When Failure = Love

by Evelyn Lett

 Joyce, the loving product of foster failure. Photo: Evelyn Lett

Joyce, the loving product of foster failure. Photo: Evelyn Lett

As a rescue dog foster parent, one comment that I often hear goes something along the lines of, “I could never foster, I would fall in love with every one of them!”

Well, yes you will... but that’s the point! All of those precious, abandoned, neglected dogs sitting in animal control facilities who, at risk of being euthanized, are yearning for one main thing: love. Some of these pups have never experienced love, some may have lost love, others are just too terrified to realize that all they need is love. 

In the rescue community we have an affectionate term coined “foster failing.” It has nothing to do with your fostering performance but everything to do with your heart. There are those special fosters that will give you all the feels and you can’t possibly imagine your life without them, but I guarantee you won’t feel that way about every foster. Plus, if you do end up adopting your foster pet and embrace them as your next furry family member, everyone wins!

In honor of our February “love issue,” I thought I’d share just one of my foster fail love stories...

One Saturday morning I was driving to an adoption event at PetSmart with foster #46 in tow—an extremely timid, submissive, unsocialized beagle named Joyce. 

As soon as I merged onto the loop, my nose was assaulted by an awful stench coming from the backseat. I had my fingers crossed that it was just a gassy toot but with a quick glance, I was horrified to see a big ol’ pile of stink. Due to the traffic and nowhere to pull over on the highway, I had no choice but to keep driving, holding my nose to keep from retching. As we continued along our drive, desperately looking for anywhere to stop, I glanced towards the back seat again only to witness poor Joyce vomiting on top of her prior spell of diarrhea while trembling uncontrollably from nervousness. By this point I was gagging uncontrollably and literally thought my nose might fall off from squeezing it so hard. After what seemed like hours, I was finally able to exit the loop! By the time we made it to the nearest gas station, she had eaten about half of everything in the seat. I was crying and felt utterly disgusted, defeated and at a complete loss. What was I ever going to do with this dog?

Joyce’s history is completely unknown since she was turned into animal control. Due to the lack of information, all we knew was that she was extremely timid and had learned to not trust humans at all. Fostering Joyce was challenging. For the first two weeks at my home, it was heart-wrenching trying to coax her out of her crate for anything other than pottying, and I spent many hours simply lying next to her crate reading aloud to her softly. Everything from the television to our overhead fan terrified her, but slowly and steadily, and with a ton of patience, you could really see her learning how to be a pet companion. After about six weeks, I decided it was only fair to give her a chance at finding her very own forever home and was so excited to take her out to meet potential adopters!

Attempting not to panic, I exited the car and tried to figure out the best way to clean my car seat off while holding two dogs with no supplies and trying not to barf. It was right there in the middle of that gas station parking lot, experiencing the grossest moment of my life, that it hit me: I decided to adopt this little girl. I knew that I had to protect her from ever having to suffer from fear again. 

The most important thing as a foster parent is to have an open mind and to trust yourself. If you feel confident about who adopts your foster dog, then you should be able to visualize how much love they will bring to their new family. You can’t be selfish with love! But occasionally, even if you never dreamed in a million years of having a fifth dog (especially a beagle, of all breeds), you will know in your heart that the best way to love your foster is to “fail” at being a foster parent and to succeed at being an adoptive one. 

Joyce has grown leaps and bounds in my home and is continuing to trust and to learn to accept love every day. However… she still doesn’t go on car rides!