Repeat After Me. She’s. Not. My. Dog.

Ginny is a foster. She's not my dog/

Yep, she’s adorable. But She’s. Not. My. Dog.

As this post is published, I’m taking our foster dog Ginny to the SPCA for her follow-up vet appointment. It’s likely she won’t be coming back to us.

And although I’ve written on this very blog that fostering is more about the love than it is about the loss, I can’t stop crying.

Ginny the foster dog plays in snow.

A beagle mix, huh? Must be mixed with husky.

I’m less sad when a foster dog is adopted right from our home. It’s great to see someone who’s already in love with a wonderful dog taking him home. And it’s even better to see our foster pup happy to walk off with his new person.

But I hate taking dogs back to the shelter.

Ginny the foster dog is on the scent.

I believe she’s a beagle. I think she just found the treat I lost in the snow.

It makes no sense. Our no-kill shelter has an awesome adoption center where every dog gets her own “apartment.” Ginny would be there about five seconds before the staff and volunteers started making a fuss over her. She loves the stimulating smells. And most importantly, she’s visible to prospective adopters.

It’s all about me. I hate the thought of taking “my” dog to the shelter. But the crazy thing is—She’s. Not. My. Dog.

I may have to repeat that a few more times. It’s just not sinking in.

Ginny the foster dog plays with Honey the golden retriever.

Maybe I’m not the only one who will miss her?

I guess this is my long-winded way of saying I’m going to miss the little girl. Even if—She’s. Not. My. Dog.

[Update: Ginny is back with us by orders of the vet. So I’m happy to have her home again. But sad that I haven’t done a very good job with her physical therapy. Thanks everyone for the kind words and encouragement.]

Your Turn: I’m too sad to even come up with a fun question. Can you say something to help me feel better?

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  1. First of all, I think it’s really fantastic that you foster dogs. It’s such a lovely thing to do and I hope that I’ll be able to in the future. Second of all, it must be very hard to watch a dog leave when you (and Honey) have bonded with it. But remember you’ve been a rock to Ginny and it’s completely normal to feel upset. You’ve done so much good by having her. I really do commend you.

    • Thanks, Rachael. I suspect that what you learn from integrating Del into a new house with dogs will teach you a lot that will make you an excellent foster parent some day.

      BTW, Ginny did come back with us. But if all goes well, she’ll have an adoptive family soon.

  2. Know that you gave her the best you had to give and now hopefully you are making room for more fostering. We need people like you. Forever homes are great, but sometimes those in between stops are needed and you provide that. Hats off to you. Thanks for all you do.

    • Thanks, Rosa. Most of the time I’m less emotional. But some little stinkers just get under our skin.

      BTW, Ginny did return to the house for a little while. But hopefully she’ll have a forever family soon.

  3. I give you tons of credit for fostering. You’ve given Ginny love and–albeit temporary–a home. It’s better than her being in the shelter the whole time.

    But I’m guessing, if you’re anything like me–and perhaps most of the people in the pet community–every dog is my dog. I can’t help but love them and want to make sure they have a wonderful life.

    Your heart cracks a little when you bring Ginny (or another foster) back to the shelter; that’s because you are who you are. And that’s why you foster to begin with. Ginny will find a home (I’d take her right now if I could), and it will be because you helped socialize her and make her comfortable and happy. Keep up the good work. And thanks. I wish I could do what you do. Maybe some day.

    –Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Susan. Today, I got all upset for nothing. Ginny is back with us for at least another few days. Hopefully she’ll be adopted soon.

      I’ll tell the full story when it happens.

  4. We respect those of you that can do the fostering work. We could never do it because Mom gets way too attached. She would have to adopt Ginny because she couldn’t bring her back to the shelter. Paws up to those of you that have the strength to do it!

    • My husband threatens to adopt every dog who comes to the house. But he’s really meant it with Ginny.

      Our plan to move aboard a sailboat in a few years keeps me from being tempted to adopt every dog. But I must admit, Ginny was a big temptation. After all, how much room could a 17 pound dog take up? :)

      In a change of plans, she is back home with us but will hopefully be adopted soon. I’m sure I have a few more tears left to shed.

