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My Life in Foster Care

August 31, 2018

By G.C. Rowlands, the Golden Retriever

We do not live life hoping to live in Foster Care. I had a great life, and for reasons beyond my control, I ended up in foster care. Foster care is sometimes an interim place where a vulnerable child or animal must live.  I was not able to take care of myself, so I had to find a new living situation. As I was no longer “cute” and showed signs of advanced age that were undeniable, finding a foster living situation had become difficult.  I had been in foster care a few times in the past and knew how tough it was to grow attached to your foster family when you never knew when you would be moved. In March of this year, I was once again in need of a foster family because my living situation had become uncertain.

I know that there is something called love at first sight. Is there love at first thought? My new Mom loved the idea of foster care (and me!) upon first reading of my plight.  My happy fate was sealed—but it I didn’t know that at first.

Leaving my home was not easy. I loved my mom, had been with her for all my life, and she was in need of me now more than ever. But she was more in need of care herself and this is why I had to go into foster care. Knowing that my mom had friends at Phinney’s Friends was a comfort to her.  I am not able to imagine the pain she felt at having to leave me. She was so brave when I left home.

My new foster mom was nervous when she came to pick me up that day. I left my old home with nothing but the clothes I had.  She led me to her car. I cautiously climbed in and every nerve was shaking hence the hair on the back of my neck was sticking straight up. Where was I going, would they be kind and treat me like one of their own?  I was grungy, dirty, and this was out of my control. It seemed that my ginger hair had not seen a comb in weeks. My own stomach was so nervous that I was sick.  What would they think of me? I was uncharacteristically quiet on the ride home.  She spoke to me the whole way home, sensing my anxiety.

I met my three new fur-brothers first. They were all younger than me and nosy. Wanting to know everything about me at once. I felt like I was naked once the interrogation was over. They soon grow disinterested and that’s when I knew I was accepted. When dinner came, we shared our first meal together. From then on, life seemed seamless.

At first lots of people came to visit me. Many bringing me new clothes and gifts. People who did not even know me – shared kindness.  I had grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. I had a new family tree with branches overnight.

My days now had purpose again as they had before. I was accepted for who I was and did not fear having to be something I was not – young.  There was a daily routine and new things to do. Life was a new journey.

I felt comfortable and my personality started to shine. I loved sports, and my new family fostered my athleticism. I loved to play soccer with my sister. I had exceptionally good hand and mouth coordination and playing with any sort of ball sport made me smile. My family brought back the sheer joy of swimming. I was a natural in the water.  Look out Michael Phelps – here I come!  In the water, I was young again and was able to move without out pain and with more confidence.  I started swimming lessons in April in a warm pool with a physical therapist and then graduated to the pool in our back yard. I became the Guardian of the backyard pool.  Day by day, my stamina increased. My family swam with me and played with me in the water.  I never minded being the monkey in the middle as I was blissfully happy.  It was these simple pleasures that I shared with my family.

Though I loved all members of my new family, I loved my sister the best. We had a common connection – we were both red heads, and I had such a soft spot for her. I decided that I was going to be her one and only and tried to be by her side or have her in my sights whenever possible. I took over her bed and room but made sure that I put my toys away. She was messy, and I did not want her to be mad at me by contributing to the mess.  I sat with her while she did her homework. I would wake up early, have breakfast, and then find her as she liked to sleep in when she could. My day started when she started.  I lived to love her.

She left for camp at the beginning of the summer. But then three days later, had a bike accident and was home. I was so happy to see her and to take care of her. When she was in pain, I held her hand. I just wanted her to get better.

My sister was getting better day by day. It had been a great day – playing all day with family and friends, swimming, enjoying the summer heat. I went to bed but I woke up in pain in the middle of the night. The pain subsided in a flash.

Foster care was never conditional for my family. It was never about numbers as we went from 12 paws to 16 paws, and it was a seamless transition. I became a family member upon entering the car.  I was loved again and had been blessed each time I was in foster care. My new family did not leave me. But I had to leave them.  It was easier this way. I made the decision of when to leave and not them.  Hopefully they know I left due to my age and not for my lack of loving them. My time with them was conditional—but my love for them was anything but.

Foster’s Note:  G.C. Rowlands was a 13-year-old golden retriever with the largest capacity to love. He arrived with arthritis, a whitened wizened muzzle, and eyes to melt. He was under care of a foster family through Phinney’s Friends, a non-profit that helps low-income people keep their pets during times of hardship. Foster care is just one way in which Phinney’s continues to nurture the human-animal bond.

G.C. was adopted by his foster family and he is so greatly missed by his two-legged and four-legged family. We loved you for the briefest of times, but you radiated pure sunshine and your ability to love was so impactful.  If you have room in your heart – remember those in need of fostering benefit the most. They say love cannot be purchased but it can be rescued.

~ J Rowlands, Phinney’s Friend Volunteer


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