Whole Dog Journal's Blog August 16, 2010

How Dog Fostering Can Break Your Heart!

Posted at 11:26AM - Comments: (23)

Knowing that I’m in and out of my local shelter, a friend of my husband asked me to keep my eyes peeled for a “cute little dog for a cute little girl” – his five-year-old daughter. I spotted a great candidate, and brought her home to foster her until I could evaluate whether she would be appropriate for a family with young children.

I know that any dog I bring home from the shelter is going to live with me until I find him or her a perfect home. I knew it wouldn’t take long to find this darling girl a home, even if she didn’t work out for the family who asked me to look. In addition to being smart and confident, she is affectionate and snuggly. I gave the family my evaluation – that she would make a great little family dog – and they agreed to take her. But the custody change would take place in a couple of weeks, so she could be spayed and recover from the surgery, and so they could take a week-long vacation.

But oh my! How difficult it was to actually hand her over to her new family! I’ve fostered about five times now, and I’ve always been happy to see a dog go to a terrific home. But somehow, this little pup pulled my heartstrings like no other pup has so far. We really bonded, and I adored her. I spent almost two hours at the family’s home, going over all the things the puppy knew – the things I had taught her! – and making sure they had everything she needed to be safe and comfortable. Then I had to practically run out the door and drive quickly away so they wouldn’t see me burst into tears! I cried for an hour after leaving her, stopped long enough to have a nice phone conversation with the dad about how things went after I left, and then cried on and off again for the next two days. I miss that pup!

Happily, her new family seems to love her as much as I did. The little girl named her Belle, after her favorite Disney heroine, and Belle sleeps on the little girl’s bed. But I still don’t think I can foster again for a long time.

Comments (23)

I searched the term "sadness after fostering a dog" because like the person who posted this, I am heartbroken at the moment.
To make a long story short a friend of the family adopted a puppy I made them aware of but I needed to foster her for a few days before they could have her.
The first night I had her I couldn't wait for her to go to her new home. How quickly that changed when I ended up letting her sleep with me in order for her to not cry.
I have asked the "adopters" if I could please have her and I would pay for her, but they won't budge and I do understand.
I try to look at it as I did a good deed, but I am completely heartbroken and don't think i could ever do this again for fear of getting attached like i have with this pup.

Posted by: beckys1971 | November 26, 2015 6:26 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for opening your home and heart to these dogs that deserve a chance at a good life with a loving family. I want to say you absolutely did the right thing by not crying in front of the adoptive family. I found this page because I just googled "foster mom crying at pet adoption". Today, myself, my husband and my ten-year-old son drove three hours across Texas to adopt a dog. When we arrived, the dog's foster mom was there with tears streaming down her face. I understood how she must have felt, and told her we would exchange our contact info with her, but ultimately it led to us not adopting the dog. The foster mom was so emotional that I feel her emotions transferred to the dog. He was anxious and detached and wanted nothing to do with meeting my family. After taking photos of my home and yard, filling out the adoption form (which was promptly approved) and making a three-hour drive (six, round trip) it was extremely disappointing to us and was not the way we wanted to start a relationship with a new pet. If you are fostering an animal, please consider **carefully** about whether you will be able to release the dog to a new home without creating a traumatic emotional experience for everyone. We are home now after a very tiring and disappointing day and I don't know if I ever want to try to adopt an animal that has been in foster care after this experience.

Posted by: NBug | June 21, 2014 11:52 PM    Report this comment

I delivered my second (third actually but the first foster "failed" and is with us to stay) foster dog to her forever home today... Still crying off and on now and worried about her--she was just a pup when she came to us 4 months ago, the amazing life we provided for her is all she knows. Is she feeling abandoned? Is she wondering where we are? I know after a couple days she'll be fine and her new family is lucky and happy to have her but the initial loss I feel (and think she probably feels) is so heart-wrenching... I will never stop doing this but my heart needs a break right now.

Posted by: clementine | October 16, 2010 9:28 PM    Report this comment

It is so heartwarming to know there are some fine people out there. I have fostered so many dogs I have lost count. I have cried every time I sent them home. I have nursed the sick and pulled most through. I have lost and buried, fighting all the way, an entire litter to distemper before their little eyes were open. Knowing just one vaccine to their mom would have saved them. I have driven thousands of miles to get hundreds to a safe haven. Above all I have rejoiced at pictures of my foster babies in their new homes. I could never keep them all. It would not be fair to them. But I know the love they have and the love they give. At times I have had to take a break but I always come back because there is always another that needs me.

