Well, not the planet, exactly. You see, it was on Groundhog Day just two months ago that I had the brilliant idea that I would take home a dog for foster care. I knew I wouldn’t keep a dog, since it was a bit too soon since we’d lost our beloved pup, Comet, late last summer. But our family has had this humongous, intergalactic-sized hole in our hearts that has needed some filling. SO, I called my friends at the MSPCA at Nevins Farm and, low-and-behold, they told me that one of their dogs needed some attention outside of the adoption center.
When I arrived, I met “Jenny,” a pretty, five year old pitbull mix who was scared, skinny, and very cautious towards me. I was told she was surrendered after Christmas time because her family had to move suddenly and couldn’t take her with them. She had been kept in a crate for most of the day or in a small confined space outdoors. Jenny had not been leash trained, wasn’t completely housebroken, and had just been spayed after a recent litter. Also, she had a nagging kennel cough that wasn’t going away. She was ultra-sensitive to the noises and the busyness of the shelter and would rub her nose raw on the kennel door from being so nervous. Because she was afraid, she would often cower at the back of the kennel when potential adopters would approach…not the best foot forward for a dog who needs a new home.
The wonderful caregivers at the MSPCA thought that Jenny might fare better in foster care for awhile. Foster care is offered when an animal isn’t quite ready for direct placement through the adoption center. Volunteers, like our family, agree to care for an animal (or multiple animals) in their homes for a short or longer period. Sometimes, like Jenny, they need time to adjust to their new life outside of their old home. Other times, they are old or sick and need more care, even around-the-clock. And mother dogs and cats with their young litters are often cared for in foster homes until their babies are weaned and old enough for placement
Taking Jenny home was a trial for all of us, as we were all in different states of mental readiness for even caring for a foster pup---but we all agreed to try. Jenny quickly attached to each of us and instantly appeared to be a new dog. She seemed most grateful to us and wagged her tail very often. We put her on a special diet to help her gain some weight and improve her skin and coat. Her nose healed within a week, and her cough improved and went away soon after. She is incredibly energetic---possibly more active than any other dog I’ve ever had. It was as if she was sprung from five sedentary years of life into a big new world where she could take long daily walks with my husband or run after Frisbees in our fenced yard. But she could also be quiet and snuggle with my daughter or sleep in my office (with one eye open for now to make sure she isn’t left alone). She is almost completely housebroken, eats two great meals a day (and healthy snacks in between), and has more toys and beds than anyone I know.
And while Jenny was healing with our help, a funny thing was happening to each one of us. Little by little, Jenny had seemed to bring my family back to life after a long, dark winter. So, less than two months later, we decided to adopt Jenny and make her a permanent member of our family. Because our last two perfect pets had the astronomical names “Astro” and “Comet”, Jenny is now “Jupiter,” or “Jupie” or “JsuJsu” depending on who is doing the calling. And while things don’t change completely overnight, (she is still somewhat insecure, jumps too much, and is skinny), she is making good progress each day. She is enrolled in the MSPCA’s training classes to help refine her manners and also seems to love playing with agility equipment in our backyard. She is a beautiful and loving dog who gives to us as much as we give to her. But she is not Comet, whom we still think about every day—and always will. There is no replacement for a loss of that magnitude. But Jupiter has taught us that there is love to be found and love to be shared and that opening your heart to a dog in need---or a family in need—is a win-win proposition.
Three things you can do:
1. When you decide to acquire a new pet, please consider adoption!
There are wonderful animals waiting for their second chance at a forever home. Help reduce pet overpopulation by adopting an animal in need. Many animals need little to no training and are great at offering unconditional love. Be patient if you don’t see who you’re looking for, and check back often.
2. Talk with your family about offering foster care!
There are always more animals looking for foster care than available homes. If you can offer a temporary haven to an animal, it can be transformative not only for the animal but for the family, too.
3. Read! Help animals in need by learning about them through books and courses. By sharing what you’ve learned, you can help animal welfare causes by changing hearts and minds, one person at a time.