Randee Shenkel is a clinical psychologist at the Center for Family and Individual Counseling. She is also a foster mom for dogs for Columbia Second Chance.
When I have told people that the dog I am walking around with (or, more often, sitting outside of Starbucks with) is a foster dog, the response is often, “OH! I could NEVER do that! I could NEVER give the dog away to someone else. I would get too attached!” I wonder if the unspoken part of that equation is, “What the heck is wrong with you that you can care for and give up a dog?”
Dogs made my life far better than it would have been otherwise. I like the idea of saving a dog’s life. I like that idea a lot. I know that each dog I take in as a foster means Columbia Second Chance (CSC) has room to rescue another one. So, I kind of think that what is wrong with me is also what is right with me.
My foster dogs have all been older canines. They once had owners who loved them. When I take a dog into my home, it allows CSC to the opportunity of rescuing another dog whose time is up some place else for having not been found adoptable in the time allotted.
Many older dogs have a special sense for others’ feelings. I am a psychologist and bringing my foster dogs to the office not only helps keep them well socialized with novel situations for training, but also delights and comforts clients. To be greeted with joy is always good for the soul. Having a dog lean against your leg or lay across your feet when you are sad is a source of comfort.
If you follow the impact a special dog has on someone’s life, be it a child with insecurities, a young adult who feels alone in the world, a family that needs to teach their children kindness and responsibility or the older adult who needs to have a reason to get up and out every day, you would never doubt that being a foster dog parent contributes to a human’s life.
Truly, I bring my foster dogs to work because I simply love their company. I once wondered aloud how it could be that our house seemed so quiet after our golden retriever died. “It’s not as if she talked,” I said. “No,” my son-in-law replied, “But she was a great listener.” So, my fosters fill that role for me and for my clients – and with seemingly uncanny empathy.
The movie, “Pay It Forward,” had a simple premise. If one does something nice for someone and that person returns the favor to another and that person to another and so on, how much better the world might be. I believe there is a chain of events when one saves a dog’s life that may have ripple effects beyond what we can know.
A dog’s life is saved by a rescue group; a foster family’s life is enhanced by training, caring for and helping find that dog a home; the folks who adopt the dog have their lives enriched and encourage others to look at rescues first for that new pet, and so on.
I am proud to make being a foster dog parent one of my charitable contributions to the community. When a dog leaves my home for a new, forever home it is indeed difficult. First, I cry. Second, I remember I have saved a dog’s life and given joy to a new family. Third, I go get another foster dog. It’s really cool.
If you'd like to learn more about fostering an animal, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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