April 07

Straining at the Leash

I took one of our foster kittens to PAWS Chicago because a bulge developed over the weekend near the wound from her spaying surgery. After emailing photos of the bulge the vets decided they needed to feel it to see if it was a hernia or swelling from the incision. While I was waiting a woman came in and said she was here to foster a puppy. Having now fostered 28 animals with PAWS I could tell that this was her first and I sensed that she was nervous about how it would all work. She said that she had just lost her dog of 16 years and that she thought it might be helpful to foster for awhile. She was clearly sad about the loss of her dog.

Having been through a similar phase 11 months ago I was so excited for her. This is when the puppy in me comes out wanting to excitedly tell this woman how healing it’s going to be, how fun it will be to watch an animal get stronger and healthier as opposed the the opposite experience with an older animal in decline. I wanted to gush excitedly about how much she’s going to love getting to know lots of different animals, breeds, how great PAWS is to work with and how this experience will honor her sweet Pomeranian, etc.

I wanted to tell her how I grieved for years watching our wonderful cat waste away to thyroid disease and how I tried to feed him multiple times a day and tried every brand of cat food available to no avail. And now I get to watch healthy kittens and puppies gobble their food down with excitement and a healthy appetite. I wanted to tell her that she will be the best thing that ever happens to that puppy and she will feel it. And that when she opens the crate tomorrow morning, that dog is going to be over the moon that she’s still there.

However, social norms and body language sometimes dictate that as much as we want to show huge enthusiasm for something, not everyone wants to be on the receiving end. Eager puppies, like myself in that moment, have to pull back and not strain at the leash because clearly for her this was a bittersweet moment. I sensed that it was emotional to think that she was about to establish a relationship, even for a few weeks, with another dog. It was clear that she was grieving and that my excitement for her was not what she needed at that exact moment. I needed to let her discover what I knew; that she was about to embark on a wonderful adventure and she had no idea how healing and joyous it will be.

Hours later I’m thinking about her and her new charge. I overheard her say that her late dog didn’t want to cuddle and that she was hoping the puppy would. I’m hoping her foster pup is smothering her with affection because there are some holes in our hearts that only an animal can fill. As my kitten was returned to me, I headed toward the door. But I couldn’t help myself as I walked out, “It’s gonna be GREAT!” I said to her.