A year ago we reached out to Jax’s to discuss fostering. Our family was not quite ready to commit to a new dog permanently, as we have two children under 10 and a 3 year old Labrador; But we WERE ready to help another animal in its journey to its forever home. The application was submitted and we waited. A few months later we had our home visit with a volunteer, Lisa, and determined what we were prepared to foster. Could we handle a senior dog? A dog with special needs? A dog who wasn’t house trained? A dog with aggression? Did we have preferences over sex or age? These were all discussed from the start and it helped lay the ground work for finding the “perfect” foster fit for our family. Within a few months, they had a match! It was exciting and we waited and prepared our family for the new temporary addition. Days turned to weeks and we learned the dog was not available, and so we waited a bit longer. This period of waiting and anticipation was torture, but we were patient, keeping a “if it’s meant to be it will be” mentality. After all, our purpose was to help in any capacity, and we knew the right fit would come along. A week before Christmas of 2019, Jax’s reached out to ask if we’d like to foster one of two puppies with special needs who were being pulled from a puppy mill. A puppy?! With special needs?! Were we ready to welcome a puppy, let alone one with special needs? We hadn’t prepped for this! We prayed. We talked. We prayed some more. We discussed what this new “normal” might look like for a few months while we prepped this puppy for his forever home. We discussed with the kids their duties. No one wants to crawl out of bed at 2am or 5am to let a puppy outside, and we needed the whole house on board if we were going to take on such a huge commitment.
After careful consideration, we were all in agreement that we could make this work, it was temporary after all—We said yes. If it didn’t work, we always had an amazing rescue who would support the process and find another loving home for this puppy. On December 27, 2019 we welcomed our little “pocket pup” who we named Charlie. He was malnourished. He was the runt. He had an overbite. He SMELLED. He had mange. He had a stomach parasite. He was afraid to eat. To us, looking into his soulful eyes, he was imperfectly perfect.
The first week as a foster parent was difficult. He wouldn’t eat, his skin had to adjust to being in a home instead of the cold outdoors, and he was a puppy who required constant attention and redirecting. By the end of week one, we were walking like new parent zombies, unsure of what we’d signed up for. Our contact at Jax’s was beyond supportive, answering questions all hours of the night, offering suggestions to help him with his transition, and dropping off treats, cages, and bedding to help us help our puppy learn slowly what love looked like.
In week two, he took a turn. He began to eat. He was put on a medication to clear the mange. He was learning quickly what love should be. Our own dog fell in love with Charlie and his silly antics and we fell in love with this little perfectly imperfect puppy.
We realized by the beginning of week three that we were about to join the ranks of foster failures. We contacted Jax’s and asked if we could keep him not for a few months, but forever. The agreed he was a good fit and promised he was ours. The adoption process went smoothly and as I sit here writing this, my little foster forever fur ball is snuggled at my feet, happy and healthy. Our journey allowed me to realize a few things. Here are the top 4 takeaways I learned from our process:
- If you *think* your family is ready for a puppy or a dog, I STRONGLY suggest you consider a rescue first. You can always fail as a foster parent and keep the pet forever but if you find you’re not ready for a dog, you have an out and the dog isn’t left without a home.
- If you see a rescue, Jax’s or any other, has a puppy or dog you *must* have, don’t expect to throw in an application and get that puppy. Rescues work their tales off to find the perfect fit for their rescues. An application for adoption or foster involves home visits and consideration of needs of the animal. These people are volunteers who give hundreds of hours to help these scared animals learn to trust and heal. Give them grace. Put an application in NOW and get approved so when the perfect fit DOES get posted on social media you’re already on their radar, and it’s one less application they have to weed through to find the right fit.
- Be patient and be open. It took us a year of anticipation and being open to whatever came our way. A dog with special needs was the last thing on our radar, and it turned out it wasn’t as bad as we anticipated. Your foster dog may be scared. It may take him 3 or more weeks to feel comfortable with your family. In that time he may have accidents. He may act out. He may not be the perfect pet you envisioned. Give. Him. Time. You have no idea of his personal hell before meeting you, so he’ll need to adjust. Time and love are the best medicine.
- Dogs know. There’s a saying that rescued dogs love differently because they know you rescued them. Never would I imagine this sentiment to be true taking in a puppy. After all, how bad could it have really been his first 14 weeks of life. I can only imagine. But I do know that this puppy looks at me with eyes that only a rescue can share. He knows what his life could have been and he seems to appreciate every moment he gets to live it with us. If you ask me, we’re the lucky ones.
I can’t thank the volunteers at Jax’s Labrador Rescue enough for bringing this sweet puppy in to our lives. He’s perfectly imperfect. And he’s all ours to love and adore for the rest of his days. If you’re looking to donate to a rescue or to find out if you have what it takes to be a foster failure like us, I can’t recommend this organization enough!