Fostering dogs

Fostering Dogs – Why We Have To Let Go

Fostering dogs has become a part of my life. About a year ago, March 24 2015, I came back from the airport crying. Crying a mixture of happy and ego tears. I have fostered many dogs, and loved them all as if they were mine, but if I had to choose the one that had the biggest impact on me, that would be Billy – and that day I said my goodbyes at the airport, and let him go.  It was my hardest farewell so far – not that any goodbye has ever been easy.

fostering dogs
My precious. Kallie suffered from leishmaniasis, and that was the easy part. The hardest was to work with her separation anxiety.

“Why don’t you keep the dog? He seems to have loved you so much” – I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked that question. Too many I guess. Making rescue or training videos makes a huge impact, it helps the dogs get adopted but it also brings up that question. People see the relationship I develop with the dogs, and can’t help but wondering what kind of person could I possibly be to give up a dog that sees in me a savior. So I’ve had to answer the same question over and over again. Why didn’t I keep Billy, Alma, Bono, Sahara, Petra, Kallie and all the rest?

fostering dogs
I seriously considered keeping Sally. My ego just didn’t want such a perfect dog to belong to anybody else!

There isn’t really a right way to answer this question. Fostering is about letting go. It’s about preparing the dog for his forever home. It’s about training, healing, socializing and transforming that particular dog, from a hurt, broken, sick and confused animal to a perfect pet. A pet that is a result of patience, correct education and persistence. It might take a few weeks or a couple of months, but there comes a time when you are ready to shout out to the world: “here he is, he is house trained, socialized and healthy and he needs a home”.

fostering dogs
I guess you all know Petra. I have never fostered her, but I spent so much time training her that it feels like we’ve shared a lifetime together.

Do I adore the dogs? Yes, I do. Do I imagine them living with me forever? Of course I do. Are the dogs becoming so attached to me that it will be hard on them to be rehomed? Never. That’s what’s amazing about them, and the main reason why adopting an adult dog is highly recommended –at least by me. Dogs have an amazing capacity to live in the present. This is what all trainers know, and all of us volunteering in animal welfare have experienced too many times. Yesterday they lived on the street, today they live in a shelter kennel, tomorrow they live in a foster home and the day after they live in their forever home. It takes just a few days for them to adjust and the new home becomes their past, present and future.

fostering dogs
My first foster – Apollo. Didi I try to give him up? Yes! Could I do it? No!

Have I ever kept a foster? Yes, of course. I kept my first one, Apollo. I just couldn’t let go. And he taught me a lot. He introduced me to the animal welfare world, and thanks to him, I was never the same. Fostering is not just about helping the dogs. It’s about helping some amazing people adopt the dog they always dreamed of. And this is awesome. I’ve given every single one of my fosters knowing pretty much everything they’d do or feel during the first weeks. I got to train them and know them that well that I’m pretty confident about any advice I give to the future families. And this is a precious feeling for all three parties, the dog, the family and me.

fostering dogs
Alma – one of the most clever and trainable dogs ever. She was dumped as trash in the mountain. Today she is adopted and lives the life of a princess.

Billy was one very hard goodbye. Within three months I watched a frightened bag of bones turn into a healthy, gorgeous dog. I witnessed a miracle and yes, I felt that he was mine – and in a way he was and always will be. But the thing is that the dog that lives in Switzerland today is not my Billy. My Billy was that tiny, scared and sick creature I fostered those first weeks. The dog I nurtured, and treated and trained. The dog that wagged his hairless tail for me on the fourth day. The dog whose dippers I changed and whose sheets I washed. The dog I couldn’t touch for three weeks without my gloves on. That was mine. And nobody can take that away. Of all the footage I have on him, I’ve only kept one photo in my pc, and it’s one of his first ones. Because back then, he was my dog.

fostering dogs
The one and only photo of Billy I keep in my pc. That dog was mine for a few weeks, and always will be.

The amazing animal I gave for adoption on March 24 wasn’t my Billy. It was Emma’s and Simon’s dog. Having photos send to me from his one year adoption celebration only makes me think of one thing: “How could I even consider depriving those amazing people from their dog? How did I even consider keeping their dog?”

fostering dogs
Billy’s adoption birthday included a cake and a teddy. The cake is gone and I’m guessing the teddy is pretty much mutilated!

If you have any doubts about fostering, just don’t. It is one amazing thing to do, and letting go isn’t really that hard. You let go of a dog that belongs to somebody else, but you can always keep the dog you fostered forever. Because the fearful, sick and confused dog you took in those first few day will always be yours, no matter what. Will you grow feelings for the animal? Of course you will. And you will let it go because it doesn’t need you anymore, but there are millions out there who need you a lot. All of us volunteers give our “Billies” away for all the other “Billies” to come. And they are a lot. They deserve a chance.

fostering dogs
It only takes one visit to a shelter to realize why we have to let go – there are so many more that need help.

I know that there will come a time when I’ll be reading this blogpost and laugh. I know that eventually a dog will come that will be impossible for me to give up for adoption. I’ve even come up with a caption for it: “I did what I did before love came to town”. But until then, I have absolutely no regrets. All the dogs I fostered will always be mine in a way. I keep only one photo of every one of them, and it’s a photo from the first day they arrived. That day, they were mine. The day they left for their forever homes, they already belonged to somebody else.

