When he starts stealing the resident dog’s kibble, you know your time with the foster puppy is drawing to a close.
Not today, and probably not this week, but soon, the Baby Dog will start the next phase of his life. Fingers crossed, it will be a most excellent adventure. A second set of vaccines, neutering, a microchip: these are the upcoming milestones that will mark the beginning of his next journey, the one that will lead him out of my life and, more importantly, into the lives of a family he loves as much as they love him.
This process- the caring for then returning a neonatal puppy or kitten- used to leave me feeling conflicted. Hell, how do you think we started with one dog and foster-failed ourselves into four dogs- two deaf, two hearing and not one if them less than sixty-five pounds- in less than three years?
I’m no longer torn when it’s time to return a foster animal. I’ve reached my limits with our current pack. Unfortunately, The Husband reached his limit two dogs ago. The upside, for our marriage at least, is that he practically lives on a plane. Just about the time this pack of differently-abled dingoes drives him to drink, it’s time to repack, reload and replane.
In our case, and for reasons more pressing than my ability to refuse a deaf dog, and for reasons related entirely to me and my absurd notions of what the new normal looks like, absence not only makes his heart grow fonder; it keeps our marriage intact. I’m not easy to live with or to love. And if I know nothing else in this life, it’s that I’m just damned lucky that he married down.
So, no, returning this cute fuzzy poop machine is not hard for me. It is bittersweet but not hard. It most definitely is the end of our journey together but it is the beginning of his ENTIRE life.
And that is the point of those midnight feedings when he suckled barely half a bottle before pooping in my lap, when he fell fast asleep nuzzling my ear, those tough-love supplements and dewormings I gave daily at nine and teaching, to the best of my ability, basic life skills like frustration tolerance and crate acceptance. The reason a foster parent does these things and a hundred others is precisely so we get to say Adios, Little Man. Be good. Be happy. Be well.
It is a bittersweet goodbye but the sweet memories of mixing formula then solid food, washing loads of laundry and poop off his paws and tripping over your own damned feet so as not to step on the tail-wagging ankle-biter are exactly that: memories. A postcard from the past. Emotional Polaroids that give meaning to your life. And when you drop him off, you get to keep those memories and, if you’re sentimental or a blogger, dozens of i-Phone photos.
So, soon, not today and probably not this week, the Baby Dog will go back to the shelter. He’ll be adopted and continue on a journey that won’t include me. And that’s okay. I served my purpose in his life, and I showed him love. Life here at Lavender Gardens will go back to normal. It’ll just be me and four dogs, wagging our tails, waiting patiently for Papi to return.
(At least until Christina Lee with Deaf Dogs Rock finds me a deaf female Great Dane- AND Chris Lee coverts a barn stall into a squatters paradise where I can live comfortably with three deaf dogs, two hearing dogs and a phone full of memories!)