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10 Reasons to Foster a Shelter or Rescue Dog

So what if you can foster only one dog in your entire lifetime? It still means the world to that dog.

 |  Jun 18th 2014  |   4 Contributions


As a father and son walked along the beach after the high tide began to ebb, they noticed starfish baking in the hot sun. The boy stopped, picked up a crustacean and flung it into the ocean. A few minutes later he tossed another one in the water, and then later another. “Son, what are you doing?” the man asked.

“I’m saving starfish.”

The father gestured to the beach littered with thousands of dying sea creatures. “There are thousands of them. What difference could you possibly make?”

The boy picked up a starfish. He ran fingers across the rough surface and then threw it into the water. The starfish landed with a small splash and the boy smiled broadly. “It made a difference to that one.”

This year millions of bewildered dogs will find themselves in animal shelters. It’s overwhelming to think in terms of such vast numbers. While you may not be able to help every homeless pet, just saving one frightened dog from death in an animal shelter would mean the world to that dog.

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Compare this setting to a real home with real people.

Partnering with an animal shelter or rescue group and offering a needy dog short-term sanctuary is a lifesaver. So what if you only foster one dog in your entire lifetime? Remember, it means the world to that dog. Contact a local rescue group or animal shelter and offer to open your home to an abandoned pooch. 

With that in mind, here are 10 reasons why you should foster homeless dogs:

1. You get to add "hero" to your resume

You can rightfully brag that you’re a bona fide lifesaving hero. Maybe you didn’t drag a person out of a burning building, but if you foster a homeless dog you have, in fact, saved a life. That should make you feel all warm and gooey inside. 

Fostering saves millions of animals every year. Most animal shelters have limited space and resources. Consequently, the dogs in their care often have a narrow survival window. When you invite a homeless pet into your home, it opens up a kennel, allowing the shelter to rescue another needy dog. Two lives for the price of one. Any shopper knows that’s a great deal!

2. It's a trial run for people who can't make a long-term commitment 

Do you have difficulty even saying the word “commitment” out loud? People who break into a cold sweat when they hear the words “marriage” or “engagement” can enjoy canine companionship without that 10- to 14-year obligation. You could have a series of one-month stands without raising eyebrows. Fostering is temporary. 

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Senior citizens can offer foster homes to settled, older dogs rather than leaving behind a young pet when the person crosses the Rainbow Bridge. 

3. It's like speed dating, only slower

If you’re considering adding a dog or puppy to your family, think of fostering as speed dating doggie-style. By fostering, you get to live with a number of dogs. You'll see them with their hair down, so to speak, at their best and worst. You’ll know a dog intimately before you need to make that lifelong commitment. You’ll also learn whether or not your family and other pets are ready for a new family member. If he’s not a good fit, don’t worry. It’s not forever. 

You’ll also get to see if kids actually keep their promise and step up to care for the new puppy, and if they’ll continue to honor their promise after the new-dog feeling wears off.

4. Fostering is perfect for penny pinchers

If you’re living on a fixed income or are concerned about future veterinary expenses, then fostering gives you companionship without cost. Make sure you get an agreement from the shelter that spells out exactly what they pay for.

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Puppy and dollars by Shutterstock

Expenses to ask about include: vet care, food, and flea/heartworm preventive. They usually require you to go to specific vet -- and don’t forget to get all vet visits approved ahead of time. Some shelters even provide dog food, toys and leashes. 

5. It gets you off your posterior 

Foster dogs need to be walked and played with. Throwing a ball or jogging around the block will inspire you to get off of your own tail and get some exercise.

6. You can have a lifetime supply of puppies 

Would you like a perpetual supply of puppy breath? Do you need an occasional puppy fix? Because you can pick and choose dogs you want to foster, you can always have a bouncy puppy around. Once they get adopted, you can start over with a fresh batch of babies.

7. You get guilt-free live-birth demonstrations

You can show your kids the miracle of life without adding to the population of unwanted pets by fostering a pregnant dog. Don’t forget to get your personal pets spayed and neutered! 

8. Rescue groups can't save lives without foster homes

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Rat Terrier puppy by Shutterstock

Many rescue groups have no brick-and-mortar shelters. They depend on foster families to care for their little charges. 

9. You'll be springing a homeless dog from the shelter -- and maybe even from death row

“My house is too small,” I hear you say. Not to worry. Even a one-room efficiency is better than a noisy cage surrounded by frightened animals and scary smells.

10. Some animals need a halfway house

Your canine halfway house helps wonderful, adoptable pooches who don’t do well in a shelter setting. Being trapped in a kennel surrounded by other barking dogs, nightmarish smells, and strange people can cause even the most friendly dog to cower. Foster homes give shy or fearful dogs a chance to learn to trust and come out of their shells. Homeless dogs experience everyday sights, sounds, smells, and activities of a typical home, making it easier for a dog to seamlessly move into a new home. 

Also, foster parents can share the dog’s personality with prospective families to help determine whether or not a dog will fit into their household. For example, if he’s housebroken, likes kids, is not good with other dogs, gets along with cats, etc.

Other dogs may need the TLC a shelter can’t give them, such as orphan puppies, pregnant dogs, sick dogs, pups recovering from an injury or surgery, and dogs who need help with behavior problems. Without foster homes, many shelters quickly euthanize these special-needs pets.

Be a hero. Open your family to a homeless dog. It means everything to that dog.

Read more about fostering:

Read more about rescue on Dogster:

About the author: Dusty Rainbolt has been fostering homeless pets since for a quarter of a century, entitling her to wear a silver dog tag. She is the editor-in-chief of AdoptAShelter.com and vice president of the Cat Writers’ Association. Her latest award-winning novel is Death Under the Crescent Moon (Yard Dog Press). 

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