A letter to my first foster dog.
I’ll be honest, you weren’t my first choice for a foster dog. In fact, you weren’t supposed to be my foster dog, I wasn’t meaning to meet you at all. But because another dog found a home, you now needed one. So I hesitantly said okay. After all, my grandparents had Irish Setters their whole lives, so I had a soft spot for you. You were 14 years old, you were big, and you had heartworm. I didn’t know how to handle any of that.
When you came into my home, I was immediately overwhelmed. You were messy, anxious, and you insisted on following me around. I knew you had been through a lot, so I tried my best to be patient. By the end of the first day, our floors were covered in your drool and my socks were soaked. I wasn’t sure how my tidy husband would handle you in our clean apartment.
I was so thankful that you slept well the first night, but you still wouldn’t calm down the next day. You were anxious and couldn’t relax. I tried my best to keep you comfortable but I felt like nothing I did made you happy. You hated being confined to a crate or a room so I had no option but to let you wander as you’d like, hoping you’d wear yourself out.
You really pushed me to my limit on the second night. Boy, oh boy, I’ll never forget sleeping on that bathroom floor with you. I think you knew exactly what you were doing though because neither of us would sleep in the bathroom ever again. But something changed in that bathroom on the second night. It was as if we had survived something together and only we had experienced it. It was if we could now speak our own language just you and I.
The next day you finally took a long, deep breath and exhaled all your stress out. I felt that release with you. I felt a calmness from you that began to resonate. No longer were you panting and pacing, you were now able to sleep by me, knowing I wasn’t going to leave you, even if I was supposed to.
I hated the fact that I had to cancel all my plans because I knew you wouldn’t be okay alone. I hate flaking on people but they understood that you needed me more. You still weren’t fully comfortable in our home, but you were getting there.
We developed a nice little routine of napping, walking, and eating, but it was when you picked up that stuffed animal that I knew we’d be okay. You pranced around the apartment with your toy in your mouth, showing me how proud you were of yourself. It will always be my favorite memory of you.
When it came to bedtime, you knew you had bamboozled your way into sleeping with me on the couch. I couldn’t be too mad about it though because it made you so happy. During the night I would feel your paw reach for me, taking comfort in knowing I was there. Sleeping soundly knowing you were safe.
When we found out you had five adoption applications, we did a little happy dance. We didn’t get our hopes up though because we still needed them to come to the adoption show and meet you. Who knew if they were actually serious about adopting a 14-year-old dog?
When we drove to the adoption show, I tried really hard not to cry. I wanted to put on a brave face for the two of us. If nobody came to see you, then they were really missing out. Whatever happened, you still had me.
Luckily, four applicants came and they were all pretty wonderful. I knew you liked the first couple the best though. When the woman kneeled down beside you and you lifted your head to hers, I could feel the connection. I just hoped she did too.
I was cautious of getting my hopes up, worried something would go wrong, but everything went right. They signed on the dotted line and you were almost ready to be adopted. One final thing got in your way though, a pesky cracked tooth and they had a home check to complete.
We drove home from the show and you slept the whole way. I made sure to tell you how good of a boy you had been while you were asleep. I wanted you to know how proud I was of you.
The next few days went by quickly and again, I was trying so hard to keep my cool. The adopters had a home check and you needed a dental before you could be in your forever home. One thing at a time I told myself, keep it together.
Luckily, their home check was easy. They lived in a ranch home with a big yard and a dog run. Everything was carpeted so I knew you’d have an easy time getting around with your back legs. You were going to have a nine-year-old Irish Setter brother who was a therapy dog! And hey, if you were as good of a boy as I know you could be, you were going to be a therapy dog too. It was perfect, they were perfect for you.
The day of your dental was really hard on me. I was worried that because you were 14 you would have a hard time with the surgery. That was certainly not the case. You came out of surgery easily without any complications. You’d be able to go to your forever home the very next day.
Having you back in our house for a final night was bittersweet. I tried my best to soak up our final moments together, but I knew the next day I’d have to say goodbye to you. I was worried you’d hate me for it.
On our way up to your forever home, I told you how much I loved you about 47 times. Did you hear all of them? You were sleeping pretty hard. But you perked up when we pulled up to a beautiful home that was going to be all yours.
I spoke with your new family for a good hour, telling them all my favorite things about you. I told them how to keep you happy and what things you enjoyed doing. They gave you a new collar that was made specifically for Irish Setters. Your new mom loved you right away. She told me how long she had waited for you and how this day took so long to get here.
I cried a few times at their house, not because I was sad, but because you were right where you were meant to be. Don’t worry, I brought you your favorite toy and when I gave it to you, you did so good showing them how well you play. I cried again because it was my favorite thing you did. I knew I was going to miss you.
Before I left, I took a final picture of your amazing new family, I gave you a big kiss, and I said goodbye. Do you know it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done? The only way I could do it was because I knew they were the best home for you. You were about to begin the best days of the rest of your life. I hope you aren’t mad at me for leaving you.
Fostering you was far from easy. You were anxious, messy, and you always seemed to be in the way, but I loved you. I adored you. You taught me so much about fostering and being a better person. You showed me again how what a gift animals are. I will never, ever forget you Sycamore. You will always be one of my most treasured memories.
I hope you are reading this from your new couch with your new family. I hope you aren’t being too obnoxious or making them sleep on bathroom floors with you. You be a good boy and go get your therapy dog license so you can bring happiness to so many other wonderful people.
Thank you Sycamore for being my first foster dog, I promise, you will not be my last.