Wyatt was a young, wild Bluetick Coonhound mix who came to us from an overcrowded, underfunded, rural county shelter. When we first met him, he was emaciated, his paws were raw and he was heartworm positive, but he didn’t know it. He was bossy, opinionated, and sooooo loud. We introduced him to our pack and he picked a fight with every dog before he settled in. He was constantly on the counter or chewing on things he shouldn’t or peeing in the house. Saying he was a handful would be an understatement.
Despite all that, he’s still one of my favorite fosters. Though he was a busybody, when he stopped moving and looked at me, it was like I was the only person in the world who mattered. Wyatt was sweet and turned out to be a professional cuddler. He was a dog who could curl up into the tiniest little ball and fit perfectly in my lap. When he was focused on me, I swear he knew what I thinking, we were that in sync.
The more that these quirks emerged, the more that I honestly couldn’t see my life without him. And the longer he was with us, the more I thought he was never leaving. He had a lot going for him, trust me – he was the perfect size, gorgeous, so loving and smart. But he also had habits that were hard to break and a strong personality. He’d challenge us daily and pick fights with other dogs in the house. I was sure no one would want him and I was excitedly okay with that. I could provide him a good home, so what was the harm in keeping him?
Then we met an amazing young couple. They were avid hikers and mountain bikers and were looking for a dog to accompany them on their adventures. They wanted Wyatt and my heart sunk. We talked over the phone before we met and I let them know he did have some undesirable qualities, but they wanted to meet him anyway. We set up a meet and the rest was history.
I bawled the day he left. The house somehow felt empty even though it was (as always) full of dogs. I missed him so terribly, that it was almost like a death.
His new parents knew I missed him, so they’d send me regular updates and pictures. Oh my god was that dog happy. I watched him be so much happier in his new life than in any life I could have given him. He was their world, got all their attention, and didn’t have to share with anyone. He went on hikes and tours around town. He went with them to dinner and on vacations. And last week he started out on the trip of a lifetime with his new mom. They’re hiking 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine.
A lot of the concern that people have with becoming a foster parent to one of our dogs is the very experience that I had. They’re afraid they’ll find their Wyatt, fall in love, and have to give him up to a new family. But despite the heartache that I encountered with Wyatt, it was all worth it. I could never have given that dog the life he now enjoys. There was someone out there who could take care of him, love him, nurture him in a way that I never could. I gave him up, yes, but to a life that will bring him so much joy.
Giving up and letting go of the dogs we foster doesn’t have to be an occasion of heartbreak and hurt. Despite not being Wyatt’s forever, I was part of his getting there. I got to be the bridge, the guide on his way to the life that was perfect for him and that will always be part of his story. As a foster parent to one of our dogs, you may not be that dog’s future, but you’ll be the healing that makes him ready for it. You may not be his joy, but you’ll be instrumental in creating it. And there’s no nobler calling.
– Molly & Lindsey
Molly Wilson is the Editor of St. Augustine Social and regularly hangs with Swampies in her spare time.
Lindsey Kelley, Wyatt’s Foster and President and Co-Founder of Swamp Haven.