When a dog arrives at a shelter, they have basic needs that have not been or have stopped being met. Perhaps they were not taken care of physically. They might be malnourished, dehydrated or have untreated injuries or illnesses. Perhaps they were abandoned and are scared or unsocialized. Perhaps they were neglected or abused and have a hard time trusting or have never felt safe. Perhaps they lived in a loving home their whole life and now are left without an owner due to death, divorce or other circumstances. Whatever the case may be, these poor pups have been through their fair share of hardships and deserve another chance at a good life in a loving home.
But how do we then prepare them for this transition? How do we teach them that they do not need to be afraid anymore? How do we nurse them back to health, allow them to trust and teach them what love feels like? How do we get them ready for their new family? One of the best ways is through fostering.
Fostering is essentially opening your heart and your home to a or rescue dog and can be a very fun and rewarding experience. While it is not always easy and does come with challenges, the impact that you make on the lives of the dogs who you are caring for is monumental. Additionally, when you take on a foster dog, you are also opening up another space at a shelter or rescue for another dog in need.
So what would you need to DO as a foster mom or dad? Of course the most basic responsibilities include providing food and shelter but more importantly, you are teaching a dog how to be loved, how to live in a home and/or how to be part of a family. Providing basic training, teaching social skills and building a dog’s confidence are all important steps in order to help a dog become more “adoptable.” As a foster, you are bridging the gap between rescue and permanent placement. You are the stepping stone for a dog moving from a shelter to a forever home.
Many rescue organizations who have a network of fosters most often provide training and education as well as basic supplies such as food, crates, leashes and collars. All they ask in return is that you work diligently with your foster pup to ready him or her for adoption. It is also important that you provide updates on progress and behavior as well as pass along adorable photos for potential adopters to see. Additionally, rescue organizations will try to match you with a foster dog who is best suited for your level of experience, lifestyle and living accommodations. For example, someone who is new to fostering would not likely be asked to take on a dog with many behavior issues. Perhaps they could begin their foster journey with a pup who was displaced from their home. Folks with other dogs or children, again, would be given a foster dog who was friendly and gentle as opposed to one who has trust issues.
Fostering is a life-changing experience for both the foster parent and the dog. To see the progression and positive changes that you are creating in a dog’s life is empowering and humbling all at once. Watching a dog grow and blossom because of the love and dedication that you are providing is an unmatched and indescribable feeling of bliss. But what happens when it is time to say goodbye? Many people are afraid that they will not be able to let go - and some don’t - and that’s OK! (We call this a “foster fail” but it is really not a failure at all!) While it can be hard to say goodbye, keeping in mind that another dog needs you - and another, and another - makes it easier to keep moving forward. You have given your foster dog a gift that they will carry with them no matter where they go and to be able to give that gift over and over again is a wonderful thing.
To learn more about fostering or to volunteer as a foster in the Northeast PA or Brooklyn, NY areas, check out http://www.itsruffwithoutaroof.com/foster-network or http://www.badassbrooklynanimalrescue.com/foster-faqs.