By Jay Boehmer
When most people come to a pet rescue, they come looking for a new family friend for now and forever. So when presented with the idea of fostering, many simply ask Why? They think to themselves: I didn’t come here to get a dog for a few days, weeks or months. I want one for years to come. Some come to volunteer but say I could never foster because It would break my heart to give them away, I get too attached. However, these people are forgetting the nature of the organization they’re with. It’s a pet rescue. Rescue implies danger – these pets are often in immediate danger of being euthanized if they aren’t taken out of the shelter by someone, anyone. Rescuing is a process with that first step they can’t always afford to take the time to make sure a family finds the perfect match – the “forever home.” Because of this, foster homes are desperately needed so the rescue – which can’t support its own temporary shelter – has a place to evacuate these in-danger dogs.
Of course, besides the immediate act of rescuing an animal-in-need, there are many benefits – both for the foster family and the dog – to fostering. Here are two of the most important:
Fostering prepares a dog for adoption.
Think about it, if you wanted to adopt a dog into your home,which looks like a better candidate? The dog who was abused / abandoned / beaten and is now locked in a shelter because they’re too scared / unsocialized /untrained / territorial / etc, or the dog who spent the last month in a foster home adjusting, socializing, gaining confidence and training? The choice is clear. A dog who has spent time with a family – maybe among children – and proven themselves is going to be adopted infinitely faster than a dog with a dark history. A fostered dog is like a job candidate with experience and a reference on their resume.
Fostering prepares you for adoption.
Just as fostering gives a dog a short-term opportunity to be a family’s pet, it gives the fostering family a short-term opportunity to see if they’re ready for a long-term commitment. Fostering may allow a family to discover things about their own house and family that may affect their decision-making process when adopting in the future – maybe their current pets will need a specific type of companion in order to feel comfortable and get along, someone in the home could have unknown allergies, or they simply discover what breed / age / size / activity level dog fits best into their lifestyle.
However, you should be careful in thinking about fostering as a trial period to take in the dog you want, knowing you can always “return” it or pass it along to someone else if it’s not what you expected. You shouldn’t think of a foster dog as your own. It’s someone else’s dog. That person just hasn’t found it yet. Fostering can be hard work. But that hard work is yet another way that it helps to prepare you for adoption.
So if you think you’re ready for fostering, there are some questions to consider. Are you ready for the time commitment that a dog – one which might very well come with some needs – requires? Are you ready to work with the dog to find its own strengths and weaknesses, drawing on what it’s good at and working on what it isn’t? Are my pets ready to welcome another into our home? Are the rest of my family members ready to commit to helping as well?
When you’ve thought these questions over, and are confident that you’re ready to foster, contact your local pet rescue to discuss it with employees and adoption consultants. Then, all that’s left is to do is apply!