My foster dog’s tireless tail wag and sassy trot is very cute. So cute that you would never be able to tell he was so badly abused for years in Mississippi that the chain embedded itself into his neck. Red has painful scars from the trauma to prove it.

He was left to fend for himself when his owner went to prison, and nearly died without food, water, or shelter. Trying to chew through metal out of desperation, he lost what was remaining of his front teeth. Someone had already filed down his canine teeth.

“It’s not just Mississippi,” Karen LeCain said while plaintively talking about Red’s tumor on his tail that was removed upon his arrival. Her animal rescue shelter in NY does incredible work. Everyone there tries to ensure the countless adoptable animals that come through the shelter never know abuse, homelessness, or neglect again. Animal protection laws in many Southern States are weak, and not as punishable. Legislation is a key component in preventing animal cruelty. What we see is soul-crushing.

As I glance to my left at this sweet face and trusting dog patiently waiting for a belly rub, I can’t fathom how the abuse my latest foster, Mimi, suffered back in the South could have ever been possible.

I researched sleeping positions besides Red’s go-to “paws in the air like you just don’t care” pose to better understand what my prior and future foster dogs’ positions say about them. They reveal a lot about your dog — they tell difficult stories about past lives and show why fostering is so vital.

Since I started fostering dogs at Compassionate Animal Rescue Efforts of Dutchess County-CARE of DC, I see “The Nutshell” the most. This is a popular sleeping position that reflects their heartbreaking lives before rescue. It is tense and defensive. The paws are carefully tucked away, their head into their body, tail inches away from their mouth. It’s hard to be vulnerable if you’ve been hurt in the past. Over time, I work with these dogs to feel loved and safe again.

The biggest issue I’ve heard in the community from people praising being a foster, but reluctant to do it themselves is a case of the blues. I frequently hear, “I would love to foster, but saying goodbye would be too hard!” Just to put that in perspective, my shelter has a contract with backyard breeders down in the South to take their “throw aways” — animals that otherwise would have been killed horrifically.

I think we can all agree- it’s infinitely better for these animals to have a brief, positive experience in a foster home than it is to stay on that euthanasia list. Our sadness pales in comparison. We as fosters stepped in on their death day to provide a home, help them become more adoptable, and live their best lives! Fosters heal a broken dog and help them find a new home.

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