Foster Failing

Tammy 2A foster failure is a term we use in animal rescue work to denote, that we, as fosters, have decided to keep our foster dog instead of adopting them out. Of course, it is really not a failure for the dog or us, but a perceived failure of the system of fostering. Fostering involves socializing and teaching an animal to be a good citizen in many areas. Walking on a leash, housebreaking, and any number of behavioral issues, like fear or anxieties and getting along with other dogs and animals, because, as everyone knows, foster people never have just one animal. Everyone has to know their role in the pack. Doing this also helps the dog by making them more adoptable to a good home. Many times, somewhere in that process, the foster decides that they cannot bear to adopt out, and instead, decide to make them a permanent part of the family.

This is what happened to me, again. To be clear, over the past 10 years we have fostered well over twenty five dogs, and out of that, we have failed the adopting out mission five times. This will be number six. A couple of those we fostered with the intention of keeping, all the rest were surprises to us. This latest one was of particular surprise to me as she is not typically the kind of dog that I would ever pick out of a line up. And yet, she started working her magic on me at the kennel when I was looking for a new foster and had walked by her several times; each time she was pleading with me to take her home.

You see, I have always had big dogs and although I love all dogs, I have a horse farm and have always had dogs like German Shepherds and Labs. Our own dogs have always been in the 50-100 pound range, and the same with the fosters. Very rarely did I stray from that ideal. We fostered a cattle dog that soon became ours, but even he pressed the scales at about fifty pounds, in his prime. Several years ago I brought home a cocker spaniel to foster, who was adopted to one of my students within a few months; and then, the most recent time, five months ago, I brought home that Tibetan Terrier who was casting her spell during my kennel walk.

Yes, I had been looking for another personal dog to stand in the paws of my sidekick that I had lost in 2011. He was the perfect dog. About seventy pounds, loved to go for truck rides to different farms that I taught at and I could let him out and he never got in the way of horse training or me giving lessons. He simply would lay down out of the way and wait for me. He got along with all animals, big and small; everyone that met him loved him, and when we were traveling cross country with him, a couple of people even asked if they could have him. He was a foster failure too. Up until now, four years and about eight foster dogs later, I had yet to find one that I not only loved, but could be that same type of dog for me.

Enter, Tammy Tibetan Terrier, hiding in plain sight with me for all these months. She is very good with other animals but is more interested in being with me. Whether it be outside on a nasty wintry day or just hanging in the office, she follows me and is just content to be. She will accompany me in the truck or car and while I run errands, will sit in the drivers seat waiting, keeping my seat warm until I return and send her back to the passenger side. When giving lessons, she is by my feet with no desire to be anywhere else. She was constantly staking her claim as my dog.

Looking back now, I can see that she has been auditioning for a permanent role with the farm family for the whole five months that she has been here. She has been acting her role flawlessly, waiting for me to wake up and see the real plot.

I could blame it on being too blonde or having long term senior moments as the cause, but if I am honest, I have to admit that I had not given her a chance for that role because she did not arrive in the package that I expected or was looking for. She was a small foo-foo type dog and as well as me not taking her seriously, I never considered her for the part. It was not until the mother organization called upon me to update her bio and get new pictures taken of her that I realized she was the dog that I had been searching for since Pierson crossed over.

I have to wonder how many other things that I have not noticed in life, that I have not given proper attention to because of the packaging. Part of me is mad at myself for setting such limits; I never thought of myself as one of those kind of people. No prejudices, I thought, but yet, this eye opening fact remains for me to work on. Not only can great things come out of small packages, but great things can be in any package. Seeing with your heart and not your eyes. Tammy Tibetan Terrier knew this. It will be interesting to see what else she teaches me over our time together.