Last week my article “” highlighted the growing effort to save dogs from high-kill shelters in the south. In the rural south, neutering is uncommon, leash laws are non-existent and dogs breed prolifically. To save the time, effort and money required to care for and rehome these dogs, shelters resort to mass executions of unwanted pets. In the past decade however, rescuers have successfully adopted and transported thousands of dogs, bringing them north where they can be neutered, cared for and re-homed into a loving, committed homes.
If you log onto one of the rescue sites, you’ll find photos of dogs and puppies (I help out a Ruff Start Rescue here in N.Y.), a form to fill out and a choice of adopting or fostering. Adoption is clear: you’re giving a dog/puppy a permanent home and making a lifelong commitment to nurture and care for them. But foster? That term often causes the novice to pause and consider. What does fostering entail?
My family and I have fostered many dogs over the years from Southern Rescue organizations as well as shelters closer to home. Yes, it’s hard. I fall in love with each and every dog and sob helpless, happy and sad tears as I hand them to their waiting families.
Over the years, I’ve shared my home with Nero, a goofy Rottweiler/Pit Bull mix who could climb a full staircase in just two leaps and hogged the bed like it was his personal dog mat. He lives on Cherry Street in Katonah now and I sometimes think I can hear his magnificent snore when I walk by his new home. And Daisy, that little Jack Russell-Corgi cross stole my heart. She now goes by the name of Babe, summers in the Catskills and lives with our dear friends in Bedford Hills.
This past holiday weekend we attempted to foster a puppy who, had we not volunteered, would have spent the holidays in a crate at the Goldens Bridge Veterinary Center, a loving generous practice that fosters many adoptables. This particular foster didn’t go as planned. We failed in the best way possible—adopting her on Christmas day.
Let me explain a few things about what fostering is not. You do not foster a dog for a weekend to do a test run, returning it on Monday morning with a cavalier, “No thanks.” You don’t foster several dogs in succession hoping to find the perfect one. Whether you adopt a puppy or an older dog, it will take weeks-to-months for the dog to feel settled in a new environment.
Routine homing changes and trips back to a kennel environment are devastating to a dog who longs for home and further upsets a dog’s internal balance. This type of stress can result in illness and impulsive behavior patterns that hinder their chances of a permanent adoption.
When you choose to foster a dog or puppy--or even a dog with a litter of puppies--you’re taking on the same level of responsible pet ownership, however short–lived. While the daily maintenance is provided for (food and leashes) by the rescue group, the commitment to care, train and exercise is part of the fostering package.
Should a foster family fall in love (as we did) they may adopt the dog, but otherwise the consent is that the dog remains in the foster home until it is adopted into a permanent home.
Are you the fostering type? It is a good way to test-run the adoption option without making a long-term commitment. You’ll make many dog-loving connections, save the life and emotional sanity of a dog, and perhaps discover you are ready to have a forever friend.
Here are some fostering options available through my group, Ruffstartrescueny.org. This is just one of many trustworthy adoption groups. Take a minute to add your favorite rescue group to the list—and links to where people can look to your adoptables.
- Anyone of the dogs whose images adorned are available for adoption. My pick of the month, Duke, is now being fostered, but still awaits his forever home. His leads the collage of images with a video of him in action. Bless his foster mom … who routinely fosters dogs and obviously loves her commitment;
- A Mama Red Border Collie dog who needs to be fostered with her litter of 2-week-old puppies. While food and medical care is covered, the commitment involves the emotional and physical care of a mothering dog and her litter;
- Nine 8-week old golden retriever mix puppies in a litter. Adopt one, foster a few, it is a shame to see such little puppies kenneled … though it sure beats a gas chamber!
- Four pure-breed (or so-called) golden retriever puppies;
- And a few extra for the road!