How to say bye to your Foster animal
One of the things I noticed as the Foster-Rescue Coordinator at BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions in Houston, Texas is that people did not want to foster an animal because they were afraid of the moment where they had to let go and say good-bye. I would hear people say “Oh I could never say bye…” or “I would end-up keeping every single one of them!” or “I am not strong enough to do that”.
Trust me, when I took in my first foster I had the same
thoughts and fears, however, my desire to help an animal in need was greater
than the pain I knew I would feel the moment we had to part ways. What also
gave me courage to foster was meeting other Fosters, both men and women, and
getting tips on how to deal with the experience. A lot of them admitted to
crying every time, some others said that it got better the more you did it, and
others said that getting pictures/updates on their foster with their new family
made it all worth it. After fostering over 20 animals, I can say that all the
above is true.
Thus, to those people out there fostering a shelter animal
or thinking about doing so, but are still on the fence because they do not want
to experience sadness or pain, I hope these following tips will give you
strength when saying bye to your foster dog or cat.
- Give them gifts: when the time comes to give your foster back to the organization you got him from, you can make sure he leaves with his favorite toy, treat, or blanket. For some reason, it is comforting for us humans to know they have a little piece of us with them on their journey to their new home or when they get to their new family that will calm them and keep them happy. It is possible that your foster does not really care but having something with your smell and that is familiar to them does have a positive response in their transition, especially if they spent a week or more with you.
- Let the tears flow: it is normal to get emotional, and even if you think you wont cry, it is very possible you will. I think this vulnerability makes people feel uncomfortable as they do not like to cry in public or in front of strangers, but just know that it is ok. I remember that when I fostered my first bottle baby puppies, I found them a home two months after and warned the owners via text that I would probably be crying when they left. And although I did cry, I didn’t actually breakdown like I thought I would. I found myself smiling while the tears rolled down my cheeks and was actually happy my puppies found their new amazing forever home.
- Take pictures and videos: during the time your foster is in your care, do lots of cool stuff and capture those moments so you can look back once they are gone. It is very possible you could see your foster in person again, especially if they get adopted in your city or state. However, when it is not the case you can look back at your files when you miss them and be comforted.
- You are not alone. Human Fosters become friends with other Fosters, and reaching out to other people that have done this several times helps you through the process of letting go. Do not be afraid or think that other Fosters are not feeling pain if they are not crying, they probably have just learned to manage it a bit better. You can also take a good friend of yours or your significant other to give you moral support when saying good-bye.
- Think Positive. Remember, that they are finally going to their forever home and that although they might be a bit scared at first in their new environment, with love and care they will adapt quickly and be happy in their new home. You can verbally say these things out-loud to keep you in a positive mind-set: “Don’t worry Fluffy, you will be fine!” ,“You are going to be loved so much!” and “Wait until you see your new home!”, or “You got so lucky!”
- You made a difference in their life. Never forget this…whether your foster was sick, injured, missing hair, scared at the shelter, needed socialization or needed to gain some weight, you taking them in gave them a second chance at life and increased their chances of finding their forever family.
Helping a life, whether animal or human, is one of the most rewarding feelings you will experience, and it actually can become addicting! Once you succeed with your first foster animal, I promise it wont be long before you go get another. Seeing their evolution and knowing you played a part in that will bring you so much joy.
Loving and caring for something, and then having to let it go is such a crucial skill to practice as it is such a big part of life. I believe that going through the fostering process makes you a stronger and better human being, and I promise it is not as scary as it seems in your head. Honestly too, if you have gone through a break-up and survived, I think you will find parting with your foster dog or cat to be a lot less painful! So please do not let the fear of parting or saying good-bye to your foster pet stop you from helping a life in need, as without you they might not get a second or third chance!