Thursday, April 14, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: The Link Between Love & Letting Go — #AtoZChallenge


When I talk about rescue with non-rescuers, one of the things I hear most often is, “I couldn’t do it. I’d want to keep all the dogs.” 

Guess what? All rescuers feel the same way. I’ve never rescued or fostered a dog that I didn’t want to keep. I cry every time I deliver a dog to his/her new family. (Heck, I even get attached to the dogs that come in for surgery at the clinic where I volunteer.) 

If you’re going to be a rescuer, you need to understand this: It’s About The Dog. And in a homeless dog’s process of regaining quality of life, your role as rescuer (or foster) is limited. You’re Mary Poppins, blown in by the East Wind to save the day—and blown out when things are set aright. 

Because there are other families that need her. Other situations that need ‘a-righting’. From this perspective, how selfish of the Banks children to ask her to stay—and how selfish of her if she did stay. Tears notwithstanding (not just the children’s but her own), she opens her umbrella and flies away.

Embrace your inner Mary Poppins. Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, the medicine go dow-own, the medicine go down...

In 2014, the last A-to-Z Challenge this blog participated in, the theme was Lessons In Life From Dogs. Dogs are the original Zen teachers—and nowhere is this most evident than in rescue. The origin of suffering is attachment, says the Buddha’s second noble truth. Us humans tend to equate love with attachment (this, and not money—Pink Floyd notwithstanding—is the source of all evil today), but working with dogs you learn, willingly or otherwise, that love is about letting go.

Don’t misunderstand me; this isn’t about not caring, hardening your heart and feeling nothing. (You’ll be an epic failure at rescuing if you do that. Dogs can read you like a carnival fortune-teller.) What it is about is understanding the temporal nature of your relationship with that dog. And, maybe more importantly, the purpose of this relationship.

You’ve done the hard work; you’ve taken him/her off the street, you’ve brought him/her to safety: to the land of medical care and vaccines and people who give a f*ck. If you’re a foster, you’ve helped them heal, you’ve put their bodies—and their souls—back together. And yet, the most important thing you’ll do for this dog—your culminating achievement—will be allowing him/her to find the place where s/he belongs. 

Every dog needs (and deserves) a family of their own. A pack—of two, of fifteen, doesn’t matter; it’s not about numbers but about how well the members fit together. Sometimes that pack turns out to be yours (oh, happy day!). But make sure this isn’t something you’re doing for yourself. Or, in fact, for anyone other than the dog. 


It’s About The Dog. 

If you’re a parent, this will sound familiar. You love your kids to bits—but would you forbid them to go to college, get married, move away and build their own lives? No. (Well, I hope not.)

Let them go. Open your umbrella and go find the next dog who needs you. There aren’t many Mary Poppinses in the world. Not many people can rescue, or foster. Once your job is done with this dog, you have a responsibility to the next one. (This is, incidentally, why a foster who adopts the dog they’re fostering is called a failed foster.) 

There’s a dog out there waiting for your help. Don’t let them down.

Thank you so much for the visit, y'all. Tomorrow it's back to practicalities, with a post on medication and treatment for dogs living in the street.

40 comments :

  1. Sometimes the best way to love something is to let it go.

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  2. As a Failed Foster/Rescuer I understand what you are saying perfectly. We have a full house now, but everyone is HOME. My post is about the most lovable kitten ever https://atcad.blogspot.com/2016/04/lovable-atozchallenge.html

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    1. Well, howdy there, FFF! (FFF, as in Fellow Failed Foster...) I agree; as long as everyone is HOME, all is right in the world. I do admit, though, that as happy as my pack makes me, it's put me out of the running for fostering other dogs, and that makes me feel guilty. Just can't win, can we? *Sigh*

      Thanks for the visit! Off to check out your blog :)

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  3. Well, even a failed foster means the dog found a home. And with the dog no longer living on the streets, isn't that the most important thing?

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    1. Absolutely, Jeffrey... But how many dogs can you take in? Every time a foster adopts means one less spot for a fresh rescue. Once upon a time I had three dogs. Then I started fostering. Most of those fosters found homes, but some didn't. They were too fearful, or too sick, or too old; no one wanted them. Some had just been here for so long, and bonded so well with both my dogs and with us that it felt cruel to uproot them. So... we kept them. Which brought our canine population up to seven. And which means I can no longer foster. Which means one less chance for a stray/feral dog to come in off the street. It's a fine line, and a tough, tough choice.

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  4. I would find that so hard to let go of a dog that I fostered. One look into their eyes and I would be lost. Hats off to people who take on that important role, giving them love until they find their permanent pack.

    Cheers - Ellen | http://thecynicalsailor.blogspot.com/2016/04/l-is-for-lazy-jacks-nancy-drew.html

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    1. It is hard, Ellen; I won't lie. It helps, though, to know that the life they're going to is better—for any number of reasons—than the one they had with you. Then you know your tears are just selfish, and it's easier to deal with that ;)

      Thanks so much for the visit, and for the like on Facebook! I look forward to staying in touch long after this crazy month is over. (Are we there yet? :D )

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  5. You touch on a very important topic here, Guilie, and the advice does, as you imply, go well beyond dogs. If I read you correctly, the job of a rescuer or foster is similar to that of a parent; above all else, it is that of an enabler.