Valia Orfanidou




23 thoughts on “Fostering Dogs – Why We Have To Let Go”

  1. The video about Billy touched me deeply. I was truly convinced he was not going to survive. Well… See… what patience persistence and love can achieve. May you be blessed to rescue many more dogs. Nurture them to health and finding them a new happy life in a forever home. Absolutely Amazing Work.

    1. Thank you. We also thought he wasn’t going to make it when we first saw him. But they are a lot stronger than we think. 🙂

  2. Your words of “fostering” have touched my heart strings and I to was one of those people who would ask that same question, “how can you give them up”? I have always taken in rescue dogs and they became part of the family (I love all animals), and the responsibility is huge and lots of patience is necessary. Your words have convinced me of how important fostering is to allow these dogs to have the best life they all deserve! Not everyone is comfortable around the neglected and abused animals and for those of us who have experience in caring and training them to trust and be social again we are a great asset to the animals in need and potential forever homes.
    I want to thank you for giving me a new view on fostering and when I am able to take in and care for a dog in need I most certainly will be on board! My hands are full at the moment with my aging “3 amigos” “Emma my Pug 10yrs”, Diezel my Corso 8yrs, (both with medical issues) and River my Doberman cross approx. 4yrs”

    Thank you again for all you do and for educating me


  3. its a shame some poeple post bad comments on you tube and i am verry ashamed of poeple who be like that i wish i had money to donate so u can even do resceu more poeple like u deserve the medal and all the honor but often don’t get it and i know u not ask for it neither but from me u get all the respect and honor u deserve and i did realize directly what u ment by u had to let go of the animal maybe because i have adopted some dogs before and have now adopted 1 aswell which i wil never do away but for u its difrent u wanna continu the good work and u cant keep them yeah if u was a millionair and had much land maybe but thats just not reality so ofcourse i understand it and infact u not effen have to explain it because poeple can know why u really special and lucky there some more like u and ofcourse its hard i have been verry depressed when i had to do 2 dogs away not because they where bad or that i coudn’t hold them effen they where not listening at all it where good dogs but because of neighbours made a campagne and made up stories that they where bitten by the dogs it made me so sad that i lost everything in life i dont care about my life or any adults anymore they already gone you can hear it in there way of talking but all animals i do care of and all children aswell and all poeple who get discriminated or be pulled down i am verry ashamed to be human manny treath eachoter bad and our animals 2 but poeple like u make me smile and today i am in a bit better situation ok i have nothing but i have just enough foood and drink for me and my dog more i dont need i am happy whit that infact its effen better then have money when u have nothing u see things more clearly and apriciate things more i wanna say keep doing what u do and i hope more poeple wil say how much respect they have for u because u deserve it and last thing i don’t wanna hear thank u because we should thank u u not us u the one who does this good thing u may be verry proud at yourself

  4. What a wonderful blog. I foster dogs and transport them. I get asked this question all the time. You explain it so beautifully!

  5. Valia,

    O Theos na sas ehi kala, esas ke tous sinathelfous sas pou dinete ton kero ke tin energia sas yia na sosete angeloudia.
    Agapo tin patrida mas (meno sto exoterico) ala oso afora tin agapi pros ta zoa, arosteno kathe fora pou skeptome varia peristatika pou eho zisi.

    Keep up the good work!

    Polla filia se sas ke sta morakia sas!

    Sandy Vassiliou

  6. I found your Billy video through Yahoo, and followed the link to your blog. You do amazing, amazing work, and write about it with heart and eloquence. Like an amazing teacher, you come into these dogs’ lives and change them forever. You teach them about the world, and how to live in it. And just as students don’t stay with their teacher (no matter how good) forever, your students move on, but are so much better for having met and been with you (and they will remember you forever, even though, like most students, they never tell you)

    We fostered a dog for nearly two years. She was a good dog, and had some prospects, but never panned out. She got adopted, then returned. But she found a family that fit her, and everyone is happy.

    1. Some dogs get very lucky very fast and some others don’t. I used to foster one who was returned three times, but she finally got the family that was right for her. It is true that they are like students and it is very rewarding to watch them move on! Thank you!

  7. I came across this video on Facebook just this morning and have watched it twice. What an amazing transformation! Your love and kindness brought life back into that beautiful dog and I am so grateful there are people like you in this world. It’s nice to be reminded that humanity still exists. Thank you for all you do and explaining why you don’t keep them. I loved the post comparing you to a beloved teacher. That’s exactly what you are! Keep up the good work!

  8. This story is truly amazing….its so heartbreaking to see how people are able to turn a blind eye to these poor suffering dogs or even inflict any of this on a poor animal…luckily they’re are people like you in this world who don’t pass by all the little Billy’s and treat them as if they’re invisible and give them something a lot of them have never even felt in their lives….LOVE…. You are miracle workers and I hope all the Billy’s out there roaming the streets are able to find you one day…
    Best wishes From Oklahoma, USA

  9. I also love to foster animals if I have my way. I love cats and birds. I give foods to stray cats and local birds until they get used to it. I also became attached so much to them. But the company I work with always transfers our accommodation. I don’t have choice but to leave them. It really hurts thinking that they won’t get the same amount of food I give them and the care that no one has ever given them. Sometimes I consider not to get involved with any animals anymore so as not to get frustrated again but my heart melts whenever I see how they struggle to get food from the garbage bin until I found myself deeply hooked with them again. Please support my Youtube channel and get mesmerized by some of the animals we truly love. *Unbelievable two-legged high spirited piglet. This will truly melt your heart. Subscribe and share. Link:*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *