Leimkuhler: Finding our way to dog fostering

As a young married couple with no children, our first Labrador, Kacey, was our first baby.

I remember sacrificing Friday happy hours to go home to the pup who’d been alone most of the day, and I remember puppy classes and pictures with Santa.


But, mostly, Kacey’s puppyhood was a blur of work and crate training and frantic drives home during the lunch hour to let her out.

By the time our second Labrador, Luna, arrived, Kacey was eleven and our human babies were 3, 5, and 7.

But somehow — despite being in the midst of preschool and tying shoes and running to Saturday soccer games — Luna’s puppyhood is much more vivid. I remember the sleepless nights as Luna whined in her crate.

I remember the house training and never being able to take my shoes off so I’d be ready to dash “outside” in a foot of snow at a moment’s notice. I remember the accidents, the chewing and the endless energy. And I remember acknowledging one certainty: this will be my last puppy.

As Luna eventually — and thankfully — left her puppyhood behind and transitioned—at the relatively young age of three—into a much more sweet and mellow adult dog, I knew that my next dog would be a rescue.

As a senior, Luna’s body is aging more rapidly than her spirit. Two years ago she tore her right ACL. A year or two before that she cracked a tooth, which required oral surgery. Two weeks ago, she tore her left ACL.

And each year that goes by brings more mysterious lumps and bumps to her body. When Luna was a puppy, she learned quickly from Kacey.

And when we lost Kacey, it eased our broken hearts to have Luna to come home to. The time seemed right to begin our search for a rescue dog, while Luna is still lively and well enough to teach a new dog the ropes and to enjoy the canine company.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 44 percent of all households in the United States have a dog, 34 percent of which are obtained from breeders, while only 23 percent are rescued from shelters.

Given the sad and startling statistic that nearly 3.3 million dogs enter animal shelters each year, and approximately 670,000 dogs are euthanized annually, one has to wonder how breeders can possibly stay in business.

Why would anyone go to a breeder for a dog when there are so many dogs that already need homes?

The more I learned, the guiltier I felt for ever having obtained a dog from a breeder. On a karmic scale, it made me think that for every breeder dog a person has owned, that person should have to rescue an equal number of dogs.

I had been perusing rescue sites for months, scrolling the pictures and profiles of all the dogs in need, and it dawned on me that we should consider fostering until we were ready to adopt. Not only would we be helping to save doggie lives, but maybe we’d fall in love with one of our fosters and we’d know that dog was the dog for us.

I filled out an application online and once our vet and personal references were checked, we were quickly approved. Of all the dogs in this rescue’s shelters, I had no idea how we would choose which dog would be a good foster match for us. So the rescue stepped in and made a recommendation: a 3-year-old blind, black male who’d been with a foster but whose foster could no longer keep him.


We were assured that this dog — “Stevie” — was an “easy keeper.”

In other words, the ideal dog for first-time fosters.

Columnist’s Note: This column is the third in a multi-part ode to all the dogs I’ve loved.