Let's Go Home

As I look around at the many foster dogs who love and depend on me, I anxiously anticipate the bittersweet moment when they'll move on to the next phase of their lives... going HOME to their forever family.

I'll never be able to explain in words the immense joy --and overwhelming heartbreak-- of that moment. It’s like my heart, while so full of happiness, is being ripped from my chest. When they go, I honestly lose a piece of myself... a piece that will never return to me.

On that day, this precious dog... who's been nothing less than my own child... is leaving me forever. Most of them, I'll never see again. They can’t call me. They can’t send a letter. I can’t see them, touch them, or hold them anymore. When I let them go... I know that it's the last time our paths will ever cross in this lifetime.

For a short while, this foster dog is my entire world. I pulled this dog from death... right into my heart. I nursed them back to health. I taught them to trust, to play, to share. I showed them compassion for the first time in their life, and I promised to love them always...

That love, lives forever, inside my soul.

All the while, I know... that one day soon, they will leave me.
I know that each hug, each kiss, each smile, is precious… as this won't last forever.
I know that in days or weeks, I will cry myself to sleep, because I miss this baby so much.
I know that, when I leave them with their new family, they will not understand.
I know that they will try to leave with me.
I know that I will sob as I say, “No, baby. Stay here. This is your home now.”
I know that I will hear them cry for me as I drive away.
I know that for a couple of days, they will wait by the door for me to return.
I know that I won’t return.                                                                      
And I know that I will spend the rest of my life loving someone that I can never see again.

But here’s what else I know:
I know that this dog will now have the life they deserve, with a family who will treasure them.
I know that they will soon realize that this new home is where they belong.
I know that they will understand why I did what I did for them, and why I had to leave.
I know that they will thank me for what I did, every day, forever.
I know that their lives now mean something to someone other than myself.
I know that the joy experienced during our time together will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I know that my pain resulted in a lifetime of their joy.
I know that my saving them really saved me.
I know that I can now save another life in their place, and in their honor.
And I know that, for one more dog, the world is exactly as it should be.

What a gift to give… Life. Love. Happiness. The holes in my heart are repaired by the joy of a family that is now complete. A family that will forever be special to me, because they made my child, their child.

Yes, I take them in... knowing that they will leave me, but the pain of their leaving doesn’t outweigh the joy of the time I have with them. And my gift to them is happiness, every single day, for the rest of their lives.

The moment will come when each of my children will leave me for another family. I look at my rescue babies, and despite the pain, my heart longs for that moment. They deserve that moment. They deserve a family that will love them forever. A place to call home. They deserve the life that they almost never had… the life that others tried to steal from them. But I fought to give that life back to them. And as we part, I give them 2 things: their life and my heart.

And now, another dog deserves the chance to be rescued by me in their place. As one dog waits by the door for me to return, another waits on death row for me to arrive. And the dog awaiting my return already has a family… the other doesn’t even know what a family is. So my heart can handle the pain, because another’s despair depends on my strength.

And when I arrive, I'll say, “Hey little one. I'm your new mom, and everything's okay now. I'm sorry it took me so long to get here… I had to let my other baby go... so I could take you as my child. One day soon, you'll leave me too, and that will be the second-best day of your life. Today is the best. Let’s go home.”


  1. Love it. You not only are a true animal lover, but excellent at putting your feelings into beautiful words!

  2. What you do in Life is what You are in life..

    Live Your dream, Save every Life you can, That is what You do best..You do this with Your Heart..
    Don't ever Stop~So many Babies depend on YOU...

  3. I just love reading your blog~ As much as it makes me cry everytime, it makes me smile and gives me something to think about as the day passes. It also makes me hug each one of my dogs a little harder!

  4. Well, I made it to the last 2 paragraphs this time before tearing up. I'm getting better at this! I just returned from helping the rescue I work with do an offsite adoption event at Petco. We had 2 adoptions. While I don't have these dogs in my home, I have spent weeks and sometimes months working with these dogs, and it is indeed bittersweet to hand over the leash and see them walk away, probably forever. But, 2 families with several children were very happy, and hopefully they have found their new best friends in these sweet dogs. And that's what it's all about. Thanks for continuing to be such an inspiration.

  5. I just recently said good bye to my first foster baby and it was just as you said. While my heart aches more than words can say and I think about him every day, I am so proud to have been able to be his mom even for a short time and so happy that he now has a new and exciting life to look forward to. Thank you for capturing everything so perfectly.

  6. Ashley you are an absolutely amazing woman. Your blogs make me choke up and my eyes feel with tears, but they also make me smile due to the overall message. You are doing something that most of us would be afraid of doing due to the heartbreak involved. I wish I had your strength and courage, but alas I know that I could not personally handle the pain of saying goodbye. I sincerely hope your actions will inspire others to follow your footsteps. You're an angel among us and dont let anyone tell you differently. :)

  7. So true. Though I do have one family that sends me the occasional e-mail update and pictures. I love getting those pictures! I can see that sweet little girl I fostered in her forever home with her 'sister' and new mom and dad.

