Last Friday, I dropped off a little 20-pound dog named Radley at a friend’s house. I snuggled him close while he shivered in the cold, gave him lots of kisses, then put him in a small crate in the back of a van and said goodbye.
Undoubtedly, I’ll never see him again in person.
As I drove away, I thought about the last six weeks I’ve had with that little mutt, a dog that came off the streets of my town covered in ticks. From a scared little puppy who didn’t know anything about belonging to a human, he blossomed into a precocious little scoundrel who loves to tussle with Flynn, my setter mix, adored his one camping and hiking adventure, and would have liked nothing better than 24-hour-per-day snuggles.
I’m so sad to see him go; my grief is sitting heavy in my heart as I write this. He really was part of my little family since the beginning of October. Flynn and I adopted him as our own. Anything we did, he did. When I took a weekend trip, Flynn and Radley both stayed with a friend. When we went to the dog park, Radley joined. When I spent an evening with a friend and her family (human and furry), he was game. When it was time to go outside, “Everybody sit,” prompted both dog butts to hit the floor.
But now he’s on his way to find a family who will love him forever. He’s heading to a rescue that I know will find him a great fit, a person who will appreciate his energy and indulge his snuggles.
When I started fostering dogs, I knew it was a way to give back and help more animals than I could by just adopting my next dog from the shelter. I took a two year hiatus from fostering due to my living situation, and Radley was my first back in the game. I also had him longer than I’ve had any others, so it hurts more to see him leave.
There are burdens we are meant to bear. Each of us has callings in our lives. Some people might also call these blessings or gifts. But those gifts and talents have a dark side that come with the joy and happiness.
I’m meant to bear the happiness and joy of giving these dogs a soft landing spot while they wait for the next stop on their journey. But that also means that the grief of them leaving is mine to process each time. I can’t have the joy and fulfillment without the sorrow and pain.
So now, as I wash Radley’s crate blankets, tuck my extra leash in the closet and bring out the deliciously soft (and therefore destructible) toys Flynn loves so much, I’m allowed to be sad. I’m allowed to grieve. But I’m also allowed to be so excited for Radley’s next adventure in this wide world.