Week three with Lanie, our first foster setter, is in the books.

And while there are certainly things you don’t know (and never will), there are also things you learn.

Small successes are sometimes hard to spot, but they are there. Last week, Lanie would finally dart out of her crate into the backyard. When she’d come back in, she would dart straight back into her crate. It’s a safe place. In her life, I suspect it’s been the only place she’s ever felt safe (one of those things I’ll never know). This week, she spends a bit more time outside the crate – before she goes out. In fact, she’ll actually come out of her crate and let us know (usually simply by finding where we are) that she wants to go out.

It’s another small success. And it makes me wonder how often I completely miss out on small successes while barreling toward major victories.

Coming back in is another thing. Picture our back door with a crate in clear sight no more than 6 feet away. Looks like a straight shot to me. But Lanie has a signature re-entry. She comes in, does one counterclockwise spin, walks around the chair and side table, past the ottoman and then into her crate…which leads me to…

What works for me works for me. Don’t knock it. I have no idea why that little spin and the walk around the chair works for Lanie. But it does. It’s one of her signatures. And it doesn’t hurt anyone.

It makes me wonder how often I unnecessarily question the ways other people make it through life. The list is long (I can be a pretty harsh critic). But most of the time, it doesn’t impact my life one way or the other, positively or negatively. The wisest person I’ve ever known once said, “he’s just doing his best, trying to make it through life the best way he knows how.” (They were wise counsel, and they made me happy to be married to her.)

It takes a village. Hillary Clinton has been lambasted unmercifully for making a statement that, whether you like her or not, rings true. Most things you set out to accomplish in life require a team to achieve success. Sure, I was raised by my mom and dad – but also by my sister and my brother, Ann Dillon, J.W. and Joan Anderson, Joe and Mary Cantrell, Joe and Jo Harvey, Harry and Jane Camp, Wally Bigbee and Clark Boyd (my scout masters), Elizabeth Womack, Mary Chisholm and any number of other schoolteachers. I was influenced, instructed, molded, disciplined, congratulated and celebrated by more people than I can name and, regretfully, remember.

And Lanie would not be where she is without the solid team we have – Henry and Boz.

Henry has always been a great dog. Now, we know he is also a great foster brother. He watches out for Lanie. He makes sure I remember there’s a crate is in the bedroom and a dog inside that needs to be let out (like I could miss it). He coaches her in and out. When she’s having one of her tough times to come in, Henry will go out, touch her nose and run back in. When she stays out, he tries again, and again.

In the backyard, he runs with her (although he just can’t keep up with her) and shows her all the good spots. He sticks his nose into her crate just to remind her he’s there (the canine equivalent of the what’s up nod).

Boz watches out for her, too. He loves to sit on top of her crate and, when she sticks her head out, he’s been known to reach down and give her three soft, clawless pats on the head. He’s a noser as well, and will step two feet inside the crate to touch noses.

It makes me wonder if I shouldn’t seek out more teams to be on – teams that accomplish good things.

Some things have to remain unfinished. Lanie’s made great strides. When she arrived, she would hardly let you touch her. Don’t get me wrong – she is nowhere near climbing up in my lap while I watch television. But most any time, I can sit down by the door of her crate, reach in and stroke her head or scratch her belly. She doesn’t pull away. I think she actually enjoys it.

She gets excited now when we all get up in the morning and goes into that full-body setter tail wag. She’s ready to greet the day and not simply face it.

She’s come a long way. But the bulk of her journey will have to be at her forever home. She’ll leave us and continue her transition from neglected dog to family pet somewhere else. It’s the natural course. If we’re going to help 10 or 20 dogs find loving homes, we can’t keep the first one that comes along as another pet.

So if this week goes OK, Saturday we’ll post her as “Available for Adoption” on the ACES website.

It makes me wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed to do something cool and good just because I could not see how I could ever finish it.

Life’s hard. I can hardly stand the thought of it already – putting her in the car and driving her to her new forever home. (We made the decision the first week that, if she adopts to a home at a reasonable distance that we’re going to take her all the way – no transport for her.) She is in our fabric. We let her out, and in, and out, and in – dozens of times a day. We walk by and give her a pat on the head. We feed her and give her water. We watch her run in the backyard. We watch her sleep. She ignores us (like any good setter). Carrying her to the bedroom in her crate (“Queen of Sheba” style) is the last thing we do before we go to bed. Opening her crate and letting her out is the first thing I do when I wake up. She is now part of our routine.

But it has to be. It’s the essence of fostering. We’re a way station. A safe harbor. The second stop from a kill shelter. A place to be cared for until a home surfaces. A place to learn some basics. We’re part of her journey and she is part of ours. Then, we’ll be part of another journey.

It makes me wonder just how well I’ll do with that.

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