My husband and I made it official today. At 10:08 AM, we signed the adoption papers, and with the final flourish of that pen, Animal ID #A22189665 became Foster Ellsworth Gallaudet. You can call him Foster.
Foster was initially our foster puppy, a cog in the shelter system where his deafness would always work against him; he is now a member of our family where his deafness will be celebrated, his voice will be heard, his desires will matter, his needs will guide us and he will always know love.
Foster is a wonderful boy, full of wild-eyed wonderment with a world that he is just beginning to discover. We are thrilled that we get to join him on his journey, from the first fallen leaf that he chases to his senior years spent napping on an orthopedic bed chosen especially for him. Today, he is a four-month old puppy who weighs thirty-three pounds and knows five hand signs. Soon, he will be an adult- dare I hope for ninety pounds?– who will know a couple dozen signs, except of course, get off the couch. Here at Lavender Gardens, the dogs sit or sleep wherever they please.
Foster is our fourth dog and our second deaf dog. He joins Darwin, the gentle leader of our pack, Galileo, the silly clown who has overcome a broken back, Edison, his equally tone-deaf partner in deaf dog singing, my eternally patient and understanding husband, and me, the freakasaurus of East Dixie Highway who apparently didn’t listen when Donna and Barbra sang enough is enough is enough.
As with each of our other dogs, Foster just fit in- with the other dingoes and in our hearts. He has quickly made a place for himself here and we are both super stoked about guiding and teaching another deaf bully dog to be an ambassador for his breed and for deaf dogs everywhere.
Choosing his name was a process. We knew that he would need a meaningful name, one that was worthy of his potential and, if possible, honored his deafness. Our other three dogs have strong, historically significant names and we certainly wanted to keep that theme going. We also needed to find a name that just seemed to fit him.
Foster was named for Deaf American educator Andrew Jackson Foster. Andrew Foster was the first African-American to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet University. He was also the first African-American to earn a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University. He went on to found the first school for deaf children on the continent of Africa, and over the course of his career opened thirty such schools. He accomplished this in a culture and in a time when African families frequently hid or abandoned their deaf children. In 1970, Gallaudet University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters for his enormous contribution to Deaf education. Considering his namesake’s accomplishments, I’m hopeful that our little Foster will soon grasp what I mean with the sign for down.
Today, we expanded our family a little more- and our organic, sustainably-raised and harvested food bill. Both my husband and I know he was meant to grace our lives; I think we knew it all along. So when we said “Welcome home, Foster!”, we weren’t one bit surprised when he whispered as only a dog can, “But I was already home”.
Now please excuse me, I need to extract the couch from his piranha jaws…