I wasn’t planning on falling in love.

Three years ago today, I made the biggest commitment of my life so far.

I pledged a lifetime of care and love to this little nugget.

  
Now, at 23 and still living at home, I hadn’t been planning on becoming a fur mom. But after welcoming this little scared momma and her pups into my home, I couldn’t let her go.

Two months after I started volunteering with Eleventh Hour Rescue, I spent the better half of my mom’s birthday volunteering at an adoption event. It was unreasonably hot and sunny for mid-October, so I returned to the kennel to grab a pop-up tent for some much-needed shade. I was greeted by a large crate in the back of a van with four tiny little squirmy pups vying for attention at the front and a timid, shaking momma hiding in the back. I approached and looped my fingers through the bars, delighting in the tiny puppy kisses and cooing at the cute little faces. I spoke softly and momma slowly approached to tentatively sniff at my hand before turning back to her safe spot.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this little family, so when I received an email plea for a foster the next day, I immediately jumped at the chance (before even asking my mom). A bevy of promised favors and chores later, she agreed they could stay for a few days until another foster was found.

My best friend Renee joined me to pick them up from the kennel and the pups were so excited to get out of their cramped crate. Momma was more fearful than I realized and wouldn’t even walk on a leash, so I had to carry her out.

  
We arrived at my house and proceeded to settle everyone in my mom’s finished basement. I had clearly not done a lot of preparing or thinking – I had some newspaper in a corner and a single bowl for water. About five minutes into romping around the room, getting stuck under the couch, and chewing the table, the puppies conducted a simultaneously orchestrated poop explosion all over my mother’s carpet.

Lesson learned. Plastic sheeting was put down.

  
The puppies tired themselves out and I could tell momma needed a break. I put them in the crate with extra blankets for a nap and tried to get this shy girl to settle down. She was so exhausted, but scared to relax. Eventually she laid down, still keeping a weary eye on her surroundings before she finally fell into a light sleep. It was then I noticed how skinny she was, ribs protruding as her body had struggled to nurse four growing pups.

  
The pups were about 5 weeks old and I knew my first task would be to choose names and take photos so they could be posted online for adoption. I brainstormed ideas, knowing I wanted to stick with a theme. Momma awoke and I attempted to get her to walk up the stairs on her leash with no luck. I scooped her up and carried her outside for a quick pee before carrying her back down. 

“It’s okay, Honey,” I coaxed her each time I was near, determined to help her feel comfortable in this strange new place. I wanted her to trust me and feel safe for herself and her babies.

  
I thought of going with “H” names and naming momma Honey. But as I watched her care for her pups, giving up her food for them, constantly cleaning up after them, I thought about how she was a truly amazing mother.

  
And that’s when I named her Truly.

 I went with a “T” theme for the puppies: Tucker, Tori, Teddy, and Tanner. 

 I loved their silly antics and they were quick to fall asleep in my lap or on my shoe, but I was drawn to Truly. She should have been so broken. I could see evidence of past abuse and neglect – her skittering away at noises, fear of enclosed spaces, and shaking. I continued to do everything I could to put her at ease.

  
I began the weaning process by bringing Truly upstairs with me. She loved cuddling on the couch and started following me around like a little shadow. She even got along with Kirby who is notorious for hating all new dogs.

  
We were making slow, but steady progress. Truly walked up the stairs for the first time and found comfort in jumping on the couch to escape the increasingly crazy puppies. But then Hurricane Sandy hit.

We were plunged into two weeks of darkness. Caring for 6 dogs with no electricity, refrigerator, or heat is no picnic. Luckily, the basement stayed warm and the puppies made it through a health scare. Truly and I took to sleeping on the pullout couch since my bedroom was freezing.

  
Once the power finally returned, the next couple weeks were a whirlwind as all the puppies got adopted. Each adoption was more difficult than the last; I dreaded saying goodbye to each little pup. A knot started forming in my heart as I pictured the day I would say goodbye to Truly.

  
I had fallen head over heels for this scared, six year old dog. I began campaigning for my mom to allow me to adopt her, but as I snuck more foster dogs into her house and ruined more carpeting, my chances disintegrated.

  
A few days after Thanksgivjng, I got an email. Truly had an approved adoption application. My heart broke.

The family was perfect: a pastor, his wife, and three grown boys. Truly would take daily walks to commute to church where she’d spend the day in the pastor’s office. I knew this was the best place for her. I was still living at home, trying to figure out my own life. No way could I care for another creature when I could barely take care of myself.

