The Happy Side of Fostering – Blog the Change for Animals

Blog the Change for AnimalsBlog the Change for Animals meets real life. Because as I write this, I’m getting ready to say goodbye to our latest foster dog, Ginny. And I’m happy.

In truth, there are lots of happy moments in fostering. But when I tell someone I foster dogs, their reply is, “Oh I could never do that. It would be too hard to give them up.”

So I’m going to tell you about the happy side of fostering. And you tell me if you don’t think the happy comes out ahead of the sad.

The People That You Meet

Alright, if you’re an introvert maybe this is the least appealing part of fostering. But even introverts enjoy like-minded people as long as they don’t have to see them all the time.

Now that I think of it, fostering is especially good for introverts for just that reason. And it’s also good for extroverts like me. Because you meet some awesome people.

Honey the golden retriever and Ginny the foster dog wait for her forever home.

How much longer will I have to share my couch? And why are you wearing my bandana?

Other volunteers

Some of the other volunteers at my local shelter are now my friends. And that doesn’t include foster families I “meet” online.

Shelter and rescue staff

Working full-time in a shelter or rescue is tough. You get paid little. You’re always understaffed. And not every animal you meet has a happy ending story. But I appreciate the how hard shelter workers I’ve met work.

People on the street

Neighbors who don’t know my name see me with different dogs all the time. They stop and ask me about “my” new dog and I get a chance to talk about this awesome pup looking for a new home.

Adoptive families

One person I’ve fostered for became a good friend. Another person who adopted one of our foster dogs sends me occasional follow ups and pictures.

Lil Punkin Butt and Mr. Handsome doze on the couch.

No only are we friends with our foster dogs. But we’re happy to be friends with their mom.

But even if I never hear from someone who adopts a dog I’ve fostered, I still have that happy image of seeing someone in love walking away with a wonderful dog.

Ginny’s new person is a proud papa. And her new dog mom can’t wait to spoil her rotten. I’m so excited for Ginny because I know she’ll live her life surrounded by love.

All About the Dogs

Goodness, how can I ever express how fabulous it is to meet so many different dogs?

Puppies

We started fostering puppies who just needed socialization and a safe place to stay while their immunity developed after their vaccinations.

That means that for one week we get to experience puppy breath and puppy cuddles (along with shark teeth, accidents, and sporadic sleep). But you get to send them back before they make you certifiably insane.

Behavioral issues

Some dogs need work in a home situation before they’re adoptable.

Our foster dog Cherié was like that. She was so fearful she couldn’t cross the street without slinking to her belly. Thunderstorms terrified her. And Honey’s trainer, the gentlest man I’ve ever met, made her panic. At first.

And yet Cherié brought many gifts to our home.

Hound Mix and Golden Retriever

Let me show you how it’s done, Honey.

She was not afraid of teeters, agility equipment, or bike carts. She served as a brave example for Honey who wanted nothing to do with such things. The two dogs learned from each other.

Medical fosters

Ginny, our beagle foster, came to us because she was recovering from surgery after being hit by a car. She had no issues unrelated to her injuries.

She didn’t have accidents. She wasn’t fearful. She loved everybody. She was a joy every day she lived in our house.

Dogs who don’t like shelters

And some dogs are perfectly nice but they find the shelter environment stressful. Layla was like that. She hated being surrounded by so many dogs.

She did okay with Honey, mostly ignoring her. And she’s now living in a wonderful home with another dog she sometimes even plays with.

The only thing Layla needed was to get into a home.

Layla the foster beagle in the snow.

Layla was frightened in the shelter but blossomed at home.

Dogs who just need a room

Some rescues don’t have a building. They can take as many dogs out of high-kill shelters or bad living situations as they have foster homes to host them.

Some dogs have no problems except for being homeless.

Love the Ones  You Love Even More

I never agree to take a foster dog without talking to my husband first. But he always says yes. Even when he knows it’s going to be more work or more stress or both.

His willingness to take on this volunteer project with me makes me love him more than ever.

And Honey? Oh, Honey. You’ve met every expectation I had for you and then some.

Honey the golden retriever helps with foster dogs.

What do you mean you love me more? How is that possible?

My previous dogs all reacted to other dogs. I could never have brought strange dogs into the house. But Honey was born and bred to do this.

She is tolerant and patient. She can body slam with the biggest dogs while laying down for bitey face with little dogs and puppies. She’s put up with sharing beds, toys, and our affection. And all without complaint.

