When You Want to Foster Fail

Johnnie has been with us now for six weeks. In those six weeks, we have fallen in love.

02With every passing day, I find myself a little less able to ignore the “what if. . . ” creeping up in the back of my head. Both Mark and I have cautiously brought up the idea of keeping her because each day we find something new about her to fall in love with. The sleepy face she makes when she wakes up, the way she offers “sit pretty” like crazy now when she wants something, the way she catches on to new training cues extremely quickly, the way she falls asleep on your chest at the end of the night – Johnnie is a one of a kind dog, and I’m beginning to wonder if I will always regret letting her get adopted.

I won’t lie – I have pictured my future with Johnnie. Mark loves her, and I imagine us going on countless more adventures since we’d have all the time in the world. I imagine what she’ll be like when she’s old and lazy and probably a little cranky. I imagine all the things we could get accomplished with years to dedicate to training, including getting her certified as a therapy dog so she could create more smiles like this one:


Photo by Virgil Ocampo.

But then I snap back to reality. I remember that my future is up in the air. I have no idea what I’ll be doing a year from now, let alone five or ten years down the road. Rental housing that accommodates pit bull dogs is tricky to find, especially for someone on a tight budget.  I don’t have the long term stability that she deserves.  Plus, there are always others out there who need my help. Adopting Johnnie would be letting go of some of my flexibility to help the many more in need.

It brings me comfort to know that she will bring so much joy to someone else. Once we find the right fit, I know she’ll bring them the same happiness she brings to me and my family.  They’ll learn how to deal with her quirks and they’ll figure out how to set her up for success and they’ll build a positive, trusting relationship with her – just like she deserves. And for a long time I’ll think about my former foster dog Johnnie Cash and how she was probably “the one that got away” and I’ll wonder if I’ll ever meet another dog like her again – but I’ll know we did the right thing for her.


Until the day comes that we send her off to the perfect family, we’ll be fitting in as much snuggling, laughing, playing, adventuring and loving time as possible. Even though it will be hard to see her go, Johnnie will always serve as a reminder for why I have to say goodbye to my foster dogs.

“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them, and every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” – Anonymous

sleepingTo adopt Johnnie Cash and experience how truly amazing she is, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.

16 thoughts on “When You Want to Foster Fail

  1. Karen Wagner

    This brought me to tears this morning. I cannot imagine how hard it will be to let her go but you are truly an Angel for helping her through her journey. I can’t believe noone’s adopted her yet…she’s stunning! Someone wonderful is out there for Johnnie…Thank you for doing what you do. You are a remarkable young lady. I give all you foster’s out there so much credit for doing what you do….God bless all of you!! xoxo

  2. Tara Mitchell

    Very well said…I think as fosters part of us always wonders what if and there’s always that one special dog. I always think of the dogs just waiting for my help, that makes it a little easier! I also love getting updates from my “what if” dog’s family….seeing them happy and thriving is such a wonderful feeling!

  3. No one ever said that fostering was easy and the quote you included is so right, they do take a piece of your heart with them, every dog does though, whether they are a foster or not. You’re doing an amazing job with her and I know she’ll find the perfect family.

  4. Great quote at the end! I never thought I would be heartbroken when we finally adpoted out Toby (our foster beagle) last year. He was going home to a sister beagle and a family that would truely love his “quirks” in a way that pitbull owners could not. As he was getting into the car with his new family, he peers under the door at us and it simply broke my heart! I wanted to run and take him back!!

  5. Heidi

    You are amazing and I admire all the patience and love you have for all your fosters. The pups are so lucky to have you. As someone who recently foster failed I understand where you’re coming from. I watched my foster puppy almost die from Parvo and I just couldn’t let her go when she recovered. I don’t regret my decision, but I do know it will limit my ability to foster going forward.

  6. Wendy H

    As I foster failed with my very first foster, I can totally relate to what you wrote. I now have him and what was supposed to be a short term foster. I’ve had her for a little over a month now. I know it’s going to be hard to let her go, but I won’t have a choice not to, as she is fear aggressive and my boy has also shown dog aggression in his past.

    I don’t know if my husband is going to let me continue to foster down the road, but now that I’ve seen crating and rotating isn’t that difficult, I hope I’ll be able to open my home and heart to another foster in the future.

  7. While I wasn’t fostering, I was visiting with a special boy, King, every day while he was at the shelter. The last week he was there I was inches away from taking him home when I got the call that a very good app had come in on him. After a few days of crying and saying goodbye, I thought I was good with his leaving but then over the weekend I happend to see an old post on the shelter’s website about the King and I which brought me to tears. … just as this post has. I know he is in a great home and the shelter knows he is to come to me if anything in his circumstance changes but until then he will always be my “what if” dog.
    Bless you for going through this.

  8. Diana Ritter

    This is so beautifully written. When I read the title, I got excited thinking you might keep the very beautiful Johnnie. Then, I also felt some relief knowing you would find her a wonderful home and continue fostering. My husband and I have 2 dogs and have fostered for 4 years. I now know that I will fall in love with each one and consider keeping them. Then, I let them go, cry and get my next foster. Seeing all those faces in the county shelter somehow keeps it all in perspective for me. Thank-you.

  9. Pingback: It Might Not Be Us, But It Sure Is Perfect: A Visit With Johnnie | Peace, Love, & Fostering

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