Posted by: DEBORAH P | August 26, 2010 7:48 AM    Report this comment

Please remember that when you refuse to foster, a dog is probably going to be killed in the shelter because there is no place for him or her to go. A little emotional upset is worth saving a life. Try not to think of your own feelings - think of all those dogs who will die because there is nobody willing to foster them. Take a look at www.Petfinder.com and scan the photos of dogs in shelters in your town. Would you like them to be killed because of a little personal discomfort? Fostering helps one to grow and the rewards far outweigh the pain. My 648th foster dog just left yesterday to go to a forever home and a little piece of my heart left with him. But another one is coming to my home tomorrow and he would have been killed at the shelter if I did not open my home to him. Make a difference. Foster a dog.

Posted by: FloridaPat | August 17, 2010 4:58 PM    Report this comment

I to am a dog adopter, The dog's i now have(4 ) Three are aodped,I like to call them throwaways, One we bought.A little 7pond white Maltise, And she knows just how to work my wife,I don't foster becouse just like others,Its just to painful. If i had to give them up? I don't know?. The oldest one is about 10yrs old, ive Had him 5yrs, And i know he only has afuew years left to live and I know it's going to hurt when he's gone. I have four graves in my back yard now. Ill just dig another one and another.I asked my vet.What He did with the remaines? he said he just calls the landfill and they come and get them. So I brought her home and dug a grave.I have done this four times now, And Ill do it again and again.As many time as I have to. Dean C.

Posted by: Dean C. | August 17, 2010 4:04 PM    Report this comment

I, too, foster for a breed rescue. Each foster that leaves my home stays in my heart. I, too, have had to euthanize a dog who was wonderful 99.9% of the time, and dangerous the other .1%, and that was the most heartbreaking thing of all.
When a dog leaves here, I know he is going to have a wonderful life. I put a lot of time and training and love into my fosters, but I always tell them that they have someone else to heal, to make whole. I shed tears, and I miss them, but I know another foster will be along soon, because there are so many dogs that need fostering.
In a sense, it's like the decision to own a dog: we all know their time here is brief, but we feel the joy is worth the pain.

Posted by: Margaret T | August 17, 2010 2:19 PM    Report this comment

Eileen K and gsprescuer, your comments are fabulous! You are my muses to write specific promotional material for fostering in a community that has no animal shelter, no animal control, and a point-and-shoot "dispatch" system. Thank you and thanks Nancy for writing this article.

Posted by: K9 | August 17, 2010 12:29 PM    Report this comment

Eileen K , I love what you wrote. It takes a team effort sometimes.

Posted by: KATHI R | August 17, 2010 11:31 AM    Report this comment

I am an Animal Rescuer

I am an Animal Rescuer
My job is to assist God's creatures
I was born with the need to fulfill their needs
I take in new family members without plan, thought, or selection
I have bought dog food with my last dime
I have patted a mangy head with a bare hand
I have hugged someone vicious and afraid
I have fallen in love a thousand times
And I have cried into the fur of a lifeless body
I notice those lost at the road side
And my heart aches
I will hand raise a field mouse
And make friends with a vulture
I know of no creature unworthy of my time

I want to live forever if there aren't animals in Heaven
But I believe there are
Why would God make something so perfect and leave it behind
We may be master of the animals,
But the animals have mastered themselves
Something people still haven't learned

War and abuse makes me hurt for the world
But a rescue that makes the news gives me hope for mankind
We are a quiet but determined army
And making a difference every day

There is nothing more necessary than warming an orphan
Nothing more rewarding than saving a life
No higher recognifition than watching them thrive
There is no greater joy than seeing a baby play
Who only days ago, was too weak to eat

I am an Animal Rescue
My work is never done
My home is never quiet
My wallet is always empty
But my heart is always full

In the game of life, we have already won

~Anonymous

Posted by: KATHI R | August 17, 2010 11:28 AM    Report this comment

I think that in the rescue world, it shouldn't be a case of "Do as much as you can," but rather "Do what you do best!" With the enormous need that exists, there's room for everyone and everyone's talents.

