Dear Johnnie

After doing this fostering thing for about a year and a half now, I’ve become a firm believer in the idea that “everything happens for a reason.” Each of my foster dogs found their way into my life for what ended up seeming like a pretty obvious reason, and, after reflecting on it since you left, your situation is no different.

photo 3

The puzzle pieces for how you ended up with me can be put together pretty easily. After you arrived at the shelter in September, we continued to cross paths. I don’t often spend time one-on-one with a specific shelter dog as much as I did with you. Remember how I dressed you up and took your picture for our October e-newsletter? And then how I brought you on tv with me not once but twice? It seemed like we were always ending up with each other for one reason or another. So because I knew you so well, I paid attention to what the buzz was about you.

This leads me to the why you ended up with me. This was your doing. You had reached your limit. Not a limit set by any one person, but by your own little brain. The kennel was too much for you. For five months you teetered on the edge of rambunctious in a teenage puppy way and rambunctious in an unsafe, unhealthy way. By the end of January, it was clear you weren’t happy and that if it went on much longer like this, your own health and well-being would need to be seriously thought about. When I took you to that adoption event in late January and watched the calm sparkle return to your eye, I knew I had to give you the chance to get back to the dog you were without all the stress of a shelter.

This photo was taken at the adoption event where I decided you were mine.

This photo was taken at the adoption event where I decided you were coming home with me.

The why you ended up with me continued to make itself incredibly obvious as you settled in and became a part of our family. I say “our” family because you bonded in your own way with each and every one of us that you lived with. Having you around actually brought us all together. It was a team effort, helping you learn to be a family dog again. Sometimes it was difficult, but at the end of the day when you would bounce around the kitchen with your squeaky toy as we all made dinner, we couldn’t help but laugh at you and, more importantly, fall in love with you. In addition – like this blog made pretty clear – you, foster dad and I became quite the little family unit. That dynamic was actually a new one for us, but I soaked up every minute of it. We knew it wasn’t the right time for us to bring a dog into our lives, but pretending that you were ours for a little while was a nice privilege.



I think the final why that I will take away most from our time together is how much I learned from you about training. I can read books and articles and attend seminars as much as I want – but nothing compares to trying it and seeing it work in real life. I was your mentor, showing and teaching you how to make good decisions, and you were my partner, helping me learn how to improve my communication. You showed me what can be accomplished with force-free, reward based training and how much a dog can blossom when you bring trust and confidence into a relationship. An energetic, misunderstood shelter dog like you was exactly what I needed at this point in my life – you changed my opinions, my outlook and, honestly, probably my career path (!).

photo 30 photo 10

So while because of all the whys it was hard to let you go, I know that everything happens for a reason and that you were 100% meant to move on to your new (amazing!) family. I’m selfishly jealous of them that they now get to be the ones who wake up to your adorable sleepy face, that they get to take you on hiking adventures, that they’ll perfect your skills at being an awesome family dog and that they’ll be the ones to watch you grow old. I would love to be the lucky one who shares those moments with you, but I was put here not to be your final stop, but to be a stepping stone for you to find the happiness of a forever family.

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I haven’t yet learned how to make one of those adorable photo slideshows to music, so instead I will just include a song with lyrics that I think sum up perfectly how I feel about you leaving: “I’ll love you long after you’re gone.”

We’ll miss you, Johnnie Cash. Thanks for so much sunshine and laughter!


19 thoughts on “Dear Johnnie

  1. Thank you for so beautifully expressing the bittersweet heart break of fostering. I received an adorable and thoughtful email from the forever family that adopted my foster pit for Mother’s Day thanking me for all the things you wrote about and I became a blubbering mess. It’s so hard to give them up, but sometimes we’re just meant to be the conduit to their new life.

  2. … and i’m crying at my desk. what a beautiful post! at the “stand up for pits” event last night in arlington, when johnnie’s picture popped up on the scream several people screamed “Johnnie Cash!” she’s quite the celebripup. Thanks for including all of us in your journeys and adventures with her. i cannot imagine how hard it must be to let her go, and i hope you’ll get updates from her new family.

  3. Ahhh! Making me tear up on a Monday morning!! Thank you for sharing this incredibly heartfelt letter with everyone. What you said reminds me of a quote that says “accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs.” I like to think that everything happens for a reason, and clearly there are reasons that Johnnie ended up in foster with you. It sounds like the biggest one was so that you both could change the course of each other’s lives. Your journey with Miss Cash is a truly inspiring one!

  4. Such a lovely letter to Johnnie. It’s also a beautiful tribute to fostering . . . why it’s so important for some dogs and all of its benefits for the dog, the foster family, and the eventual forever family. Heartwarming. Thank you!

  5. What a beautiful post…you captured, perfectly, the rewards of fosters. You gave him an amazing gift. And remember…fosters love forever. Thank you!

  6. Karen

    I always cry when you write these letter’s to the pups:( What you do by fostering is one of the most unselfish things anyone could do for an animal…thank you for that. I am hoping to see updates on Johnnie once in awhile…it’s always so nice nice to see how all of your foster’s are doing! Ok..have to go get some more kleenex…xoxo

  7. Michelle Ballard

    God bless you for making her finding a forever home possible. I hope her new family will update you on her ongoing progress.

  8. ib.flamm

    This is truly from the place in one’s heart that dogs can reach into. Johnnie was so lucky that you gave her the chance she needed – and I know you also feel so grateful for what she gave to you. It’s so hard to let go, but knowing the family that is going to give her the life she deserves helps lessen your loss but must give great joy, too. You’ve done such amazing work with these dogs, all enabling them to transition to homes that will love and appreciate who each individually is – your blog and articulation has done that. On to the next lucky one!

    Thanks for the work you do,

    Ilissa Flamm

  9. beautifully written post! Sitting here at my desk crying with my coworkers giving me funny looks! Johnnie reminds me a lot of my new boy. He was pulled from the shelter by a rescue and then boarded for four months due to no foster homes. The little boy is a power keg of energy but with each passing day, you can see its becoming clear he is home and safe. Thank you and all rescues for the hard work you do! I am sure johnnie’s family will forever be grateful!

  10. Karen

    Oh wow, tears over here too. That was beautifully written. You did so much for little Johnnie, and you’ve now given her an amazing life to look forward to. Thank you!

  11. Amazing! Love it! I think if Johnnie could write to you she’d thank you for believing in her when others didn’t, for giving her something to have faith in and for loving her unconditionally. At the end of the day, that is what living creatures need most — love and understanding. Oh, and treats!

  12. Pingback: 17 Hours With The One That Got Away | Peace, Love, & Fostering

  13. Pingback: DEAR LADY BUG | Peace, Love & Fostering

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