If you follow TH,PL on Facebook, you already know the news: there is a family interested in adopting my Maggie. And therein lies the problem. She was never supposed to be my Maggie. And at first, she totally was just my foster dog, but somewhere in the last year (A. Whole. Year!) she kind of just, well, wasn’t anymore. Something changed and I started thinking of her instead of as my foster dog, but as my dog. Have I made a huge mistake?
I know a lot of people that foster dogs create some separation between their permanent dogs and their foster dogs. For some, it’s not allowing them on the couch or bed. For others, it’s calling them by a different name or not cuddling. I never created that division though. Maggie was so scared and timid when I got her that I poured 110% of myself into working with her and making her feel, really feel that she was loved and part of the pack. I wanted her to feel just the same as my dogs so I could work to overcome her other fears. And I don’t regret that because she has done damn near a full 180 in the time that I’ve had her. But for my sanity, should I have? Have I in fact made a huge mistake?
After saying goodbye to my first foster, Dash, I wrote this post about how you really can do it. You can say goodbye to your foster dog that you have grown to love because it is for the greater good, and that is why you foster in the first place. But now I’m not so sure. Can I? Am I strong enough to trust someone else with her? Ever since I spoke to the family that is interested in Maggie I have felt like I’m going to vomit at any second, had a giant lump in my throat, my heart has been beating faster than a hummingbirds, and I’m pretty sure there has been an invisible elephant sitting on my chest. Because it feels like they want my dog. And to make it even worse, they sound perfect. Yes, that is worse. Because when I meet them and they are in fact perfect, how am I going to make an excuse to justify saying “no” to them so that I can keep Maggie all to myself?
I know that I might be getting a little ahead of myself here. First the family has to meet Maggie (tentatively scheduled for tomorrow) and they have to like her. And Maggie has to like them. And then there will probably be a trial weekend or even week. And then the final decision would be made. So there are a lot of things that need to go right before I actually have to make the decision to say goodbye to her, but I’m already dreading it.
And here’s the thing: I am dreading it more for Maggie than for me. I know, you might not believe me, because it’s painfully obvious that I love her dearly, but I really am more scared for her than anything. I know saying goodbye to her is the right thing for me to do, because it would allow me to save so many more and help them the way I’ve helped Maggie. But I have a paralyzing fear that Maggie will get let down again. I don’t ever want her to feel, even for one tiny second, scared or alone or confused again. And if she stays with me, I can guarantee that that won’t happen. I can guarantee she will always be understood. I can guarantee she will never be put in a situation that might not set her up for success. I can guarantee her weird quirks will be adored. I can guarantee she will be protected. But I guess I just have to have faith? Faith that this family will love her as much or even more than I do. Because isn’t that what it’s all about? Without trusting adoptive families to treat our fosters as well as we do and just keeping them ourselves, our efforts would essentially come to a screeching halt. And then what about all the future dogs that need us?
So, while I have probably in fact made a huge mistake by allowing myself to think of Maggie as my dog, I will swallow that enormous lump, and say goodbye to her if everything goes well. Because this is why I foster. So I can take the broken dog and make it whole again. I can teach them to love and trust. I can do that so they can complete a new family. And I can repeat the cycle.