As I looked at this sweet face tonight, I began considering the amazing similarities between being a parent, foster parent, dog owner, and foster dog owner. I currently hold title to all these positions. I have only been a foster dog parent to two dogs. One was here for four weeks and one has been here almost two weeks. I specifically chose dogs that needed some help to be more adoptable. Both of these dogs needed many of the same things that the foster kiddos we have had in our home needed; love, structure, leadership, security, and dedication. The kids, the dogs; they come to us helpless, totally relying on complete strangers to care for them. It is primarily up to us to help them blossom and become all that God intended them to become.
Imagine being taken away, often by complete strangers, from all that you know, and transported somewhere completely different. Taken somplace where the faces are new, the smells are new, the foods are new, and worst of all, the bed is new. That’s exactly what happens to foster kids and dogs. And once they get to these new places, they have no control over anything. They are told what to do, when to do it, and what happens if they don’t. It has to be this way. These kids and dogs need to know what’s expected of them and how things work in the new home if they’re to get along there. They don’t have the luxury of knowing even basic things like where their bed is. Although each child and dog is unique, there are things that all of them need if they are to thrive at all amidst the chaos.
First and foremost they need love. Foster parents of dogs and kids love them just as deeply as their parents and owners do, but we recognize that we are simply providing a temporary place until the permanent one comes along. They also desperately need structure. No matter what their background, both kids and dogs need to know what their day will be like. Set dining, resting, and play times goes a long way to helping them feel accepted and a part of the family. Leadership is one of the top things that is also needed. Coming into a place where everything is new, dogs and kids need to know that someone is in control and taking care of things for them. They may very well act like they don’t want anyone leading them, but this is far from true. They need strong leaders so they can enjoy doing things that kids and dogs enjoy doing.
Security goes hand in hand with leadership and is yet another thing that foster kids and dogs need. Their world feels everything but secure. Most of the time they don’t know why they are where they’re at, and they don’t know how long they’ll be there. They need any security we can offer them and this comes from strong leadership. Leaders who will protect them, meet their needs, and advocate for them when necessary. Feeling secure is crucial for both foster dogs and kids to thrive. And they struggle to thrive if we are not dedicated to them. If they think that we will flake easily and not be there for them, they will do everything they can to push us away as fast as they can. Some even do whatever they can to test how dedicated we truly are.
We don’t always know exactly what these kids and dogs have been through in their lives. Many have been through indescribable loss and trauma. But at the root of all of us is the basic need to feel loved, secure, wanted, and worth leading. Their past needs to be understood as much as possible and resources used to help them navigate it, but we’ve learned that providing our foster kids and dogs with love, security, dedication and leadership helps them begin to face the future. It gives them the tools to function in our world when all they may feel like doing is hiding away. And these kids and dogs are amazingly resilient and trusting.
We are honored at the opportunity to be a part of shaping these kids and dogs lives. We are amazed at how well they do considering the situations and chaos many of them come from. It’s not nicer clothes, fancy toys or their own rooms. It’s not better dog food, plush dog beds, or trips to the pet store. It’s leadership, structure, love and dedication that helps them not allow their past to define their future.