It’s been calm few weeks here in my little circus. (I’m knocking on wood as I type). Who would have thought that I’d miss my human boys?

Gunner and Bear continue to rule the house with little input from me or Jim. As I said, I’m the keeper of the kibble and it’s now Jim’s responsibility to open the back door and do the belly rubs. Recently, Deycon and his little sister (and I use the term lightly) came for a visit. We all trekked off to work a few days during that time. The kids love the dogs and the dogs get a good work out chasing them. After a few hours, Gunner usually walks right into the nursing office, reminds me that the water bowl needs filling and sits next to the cabinet where we keep the treats. I wish the entire staff worked for beef jerky.

Jim and I spent last weekend driving to and from Camp LeJeune to bring DJ back to his mother, my Navy Corpsman daughter. As usual Little Man spent a few minutes with Gunner and Bear giving them last minute instructions, reminding them he’ll be back for Santa and telling them to use the potty in the yard.

After the long drive, Jim and I spent a lazy Sunday and I got up early Monday. The morning was a bit cooler and I decided to enjoy my first cup of coffee on the deck while the dogs ran in the yard. When I finished brewing the pot I put on my robe and flip flops and walked out the back door. There was a beautiful mist hovering above grass in the back of the yard and the boys were making sure they caught every bit of the morning dew off the overgrown grass. The breeze was sweet and the moment was idyllic.  I was thinking about the last few days, the traveling and how wonderful it was to be home. Life is good. When will I learn?

At that exact moment the flock of chickens that are residing illegally next door started to cluck and wander around. In a synchronized performance that would be the envy of any Olympic team, the two buddies stopped dead in their tracks, brought their ears to attention and turned toward the warbling. It happened all at once. In less than the blink of an eye they were across the yard and heading for the fence. Gunner was a hurdle jumper in a previous life and made it over the fence in two leaps. Bear slid under the teenie tiny space that I had failed to block with the boulders we had moved to mow the grass. They flew through the bushes and headed for the hens.

I dropped my cup of coffee, threw off the robe and made it down the stairs in two thumps and a bump. I made the right turns around the deck and the left to my neighbors’ gate shrieking all the way. I caught a glimpse of Gunner heading back toward the fence when I lost my footing and everything went black. I didn’t know what happened, but I felt Bear’s feet bounce off my back as I hit the ground. I was struck blind and felt a wave of something cool and moist cover me. Later, I would wish I had gone “toward the light. “

My yells brought my neighbors to their back door and I could hear them running toward me. I was on all fours, face in the mud, shoeless, minus my glasses and could feel a breeze on my nether regions. As Tom and Anita helped me to my feet, I was shaken up, cussing and spitting mud. I mean it literally, I was spitting mud. They had no idea the boys had even come into their yard, so they were wondering what I was up to this time. Anita helped me wipe mud off my face, found my glasses for me and asked what happened. I know she was feigning concern and smothering giggles. Then Tom apologized because the chickens got out and asked if I was alright. I’m pretty sure they just wanted me out of their yard so they could call their lawyer for a restraining order. As I approached their garden gate Tom slyly called, “Hey, Eileen. Nice tattoo. How long did it take until you could sit again?” Go ahead, smirk, I thought, you and your frikkin’ chickens. I vaguely remember something about good fences and neighbors.

I limped back into my own yard and hobbled up the stairs to see a grinning Gunner sitting on the deck by the back door. I know I was leaving wet footprints from the deck through the first floor but I was far too angry to even care. Opening the front door, I found a totally innocent Rottie staring at me and acting more than a little annoyed he’d had to wait. I fed and watered them, and wondered if I’d make it to work on time.

Later that evening, Jim noticed the abrasions on my forearms and asked if it had anything to do with the muddy footprints he cleaned off the kitchen floor. I started to explain and only got out, “YOUR dogs….” when he raised his hand turned away and said, “No, don’t tell me! I don’t want to purger myself if this ever gets to court. Just tell me if the police were involved.” Another wise guy…. just what I need.

So now that my hands are healing and my pride is almost restored, I’ll get to the real reason that this chapter of Gunner’s adventures in foster care is a bit late. Unbelievably, it isn’t something the fur kids did.

Every foster mom knows that sooner or later we’re going to get “that email” and our hearts are going to burst with joy and rupture in emptiness all at once. Well, I got that letter not too long ago. Gunner’s foster term is finished at the end of this month and I’ve been avoiding my email because I knew this was coming. I had gotten a message on Facebook from Christene, aka Mrs. Gunner’s mom. I was sure I knew what it meant and just stared at the notification for a few minutes gathering my strength to open what I believed was coming. Thinking this was the end of an era, I read and wept openly but with an ache of a different kind.

My head was spinning and I felt a little numb staring at my screen reading and re-reading what must have taken every ounce of love and strength to write. Chris and Christene have given so much serving our country and like so many other young families they make huge sacrifices all along the way. My heart broke as I read how their anticipated situation had changed and that they were now pondering a colossal sacrifice making a decision no Mom or Dad should have to: Their plans had been so suddenly altered that now Gunner would not be able to continue their journey with them.

I could feel Christene’s anguish as I read her request that Gunner become a permanent part of my family. She knows he is loved and cared for (and maybe a little spoiled) and they want the best for him. An unwelcome but familiar feeling came back to me as I identified with her words. If you have read any of my fosters’ blogs, you’ll know that it was for this reason I was so drawn to Guardian Angels For Soldiers Pet a few years back: My own daughter had to give up her fur babies when she deployed and that chasm has yet to be filled. We never did find out what happened to them. Now another set of military pet parents was facing this decision and all I can say is it is just wrong.

I sat on the bed next to Jim and nudged him a bit. I told him about Christene’s letter and asked his thoughts. As he rolled over and without opening his eyes, he chuckled, “Why are you asking me? You already know: he stays.”

I went back to the computer and responded Christene. Yes, there was no question that Gunner has a new home. I hoped she and Mr. Gunner’s Dad know that if there is a change along the way they can always come and pick up their boy. I contacted state and national folks and Guardian Angels For Soldiers’ Pet has paperwork to be completed. There’s always paperwork but when the original term of foster care finishes, Gunner will be here for good. Jokingly I thought, well it’s not like I was really going to let him go anyway.

I mentally removed the “No Vacancy” sign from my front door and slid back under the covers. Putting his arms around me, Jim said, “You know, you’re lousy at this.” I started to object when he whispered, “Gia barely got away. McKenzie and Mulligan never left. You only LEND Deycon back to Mike and Sarah every now and then and now Gunner is staying. Foster care is supposed to be temporary. You’re going to have to start giving these dogs back eventually.”

Though we sort of have another Mission Accomplished for Guardian Angels for Soldiers Pet, we also have a new full time roust-about for this village’s resident circus. Anyone know of a military pet that needs a foster home?

– Written by Eileen, Foster Mom in New York.