by Steffi Ridgel
I am so lucky to be a foster. The dogs come to me in so many shapes and sizes, colors and temperaments. I have fostered 42 dogs up to this point and each one has thanked me in his or her own way. Every dog has taught me something, each has found a forever place in my heart. The memories are wonderful.
There was Carly, the cell dog graduate, who was so well trained that I nearly expected her to make dinner some night. Freckles, a powderpuff of a white puppy, with fur I could lose my hands in. Pete, who taught me the true meaning of grateful.
Willie, a shaggy little guy who was going to grow up into a very big dog. I didn't know how big until a year later when he came back to visit. The puppy I'd once held on my lap came down the road in the back seat of a cherry red convertible, top down, and his 110 pounds dwarfed the car. With ears flying in the breeze, he looked as if he owned the whole world, And in a way, he did. His people adored him. No longer an abandoned waif, but a king of their hearts.
Katy, the size of a horse, with a temperament of a mouse, and Dinky, a tiny Jack Russel, but with the heart of a lion. While he was with me, he taught himself to walk up and down the livingroom on his hind legs. He always made me laugh. He still does, even though he is "dancing" far away now in his new home.
Paco, a Shih Tzu, who snuggled under the covers his first night with me. His sigh of happiness was so real I didn't have the heart to put him back on his dog bed. When he went to his new owner, I missed his warm little body.
Not only do the dogs stay with me, but many of their new "people" do, too. Some have become friends.
When I looked into the car that was to take Paco to his new home, I wondered where he was going to sit. Toys, blankets, treats were piled all the way to the roof. His new owner had made a stop at a pet store and apparently bought one of everything.
There was the couple that drove through the night from hours away. The rain was pouring down when they arrived. I opened the front door, and it was like a scene from a movie. Little Willie leapt from my arms and flew toward his new owner. She went down on her knees in the rain and the mud, little Willie covering her face with kisses. It was like he had been waiting for her all his short life.
The runner who wanted a running partner came for my husky mix, Lily. As a foster, I get to give love away and sometimes even life. Like the teen who found a new reason to live instead of ending her life, and the widowed man who smiled on his new dog, his first smile in more than a year.
Yes, there are tears when one of my fosters leave, but they are mixed with happiness, too, knowing what gifts I can give away. The smiles of the new owners, the funny updates at Christmas time, the bond I have shared with each dog, that's reward enough for my whole lifetime.
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