      Thanks for the encouragement. It means a lot.

  5. The most important thing of all….this opens your home for the next dog in need!

  6. You know that she’ll find that forever home in a second and partially because you opened your heart and home to her to recuperate. And, what Taryn said…while Ginny is busy interviewing her prospective new families…you and Honey can move on to the next dog in need.

    • In a twist, Ginny is back with us for a short time more. It’s like rehab for fostering. Easing off our addiction instead of going cold turkey. :)

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Kate.

  7. I’ve photographed 100’s of dogs needing Forever Homes and am always amazed at the love the fosters put into a dog that is not their own- yet they help this dog grow, become adoptable and make an impression on the dogs life. Without these fosters, where would these dogs be? Thank you for taking the time to do this-

    • Thanks, Allen. Usually it’s an easy task. But some of the dogs really get under our skin.

      And thank you for using your photographic talents to help dogs find forever homes. When I see some of my terrible pictures on the adoption website, I feel like it’s a miracle anyone falls in love with them. :)

      • You’re welcome- we’re in it together. Sometimes I get an email about a dog not receiving much attention- and it is usually because of a poor photograph. It inspires me to do this when I learn later the dog has been adopted. :)

  8. I empathize with how you’re feeling! You should take comfort and joy in the fact that you helped Ginny acclimate to home life, and she’ll be better suited to a forever family thanks to you and Honey.

    • Thank, Abby. Sometimes the joy comes a lot easier. But Ginny has really stolen our heart.

      I’m hoping she’s pretty close to being adopted. And that will make me feel much better.

  9. Hey, take it easy on yourself! Physical therapy sometimes goes more slowly than other times and you’ve had some pretty brutal weather to contend with. In the meantime, enjoy your time with Ginny and remember … everything happens for a reason.

    • Thanks, Amy. The crazy thing is that even in the cold, we’ve been going great guns with walking. Apparently we’re going to have to pare it back. Less walking for Ginny but more for me since I’ll have to take Honey out afterwards.

  10. The last time we fostered a dog for our local shelter.. she ended up still on my bed now… *LOL* Yes.. we are too weak to foster. She is now MY. DOG :)
    Glad Ginny is back with you for a while. Hang in there and enjoy each other.

    • I know there are amazing people who have several animals and continue to foster. But I don’t think I could manage two dogs and fosters pups as well. I guess my desire to keep fostering prevents me from adopting, even dogs as sweet as Ginny.

      Of course, if the idea of fostering is to find a good home for every dog, you’ve certainly done your part. :)

      • I knew i was going to keep her when i agreed to foster her. Fostering is important for many shelters. And if fosterers like me happens, we lose a fosterer. Fostering is tough work cos in the end there’s loads of tears when they leave for their forever home. But you know they are happy tears if its a great home.
        I don’t really do fostering (because of the weak heart). I rather spend my weekends at the shelter taking pics for them. You are doing great as a fosterer.

  11. She is cute as a bug and I would cry too if I had to give her back. Glad she gets to stay for awhile. I’m sure you are doing a fantastic job with her PT.

  12. Fostering dogs is one of the hardest jobs there are on the planet. Like really. I couldn’t do it. The giving up part would just kill me. Maybe this is working out for the best– Ginny is back home with you and perhaps… maybe… you’ll be able to see her walk off happily with a new human from your home instead of having to give her back to the shelter. Let’s hope for that?
    Thank you for taking care of Ginny. Thank you for doing that.

    • Well actually, I think raising guide dog puppies is the hardest job. Those little stinkers bite! :)

      I think Ginny will be adopted soon. And I look forward to sharing good news with everyone soon.

      Thanks so much for the encouragement, Nikki.

  13. I can only imagine how tough that would be. I think you and everyone else who foster dogs are rock stars. I could never ever do that. I get way to attached. Pretty soon I would have 150 dogs. And in an RV, that would be very bad. LOL

  14. I think it’s great that you can foster and can let go. My sister-in-law has many foster “failures” at her house. She has 9 counting the one or two actual foster dogs right now!

