What Makes a Great Foster Candidate?
Ready for Anything
You may envision taking in the perfect dog that will have no accidents in your home, walk perfectly on the leash and be healthy. And while that may be the case, and you’ll always have a say in the type of pet you take in, more often than not you’ll encounter a more challenging foster situation.
For example, the Austin Humane Society is not equipped to care for animals less than 8 weeks old, so they rely heavily on volunteers from their foster program to take in newborn kittens (often a pair of them) and very young puppies. Albeit adorable, these young animals are not house-trained, often are not allowed outside and require special care.
Other animals may need to be fostered because they are recovering from medical treatment such as a broken leg or heartworm treatment or because they have been saved from a high kill shelter by a rescue organization that doesn’t have to space to house adoptable animals.
Dogs with behavior or socialization issues often end up with volunteer fosters as well. Fosters can help train these dogs and show them the ropes to make them more adoptable.
Aspiring Pet Owners
You might think fosters should be experienced pet owners or have some sort of special expertise, but Streif says that’s not necessary. While many of the volunteers in the Austin Humane Society program do have animals of their own, novice pet owners can make for equally loving and helpful fosters. Fostering can be a great way to discover what type of animal is best for you and to understand the ins and outs of pet ownership. However, first time fosters probably shouldn’t take on a kitten that needs constant attention or a tough behavior case.
Streif says she encourages families to get involved in fostering. “Not only does it benefit the children to be around dogs, it also benefits animals to be exposed to kids,” she says. After living with a family, a dog will be ready to be adopted by a family.
Fostering pets often isn’t easy, and it’s usually time consuming. You’re responsible for providing food, housing, toys, love and care. That said, fostering pets doesn’t have to be a full time job. Teachers on summer break or retires make great fosters since they can spend more time with the animals, but many fosters do work full time. If you’re gone all day you may need to hire a dog walker or have someone come over once or twice while you’re gone. Streif says she just encourages volunteers to do what they can. While a 1-day old kitten might not be the best match if you have a full time job, there are plenty of animals who need foster homes that can stay in a single room or a crate.
Handling puppies, kittens, problem dogs and sick dogs isn’t always easy. Being patient will help fosters succeed. “Remember that it's like having a new baby but as soon as you get that baby on a schedule and behaving appropriately, they usually get adopted and you get a new baby,” says Lindsey Sherman who has been fostering dogs for Second Hope Rescue in Frederick, Maryland for a year and a half. “It does get tiring, but when it gets tough, it helps me to think about how these dogs wouldn't be alive without my help. You can make a difference, one dog at a time!”
Able to Say Goodbye (or Not)
Not surprisingly, it’s easy to get attached to the animals you foster. While there’s no shame in deciding to adopt an animal you’re fostering, chances are you’ll have to part ways with most of the animals you take in. You may foster an animal for just a few days at a time, but many need care for a few weeks and some situations may even last a few months – plenty of time to get attached.
If you think you may have some or all of these qualities and you’re interested in fostering, contact your local animal shelter or seek out a nearby rescue group to find out how you can help.