Last week, we examined the human and animal components of successful fostering. Now let’s answer the question, “Why?”
Why Foster? Fostering a homeless dog, cat, rabbit, horse or any other animal in need of shelter, love and guidance is a time-consuming effort, but it is also one of the most rewarding ways you can personally get involved in helping with the current homeless pet crisis in our country.
Providing a “stepping stone” for animals in search of their Forever Home saves lives, takes some of the strain off our over-crowded animal shelters, helps set the stage for successful adoption and teaches you the skills that will enable you to help other animals in need for years to come.
Over the years, we have found that dogs and cats who are fostered in a positive, nurturing environment by individuals and families possessing some basic training and behavior knowledge are more likely to be adopted and remain in their adoptive homes; less likely to be returned to the shelter; less likely to suffer from behavioral issues and training problems; and less stressed and more likely to adapt better and more quickly to life in their new homes.
I personally got involved in fostering because I saw far too many great dogs being euthanized in the shelters I worked for. Although I know I cannot personally save them all, I have learned that I can save some, and this has become one of the most rewarding aspects of my career as a shelter dog rescuer, canine trainer and behavior counselor.
Because most of the work I do is in shelters, I often have the opportunity to work with and personally assess the animals I end up fostering. While I believe that all animals are deserving, I bring home what I believe are some of the best pets available for adoption anywhere, which leads to my final question, “How can I give them up?”
Relinquishing Your Foster Pet. Some of my foster dogs are with me for days; some are with me for months.
And yes, there have been one or two that have just fit so well into our lives, our hearts and our home that they have attained status as one of our permanent pets. However, the attachment issue is a very serious one that requires consideration.
It is essential that anyone who fosters be realistic about the expected outcome, which is that the animal will be adopted by another family. While it is impossible to not become attached to a sweet dog or cat living in our home, it is important to keep your original goals for the animal in mind.
I have met foster families who have ended up as borderline hoarders simply because they did not possess the emotional maturity to part with their foster pets, even when great homes were available and waiting.
Think of it this way: For each pet that is adopted by their foster family, one less “foster opportunity” exists, which translates into less animals being given a wonderful chance at life in a real home.
“Mom Time.” Although I exercise and socialize my foster dogs with my own dogs every day, I also plan activities – “Mom Time” – solely for my own dogs.
I have found that this helps prevent my own dogs from harboring resentment toward my foster dogs, and it also helps keep “my pets” separated from “my foster pets” in my own mind so the level of attachment I experience with both sets of dogs remains different, and the line between the two does not become clouded.
Final Thoughts. As you can see, fostering shelter pets can be a very rewarding experience, but it also requires a great deal of time, energy, patience and resources, and therefore should also warrant much consideration.
For more information on fostering, call or visit one of our local shelters, and if you find a pet there you may be interested in fostering, talk to the staff about the logistics involved and if they feel this particular pet is a good candidate for fostering.
Most of the shelters in our region encourage fostering, and many will require that you fill out an application prior to your first fostering experience. Some also require a home visit by shelter staff or volunteers to ensure that your home environment is a safe one and an appropriate setting for any pet you would seek to foster.
You can also visit partnerscanines.org for information on fostering shelter dogs and puppies that are destined for rescue and just need a temporary place to call home prior to transport. The beauty of these short-term fostering opportunities is that they don’t eat into your vacation time, they are on-going, and you usually know exactly how long the pet will be staying and when he/she/they will be leaving.
The down side is that you may not be able to choose the individual animals you will be fostering, as most are dogs and puppies that have already been selected by rescue organizations for transport. Regardless, you are still helping to save a life, which is the ultimate goal of any type of fostering.
BooneDogs is a weekly column provided by Melissa Bahleda, a certified canine behavior counselor and the founder of PARTNERS! Canines, a nonprofit shelter dog rescue organization located in Boone.