Our first ever foster comes tomorrow. And I’m feeling well…confused.
When I decided I wanted to foster, I researched…a lot. I asked people I knew and trusted who had done it to get their take. I read everything I could find. I thought about the logistics, the financials, the timing. I considered our dogs’ personalities, how far they had come and how far they had yet to go. And then I developed several different strategies of how to broach the subject with Joe, who I was convinced was going to kick me to the curb the minute I opened my mouth.
Surprisingly, when I sat down with him and said I wanted to foster, he said, “Okay.” I was shocked. I guess I didn’t give him enough credit, or I give him more credit for being sane than he deserves. Either way, I immediately sent an email to ASR to tell them we were going to foster. I figured once I sent the email Joe couldn’t change his mind or back out.
He didn’t change his mind, and I started getting excited as pictures of our soon to be foster reached us. I ordered an Adopt Me vest, made sure to get her an appointment at our vet to get her stitches out and contacted some of my trainer friends to find out what they suggested for our new foster’s particular quirks.
It wasn’t until yesterday that the doubt started to fight its way in. I texted another rescue friend of mine who also fosters and told her I felt like I was going to throw up, “Is that normal?”
What I was going through, she described as an, “Oh shit” moment, which is honestly the best way of describing it. All of a sudden, I was terrified. What ifs flooded my mind, food didn’t seem to want to stay where it belonged, my stomach gnawed and twisted, not with butterflies, but with a swarm of angry killer bees. When I was immersed in work I could forget about it but the minute I finished one project to move onto the next the feeling instantly came back. The muscles in my back tensed, and I even scheduled an extra acupuncturist appointment to cope with the uncontrollable pain. At home, I worried even more.
In the back of my mind I hummed to myself, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” God our house is filthy, I thought through my mantra. I frantically cleaned, but everywhere I looked it seemed like there was something else that needed to be scrubbed. I told Joe I’d really like to move the refrigerator, so I could bleach the floor underneath. He made me sit down. He explained to me in a calm voice that I was freaking out, that our house was 120 years old and that we have two large dogs who shed almost constantly. He said to me, look, we have had dogs since we started living together, that’s been three years now. In that time, we have had four dogs throw up, poop, pee, bleed, regurgitate, shed, track in mud and drool all over this house. The carpet was not really all that clean before the dogs, so no matter how many times you shampoo the carpet or bleach the linoleum, there is dirt that is not going to come up.
Point taken, I sat down and begin to fret over the next disaster. As we sat on the couch, I noticed I was grinding my teeth and biting the insides of my cheeks. Thoughts were flipping through my mind so quickly I was losing track of them. “You don’t think Panzer is going to be a problem right? I mean, he’s come a long way, right?”
Joe sighed, hit pause on the movie and looked at me, “He’ll be fine.” I ran my fingers around the insides of my palms and looked down at my lap. Joe sighed again, “Really.”
“Are you excited?”
Joe shook his head, “Nope.”
“Nervous.” I phrased it more like a statement than a question. He was obviously nervous, because I was, so he had to be.
I felt myself getting frustrated. How could he not be nervous or excited or anything? What was wrong with him? What was wrong with me? Why was I all of these things? Why wasn’t he?
I set to making a list of things I needed from the store to prepare for Wendy’s arrival. I wanted to get her a new collar, we needed a new leash, I was low on treats, and I wanted to get her a special plush toy to put in her crate, so she could have something cuddly to sleep with since we would not be allowing her to sleep on the bed with us. I looked at my list. It took me about thirty seconds to write. I felt like it was seriously deficient. For every other dog we’ve ever had come into our home I’ve had page long lists, we needed crates and bowls and leashes and collars, toys and treats and food , a harness and a backpack, matching bandannas and toys in the color I’d chosen for the dog, Panzer was red, Shelby was blue, Smokey had been green, Dusty pink. But for the foster…
She’s not our dog. She’s just passing through. She’s like a guest. You don’t buy new sheets for your guest bed; you just wash your old ones. Ah, wash. I bolted upstairs and stripped the orthopedic dog bed cover. I’d bought it for Panzer since his back end is weird, but he ended up sleeping on our bed, so it mostly went unused in the back corner of the bedroom, collecting dust. It needed washed. I took it downstairs, frowned at the stain from when Shelby had thrown up on it, and it had never come out and considered adding new dog bed to my list but refrained.
I stopped by the kitchen and eyed the stains under the fridge once more but opted to get a bottle of water instead. I walked back into the room and saw Panzer and Shelby playing, nipping each other’s legs and doing house spins, chasing one another, leaping after their respective balls and wubbas (which I had already picked up off the floor twice) and having a grand old time. Oh God, the panic crept in again. The new foster had due claws which had been removed. I watched Shelby grab Panzer’s ankles. Oh God, and she’d just been spayed and had a hernia fixed. Panzer soared over Shelby in one leap then spun around, growling and brandishing his wubba, which Shelby latched onto and the two of them tugged, wagging their tails and pulling with all their might. I watched their paws dig into the carpet and groaned. What was I doing? How was I going to keep the foster out of this fray?
I collapsed onto the couch and thought, our house is too small, too dirty, our dogs are miscreants who are too rough, I’m not as good of a trainer as I could be, what are the neighbors going to think? I picked up my phone and thought about calling it all off. This was a bad idea. Her temporary foster mom was completely capable, confident and collected. She had been through this plenty of times, she seemed to have a nice house which was clean and big and calm.
And then I went onto Facebook and scrolled through my mini feed. I started to count. By the time I reached the point where my phone paused to load more stories I had counted 10 homeless dogs being cross posted. 10. I put my phone down, took a deep breath and said to myself, “You can do this. The first step is always the hardest. You are a good trainer, look at how far your dogs have come. Your house is small, but you spend plenty of time outdoors with your dogs, the house is really just a place to play wubba tug and sleep. Your house isn’t as clean as it could be, but you work and you choose training over cleaning some nights. You don’t have mice or bugs or anything dangerous strewn about. You have a great home, and you’ll be a great foster.”
Okay self, whatever you say.