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Gabrielle is a realtor by profession. And a baker by avocation, creating ridiculously delicious German desserts with recipes remembered from her upbringing in that country. But what she really does—the true key to her identity—is to provide a loving foster home for dogs. There have been hundreds, over the years.
She lives way out in the country where the sound of a woof or a yip now and then doesn’t disturb any neighbors. But twice a month, she and her husband (and any helpers they can rustle up) drive into town for adoption events. They scrutinize prospective adopters and bestow a prize on those who pass muster. But if no one suitable materializes, the dogs go back home with her, for months or even years. Once she has committed to fostering a dog, she doesn’t give up. She will provide food, shelter and affection for as long as it takes to find a permanent home.
But when that perfect home is finally found, when there is a magic click between adopter and dog, Gabrielle lets the dog go. And wipes a tear. And then moves on to the saving of the next life. Around her neck she often wears a pendant with a Hebrew inscription whose translation is the old Jewish proverb: if you save a life, it is as if you have saved the world.
Then there is Andy. He’s a former fencing champion and modern-day fencing instructor. His base of operations is part fencing studio and part fencing museum housing epees and trophies and other memorabilia of the professional fencing world. He lives and breathes fencing 24/7. Except when he happens to spot a stray dog trotting down the street, or sniffing around the garbage dump, or softly moaning in the rain. In cases like those, he drops everything and becomes a dog fosterer.
He’s a quiet man, and very few of even his closest friends know about his secret life. As methodically as he teaches children how to thrust and parry, he painstakingly goes about finding a good home for a homeless dog: placing ads, working his contacts, checking out references. When it is time, he too lets the dog go, sending a sliver of his own heart along.
Diane became a fosterer by accident. There was a pack of three motley canines roaming around her neighborhood. When the weather turned bone-chilling, she lured the trio into her tiny house, which suddenly felt a lot tinier. And warmer. She produced food and water, which disappeared in the blink of an eye. She hauled the crew to a nearby veterinarian, and then brought them back with an expensive assortment of medicines for a variety of doggie ailments.
Since she could not keep up that financial pace for very long on her small salary as an art museum administrator, she realized that she was not an adopter but a foster parent. Though she quickly fell in love with each of the three dogs—the scruffy white one, the rambunctious gray one, and the impish black one—she made it her business to place them in homes where they each could be looked after for the rest of their lives. One placement didn’t work out at first, and the potential adopters returned the dog to Diane. She scooped him up and tried again, this time with great success.
And finally there is Susan, a professional fosterer if such a thing exists in this world where no one actually gets paid for their good deeds. But she approaches the whole enterprise in a very businesslike way: first clearing space in her apartment and preparing for a new arrival, next visiting the city shelter and selecting a dog who is only inches away from execution, then snapping soulful photos of the pooch to post on her website, and fielding questions from potential adopters. When she has snagged a good prospect or two, she sets up meetings between the human and the dog, in the park. She watches for the magic click. When it comes, there are celebrations all around. And then, it’s time to start all over again.
Susan, Diane, Andy, and Gabrielle, you know who you are. You make our planet a better place, not just for the dogs that gallop through your lives, but for the rest of us who find inspiration in your selflessness. Thank you, unsung heroes everywhere.
Image Source: Wendy/Flickr