By Melissa Gilman - Lab Rescue Foster Home Volunteer and Adopter
I started out as one of those people who just wandered up to a Petsmart, saw all the Labs and said, "Hey, what's going on here with all the Labs?" I spent most of the two-hour adoption day with a loving, lanky chocolate Lab named Kodie. I filled out a form to be a foster and brought my first foster home shortly after that. That was a little over two years ago, and I now have my 18th foster.
The most common response I get when I tell people that I foster dogs is, "I could never do that. I'd get too attached. Isn't it hard when they leave?" The answer is...Yes, it is hard when they leave, but the time they share with me outweighs any tears I shed when they are gone. It is an amazing experience to have a dog that has never met you, hop into your car, walk into your home and settle on the couch as if they've visited you a thousand times. Those are the dogs that will easily fit into any home. I've had lots of those dogs...Savvy, Brett, and Twix to name a few. It's a bittersweet day when they leave for their forever home because they would make a great "keeper ".
On the other hand, there are the dogs that are fearful of the leash, need coaxing into the car, refuse treats, pace in the home and stand guard at the door awaiting their chance at an escape. Fostering a dog like this, although stressful for dog and human at times, brings an entirely different type of reward. Ivy, my most recent foster, arrived as a bundle of nervous energy. She had a sense of urgency about her as if she knew she was late for a very important appointment, but couldn't remember where to go. She was my constant shadow...literally on my heels. It took almost three weeks, but there was a definite moment where she let out a sigh of relief. She had finally learned the routine, gained confidence and felt safe. She will now stay curled up napping and only open an eye if I leave the room. She reminds me that the little steps in life are important, too.
It's natural to become attached even if the foster stays only for a short time. I feel like I could have adopted all of my fosters. Each time one leaves, I think about how much I'll miss their quirky ways and how no other dog will be just like them. However, I take great comfort in knowing the happiness they brought me during their short stay will bring a lifetime of happiness to another family.
Marmaduke, a handsome black Lab, spent much of his young life wearing a too tight collar that was attached to a chain that was attached to a tree. Once rescued, he had his embedded collar removed by the vet and seemed forever thankful for his literal freedom. He was adopted by a family that has a huge piece of property and another dog. I think of him often and picture him running free on his property, swimming in the pond and visiting the horses.
For me, fostering is not entirely altruistic - that's only half the story. The other half is for every dog that I provide comfort for I am repaid in love, loyalty, Lab licks and tail wags. They can't speak words to say thank you for the food, thank you for cleaning their ears, thank you for the new toys, the comfy place to sleep and the security of your home. They speak to you with their eyes, the tilt of their head, the Lab lean. They say thank you by putting their heads in your lap, lying at your feet, greeting you at the door or playing with a toy for the first time. It is that type of thank you that makes me look forward to the next foster that comes through the door.
Top of Page: Ivy - now happily adopted
Middle: Marmaduke when he first arrived
Left: Marmaduke and Nittany after a few weeks in Melissa's loving care