As a foster, you know that every dog is special and they each claim a piece of your heart. But sometimes you have a foster dog that you just immediately connect with, one you know was sent specifically to you for a reason and is more than just special. Iggy Stardust was that dog.
I had just laid to rest my best friend of over 15 years. I missed her so much. I couldn’t even walk on the Towpath Trail, because that was our special thing to do together. I missed the company of a dog in the house, but I knew my heart wasn’t ready for another of my own. I thought fostering might be the answer. I filled out applications with several rescue groups. Paws & Prayers was the first group to call me. A couple of days later I stopped at one of their adoption events to meet the foster who called me and talk about how everything worked. She was there with her new foster, a very sad 55# German Shepherd mix. He took an immediate liking to me, and I ended up staying the whole time with him. And I left the event with my first foster – Iggy Stardust.
Iggy was about 5 years old and had been abused. When I took him home, he was afraid of his own shadow. Even a slightly raised voice had him dropping to the floor. A sudden movement had him cowering. Iggy had lost out on being adopted because of his fear. He was afraid of getting into cars and snapped at someone as they tried to get him in their car. We managed to get him in my car without incident and I took him straight to the Towpath Trail and a couple mile walk. He literally was grinning. When we got back to the car, he got in on his own. I knew then that he trusted me. That love and trust grew over the few weeks I had him, and he was a changed dog. He was happy, playful, and greeted everyone who walked by us on the Towpath. He chased squirrels and caught moles. I will never forget the day he caught a mole and was just trotting down the Towpath carrying it in his mouth. He was so proud of himself. He followed me around the house and spent evenings laying at my feet happily chewing on the rawhide bones that it took several days to get him to understand what to do with. He acted like he’d been with me all his life. I always told him he was my gentle giant. For how rough his life had been, he had a heart of gold and a personality to match.
The time came that Iggy had an opportunity for a fantastic fur-ever home. It was a struggle for me not to adopt him myself. I had watched him blossom and loved him dearly. But this was an opportunity for him to have a home of his own complete with his own kid, doggie companion, and fenced in yard. This is why I wanted to foster, so I sent him off and he was happy there.
Two months later came the call every foster dreads. A beloved foster dog is seriously ill. He came back to the rescue group to find out what was wrong. So many times I thought we were going to lose him. I talked to him, petted him, asked him to fight. And he did. When we thought we’d turned a corner, I brought him back home with me to finish recuperating. He walked back in like he’d never left. He had good days and not so good days, but we seemed to be making progress. He still loved his walks on the Towpath. He still laid his chin on the bed every night for me to pet him before he laid down to go to sleep. On one of the really good days, he got to walk the Towpath, swim in the lake, go to a baseball game, and hang out with the whole family. And he got to lay at my feet and chew his rawhides.
Then we found the real problem – an inoperable mass in his neck. And my gentle giant, who I believe kept fighting because I wanted him to, was laid to rest while I held him. We were meant to find each other, a human who had lost her best friend and a scared, abused dog – we healed each other. Because of him, I was able to open my heart again. And because of me, so was he.
Iggy, you will be forever missed. You healed my heart and took a piece of it with you. I will always love you, Iggy-dude and we’ll see each other again.