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— October 22, 2013 —

What it means to be a foster.
by Tim Wienckowski

I started fostering almost two years ago. In that time, I fostered several dogs, each with different personalities and needs. Buster was a goofy puppy born to a stray dog who needed to be housebroken and socialized. Bella was a deaf and active puppy who needed to be exercised and learn to calm down in the house. Chooch lived almost all of his life in a kennel and needed to be socialized and learn to trust people. Above all else, every foster dog needed love and a stress free environment for them to recover from the shock of being impounded or discarded by their former families.

There are many benefits the dogs receive being fostered. When you become a foster, you welcome a homeless pet into your family to provide love, structure and a little training. You don’t have to be Cesar Milan, but dogs with basic obedience are much more adoptable and that is the goal after all. Training can include basic obedience (sit, down), house breaking, leash etiquette, minor behavior modification (to correct problems such as jumping, mouthing, barking, destructive chewing, dashing through doors, etc.) as well as socialization and assessing their temperament to determine whether the dog is good with different types of people and other animals. Foster dogs gets a chance to recover from the stress of being kenneled and can learn some house manners so they have a better chance of a successful transition when they find their forever homes. Even a little time with a family, away from the confined space of a kennel and the continual barking, can improve an animal's disposition.

For many foster parents, the biggest concern is falling in love. You have to keep in mind, if you adopt the dog, you may not be able to keep on fostering. It might not be easy to give up a dog that has become part of your family temporarily, but each dog you foster is a reflection of all the work you accomplished together and a piece of you will forever be with that dog. You should take pride in knowing this and that you helped to find your foster a loving forever home. And if that home should end up being your own, I can think of worse outcomes.

Dogs aren’t the only ones who benefit. It’s very rewarding to be a foster parent. I was able to watch each dog I fostered grow to become a better dog and find their way into a loving home. I really enjoy every chance to hear about how they are doing and see pictures of them in their forever homes. My dog loves playing with her foster brothers and sisters and has helped with training. She has been a great model of what is expected and the fosters learn fairly quickly to follow her example. If you already have a dog, it’s a great way to provide play time and exercise while also working on socializing both dogs.

Rescues also benefit greatly from fosters. Fosters provide much of the day-to-day care, some transportation, socialization, and training. Rescues simply cannot provide all of these services for all dogs on their own and the cost involved can limit the services and number of dogs a rescue can help. Fosters also become an expert on their dogs behavior and can provide a more accurate description of the dogs personality and temperament in a home environment. This helps the rescue in finding a suitable, forever home for their dogs. Additionally, a rescue can expand the number of dogs they can take on at one time if they have a strong network of foster homes to help.

Finally, future adopters benefit from dogs being in foster homes. Their new pet will have a strong foundation of home skills and maybe some basic obedience to work with. Adopting a dog that was in a foster home will give you the most accurate picture into what that dog will be like in your home. Often, dogs full personalities do not show in a shelter under all the stress of that environment. Some dogs who appear rambunctious may settle down in a home while some that shut down turn out to be very playful and sweet and some are exactly as they seem in their kennel. You really never know for sure.

I would like to encourage all dog lovers with the time and space to open your home to foster a dog to give it a try. While all rescues hope foster homes are available until that dog finds a home, some rescues may be flexible with your time commitment so don’t be afraid to ask. If you travel for work and can only foster the weeks you are in town or have a busy weekday schedule but can provide a vacation from the kennel on weekends, all time spent is valuable to the rescue and especially to the dogs.


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