Community: Fostering Puppies
by Erin Carpenter
The puppies came to us over Labor Day weekend, scabs covering their flea torn skin, washboard ribs and hard round bellies full of worms. They slept all together in an extra-large wire crate making a white, brown and tan pile of indiscriminate ridges and limbs. We had eight the first night, and they ate until we feared they might burst and then waddled around a minute and fell over asleep. Soon after they excreted an equal amount of mess, and I began to fill the first of many trash containers with poo-covered issues of the Sylva Herald. Thankfully, Debbie Sanchez took half of them to her foster dog haven in Birdtown, or I’d be dead by now.
Things our puppies did other than poo.
- Come at the sound of a squeaky toy
- Step in each other’s poo and then wipe their paws on my pants
- Hoard all the things
- Destroy the herb garden (but smell like mint and sage!)
- Roll in the ashes of the fire pit
- Dig like a pirate
- Meow like a cat
- Disembowel their dog bed
- Find that one special acorn out of hundreds on the deck, and play keep-away with it
Most people comment when you tell them about fostering, “I couldn’t; I would get too attached.” Of course, you get attached. When they were at their smallest and most fragrant, I would get a visceral reminder of them every day at work–the same way I felt when I left my daughter Katie home with my mother before she was weaned.
Detaching is always painful, but it is a good spiritual exercise. We cannot escape loss in our lifetimes. Yes, Katie cried over giving up her foster puppies. But what better way to experience difficult emotion? For one, we are nearly guaranteed a positive outcome for these pups. The Humane Society of the Pinellas just got a $4M donation. They have op-notch facility, staff, and outreach. Two, we can find comfort and connection surrounded by other caring animal lovers who know exactly what we are going through as we say good-bye. Three, we learn that our feelings are not always an indication of what’s best for ourselves or others. We can experience them without shame or judgment, knowing we are doing the right thing.
Setting, Cherokee Middle School 7th grade ELA class
Student: Ms. Carpenter, you have something on your butt that looks like poop.
Me: (fidgeting purposefully): It probably is poop. I have 4 foster puppies.
Boy: (gesturing wildly at the back of his own thigh) Right here.
Me (wielding Clorox wipe): Eeew. It is puppy poo!
Boy: I couldn’t let you walk around in white pants all day with poo on them. (To friend) I told you. I saw it first!