    Keith Channing A-Zing from http://keithkreates.com

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    1. Perfectly stated, Keith. Yes, it's enabling more than anything else, and absolutely key to the dog's future happiness. It's just... darn, it's hard :)

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  6. I've never been able to consider fostering kitties because my cat hates other cats, so I've never even though about this before. I can only imagine how hard it is to give up the dogs you've fostered for long periods of time.

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    1. It is hard, Dianna... But worth every tear, I promise you :) Three of my dogs (failed fosters, what else?) are like your cat, which means I'm no longer able to take anyone in. I do miss it; there's always pleasure involved in being a part of a dog's recovery. On the other hand, I get to avoid those horrible goodbyes... Silver linings, eh? ;)

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    2. P.S. — I couldn't find your blog... If you read this, Dianna, would you come back and leave a link I can follow? Thank you so much!

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  7. Great perspective! Kudos for every life you touch!

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  8. That analogy about parenting a child puts fostering into perspective. I never looked at it that way before. Thanks for the insight!

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    1. Glad to hear it, Debbie! Thank you for the visit :)

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  9. I've never had a dog. It's a big commitment. Visiting back from A to Z @suesconsideredt from Sue’s Trifles
    and Sue’s words and pictures

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    1. It really is, Sue. Thanks for coming by.

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  10. On the rare occasions I was involved in rescuing a dog I did find it hard to say goodbye. I had to keep one dog at home overnight before we were able to take her to a vet. The vet had to put her to sleep and I cried buckets. Although I was glad that she died peacefully and painlessly as a result of rescuing her.


    Susan A Eames from
    Travel, Fiction and Photos

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    1. Oh, Susan... I hear you. It hardly seems possible that one would get so attached so quickly, in a matter of not even days but hours, but... there you have it. People think rescuers are super strong emotionally, but the truth is we're all softies. And, apparently, masochistic :)

      Thanks so much for coming by. And, belatedly, thanks as well on behalf of that dog you rescued. Yes, you did a good thing. (And I'm tearing up as I write, haha. SOFTIES, all of us! ;) )

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  11. Wise words, oh wondrous woman. Hang on, we're not at W yet :)
    Jemima Pett

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    1. Aw, Jemima—thank you!!! (Are we there yet? :D )

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  12. It has to be heart breaking though, I can't imagine having to let go but with the analogy of Mary Poppins it makes so much sense. I'd have to keep that umbrella near to remind myself. Still, I wonder, could I do it or would I fail? Great post!

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    1. I think you'd be a fabulous foster, Yolanda... You'd cry yourself dry when the time came to let them go, but if you saw how happy this new family was to have them, with how much excitement they'd been shopping for beds and toys and interviewing prospective behaviorists, if you saw how diligently they took down notes on everything you told them—feeding times, medication, vet numbers, vaccination dates—and you saw the gratitude in their eyes to you for making all this joy possible... Yeah, I'm positive you'd let the dog go :)

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  13. I am so happy I found your blog! We just adopted our first dog last year, and she is one of the best additions to my life. I never thought I could love an animal this much...she's my best friend. Thank you for all you do in the rescue community. I am so thankful for my Emmie's foster mama...if it wasn't for her, Emmie wouldn't be a part of our family today.

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    1. Katie, I'm so glad you found me too! You adopters are what make the rescue world go round... Seriously, without kind-hearted people like you to give rescued dogs a good home, there simply couldn't be any rescues. THANK YOU!!!! And I'm so happy to hear Emmie's become central to your life... I'm sure she's a fabulous dog :)

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  14. excellent post about letting go. It's rather poignant for me today, as it can also be applied to letting go of humans in our lives as well.

    Mary
    #AtoZChallenge L is for Loretta Lynn

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    1. Oh, Mary... I was so sorry to hear about your mom. A big, big hug to you.

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  15. And this is why it takes a special person to do this job. Not everyone is capable of being Mary Poppins. Fact.

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    1. Hahahahahaha... I'm still looking for that carpet bag that fits a lamppost :D

      Thanks for the visit, Robin. I'm loving your A2Z, by the way... GREAT theme!

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  16. Beautifully put. Who would have thought that the hardest part of rescuing might not be the actual rescue? I'm even more in awe of rescuers than I was before, and that's saying a lot.

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    1. Thank you, Susan. I'm glad these posts shed a bit of light on little-known aspects of rescue... I didn't know a lot of this either until recently, even though I've been rescuing since I was 8. It took working with a good organization, and experienced people, to learn most of it. And, of course, screwing up a few rescues of my own. Nothing teaches like the hard way ;)

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  17. You put this across really well. It would be incredibly hard to let go but as you say it's not about you, it's about the dog.
    Debbie

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    1. I'm glad you think so, Debbie :) Thank you!

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  18. Wow, look at the comments. You have struck a chord. I keep a calender and I write down on specific months when I plan to read some items. I'll be reading last year's A to Z of yours in June when I have a short break.
    Letting go is the hardest part. But it does allow another dog to be rescued.

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    1. Spot-on, Ann... Balancing that "save another dog" vs "I'm in love with this one" is about the toughest part of fostering (and rescuing). Thanks so much for the visit, and for the interest in reading the 2014 A2Z posts! I'll look forward to your feedback on those when you get the chance :)

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  19. It takes a special person to be a foster and I'm not sure I have it in me. I could see myself adopting more than one but I do get the reason for fostering and I bless these Angels.

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