The Best Parts of 2020

It’s been a rough year. And while it’s easy to dwell on the negative and remember each hardship, I chose to reflect on the best parts of 2020—my foster dogs. This year, the year 2020, we fostered 16 dogs. Each one of them taught me something, and each one of them holds a special place in my heart. So starting from the top, in order of appearance, may I present to you—my foster babies.

Echo

First up is Echo, our very first foster baby. Timid and slow to open up, Echo bonded immediately with our dog, Ronnie. And while Ronnie did not exactly warm up to Echo, Echo always had Ronnie’s back. Each time Ronnie barked at another dog, trying to start something, Echo would bark in his defense, eager to show Ronnie how much he cared. Echo taught me that it’s ok to try to super hard. I am just like Echo: I try hard and I care so much. And that is okay.

To this day Echo is the only foster we let sleep on our bed during his last night with us.

Brady & Winnie

It was just a normal day at the Dallas Animal Services animal shelter. I clocked in for my shift like usual. But when I left, I had a three-week-old puppy in each hand. These brothers were incredibly needy, requiring constant attention and care. And while we only had them for a couple days, witnessing their connection was a beautiful opportunity. They reminded me that it’s okay to ask for help and use someone else’s warmth and strength when necessary.

Brady (top) and Winnie (on bottom) taking a nap.

Honey

For a blind pupper, Honey was just about the most fearless individual I had ever met. She never let her disability slow her down. And somehow, even though she was visually impaired, she could always tell when I needed to cuddle. She taught me to walk with confidence even if I don’t know exactly where I’m going. Sometimes you just have to trust that you are going in the right direction.

Honey was always ready for a photo op.

Red

After a bath, a walk, and a good meal, Red was a whole new dog—a brand-new penny. Which made it all the more heartbreaking when he passed because of megaesophagus.

Red, you reminded me that life is short and a little kindness goes a long way. I know you’re looking over us now, laughing at all the mistakes I made with every foster and smiling at all the extra treats I snuck them. I think about you every single day and miss you more than I ever thought possible.

Rest in peace, my big Red.

Sassy

Saying Sassy was appropriately named is an understatement. To this day, Sassy was our most difficult foster. This girl had endless energy and a tail that could knock you out. So when Sassy would lay down and take a beat, I realized that she was just like me—easily bored, always up for an adventure, but sometimes, just needed a break.

Sassy showcasing one of her patented smirks.

Laney

Laney came to us with battle scars all over, it was obvious she had been through a lot. The moment she stepped inside our home, she collapsed. She spent entire days sleeping, barely opening her eyes except to eat and go outside for relief. It took nearly a week for her to do much more than slowly walk down the stairs to do her business. The day she started wagging her tail and playing with some toys, I nearly cried. Laney taught me that it is okay to take a break and to come back to real life when you’re ready.

Laney getting some much-needed rest.

Max

Terrified of everyone, Max was not like most nine-month-old puppies. He spent his days huddled in a corner and was never excited to go outside. We even had to carry him down the stairs! By the end of his week-and-a-half with us he took maybe one step out of his shell and it was in the form of a request for belly rubs.

Max requesting belly rubs on his last day.

Ophelia

Ophelia was just about Ronnie’s size but could not be more different from our mild-mannered Ronald. Her smiling face and big hugs brightened up the room. She made every moment fun; the very definition of life of the party. You can always tell someone’s personality by the way they sneeze, and Ophee, she sneezed with her whole body and sprayed everyone in a five foot radius. Ophee reminded me to never do anything half way—always all in with full-body effort. To this day I always think of Ophee every time I sneeze.

The most-fun-of-all-time award goes to…Ophelia!

Diego

Even though he had a nubbed tail and a chemical burn on his side, Diego was still the happiest puppy in the world. All it took was a game of catch or tug-o-war and he was entertained. Nothing ever slowed him down and everything made him happy. Diego showed us how to make the best of every moment no matter what happened in the past.

