So you want to be a dog foster

I think most of us dog lovers have thought about fostering dogs at some point, but maybe weren’t sure where to begin or what exactly is involved. I decided to ask a friend of mine, Kara Jakubec, who fosters along with her sister Katy, some questions about her experience as a dog foster to find out more info. Kara and Katy have been fostering for over two years, mostly for Secondhand Mutts, and have had 18 dogs stay with them over the course of that time.

So if you’ve ever wanted to know what kind of financial commitment goes into fostering, how much say you can have in the dogs you foster and how it feels to give up a dog, keep on reading.

Why did you get involved in fostering? 

My sisters, Katy and Kristina, and I have loved dogs since we were very small and continually denied ownership of one by our father. Though he eventually caved and we got Oreo, our dalmatian, we always wanted more. When Katy and I lived together in Chicago, she brought Nelly, the beagle, and we later adopted Murphy Lee, the cocker spaniel. We saw how well they got along and how caring for two dogs wasn’t much more work than caring for one, so we decided to help out rescue organizations by providing a space for dogs in need of fostering.

How long on average is the time commitment?

The time commitment for fostering varies, and it really depends on what kind of commitment you want to make. We have had dogs stay with us for as short as a three-day weekend and as long as three months, though we have known others to foster one particular dog even longer. Finding the right forever home can sometimes take awhile, and providing as much stability in the meantime is key.

Baxter, Kara and Katy's most recent foster. Baxter is going to his forever family this weekend!
Baxter, Kara and Katy’s most recent foster. Baxter is going to his forever family this weekend!
We are fortunate to volunteer with Secondhand Mutts (SHM) which has a great network of foster families and is related to the Mutt Hutt, a dog daycare and overnight boarding facility. While we personally try to commit to fostering a dog from intake to adoption, SHM works with foster families who might need a break for a vacation or a swap to a dog that fits in better with their home. Additionally people can volunteer as short-term fosters to keep dogs while long-term fosters go on holiday or when a dog is definitely getting adopted but just needs a place to stay for a few days.

Can you choose what kind of dog you want to foster?

Secondhand Mutts does a super job of matching dogs in need of fostering to foster families based on both the foster dog’s needs and temperament as well as the foster family’s availability and resources. We tend to foster dogs that are low-key and moderately energetic to match our pack’s mentality; we also generally foster older dogs that are housebroken because we are not home all the time to work on that.

How hard is it to give up the dog for you?

This also varies, for sure. We have had some dogs who we totally love and could keep forever; we have had some dogs who are great but also need to leave ASAP. (Kidding.) But it can be difficult depending on how long the dog stays and how closely we (and our pack of dogs) bond with the dog. I try to keep in mind the whole time that this is a temporary situation that is good for the dog while we have him or her, but ultimately he or she will be moving on to the best situation possible in a forever home.

What is the financial commitment for fosters?

The financial commitment is pretty light, especially if you volunteer with an organization that provides everything from food to medical care. Our fosters usually end up on the same diet as our pack (keeping them from eating each other’s chow can be a difficult task) so we usually “donate” in the form of buying food. Other than that it’s completely free!

What was your hardest foster case?

We have had a few that are tough with dogs that were going through a trauma. Two in particular were Sriracha, a chihuahua-esque puppy who we saw through a leg amputation, and Butterball, a big guy (maybe beagle-pit mix) who basically had PTSD. Butterball (or Butters, as we called him) came to us by way of a family that asked their vet to have Butters put down after their child developed allergies, so we knew his original situation had to be the pits. He eventually came around with our pack and is now living happily with a great family, but it was tough to let him go having seen all the progress he made with our dogs.

Do you have any foster failure (a dog you kept from fostering) stories?

We have two foster failure stories, and both of them apply to us! Every now and then we will foster two dogs at a time — usually if they are a bonded pair, like Barry and Joey, these hilarious chihuahua-terrier mixes who our neighbor just found one day in his yard. Also if we only mean to have the second one for a week or two, it’s like dog sitting and easy.

Anyway we had just gotten “Gabby” into our care when we were asked to look after “Bella” for a week. Both dogs were so fun and amazing and they became best friends immediately. As luck would have it applications for both dogs started rolling in and the idea of losing either dog made us feel sick…so they both stayed with us! Bella is still Bella; “Gabby” is now known as Frankenstein.

In case anyone reading this is looking for a dog, tell us about the dog you are currently fostering.

Most recently we fostered Baxter, a beagle/King Charles/collie-type mix, who was taken in as a stray after he was seen running around the Kenmore area for around a year’s time. Baxter was one of our favorite fosters ever! He loves people and other dogs, playing and napping, and was totally housebroken. He was a gem and we are so happy for his new forever family.

Abra is still looking for a home. Contact Secondhand Mutts for more information.
Abra is still looking for a home. Contact Secondhand Mutts for more information.

At Secondhand Mutts right now there is a super sweet girl named Abra who is in need of a foster or forever home! Abra was taken to the City of Cleveland Kennel a week before Christmas…with her 10 puppies! All of the puppies have been adopted — and Abra herself had a family for a short time — but she is back at Secondhand Mutts right now looking for a forever home. Abra is a very social, housebroken girl who gets along wonderfully with children, other dogs, and cats. MOre information about Abra can be found at the SHM’s website: http://secondhandmutts.org/abra/

What advice would you give someone who wants to start fostering?

Go for it! Seriously. I mean, first have a good chat with the organization through which you would like to foster. Get a sense of the organization’s ability to work with you and the dog in terms of transitioning to your home and back if it isn’t the best fit for you and your pack. And, like with any dog, be patient with this new (albeit temporary) member of your family. Most of the dogs are coming with some problems other than simply being without a home and they need — and will benefit from — all the love they can get!

If you have specific questions about dog fostering, you can reach Kara at karajakubec@gmail.com or contact your local rescue group.