J.C., the sweet angelic boy I wrote about last time, lived with us along with his sister for 16 months until they were reunified with their parents. During the time we fostered them, J.C. refused to go on the “big boy potty.” Try as we might, nothing worked. Bribes, sinking cereal, promises of great presents and the potty dance all left him amused, and us exasperated.

One day, J.C. decided he wanted a puppy to add to the organized chaos we called home. With my fingers crossed, I told him I was only allowed to potty train one living thing at a time, and until he stopped wearing diapers, we would only have a household of two-legged creatures. From that very instant, he was an official “big boy” and I was on the hunt for a puppy.

The trek for this puppy was six hours in a snowstorm—on New Year’s Day—to Minnesota (who would have thought, just to go to our pound!) to obtain the newest member of our family. All this for our foster son who called my bluff. Outsmarted by a 3-year-old, again.

It was a given that this puppy we named Riley would go with the children when they went home. Their parents loved the dog, bringing treats for the dog whenever they came to visit their children. Then their landlord had a change of heart. Like the narrator on Peanuts, I heard it echo loud and clear, “No dogs allowed.”

J.C. is still at home, and I still have his promised potty puppy. This cute little canine that came to us the size of a 12-ounce soda can, has morphed into a 6-year- old overweight dog who is blind in one eye, has a tumor on one leg and is a constant reminder of the first time I fell head over heels in love with a child that I parented that I did not birth. That it is possible to unconditionally love outside of your gene pool, to be a fiercely protective mama bear to someone who calls someone else mama. Life lesson brought by a 3-year-old boy and a dog.

So I leave you with this question. What life lessons have you learned in an unconventional way? Did an impromptu visit to a shopping mall bring about a lesson you learned? Did you finally see something for the first time through the eyes of a toddler that was there all along, but your eyes were closed to it?

Share with us. Let us learn through you!

Best to all this day,

Paulette Drankiewicz~ Paulette Drankiewicz, foster parent liaison, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Paulette is a foster and adoptive parent. She works at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin as a foster parent liaison, providing support, offering encouragement and advocating for foster parents throughout all phases of fostering and adoption.

Paulette also discusses foster care and adoption on our Kid Hero blog.


What a dog taught me about foster care — 8 Comments

  1. Yet again, Paulette, I am left with tears of joy and pride! I am honored to be able to call you my friend! We can all learn a lesson from this blog, a lesson in what? LOVE, something we all do, but, obviously not enough. I have heard your stories about fostering over the years and whether the children stay with your family or are “reunified” with their biological families, their lives have been forever changed for the love, comfort, and support you and your family have given to them. Keep writing, because I’ll keep reading! Best to YOU and yours this day, P!

  2. Sounds like that boy taught you that you wanted more chaos in your home than you thought…same lessons my boy is teaching me!

  3. Becky, thank you for your kind words. Your support, your love and your generous donations of clothes and toys have made all the difference in helping foster these blessings. We foster parents couldn’t do what we do without people like you!

    Jean, sometimes it takes us mamas a little longer to learn some of these lessons. I don’t know what I would do with a peaceful, quiet home! LOVE the “controlled chaos,” the multiple potty breaks just driving to the Dells, cutting up food and spilled milk. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  4. This is a really sweet story. How wonderful that you invited the birth parents to visit their children and their dog in your home! You are a wonderful and giving foster parent!

  5. Thank you Cynthia for your comment. I have found it best for all involved when I take a “co-parenting” approach to fostering when we appropriate. Big day coming up for your family-congratulations on bringing your daughter home forever!

  6. What a great story! I also learned a lot after becoming a foster parent. I learned that life is not fair, everyone endures heartache, and it can be difficult to make good decisions. As I teach my kids how to make good decisions, I am constantly reminded everything someone does is because of a decision that person made. Making a good decision is often more difficult than making a poor one – but the rewards can be great! You can miss out on a lot by taking the easier route and making a poor decision. I hope I am successful in teaching any child who comes through our door this important life lesson.

  7. Niki, sometimes wouldn’t it be nice to get through one day without needing to learn a lesson? I am thankful that there are people like you who continue to open your homes and your hearts for the kids. Keep learning from them, these short little people are some of the smartest people I am blessed to know!