The Tears Are More Than Worth It

Without Oreo the house feels empty.

In fact, after he left on Saturday with his new family, Frankie spent the rest of the morning looking for his pal. He ran up and down the stairs and wanted to go out in the playyard to look and then back in the house to make the rounds again. It was a good thing we had Sip for a Cause on our calendar that night to distract all of us.

Some dogs are just special. Not that I haven’t loved every dog I’ve fostered, but some of them burrow a little deeper into your heart.

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I saw something on Facebook about the pain you endure as a foster mom yesterday. It said –

I let my heart break a little, so that theirs won’t ever have to break again.

That just about sums it up, especially when it comes to dogs like Oreo.

He got a great home with a family who already adore him. He’s an 11-year-old’s best friend – and there couldn’t be a better job for Oreo.

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It has been a long and winding road and he has literally escaped death multiple times, so I have no doubt that he is where he is meant to be. My sadness is not for Oreo, it’s for me.

People tell me all the time that they can’t foster because it would hurt too much. As if I’m some kind of superwoman who has no problem letting them go. So not true. While I’m beyond happy for Oreo, it still really hurts (tears happening now just thinking about it).

But my tears are not the point. And they are so worth it.

To be blunt, the options are me being sad for a while or a dog like Oreo dying.

There’s not really a question, is there?

When something matters to you, you’re willing to sacrifice your money, time, comfort, and yes, your heart.

Saving dogs matters to me. So I never for a moment resent the emotions I invest or the pain I endure—it’s part of the price I pay to do something that matters to me (along with sacrificing a few random shoes, experiencing an occasional sleepless night, and learning to live with multiple babygates).

Feeling something—happiness, sadness, fear, joy, anything, is what makes us human. It propels us from spectator to participant in our world. I want to make a difference, I want to save dogs, and I don’t for a second imagine that won’t require pain on my part. The pain makes me stronger and it only deepens my commitment to this mission.

That night after we’d said goodbye to Oreo and wandered around our empty house missing him, Nick and I packed up Frankie and drove through the rainy night to a winery in Maryland for OPH’s Sip for a Cause.

And guess who was there besides Santa?

Gala!

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If you’re new to this blog, Gala is a dog we fostered for eleven months—through heartworm treatment, a broken jaw (courtesy of one of our horses), too many escapes, endless battles with Gracie, Frankie’s puppyhood, and no adopters.

In the end, she moved to another foster with a quieter house and time to focus on Gala. They went to training together and not too long after, Gala was adopted.

Now less than a year later, she has been returned and is in OPH care again living with Pam, who has been her AC and her advocate (and my savior when I needed a safe place for Gala to go while I fostered her).

This dog.

I’ve definitely shed more tears and had more laughs with Gala than any other dog I’ve fostered.

When I saw her, my emotions which were already raw from saying goodbye to Oreo, threatened to level me. I hadn’t seen her since she returned to OPH last September. I’ve told myself it’s because I don’t want to confuse her, but it’s mostly because of the sadness I feel at being unable to save her myself.

While Gala greeted people and met Santa, I focused intently on the young woman pouring our tastes. Yes, love that oaky Chardonnay, I said as my mind frittered through an entire series of worries. Would Gala remember me, Nick, and Frankie? Would she wonder if we’d finally come for her? Or would she be angry we’d deserted her?

I don’t really believe dogs process (or obsess) things the way we do, but Gala is smart and complicated, and I put nothing past her. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and went to her.

Pam sat down with her and I sat beside her and Gala gave me one sniff before launching herself on me and covering me with kisses.

 

This dog. She looked great.

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She’d gained a few pounds and looked happier and more settled. I was amazed at how good she was with everyone she met and how calm amongst so many strange dogs.

She had a similar reaction to Nick and then when I brought Frankie over, Gala recognized him immediately. After a brief inspection, they resumed their full-on play, but in fear that they would break the wine bottles that lined the room, we separated them.

Driving home, I was happy. Yes, I missed Oreo, and yes, I worry that Gala still has no adopter, but the emotion that I feel is rich and real and simply evidence of my humanity.

There are so many good dogs out there. And they need us.

Fingers crossed Dixieland will go home this week. She will need patient adopters, but I know that buried under her fear is a fun little spunky dog who has survived a pretty rough start in life and deserves the happy life she will get.

The kitties get braver every day.

Look for a video of them this week on Frankie’s YouTube channel. They crave attention and leap out of the dresser drawer they like to sleep in whenever I come in the room.

Phyllis is pretty pushy (as I’m told Tortie’s are) and demands more than her share of attention, but Opal is coming into her own and nudges me to pay attention to her. Ian has learned to sleep through his roommates’ nighttime antics.

And I have to say – if you’ve got a surly teenager, fostering cats is a cure for that. If you know of anyone who’d like a new kitty just in time for the holidays, send them my way.

This Friday we’ll welcome Hula Hoop and her three one-week old pups!

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I’m super excited to have puppies (and ease of only three!) to spend Christmas with us. OPH is bringing up two vans full of dogs so you never know, we might have to grab an extra dog too. Oreo left quite a hole.

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my blogs and books, visit CaraWrites.com or subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter (which is rarely monthly, but I’m working at it…everybody needs a goal).

If you’d like to know more about the book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, check AnotherGoodDog.org, where you can find more pictures of the dogs from the book (and some of their happily-ever-after stories), information on fostering, the schedule of signings, and what you can do right now to help shelter animals! You can also do some holiday shopping that benefits shelter dogs or get your own signed copy of the book!

If you’d like to know how you can volunteer, foster, adopt or donate with OPH, click here. And if you’d like more pictures and videos of my foster dogs past and present, be sure to join the Another Good Dog facebook group.

I love hearing from readers, so please feel free to comment here on the blog, email carasueachterberg@gmail.com or connect with me on Facebooktwitter, or Instagram.

 Best,

 Cara

Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available now

Another Good Dog cover

Published by

Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

6 thoughts on “The Tears Are More Than Worth It”

  1. Absolutely!! the tears of frustration in not being able to help are MUCH harder than those when you say a happy goodbye! I wanted to share the kitten lady who also posted this today:. For those that have ever fostered, something just clicks and it feels good to cry when they leave because you were able to help that animal on their path. Even the kittens I’ve fostered for shelters that never let me know where they end up don’t hurt my heart because I know I at least gave them a chance. I just hope for the best. I’m so happy that Oreo found his place and look forward to the many more to meet through your stories!

    View this post on Instagram

    “How do you say goodbye without crying?” The answer is that sometimes I don’t, and that’s okay. It is normal and healthy to be emotional when saying goodbye to an animal you’ve raised, especially one as special as Jumbo. I try to approach myself with gentle kindness and acceptance in these moments, and to feel really proud of myself for being strong enough to save little lives. The truth is that he literally would not have survived without foster care…and I wouldn’t have been able to foster him without saying goodbye to so many kittens before him. Goodbye is a gift. Saying goodbye is a promise to future babies just like him. It’s a small sacrifice of emotional vulnerability in exchange for the gift of their very life, and it is worth every tear. #goodbyeisthegoal #fosteringsaveslives #pizzaboyzbiggestfan

    A post shared by Hannah Shaw (@kittenxlady) on

    Liked by 1 person

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