Some of us are fabulous at fostering, training and working with "issues" dogs, while others have that special touch that's needed to nurse the sick and and injured ones back to health; still others will drive hundreds of miles to transport dogs to safety, and some are geniuses with that necessary evil, paperwork. The folks with the "people person" gene are terrific at talking to potential adopters, networking and organizing fundraisers, doing pre-adoption home visits to make sure that the dogs go to the right families. Some of us go into schools and educate children on pet care and overpopulation issues, thereby stemming the tide (we hope!) of backyard breeding and animal abuse.

And yes, without the adopters, all of this would be in vain :-)

There are so many ways to help, so let's give everyone credit for what THEY do best ... and work together to keep the ever-growing no-kill/rescue movement going full speed ahead!

Posted by: DancesWithWords | August 17, 2010 11:03 AM    Report this comment

I am fostering for the first time. She was only 3 months old when I got her. I have trained her and had her spayed so she is ready for her forever home. All of the posts I read on this blog will help me when the time comes for her to go. I am very attached to her and love her to bits. One person said that she will take the heartbreak knowing that a dog was saved. Someone mentioned the "rescuers poem". I would love to read it. I am sure I will cry a thousand tears but she is worth it.

Posted by: harbormaster | August 17, 2010 11:02 AM    Report this comment

we have adopted rescue dogs and cannot thank the foster parents enough for their love and care during that transitional time! we look forward to being able to repay the foster parents by becoming foster parents ourselves, knowing there will be both joy and heartache for us. thanks to all the rescuers and foster parents out there!

Posted by: ROSEMARY M | August 17, 2010 9:58 AM    Report this comment

I've been fostering for 13 years, and at last count, about 500 dogs have graced my home during their journey to find families. I have adopted a few myself, but I take pride in the fact that there are 500 or more dogs and families that have found each other because I opened my home (and heart) to a dog who would have died in a shelter. Fostering takes a special knowledge, a knowledge that when a dog no longer "needs" you, there is one that desperately needs you, one that would otherwise die for lack of a foster home. Getting emails from adopters on how much they love their new family member is my "paycheck," and I am very wealthy, indeed. Adopt? Please, yes, adopt. But consider fostering as well.

Posted by: Coram | August 17, 2010 9:48 AM    Report this comment

Becky B, I was in no way discounting the value of an adopter. I was pointing out that publicizing a blog about how fostering "breaks your heart" will not help to further the rescue cause. Quite the opposite. We desperately need foster homes, for every breed and mix. Dogs are being euthanized at an alarming rate across the U.S. Without adopters, my fosters would not have a place to go, and I would not have room to accommodate the others that need me.

I wasn't the best foster home when I first started. I kept my first foster (although he was a senior with some issues, so he was not the most adoptable of dogs), but over time, I got better at saying goodbye. I relished in the joy of the dog with his/her new family, and the love that family had for their new dog. It gets easier with time.

My objection was the rationale for NOT fostering because it is difficult to say goodbye. A broken heart? I'll take a broken heart over sending a dog to his/her forever family ANY day vs. a broken heart over losing a highly deserving and adoptable dog to euthanasia, simply because there aren't enough people who put the needs of the dog over their own needs and emotions.

Posted by: gsprescuer | August 17, 2010 8:25 AM    Report this comment

I work with a rescue group and have fostered many dogs. My first foster taught me more about love than I have learned in my 63 years of life. When I had to leave him at his forever home I thought my family was going to have to commit me!! Then I read the "Rescuer's Poem" and I knew he would not be my last. Yes it takes a certain mindset to keep your sanity, but as many tears as I have shead - and there has been more than you could imagine- I will keep taking these poor creatures and teaching them that humans can mean love and caring. That not all humans are like the ones they probably have known. Then they go to a forever home and I keep close watch for as long as I feel I need to. When I can go visit them and they no longer care that I am leaving then I know my job is done and I can walk away kmowing I made a difference not only in the dogs life but in the human that took on this lifetime commitment. So all you fosters out there - keep up the good work - there is always another creature that needs you.

Posted by: Sandi D. | August 16, 2010 7:24 PM    Report this comment

I have fostered 9 dogs in the past year. I have socialized them, trained them, tried NOT to bond with them too much....but let's face it...you do anyway. Don't be so critical...it's a tough job. It takes me awhile to get over the fact that they're gone. But I do...and everytime I say I can't do it again...2 days later...I have a new foster. No, not everyone can do it...but those that can...should....you've just given a dog a fresh new step up that other homeless dogs don't have. There are many Rescues...but not enough fosters. I keep in contact with the families, and seeing the smiling faces and happy dog pictures should get you through the tough times. I tell foster people, and sometimes I have to remind myself....."Remember how excited you were when you knew your new dog was coming home?"

