On Sunday, May 20th, Crystal had been staying with my family and I for 3 weeks exactly. Also on Sunday, May 20th, Crystal was adopted into her permanent home. She was my first foster dog and the first dog I'd truly been responsible for. After growing up with cats my whole life, it was a change.
I’d asked my parents for a dog multiple times throughout my life. However, I don’t think I understood that dogs are much more of a commitment than most people think. The cats that were supposed to be mine ended up being taken care of by my mom. My parents didn’t want the same thing to happen to a dog.
That being said, Crystal was the first dog that I’d been truly responsible for, and she definitely wasn't perfect. Nevertheless, I couldn’t have asked for a better dog to learn with and from. I was nervous but excited for this new experience.
It felt as though I was going in blind, to be honest. I knew a dogs’ general physical needs, but not their emotional needs. While I was given some information, I really didn’t know what to expect or do. I thought that because Crystal had been in a shelter, she needed a lot of affection, but that ended up being the opposite of what was good for her at first. There was some tension when she became protective of me almost instantly, making it nearly impossible to take her for walks without being dragged by my arm or her barking at other dogs. With Crystal having so much energy, she scared my little brother and my family at times.
As I was second-guessing my decision to foster, I was able to talk with Jennifer and Lauren. They helped my family and I understand dogs better. I had many questions, and quite a few of them showed my inexperience. Nevertheless, they answered each one, and explained where needed. In particular, Jennifer was incredibly patient and understanding. My family became more strict with Crystal. I showed her that my little brother was not a threat and that I, her foster owner, was in charge.
Being a "pack leader" gave me a confidence I hadn’t felt before. I suffer from clinical depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Social anxiety being a main component of that, walking with Crystal made me feel less tense, less worried. I had a companion. I had a reason to be strong and fearless. Meeting strangers eyes on our walks and greeting them couldn’t scare me if Crystal was there. I still struggle with anxiety, but I couldn’t let it show with her by my side. My therapist told me that sometimes you have to fake it till you make it. “Faking” my confidence with Crystal has helped it become more real.
I went into fostering so that I could decide if I really want a dog of my own. Now, I know that I absolutely do. However, I want to be the best leader I can for my future best friend. Fostering for GSRR will help me learn what it really takes to make that happen. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to support a wonderful cause and better myself at the same time. Saying goodbye to Crystal was the epitome of bittersweet. As I continue to foster and work with dogs, I know there will be many more of those farewells. However, I also know that Crystal will be special to me, as she was the first of many things.