Piper, is probably already following her new people, snuggling beside them and collapsing on the floor and rolling over in the brazen way she begs for belly rubs. I’ll hear soon enough that she is happy.

When I told her goodbye, I said, “I hope I never see you again.”

And I do hope that. But gosh, she is such a special girl and I am so glad I got to love on her. I am so grateful that her first adopters had the courage to return her. I do believe her best life is just beginning. The life she is meant to have, but then again maybe the journey she’s had so far was necessary for her to land where she is – with a young woman who is thrilled beyond reason to have her in her life.

And maybe the rest of us—my family, Geraldine, her first adopters—were meant to have had her in our lives too. I’m certainly glad I’ve known her–she is a special pup. I told her new adopter that I believe she’s a once-in-a-lifetime dog. And while I love every dog I’ve fostered, I don’t say that very often.

Billie Jean’s adoption is a 30-day trial. We want to be absolutely sure this is it, with no pressure on her new family. Her new mom understands that it will take about three weeks before she will be settled and relaxed enough for the full-Billie Jean to come out. And after that?

If all goes as I imagine, she will become Piper, the once-in-a-lifetime heart dog of a lucky young woman.

 And Billie Jean will just be this awesome little cattle dog I once fostered.

We’ll welcome back a previous foster pup this afternoon. Fanny has all her tug toys ready! Be sure to follow the Another Good Dog facebook group to see the reunion.

Thanks for reading!

Cara

If you’d like regular updates of all my foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips from OPH training, be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.

For information on me, my writing, and books, visit CaraWrites.com where you can also find more information on my new book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One  Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, (Pegasus Books, July 2020) or on the book’s very own Facebook page and Instagram account.

And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org. You can also hear stories of our shelter visits on our brand new podcast! Please comment, subscribe, and share wherever you get your podcasts!

Our family fosters through the all-breed rescue, Operation Paws for Homes, a network of foster homes in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and south-central PA.

If you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. It’s available anywhere books are sold.

I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

13 thoughts on “A Dog I Once Fostered…”

  1. I understand those feelings all too well! I wonder if routine helps them in the transition and maybe keeps their mind off of the confusion. Familiar toys, smells, schedules, copious notes, food, and treats all go with my foster dogs. Does it help? I don’t know, but I feel like I’ve done everything within my power (except move with them?) to help ease the transition so all they have to focus on is developing new relationships with those that now love them like I do.

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  2. I don’t get choked up normally reading these stories but this one hits my heart and put a lump in my throat. I hope Piper’s new mom sends you pictures you can share with us! I think we all need to know she’s happy and free and in love with her new owner.

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    1. Hopefully we’ll hear something soon – and hopefully she’ll put some pictures on the FB group! She seems like a very patient person and prepared to let Billie settle in slowly without rushing the relationship (although I have a feeling Billie will bond quickly)

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  3. I pull and foster a lot of shy, sometimes even feral dogs that probably would not get out of the shelters unless someone who understands them pulls them. Just like when Billy Jean was returned, It takes time, patience, and understanding to give these dogs confidence and make them realize that no one is going to hurt or abuse them. Then, once they finally bond and start trusting the person handling them, the big question is how will they respond in a new environment? I try to get them out in the public as much as possible, in various situations to make them comfortable with their new family. All this takes time, love, and a strong bond which definitely makes their leaving harder than the happy, friendly, easy-to-place fosters.

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    1. That’s one thing I wish I’d had a chance to do – get her out places. It was a busy time while she was here and with COVID, I’m kind of being a home body. I am going to try to get my new foster out, though, even if it’s just to Home Depot!

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  4. (Cont’d)I always have that lump-in-throat, pain-in-the-chest feeling when a foster leaves and doubly when a shy, hard-to-place foster goes to his/her family. It is not until I get great pics that I know they are in the right place and safe.

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  5. I really admire your strength in fostering so many dogs. I don’t know if I could let a dog go after I’ve bonded with is, just for the reasons you state. I really hope this new adoption works our for Billie Jean….and thank you for what you’ve done for her and so many other dogs.

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