Posted by: Dylan | August 16, 2010 6:55 PM    Report this comment

To gsprescuer... I have been rescuing dogs for at least 25 years of my life and I think you should give people like myself a break. Some people are cut out to foster dogs, some people are not. I have had upwards of a dozen dogs in my life that I have rescued and given a great home. With me. Just because I don't foster dogs for someone else does not mean I don't make a difference in the lives of the dogs I rescue. Without people like me, who would you give your foster dogs to? Someone has to adopt them. Thanks for discounting all the good I have done. I have saved a lot of lives with the animals I have adopted. Thank you for fostering. It is necessary as well, but still. Don't discount those of us who rescue the dogs that come from foster homes (or the street, or an abusive situation). Give me a break! I feel pretty good about the animals I have helped in my lifetime (so far).

Posted by: BECKY B | August 16, 2010 4:30 PM    Report this comment

One more thing to add...I'll take a few tears shed over saying goodbye to a dog I have fostered and loved, knowing he/she is moving along to a forever home. It is far more heartbreaking (and many more tears are shed) over knowing a dog was euthanized in a shelter because there wasn't an open foster home to accommodate them.

Posted by: gsprescuer | August 16, 2010 3:18 PM    Report this comment

I have been rescuing and fostering dogs for 10 years. It really makes me angry to hear people say they won't or can't foster because they'll get too attached and be heartbroken to let them go. Come on people! Dogs are SELFLESS in their love for us and their devotion to us. Shouldn't we be strong enough to extend to them the same courtesy, and be SELFLESS in our devotion to saving their life, fostering them, then letting them go?

Do I cry when they leave? YOU BET! Do I know there are others "in line" waiting for a space in my home to open up so they too can live and have a chance at a forever home? YES! Foster homes are the KEY to saving lives. It doesn't matter how much money a rescue group has, how large or how small the group is, without OPEN FOSTER HOMES, we cannot save lives. Period.

When the dog is adopted, you have not only saved the life of the dog, but you have forever changed the family that adopts them. I have so many wonderful friends, former adopters, who keep in touch with me throughout the years, sending photos and updates of their beloved dog(s).

Volunteering for rescue can be emotionally trying, but it is also LIFE CHANGING! Every tear shed over "letting go" is replaced ten-fold by a feeling of satisfaction, fulfillment and knowledge that without YOU, that dog would most likely not be alive (and what a shame that would be). Your heart will be full, not of sorrow, but full of LOVE and CONTENTMENT knowing YOU made a difference.

So, how about a dose of selflessness for the sake of saving a life?

Posted by: gsprescuer | August 16, 2010 2:20 PM    Report this comment

For five years I fostered Australian Shepherds for ARPH (aussierescue.org). My first 7 fosters were wonderful and went to great families. I cried when they left. Then came Astro. He was the smartest Aussie I had ever met. He would pick up tricks in no time. But... Astro's brain was miswired. For the longest time I was in denial. I made excuses for his odd but dangerous behaviors. I was so sure love and consistent positive training would save him. Without warning and with no apparent trigger, though, his eyes would go blank and he would growl in a scary way. It wasn't the type of behaviors you could attribute to an easy cause like abuse. Our vet thought it was a form of neural damage or epilepsy. In the end he bit me pretty badly and I had to let him go. After Astro I had what seemed like alternating good dogs and problem dogs. Eventually the heartache of having to euthanize the unadoptable dogs got to me and I had to stop fostering.

Posted by: kathygl | August 16, 2010 2:16 PM    Report this comment

I have been fostering for a couple years now and it is always heartwrenching to watch them go. Especially after I spend so much time with them, teaching them basic manners, getting to know thier little quirks.I've had some of them for as long as 2 yrs or more and those are the hardest ones to see go but its what I have to do in order to find loving homes and I do everything I can to insure thats what is going to heppen.

Posted by: Chelsea E | August 16, 2010 2:15 PM    Report this comment

I fostered a dog once. Now he's mine. I don't foster anymore. I adopt! :) It takes a special person to foster a dog and then to be able to give them up to another home. I have come to the conclusion that I am not good with fostering. It is a much needed "talent". I can relate to the author's pain in having to let this dog go...

Posted by: BECKY B | August 16, 2010 1:47 PM    Report this comment

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