You donate whenever you can to the Humane Society and the ASPCA, avoid every pet supply store with unethical business practices, and put in at least a few hours every weekend helping your local animal shelter keep its kennels clean. But still, every time you check the news and read yet another report about the horrendous conditions inside the nation’s many puppy mills or see an ad mentioning the thousands of dogs and cats that are euthanized every year, you can’t help feeling that you’re just not doing enough.
The answer? Become a foster (dog) parent.
How Does Fostering Help?
First of all, fostering saves lives. Over 4,000 dogs are euthanized in shelters every day, and every time someone like you fosters a dog, that number goes down. Plus, when you foster a dog, you free up space for a shelter or rescue group to fill with another dog in need of a home.
Fostering also greatly increases the chance that a dog will be permanently adopted by giving her the time she needs to adjust to living at home while revealing any special needs she may have that her new family will need to take into consideration. Too many families adopt dogs only to turn around and take them back to the shelter when they exhibit symptoms or behaviors that the owners are not prepared to deal with. When pet parents are well-informed, they are less likely to feel disappointed or overwhelmed by the challenges their new dog presents.
Why Do Dogs Need Foster Care?
A shelter or rescue group may single out a dog for foster care because he or she has needs that cannot adequately be met within the shelter or kennel environment. For example, a dog may need daily medical care while recovering from surgery, an illness, or an injury; likewise, a puppy that is too young to be adopted may need a safe place to grow. Some dogs struggle to thrive within a shelter, exhibiting nervous behaviors or fighting with other dogs. Others may need extra time to adapt to socialization with people and other animals after being in an abusive situation for part (or all) of their lives. Of course, many times a shelter or rescue group will seek foster homes for dogs it simply has no room for.
This is where you come in.
What Does Fostering Involve (and What Doesn’t It)?
The difference between fostering and adoption is that fostering is temporary. Fostering is not meant to be a way for you to enjoy the perks of owning a dog without making a commitment to keep it, nor is it meant to be a “trial period” for you to try out different dogs until you find the one you want to adopt. The goal of every foster home for dogs should be to give each dog the care he or she needs to become a well-adjusted, well-behaved pet for someone else to adopt, thus freeing up space in the home for another foster dog in need of special care.
With that in mind, you can expect your foster dog to stay with you either for a predetermined time (from overnight to several months) or until you are able to find him a permanent home. Foster parents have the typical responsibilities of any pet parent—feeding, providing exercise, grooming, and showing affection—plus some additional responsibilities that may vary from dog to dog.
If the dog is recovering from an illness, an injury, or a surgical procedure, you will be responsible for giving him his medication as directed and taking him to all scheduled vet appointments. Most shelters and rescue programs will cover medications and veterinary care for dogs in foster care, but they may require you to fill out paperwork or see a certain vet in order to be reimbursed; therefore, call the shelter or rescue group first if your foster dog needs to see a vet.
Because so many foster dogs have survived the horrors of a puppy mill, suffered at the hands of previous owners, or simply never had a home before, helping the dog learn to socialize and interact appropriately with people and other animals will be a big part of your job as a foster parent. In addition to basic types of training you would expect to undertake with any new dog, such as housetraining, training to walk on a leash, and training to sit or come when called, you may also need to practice behavioral modification to eliminate behaviors like jumping, barking incessantly, chewing things that aren’t toys, and biting. The Dog Breed Info Centerhas a wealth of articles about understanding dog behaviors and successfully training rescue dogs (pro tip: never, never strike a dog).
Finally, if you really want to be a great foster parent, you’ll need to take lots and lots of notes. How does the dog react to children? Is the dog usually full of energy, or is she more subdued? What things is the dog frightened by? What seems to help soothe her? What foods does she like? Recording all this information is the most helpful thing you can do for your foster dog and her new owners because it will allow potential pet parents to determine whether or not the dog is a good match for them and their families, thus greatly improving her chances of becoming a family member herself rather than being released back into the foster system.
The Typical Foster Dog
So what can you expect when you decide to open your home and your heart to a foster dog? First of all, keep in mind that attractive, young, friendly, and well-behaved dogs are always the first to get adopted, so they tend to be kept onsite at the shelter’s physical location where they are most likely to be seen by people looking to adopt. The dogs that get placed in foster care are less likely to be adopted right away, either because they are plain-looking adolescents and adults far past the cute puppy stage or because they have behavioral and emotional issues that keep them from making a good first impression.
Each foster dog has his own challenges to overcome, but within him is a loyal, loving friend waiting for a chance at life.
How to Get Started Fostering
Becoming a foster dog parent is easy! Just contact your local animal shelter or, if you prefer, a nearby rescue organization. If you’ve had good experiences with a certain breed before and would prefer to foster dogs of that breed, that’s doable as well; there are many breed-specific rescue programs across the country.
There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing you helped make a difference in someone’s life, especially when that someone needed your help so badly. Creating foster homes for dogs is one small way animal lovers from all walks of life can reap that reward.
More Ways To Help! – Support Pet Rescue Organizations
Not everybody is in a position to take in a foster pet, but that’s ok – You can still help! Find a local pet rescue organization and contact them to see how you can donate your time or financial support. These places need food, helping-hands, and they always need money! In fact, providing much needed funds to organizations such as these was the spark for Fetching Apparel! We started fetching apparel to be a responsible brand that brings needed attention to these pet-related issues AND provides financial support by donating a portion of our profits to the very organizations working hard to provide solutions! These groups are in the trenches, making a real difference. At Fetching Apparel, we want to help them make a difference and to do that, we donate 40% of our profits to various pet rescue organizations. We invite you to check out our products. We think you’ll love them as much as we do, and you’ll feel great knowing that nearly half of the profits go straight to these organizations.