Dear Foster Carer… Thank you for loving them

Dear Foster Carer,

I’m reaching out to you in writing because this is a hard conversation to have in person, and I know I’m probably the last person you want to talk to right now anyway.

You see, today we said a permanent goodbye to an animal that we both knew well. Today, I and my colleagues chose grief and loss over the hope that we could one day make her world a safe and happy place. We looked at everything we knew about her and every resource we have at our disposal to help her. Then, with heavy hearts we concluded that the best of the bad options on the table was to make her last day a joyful one and help her pass as peacefully as we could. Today is a sad day.

We chose even though we understood that you took her into your home and your heart, while we got to leave work and go home to our loved ones. That you became intimately familiar with all her perks, quirks, and her best and perhaps her worst parts, while we interacted with her in a controlled and limited capacity. That you opened your life to her because you were motivated by the hope that we could, you could, help her become the best version of herself and get the happy ending she so deserved. We know that while we have a little professional distance to help us cope, your home has the reminders of an empty bed and memories around every corner. I’m sorry that you are bearing the most personal burden of grief for her loss.

I wish I could somehow lessen the intensity of the loss, sadness, and no doubt, betrayal that you are feeling right now. I understand you might be angry because we’ve chosen to cause you pain. I knew this was a possible outcome beforehand because I’ve been here before, and I chose it anyway. I did that because I’ve also been involved in the much more intense pain, anger, and hurt that results from choosing our hope over a stranger’s trauma. I’ve seen outcomes for animals I once knew that I simply wish I could unsee. Knowingly allowing that to happen is not a path I can walk. So, if it helps while you grieve, let yourself be angry at me because I understand. Just know that I’m deeply grateful for who you are and everything you’ve done.

Despite that fact that you gave care, love and hope to our girl so selflessly when this was always a possibility, I also know that you are probably blaming yourself for this. Don’t do that. This outcome wasn’t your failure, and it wasn’t hers either. The reality of the situation is, this outcome was probably written on the wall long before either of us knew enough to see it coming. Yet, you gave the gift of loving care to her when she absolutely needed you most, and you loved her despite everything it’s cost you. That is not a failure. Kindness in the face of adversity is a monumental contribution to making the world a better place.

I wish I could have predicted the future and protected you from this by somehow knowing how it was going to end and saying goodbye before you met her. Before you created happy memories. Once upon a time I thought that I could learn enough, study enough, practice enough, and just try hard enough to eliminate suffering from what we do. The world is a complex place though and I don’t have a crystal ball. Often, I can see the likelihood of a happy outcome shrinking long before we’re sure. Sometimes though, I’m surprised in all the right ways. So, until we are sure we’re making the right decision based on sound evidence, I wholeheartedly believe the right thing to do is give animals like our girl the benefit of our best. Sometimes it works. Other times, the ‘magic’ is the love, care, and respect given to an animal who deserves all of that and more, even while we say goodbye. Thank you for loving her.

Lastly, I know this isn’t the outcome any of us were hoping for or working so hard to achieve. This is not why we are passionate about what we do and it’s a big burden to carry.  It’s not a waste or a failure though – it counts. Loving an animal while knowing that there’s no ‘Gotcha Day’ coming for them is truly selfless. So, thank you for loving them despite it all.


This week’s image is native Fringe Lilies from my ‘back yard’. This spring was sensational for wildflowers in the bush!

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