This past week marked one year since I began fostering for Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue. One year ago my first foster, a little white fluff ball named Vinnie, barked his way into my home and changed how I felt about being a dog mom, dog rescue, and, pretty much, my life.
Getting involved, no matter how small your role is, in rescue changes you. Once you open your heart to dogs that have been abandoned, neglected, discarded, whatever the case, it changes how you feel about dogs. If I thought I loved dogs before, it’s on a whole other level now.
The main thing that I’ve learned, which I pretty much knew but is now reinforced 100%, is that there is pretty much no reason to buy a dog. I do understand that some people want or need certain breeds based on their lifestyle, but in general every type of dog can be rescued. And that getting an older dog is probably a better fit for many people who want dogs. They are lower energy and generally potty trained (or were at some point and may just need a refresher). I loved fostering Vinnie, who was probably around 8-10 years old, because he was so mellow and laid back.
Being a foster also taught me a lot about being a better dog mom. I have always been an overprotective dog mom, always worried Hunter is going to get hurt or get sick and it can lead me to protecting him more than I probably should. When you love something as much as I do my dogs, it can be hard to imagine something happening to them. After becoming a foster and seeing what other dogs have been through, I have lightened up a little. To see Vinnie, being dumped at a shelter overweight and old, now playing with toys happily at his new home and Brady (my second foster) bouncing back from losing his mom and being left with strangers, you realize how truly amazing and resilient dogs are. I try to give Hunter a little more space now and realize that he is ok.
Of course the biggest impact of becoming a foster and what has taught me the most, is adopting my second dog, Roscoe – my foster fail. Since I wanted a second dog I had a feeling I would foster fail at some point; the surprising part was the dog that I ended up adopting. Although I don’t dislike Chihuahuas, they weren’t on my list of favorite dogs. I always figured my second dog would be a Corgi or another Pom. It’s a funny thing though, how the right dog just seems to finds you. Early on, even when Roscoe was especially fearful and didn’t seem to be warming up much at all, I just knew in my heart I couldn’t give him up. Although I loved my first two fosters, I didn’t have that same feeling with them. They had easy personalities and I could see any family loving either of them. Roscoe was so sensitive and so scarred that I just wanted to protect him and give him the time and love he needed to feel safe. Once he started opening up more I knew he was here for good, that he had chosen us.
Another big part of adopting Roscoe was his relationship with Hunter. Hunter, although he can be a little bit of a bully, was so sweet with Roscoe, and Roscoe really seemed to take comfort in him. I’ve noticed since introducing Roscoe to more dogs that he is not really a fan of most dogs when he meets them. He will growl and show his teeth, but he never did this with Hunter. It’s like they had an understanding from the beginning. For me it didn’t matter what type of dog Roscoe was, it just mattered that I loved him, Hunter loved him and he needed a home. Ultimately, the type of dog doesn’t matter as long as he fits into your life and you love him. Adopting Roscoe has taught me that.
Roscoe has not been the easiest and it’s still a challenge every day. He still doesn’t like when anyone (even me) walks towards him or picks him up, but I have to remind myself how far he has come from the little guy shaking in the corner he was. And from time to time he’ll slowly back himself up to me for snuggles or nudge me with his paw for pets and I know all of the work is worth it. Although I know I’ve made mistakes along the way (especially with Roscoe), I have also learned a lot and had so much fun. And I have becoming a foster to thank for that.
Two other things I’ve learned: One, fostering can be done at your own pace and any help you can give is appreciated. Since I adopted Roscoe I haven’t been able to foster more dogs (mainly because I don’t have a yard so three dogs would be hard to manage, and I want to give Roscoe more time to be comfortable), but that has not been an issue at all with the rescue group. There are so many other ways to help. You can also take breaks between fosters, request certain types of dogs you’re most comfortable with and really decide what works best for you.
And two – avoiding becoming a foster failure is really, really, really hard. Pretty much everyone does it. It’s important to know what you can handle though and make the best decision not only for the dog, but also for yourself and your lifestyle. With most rescue groups, you can play a role in choosing the family your foster dog goes to, and ideally keep in touch with them once you’ve given the dog up.
I hope to get back to fostering again soon, but I have remained as a volunteer for COPR, doing home visits and hopefully attending some adoption events when they have them in the NE Ohio area. If you have any interest in fostering, I highly recommend it, but there are so many ways to help out local rescue groups.
City Dogs will be holding a Volunteer Orientation this Saturday if you’re interested in finding out more info on ways to get involved in the local rescue community. More info can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1593073500965424/
And, of course, most other rescue groups are also in need for fosters/volunteers so you can always reach out to whatever group you’re interested in! Of course, I’m happy to answer any questions you have as well – I love talking about fostering!