  8. Ashley, thanks for a blog that is destined to become a classic read for those who care about animals. Your sincerity leaps from the page and I'm so proud to call you my friend. -g

  9. Wonderful. You rule. Keep spreading the good word about fostering. It saves so many lives and enriches ours.

  10. WOW! thank you Ashley for doing what you do. i also am involved with an animal rescue group here in Washington state. i have 6 dogs of my own,all are rescued dogs. we also foster on a regular basis. its always hard to let the foster go but always happy to hear how much they are being loved in forever home.i recently adopted a Cairn from Col Potter Cairn rescue.As our dogs age and leave us , we plan to foster the senior dogs and give them a loving home to live out their remaining years. so thank you again for all you do. you are Wonderful!!!

  11. Do you realize that every blog entry makes me cry?! It's nice to find someone so much like myself.

    I've had my current foster for almost 2 months. He has a medical condition that makes him slightly less adoptable, I suppose. Hell, I wouldn't look passed his wonderful personality and tolerance to dogs, cats, and children because of a little medical condition, though! He's a great dog... and one of my longest fosters. As he's curled up with his head weighing down my arm right now... I know that I'll miss him terribly when he finally goes to a new home. However, I try to keep in mind that once my current foster goes, my home opens up to a new dog in need - and a new adventure - a new piece of my life.

    Peace, Love, and Paw Prints

  12. I am SOooo glad that folks like you are out there! My Baby-YADDA is deaf and when I ended up going to prison my Ol'man lost her. She ended up getting rescued by Rocket Dog Rescue and is out there somewhere hopefully, safe, as loved as she is by me, and giving her JOY to her Foster folks. I miss her and worry about her ALL the time. Because of steady, LOVING, DEDICATED, PEOPLE LIKE YOU MY GIRL IS ALIVE AND LOVED! THANK YOU!

  13. Very well said and THANK YOU for not only sharing your story but for all the furry kids that you foster!

  14. Thank you for posting this Ashley. I'm on my 8th foster, and it never gets easier to let them go! Many people ask me how I can take in a dog and then let them go. I think your words sums it up perfectly.

  15. I think what you do is awsome!!

  16. This is so beautiful -- it explains so much about how foster parents feel when helping rescued animals find forever homes. I have had people ask me how I do it -- and this writing says it all. Thank you for sharing.

  17. you do awesome work

  18. OMG Ashley. Thanks for sharing another wonderful story. It helps people to understand what fostering really means.

  19. Ashley, thank you for putting into words the feelings we have for our individual (and, indeed, each one is a unique individual) foster pets as they come into and out of our lives and homes but are forever in our hearts!

  20. I have always wanted to foster dogs, for exactly the reasons you mention (mainly to show them that there is good in the world), but I have always been scared of the letting go part. Thank you for putting this into words. I'm still scared, but I think someday I'll be able to do it now, as I gain strength from your words. Thank you thank you thank you for all that you do.

  21. Ashley, I am such a rubbish fosterer that you and all other fosterers have my absolute admiration.

    We failed dismally at the "letting them go" part with our little oldie, an emergency foster one New Year's Eve. But I know just how valuable our fosterers are and when they are able to part with one dog, they make space for the next urgent case. Fantastic stuff!


  22. Frankie Taylor FisherJune 14, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    ... I have never, in my life, known someone with such a huge heart ... you are amazing, Ashley ... all of your stories are heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time .... I can tell that you mean every word you say ... and every loving gesture comes straight from your heart ... God Bless you and all of your hard, hard, heartbreaking work ... you are a TRUE inspiration to all who meet you ...

  23. You are one of the strongest human beings I have had the honor to know excists. I don't know you personally because I live on the other side of the country but through your blogs I have come to meet the amazing person you are. For that I am greatful. You are a very talented writer I can't wait until one day you write a book. I am sure it would be a bestseller. How couldn't it be you are in few words BRILLIANT. <3

  24. You are truly awesome and I thank you for the great things you do and the special person you are...

  25. Patricia NicoliniJune 14, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    wow.........I really have to stop reading your blog at work. Ashley, I admire and find inspiration in everything you do. I love what you stand for and what you WON'T stand for. You are always in my prayers.

  26. That's exactly how I feel. I have people say things like if they fostered they'd adopt them all, but that isn't love. Love for these animals means I want them to be the center of someone's life, not one of a multitude. I want someone to have the time, resources, and bandwidth to respond to this animal I've given a soft landing, and for them to be as happy to see that one face when they come home as the dog is to see theirs. I know that shortly after they find this love they will barely remember me, so holding on to them would be selfish, and selfish is what got most of these animals into the foster / rescue world to begin with. Thanks for what you do, and for putting this into words!

  27. in this life god put u here as a SPECIAL ANGEL 4 all unwanted broken animals.........god loves u

  28. Thank you for renewing my faith in humanity.

  29. Ashely, you are truly a BEAUTIFUL person!


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