I recently had the opportunity to foster a handsome Dalmatian, named Jasper, for Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet. During the time I fostered Jasper, I wrote a blog, “Jasper’s Story,” for Tails from the Front Line.  The last blog was written the day after Jasper went home with his owner on August 1, 2012. I knew after he left, that I was going to miss him, but I also knew that fostering had been a wonderful opportunity to make a difference for a soldier and her pet.

Now it’s three months later and I’d like to further reflect on the “post fostering” experience in an effort to address the many people who say, “I could never foster a pet. I know I’d get too attached and could never give them back.”

Well, we’ve all heard that one before. But I’d like to suggest that, in fact, you CAN do it, IF you focus on giving, rather than receiving.  Do it for a solider. Do it to keep a pet from being surrendered at a shelter. Do it to be patriotic. Do it because you can share your home and give of your time.  Don’t do it to get attached to a cute furry pet.  Now, I’m not saying that you won’t get attached anyway, but keep your focus on making a difference.

Are you wondering, “But what do you do when the foster term is over and the pet goes home with his mom or dad?”  Well, that is a good question and one with more than just one answer.

If you managed to get “too attached” like most people do, then just give yourself some time. I’d say the first two weeks after Jasper had gone home were the toughest for me.  I just expected him to be in his chair, or follow me around the house and it felt EMPTY not having him there.  But as the weeks went by a new normal developed.  And during the first few weeks, I often reminded myself how important Jasper was to his mom and how his presence was critical to her readjustment to life after deployment. I reminded myself that Jasper had been her dog much longer than the months he had lived with me.  I was HAPPY for them!  A pet being reunited with his owner is a “happy ending” not a sad one.  I focused on telling myself, “Good Job! We made it to Mission Accomplished.”

During the transition period I also focused on doing things I had put off while fostering Jasper.  Maybe there is a trip you want to take or a project you can’t do when you have dog responsibilities. Remind yourself of the things you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have the time. Do them! Keep busy.

If you have other pets, spend time with them. In my case, my two cats, Alley and Pumpkin, had taken to seclusion with Jasper in the house.  It was important to reconnect with them, give them some well-deserved attention, and enjoy them again. That is, after I begged for their forgiveness.

Another option is to go ahead and take on another foster pet.  Maybe the next time you can fine tune the type of pet you take into your home to better fit into your family.  You could seek out a smaller, older, calmer pet….or maybe just the opposite, if that’s what you think you’d like.  Begin another adventure, helping another soldier.

In my experience, as well as many others, the relationship with your foster pet does not have to be over, when they go home. Most of the military service members and foster families bond during the foster period.  They continue to stay in touch, visit, and even dog sit or re-foster the pet, if there is a future need. So if you want to continue to be a part of the pet’s life, you probably can, just cultivate the relationship with the soldier.

I have had the opportunity to visit with Jasper and his mom several times in the last three months and it’s always fun.  I also look forward to dog sitting opportunities when Jasper will come back to our house, so he can chase the squirrels, bother the cats and sleep in his chair just like he did for months.  I know he will always be part of the family, and now, so will his mom.

And I suppose you have still another option, if you really feel soooo sad “post foster” that you think you can’t ever do that again.  You could go out and rescue an animal.  Save a life and give a permanent home to a homeless animal.  There are so many pets who need a forever family and if you adopt them, you will never have to give them back! That could actually be one of the BEST endings for a fostering adventure.

I hope that by sharing my experience, I may convince, some who are hesitant, to try fostering for Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet. I firmly believe that if you become a foster volunteer, after the foster term is over and the pet is reunited with their Soldier, you WILL feel good in your heart. Please, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone to volunteer! I’m very glad I did!

– Written by Jasper’s Foster Mom, Carol. 
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