I thought I loved my dog before I started fostering. But I’ve come to love her even more since.

Without Honey I couldn’t foster. I have her help in teaching the dogs who come into our lives. And I still have her when the foster dog goes to her new home.

Can You Foster?

Not everyone can foster. You may already have a special needs animal who needs your care and attention. Good for you!

Perhaps your schedule doesn’t give you the free time to take on extra dogs in the house. Or maybe your house is already full with dogs, cats, birds, rats, ferrets, guinea pigs etc.

But maybe you have room in your life for fostering. Here are a few questions I’d ask:

  • Are you allowed to bring new animals into your home? Some tenants might not be.
  • Do you have a consistent schedule that creates a low-stress environment for animals already under stress?
  • Do you have a secure house or yard or the ability to exercise an animal safely?
  • Can you find a nearby shelter or rescue that provides good training and support to its volunteer foster families?
  • Will other members of your family, human or otherwise, tolerate bringing new animals into the house?
  • Can you devote a set time to the extra responsibilities involved in fostering?

If you’re leaning toward fostering, you can do a great thing.

When a foster dog goes home, I'm happy.

See? No tears.

How Fostering Helps

By opening your home to foster animals, you’re helping to save lives and improve the lives of people and their animals.

Fostering takes stress off local shelters and rescues. It provides a place for a dog who might otherwise die for lack of room in a public shelter. Fostering prepares an untrained or undersocialized a dog to live well in a new home.

And fostering makes you happy. And who doesn’t want that?

Ginny’s Happy Ending

In the middle of writing this post, Ginny’s new person came to bring her home. She was excited to see him. She hopped around when he came to the door and wanted to jump up into his lap.

And he was just as happy to see her.

A foster dog goes home with her new family.

Photographic evidence for the happy side of fostering: Ginny goes home.

Ginny is a very lucky girl. Her new family already loves her and wants what’s best for her. I’m so thrilled to sending her  to such a good home.

So there are no tears today. As I watched Ginny walk off with her new person, I had nothing but smiles.

And that’s the happy side of fostering.

Your Turn: Have you ever fostered? Did you find it a happy experience? Why or why not?

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Comments

  1. The only tears this brought to my eyes were from the picture of Ginny with her new person! I have fostered twice before and while I adored both dogs, knowing from the outset that they weren’t mine, and weren’t going to be mine, made it easier to let them go to great new homes. The only dog I’ve been tempted by in my rescue work was an Elkhound puppy that I transported – I spent a half-day with her and was a serious “flight risk!” Thanks for providing a safe and happy place for Ginny to recover and find her forever home.

    • Knowing that my future plans to live on a sailboat don’t allow me to have too many dogs helps me avoid foster failure. My husband is another matter. He gets distracted too easily. :)

      It’s probably a good thing you had someone waiting for that Elkhound at your drop-off point, huh? I wouldn’t want to read about your turning up on a reality tv show – Dog Thieves Unmaksed or the like.

  2. Wonderful post — and in synch with what I’ve been thinking about. I could never foster when Frankie was alive because he was not exactly open to other pups. But I’m contemplating it now as the solution to wanting furry company but wanting to travel too.

    • One of Frankie’s great gifts to you was showing you all the things you could do for a dog that you probably never expected when he came into your life.

      I think you’d make a great foster and could see it fitting in well with your travel. Besides that, a real need is foster houses without other dogs in them. As you well know, some dogs just need human company and don’t like to be with other dogs.

      We occasionally get fosters who don’t like other dogs because Honey is able to stay out of their way and keep them from stressing out too much. But the ideal would be to find a foster who doesn’t currently have other dogs in the home.

      I’m thrilled that you listened to your heart by helping out at an adoption event. I know your heart will tell you if and when fostering would be good for you.

  3. We have fostered in the past and feel the same as you – it was a positive experience and we were happy to give the dogs a safe haven. We stopped when Tino went blind as it would have been too much for him and our situation hasn’t lended itself to bringing in strange dogs. Although, Jack & Maggie are doing so well, I am beginning to consider it. It is hard to see them go, but you are right, the rewards are great!

    • You make a good point about your situation changing so that fostering wasn’t a good idea.

      I think people assume that once you start fostering you have to do it forever. But if your own dog or life circumstances don’t allow you to continue, that’s ok. You were there for the dogs who needed you.

      If enough of us foster when we can, it makes it easier for people to step away from it when they need to.

