I listened to the voicemail while sitting at a college basketball game, trying to make out the words over the roar of the crowd. It was the local humane society calling about my foster dog. I had to take him back to the shelter for a couple days and was supposed to pick him up this afternoon.
“….potential adopters….looking at Ragnarok….call later with an update.”
Rocky might be adopted. This had happened once before with my first foster dog who I had for 4 months before he was adopted. The mixed feelings were not unexpected, but I could feel my heart sink a little while simultaneously feeling excited that Rocky may be adopted. After over 4 weeks together, it was inevitable that we had formed a special bond. I had learned to love his quirks and enjoyed his company, I was looking forward to seeing him after our few days apart. But I reminded myself that as a foster, the goal is for him to be adopted. I had done my part. For various reasons, I knew I wasn’t going to adopt him, this was the best possible outcome.
The second call came at the end of the game. They were going to adopt him, he had found his forever home! I was so elated for him, but I knew I would miss him. That evening, I cried as my boyfriend and I reminisced about what a great dog Rocky is and the good times we had together. “This is hard.” It was true. It’s hard to say goodbye to an animal that has found a place in your heart. Why did I keep doing this? Why did I keep fostering dogs knowing that when they get adopted, the happiness would also be accompanied by a little bit of heartbreak?
Was the pain I was putting myself through really worth it? I thought about this. This is not the first time I’ve been in this type of situation. I live in a very transient college town, every year for the past 3-4 years, I’ve had a handful of close friends move away. They graduated their masters or PhD programs, or got residencies, fellowships, or jobs in other cities. Every year it was hard to say goodbye, but the friendship we shared for the few years they were here was and is still worth it. Knowing these people would leave in 1-4 years didn’t ever stop me from befriending them. The pain of saying goodbye was worth it.
I would even go as far as to say that I go through a lot of pain with my diabetes. The physical pain of being pricked and poked constantly with needles, of dealing with the physical symptoms of high and low blood sugars, the emotional pain of difficult days and the relentless effort it takes to manage type 1 diabetes. But I go through this pain so that I can be healthy. The pain of my self-management is worth it.
And so it is with fostering. I love knowing that I’m helping a dog by giving them a break from the crowded, noisy, overwhelming shelter. I love knowing that I’m helping a dog become more adoptable by working with them in areas they might need some more training. I love the companionship they give me while I work from home and the smile they put on my face when we’re playing or snuggling together. And I love knowing that they end up in a loving home. So while it’s sad to say goodbye after the time we spend together, the pain is worth it.