When my dog of 13 ½ years died in January of 2017, I vowed that I’d never have another dog. He was my best friend. Ernie came into our lives when my younger daughter was 16. She had begged me for many years for a dog. We’d always had cats and I’d had dogs years back, but cats seemed easier. So one sunny Sunday, she lured me to a AKC shop on Rte 23. I casually asked the owner if she had any beagles. My favorite dog when my parents finally broke down and let me have a dog was a beagle mix we named Ophelia and she was my first treasured dog. Of course the owner had a beagle pup and the rest is history. He was the love of everyone’s life. The neighbors didn’t know my name. My corner house with the fenced in yard came to be known as Ernie’s house. His siren howl could be heard for blocks around. Oh, that’s just Ernie.
Children leave home eventually and my daughter left when Ernie was about 8. That was the first significant change in our lives together. He officially became my dog and we were the closest pals throughout the rest of his life. We downsized and moved into an apartment. He no longer had the yard he loved and he declined dying six months after we moved.
I became dogless. I would pet every dog that walked my way throughout the following year and a half. “Why don’t you get another dog?” friends would ask. I had all the excuses. It affects your freedom. I don’t want the mess. But mainly, I didn’t want to go through the death of another dearly beloved pet.
Then, around last January, I read about Punta Santiago dogs on Facebook. I read about the wonderful young women who had seen the ravages of the Hurricane Maria and the effects it had on the pet population. They were there doing research at the time. I was so affected and impressed by this effort that I took the brave step toward filling out an inquiry about fostering – that’s all I had the courage to do at the time. I figured that it would help me to bridge the feelings I was having, being so determined that I never wanted another dog.
I was immediately contacted and asked if I’d be willing to have a representative come to my home to do a home study and interview. “Why not? It’s just a meet up.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. I got my first pup, Penny. I was so thrilled. But I was again so impressed by the organization. They brought me a crate, food, collar and leash and the pup, who couldn’t have been more adorable. I had stipulated that I didn’t want a puppy – that I wanted an older dog. So, Penny was just about a year old, and as almost as soon as she came, she was gone.
Punta Santiago is so determined to find “forever homes” for these pups. They had an adoption event the very weekend Penny arrived and she was adopted. I had her for a total of four days.
I took a week off or so off, and then came Isabella, the most beautiful two year-old chocolate brown lab mix. My husband and I fell in love with her. (We now know that we fall in love with every dog we foster.) I literally had a breakdown when I had to give her up, but now I also know that fostering is helping me to move toward the day when I can commit to having a dog all the time.
The most recent pup we fostered was Ash. We had him for almost a month and he became a “foster” member of my family, getting to know my kids and my grandkids and friends. And we all understood that, though he was once again the perfect pup for us, he was moving on to his “forever home.” And so he did. And I miss him terribly, but in a couple of weeks, a new pup will come our way.
Why do it? These pups have no future where they are. The people of Puerto Rico haven’t recovered from Hurricane Maria, so the animals are low on the priority list. I was told yesterday that dogs and cats are all over the place with no homes and no one to care for them. If I can give my home to bridge the gap between their arrival in the U.S. and their “forever homes,” I feel that it is an unselfish way to have a pet, at least for a time. We get all the love and yes, then they leave. But we know they are going to homes where they will be loved forever – a new beginning.
Try it. And if you need any further convincing, give me a call. I’m always happy to talk about the great gift of fostering!
For all the joy you brought our way
For your great company day by day
There’s just so much I want to say
You were just the best pup ever
And we hoped we’d lose you never
You own this place. It was always yours
And it should be renamed Ernie’s park, instead of Tuers
So you are now a part of it too
And as the years go by, the trees will grow
And we will know that you are here in the place you loved best
To our best friend, to our sweet guy
We’ll watch you in the nighttime sky
You are a star and your star shines on high
I think of you and my heart sings
Because I’m imaging Ernie in the sky with wings.