by Erin Mangrum
I am scrolling through Facebook one day and see a post from Country Roads putting out a plea for fosters for a litter of puppies. “Must go in pairs at a minimum.” Being a naïve newbie, I of course responded that I would take them all. Because that seems smart and sane, right? And that’s how my fostering journey started. I could tell you it’s been all rainbows and unicorns, but that would be a LIE. There are days when fostering puppies is beyond hard, both mentally and physically. But with that said, the hard days, as trying as they can be, are what make the good days that much sweeter.
I tend to strive for perfection, with order and organization being my friends. Knowing I was going to be receiving these fosters, I had everything set up and ready to go. The puppy pen was set up, food was bought, collars were laid out, etc., etc., etc. The only thing I couldn’t do was make time pass faster until their arrival. So, the time finally came, and I picked them up. Now, there I was with a litter of seven puppies, so cute and sweet. All bathed, fed and sleeping so soundly. I felt like a new mom again, looking into the playpen at sleeping angels. I felt accomplished. I felt secure. I felt pride. How hard could this be? Fast forward four hours when it's 2:00 a.m. and their dewormer has kicked in. I never verbalized it, but the thought floated like a neon sign flashing in my brain, “WHAT HAVE YOU GOTTEN YOURSELF INTO?”
I spent the next several days rearranging, revamping, reorganizing and trying to figure out how to get control, not only the situation, but of the seven tiny puppies running around. Even with their fat bellies and stumpy legs, they were fast and constantly under foot. It took a few days and it finally came to me; I had my “Ah Ha!” moment. Organized chaos… just roll with it. So that’s exactly what I did. I started laughing and enjoying the little things with them. I was not only their advocate by duty, but I became their biggest fan. I loved them, hard. I knew I would be giving every one of them to a new home and my goal became to make them the best puppy possible. One with the confidence of coming from a loving and nurturing home. After five weeks my goal was completed, they were off to their forever homes. But they weren’t just forever homes, they were the perfect home and perfect family for each puppy.
But just like with my tattoos and eating potato chips, I couldn’t have just one. I couldn’t stop. My home became a revolving door for puppies, and I loved every second. I admit I never quit trying to make my “puppy setup” better, but I did quit worrying about the small stuff. When I would lay down layers of puppy pads in perfect symmetry for the day, and a puppy would run and dive on them like it was their personal slip and slide, I laughed. I would straighten them up and try again. Sometimes several times in a row, but I laughed (maybe not the fifth time, but most of the times). I learned that the little things are progress. Shredded toys meant they were happy and playing. Chewed up potty pads meant they were ready to start potty training. Needing to tiptoe past the puppy pen so they wouldn’t see you and cry meant that they loved you, trusted you and craved your attention. As fosters, our time with them goes too fast. I learned to treasure the trivial. I learned to cherish the moment. I learned to live in the now. I learned.
I also gained a whole new family within the rescue. Between asking questions, receiving and sharing advice, sending questionable pictures of poop to each other, you become a family. I am a stubborn person by nature and usually determined to do things by myself, refusing to admit weakness or defeat. I never in a million years would have thought I would share my struggles with people. I specifically remember one situation (and it’s been made clear that I will never live it down), allow me to set the scene in a “G” rated version. Eight puppies with tummy issues. Yes, EIGHT, with very bad, no good, horrible, terrible, yucky tummy issues. After a stressful day at work, the puppies had destroyed the puppy pen. I’ll spare you the details, but I should have just called a Hazmat crew. I sat there on the floor surrounded by…. well, you get it, eating a Rice Krispy Treat and messaging some of the other fosters to formally admit my defeat. What did they do to help, you ask? They laughed at me. They laughed and it was contagious. I started to laugh. They also offered words of encouragement and shared their own stories. Laughing gave me the oomph I needed to tackle what was literally surrounding me. My point is, they aren’t just other fosters, or friends, or family. They were and still are my support system. They showed me that I didn’t have to struggle alone. Admitting defeat is not a sign of failure, it is an opportunity for your support system to lift you up.
I will do everything in my power to pay that support back to them, as well as pay it forward to every foster within the rescue.
Through the trials and tribulations of fostering puppies, it has brought more joy to my heart than I can ever adequately articulate. Watching animals completely transform from the saddest things you have ever seen, into amazing, happy and healthy animals is the most rewarding thing that I have ever done. It has become a way of life for me, so much so, that I committed to it. We received a foster on December 19th, 2019, she was tiny and pretty much fit in my hand. In January of this year, she fell ill with Parvo. It was the hardest week of our lives while she was in the hospital. I will never forget the flood of emotions when the vet called with those sweet words, “Emmy can go home!” We were over the moon ecstatic, she beat it! She beat Parvo. She was a survivor. She was OUR survivor (we just didn’t know it yet). She came home looking like skin and bones, missing her front teeth from biting the cage, and then developed kennel cough. Those weeks that followed were so hard on her, myself, and my family. We medicated her, loved her, and tended to her every need. My daughter carried her around everywhere in a sling so she could be out of her quarantine space. We gave her the time, love, and all the resources she needed to heal. And heal she did. But by this time, she had us, hook line and sinker. She had been home all along. We officially Foster Failed Emmy, and we could not possibly be happier about it.
Rescuing is a way a life. It is now my way of life, and I am honored and proud to be a part of it.