Are We Only the Foster Parents, and Not the Forever Home?

Gillian Sisley

The possibility of rehoming our rescue absolutely breaks our hearts — but it is a real possibility on the table.

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Photo by Nikolay Tchaouchev on Unsplash

We weren’t ready for a dog.

That’s exactly why we hadn’t consciously rescued or purchased a dog yet.

Not yet living together, not yet engaged, mid-twenties with a new house and plenty of student debt.

We were doing our best to pay down our debt, and get financially secure before taking on the responsibility of caring for another life, be it baby or animal.

We were trying to do everything responsibly.

But life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect.

This rescue was dropped on our doorstep.

This is almost, quite literally, the reality of the situation.

He was either going to be sold on the internet to complete strangers, or we were taking him in.

If he was sold on the internet, my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I both knew it would be a death sentence. We knew he had massive behavioral issues.

We knew he’d be likely to bite someone out of fear or defence, and be put down shortly after.

Even if it was only temporary, we took him in, because the only other choice available was inhumane.

He didn’t deserve to be abandoned. He didn’t deserve this fate.

The least we could do was be his emergency shelter as we figured things out more.

We couldn’t afford a dog at the time, but as they say, life happens.

The longer we had him, despite his behavioural difficulties, the more we hoped we could keep him forever.

But still, from the moment we took him in, we agreed that it wouldn’t work long term if he ultimately wasn’t safe around children.

Our future kids’ safety just wasn’t something we could put at risk.

A safe home and obedience training has brought him a long way, for the better.

It’s not the obedience we worry about.

That’s not the part that keeps us up at night.

What worries us is the psychological wires that were connected in the first year and a bit of his life. The part that we weren’t there for.

The part where he needed, and deserved, intervention immediately.

The part that has him wired to be unpredictable and reactional — the parts which cause him to be his most dangerous.

Whether he is startled, or surprised, or taken-of-guard — his immediate instinct is to defend himself.

When biting in this moment is an absolute possibility… we wonder,

“What if it were a child in the place of an adult in this exact situation?”

By no fault of his own, with no malicious intent, that reactionary instinct could cause a lot of damage.

This is our biggest, most unnerving, fear.

We have to make the decision that is best for everyone involved — including him.

The selfish part of us would always keep him — because the thought of giving him up makes my heart break just at the thought.

But there are so many more factors than selfish desire which must be considered.

It would never be easy to let go of our little pup — but under certain circumstances, it could also be cruel to keep him.

If he was a danger to our kids, and we had to isolate him from the family for their protection, that wouldn’t be fair to him.

Parenting is hard enough without having to worry at all times if your kids are at risk each time you pop out of the room.

If he’s not safe around kids, and then bites one of them, how could we forgive ourselves as parents for letting that happen?

And how can we blame this skiddish little guy for acting out of fear if a child grabs him or tugs on him in a startling way?

At this point in time, we’re still working with a dog behavioralist to determine whether, in his professional opinion, Berkeley can safely live in a house with children.

We’ll have an answer to that question within the next year.

And if he is not, it would also be unfair to keep him with us for several more years, and then rehome him just before having children.

Having been with us one year already, the transition to a new home would be easier on him the earlier the process take place.

We truly hope we can be his forever home, for the next 14 years of his life.

But the reality may be that, as we first predicted when we took him in, we may be his stepping stone to the next phase of his life — as foster parents.

Final word.

As it stands, we’re moving forward assuming Berkeley will be in our family for the remainder of his life.

Until we hear otherwise, in the form of a professional opinion, this is the path.

If we hear otherwise, we will have a difficult bridge to cross.

There will never exist a circumstance where it won’t deeply grieve us to part ways with Berkeley.

That is the worst case scenario possibility — but it’s still a possibility.

And if that’s the case, we’ll be sure to do the best we can by him.

Through a couple years of rehabilitation, offering a safe home, and working with a specialist to resolve his behavioural issues, we would be setting him up with the best possible chance he could have.

We would have given him the best possible chance to survive.

And hopefully, the love and safe home we’d have offered would also leave a long and lasting mark for the rest of his years, with his forever family.

We just hope that will be us.

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