When I tell people that I foster dogs, the statement that I hear the most (and that drives me a bit bonkers) is, “Oh, I could never foster, I’d get too attached.”
Or they ask, “Don’t you get attached? Isn’t it hard to let the dog go?”
One word: No.
It’s not hard to let them go. These are not my dogs. Fostering is like babysitting. When you babysit a child, do you ever get so attached that there is no possible way you could give the child back? Of course not. Most of the time you can’t wait for the parents to get back. Didn’t that movie end an hour ago?
I have been fostering dogs for several years, pulling them from the city pound in Miami, under Schnauzer Rescue Cincinnati (the Florida chapter), and just recently became an “official” foster home for several rescues in New York City, where I’ve been spending lots of time. I’ve had dozens of foster dogs come through my home these last few years. How many have I kept? Zero. Not that it won’t happen, it just hasn’t happened yet.
When you watch a friend or family member’s dog for a few days, or even a few weeks, would it ever cross your mind to keep your friend’s dog? Unlikely. It’s not your dog. This is what fostering feels like. Imagine that you leave your dog with a friend for a long weekend and when you come home, she says, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I have grown really attached to Miss Cocopuffs, and I can’t bear the thought of giving her back to you.”
The really cool thing about fostering is that if you truly can’t live without your foster dog, you can most likely adopt him. But that’s beside the point.
I can guarantee that once you become a seasoned fosterer, you won’t want to keep all the dogs that cross your threshold. Well, you might want to, but you will rationally know that it’s not possible, and that giving up the foster dog in your care opens up your home to another dog who might otherwise be killed.
So many dogs die in shelters for lack of foster homes. Most dogs coming out of the shelter system need a little tweaking before they go to a permanent home, which is why fostering works so well. Many have kennel cough – easily treatable. Many need to be spayed or neutered. Many are matted and need grooming. Some are fearful and just need to be in a safe, quiet place for a while. Some are starving and need to be fattened up a bit. But some are well-adjusted dogs that just found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, and simply need an angel to take care of them for a few days or weeks until a rescue can place them in a forever home.
The cool thing about fostering is that typically the rescue takes care of all of the dog’s medical bills. You feed and house the dog, and take him to any vet visits. You treat the dog like one of your own for the short amount of time that you have him, with none of the real financial commitment.
I like “trying out” new dogs. I get to live with dogs of all breeds and sizes, and it’s fun. I also go out of my way to make sure that my two dogs are well-socialized with other dogs, and there’s nothing better for that than bringing strange dogs home all the time. Because I have been fostering since I’ve had my two dogs (who also came from shelters), they welcome strange dogs as if they are meeting old friends.
Another cool thing about fostering is that you can be picky about what kinds of dogs you foster. For example, I can only foster smallish, non-shedding breeds or mixes. I don’t care what age they are, but I prefer dogs over 1 year old. I am partial to Schnauzers and Poodles, too.
Unfortunately, large dogs are the hardest dogs to find foster homes for, so if you can foster a big dog you are an angel times 10.
And you can foster whenever you want. If you have a trip coming up or something going on in your life, you can take a break. There’s nothing that says that once you foster dogs, you always have to have one.
What I’m trying to say here is that fostering is easier than you might think. Even if you fostered one dog a year, think about the huge difference you will have made in that dog’s life, and the pressure you are taking off of a rescue who is trying to do the good work of saving doggie lives.
If you haven’t fostered a dog yet, I urge you to give it a try. Google some rescues in your area and go to their websites to fill out their foster applications. They will call your references and then call to chat with you.
If you do get so attached to your foster dog and adopt him, that’s called a “foster failure,” which is really an “adoption winner,” if you ask me. But it won’t happen with them all. Please, give a dog the gift of life – and give yourself the good feeling of knowing that you are helping to fix a broken system, one doggie at a time.