I wasn’t sure I could foster another dog after this one we’ve got now, Merlin. Don’t get me wrong; he’s incredibly cool, but my kid needs a break. My husband needs a break. I want to stay up until 4 a.m. if I feel like it without having to worry about being up again in five hours or less to walk a little guy. Plus, it was hard saying goodbye to our last dude.
And the cats . . . the cats need to recoup and reclaim for a minute before they claw my eyes out while I’m sleeping or something.
You’ve got to balance your home, first and foremost, and I’m not losing focus of that goal.
As a compromise, we decided to visit the boarding facility where the dogs without fosters live. I figured they could use someone to show them some love between adoption events.
When my husband and I arrived to meet the other volunteers, it was like that scene from The Matrix where the camera pans out to reveal a gazillion people living in small pods. Row after row after row of dogs in chain-linked runs stretched out for as far as I could see and all around. The barking was deafening; my husband pulled out earplugs from his pocket. There was no sneaking up on anybody in this place.
The other volunteers had already escorted our group’s seven dogs to the play area, and I was pretty impressed with how nice those were. I’d been overwhelmed by the amount of dogs in boarding, even if most of them had homes with out-of-town families. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to help me feel better because I could tell there were still a large amount of dogs living there, waiting for someone to permanently adopt them from the weekly events and online placement services.
In fairness, the facility was a nice spot — clean, ace views, inside-and-outside runs. I’m definitely not knocking the place. It’s just that I was sad thinking about our Merlin at home and how it would break his heart if we had to board him until we could find his forever family. Merlin’s a sensitive dog, wants to be around his peeps, and has gotten used to a warm bed and lots of walks and playtime. I wish we could keep him, but he really needs a family with kids or another dog. As much as Merlin likes our cats, they’ll never be the dog friends he deserves.
I helped guide the dogs back to their “apartments” after playtime. One of them was really upset and was hard to get back through the gate. I knew he wanted to hang out some more, to find a home of his own. He knew it was gonna be another day before he was petted again and clung to my knees. Leaning over, I hugged the older black lab mix and tried to explain how lucky he was even if he didn’t understand. He accepted the bone I gave him, set it down to lick my hand, and then picked his treat up again before settling into his temporary home. (I thought about him all night. Good dog.)
As the group prepared to walk out together, I kept thinking about how glad I was that I’d decided to come. I would have never understood how important it was otherwise. The experience made me want to get back to Merlin, hug him on the couch, and promise him I’d be there for him as long as he needed us. After all, it’s not his fault that he ended up at the pound, narrowly escaping unwarranted death.
That’s when my eyes welled up, and I broke out in tears in the middle of the compound. Right in front of everybody I knew and didn’t know. Embarrassing. I just want the world to be an easier place. It isn’t, and there’s not so much I can do to change it. Certainly, there isn’t a lot I can do as quickly as I’d like, but my plan is to spend more time with our friends at the boarding places as a jumping off point.
If you’re not able to foster, but you’ve got a few hours a week to share with a dog who needs interaction, this is a rewarding experience that’s very helpful to not only the animals, but also the overwhelmed volunteers who work and plan events, foster, transport animals to receive medical treatment, etc. Plus, it’s a great way to spend a stress-relieving lunch break, get in a bit of exercise, or even a good way to get outside for a while with your family. Contact a local boarding facility and offer your frisbee-throwing, leash-holding, tummy-rubbing services to their shelter pets today.