"I still remember the lump in my throat as I picked up that first litter at the shelter, seven tiny noses and fourteen little eyes"
Zulu started this adventure. Way before I even knew I was called to Rescue. He was an extremely high energy Weimaraner that we took in under the “Dogs on Deployment” program, a program that helps military families find temporary fosters while their owners are deployed. Zulu needed someone who understood him and what he needed. I knew he needed exercise and someone to show him boundaries and discipline and he flourished with us. When his owner came back from deployment and decided he didn’t want Zulu anymore, I was angry and sad. My heart broke for him.
To be unwanted and discarded as simple as that was heartbreaking. All I wanted was to find him a family who would love him forever. We did find that family; a family that my husband served with in the Air Guard. I remember going for a ‘visit’ and Zulu stayed and never came back home. My heart was wrenched with the dueling emotions of overwhelming joy that he found a loving family and the crushing weight of letting Zulu go after he had been with us over 3 months. I had never experienced such a conflict of emotions before, and at that time I remember saying I never wanted to feel that again.
Funny how God likes to turn your life upside down when you put your foot down and say, “never again!”. And then He smiles to himself and says, “Daughter, you have no idea what I have in store for you. You are going to feel that polarity of immense joy and heaving sadness again, and again, and again. You have so many to help, but not yet.”
Zulu was the first, the start of my path, a little seed planted in my heart that would need time and nurturing to grow.
Two year later, my nephew and I made a completely spontaneous and unplanned stop at Spokanimal. He just wanted to give some love to the shelter cats. As soon as I stepped inside the building I felt the immediate need to contribute in some way and asked about volunteering. I was surprised and delighted to learn that the twice monthly volunteer orientation was being held that very night, in a little under two hours from then.
I tried out several volunteer jobs at the shelter but nothing fit quite right. I don’t even remember why I decided to try fostering again. Maybe the heartbreak of Zulu had dulled just enough in the two years since. I dutifully followed this pull on my heart and completed the additional steps necessary to become an official foster parent.
I remember obsessing about the interview and the home visit, would I pass the inspection? I settled in to wait for the phone call that would tell me whether I passed, and I didn’t have to wait long! The very next day, the shelter manager called me. “You ready to dive in, Caitlin? I have seven puppies and a momma who will need 3 weeks.” Yikes. Was I really ready for this?
I still remember the lump in my throat as I picked up that first litter at the shelter, seven tiny noses and fourteen little eyes reflecting the sadness that had been their scant five weeks of existence in this world. Seven puppies that had come into this world through no fault of their own, and then abandoned soon after by their owner.
Zulu may have started this adventure and planted the seed, but this litter, this litter sealed my fate. At that moment, standing in front of their 4x8 kennel with the concrete floor, I made it my mission in life to erase the first five weeks of these little puppies memories and to start fresh. Today was their new “Day 1”.
I had a short 3 weeks with those first kids. Even in the midst of the crying, demanding 6am wakeups, the copious amounts of poop, and a steep learning curve, I knew. I could feel this passion, that seed, starting to grow and break ground.
Even though I had talked with my husband prior to starting to foster, I was concerned that this was more than he had agreed to. I won't say it was smooth sailing, but surprisingly, I found my husband falling just as deep in love with these precious fur babies as I was. His glistening, watery eyes the morning we dropped them off, betrayed his emotion. Pulling out of the parking lot, I felt that familiar mix of emotions that I had vehemently denied I would ever go through again, but this time something was different. The scales tipped slightly toward more rejoicing than mourning. I had made a difference; not for hundreds or thousands, not even for dozens, but for seven puppies and seven families.
This is what I was put on this earth for: to give hope and a chance at life to dogs that face a gas chamber because of an unkind and irresponsible world that allowed yet another unplanned litter. Replacing any memories of an abusive or neglectful past. Loving that momma and those tiny little puppies to my fullest capacity until it's time to let them go. I have found my calling and my passion.
Thank you for your enduring love and unwavering support as I fulfil this call. I am overflowing with gratitude.
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