Tails: Fostering Really is as Simple as Love

As I was walking Jack yesterday, I ran into a neighbor.  She stopped and introduced me to her sister-in-law.  She said, “This is Becky.  She is really involved with rescuing dogs.  She gets them when they are such a mess and, then, turns them into amazing dogs.”

Every profession has certain compliments that mean a lot.  As a rescuer, this one really touched my heart.

After we said our goodbyes and I continued to walk Jack, I started to contemplate what she had said about me.  Jack was the dog hit by a car and left for dead in Chicago.  I pulled him from CACC for NorthStar Shih Tzu Rescue.  And then, like many foster homes, I kept him.

Six months ago, Jack could barely walk on his own.  We were seriously considering major, expensive surgery, until one vet told us to wait and see how he would heal.  The vet believed that the damage was done and that surgery would only make the injury look pretty on the inside.  So, I waited.  Yesterday, Jack ran at least 1 mile.  RAN!  He can jump on the bed and go up the stairs.  Jack is a very well-adjusted dog.  Very few people even notice his funny gait.

When my neighbor inquired about who I was walking and I explained Jack’s story, she said, “That is what I mean – look at how good he is now.”

He is great now.  Her original compliment was intended for the mill dogs I have rescued.  They are complete messes.  Physically they are disgusting, but emotionally they are often beyond comprehension.

But, as I continued to walk Jack and think about what she said, I couldn’t help but wonder if others thought it took some type of magic to transform a dog.

There are always too few fosters in the world and I kept asking myself, “Are people afraid to try? Do they think it takes something really special to change a dog?”

Believe me, I am NO magician.  In fact, I am NO trainer, by any means.  My friend, Ellen, would laugh if you told her you thought I was an amazing trainer.  None of my dogs can even give paw.  Thorp only knows basic commands because he had to, to pass the therapy dog exam.

My only secret is love, unconditional love.  Sadly, the truth is the dogs I take in have never known love and when they receive it for the first time, they are hesitant.  They look at you with disbelief and mistrust.  They tremble when you speak softly to them.  They cringe when you gently touch their back.  It is heartbreaking at times to take in dogs who have never known a caring hand.

However, there is nothing more satisfying, nothing more fulfilling then seeing the transformation of a broken dog.  I want more people to understand that anyone who is compassionate, who loves animals unconditionally, can do it.

There is no science to it.  No fancy training. It is as simple as loving another soul without hesitation.  It is understanding their background and being patient with their progress.

I know many dog people would suggest obedience training, but that has never been my goal.  My dogs would follow me to the end of the earth.  I feel compelled to not necessarily transform a dog, but to make it whole again.  Simply by giving it love.

If you or anyone you know is afraid to foster, don’t be.  And, if you have the patience and a big heart, I challenge you to take the next big mess.  Take the dog who is afraid, the one who trembles.  Take that dog and love him with everything you have.

It won’t happen overnight, it never does, but in time, you will see him change.  You will see him flourish.  Family and friends will be amazed at how you transformed him.

Deep down, you will know it was simply love that changed him…and you.  I think we are the very best version of ourselves when we allow our unconditional love to work its magic on others.