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.
This foster fail Friday article is very close to my heart. As unprofessional as it may be, it will be necessary for me to write this article in the first person… Because this foster fail Friday is about my husband, Dan, and me, and our special foster boy that we could not let go.
Let us start with some background. We started fostering at the beginning of October. After a few months, we realized our personal dogs – Emmett and Ellie – were becoming stressed. We had just married in September and moved into a small duplex, and our furbabies were very disoriented. We had reached our personal limit of animals, as well, so we decided we would simply be temporary fosters for rescue animals; meaning, we would foster an animal for a couple days, perhaps a week, until a permanent foster could be found and take over. That was our plan.
At the beginning of January, a fellow animal rescuer heard of a horrendous situation, in which a woman was keeping a small Chihuahua mix locked in a crate in her basement, because she had decided she didn’t want him anymore. My friend Laurie, the animal rescuer, immediately began rallying for help to rescue this poor dog. The picture of him hurt my heart, because his eyes were so incredibly sad. But, Dan and I had made an agreement, and we couldn’t foster permanently. So I kept an eye on Laurie’s efforts, silently cheering her on.
Days went by, and there was no offer to foster the neglected dog. Laurie discovered the appalling woman who had him had passed him off to her mother, who hated him and locked him in a closet. When I read this news, something inside me broke. I was stirred up at the awful cruelty shown to this helpless animal. I begged for someone to foster him. A rescue volunteer named Allison said she would foster him permanently, but she would be out of town for a week and needed a temporary foster. After speaking to Dan to make sure he was on board, we offered to foster the little Chihuahua mix until Allison could take him.
Laurie is the one who rescued him. The horrible people met her to surrender him, and they called him crude names. They had no vetting records for him, and he barely even had a name aside from the obscene ones they had been calling him. He shook the entire time Laurie drove him home. She brought him to us, and his eyes pierced straight to my heart. This was a lost dog, a broken dog; an abused and neglected dog. He didn’t know whom to trust, or if he even could trust. But when Laurie placed him in Dan’s arms, he seemed to calm. He looked up at Dan with those wide amber eyes and seemed to know that he was safe.
I teased Dan from the beginning that this dog, whose foster name was Amor, had “Foster Fail” written all over him. We are Chihuahua lovers to begin with, and Amor was something special. Dan sternly stated that we would not be foster failing, and insisted it every day. But every day, his insisting became less firm. You see, our personal animals all had a strong bond with their momma – me – and sometimes Dan felt they loved me more than him. But Amor was the first animal that had attached to Dan, and clearly preferred him. I liked to say that, “Amor thinks the sun shines out of Dan’s butt.” He felt safe with Dan, and solid, and his little personality began to shine through all the hurt he had experienced.
Soon, the time had come for Amor to go to his permanent foster, Allison. When I told Dan we needed to schedule a time to meet with her, Dan gave me a sheepish look and said, “Maybe we could be his permanent foster.” I smiled knowingly, and asked Allison if she was okay with letting us foster Amor permanently – to which she readily and graciously agreed.
Throughout all of this, I had been posting pictures of Amor on my social media sites, and telling his story. There seemed to be a consensus among my friends and family: Amor was meant to be with us. Just through pictures, it was evident that Amor had finally found love. One of my friends even suggested that he and Dan shared the same facial expressions.
At night when we would lift all the little Chihuahuas onto the bed, Dan would say under his breath, “He belongs here.” I would pretend that I hadn’t heard him properly and ask, “What did you say?” But he always innocently insisted, “Nothing.” Dan had fallen hard for Amor, and it was not one-sided.
As Amor moved closer to being ready for adoption, I decided it was time to sit down with my husband and have a serious chat about Amor’s future. We didn’t have the money for an adoption fee, and Dan had been so stern that we would not be getting any more pets. I asked him, “Do you want to keep him?” Dan’s answer wasn’t hesitant. He nodded and said fervently, “He belongs here with us.”
Dan’s attachment to Amor wasn’t the only reason we decided we had better keep him in our family. It is important to note that the people who had Amor before his rescue really hurt him – physically, and mentally. There was evidence that they had kicked his ribs and pinched his skin, and the owner’s children had been encouraged to do so. The trauma weighed heavily on this poor dog, and unfortunately we would experience the effects of it. If we picked him up wrong, where it somehow reminded him of his former abuse, he would snap and bite. I tried to keep him warm by putting a sweater on his tiny body, but it scared him and he panicked and bit me several times. In those moments, my heart broke, because it was obvious by his empty eyes that he didn’t know who we were; that he was recalling his traumatic past. Because we are animal rescuers, and Chihuahua lovers, we instantly understood and accepted this about Amor. We feared that, though there were adopters out there who might be patient with him, they were hard to come by, and others might not be as understanding with him.
We decided it was time to foster fail, but we didn’t have the money for the adoption fee saved up. Our friends were suggesting every day that we should keep him, and we wanted so badly to acknowledge that he did belong with us. One day, I posted that we were going to do everything in our power to keep him.
A couple of days later, my adoption team lead told me that she hoped we still wanted to foster fail, because someone – “a fan of Amor” – had anonymously, generously donated $100 toward Amor’s adoption fee. I immediately began crying. In a world where someone can lock an innocent dog in a closet and teach their children to kick and pinch him, there was also someone who felt he belonged with us, knew he was safe with us, and had donated to help us adopt him. I was humbled. Dan cried, too (though he might not admit it). We were finally able to adopt our third musketeer.
Amor became Ewan, a Celtic name meaning, “God is good.” After we signed the contract and paid the rest of the adoption fee, we told Ewan in gentle tones how he would be with us forever now, that he was a Brogdon. And somehow, as crazy as it may sound, it seemed as if he understood. He relaxed even more. In fact, I think we’re getting close to being able to put a sweater on him!
There is so much to be learned about animal rescue through this little dog. Animal abuse should not be tolerated. If you hear about it or witness it, please do something about it. If Laurie hadn’t rallied for Ewan, he would still be locked in a closet, clinging to the last shreds of his life and sanity. The thought is unbearable. Become an advocate today for those that are helpless. We are their voice.