  4. People on the street – now THAT’S the scary part for introverts! lol. Fleeting small talk with strangers is way worse than long conversations working alongside fellow volunteers towards a common goal.
    Happy to read Ginny found an awesome permanent home! And I love that Honey is just as much of the fostering team as you guys.
    Fostering isn’t a fair decision for us, our 4 pets, or any potential fosters, but I have such strong admiration for those who do it – for dogs with ‘issues’ and dogs without. And it’s so much better to have dogs in a home environment generally, over a shelter environment.

    • I worried about dogs going from their original home to a shelter to a foster to another foster to a new home. But you’re right. The home environment does seem to relax most dogs much more than all the changes appear to stress them.

      As for the street conversations, here’s what I’d suggest for introverted fosters: put a coat on your dog that says “Adopt Me.” And then when someone comes up to you, hand them a card describing the dog and where they can get more info. If they try to talk to you, say “You’re not adopting me. Play with the dog.” :)

  5. I can’t do any fostering at the moment, but when I do contemplate it I wonder am I better served fostering temporarily until a new home is found or is it better to be the new home? I don’t know. But I applaud you Pamela, it’s a good thing you are doing.

    I’m super happy that Ginny found her forever home.

    • Why contemplate whether you’re better off providing a temporary home for foster dogs or a permanent home for rescue dogs? We need both, right? Everyone does what they can.

      And remember that every time Delilah demonstrates her clever food stealing abilities that she ended up in the right place. We both know plenty of people who would see that as an imprisonable offense. :(

  6. You are a great person for fostering, I am a foster person for chessie rescue. I only have gotten one foster so far but willing to help out when needed because these pets need our help. Thank you for your post and for what you do!

    • It was a breed rescue volunteer who helped me find Honey’s breeder. It’s great that people use their breed knowledge to help the dogs they love most.

      I suspect that chessies are not common enough in your area for you to be flooded with dogs needing rescues. That’s a good thing.

      My sister lives on the eastern shore of MD and I’ve seen plenty of CBRs running loose there that I’d like to rescue.

  7. I’m so happy for Ginny!

    I’ll have to wait for a post-Silas era to foster, unless he continues to make great progress. He takes my personal space Very Seriously with other people, and if he acted out the same behaviors with a dog we would have trouble on our hands. Too bad, because some time with a more confident dog would do him a lot of good, I think.

    • Like I said to Jodi, the whole idea is to find homes for dogs. Some of us do it by fostering dogs. And others of us do it by giving lots of love and attention to an Imperfect Dog who needs us.

      I wonder if walking Silas with another person and their mellow, confident dog would help him? One time I tried to walk our shy foster dog, Cherie, while Honey and my husband slept in. She shut down out on the sidewalk before practically pulling me back home.

      Once I woke Honey and leashed her up, Cherie did much better. I do think Honey’s fearlessness on a walk taught Cherie something I could not.

      If you ever find yourself wanting a vacation in the NY finger lakes, look us up. Honey would be happy to show off her favorite walks to Silas.

  8. What an amazing story! I’m one of those who said I couldn’t bear to give them up, but yes you’ve convinced me. I had to laugh, I’m one of those introverts who loves people as long as I don’t have to see them all the time! I thought your point about talking to your husband about each foster is very important.

    • I have a plan for introvert fosters in my reply to Jen above–it involves handing out little cards to people who want to know about your dog so you don’t have to entertain them. :)

      Fostering is my volunteer activity. But my husband’s willingness to make late night potty runs, feed the dogs when I work late, and even walk them while I’m recovering from a sprained ankle sure makes life easier.

      I like to think that I make his volunteer work with the Red Cross easier too. After all, we’re part of the same team, right?

      Glad you found my arguments convincing. There are certainly fewer tears than smiles in fostering.

  9. I’ve never formally fostered, but living in the country means dealing with discarded pets. Our way of doing that has been taking them in – sometimes for months – until we can find homes. I’d very much like to be in a position in the future to foster for a rescue. A good friend has done this for years with 3 different rescue groups and I know she would echo what you’ve said here. Terrific post!

    • Mike Webster says:

      From the Husband:
      Sounds to me as if you’re already taking some pressure off the shelters and rescues in your area.

    • And it was finding lost dogs roaming the neighborhood that got me thinking more about what I could do to help animals. Mike is right that responding to the dogs in your rural area is its own gift.