But I took one look at her curled up on the couch, finally letting her guard down, and I knew that none of that mattered.

  
Maybe I didn’t have my life together, but I knew in my heart that I could guarantee true love for this girl. I wanted to be a better person so I could take care of her. I didn’t want her to ever feel scared again. I didn’t want her to think I had abandoned her.

  
And so I let the pastor know someone else was adopting her (yes, I’m going straight to hell). I figured I could secretly adopt Truly and maybe my mom would eventually stop asking when she was leaving. A few days later, as I worked to gather the money for her adoption fee, Truly was spayed. I set up a huge crate with pillows and blankets where she could recover. I carried her in, and saw a big red bow on the crate. My mom was letting me keep her. This was the single happiest moment of my life.

  
Over the past three years, I have been blessed to have Truly by my side. She is my best friend, my adventure buddy, my confidant, and my shoulder to cry on. She celebrates with a wagging tail when I’m happy, and lays her head on my lap when I cry. 

  
Truly has been with me through so much: broken hearts, new jobs, moving out, struggling to pay bills, and especially my ongoing battle with anxiety and depression. She never judges me. She’s always there, no matter how deep and dark a hole I dig myself.

  
I am forever grateful for that fateful day when our paths crossed. She has taught me so much and given me the inspiration I needed to take control of and love my life.

Thank you for everything, Roo. You’re my favorite muffin.

Truly’s 1st Christmas:   
   
Our first apartment:

   
    
   
Cuddle bug:

   
    
    
 
Adventure buddy:

   
   
Waiting for me to come home:

  

I’m truly blessed to have you in my life.

Empty Bowl

Lacey was adopted Saturday. While I’m happy she found a great, active family who will love her, I’m devastated for myself. When she hopped in their car and didn’t look back, I just broke. I know this is part of fostering. I’ve been doing this for a year and a half. It’s always hard when I adopt out a foster. I always cry. Then again, I cry at furniture commercials. But this was different.

I heard about Lacey back in October when our foster coordinator texted me her picture and asked if I wanted to foster  a preggo lab who was being kept in a cold auto shop garage. Obviously, my immediate answer was yes. Just looking at her picture, I felt a connection. I have a soft spot for mommy dogs but there was something about her. I couldn’t stop worrying about her and I hadn’t even met her yet. I just knew in my heart we were meant to be in each other’s lives.

She ended up having her 8 puppies way sooner than expected and luckily we found a two week foster down in Georgia since the whole fam was sleeping in a 30 degree freezing garage. They finally made their way up to me the second week of November. Lacey was ridiculously skinny, but taking such good care of her babies. They were so tiny. The second I got them all in my house and settled, Lacey just collapsed on the floor, buried her head in my lap, and slept. Instant connection.

Fostering 8 puppies was the craziest thing I have ever done. But I got through it and everyone was adopted, except for Lacey. She had amazing prospects, but we kept getting disappointed. I told myself when she arrived that even though I loved her at first sight, she couldn’t be mine. But I started getting attached. I cooked her 4-5 homemade meals a day to help her gain weight, looking ridiculous as a vegetarian trying to make bacon and liver. She came to me completely untrained, having constant accidents in the house, and always trying to escape. I I forced myself to not get too attached the first couple months. I had other families lined up for her. But when those fell through… I just couldn’t pretend I didn’t love her. She was so stressed out when I was gone for Christmas and then just bounded into my arms when I picked her up.  I saw her blossom and it inspired me to want to be better, too.

I miss how she would push her head under my arm to get pets and just flop down on the floor when she was tired. I know she deserves better and needs a great, active family, but a big part of me needs her. When I adopted Truly, she got me out of my hole and pushed me to be a better person. She got me back into school, back on my career path, and got me excited to get up and do good. But part of me feels like I’ve stalled out. And Lacey came to me during that time of treading water and started to inspire me to reach higher. Push myself to be the best I could be in all areas of my life. Get me out of my house and on my own, get Truly and I active with more walks and outings, and strengthen my commitment to life. Without her, I feel lost. I feel stuck. I feel like I can’t push forward. Yes, I have Truly and she is my heart and soul. But she isn’t tugging at her leash to go for a walk. My mom isn’t threatening to kick me out over her peeing on the carpet again. Lacey was my reason to stand up and really take a leap.

I’ve felt like complete crap the past three days. It’s like my body just took all the stress from work, school, and losing Lacey and decided to shut down my immune system and make me me want to puke constantly.

People keep saying adopting her out is “selfless”. Damnit, I want to be selfish.