I always had pets in the house. Growing up, we had cats, dogs, fish, hermit crabs, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, ducks, a rabbit, a rat, and we pet-sat a few parakeets. Honestly, I'm surprised we never had a goat.
During and after college, I lived with my two cats, Rocky and Dweezil. After marrying, my husband and I moved from Austin to Houston. The cats were, by this point, elderly, and the move was especially traumatizing, leading to a rapid decline in their health. So when we needed to move again six months later, we left them with family to live out their final months.
In Seattle, I started to miss having a pet to greet when I came in the door, or one to follow me around the kitchen, or to snuggle on the couch. But our lease stipulated no pets.
In New Orleans, we signed another lease without pets, but I missed them so much I started to walk dogs at the local animal shelter. 200 volunteer hours later, I got a part time job at the LASPCA so that I could spend even more time with the dogs. My work was in the admin wing, but I still walked dogs on breaks, and brought shy and fearful ones out of the "Encouragement Room" kennels to my cubicle to have an even quieter safe place to relax and learn to trust humans again.
I had by this time lived with multiple sclerosis for a few years, luckily healing from each attack, but always battling the psychological impacts - fear, anxiety and depression. Working with the dogs had such a positive impact on my health that we decided that a pet-friendly lease was the top priority for our next move.
When we found out that next move would be to Japan, I immediately started looking for Tokyo shelters, rescues, advocacy groups and dog cafes - anything to get me started on the process to adopt a dog. But the more I read and considered, the more I realized that fostering might be the best option. My husband's job assignment has no end date, and we'll probably be here for at least 5 or 6 years, but we can't be sure. And we could fly a dog back to the USA easily, but what if that's even more traumatizing than the car ride was for Rocky? (He had a seizure.) And what if the next move turns out to be to a country with even stricter quarantine laws?
After I found Animal Refuge Kansai the choice was clear. Their shelter is in Osaka, but they have a network of foster homes in Tokyo. We attended one of their monthly Tokyo adoption events and learned that the organization covers the costs of food and medical bills for foster pets, and if the animal has a medical emergency, I can call them to translate between me and the veterinarian. It's an all-around excellent fit.
Initially I was worried because they didn't respond to our foster application for a few weeks, so we attended another adoption fair to inquire again. It turns out their website submission forms had some sort of glitch, but they were able to pull up my info very quickly. Lesson: persistence pays off - follow up!
Now we have approval and wait for our new friend.