I am a foster mom. I wish I could be a foster mom to the parent-less human children, but a 50 plus hour a week job and limited funds would make it nearly impossible. After months of a vegan lifestyle and many documentaries later, I started fostering dogs and cats that local rescues pulled from a local “kill” shelter.
Let me back up a little.
I am a single mom. With the exception of lots of help from my parents, I have raised my son alone for 11 years – and my son is 11. I am sure you can do the math. It’s been a long 11 years. I have watched my son grow from a screaming colicky baby to a very handsome, empathetic soul. He is absolutely the best experience of my life. He is smart, funny, and the only person in the world who gets me. He has filled my days with love, fun, laughter and just emotions the English language has not come around to creating words for yet.
The whole time, rarely, but throughout the years, there are days like this that I would feel like something was missing. Loving your child is easy. So natural, it would be cliche to say something like “as natural as breathing.” It takes no trust to love your son; you know that he will break your heart one day, because it is necessary for him to grow beyond you. Loving another individual outside of your child means putting your heart and trust out there. I rarely am capable of it.
After many failed attempts at dating and never reaching a real relationship, I first threw myself into my career and then after tiring of work 60-70 hours a week, I turned to veganism. What started as a lifestyle change to reduce my environmental impact, became a full overhaul – diet, clothes, and previously held beliefs. Between articles online and documentaries (sprinkled with some logic), the number of atrocities the human race commits against other species left me with no choice but to do my part to stop adding to them. I removed all animal products from my diet and from my purchases. As my heart opened to all sentient beings on Earth, I found myself starting to care for individuals outside of my son and our tiny family.
It WAS safe to care. I began fostering for local rescues and it felt good to care. It felt safe.
When you care deeply for abandoned and heartbroken animals, watching them open up and trust you is extremely rewarding. Sometimes they are so abandoned, they do not even let you touch them on the first day. Then one day, you will reach for them slowly and they respond – timidly, until they realize you are not going to hurt them. A connection builds as you open your home, heart, and time to them, sometimes the connection is very strong.
Then one day you have to give them one last hug, one last kiss and trust another human to care for them. And your heart breaks.
I spent 11 years staying away from heartache. Master of avoidance. I can sabotage a possible chance of a relationship before the first date is even over. I set myself up for it every time. Granted, I know my biggest heartbreak will come in several years when my son journeys into the world and lets go of my hand permanently, but I have accepted that a long time ago.
It’s just that I have never experienced the act of handing someone over into another person’s care, not voluntarily, not someone that I love and care deeply for. I have fostered 24 animals in the last 9 months and have had my heart broken 17 times. We adopted one rescue, and I still have 6 fosters living with me.
Although I wish this post would inspire everyone to adopt or foster a homeless animal, which would effectively put an end to the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals, I know that will not happen over a few short paragraphs. I do hope to inspire you to stop for one moment, even once a week, once a month, or whenever you have breathing space, and to imagine what is something you could give up in your life that would benefit others. Whether it is $5 to a homeless person, a half hour to read or play with a child, a visit to a local shelter so an animal can experience the kindness that comes from a loving touch. Maybe you can imagine even bigger, maybe after giving a little, you can imagine giving more. Before I started fostering, I thought a good use of my expendable (what little there is) income was to purchase nice clothes or a Michael Kors bag. With the money that I had spent on that bag I could have fed several homeless cats for months. Food, love, compassion, shelter, kindness, caring and at the very least EMPATHY is what this world needs more of. They could care less what car you drive when you pick a cat up from the shelter and drop her off to the vet for a rescue group. A dog has no concept of income or the size of your house when you let him in for a few weeks while he waits transport to his new home. I have seen so many people who have so little, give so much. More than anything, everyone needs love, everyone needs someone brave enough to step up for them, even when it means getting your heart broken, because each time it grows a little stronger
My uncle getting a hug from a stray cat he has taken in