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Norwich Bulletin - 7/10/2005

Canine Foster Homes

It is terribly hard to be a foster home - I know that first hand because for the last ten years my husband and I have been a foster home to well over 1,000 cats. All the time spent resocializing them, getting them to trust you, trips to the vet - our entire family would spend time making a damaged little cat whole again and then the ultimate happiness/sadness; watching your little ward go off to another home. But, someone has to do it.

Shelters and rescue organizations cannot get enough of good foster homes and are always searching to find just one more good home. But being a foster home, especially a canine foster home, is very time consuming and heart wrenching. Any potential foster parent should consider all the angles before committing to giving a dog temporary food, shelter, training and one on one companionship.

Fostering any animal primarily involves caring for it as if it were your own - but foster care for a dog is a much bigger commitment than my husband and I are able to do. While a lot of people may think fostering is a shortcut to adjusting to dog ownership, that belief is pretty much a fallacy.

You have to remember that the dog you take into your home to foster is "broken" and needs to be fixed. There are reasons that these dogs are given up and it is usually because the owners have not put any time into their pet, causing behavior problems that they don't want to be bothered with. For instance, you may get a dog that is not housebroken, that may have food or toy aggression, that may have separation anxiety or be a fear biter.

Some of these foster dogs have been abused and must learn to trust again - this requires a lot of care and time, even more than the average dog might need. If you believe that you have the physical and emotional resources necessary to foster a dog, it can be an extremely rewarding way to volunteer.

It is also the most intensive and unselfish way to volunteer - giving totally of yourself to a dog in order to help it function back in society, and then watching it leave to go to another home. Dogs bond very fast (much faster than cats) and many times you would be the first person to use positive reinforcement with the dog. It will be very, very hard for you to believe giving up the dog is the best thing to do for the dog.

The way that Clint and I have come to terms with all the cats we grow to love and must say goodbye to, is that we cannot keep them all, which means we would have to stop fostering - and so many good cats would die if it were not for us.

All of the organizations are looking for good foster homes. Call your local rescues to see if you can learn a little more about the trials and rewards of fostering a homeless dog.

However, before you call, there are some questions you should ask yourself before committing to any kind of foster care program:

  1. Does the shelter or group provide food or veterinary care, or does the foster home pay the expenses?

    For instance, Helping Paws provides the medical care for their foster animals, but most of our foster homes provide the food and litter as part of their contribution to the organization. Every rescue has its own budget.

  2. Are you able to provide one on one attention to a dog with special needs, such as resocialization or perhaps a recovery from a long illness?

    Most foster dogs have never had a good home and it can be overwhelming for the dog. It takes patience to teach the dog that they are in a good situation and it could be a couple of months before the dog is ready to find its forever home.

  3. Is your home suitable for foster dogs? Do you have enough room, an outdoor fenced in area for large dogs to run?

    You need to have foster dog friendly space - a crate the dog can call its own, somewhere to exercise and play, it's own food bowl and toys.

  4. Can you handle saying goodbye?

    This is the hardest question you will need to answer. Sometimes the answer will be no. Most of the time though, you know that your goodbye is your gift and you find a way to do it.

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