I used to think fostering was a bit of a cop-out - an option for people who did not want to commit to a dog - that wanted to take a cute puppy for a few weeks and then give it back. I thought it was for the “part-time” dog lovers and those who wanted the good bits without the bad.
I was wrong. I found that out by mistake...
Rewind to August of last year. At the height of COVID we’d moved out to Sai Kung and suddenly had space. Space for our 4 year old mongrel Eskie, and better yet, space for a brother or sister to join our family. After a few months I found Zac and Zia, 3-week old pups at HKDR that needed a foster and forever home. I had fostered a couple times before but within hours we were besotted and committed to making it forever. The only problem was that Eskie was not onboard with the plan and made sure that we knew it.
Returning these puppies to the shelter felt like a complete betrayal of their trust, of my principles and of the “adopt don’t shop” ethos. I had done the one thing I was so critical of others; I took away a cute puppy and after a couple months, I brought it back. In truth, Zac was adopted by a friend but leaving my little darling Zia at the Homing Centre broke me. I cried for days.
I assumed the charity would have a big red cross beside my name - “Lyndsay, the lady who brings them back” - I assumed I would be blacklisted and never have the chance to try again. I offered to help foster again if the need ever arose, expecting to never hear from the charity again.
The call came quicker than I could possibly have imagined. And the call after that, and after that.
For the last 10 months we’ve been fostering puppies as young as one day old (and needing round-the-clock care) to get them to the magic 8 week mark so they can be adopted. We’ve driven back and forth to Ap Lei Chau more times than I could count and spent more hours at the vets than I have in my whole life of having dogs. I’ve started an IG channel (why_i_foster) which I update daily to help get the word out and I plan my weekends around giving them the best puppyhood, filled with fun. We’ve invested in play pens, countless toys, beds and teepees, towels and blankets and even an electric milk-warmer to make the 3am feeds just a little easier.
We’ve fostered 15 puppies so far and had all but two adopted by fantastic forever homes. Families who stay in touch with us and keep us updated on how well these wonderful dogs are doing. It’s rare a week goes by that I don’t bump into one of my previous foster pups.
But two of our pups never got the chance of a forever home - Decca and Badger didn’t make it to that magic 8 week mark, and live on only in our hearts. It goes without saying that losing a puppy is incredibly upsetting; you fight so hard for them and beg for them to fight too. It’s devastating to say goodbye and painful to get to grips with the permanence of that farewell. The only solace I take from those experiences is in knowing the puppy was with me when they went; safe and warm and not alone. I hope they know that they were loved. I think they do. (I, of course, write these words with tears rolling down my face)
So I was wrong. Fostering is not a cop-out or for the half-hearted - it’s a commitment and demonstration of love and loyalty to our 4 legged friends. It’s an offering that many cannot make and a challenge that some maybe cannot handle. I have loved my time spent fostering and intend to continue to take on more puppies, and find them homes. And I’ll think twice before thinking ill of others and the ways they choose to help. Donate. Adopt. Rescue. Fundraise. Foster. We all play our part.