By GGLRR Foster, James Coon
As we walk around our neighborhood with a new foster lab, neighbors flock to meet the latest guy or gal. Kids fawn, ooh-ing and ahh-ing, and the lab gets more attention than is probably healthy. "You two must be saints," someone pipes up. "I could never foster a lab," adds another. "Don't you want to adopt every one?" The answers are no, sure you could, and, sometimes it's hard.
Our foster labs come from all walks of life, so to speak. Each breaks the mold of all the others who came before. If they're lucky, they've been surrendered from a stable home, with never a bad day in their life. The unlucky ones have simply been left to the streets, competing for every scrap of food and place of warmth.
They often arrive confused and frightened; in need of more food, more exercise and more belly rubs. By offering safety, security and structure, we try to help them lose some baggage, learn some manners, and go on to their forever homes a little more confident and comfortable with themselves.
From the first, our job is to observe and evaluate. Our neighborhood is a veritable "Hogan's Alley". There's squirrels and cats and sometimes bigger things foraging as we take our walks before dawn. Walkers, bikers, strollers, joggers, birds landing. Dogs being walked, others behind fences and gates, behind windows. Traffic along this street; lawnmowers and leaf-blowers down that one. Quite a test. Especially if you expect good behavior on a slack leash.
We do. We have to. Because a dog that behaves properly is a safe dog, a fun dog, a happy dog. Off, stay, go to place. Do not cross the threshold—in or out—without the release word. All important. Yet there is still time for fun and play. Fetch and tug. Bring it and leave it. Catch the treat. "Good dog." Scratch, scratch, scratch.
"How can you bear to let them go?" is the fourth—often whispered—question. Again, sometimes it's hard. But that is not our role. Ours is to offer comfort, continuity, and help our furry friends move just a little bit down the road from where they are, to where they can be. Until the day their new forever family knocks on our door—that one whose eyes light up, whose hearts reach, and whose lives will be brightened by their new friend. That is our role; that is our reward. Elsie, Dodge, Maui, Darby, Zoey, Bob, Rufus, Kiki, Duchess and others to come …each so indelible and unforgettable.
But they don't have to live in our house, to live in our hearts.
Read more of James' and Kathy's fostering experiences in James' amusing "No Funny Business" blog including the adventures of Rufus the Super Dog!
Coon foster dog photos of Bob and Rufus (left), Kiki and Duchess (right). Photos and videos courtesy of Nikki of Tail Snaps Photography.