Foster “Failure” Pays It Forward

Fostering brought much more than just a dog into her home—and her heart.

every gift saves lives

every gift saves lives

Janet + Harley

I look over and see her staring out the car window. Her brindle fur shining in the afternoon sun, her tongue hanging out, her eyes darting in excitement. She knows I’m watching, and turns her head toward me. Then her whole body, and lays her head on my arm. She looks up with longing eyes. She knows she’s home, even if I don’t know it yet.

"Harley got along well with one dog in particular, a giant black Lab named Cheese. "

My journey with Harley actually started months earlier, when I embarked on an exciting, yet scary adventure. I had landed a dream job at a university in the St. Louis area, and being a small-town Iowa girl, I was terrified. I uprooted myself from my friends, family, and everything I knew, and moved six hours to St. Louis.

With no friends or family around, I looked for ways to meet new people and keep myself busy. A simple Google search introduced me to Gateway Pet Guardians—a search that would forever change my life. I submitted my application to foster, and shortly after was introduced to my first foster dog, Harley.

Harley was an 8-month-old mutt with behavioral issues. She was under-socialized and had trouble meeting other dogs. Gateway Pet Guardians set up a “socialization boot camp,” where I drove her to daycare three days a week for a few months to work with her on these issues.

Over those few months, I saw improvement every day. In fact, Harley grew to love the dog park. I would take her there every day twice a day, and let her run around off-leash. She would chase balls thrown by the neighbor kids, and play chase with the neighbor dogs.

Harley got along well with one dog in particular, a giant black Lab named Cheese. I like to think this was fate, because ironically, I got along very well with Cheese’s owner. Shortly after, the two dogs, as well as the two humans, became inseparable. Cheese’s owner is now my boyfriend of four years.

After 47 days in foster care, I decided to make Harley’s adoption official. She was a catalyst in my life, and making her a part of my family moved me toward great things. She made me a better person, motivating me to commit my talents and efforts to animal rescue. She helped me reach my goal of making new friends, and she introduced me to the love of my life.

Years later, Harley still looks at me with those deep brown eyes, a constant reminder of her unconditional love. She insists on sleeping under the covers at the foot of the bed, and she welcomes all of the foster dogs that come and go through our home. She sleeps with me, travels with me, and endures the heartache with me every time I let a foster go. And together, we are able to give countless animals in need the opportunity to fill a void in someone’s life—just as she has in mine.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Janet Roberts won Gateway Pet Guardians in Missouri  a 2017 Holiday Wishes award.