A few years ago I was part of a year long photography project called Life Stories. Myself and some amazing photographer friends took on a personal photo project once a month. Well, we are back at it again starting today. I’m excited for this project, as one of my goals this year is to pull out my “real camera” more often with my family, and not just rely on the easy-peasy iphone.
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you have surely seen photos over the past year of dogs. Specifically, dogs in rescue who are adoptable and looking for their forever families. Some of the dogs I post are ones that come in to the studio with their foster person for new photos for their adoption profile with SecondHand Hounds. However, a few of the dogs you’ve seen, are our actual foster dogs. Dogs, that we have taken into our home, until they too find their forever families. In the rescue world, it’s called fostering.
For us, fostering began as a way to find our next furry family member. When our beloved 13.5y old Australian Shepherd passed away in September of 2014, we were devastated. He’d been our first baby, and was a huge part of our family. Being the dog lover I am, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I’d want another dog, and knew that this time around I wanted a rescue dog. I also did not want a young puppy, and therefore was also a bit nervous to just adopt a dog since I still have a young one at home who’s not super calm. I’d heard about fostering, and it sounded like a great way to find our next dog. We take them in, if it’s the right match, we keep it! If not, we help find it a good family that is a right match. So in November of 2014, we took in our first foster dog. He was not a right fit for our family, and was adopted by another family who loved him. Then we took in another foster, this time it was Blue. Who as most of you know we “foster failed” which in rescue world means we kept him (failed to foster, because we adopted!) But what was surprising, was that we had found that even though we never intended to keep fostering, we did. We loved it. The kids loved it. And thus every month or two, we’d take in another dog.Some we only had a few days, some a few weeks, and some a little longer. Over the past fifteen months, we’ve had 8 foster dogs. And plan to continue.
The question I get most often, typically on Facebook, is “how can you give them up?!” It’s a great question. And one I too wondered when we began. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. Sometimes, really hard. I love these dogs, and when they are in our home they are part of our family. I spend so much time with them, getting to know them. We crate train them, house train them, start obedience training them. I take them everywhere and get to know their likes, their dislikes, their fears….as well as get to see how they are with children, other dogs, cats, men, women, cars, parks, leash walks, etc. The more I know, the more I can help them. Some fosters are easy as pie, others take a lot more patience (Blue was so far, the worst behaved/mannered foster we ever had, he was a mess, lol) But all, over time, show us who they are, and what they need. And in return, we help them find their forever families. How has it been for our kids? More on that below.
How can we let them go? Yes, it’s hard. and yes I cry. I cry more in the day leading up to it, anticipating the hole they will leave behind……but honestly the main reason I can let them go is seeing the love and excitement of their new family. Watching them wag and wiggle with happiness when they’ve met the right match. Knowing that both the dog, and the family, are getting an unconditional love. THAT is what makes it possible. As that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about me. It’s about all of them. The family and the dog. They are the love story with the happy ever after. I just get to be a stop on the way! Plus, knowing that every dog we find a home for, means another dog’s life will be saved when we take them in as our next foster.
Now to the photo portion…..this sweet girl is our most recent foster, who went to her forever home just a few days ago. She’s the sweetest thing ever and the cutest little pitty I’ve never met. We joke that she will likely be “the one that got away” – meaning at some point we may regret not adopting her. But all that really is, is a testament to how much we loved her, and how happy we are that she, who only weeks ago was marked for death in KY, is now thanks to the efforts of LMAS and Secondhand Hounds, living the good life.
Fostering dogs has been an amazing experience for my children. Besides all the extra kisses and love, it’s helped them practice patience, calm assertiveness, and tolerance. They’ve learned you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, and that previous bad experiences don’t have to be forever. They’ve watched dogs go from shy, frightened, nervous puddles, to trusting, calm, sweet bundles of joy. We don’t focus on their negative previous lives, but instead talk about what we can do to help. How consistency, routines, rules, and calm energy makes them feel safe.
My kids have learned how to be respectful of animals. To give them space, and exude kind, calm energy. And, they’ve learned to read the signals dogs give us for when they are feeling a certain way. There’s been some amazing lessons in body language, and how dogs communicate not only overall, but also with each other. Yes more than one of my kids has been mildly bitten, (one dog ended up not being so kid friendly) and that in itself was a life lesson. Any dog can bite if they feel scared/threatened enough, and most give signals leading up to it. They knew this already from our previous old crabby dog, and even with Blue who sometimes when feeling threatened will defend himself against other dogs. While not pleasant, it’s part of it too. And we’ve talked about those feelings (it can be scary when dogs bite/fight) and how we too can overcome those feelings and learn to trust again.
My kids enjoy their part in fostering and saving lives. They talk about it with their friends, share our foster dog photos, and wear their SHH sweatshirts with pride. As a parent, watching them care and support something that is helping so many….it makes me proud.
This is a little collage of all the fosters we’ve had in our home thus far. In chronological order. As you can see we’ve had all sorts, some furry, some not, some big, some small. But all rescued from kill shelters in the south, brought to MN, where they got the chance to have a better life.
If you are interested in learning more about fostering, please check out the SHH link with much more info on the process and I’m happy to answer any personal questions you may have on the subject!
Be sure to check out my fellow photographer friends and their Life Stories Project!
Niki of Niki Strbian Photography
Fabiana of Fabiana Beatriz Photography
Verity of Verity Dokter Photography
Danielle of Danielle Frank Photography
Audrey of Audrey Frantz Photography
Nicole of Nicole Ridella Photography
Kathleen of Kathleen Weibel Photography