    • Have you had an intervention for you sister-in-law yet? :)

      But seriously, if the idea of fostering is to help more dogs find homes, that’s definitely happening there.

  15. I think the hardest part of fostering is letting them go and I agree – dropping them back off at the shelter is heart breaking ;( I find it hard to believe that you “did not do a good enough job with her physical therapy” – and I truly hope they did not tell you that. Silver lining is you get to foster her for a little longer – it looks like Honey really likes her too :)

    • I am relieved to have her for a little longer. It looks like she might be leaving for her forever family from here after all. At least I hope so.

      And yes, Honey has been a good friend to her. But I think she’ll be happy to be the center of attention again too.

  16. Vlad & Barkly's Dee says:

    “Can you say something to help me feel better?”

    Every time I make another dog adoptable, I’m spreading my love to another place in this world. I’m filling the hearts of others with my love that they get from my foster I’m giving to them.

    Yeah. Doesn’t make me want to cry for you any less either. I can’t foster dogs. The unselfishness of those of you with so much love in your heart to share with others amazes me completely. Just know, you ARE making a difference–a HUGE difference!

  17. I guess I’d be shocked if you didn’t feel that way. I know you know the consequences and yet you choose to foster anyway. Can do nothing but admire a human like that.

    • It is definitely easier to foster when I’m involved in the actual adoption. There’s something satisfying about having that closure, even if it means watching a pup I’ve come to love walk off with someone else.

      Personally, I can’t imagine being able to give a wonderful home to several dogs and cats at one time. “Can do nothing but admire a human like that.”

  18. I forgot, was she being fostered so she could be in a better environment where her leg could get better? Was it her leg or something else? I’m glad she’s back and it is obvious she is doing better as a result of staying with you. A little longer is probably just a precaution.

    • Yep, Ginny is a medical foster. She was hit by a car and had surgery on her hip. We’re supposed to be helping her build up strength in her legs before adoption.

      She has absolutely no behavioral issues I’ve been able to find.

      But hopefully she’ll be with a forever family soon. I’ll share the details when she finally moves on.

  19. It takes a genuine heart to do what you do. And every dog you have foster carries a piece of you with them, just as you do them.

    Hang in there Pamela. :)

    • Unfortunately, most foster are carrying a little bit of my socks or underwear with them, not just my heart. :)

      Thanks for the encouragement.

  20. If you will miss her that much consider being a “foster failure”. Consider adopting her yourself.

    • Although there are some awesome foster families who have several dogs (and cats) and still manage to foster, I can’t see myself having that much energy. Besides that, we’re planning to move aboard a sailboat in the future and I can’t imagine more than one dog in a 40 foot boat.

  21. Oh, what you do is so wonderful, Pamela. I want so badly to foster, and I haven’t, yet, mostly for the reason of loss. I feel like I’m too selfish. I’d want to adopt every good fit, and in no time, my home would be too crowded for fosters. I think I need to grow up a bit. So…I totally get it.

    • With your tender heart, Kristen, I’m surprised you don’t want to adopt all your clients too. :)

      I could never foster if not for Honey. Knowing she’s here for me every day even when a foster goes home, makes it possible.

      I’m glad you understand. Thanks for the encouragement.

      • Well, if I “adopted” all my clients, I’d be arrested. 😉 It helps that they are well-loved by their families, and I feel more like a friend than someone who has to rescue them. Keep up the good work, and keep your chin up.

  22. Simple solution. Three little letters. You KNOW what they mean. “BFF” really truly stands for Be a Failed Foster.

    In short, adopt this dog and never look back.

    • You’re just a troublemaker, aren’t you? :)

      I’ve gotta keep room available for new fosters. I live in a very small house. If I keep adopting, we’ll have to find a new place.

  23. I could never do what you do, and I admire it very much. She’s back with you for a bit, and not in the shelter, and that’s kind of good, right? I’m sure you did the best you could with her PT, sometimes it just takes longer. She is so sweet, she will find a wonderful family. You’re doing great.

