I fostered a dog

by Jennifer Tolle Whiteside

For eight whole days I told myself and everyone else I was just fostering a dog.

It started innocently enough.

It was a busy week with lots of meetings, late-night working and some travel. One early morning when I was facing a busy day, I saw her face in my email under the subject Foster Needed.

Before I even thought about it, I responded and said yes. Then I told my husband, and the next day after a board meeting, we went to pick her up and bring her home.

She went to the bathroom on my new rug about eight times in the first three days. She chewed our remote and two pairs of socks. She took extra time for walks and frequent trips outside for the bathroom. At first our two other dogs were wary of this puppy who seemed to be getting much of our attention.

My husband started to cave first, just assuming she was here to stay. I made excuses and thought about what this was really going to mean, and how three dogs sounds a bit unhinged in our busy lives.

She is a great dog and would make a wonderful pet for another family. She is smart, fun, happy and ready to learn.

When I thought about letting her go my heart hurt.

So, we said yes and expanded our pack. Now I get up a little earlier, walk a bit more and put away my socks and remote.

Isn’t that the way life works?

You think your heart is full. Then it expands and you realize you can love even more. And you see that by caring and loving you get much in return.

I am also growing when it comes to leadership, both at home and at work.

I joke that one day I’ll write a book: Everything I know about leadership I learned from my dogs.

Since my husband I are now outnumbered, we had a visit with a dog trainer.

We heard all about the importance of eye contact or lack of. We learned how much can be said without saying a word. We talked about standing tall, using our personal space, building trust and consistency, following through, doing what we say we are going to do, not losing your cool, communicating consistently and showing you care.

Isn’t it funny how many of the lessons we strive to use when caring for our loved ones (and pets!) apply to our professional lives?

Some lessons are universal in life and for now, I’m learning more and more from my new former foster dog.