Why Adopting & Fostering Changed My Life

Written by Kristen “Sunshine” Lebsock — Click here for event details

Have you ever wished to live a life surround by PUPPIES? Those round little bellies, that intoxicating puppy breath, the floppy ears and bouncy steps… OMG . Who am I kidding? Of course you have! Who hasn’t?! Puppies are awesome! I think we can all agree that heaven is being surrounded by a crowd of squiggly wiggly fluffy little puppies. Kind of like this:

 

So, maybe not everyone pictures a heaven like that. But, if you are a member of Friendship Crossfit, chances are good that you do. Because if there’s anything our community has in common, it’s a love of dogs. Is it even surprising then that Friendship is actually RESPONSIBLE (yes, responsible) for kicking off the series of events that led me to go from zero to four puppies in less than eight months’ time? I think not.

Anyways –if you are curious to know what that life might be like –that one where you’re surrounded by puppies, where that is actually your life –then you probably want to keep reading… because I am about to tell you. And my answers? They just might surprise you.

Our adventures began on a warm spring day. It was mid-April, and Friendship CrossFit was hosting a puppy adoption event. I had been wrestling with the idea of getting a dog. I had visions of myself taking a pup on long walks, hikes even. Bringing the pup on car rides –face hanging out the window, ears flopping in the wind. Snuggling up on the couch to watch a movie. Tail wagging in warm greeting after a long day at work… you get the idea. Those were all my reasons to say YES. But I am pragmatic. And I had my worries too. I worried about the pup spending long hours crammed in a crate. The pup having a desire to run free, and having no real space to do that. I worried about TIME (a lot). Where in the world would I find the space in my busy schedule for those hypothetical long walks and hikes I pictured between all of my STUFF: work, gym, chores, LIFE?! So, I bounced back and forth between my dreams and my fears, unsure of which way to go.

Cue in April 15th, and the puppy adoption event. I walked in on that gorgeous early spring day, rounded the corner, and was SURE I had woken up in a dream. PUPPIES EVERYWHERE. Focusing was hard… all those bellies and tails and floppy ears and baby barks had me melting into a giant puddle of puppy love mush. But then, of course, it happened. My eyes landed on the kennel where a certain group of pups known as the Irish litter were romping around. One pup in particular grabbed my attention. I hurried to pick her up. She was just a tiny little bundle of red fur and big ears. SO MUCH EARS. She was a sleepy little thing that day, snuggling deep into my arms. Guys… it was probably less than 30 minutes later that I found myself filling out an application, wondering what the heck I was doing and am I actually ready for this…?!

What I couldn’t have possibly known in that moment was that that would be a question I’d CONTINUE to ask myself, repeatedly, over the months that came (and one I still find myself grappling with, if I’m being honest). Lola arrived on April 24th, 2017, and boy were the months that followed a whirlwind! We found ourselves with a darling puppy, with those giant floppy ears, that gorgeous red coat, and a personality that matched all the stereotypes associated with the color. Stubborn. Smart. Determined to get her way. Willing to work the system in any way possible. VERY vocal. That girl has tested our patience in ways I never imagined a puppy would do!

I learned so many important lessons in communication over our first months with Lola. I learned that the way I WANTED to respond in immediate reaction to her behavior was often the most counterproductive. I learned that I had to get very specific and break down the communication I gave her into small chunks –giving her lots more chances to be successful. I learned that consistency is king and MAN was it important for Alex and I to be on the same page with our responses and handling of situations. I also learned that it wouldn’t be perfect immediately and that’s ok. Progress was happening, I just had to change my expectations of what that would look like and how fast it would happen. I’ve come to recognize these as the types of lessons that are challenging to stomach at first, but are always the most valuable in the end.   

So, at this point, you’re probably thinking “wow, that sounds like a great ending to the story” … followed by a quick, “wait a minute, I thought she said zero to four dogs in the beginning?” Great callout. And I see where you’re going with it. You’re wondering what compelled me to get another dog, so quickly. And how it happened. And whether or not I’m crazy. Gosh… what a loaded set of questions! Here’s the easy answer for you: fate stepped in and we decided to just say yes. Our second dog, Lily, was from a separate litter, but the same mom as Lola. We laid eyes on her, and just knew. Logic said: house is too small, you don’t have a yard, you work dummie you can’t let a puppy out every 4 hours, Lola’s going to unlearn all her hard-learned good behavior, you can’t possibly give love and attention to two dogs (let alone two puppies!!).  In every way, logic was a hard NO. But our hearts said something way different. And in the end, I decided to do something I rarely ever do: just jump.

