Saturday, September 10, 2016

Crazy love

Five or so years ago, I learned about this opportunity that exists out there called "animal fostering".  I'd heard of foster homes for children, of course, but I had no idea there were people who took in animals who needed temporary homes.  Being a crazy animal lover, I was immediately drawn to the idea.  I don't remember Stu being vehemently against it but....he may have been.  He likes our pets just fine but he'd also like living in a pet-free house just as well.  If you've known me for very long or very well at all, you know that once I get an idea in my head, it doesn't shake loose easily.  I doubt it was very many days before we had our first foster dog in our house.

A lot of people think it's crazy to take animals into your house when you don't know their history. I will admit, it's a risk.  I am exceedingly careful introducing new animals to my children and to my own animals.  And it's still probably crazy.  But our house is full of crazy love.  And we've found it works really well for us.  I have a crazy love for animals and my husband has a crazy love for me.  In a span of about 4 years, we fostered approximately 40 dogs, puppies, and kittens.

Then, in God's perfect timing, I suddenly and immediately felt overwhelmed with the dog rescue world and with fostering and decided to take a break.  Shortly thereafter, I learned the Lord had nudged me in this direction because instead of tenderly caring for helpless animals for a while, I tenderly cared for my dying mother for about 4 months while she she succumbed to cancer.  My mom died on August 20, 2015 and I learned a valuable lesson about God's timing.  We may not understand why a door closes at the time but looking back after time has passed gives a whole new perspective.  I'm so grateful for how things played out now but at time I was hurt and sad.

Fast forward about 13 months.  It's been 13 months since my best friend went to Heaven.  I know I'll see her again but I don't know how long I'll have to wait until then.  When we stopped fostering animals in the Spring of 2015, we had one dog.  We still share our home with Zoe but since then, we adopted a puppy from the Animal Humane Society and named her Petunia, took in a retired breeding female named Sierra, and took in my mom's cat, Savvy.  

We decided our little zoo was full and it made sense, even after my mom was gone, to not go back to fostering.  In addition, I was absolutely wracked by grief and had no room in my heart to care for anyone or anything but what was essential. As time passed, the grief has eased somewhat and though I still miss my mom more than I thought I ever would, I've started opening back up to being able to do some things that I just didn't have the capacity for in the last year.  I didn't know that I was open to considering fostering again until I offered to kitten-sit for a friend while she was out of town for a week.

My friend adopted Bella and Sam shortly before leaving on a planned family camping trip.  Bella had been having seizures and my friend was not comfortable leaving the kittens at home with the neighbor periodically checking on them.  Thankfully, Bella never had a seizure while staying with us and blessedly, she's never had a seizure again.  Caring for these two little souls who were in need and  providing peace of mind for my friend reminded me of the joy of fostering animals.  Not only do I get satisfaction from helping the animals in need, I absolutely love the difference I make for people and families who get to adopt a new furry family member.  I actually didn't voice my rekindled interest in fostering out loud.  Not to Stu and not really even to myself.  Yet, Stu and I share a crazy love and he knew before I did.  A few weeks after we sent Bella and Sam home, he looked at me seemingly out of the blue and said, "I know how much you love to foster animals.  I know our house is full.  But if fostering makes you happy, you should start doing it again."  I slept on it for a few nights, prayed about it, and the more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to try it again.

I researched rescue organizations, trying to decide which one would be the best to foster for.  Ultimately, I chose the Animal Humane Society for a couple reasons.  The first reason is that the animals that need foster care through this organization are the most in need - they are sick, recovering from surgery, too young and/or tiny to be adopted yet, or are pregnant.  These are my favorite animals to help.  I've had experience over the years nursing animals back to health after major surgeries and even whelping a litter of puppies.  I taught myself how to do this and now this organization could use the skills I have!  It felt like a perfect fit.  The other reason I think AHS is the right fit for us is that these animals need care for very specific, often short-ish time periods.  When fostering for a non-shelter rescue organization, you are committing to house and care for an animal for an open-ended period of time: until they get adopted.  This could be a couple weeks or could be a couple months or even years.  Our family is busy and just keeps getting busier as the kids get older.  In order to effectively incorporate fostering into our lives, it is best for us to know how long an animal will be with us so we can plan around that.  After impatiently moving through the somewhat slow but very thorough process of becoming a foster for AHS, I picked up our first AHS foster dog, Terrence, yesterday.

I received an e-mail earlier this week, letting all potential AHS fosters know that a 16 pound terrier mix named Terrence needed foster care for two weeks.  He was being treated for heart worm infestation and was noted to be easygoing and affectionate by AHS staff.  He needed to be given an antibiotic every day for the next week or so and would need to be returned to AHS near the end of September to receive his final heart worm treatment injection and then go up for adoption.  That was all I knew.  After sleeping on it for a couple days, I decided we were the right family for Terrence.  I sent a message letting the foster coordinator know I'd be picking him up.  When I got there, I learned Terrence also has kennel cough and all of his man parts since he's been too sick to undergo his neuter surgery.  Crazy as it is to bring a small, un-neutered male into a house where three spayed females live (male dogs don't care whether a female is spayed, they're still interested), home he came with me.  And he's been a perfect house guest in every way.  No potty accidents in the house, quiet in his kennel, no humping of the female residents, friendly and affectionate towards everyone, and no desire to kill the cat.  He coughs a little and needs to be kept very restful at all times because too much activity could dislodge chunks of heart worm and result in death.  But his presence fills all our hearts.  My crazy love for animals and Stu's crazy love for me equals a loving, caring, temporary home for Terrence while he recuperates and readies himself for his new forever family.

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