Charlie (aka Radar)
Most people know how fostering benefits animals and adopters. When dogs go to foster homes, it frees up space in shelters for other needy animals and helps the foster dogs get used to a home situation and work on negative behavior. Adopters benefit because the foster can provide information to help judge if the animal is a good fit for their family. So what does the foster parent get out of it? Answer: A lot!
Having a pet, particularly a dog, is good for a family because it teaches children responsibility and compassion. It is good for adults, particularly seniors, because pets provide company and keep their guardians active and involved. But there are many reasons why adopting a pet might not be possible at certain times. Maybe your living situation is uncertain and you might have to relocate some time in the near future because of employment or housing issues. Maybe you travel a lot, for business or pleasure, and think it not fair to board a pet often or for long periods. Maybe you can’t afford expensive vet bills (always possible). Or maybe you just aren’t sure if having a dog is right for you.
Last spring, I was retired and living alone when my last dog (a Muttville mutt) crossed the rainbow bridge. In one way, it was a new-found freedom and a bit of a relief. I saved a lot of money on vet bills; I was able to take a vacation without worrying about who would take care of my dog (with no family in the area, this becomes hard and expensive as a dog gets older and has medical issues); and when my family visited from out of town, we could spend a whole day out in San Francisco or Santa Cruz without worrying about getting home to feed the dog. I decided that I would not get another dog – at least for a while.
However, I found that I really, really missed the company of a dog. So I decided that fostering – for Muttville of course – would be a good compromise; I could have the companionship of a dog and help get it ready for its forever home, but not be tied down as a permanent dog guardian. I have fostered five different dogs and really enjoyed it. I had a loving animal to keep me company while I took care of it. But if I was traveling or had another conflict, I could leave the dog at Muttville. Meanwhile I was back to taking walks in the neighborhood and reconnecting with neighbors on the other end of the block (I am somehow incapable of walking around the block without a dog to lead me) and I got to know some wonderful Muttville dogs.
People ask if it is hard to give up a foster dog. I have had my fosters for as few as 3 days and as long as 3 months, and some good-byes are harder than others. But in every case, I have either met the forever parent or connected via email or phone, and felt very good about the family my foster was joining. The new parents have all sent photos of the dog in his new home with his new animal siblings, which is very heart warming. It also feels good knowing that I have helped my fosters find homes by increasing their exposure to different people, testing their tolerance for cats (with the help of a cat-parent neighbor), or working on problem issues. One foster had a habit of peeing in the house – mine and others – that we worked hard to overcome.
Are you the proud parent of Muttville dog? Send us your story! Include three of your favorite photos and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line 'Success Story'.