May 9, 2022  |  National Foster Care Month

How Do I Let Them Go?

By Miriam Talalay

This National Foster Care Month, the MD SPCA is sharing blogs guest-written by our incredible foster parents. Thank you so much for all you do!

Want to become a foster parent? Click here for more information.

In the past eight years, I have logged 3,000 foster hours, hosting more than 200 animals.

Disinfecting the foster room is my least favorite chore. I have fostered animals with health issues such as leprosy, ringworm, parvovirus, and feline immunodeficiency virus, just to name a few. When I treat animals for various maladies like ringworm, I have medical gowns, gloves, and masks which I don as though I am a CDC epidemiologist investigating an outbreak.

I know what I signed up for. Kittens and puppies are adopted quickly; I bond more deeply with the sicker, older animals that need more care for longer periods. Gerald, the malodorous, malnourished feline with twice-daily thyroid medications, stole my heart. He tested my love and my patience when he cried for food at 5am. And 6:45am. And 8:17am.

I learned that Gerald’s owner had died and there was no one to care for him. At the shelter, he stopped eating, and clumps of his orange-and-white fur fell out. Slowly, I gained his trust. And he gained six pounds. Later, when I brushed his luxurious creamsicle fur, he had plenty of hair to spare.

Letting go means I can help more animals.

Fostering has taught me many skills. I have learned basic veterinary technician skills like administering oral medication, injecting subcutaneous fluids, and bottle-feeding newborn kittens. I can usually discern when an animal just needs a quiet place to rest or when it’s time to call the foster team. My superpower is convincing the most feral, hissing kitten to nap on my lap.

Sky, Snoopy, and Charlie—three miniature-pinscher puppies—taught me patience, while Trent, a cat with an amputated leg, taught me how to be resilient. Carl, the cat that disappeared for hours in the basement, taught me how to be calm under pressure. And Goober, an abused dog that allowed me to brush his matted fur, taught me trust.

The shelter staff and volunteers have become my family. Fostering, in general, has boosted my confidence, improved my time management, and enhanced my problem-solving skills.

Animals accept and love me unconditionally. Animals have inspired me to pursue a college major in wildlife biology or zoology. Through this experience, I know I want to rehabilitate wildlife and protect the environment. I will always volunteer at the local shelter, too.

And so, I let them go.

I pack their supplies, complete their paperwork, plant a kiss on their heads, and give them to their new families.

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