A letter to the fosters I’ve lost
I’m sitting here writing this post after losing my third foster. Over the course of three years, I’ve lost two kittens and a puppy for various health reasons. Out of the 60 animals I’ve fostered, that’s not a high number, but statistics don’t matter when it comes to grief. It still hurts the same.
I always worry that talking about the sadness in rescue will keep others away from fostering. I’m nervous that by sharing my sad stories, I’ll deprive people of the most amazing experience that is fostering. So, I will preface this post saying that despite the losses, I still open my home to animals in need and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Dear Mac, Little Gray, and Junior,
I have so many things to tell you, where do I even begin? I’ll start with the obvious, I miss you all. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, I didn’t think I’d ever lose a foster. I wasn’t told this could happen and nobody prepared me for the heartache. It stinks that I don’t get to see pictures of you all grown up in your forever homes. I hate that I can’t check in with your adopters from time to time, getting videos of you all being ridiculous. That dream was stolen from us, it doesn’t seem fair.
I’ve learned that “fair” is a relative term when it comes to animal rescue. Over time, I came to understand that sometimes it doesn’t mean a forever home with a family. That sometimes, the lucky ones are those who have come to know love, even if only for a short while.
Mac, you, your sister Roni and your brother Cheese, were my first ever fosters. Sadly, you were only with us for a few days. I hope you felt love, safety, and friendship in the short time I had you. I hope you were cuddled and snuggled enough to last you a lifetime. It wasn’t nearly as much as I wanted, but maybe it was enough. As my first foster, you taught me so much and you gave us the biggest gift of all, our forever kitties. If you hadn’t left us, I’m not sure we would have kept Roni & Cheese. After losing you, we bonded so quickly and they’re my whole heart today. Thank you for showing me how much I needed them in my life.
Little Gray, you quickly became my favorite in your litter of seven. From the beginning, I knew you were the runt. I put all my energy and focus into giving you the care you needed. Unfortunately, you weren’t meant to grow up, your body fought so hard, but eventually, you left us. It was heartbreaking. Losing you almost broke me. I didn’t foster for a long time after your litter. But my friend adopted two of your “brothers,” Benny (who turned out to be a sister!) and Eggs, and I got updates from her about them. They’re so spoiled and loved, I knew if I stopped fostering, I wouldn’t get to help other friends find their forever soulmates.
Junior, man oh man I was not ready for you. We were in the middle of quarantine and had nowhere to go and nothing to do. What better way than to spend my time snuggling (and potty-training) a puppy? You immediately loved my husband and we both knew we’d had trouble letting you go to another family. We never got to make that decision though because you left us too. Losing you, especially during the pandemic, crushed me. I screamed and cried and cursed at how unfair life was being. I couldn’t find joy in anything for a while. Your blood disorder took you too soon, but not before we adopted you and made you our forever puppy. Yep, we adopted you, and I know you knew you were ours when you left us.
Mac, Little Gray, and Junior, I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for you. For a long time, and sometimes even still, I feel like I failed you. I wonder if there are things I could have done differently. Maybe another, more experienced foster could have saved you. I would give anything to hold you each once more and say goodbye and tell you how special you are. I hope you know you are still loved and remembered.
Or maybe I’m looking at this all wrong, maybe you each came to me knowing I could handle the pain. Perhaps you were only meant to be on earth for such a short time and it was me who got to show you love. Knowing I could carry the burden of losing you, it was the universe’s gift to each of you. How lucky am I to get to give that to you?
You each taught me something though. To be honest, I didn’t want to learn these lessons. But maybe I needed to, and maybe that’s why you ended up in our home. Each time I lost one of you, I continued to open my heart and home to animals in need. I used the skills I learned while fostering you to save others. Over time, I’ve become a better and more experienced foster. You made me a better foster.
Last week I said goodbye to a litter of kittens who are all now in their forever homes. This weekend, I’ll welcome a new bunch in need. I wouldn’t be here without you three. Thank you for everything you taught me. I miss and love you very much.
Your forever foster mama
The picture below are of my previous foster kittens. They have all since been adopted and are happily in their forever homes. I’ll be picking up a new litter this weekend.