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Foster fail Friday, edition #2: Reacher

Foster fail: A term of endearment within the rescue community; the foster parent can’t imagine their lives without their foster animal, and adopt the animal themselves.

Reacher's journey
Karen Dunkley
Reacher and Bruce
Karen Dunkley

Karen and her husband Bruce began fostering for a local rescue, inspired by their son Jake who saved money to donate to animals in need. Committed puppy foster parents, they had successfully adopted out a dozen or more. One fateful day would change that.

“We got the call: eight precious Chocolate Labrador/Springer Spaniel pups in need of help. We’ll do it!” Karen describes of the day of destiny. Karen, Bruce and Jake drove excitedly to the veterinarian to pick up their new foster puppies, a familiar process by that point. “It was late when we walked in the door of the vet, and they started bringing out the pups one at a time for us to take to the car. It was an assembly line of chocolate/vanilla cuteness, and I began to wonder how we would ever tell them apart. There were so many, and then… a stillness came over us, I swear it was palpable. I looked at my husband’s face and saw where he was looking and I knew. This puppy was IT. He was a bit different from the rest with his big ol’ head and googly eyes. And the way they were staring at each other… My husband tenderly took him in his arms and smiled and I knew that puppy was never going to be adopted by anyone else.”

It can sometimes be hard to admit to a foster failure, however. Despite his obvious reaction to the pup, Karen reports that Bruce could not admit that he wanted to foster fail. And so for the next several weeks, they attended adoption events with the litter of precious puppies. Each one was adopted, and soon there were only two left; one being the puppy that Bruce had fallen for from the beginning. Karen recalls, “They were getting lots of attention and inquiries when I noticed my husband scooping his puppy up and holding him close. ‘He’s tired,’ he said. ‘He wants to go home.’ And so he did. We love our foster failure, Reacher.”

Some could never imagine fostering, because they don’t see themselves being able to let the animals go. It is okay to foster fail; it’s a wonderful thing. Karen and her family had fostered over a dozen precious, adorable puppies, and Reacher was the first they could not let go. There is a great need for foster parents for rescues; it not only helps save lives, it can change yours. When asked how fostering and rescue had affected her family, Karen answered, “It brings our family together to help the helpless. Important things we’ve learned would be: How to give and be empathetic and compassionate; these puppies have already experienced stress and losses in their short lives that we cannot imagine. So, like all fosters, they need understanding, patience, and lots of TLC. Also, we’ve learned the importance of finding the right fit for each foster so that the adoption will be a success for everybody. And it helps to have a great team to back you up – not just our family, but our rescue family as well.”

There is an incredibly urgent need for foster parents; thousands of animals across the country are being euthanized daily, and without caring people who can take them in after a rescue saves them, they cannot be helped. Research and find your local rescue, and become a part of the effort to save lives. Whether you foster fail or not, you will have made a difference.

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