by Daniela Morales
It is November 2020, the pandemic hasn’t left, and the cold winds of winter have started blowing. This is my final year of high school, and in between all the assignments and pressure, there’s a glimpse of a break in the form of Thanksgiving. However, before Thanksgiving begins, my dog Russel’s health plummets.
He’s been living with chronic kidney disease for the past year. We’ve somehow kept him alive as well as he could be with his kidneys failing him, and with that hope in our hearts, we take him to the vet.
The news is no good. He is suffering. The only thing I can do to make it stop is to let him go. He’s been with me for ten years, across two countries, it’s the least I can do. That night, I cry myself to sleep.
After he passed, I had to get accustomed to not seeing him every time I woke up (when I used to prepare his food); to no longer having company during the nights when both my parents worked.
In trying to deal with that hole in my routine and heart, I played with the idea of adopting a new dog. I checked out shelters near me, scrolling through their pages for a dog that could help me grieve. I talked with my mom about it, wrote some pros and cons, and after a lot of back and forth, I decided it wouldn’t be fair to the dog we brought in: I would be going to college soon, and the dog would become my mom’s responsibility.
I still felt the need to be in contact with dogs, though. And through my search of the animal shelters’ page, I discovered fostering. A temporary arrangement; a way-house for homeless animals to be comfortable while waiting to be adopted.
I filled out the fostering application in One Tail At A Time‘s website, and once they reached out to me, I attended a virtual orientation that made it official.
My first fosters were these two senior ladies who’d lost their owner:
Taking care of them made the pain I felt every time I remembered or talked about Russel more manageable, and it allowed me to appreciate the time I was able to spend with him even more.
There’s a certain comfort in knowing you are responsible for another living being; of knowing that even when you aren’t up to facing the day, you have another reason other than yourself to do it — because sometimes we believe we’re not worth it all on our own.
I had to get up at 6:30 a.m. every day to feed Annie and Emily. I had a reason for going outside and enjoying the sun when I took them out on their daily walks.
Committing to a pet is a serious decision. You’re making the choice to take care of them for their rest of their lives — Not to mention the economic responsibility.
Fostering can be a very good alternative as most shelters and organizations will provide you with all the necessary resources you’ll need while fostering the animal, and the time commitment can be as short as two weeks. Additionally, you’ll be helping a homeless animal by giving them love and comfort while they find a permanent home.
The only drawback, of course, is saying goodbye. It might be hard to let them go after making a bond with them. I know I might’ve gotten teary eyed when I saw Annie and Emily get in their new owner’s car, but I was at peace with knowing that they would be able to spend their last years in a loving home.
And if you absolutely can’t let go, most organizations give you the option to keep the animal you fostered.
If you want to check out fostering for yourself, here are a few Chicago-based organizations that would appreciate your interest!