    • Thanks, Jan. I kinda took the day to regroup a bit. But it’s always nice to come back to blogville and have the support of friends.

  24. You’ve done a great job with Ginny, and regardless of where and when she goes, she will remember your kindness. We ran into one of our fosters at a reunion picnic one year and she leaped up and bear hugged me, something she’d never done before and her owners were as surprised as I was. I think Ginny will feel the same way about you, although she’s too little to bear hug you!

    • That’s so sweet. You must have been thrilled.

      I’ve never run into any of my foster again. Although Layla’s mom just sent me a follow up and some pictures. It’s the only time I’ve heard from a foster family again. Sounds like the greyhound reunions add a very special piece to the fostering experience.

      Thanks for bucking me up. :)

  25. Thank you to wonderful people like you who do such a great job with the fostering and care of these little ones who are “between homes”. I can only imagine the pain of fostering (and I hope to know it personally one day), but just know all the love and happiness you bring not just to that little pup, but to the family that will one day take her home.

    • Thanks, Christina. It’s always less painful when we see the foster pup going home with his family. I think that will happen this time and it makes me feel much better.

  26. I hate to say this but could you not keep her if you are feeling so attached to her? Or is it that deep down you know that she isn’t ‘the one’ .

    I am pleased to see that she is back with you on vets orders for a little while longer – don’t think this has anything to do with you not doing an amazing job with her. A power greater than us has decided the time isn’t quite right for her to leave you.

    Pamela, you do the most amazing job and have been highly responsible for me wanting to get into the fostering game myself. If I’m allowed!

    • There are a few reasons I don’t want another permanent dog in the family.

      First, I don’t think I could continue to foster other dogs with two of my own already. I have lots of friends with several dogs (and cats) who also foster. But they’re better people than I am. I couldn’t manage the extra stress.

      And secondly, it’s my dream to move aboard a sailboat someday. I can’t afford to adopt animals when I’m planning a big move.

      Thanks for the encouragement, Lauranne. I bet you’d make a great foster parent. Just have a long talk with your own pup first. I can only do this because Honey is so amazing.

      • Your friends are not better than you and if you think that again I will find a way to send a slap through blogville to you :0P

        I am thinking long and hard about the foster thing, I need to wait until I know what’s happening with my house but I have spoken to a rescue about perhaps taking some dogs for weekends to give them a break rather than taking them on fully. If that isn’t an option I may have to look into something less time intensive like a cat or guinea pigs etc. However I will keep everyone updated on my progress on my blog – it will make a change from reading about how alone and pathetic I am ;0)

  27. Hi Pam

    1) As a foster parent myself, I completely understand. In all honesty, I always got more attached to the “harder” fosters than the cute puppies that just needed time. You have been so hands-on with Ginny and her daily PT.

    2) As the SPCA staff member, cut yourself some slack! You’ve been a great foster mom to Ginny! Remember – she not only had the current breaks, but there was evidence of a previous break. She is going to needs MONTHS of professional PT after she is adopted. You’ve provided her a safe, loving home probably for the first time in her life. You are great and we (staff) all appreciate everything you do for us.

  28. Why can’t she just stay with you until the right family comes along?

    **HINT** maybe it already has? 😉

  29. Oh, brother. That picture of them curled up together? Swoon! I admire what you do, and I know you’re helping set her up for success in her forever home. I’m sorry to hear she needs more rehab, but she’s in the right place for it – you’re doing wonderfully!!

  30. I don’t know how your heart doesn’t break into a million pieces just at the thought of saying farewell to this little cutie. But I bet it feels like that with most of them. I admire you for being willing to suffer your own heartache in order to help these foster dogs have a better life. You are a hero. (Stop beating yourself up!!!)

  31. God bless you for fostering. That is all.

  32. As a fellow foster parent, I completely understand. Currently, we have a beautiful rotwhiler and I know the day she gets adopted will be a little sad. Our cats, on the otherhand, will celebrate! I tell myself I am not attached, then when the day arrives to give them up, I cry like a baby. There are certain breeds that are harder to see go, if the beagle was our foster, would get herself a permanent home with us