A Hard Foster Placement

Over the years, we’ve fostered children with many challenging behaviors. But an upcoming placement has given us pause.


We’ve said yes to kids who self harm, have medical issues, are depressed, lack empathy, wet the bed, tantrum, refuse to eat, disassociate, and more.

But we just said yes to two boys who can’t have pets in the house. And we almost said no.

I am embarrassed to say that trying to parent kids without our trusty, loving dog around just sounds really hard.

The thing is, our puppy is always eager to love on us. She’s quick to forgive. She always there with a cuddle when you’re feeling down.

God knows when you foster, this kind of unwavering support can be in short supply.

So, for the limited time that the next two boys are with us, our dog will be vacationing with a friend.

And we’ll have to rely upon our all too human selves to muddle through.

I Killed the Dog

I killed the dog. Actually, I didn’t. Our dog is still alive. But Watchful still thinks that I did. Here’s what actually happened.

Our sixteen-year-old son Silent One’s hamster died of natural causes today. The little critter simply curled up in his tiny hut and never woke up. Hamsters don’t live forever and since we rescued the hamster from the animal shelter, he had already lived a long time.

This hamster meant a lot to Silent One. The hamster was his responsibility, his first pet. The hamster was “adopted” from a shelter and Silent One was adopted, too. The hamster slept right by his bed, the first thing Silent One saw when he awoke and the last thing he saw when he went to sleep (while except for maybe his iPhone – but I digress).

So Silent One was understandably very sad.

Eight-year-old Watchful shares a room with Silent One. Where Silent One sought me out for hugs and solace, Watchful accused me of assassinating the hamster. And since I am a pet killer, it just makes sense that I would kill our family dog, too. Then, he saw the knife on the kitchen counter since I was making lunch. This is undeniable proof that I have killed the dog, too. So, Watchful expressed his anger at my murderous tendencies for the next hour.

I called the dog over to Watchful to show him that she was very much alive, thinking this would put an end to the accusation of me being a dog killer. I realize now how foolish and faulty my logic was.

Trauma twists reality. If you have been beaten and threatened by your bio mom, leaving you to fear for your life on a daily basis for years, then surely your foster mom, who is a mom, must also be a cold hearted abuser. The presence of the living dog for this one moment cannot overcome the years of abuse and lack of safety.

So, while I do not like to be thought of as a dog killer, since I am not an animal murderer, I get where Watchful’s coming from.

But try explaining that to a heart-broken Silent One.

To make things worse, our 10-year-old foster daughter Joyful was making helpful suggestions like we should just go to the store and get a new pet, because everyone knows pets are replaceable. And probably she should get to choose which animal, because, you know, she wants to choose. At least, she thought it was a sad situation.

So I pulled aside both Joyful and Watchful. I explained the short life span of hamsters and the circle of life. And then talked about ways to be sensitive to Silent One’s loss. For example, Joyful can express her sadness, but she will not suggest Silent One get a new pet for at least one week. For Watchful, there’s no talking about the hamster’s death at all to Silent One for one week – but he can talk about it with other adults.

And so goes life in our bio-adoptive-foster family home.