May 12, 2014
Loving What Isn't Yours: The Art of Fostering
Beginning Week 3 with my foster dog, I'm not going to be so bold as to say I've made any sort of hard and fast decision, but I am determined to at least move forward with the idea of finding a wonderful home for this girl that is not mine. She could be with me for several months, I could meet people that don't seem like a good fit, there are any number of things that could add to the ever-changing fluidity of this strange state of limbo, this way of loving without possession.
As an only child, this was once a difficult, if not impossible thing for me to do. I was the center of attention, and my belongings were only mine. I did not have siblings to compete or share with. So deeply rooted was my sense of ownership that I did not like to play with toys at other kids' houses, since it was on borrowed time and I would have to eventually leave them behind. In college my first big crush, an arty musician type with twisted black hair spangled with beads, asked me on the balcony of a house party "You're not the type that gets attached, are you?"
I was; however, like so many of life's lessons, I learned how not to get my heart broken serially from horses. I had to leave my own horse behind in my mother's care while in school, but I was a member of my university's equestrian team and majored in equine science and there was no shortage of horses. That first year I wanted desperately to lease or buy one of my favorites, a golden-eyed Thoroughbred named Bear who helped me win my first horse show ribbons. Between my education and early career, I rode over one hundred different horses. I couldn't have them all, nor could I emotionally detach from a creature who depends on body language and state of mind for direction. There were horses that belonged to the school, to private owners, to my employers and clients. I had to learn to love and treat them like my own in the time we had together and let go of the really special ones without (too many) tears.
Many people have said to me that they could never foster a dog, that they would not be able to adopt it out. It does take a different mindset, and an existence in a place of uncertainty that is never entirely comfortable. Last night I invited the foster dog up on the loveseat with me and instead of curling at my feet she clambered on top of me and fell asleep with her head on my chest like she belonged. I stroked her head and thought simultaneously how happy I was in that moment, and how lucky someone else could be to have this sweet creature as their dog. Allowing her to be adopted will afford me the ability to continue to foster, helping more than just one.
I've given her a name, finally. Because her mouth is prominently highlighted in black and white, because she smiles more all the time and gently grabs my hand when she is feeling playful: Boca. Boca Bahama. On purpose, this name does not go perfectly with Ruby (like Maybe or Opal) nor am I unreasonably attached to it (Guava or Saffron). It is a cute name that she seems to respond to, perhaps only because her ear infections are starting to clear up and she can hear better. I'm so enjoying having two dogs, their matched ginger coats and amusing interactions brought me brightness during a difficult weekend (Mother's Day is hard for those without mothers). I don't know how long Boca will stay, but I can say for sure that I'll love her for as long as she does.