How To Get Involved
First, if you’re interested in fostering dogs there are many ways to get involved and many groups to work with. The Humane Society is nationwide and if you live in even a small city you’ll most likely have a local Human Society office to work with. But they are not the only organization. If you go to Google and search ‘foster dogs’ it should have a map somewhere on the first page of search results with foster locations near you. We chose to work with a local rescue that supports smaller communities that don’t have a government funded program. So, if you decide you are interested in becoming a foster parent—take some time to know your options.
What Does Fostering Entail
Every local rescue will have a foster program. This helps them reduce the required space at their facility and gives each dog a home to live in rather than a kennel in a big empty building. Generally, all of your expenses will be paid and the rescue will supply you with a crate, temporary fence/enclosure, food, toys, etc. Everything you need to keep the dogs happy at your house. Your job is to love them, make sure their healthy and notify the rescue aware of any issues. Does the dog do well with children? Are they sick and need medicine? The rescue will then relay that information to any potential adopting parents and will cover any vet bills to get the dog healthy.
The goal is for you to have the dog for as little time as possible. In the background someone is posting pictures of the dog on sites like petfinder, checking applications and vetting applicants for the right fit. There is a lot of logistical behind the scenes work that is very important. Be glad you’re only in charge of the dog. Eventually you’ll be notified for a meet-and-greet of some kind. This might mean the adopting person/family comes to your home to meet the dog or you take the dog to the shelter. In the case of the group we work with they even require a home evaluation of the adopting applicant before they can adopt. If it’s a fit, your foster dog is quickly on its way and you’ll probably get another very quickly.
Ok, let’s jump into the Pros and Cons
• Good Deed—You are potentially saving a dog’s life.
• Money for Shelter—By bringing a dog into your home the shelter requires less space to house dogs and therefore can survive on less funding.
• Free for You—You get the joy of dog ownership with none of the expenses. Most rescues will pay for everything.
• Quick Knowledge—If you’re still deciding on dog ownership long-term this is a good test and you get to know a lot of breeds quickly.
• You Decide—If it’s not for you, take them back. If you’re going on vacation, drop your dogs off at another foster parent’s house. If you want puppies, you’ll get puppies. The rescues need lots of help and will work with you.
• Proud Parent—Having a foster dog get selected for their forever home is an emotional, proud moment.
• Messy—Many of these dogs are not house trained, or trained at all for that matter. You need a good setup to keep your house in order.
• Emotional—Imagine losing your dog, now imagine giving your dog away every few weeks. That is what fostering can be. Whether you want to or not, you get attached. And when someone does not choose your dog, it’s almost offensive.
• Sleep—We foster almost exclusively puppies. Puppies don’t sleep through the night. Be prepared for a 3 AM wake-up squeal and potentially soiled beds. And they don’t grow out of it because you just get new puppies later.
• Routine—You’re a dog owner for dogs that don’t know you, your home, your schedule, etc. Someone has to almost constantly be watching them. It can mess up your daily routine.
Two Can Be Easier Than One
One more thing that doesn’t really fit into pros and cons but is noteworthy. We have found it easier to have two or more foster dogs at a time than one., especially with puppies. Dogs like to run, wrestle, explore and sometimes get into trouble. When you have one dog they want your attention and they want you to be their wrestling partner. Add to that you need to watch them more to keep them out of trouble (digging a hole in your garden, eating your shoes, etc.). Believe it or not two dogs can be easier. When they have a friend, they stay entertained with each other. When one starts digging a whole the other tackles it and they start wrestling again. They will fight over shoes but you can usually know where two dogs are at and what they’re eating better than one.
We actually have five puppies right now and it’s honestly not that bad. Other than constantly counting 1, 2, 3…where’s the white one?…5 they all just hang out together. So, believe it or not two or more can be easier than one.
The Big Question: Is It Worth It?
I mentioned the mess, the emotions, the time. Fostering dogs is not always easy and when you wake up at 3 AM that first time and they have peed all over you’ll definitely question your decision but in the end it is awesome. We have puppies at our house all the time. We get to snuggle them, help train them and prepare them for their forever homes. The two we had before this latest group were found on the side of the road alone, no mother, at 6 weeks. It almost brings me to tears to think about how scared they must have been. Those two dogs stayed with us for two weeks and they were amazing—very smart, very loving and deserving of a better life. If nothing else, the emotional enjoyment you get when your dog is ‘selected’ is overwhelming.
So, go out there and save a dog’s life. And don’t be surprised if your own life is positively impacted while you’re at it.