The beginning of a happy ever after

How fostering saves a life that has been cast away

The road from homelessness to happiness can be terrifying and treacherous for some dogs. It takes a great deal of effort to undo and correct the mental, emotional, and physical damage that happens to these priceless souls when they have been cast away. In many circumstances, these dogs make it to the safety of a rescue only to emotionally shut down while waiting for an adoptive family to choose them. The busy and boisterous daily life of a rescue can be overwhelming for a dog who is trying to process pain and trauma.

Fostering is one of the most valuable and effective ways anyone can help a rescue. It provides the space and time a dog needs to begin the long road of recovery ahead of it. A foster parent gets the honor and privilege of nurturing these magnificent beings, of teaching them just how beautiful the world can be when love is freely given between a canine and human heart.

Pam and Curtis Ford are two such superstar foster parents who work with Canine Castaways Rescue, Inc. “We foster because it’s good to have something so broken come into our home, watch as it mends, and then send it off to have a whole and great life!” Pam says. “Every time we foster, we know we are making room at the recue for another dog.”

Like so many animal rescue organizations, CCR works hard to pull dogs that are almost out of time at the over-crowded kill shelters. A lot of these dogs are on the euthanasia list simply because they need medical attention, are “too old”, or have behavioral issues. Many dogs lose their life because there aren’t enough people who can invest the needed time and energy into their rehabilitation.

Take the tale of a gentle senior boy, Leroy, for instance. He came to CCR bloated, sick, and suffering. Leroy was diagnosed with an advanced case of Cushing’s Disease, which is a tumor that caused him to feel constantly hungry and thirsty. The Ford’s took him in as a hospice case, wanting only to shower him with love and devotion for what they thought would be his last days.

It was soon evident that Leroy had different ideas about his future. In the short time he lived with the Ford’s, the medications and correct feedings needed to treat Cushing’s transformed Leroy right in front of their eyes into a playful, feisty fellow! It was an unexpected delight when just the right family said they wanted to make Leroy part of their pack!

“They fix his special meals and give him his meds and show him the love and happiness he’s missed out on his whole life. We could not be happier for Leroy or his parents.” Pam says with a smile.

Leroy is one of several dogs Pam and Curtis have fostered for CCR. There was Max, who had to be nursed back to health before having a six-pound tumor removed. He recovered beautifully and went to live with a police officer in Ohio.

There was Franklin, so sad and needy from neglect. For the longest time all he could do was lay on Pam’s chest for comfort. He perked up under the warmth and safety he found with the Ford’s and went on to live a wildly happy life with a family who gave him seven acres all to himself and two little boys to romp through it with. Needless to say, Franklin isn’t sad and needy any longer.

Champ came to the Ford’s skinny, neglected, and underfed, but ever so loving and ever so sweet. Champ was a dignified six-year-old that stopped off at the Ford’s long enough to get all the loving and food he could handle before moving on to his happy ever after.

“I’ve always been an animal lover. I will help any animal in need.” Pam tells us. “Our two boxers, Gloria and Sadie, unexpectedly passed away, leaving our third dog, Lucky, lonely for companionship. Curtis and I are retired, so we figured what better way to make everyone happy than to foster.”

Admiral, their first foster, will always be a special memory for the Ford’s. He had been through far too much abuse by the time CCR was able to pull him, sadly, and passed away after only eight days with Pam and Curtis. They will always be grateful they were able to make his last days the kind he deserved, brimming with snuggles and kisses, kindness, and respect.

Their second foster turned out to be what we affectionately refer to as a ‘foster failure’. Eight-year-old Sky came to them thin, sickly, and with an enormous tumor on her front leg. “We started saying we are the house of tumors. It seems like a lot of our foster dogs have tumors, most of them a result of human negligence.” Pam says, referencing that the cause of Sky’s tumor was over breeding and not being spayed.

It took the Ford’s two months to nurse Sky to a healthy enough place to have the surgery she so desperately needed. “It was a long two months. Managing the tumor while we were getting her strength up was a big issue all on its own. We made frequent visits to the ER in those two months.” Pam remembers.

Finally, little Sky was strong enough for surgery. She lost her front leg due to the nature and placement of the tumor, but that didn’t slow her down at all. “Sky has an amazing spirit. It took her less than twenty-four hours to figure out how to hop around on three legs just as good as if she had four. She runs crazy fast down the slanted backyard as if nothing were out of the ordinary!” Pam laughs.

When it was official that Sky was healthy enough to be adopted, the Ford’s decided it had to be by them. “You don’t take that many trips to the ER and stay up all night for nursing sessions and not fall in love.” Pam said. “We know we can’t keep everyone we foster, but Sky isn’t like everyone else. She is so much more than a foster to us.”

Sky and Lucky became fast friends and siblings, as if their relationship had been written in the stars. “My dogs have all sought me out. They come to me for a reason. I help them, give them what they need, then send them on to be loved by a family.” Pam explains. “Except for Sky and Lucky. I couldn’t let them go.”

One day Lucky mysteriously showed up in the Ford’s fenced in backyard, emaciated, wearing a heavy cattle collar around his raw, sore covered neck. The Fords suspect that Lucky was an escape artist, and his previous owners were using drastic measures to keep him tied up in their yard. He was undernourished, and obviously neglected. Once Curtis cut the hefty collar off, Lucky began to run around the yard like a deliriously happy child. Pam and Curtis immediately knew he was meant to be a member of their family and set about the process of getting him healthy.

Like Pam said, her dogs seek her out. “We belong together. He’s such a love bug, so accepting of absolutely everyone. He talks to me all the time, arguing about things and making funny expressions. There’s not a mean bone in his one-hundred-pound body. Why, he’s even afraid when I blow bubbles!”

Lucky, missing his two sisters, embraced Sky right away. The two of them are living their happily ever after as the beloved Prince and Princess of Castle Ford.

Sky sleeps on a soft, comfy dog bed on Curtis’ side of the room. “I’ve never seen a dog dream of running as much as Sky does. I love that she knows she’s free now that she can run and run and run in her dreams!” Pam says. “Lucky has no real concept of his size and is always flopping around on us. He comes to my side of the bed to say goodnight every night before he goes to sleep. There is a couch in the living room that used to belong to us, but Lucky and Sky have claimed it as their own.”

Although rescues continually ask for volunteers, some people doubt they have what it takes to foster. It’s one thing to adopt a dog that you plan to share a happy ever after with. It’s an entirely different situation altogether to bring them in, love them, and then send them on their way.

Pam and Curtis continue to foster by focusing on what’s most important, the dogs. “When I hear from the adopted families about how happy they are, and how the dogs are thriving, I feel like I’m doing something special. It’s hard sometimes to let them go, but it’s worth it to get them into a home where they can be happy. Besides, there’s always going to be another dog who needs the kind of love I have to offer.”

Fostering is a rewarding, fulfilling, selfless act that provides a rescue with options and avenues to resolve otherwise unsolvable problems. Fostering means lives saved, dreams brought to fruition, and happily ever after’s for so many.

If you’re still not convinced, you could ask Leroy about the importance of fostering. Or Sky.

Or Champ, and Franklin, and Max, and Admiral.

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