Fostering Ellie Mae

The first break was unexpected. Ellie Mae had been securely attached to the harness. She did not go far, and I was easily able to reattach what was left of it to the leash. That was my second mistake. The first was bringing a dog in heat to a playground at the city park.

Ellie Mae and I walked over to the tree. My head was turned away, so I didn’t notice that she was furiously rubbing the harness up against the tree until a second before the harness broke again. It fell to the ground, and Ellie Mae bolted for the trees.

Oh, no.  My foster dog was in heat and loose in the park. Ahhh!

Ellie Mae zigzagged down the gravel walking trail, stopping every few feet to leave her scent. If I got close, she dashed around me. She was the agile running back, and I was the massive linebacker she easily evaded. Only by the grace of God did I manage to catch her that day.

Those of you who have experience with dogs in heat are likely shaking your heads or rolling in laughter at my rookie mistake. Our dogs had all been male, except for Molly (who had been fixed as a puppy). So our foster dog, Ellie Mae, was destined to teach us a few things.

Her talent for escaping was unprecedented.  That day in the park was not the last time.  However, there was a turning point.  One day, several backyard breakouts later, I threw my hands up in the air and begged her not to run again. Ellie Mae paused in the driveway and looked back at me standing inside the fence.   She seemed to understand because, in the next moment, she turned around and walked back into the yard.    To her, we were just playing a game of tag.

This little dog taught me something about faith.  It is easy to get so wrapped up in our own pursuits that we lose sight of how our choices affect others.  This is why it is important to have our eyes on God so he can tell us to stop and pay attention.

When Ellie Mae found her forever home, it was a bittersweet moment.  We had grown to love her, but God had only brought her into our lives for a season.

The experience has stayed with us over the years. Those times are certainly among my fondest memories.  And if you are up for the challenge, I recommend it.

Here are a few things we learned about fostering an animal.

  • The organization you are fostering for will handle the adoption process for the animal and pay for a general vet checkup and the spay/neuter procedure.   Often they will also pay for medical treatments (like worm and parasite medication).   However, it is not feasible for most organizations to pay for more expensive medical necessities, like prosthetics or treatment for heartworms or cancer. If a more expensive treatment is necessary, then the organization may turn to fundraising and sponsorship.
  • Purchasing food, bedding, and other care items will be considered your responsibility as the foster.
  • It is important to be committed and know your limitations.  Some animals have medical needs and/or situations that would require them to live in a foster’s home for an extended period of time.

Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.

UPDATE: Visit to learn more about fostering animals or to search for a partner organization near you in need of fosters.

Published by K.A. Cummins

K.A. Cummins is an award-winning author and artist. Her publications include Havok Publishing, Rattle, Blue Mesa Review, and her middle-grade series, Snow Globe Travelers.

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