Last week my husband and I welcomed two new pets into our weird little family, the 19th and 20th animals to find a temporary home in our house since we started fostering in August. (We’re not completely insane; most of them were litters of kittens.)
Daya, a 3-year-old pit bull in a South Carolina shelter, had suffered the miscarriage of her litter and was mourning the loss of her puppies. Confused to wake up from a life-saving surgery without the babies she expected, she had instinctively started collecting socks and toys and tending to them as if they were alive. The heartbroken mama was safe but really wanted a baby.
Raisin, a 6-week-old malnourished and mangey orphaned puppy, had just come out of surgery to remove a ruptured eye. The tiny, frail, one-eyed baby could have certainly recovered with human intervention alone but deserved the comfort and care of a mama dog.
My sister-in-law’s organization Halfway There Rescue saw the incredible opportunity to pair Daya and Raisin to foster together and now here we are.
They’re an adorable pair and even got featured on The Dodo, a website dedicated to heartwarming stories about animals.
Daya and Raisin’s arrival came less than a week after our last foster dog, Frank, had been adopted. He was a project dog, for sure — a timid, pitiful stray found living alone in a field in South Carolina — but he made incredible progress with us and is thriving in his new home.
I swore up and down that we’d take a foster break after Frank and yet there I was last week in the throes of insomnia waking my husband up to show him photos of these two broken animals that needed each other and that I’d decided needed us to help make it happen.
Because that’s the thing about animals. There’s never a shortage of ways in which humans have abandoned, tortured, forgotten and otherwise failed them. And so there’s never a shortage of opportunities to help make things right. I find myself leaning into rescue for that kind of redemptive hope. So every time I say I’m done, I know I’m really not.
We have three pets of our own that we adopted — two fat cats that found me after college and a dog that looks like a pig — but we’re new to this routine fostering thing.
In our short time pitching in where we can, I’ve learned people generally have two questions: Where do you find the time? And how do you not keep them all?
Sometimes I like to pretend I don’t have time and then I think about my sister-in-law, who founded Halfway There. She has a full-time job, a part-time job, two kids under the age of five and four dogs of her own. In 2017, she and her unbelievable team of volunteers were able to save more than 400 animals. If she has time, we all have time. It’s as easy as that.
As for not keeping every animal for myself, that’s a little tougher and more emotional but it boils down to this — every animal I keep is one less I’ll be willing to foster in the future. If I’d kept Frank, we never would have met Daya and Raisin.
It also brings me a lot of joy to see our fosters with their adoptive families. We work really hard to turn discarded animals into desirable pets — from light training and heavy socialization to the way we photograph them and present their story to world — and nothing makes me more proud than seeing other humans see their potential.
Daya and Raisin found their way to each other and then to us thanks to an army of volunteers who give everything they have to animals someone else has tossed aside.
The rescue process only works with the selfless contributions of rescue coordinators like my sister-in-law who make the impossible decision about which animals to pull out of a shelter and off the euthanasia list, veterinarians who offer free and reduced medical care, fosters who open their hearts and homes to someone else’s pets and any number of administrative volunteers, event coordinators, designers, photographers and social media managers who help process applications, spread the word, market the rescue and get animals into homes.
There are volunteer-run rescue efforts like this operating all over Charlotte. If you love animals and are looking for a way to get involved, this is a rewarding way to do so.
The way I see it, hanging out with adorable animals in their time of need is the very least I can do to help out. It’s an invaluable lesson in trust, loyalty, patience and empathy, and I’m convinced I get way more out of it than they do anyway.