Karen B. London
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Love for Visiting Dogs
Good-byes are hard
This is Schultzie

Whether a dog who stays with you for just a short while is a foster, a stray or a friend’s dog, it’s easy to become attached to a temporary visitor. We are about to say good-bye to Schultzie, who is spending about 2.5 weeks with us while her family is in Italy, and I’m beginning to feel upset about her impending departure.

I know her family will be ecstatic to see her, and that Schultzie will be just as thrilled, and I’m happy for all of them. It’s just that I am sad to see her go. It has been such a pleasure to share a few weeks of our lives together. She is delightful company and easy to be with.

She is the sort of family dog that I wish were more common. She’s friendly and peppy, but is easily satisfied by a couple of 20-30 minute walks a day. She likes to work and is food-motivated, but not at all pushy for food. She hasn’t chewed on anything in our house that she’s not supposed to. On the one occasion that she took a tissue in her mouth, I simply walked toward her with the idea of trading it for a treat and she backed away at my approach and went over to one of her own toys. She doesn’t pull on the leash or bark to excess, and she sleeps in a bit in the morning—bonus! Although she’s not crazy about the car, she rides in it quite amiably.

Of course, all of these good qualities don’t really explain in full why we’re going to miss her so much. Beyond this list explaining her best traits, there’s that indefinable magic that happens when you grow to love a dog, and that’s what happened with Schultzie. I’ve grown very fond of many dogs who have spent time with us for a short time, but it will be especially hard to say good-bye to this one.

I’m grateful that she lives nearby and that we will still see her from time to time, and we’d definitely be open to dogsitting for her in the future.

As my 7-year son said last night, “When you dogsit a dog, it feels like the dog is yours.” Obviously we fall in love with our own dogs, but sometimes we feel that way about other dogs, too. I’d love to hear your stories of dogs who have just been passing through but took a little piece of your heart anyway.


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Melissa | May 18 2012 |

We just had one of these events...but happily, she was our first foster dog, so we got to keep her. Trouble is, now fostering again will be a bit more difficult.

We have two young adult standard Eskies, and we volunteered to foster a 12 week old 6 lb mixed breed pup. We'd never had a pup....both our dogs were adopted as 'teens' or adults. I also never thought I'd love a small dog, so I thought we were safe with this dog as our first foster. Little did we know that we were doomed.

This 12 week old puppy slept through the night right away, in her crate. She slept quietly by my desk all day during the week (with time out to play, of course!), she loved everyone, cats, dogs and people, and our two dogs accepted her immediately.

I had promised my husband that I would not ask to adopt this dog. But after we'd had her for a week, and her 'hold' period was over, the applications were coming in, and I was feeling melancholy. I'd been sitting on the back porch in the sun with one of our cats and the three dogs, all watching one of our chickens scratching in the yard. I got up to ask my husband a question, but he asked me one, first. He said 'Melissa, do you think we should keep this dog?' and I broke down sobbing. So we contacted the rescue that day. And now I love little dogs....or at least this little dog...

Submitted by Anonymous | May 20 2012 |

How timely! We just went though the same sense of sadness when a guest dog went home after a 3 1/2 week stay at our house. We love to care for friends' dogs when they're away, and our dog enjoys the company too, but this was the longest time we'd ever signed on for. And this was a VERY exuberant two-year-old labrador! The initial adjustment period was rather trying, but soon we figured out a routine that suited us all. The trick ended up being tons of exercise in the form of miles of biking in harness, along with lots of play and reward-based training. These helped shape our guest dog quickly into the well-behaved pooch we were so sad to relinquish at the end of our friends' vacation. And yes, I did shed a tear or two to see her go!

Anyway, we had so much fun dogsitting that we've decided to try fostering. We've been approved, but haven't gotten our first dog yet. So I was amused to read about the other commenter's "foster failure" (the term used for a dog that is adopted by its foster family ;-) !). It sounds like it was meant to be, and I'm so happy for her adopted dog. However I have the same worry about whether we'll be able to give up a foster dog when the time is right, yet hope to be able to do so in order to open up that space in our lives for another foster dog, and another, and another...

It is amazing how quickly we become attached to the dogs with whom we share our lives, even when they come from loving homes to which they are lucky to return! Thank you for this article expressing just what's been on my mind lately as we prepare to try fostering for the first time. Wish us luck!

Submitted by Karen London | May 22 2012 |

I'm so glad you shared your experience, and while I'm sorry to hear you went through the same sadness as my family, I'm delighted that ti has inspired you to foster dogs. That is fantastic! And of course, I do wish you luck. I hope you have wonderful foster dogs in your future.

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