By Rashi Sanon Narang
I was newly married and had just moved to New York in 2006 where my husband, Samarth was settled. New York was bustling with things to do and was an exciting melting pot of cultures, people, languages and food from around the world! However, no work visa and Samarth’s long work hours meant that I was by myself all day!

I missed pets, having grown up with them and begged Samarth to get me a dog. While not being much of a ‘dog person’, Samarth was open to the idea but pointed out that with our extensive travelling, it would be very difficult and expensive to find places to leave the pet. We also had no help at home, which meant that I would be bound in terms of being at home every few hours to walk and feed the dog. So, sadly I dropped the idea.

If you can’t adopt, then foster
But New York is a very pet friendly city, and there are hundreds and thousands of dogs there! I often came across postings on websites for fostering and adopting pets. This entire concept was quite alien to me; I had always been taught that if you want a dog, you must always get one as a puppy as older dogs can never take well to new people.

The kill shelters

However, I decided to help out a lady named Linda, who ran her own little animal shelter from her house in Manhattan and worked with the “kill shelters”. In many shelters in the USA, pets they are given about two weeks time to be adopted or fostered, and if not, are euthanized. Linda tried desperately to find foster homes for these heartbroken abandoned dogs, so that they had a better chances of survival.
Saving little Chiko
I did some research and realised that fostering provides a ‘stepping stone’ for animals in search of permanent homes, saves lives, alleviates the strain on animal shelters, and helps set the stage for successful adoptions. Besides, I could have a pet for a short duration.I spoke with Samarth and we decided to give it a try. That evening I went to the shelter to get my first foster dog home. The authorities handed me a tiny five-year old miniature pinscher named Chiko.Chiko’s family had abandoned the little guy as his bark was too loud. Yes that’s right! What heartless, cruel people. He was very frightened and was shivering when I picked him up into my arms. I think he had been abused, too, because he was petrified of big men around, and would crouch and shiver everytime he saw one.
Socialising Chiko
We took Chiko home. He was scared all night, and I tried to keep him warm and get used to his new surroundings. I took him for a walk the next morning – and oh yes – the tiny little dog had a big, loud bark! He barked every time he saw another dog, and everyone would turn to see. However, New Yorkers are very nice, friendly people and lots of people would stop me on the way and advise on how to get him ‘socialised’, and reduce his anxiety, and soon everyone knew Chiko!
Chiko convert’s Samarth!
Chiko was absolutely adorable – he was playful, friendly and very loving. He was a bit scared of Samarth initially, like he was of most men, but the two of them bonded very quickly. It was great to see them together, and to see Samarth’s transformation into a complete dog lover! He would love to cuddle next to us, go for long walks to Central Park, take nice long afternoon naps, play ball in our tiny living room and was a great companion.Unconditional love
I sat hugging my knees, and put my head down and cried. At the first sound- Chiko came running in, gently put his two paws on me- and gave me the sweetest dog hug ever. That moment was so special- when I looked up right into his eyes- they were big, full of concern and love! Chiko and I spent great number of hours together and built a deep friendship!
Getting Chiko adopted
With Linda’s help we set up viewings for families to come and see him for possible adoption. But he’d always sense something and go hide under the table and refuse to come out! One evening- I was really upset about something. After four weeks- a lovely lady and her little son adopted Chiko and now he lives happily ever after with him! I was so sad to let him go but Samarth and I were scheduled to travel the next week, and I was happy that he had found a forever home with a lovely family.
Lessons from Chiko
Chiko taught me a some very important lessons: Never be afraid to love and trust again, Be willing to forgive and never lose hope in miracles of the world! The entire fostering experience was enriching and very heart warming, and I hope that my experience will inspire some families to open up their hearts and homes to homeless, abandoned pets. Of course, fostering comes with its challenges too- it takes patience, time and commitment to heal a pet’s broken heart – to regain trust, and to bring back their doggie spirit.
And yes – I did foster again. Will share that with you next time!

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