On a cold morning, Miriam and I were driving to the homes of two of our foster parents. We needed to pick up the dogs they were fostering and drive them to the airport as they were adopted in the United States. Because we knew what was going to happen, we left several minutes ahead of schedule. At both homes we let the foster moms have more time to say goodbye. They were crying while hugging the dogs and giving them “one last kiss”. Still we were late for the airport.
As we were driving to the airport I started laughing about the whole situation. I too, have cried non-stop when sending one of my rescues to the states. It looks like we were a bunch of cry-babies. And it is harder when they are abandoned dogs that once knew the warmth of a house and food every day. We don’t cry that much for puppies; but the ones that were neglected, that were betrayed by those who called themselves ‘owners”, those are the ones that break our hearts. This was the case of Osito.
Osito the first day at my house.
Osito was living at the construction site of a school in Rincón with two other dogs. When I went to pick him up, a man claimed to be his owner, and rumors were that he was abusive towards Osito. I saw the man yell at Osito, grab him, and toss him into the car. My heart was accelerating. And then I saw Osito jumping out of the window of the man’s car. I couldn’t take it anymore: I told the man that he was not taking Osito anywhere and I threaten him with calling the cops. I took Osito with me that very moment.
Gaining Osito’s trust was a slow process. In my house he learned how to eat with other dogs, not to bother the cats, walk on a leash, and do his business outside. Still he will flinch every time I tried to pet him. And he will quickly leave his spot on the hallway if he would see me walking towards him. Since he liked to be on the couch, I let him. Slowly he would let me pet him more often. And then one day as I was walking towards the couch he was laying on, Osito started wagging his tail. Progress was made.
The first time I gave Osito a treat he dropped it on the ground and looked at me, confused. Then he saw the other dogs with their treats; I took the treat and gave it back to him. He sat next to one of my dogs and started imitating him. I guess that was his first treat.
Osito enjoying a treat.
Soon I learned that Osito loved to be brushed, so I would comb his hair daily. And then one day it happened. After I finished brushing his hair, he laid down next to me and put his head on my lap. And Osito exhaled. I melted. I cried. My job was done; Osito was ready to be adopted.
A week later the call came in. A great family in Massachusetts wanted to adopt Osito. I cried again.
The pain of him leaving is greater than any other dog. How am I going to explain to Osito that I am not abandoning him? That he is a great dog? That he did not do anything to upset me? I would keep him but if I do, then I could not rescue another dog. And there are so many dogs that need to be helped. How can I tell Osito that I made sure that he will be loved in his new home? But what breaks my heart the most is the possibility of Osito thinking that I do not love him. You are ready to be the great dog that I know you can be. And you will be happy, I promise. And I will be happy for you. And I will miss you.
It is a bittersweet job.