A year and a half ago I agreed to foster a senior dog who had turned up as a stray at an area shelter. You were described on the rescue’s Facebook page as a “depressed lab.” It turns out you aren’t a lab, but you were definitely depressed.
You arrived to our home overweight, covered with paint on one side, and despondent. Your tail was planted firmly between legs. You moved slowly, with the energy of a being who had given up hope. Your estimated age: 10 years old. We named you Lilac.
What we understand happened is that after you turned up as a stray at the shelter, your “owners” called, and said “Yep that’s my dog. We’ll come get her.” They never came back for you, though they must have known that a dog of your age in a shelter doesn’t have a great chance of making it out alive.
And so you were pulled to safety by Sit With Me, and came to live with us, and our forever dog, Freyja. Your previous owners must think you’re dead. I’ve wondered over the past 18 months if they ever feel guilty about that, or if they miss you. Do they mourn your passing? Of course not only were you not dead, Lilac, you’ve been having the time of your life with us. You’ve won the hearts of so many; we could not have made you whole without the contributions of your extended family, including your uncles Vincent and Al, and aunts Joanne and Jenn.
And now, you have found your forever home with a lovely woman named Kris. Your adoption was finalized today. I wasn’t sure if I could ever say goodbye to you, but knowing what a good guardian Kris will be has made it much easier. There’s a piece of my heart that you took with you, but it’s a small price to pay for knowing that I helped you to find happiness.
You’re lucky, Li. That’s actually an understatement, because this isn’t how it plays out for most animals who end up at the shelter. Sadly, most won’t walk out alive. You’re so extraordinarily fortunate that compassionate Sit With Me volunteers were in the shelter at the exact right moment to grab you, and ferry you to a better life.
But let’s be very clear that it’s not the shelters that are to blame, it’s
people. The people who dump off their animals when it’s no longer entirely convenient to care for them, or who buy a dog without realizing what they’re getting in to and then dump or let them run off. The people who recklessly breed their dog when there’s a dearth of animals being put down in shelters. Someone else’s problem, right?
Lilac, you’ve taught me a lot. I’m a bit hardened and cynical, but you are so trusting and giving of your affection. It has softened my heart to be the recipient of that, and has resulted in me being more willing to open my own heart and let others in. You taught me that it’s okay to give people the benefit of the doubt, even when past experience says that sometimes people don’t deserve it.
It has been wonderful seeing your personality emerge and manifest itself. Like how you like the grass, but LOVE the snow. It was so beautiful seeing you – once despondent and depressed – face dive into it and roll around like a pig in a mud bath. And you’ve given us great amusement with your love for singing, as you dueted enthusiastically with Freyja every time we approached the dog park.
I have watched you evolve from a dog who really wasn’t sure how to interact with other dogs, to a dog who joyfully although often clumsily interacts with every dog who crosses your path. I’ve laughed at your love of food, and how you drool uncontrollably when you know dinner is on its way.
More recently, as you’ve slowed down a bit, I’ve valued the cuddle time. The mornings when you climb into my bed and literally pin me down with your paws so that you can give me cuddles and kisses. When you look at me with those doughy, inquisitive eyes, and I can’t help but feel safe. And have I told you that you have the prettiest smile. Everyone who has met you has melted into a little puddle because you’re so damn cute.
I will miss all of those things, and in fact, have cried through writing most of this. There have been many times throughout our time together when I was pretty sure that you would be with me until the end of your days. But this isn’t about me. It’s about you, Lilac. You’ve won the lottery! While thousands of dogs are euthanized for no fault of their own, because of a lack of space at shelters and in homes, you have found the most welcoming home, with a most amazing and caring woman. How could I be a barrier to that?
You’ve given me so much, and made me a better, more patient, and more loving person. I can only hope that I have given you the sense of stability and security that you needed to become the best Lilac you can be. From the way you’ve won Kris’ heart, I think I just may have done my part.
And now, I know that I can love a dog and let them go, which means I can foster again. Because I was able to let you go, another life will be saved.
Your foster mom