Let’s Stay Together

So much of fostering dawgs is learning to separate—understanding healthy attachment and when to let go.

A lesser known area of our world focuses on exactly the opposite: staying together. In my opinion, it’s just as important though, and here’s why…

As human beings, finding someone who loves and supports us through our “crazy,” whatever that may be, is one of the most gratifying feelings there is. When your best friend looks at you in your deepest moment of vulnerability and says, “No problem, I’m there. Let’s do whatever it takes.” — Never have I felt more loved than in these instances. In fact, I spent a lot of time (and money on therapy) learning that these people are really the only people worth keeping around.

Over the last week, Gracie (the current foster dog) has become a little needy. Her adorably loyal tendencies are becoming a bit possessive and beginning to confuse the pack dynamic. She gets intensely concerned when any human or dawg moves away from her or shows interest in something else. While she’s spent weeks learning appropriate boundaries and respectful behavior (and I have no doubt that she knows exactly what I expect of her and that she wants to make me happy), I also know that what she wants even more than that, is to connect; to feel home; to belong.

With every long-term foster we see the same general course selection: Boundaries 101: check. Appropriate play for beginners: check. Food-aggression-is-not-a-good-idea: check. Snuggling as a top-preferred activity: check.

Eventually, all lessons learned: check.

Gracie is done with her rehabilitation classes and now she longs for the only thing left to complete her healing process. She wants to fall in love, and to be loved in return.

I must say—she has seduced me well. I love this dog more than I feel like I have ever loved anything in my entire life. I have to remind myself often that THIS phase is directly responsible for all foster fails, and I must be strong because, as my boyfriend repeatedly points out, I don’t have any more room for permanent dawgs. I challenge, though, that it’s not so bad to give in a little bit—IF you can outlive it. Allowing a foster to feel part of the ranks and granting her mutual respect and appreciation, you embrace the human-animal bond in all its glory. There exists such a magnificent capacity for healing in our connections to the rest of the animal kingdom, if we choose to accept it. Connecting with a dog on this level of love is restorative, both for her and myself.

I said “IF” you can outlive it because letting go of something you love is never easy. Here, I take another lesson from Gracie, on living in the present. Right now, she’s squeezed herself between my legs and my pack leader, Marley on the bed as I write. She’s entirely surrounded in love. The time for letting go will come, and it will be hard; but right now feels pretty good, and I’m going to enjoy it.

Fall in love with this sweet girl. It’ll change your world forever.