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It was the best decision. It wasn’t like it had been with Lola –going from 0 to 100. It was more like 100 to 105. Harder to be sure, but only marginally so. Having Lola to play with meant Lily rarely nibbled (or played) on us –instead, they tired each other out. Lily was brave to try things that had taken Lola months because she saw Lola go first. Lily’s a people pleaser and a snuggle bug –very unlike Lola in those ways, and because of that she adds a great balance to our family. Looking back now, I consider the decisions surrounding the adoption of both dogs to be key moments in my life –as they taught me that sometimes it’s ok to act before I have a solid answer. Sometimes, my heart has a better plan than even this overactive mind of mine.

Ok, so what’s next? You know the drill by now: something happened. It’s no secret. I said this at the very beginning –I want ALL the dogs. Who doesn’t?! Anyways, I had begun to feel this NEW tug on my heart. It seemed like I saw a new post about another dog needing a home–permanent or temporary (i.e. a foster)— every day. I felt compelled to DO SOMETHING. My first choice was buy 50 acres and build a giant barn so I could LITERALLY have all the puppies… but when I realized that probably wasn’t happening, at least not in 2018, I started to think more realistically: what if we fostered?

I mean sure we already have two puppies under the age of one. Sure, we live in a 2000 square foot condo. Sure, we’re trying to renovate said condo. Sure, we don’t have a fenced in backyard (the enclosed patio doesn’t count, right?). Sure, we both work full time. And, of course, don’t forget… it’s been a near record-breaking, freezing cold winter so far. Yea… all these things occurred to me too and I thought maybe, just maybe, I’ve lost my mind to even be considering this. But then… I thought about the poor, sweet puppies who weren’t wanted. Who’d never experienced a loving home or human. Who were abandoned in this bitter cold. Who felt confused and afraid. Who had no clue what to expect next in their little lives. It was in that moment that I realized that my very worst, my most chaotic, my least perfectly suited situation, could be a puppy’s BEST. Their very best option. Their very best opportunity. Possibly even their only one. And with that, I just knew we had to do it.

I’ve come to realize there’s never a good time for an uncomfortable decision –something that puts you outside your routine, outside your personal preferences, outside your comfort zone. But so often, once you make that jump, you realize that the discomfort was worth it. Thinking back on when we first got Lola, and how difficult it was at first… already, I’ve muted the “bad times” in my memories of that experience. What stands out now are the wins, the highs from overcoming challenges, the moments where all that hard work started to pay off. In so many cases, the really “bad” or chaotic moments are actually now the most memorable. That’s right… moments that might have been my very reason to avoid getting a dog in the first place are now the moments that we relive over and over. Moments that make us laugh hysterically. Moments that continue to bring us joy in the present. Isn’t it funny how that works?

So, with all that in mind, we did it –welcoming two Aussie Shepherd puppies into our home. I am so glad we did. I already know that when our remaining foster, Saturn, finally finds his furever home, I’m going to feel two ways: 1) overcome with joy for him, and 2) completely heartbroken. And that’s scary. Uncomfortable. In fact, it sounds like it could almost be a pretty good reason to NOT foster in the first place! But, to me, it’s a sign that I’ve done my job and done it well. To feel heartbroken means that I have loved this little boy with my whole heart. That I have brought him in as family for the period of time that he has been here. And while that will make saying goodbye so very hard, I find comfort knowing that because we chose to love Saturn first means another family will get to love him forever. To me, that is worth a little bit of discomfort.

So, here we are –finally— at the end of the tale. My hope is that if you take anything away from this crazy story of mine, it’s that you choose to challenge yourself to step outside of your excuses. You might find them to be worse in your head than they are in reality. On the other hand, you might find them to be exactly as bad as imagined (or heck, WORSE sometimes) … only to become your favorite memories once some time has elapsed. Either of those outcomes seem pretty ok to me.

Kristen Lebsock is a Friendship “SuperFriend” – Which means that she has been an amazingly helpful part of our community for over 5 years! She is one of Friendship’s famously strong, confident women and has become a leader in canine adoption and fostering efforts around Columbus. If you want to get in contact with us or be a part of these events please email: info@friendshipcrossfit.com

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