Fostering, What's It All About?
Let’s talk about Fostering! How much time do you guys have?!
As I sit here writing this, our last foster dog and foster fail, Zack is sleeping next to me. You can read all about Zack on his page in our bio section!
Knowing the connection and the bond we formed with our own dogs, we were of the mindset that we couldn’t foster. We wouldn’t be able to give a dog up, we would want to keep them all; pick the common phrase that is associated with the reasons why people don’t get into fostering, and that is exactly the page Adam and I were on.
It took us a long time to get into the foster mindset. It wasn’t until I started volunteering with a rescue group and running their senior program that we decided to dip our toes into the fostering pool.
Rescues are different from shelters in that they don’t have a physical location, they are foster home based; so you can only have as many dogs in your program as you have foster homes, well and funds, but let’s just focus on foster homes for this one. Our foster home base, for the senior program, was small and we had just found another dog in need and wanted to bring them into the program. So we had this dog in need and one of my fosters told me that Adam and I should take her current foster and she would take this new senior dog.
To say bringing a new dog home gives me anxiety is an understatement. Even though I have been volunteering in the animal welfare community for many years, and at the time had three dogs, I am terrible at dog introductions and I just get so stressed out. But I was assured that this little guy was so laid back and so easy, so we brought him home. This could not have been more accurate! He fit like a missing puzzle piece, all of our dogs loved him instantly. This little guy was Wendel.
Fostering Wendel opened the door for us and we were hooked. In the span of about 2 years we probably fostered about 10 dogs. Stopping only because the medical demands of our own dogs began to demand more of our attention. But we hope to get back to fostering soon.
How could you foster? Isn’t it hard? Don’t you just want to keep them all?
These are the common questions that every foster is asked. In preparation for this blog post, I reached out to several friends who have been fostering animals from 3 years all the way up to 25 years! Anyone who fosters will tell you that it is one of the, if not the hardest and most rewarding thing they do in their life. I asked these fosters why they began fostering; the common theme is that they wanted to serve a greater purpose, to be of service, to make a difference, fill a void in their life. One friend, Stephanie, said something that really resonated with me, because I too have lost a parent. She said after losing her dad, she was looking for something different and something in service to help her feel whole again.
“I channeled that love I wanted to give him into helping animals become whole again.”
Because we fostered senior dogs, a lot of times they came with medical issues that had to be resolved. Poor Wendel had an open wound on his back and had 4 lumps that needed removed causing him to have reconstructive surgery on his butt! There are some people who only foster animals with medical needs. My friend Claudia is a medical foster for dogs and she has been fostering since 2004.
Being a medical foster, Claudia had the following to say,
“You work so hard to get them through their trauma and they really bond with you, and you with them.”
When an animal has medical needs it causes them to be in foster longer, which can only strengthen your bond with them and them with you.
Fostering is incredibly hard both emotionally and physically! Most of the dogs we have fostered have been senior dogs. We did foster a tiny adorable two-year old dachshund who had to have one of his eyes removed. He was only like 9 pounds and was one of the happiest dogs! He was adopted really quickly into a great home. In my experience, it doesn’t matter how long you have the animal, you are probably going to become attached. The kind of people who foster are the kind of people who open their hearts when there is a need and when your heart is open there is a good chance it is going to break. People foster because they want to make a difference in the life of an animal in need. When I said goodbye to each of our fosters, my heart broke every single time. I agree with Stephanie when she told me that when they leave they take a piece of your heart, but you keep a little piece of their heart too. This smiling picture is of our foster Andy Rooney. I am going to be writing about him in another blog post.
Another foster friend, Mary, added that fostering is rewarding and frustrating. The frustration is directed towards the humans that failed them. She has fostered dogs with medical needs as well as dogs who were broken emotionally.
About fostering these dogs with such special needs Mary said,
“it makes it really hard and you get attached which makes it hard to give them up, but sending them to their next chapter frees up the space to help another”.
And this is the sole reason why fosters can say goodbye. Because we know that there are so many others who are in need of the help only a loving foster home can provide. We give our hearts a little time to heal and then bring home the next animal in need.
So why foster? Because without these amazing foster homes, rescues and shelters could not keep saving lives.
The fact is that rescue groups and shelters could not keep saving animals if they didn’t have foster homes. There is just a constant stream of homeless animals that continues to pour into organizations around the country.
Our friend Mark, who is the Director of Animal Care in the Detroit Animal Care and Control Division for the City of Detroit Health Department, told me they currently have over 300 dogs in foster care. That is in addition to the animals they have at their physical location! All physical shelters have the limitation of capacity. When they are full they can’t take any more animals into their care, and as Mark put it,
“we can’t just add a wing onto the building every year when we run out of space”.
So foster homes allow physical shelters to bring more homeless animals into their program while giving them breathing room at the physical shelter. I like how Mark explained it to me,
“foster homes are looked at as a virtual extension of the shelter”.
What kinds of foster homes are needed and how can you get involved?
If you have read this far, maybe I peaked your interest and I can take you a little further down the rabbit hole. There are so many different types of foster homes, and the good thing is that if you decide to become a foster home, you can tell the group what kind of animal you are willing and able to foster. A lot of people really enjoy fostering puppies and kittens! Not only are they adorable, but they also are adopted at record speed and don’t have the potential to become a long-term foster.
I mentioned medical foster homes above as well as fostering senior animals, you can foster for a shelter or a rescue group as they are all in need! A great way to ease into fostering is through sleepover programs. Some shelters ask the public to host sleepovers during the holidays so animals, usually dogs, can spend the holiday in a home rather than in the shelter.
There are also groups who have short term foster homes to help people keep their pets. One such group is Hospets, and their mission is to help keep seniors and their pets together as long as possible (check out their website www.hospets.org). So a lot of their foster homes will take a dog or cat on a short term basis for a senior who needs to go to the hospital or get care for themselves in some capacity. Allowing a senior to keep their pet is so important, as we all know the bond and companionship we have with our pets is so special!
The options and the opportunities are endless to get involved with fostering. If you are at all interested in finding out more, I strongly encourage you to reach out to local groups in your area. Fostering makes such a difference both in your life and in the life of an animal in need.
Thanks so much for reading! Bark at us in the comments if you have any questions about fostering! Also, if you are a foster, we would love for you to share your stories and pictures of the animals you have fostered! And thank you for fostering, you make such a difference in the life of a homeless animal!
A huge thank you to all of our friends who shared so much wonderful information with me so that I could write this post. Thank you for your time and thank you for all you do for the animals! All dogs pictured within this post were fostered and adopted into loving homes!
We will be following up with more posts and some YouTube videos about fostering as well, so stay tuned for more on this topic!