An easily entertained Diego enjoying his homemade toy.

Daya

Daya already had a foster, a good friend of mine in fact. But this friend asked me for a favor. She asked me to foster Daya because if she continued fostering her, she would end up adopting her and she didn’t have the space. After an hour with Daya, (formerly known as Dallas), I understood what she meant. Daya is the only dog everyone in our house fell in love with—my unloving dog, Ronnie, included. Daya was so sweet and kind, giving Ronnie space to get to know her on his terms. She taught me patience.

A beautiful girl with a beautiful heart—our Daya.

Roxy

We pulled Roxy out of the shelter just in time. Her tail and backside were nearly hairless from malnutrition, her teeth rotten, and her body severely underweight. Roxy was withdrawn. We spoon-fed my girl everyday until she was strong enough to eat on her own. We helped her get on the couch when she was too weak to jump up herself. We watched her regain energy and even trot ahead of me a couple of times during our daily walks. Roxy stole my heart in record time. I still cry over letting her go and I don’t think I will ever stop.

An exhausted Roxy napping after collapsing on her towel post-bath.

Joey

We heard about Joey from a friend. He had been kept in a horse trailer for two months in the Texas heat. His core body temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit when he was rescued. I didn’t hesitate. We picked him up the very next day. I was prepared for an aggressive dog with trust issues after hearing his story and seeing photos of his battle scars. What I got instead was the most loving dog who gave the best hugs in the world. Every morning when I let him out of his cage and every evening when I came home from work, I got a big hug. No matter my mood, it was instantly lifted after seeing Joey.

Joey enjoying the dog park.

Annie

We missed Joey so much that once we saw Annie we was couldn’t say no. A delightfully playful puppy, Annie was the total package. At an estimated six months of age, Annie was potty trained and got along great with people and other dogs—incredibly adoptable, in other words. Until she had her first dizzy spell. I realized she may have been left at the shelter for a reason, because she came with medical issues. But the way she bounced back was incredible. She showed me that your fear is only as big as you let it be.

A curious Annie exploring our backyard.

Koby

I was asked to foster Koby at the beginning of October when he and several of his brothers and sisters were rescued from a hoarding situation. We were swamped and couldn’t take on a foster at the time. Two weeks later when our schedule freed up, I asked which dog needed us the most. I was informed that Koby was still at the SPCA of Texas and not doing well in the shelter environment. I knew I had to pick him up as soon as possible. The day we got him he was so terrified, he wouldn’t even get out of his cage. He even nibbled on Jake when he tried to pet him. Koby taught us to never push anyone to open up because it comes with time. We weren’t meant to be the ones to help Koby but that is okay because he is thriving in his foster home in Illinois where he will hopefully soon find his forever home, when he is ready.

Terrified of human contact after living through a horrible situation, but getting the care that needs now.

Bean

Bean was in the same hoarding situation as Koby so I couldn’t say no when asked to take Bean in. I was lucky enough to have a month and a half with Bean before putting him on transport to be with his sister (who endured the same situation) up in Minnesota. He never cuddled up to me or let me give him belly rubs and head scratches, so I only hope he knew how much I loved him. Because I did. I loved him so much. He was my last foster of 2020. He rounded out the year of craziness and learning opportunities by showing me that while some dogs may take longer to heal, I am doing something right by trying.

After one month, Bean was finally comfortable enough to sit on the couch with us—a major milestone.

So here’s to each of you. I only had a week or two with most of you before placing you on a transport van which took most of you to an amazing foster or forever home up north, but all together those weeks came together to make a year unlike any other. Each of you holds a special place in my heart. I could not have gotten through this year if it wasn’t for your love, kindness and snuggles. Y’all made 2020 one of the most unforgettable years of my life and for that I am grateful. Here’s to another successful year of fostering dogs and memories—no matter what 2021 has in store.

Until next time,

Leah Pinkus

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