One of the happiest times in my life was a few years ago, when WonderDaddy and I became foster parents. No, we didn’t take in teenagers, or cuddle new babies as we rocked them to sleep, although that would have been wonderful in its own way. No, we were a foster family for very little ones who were acting out, who had been abandoned, who would take out their anxieties by … barking.
We were a foster family for BREW beagle rescue. Each month, we’d meet the other volunteers at a local PetSmart and pick up a new beagle. We’d take him or her home, housetrain him, feed him good, healthy food, help him exercise out in the yard, hang out with him, and generally cuddle him until he felt better. At the end of the month, we’d go back to PetSmart for Adoption Day, hang out with a couple dozen other volunteers with their rescue beagles, and hopefully make a match with a lucky adopter. We’d say goodbye, get a little teary-eyed … and then pick out a new one to take home and love on for the month.
We did this for years. It became part of our routine, interrupted only when a potential adopter fell in love with our beagle’s picture on the website and wanted to come meet him. Then we’d open our home, clear our schedule, and invite them over to meet each other and see if they clicked. Since these people had already passed several levels of review, and we didn’t have kids, it was a fun thing to do, and we loved to see beagles go home.
Once a year, we’d all pack in the car, drive an hour to a local kennel with a big fenced yard, and let all the rescued and adopted beagles run around together while we talked, played games, ate yummy food, shopped, and, you guessed it, petted the beagles like crazy. It was amazing to see 200+ beagles run around together, tounges hanging out of their mouths, tails wagging, acting like the pack animals of their heritage.
It was also amazing to meet so many kind, good-hearted people who had taken in beagles of no known heritage: abandoned hunting dogs, mouthy puppies, enthusiastic two-year-olds, hungry dogs, all of them, and our favorite, the cuddly, sleepy seniors who just wanted a comfy couch and a sunny patch of the yard to lie in. Everyone greeted each other like old friends … and some of them were, as the bond between foster beagle and foster family lingers on, much longer than the time spent with each dog, teaching them how to behave in a family, and treating them with kindness and love, so that they would remember what it felt like to have someone love them.
It’s been nearly three years since we fostered, between the babies coming and my illness, and I don’t think we’re quite ready to foster again for a little while, but we went to Beaglefest last week, and it was just like old times.
We hugged the volunteers, watched the beagles run, played games, ate yummy food, shopped, and, yeah, helped the children safely pet the beagles like crazy with us. Little Bear had the time of his life with all the little dogs (ours is now on the high side of 50 pounds, 10 years old, and a bit … um … cranky). Widget got down on the grass and crawled around with the young ones, and they ate it up. We all had a purely delicious time, and it got me thinking.
I loved that time in my life, and I look forward to us all being healthy and settled enough again to help. To take a dog into our home, love him, train him, and give him up to a family who will love him forever.
We called it “Beagle of the Month Club,” since our goal was to get our beagle adopted each month. We never knew that the memories — and the warm feelings of love and satisfaction at a job well done — would stay with us for years.