When I tell people I foster dogs, everyone’s first reaction is something along the lines of, “Oh god, I could never do that. I’d end up with a million dogs.”
Now, I too am a member of the foster failure club; however, somewhere over fifty dogs have come through my house to go on to find their forever home successfully and each of them has taught me something new. First they taught me how much love I have to give (to dawgs at least… humans are another story); but most importantly, they taught me how to let go.
As we know, dogs are highly intuitive. A poor meet and greet, where foster parents are anxiety-ridden and reluctant to have the dog adopted out, quickly turns into a return and/or a foster failure. That is why, I believe, it is so important for foster parents to be aware of the energy they put off to these highly vulnerable pups. Letting your foster kiddo know that you are happy for them helps to calm his or her down and helps the dog be open to settling in with a new family.
Letting go isn’t easy, especially when it comes to the pooches–am I right? I’ll let you in on my secret recipe though:
1 part awareness
1 part acceptance
1 part ice cream
(You think i’m kidding on the ice cream part, but stay tuned)
Be aware of your reactions to the first inquiry on a dog AND be aware of your reactions with different dogs and at different times in your life. What is it about the dog, or the potential adopter, or what’s going on in your life, that is holding you back? Trust your instincts as long as you know they are coming from a place of care and concern for the dog. If you are uneasy, chances are the dog is too, and if something can be done to fix the situation, do it!
Next, however remember that your feeling is OKAY, I promise. Give yourself permission to feel sad. Separating from a foster dog can bring up feelings of loss or abandonment that stem from childhood. But guess what?– you’ve made a difference and no matter what happens now, you’ve positively effected that dog for the rest of it’s life and given it a chance that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. GO YOU!
Now here’s the real secret… Pawbenders from Goodtimes. I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful these $1 treats are made especially for dawgs are in meet and greets. I like to let potential adopters feed it to the foster to open up the doors to trust and help everyone get a little more comfortable. This feeding translates very effectively to dog language also– it helps the dog to understand that this human will care for him and is to be respected as a pack leader. Adopters usually get a kick out of how happy the dog is too and everyone is happy!
When it’s all said and done, go back to step one and start over. Look at how you’re feeling (usually I cry the whole way home), accept it, and then– get some ice cream of your own and get ready for the next dawg you can help because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be addicted in no time.