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.