A rescue black lab mix in autumn leaves

On a cold October night, we drove 2 hours to pick up our first foster dog, Velvet, from Greece. We’d been wanting to add a second dog to our family for years but were unsure how our current dog, a then 9-year-old lab, would respond to sharing the attention with a puppy. Fostering seemed like a good opportunity to both help a dog who needed it and test the waters with our own. If it was a disaster, at least it would be temporary.

I spent days reading about how to be the best foster parent; we got new toys, enrichment games, even puppy food, but Velvet didn’t need any of that. Velvet, or V, as she was affectionately known, quickly stole hearts and put life back into our ageing dog. After a cosy first night in her crate, she was quickly ready to explore. She followed our dog around and took a level of comfort in her company.

Definitely part lab, Velvet quickly worked out the best food is often on the table. Day two had her stealing cardboard from the recycling and attempting to sneak a slice of pizza from the table and just like that, she was part of the family, albeit temporarily. After a week, every coworker, friend and family member thought for sure Velvet was going to be a foster fail. She slotted in seamlessly into our routine, made a friend and playmate in our dog and watching her gain confidence filled us with so much joy. The extra cuddles weren’t so bad either!

It wasn’t long before our little Velvet had potential adopters lining up. Our excitement only grew. This little bundle of love and energy was going to start the rest of her life. What could be more exciting than that?

Before we could say goodbye, there was one thing we knew we had to do: a family trip to Box Hill. So full of life, Velvet quickly grew into not only an incredibly smart dog but a cheeky one too! Knowing she could handle the change of routine (and scenery), we headed off to Box Hill.

I will never forget the excitement in her eyes when we reached the wooded areas. It was like the whole world was in front of her. She was free. As free as you can be on a long line training lead. She ran, jumped, spun and zoomed her way around – she even got to meet a cow! It was a great day. She was so happy, so full of life, different than when she arrived — I was confident that she was ready for her forever home.

Velvet stayed with us just over a month. She learned to sit, lay, stay and how to play. She overcame her fears about a new walking route, learned to play tug of war, gave the best cuddles and even managed to puppy eye her way to sleeping in the bed. We celebrated Halloween and Thanksgiving together, and just as I was then, I’m so thankful Velvet came into our lives.

What I learned from Velvet

Saying goodbye to the dogs is hard, yes, but it’s so rewarding. And it’s only sad for the first day. Once you get that, “we’re home and happy” text from their forever family, the stress and worry fade away. Not even 2 hours after Velvet arrived at her new home, they sent a video of her playing in her new garden and instantly we knew: this was the right thing.

And we were hooked, fostering was 100% for us…