      With Agatha and Christie in the house, when I found a stray dog, someone would have to stay in the yard while I was tending to the dog. They just couldn’t handle an outsider in the house.

      That difficulty led me to the tough decision to adopt Honey from a responsible breeder because I thought she could grow into a dog that would work well for fostering. I still wonder if I made the right choice to get a purebreed dog instead of trying to find a rescue with a personality that would also work well with fosters. But I can’t argue with success. Honey has been a wonderful help to me.

  10. I’m hoping we’ll be able to foster once we are both retired. The only problem will probably be convincing the hubs to let the foster dog go… (And I have to agree with my fellow introvert, Jen. I don’t wanna talk to people on the street! Luckily Rita doesn’t like strangers, so I don’t have to at the moment.) :)

    • Yeah, they say women are more nurturing and emotional. But in my house, it’s the husband who brings up foster failure with every new dog that comes into the house. Every. New. Dog.

      But Buster the 8 week old puppy who looked like a polar bear cub and Ginny were the biggest threats. He couldn’t resist them.

      Maybe we could start an online community to buck up men when they need to let the foster dogs go–Foster Dads Anonymous or something? :)

  11. That was a really amazing post about your fostering experiences. I can see why you’d want to be that person who helps a dog find his/her forever home. And you are so lucky to have a dog that is so at ease with all your fosters.

    • I’ll let you in on a secret. Shhh, don’t tell Honey.

      I’ve never been impressed by the look of golden retrievers. They’re the Barbie dolls of the dog world. I just love a mixed breed dog with lots of fur and German Shepherd in the genes. Actually, Sage is probably my idea of the perfect looking dog (minus all the mud, of course).

      Living with Honey, I’ve become convinced of her beauty despite myself. But she’s here because I thought a golden retriever would do well in a house where I’d like to volunteer with dogs.

      So it’s no accident. I went looking for Honey hoping she’d be good with foster dogs. And I struck gold. :)

  12. We are certain it is very rewarding, but we couldn’t handle the attachment, letting go thing. Mom has a hard time letting cousin Lena go home after she stays with us for a week.

    • My husband has a harder time with letting go than I do. We’re all wired differently, aren’t we?

      Of course, some of them come back. We fostered two dogs for someone who now brings them over when she has to travel. We don’t get a chance to miss them because we get to see them again when they visit.

  13. De Cunningham (@skye613) says:

    I would love to foster but have a full house at this point. Instead I volunteer at a shelter twice a week. This way I still feel as though I am helping .

    • Shelter volunteers are fabulous! Most shelters couldn’t do their work without dog walkers, trainers, feeders, and even cleaners.

      Your shelter is lucky to have you.

  14. Sarah Post says:

    Thank you for taking such great care of sweet Ginny! All of us at the shelter are so grateful to have you as a foster parent and enjoy reading about our dogs(and of course Honey!) on your blog. I’m thrilled that she was chosen by such a wonderful couple – what a lucky pup! Enjoy your peace and quiet until we call you up again :)

    Sarah Post
    Adoptions Manager at SPCA of TC

    • Fostering Ginny was a happy experience from the first time we met her to seeing her go to her new home.

      I’ve never worried less about how a foster dog would do in their new home. She is one lucky little girl.

      Thanks for everything you invested in her to get her to this place. Most shelters could not have treated her injuries so she could enjoy a long and happy life.

  15. Oh, tears! And smiles! I will foster. I will. And when I do, I will thank you for the influence you always have on me. I loved this post so much, and I love you and Honey so much more for it. I especially loved hearing about Cherié’s story. And I’m happy for Ginny and her person. But even though I never met her in person, I’m still feeling a loss because I won’t get to see her on your blog anymore. Oh, I’m a total sap! Boo-hoo…congratulations to you and all you’ve helped.

    • Maybe there won’t be Ginny stories. But you realize this is a serial, right? :)

      BTW, do you ever think about the role a pet sitter plays in keeping dogs and cats in forever homes? People who work too many hours to get home for a walk or who travel for business or fun might not have dogs if they couldn’t rely on a trustworthy person to help them.

      I read that in France (yes, that dog-loving country), shelters explode with dogs at the beginning of the summer. Apparently, lots of people dump their dogs in shelters when they go on extended vacations at the beach. :(

      So even without fostering, your work helps keep pets in their homes. Cool, huh?

