When I took in my first foster Vinnie for Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue someone said to me, “Oh that’s great that you took him in so he doesn’t have to stay at a shelter.” I didn’t have the heart to tell this person that actually Vinnie couldn’t stay at the shelter, that the shelter was days away from putting him down. Overweight and old, Vinnie had sat at the shelter for weeks with no interest. Luckily, many shelters network the dogs they take in and this shelter connected with Pom-savior extraordinaire, Kim Ray at COPR, who agreed to take him in. But Kim couldn’t do that without a network of fosters.
The sad truth is that many shelters don’t have the capacity, or money, to keep dogs for weeks and weeks. There are too many dogs they take in on a daily basis, that space just doesn’t allow it. And if a dog shows any slight sign of aggression, is deemed too shy, damaged or old, the shelter may have to make a tough call. It’s a sad reality, especially since most of these dogs wouldn’t be the way they are in the shelter if they just got a chance to decompress in a home environment. It makes me so sad to think the price they have to pay for circumstances a human has put them in.
So yes, it is true that fostering saves lives. Unfortunately, there are never enough fosters out there to save them all. Part of this is just numbers, but part of it is also that there are still so many misconceptions about what fostering really involves. Here are a few common misconceptions I hear and why they aren’t really true:
It’ll be too expensive
Fosters are not expected to cover all of the expenses of dogs they foster. Vet visits, medication, and often food, are all covered by most rescue groups. Money should never be a deterrent to fostering. As long as you have love to give and a home to provide the dog, you can be a foster.
I’ll have no choice in the type of dog to foster
I love dogs, but I am also not very experienced in dog behavior or training. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to foster because it would only be the high maintenance dogs with behavioral problems that would need homes and I’d be in over my head. After talking with some other fosters, I realized that all help is appreciated and you could let the rescue group know what type of dog would best fit in your life and find the right fit for you. Since I knew I liked Pomeranians, I looked for a Pom rescue group to foster for. Start where you are comfortable and see how you like it. Ultimately rescue groups want the experience to be successful, so you should feel comfortable letting them know if you’d rather have a small dog or a low energy or older dog. You should never feel pressured to take in a dog that isn’t a good fit for you.
It will be on me to find the dog a home
With most groups you can be involved as much or as little as you want in finding the dog a home. The rescue group will network the dog and find the right home, you just need to be in touch with them to tell them about the dog and give recommendations on what the best home for him or her will be. Some groups have events they may want you to take the dog to, but it’s usually not required. One thing you should be willing to do is to take lots of pictures!! Whatever rescue group you foster for will appreciate having pictures to share on their website and social media to network the dog.
I’ll want to keep the dog
To be honest, this one is usually true, but it’s not as impossible as it seems. Yes, it’s hard to say goodbye. Yes, you do get attached. But when you see the dog go off to a happy home, the sadness is fleeting. I think it would be a rare case to find a foster who regrets sending their foster dog off to a new home, no matter how much they loved him or her. It all really depends on your mindset. For as many fosters I’ve known that have “foster succeeded” and adopted their foster dog (I don’t use the term foster fail anymore, because really isn’t it a success when you love the dog so much you want to adopt him or her?) I also know plenty who haven’t. These people generally go in with the mind frame that this is temporary and they want to keep fostering, so they can’t adopt every dog they fall in love with. And one thing that can make it easier is knowing that you can play a role in finding him or her a home and then keep in touch with the family after the dog is adopted. I recently got the chance to watch Brady, one of my fosters, when his parents went out of town.
And yes, I did foster succeed with Roscoe. Sometimes it happens. I don’t regret it for one minute, but it did make me have to step back from fostering. It’s important to know what you can handle and if the right dog comes along, you shouldn’t feel as though you failed. You gave that dog a home, and that’s always a good thing.
Disclaimer: I am only speaking from my experience as a foster for COPR and from conversations I’ve had with other fosters. Different rescue groups may have different requirements or practices. It’s important to discuss with them what you can provide and what your concerns are to ensure it will be a good fit for you.
Check out my foster page to see two dogs currently in need of a foster home: http://dogsinthecle.com/adopt/