For years I have fostered countless dogs. They have ranged from puppies to 16 or 17 years old, 5 lbs to 95 lbs, loud to shy. You name the dog, and I have seen some variation of it. Yet, no dog every compares to my first foster dog. My only foster failure. Now for those who are unaware of what foster failure means, it is when you are fostering a dog and decide to keep it. The rescue I work for likes to call these foster success, but that is beside the point. See, my first dog is something so special. She teaches me new lessons every single day. When we first brought her home, she could not walk upstairs. Leaves would fall to the ground, and she would cower in fear. Every noise would lead to her tucking her tail between her legs and shivering in fear. She would not eat. She would not sleep for more than an hour at a time. She was petrified of the world. At the time, I was about 12 years old, and at that time, I had saved all my birthday money, Christmas money, and so on. I was gonna buy a car one day. All by myself. Yet, I couldn’t sit by and watch this poor innocent dog suffer. She was starving herself. So I gathered my money, all $500 worth, and I got her a dog therapist. Yes, a dog therapist. I could only afford a few sessions, yet she soon made rapid improvements. I no longer had to feed her from my hands. She ate from her bowl. She was able to go outside and pee without shaking. Sadly, the grass still scared her, the leaves continue to scare her, the world frightened her. But I saw improvement. I saw her push herself every day. I watched as she stared at the other dogs playing. I could see how she longed to run with them. Yet, she held herself back. If another dog approached, she would bow to play. If the other dog was dominant to her in any way, she would cower and hide behind me. Yet, every single time that dog or another dog came close by, my little angel would try again. When she would finally play, she would run and run. But the second something scared her, she was back behind my legs. I have watched her protect the new foster dogs and watch over them until they adjust. I watch as she plays with them when no one else will. I watch as she pushes past her own fears to help others with theirs. I watched over the years as she walked up to our couch and worked her way up from bumping it, sniffing it, laying her head against the cushions, to finally, after almost 6 years, she jumped on it. However, when she hears another person walk downstairs, she runs away. Then slowly, she pushes herself to come back and sit on the couch. My family jokes that our smallest couch is her special couch. We always leave it open for her. She tries her best every single day to live a “normal” dog life. Every day she pushes past her fears. She may analyze every step she takes. She looks out onto our floors with determination to cross the room without tripping herself up. She looks upon stairs with fear and determination. I watch as she takes 5 maybe 6 minutes sometimes to begin her climb up the stairs. She puts one paw down and takes it off. She repeats the process over and over again. In her training years ago, I would have a leash on her, and we would do a circle and try again every time she backed away. Now years later, I watch as she puts a paw down, retracts her paw, then walks herself in a circle and tries again. I watch as she panics halfway through climbing the stairs and watch her fall. Every time I panic and run after her, making sure she’s okay. But she only looks at me, gives me a kiss, and tries again. I watch as she doesn’t give up. I watch her everyday battle, her fears, and every day conquers them. She has taught me to never give up. She has taught me to push through my fears because I can never fail. No matter how scared I am, no matter how many times I fail, just start over and try again. In more ways than one, I wonder if maybe it was not me who saved her but she who saved me.