Fostering Charlie

Letter from Connecticut
By Doreen Zywocinski, February 2010, Updated February 2015

I was in upstate New York, visiting my daughter and went to a local grocery store where I saw your magazine. I had it in my hands but then put it back stating, “No, I really don’t need it and I won’t read it.” There was a phrase on the cover that made me pick it up, “Hey Charlie, welcome home.” It made me smile because I rescued a severely abused Bichon Frise named Charlie. When I got back to the house that day, I thought why didn’t I get the magazine. The next day I went back and picked it up. Am I glad I did. I absolutely LOVE the magazine, so much that I ordered a subscription. My first issue arrived and it happened to be the one I already had so I gave it to a coworker. Today, she subscribed.

My husband and I never had dogs growing up. When my youngest asked for a dog because our older daughter was going to college and my mother-in-law had just passed away, we said yes. After much research, we decided on the Bichon as our older daughter had asthma. We purchased him from a breeder or so she said. We brought him home at 3 pounds, 12 weeks old. My younger daughter and I cried all weekend; we didn’t want him. I did not want my house smelling like a dog. She didn’t want him because she was too nervous around him. That was almost six years ago and he truly is the love of my life. I loved him so much I went on the internet to find out everything I could on Bichons. I came across a Bichon rescue group. So I signed up to foster, transport, etc. Every time they called me to foster, I had an excuse of why it was not a good time. The last time they called me, I didn’t have time to think. They had two Bichons who were being fostered in New Hampshire and the foster family already had nine dogs and couldn’t keep these two Bichons. I said OK but you need to find him a home as soon as possible. I picked up Charlie, who was so filthy dirty, had a hot pink collar on and had the biggest brown eyes you ever saw. All he did was shake uncontrollably. He smelled terrible. He trusted NO ONE especially men. His legs were deformed from being a puppy mill dog and living in a cage all his life. The next day I brought him to the groomer to get a bath.

Eventually he was put on Petfinder. Months and months went by and I never received one phone call inquiring about him. Nobody wanted him. About two years into fostering, he learned to trust me and to love me as much as he could. What a feeling!

One day, I got the dreaded phone call. Somebody in California wanted him, sight unseen. She had just lost her Bichon of 13, and lost her husband a few years earlier. She wanted Charlie. I spoke with her and had to report back to the rescue group on what I felt about her.... I could not say one negative thing. She was perfect. Well, I didn’t sleep all night and neither did my younger daughter or my husband. How could I give him up? How could I put him on an airplane all the way from Connecticut to California? What would he think when he looked for me and I wasn’t there? I was the only mother he ever knew. You know what happens next. We adopted him. I could not imagine my life without him.


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Fostering a dog is one of the greatest feelings in the world although I flunked. By fostering, I showed him how to trust again. It just doesn’t get better than that. Although I love my “purchased” dog Bailey more than life, Charlie has shown me what unconditional love is, that all it takes is patience and one day at a time. I will never “buy” another dog from a breeder. I will always take in a foster, which, of course, will lead to an adoption on my part! They so deserve a second chance at life.

I’m sorry this is so long... When I talk about my dogs, I just can’t help bragging...

Thank you for your wonderful magazine. Your stories are real and heartwarming, some sad, some real tearjerkers. Just wanted to share. Thank you again!

Photos by Doreen Zywocinski

Doreen Zywocinski lives in East Hartford, Conn._