It is a beautiful summer evening in New Hampshire and John and I are sipping wine and listening to the rippling water of our garden pond.
“I want to foster a dog,” I say, hesitantly.
A bullfrog croaks. Then silence. A second bullfrog answers.
More silence. Deafening silence.
“I’ve tried to figure a way NOT to do this”, I confessed. “I’ve said all along…no way I can do the foster thing…I’ll just be happy with the dogs I have, I’ve tried to find other ways to help…and, I have. I just,….well the fact is, I’m sorry but…,”
A third bullfrog and an answer from a fourth, a ‘whoo- whoo’ from that barred owl that we’ve been hearing all summer adds to the discourse. Then,
“There’s this dog….”
Well, the conversation continued for some time and then ended abruptly. We talked about other things. We had a bit more wine.
It’s hard, really, to work through the feelings, the marital stress, the other-dog stress, the schedule challenges. Ultimately, though, it’s about being clear about intentions. Why foster a dog? Especially one who is clearly damaged and who will demand a great deal of time, heart break and effort?
Why foster this dog? So that I can have a new dog?
Are you kidding? I have two beautiful female dogs. Jazz and Jane. Jazz is my rescue from Hurricane Katrina. Jane is a rescue, of sorts. I am in love with both of them. They are lovely, quirky, sweet, quirky, gentle. Did I say quirky? Did I say lovely? If I thought a third dog was a good idea, I’d go get one. I’d adopt one who wasn’t so quirky.
A few weeks ago, during a Sunday service at our church, the leader posed a question to those present:
“Can fostering peace, compassion within oneself, foster peace within the community and will this have an impact on the larger world?”
I thought long and hard about the question. Peace? What does peace have to do with saving a scruffy dog from a South Carolina incinerator? I mean, really. Peace is about people, right? People living together, people getting along, people recognizing the worth of all other people, absence of war among…people. Peace means no fighting? Learning to live with…learning to live with…
…the quirkiness. Learning to melt in the loveliness of another being, or at least learning to appreciate our commonality as beings on a planet. That’s it. Fostering a being, be it dog, cat, turtle or child is an active and ultimate expression of peace within community. Agreeing to feed, house, love, care for the emotional needs of, clean up after, make space for….bond with, a being, with an intent to eventually “hand over” the being to another is one of the most vital ways I can think of to foster peace within my community.
In the case of our foster dog, Aaron, learning to understand, appreciate, indeed embrace, his quirks and his loveliness is the best shot I have at promoting peace in the world. Really. It’s one dog. Who cares?
Well, I care. Fall in love with a foster dog? Maybe. Keep him?
Are you kidding? I have my Jazz. I have my Jane. I have cats and turtles. It took me a looooong time to fall in love with them. Many months, years. Fostering is different. It’s a job. It’s a journey. A road to peace. And, I’m falling in love with this latest road to fostering peace. The process of learning to understand the quirks. Leaning to embrace the loveliness. Then letting go. So Aaron’s real family… the people who will continue with him on the journey till he leaves our planet, can blaze their own trail, begin their own journey, toward peace.How is our foster dog, Aaron, doing? Well, you can tell by the photo that our setup needs tweaking. Our intention was that he have a large crate attached to an xpen. We began transitioning him out of the small crate he was in when we brought him home, to the larger one. It would provide him with more space to move around in. And, since there’s a side door, it would be easier to teach him the power of belly rubs. Well, Aaron is jumping over the xpen and as you can see, he’s standing atop the large crate.
We all learned today. I learned that he is more comfortable approaching me if my head and shoulders are lowered. For now, eye contact is an exercise and a game, not something he is comfortable with. Also, language does very little for him. Keep it simple, keep it quiet. Finally, Aaron learned that life isn’t quite as scary as he thought, at least some of the time. He learned that really good things happen when either John or I walk into the room. He discovered what beef kidney and beef heart tastes like. He learned that chest scratches, when paired with peanut butter are pretty darn good.
The quirks and loveliness….we’re on the road to fostering peace.