My husband and I have been fostering dogs for about four years now. We have fostered just about every imaginable age and breed in a variety of contexts, including private fostering, fostering for a local animal shelter, and fostering for rescue groups. It is through our current rescue group partner that we recently did a short-term, defined-period foster stint. If you’ve never fostered and worry about things like, “But what if I fall in love or never find the dog a forever home?” then this kind of arrangement may be for you.
Defined-period, short-term fostering can be done for a number of reasons, but one of the most common is fostering a dog in advance of transport to a rescue in another part of the country. In my area — just outside of Houston, Texas — the pet overpopulation problem is staggering. The two largest shelters in the area take in a combined 45,000 animals a year. Yes, you read that right: 45,000.
To reduce euthanasia rates, shelters and rescues here often partner with organizations in other parts of the country where overpopulation is not an issue. The dogs chosen as candidates for these transports need to be held in foster care until they can be certified healthy to travel, and in most cases until they are spayed or neutered. For an already altered dog, this period may be as short as two weeks. In the case of our last two fosters, it was about a month and a half.
Meet Sydney and Sassy. We picked these two up through our local rescue group, 4 Paws Farm, and agreed to get them through all their puppy shots as well as their spay and recovery prior to travel. They were somewhere between four and five months old when we first got them and actually just left last weekend on their respective transports. (More on that in a bit.)
They had just received their initial health check and first puppy shots when we got them, and it was our job to get them back to the vet for second and third shots, plus spay. The expense was covered by the rescue, but the chauffeuring was up to us. Our only other responsibility was the same as with every foster: love them and get them ready for a forever home.
The loving them is the easiest part. But wait, you say: Don’t you sometimes fall in love and want to keep them? Well, yes, we fall in love, but these girls were already promised to another group. And that is actually a really good thing. If you have any worry at all that you won’t be good at giving up a foster pet, this is a way to ensure you go into it with the right mindset and expectations.So did I fall in love with these dogs? Of course I did … look at them! Was it sad to let them go? It is always bittersweet. But they are on their way to completing other families. And there are 44,998 dogs right behind them who need help here.
In their six weeks with us, the girls mastered potty training, learned to sit, and mostly learned not to chew things that don’t belong to them. They both learned exceptional snuggling skills and how to take car rides with grace. They learned how to be good pets.
The girls were scheduled to go to New Leash on Life in La Crosse, Wisconsin, along with their brother Scotty, who was in another foster home. But along the way, one of my Facebook friends in Oregon fell in love with Sydney. She sent in an application to New Leash on Life, and after a review and home visit by a rescue organization local to her, was approved to adopt. When it was time to go, Sydney hopped a few 18-wheelers (via Liberty Ride Transport) to get to Oregon. The other two did the same but with the original La Crosse destination.
As of today, Sydney is settling into her new home, and Sassy and Scotty are still available for adoption through New Leash on Life. We are already fostering more puppies — this time ones who will stay in Texas (unless we have another out-of-state friend who falls in love). We enjoyed the certainty of that short-term arrangement and highly recommend it to first-time fosters, or really anyone who needs a little more structure to their fostering. We’ll probably do it again sometime. As I have said before in regards to our fostering: We’re just playing this fostering gig by ear and waiting for the dogs who need us to find us. And find us, they do.
Have you short-term fostered? Share your experiences in the comments.
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About the author: Lisa Seger (who goes by Blue Heron Farm on most social media platforms) is a former office drone turned dairy farmer and cheesemaker. She found that cubicle jobs just didn’t allow for enough quality animal time and so made animals her work instead. Like all dairy farmers, she has virtually NO free time, but what little she gets is generally spent in pursuit of rescuing, fostering, and placing homeless dogs. Or being a smart-alec on the interwebs. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.