  16. What a wonderful post, thank you for sharing! It couldn’t be any truer than what you said – the happy will outweigh the sad no matter what. I’m also happy to hear that a loving furever home was able to find Ginny, and that she is happy and safe.

    As a part of Furry Foster, I am often looking to share amazing and touching posts like yours that shares all the different aspects of fostering rescues. We would love to feature this post of yours as a part of our blog as a resourceful entry for people that are considering pet fostering. If possible, we’d definitely like to feature this post! We also share stories like yours on our Facebook, updated daily, so feel free to check us out as well at facebook.com/furryfoster :)

    Again, thank you for sharing this post and for all that you do for the welfare of animals.

  17. So glad you liked it. And I checked out Furry Foster and think it’s very cool. What a great way to make it easier for rescues to find foster families!

    I’d be happy to have you share my post on your blog as long as you link back to the original post. When you do, please let me know. You can send me an email at somethingwagging at gmail dot come.

    • We definitely will link back and credit you for the blog post. Thank you and we’ll let you know when we’ve posted it :)

      Also, thank you for sharing our Sydnee’s Grooming fundraiser! We need all the help and support we can get!

  18. My friend Sue from Talking Dogs led me over here to your site… I’ve been fostering off and on for a few years now working with several different rescues. I will admit to being a foster failure as well. Meaning, I’ve adopted 2 fosters. My first foster was a puppy that I just couldn’t let go. He’s my mama’s boy. The second was an English Coonhound that my hubby fell for! We’ve fostered a dozen or so since we’ve started and while yes, it can be very hard to let them go, it opens your home to save another from shelter or pound life.

    We have 8 dogs of our own (all rescues and 1 stray that showed up and never left) so we’ve learned what type of dogs work best for us as fosters – females, young or older. It’s not always easy introducing them to the pack. We have 4 males and 4 females so they have an established pack order and newbies cause a little chaos the first day or two. Fortunately I’ve only had one foster that didn’t work out with us. Important thing to note is that shelter dogs come with a past – they are cast out, dumped, abused, neglected, etc. They aren’t perfect dogs right off the bat when you bring them home. A foster parent teaches as much as provides love, care, and a regular meal.

    When we aren’t fostering, we volunteer with the rescues or shelters, advocate for particular breeds such as pit bulls and coonhounds, share dogs in need via social media, help with transporting, fundraising, donate. There’s lots of ways to help out if you aren’t ready to foster. Important thing is to do something if you can. Sorry for the long post!

  19. I think I am a foster addict. Working at a shelter contributes to it for sure, but I have fostered for several rescues or groups that are not associated with my shelter as well. Every time I think I’m ready to take a break, another animal that needs us appears. I do agree that you meet a lot of awesome people fostering, I love that. I love “meeting” new animals too and I think our dogs benefit from the extra socialization. We have had a pretty depressing lot of fosters for our last few… I have a soft spot for the “on the edge” ones and we weren’t able to save our last three – one dog for behaviorial reasons, and one cat and one dog for severe medical reasons. Our current foster is a lovely and healthy guy who we were able to socialize after he grew up in a puppy mill and he is meeting an adopter on Saturday! Looking forward to a happy ending for once :)

  20. Congrats to Ginny!

    Thank you for writing about fostering. It’s such a great thing, and I’m thankful so many people are able to open their homes to dogs who need them, if only until a forever home can be found. Maybe one day….

  21. Aw, I’m so glad Ginny found her perfect home, and that her foster momma survived it! I just know you’re going to go on to create even more happy endings for even more dogs in need. Thank you for all you do!

  22. You make me so excited about the idea of fostering. I just hope that I get accepted as a fosterer by a rescue. I am so pleased that Gunny has found her perfect home and that you have managed to say good bye to her without too much heartbreak. You, your hubby and the very lovely Honey are inspirational!

  23. I’ve been fostering since 2002, and while I still occasionally get sad that I can not keep them all, that one fact has really hit home and I know what I do is very valuable not only to the kittens I care for, but for the people who take them and as well as the cats and kittens I can’t foster. By taking in some kittens that opens up space for other cats.. by making kitties friendly and outgoing and in tern have very happy new owners, they spread the word about what wonderful animals the shelter has, which gets more feet in the door..

    not to mention giving a real boost to the shelter workers. Prior to the fostering program, all kittens too small or too sick to be immediately (or quickly) adopted were euthanized. Imagine the burn out for the shelter staff having to euthanize box after box of kittens..

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