I realize I’ve written about fostering before, but I’m fairly new at the fostering game. I wanted to provide a personal account of this rewarding experience, and what I’ve learned from the MANY mistakes I’ve made over the past year and a half. If you’re considering fostering or adopting, hopefully I can give you some insight on what to do, and better yet, what not to do and try to help you avoid any of the pitfalls when bringing a shelter dog into your home.
So here goes…
As I stated prior, fostering isn’t for the faint of heart. I say that because it can be hard, especially when bringing a new animal into the home and this is a whole new experience for you, too.
The most important element that helped me make my first, and subsequent other fosters successful was that I listened to the staff at HSCT. They gave me valuable information on how to integrate a foster pet into my family.
But there isn’t a way to know the dogs history, so they couldn’t prepare me for everything…
My first foster baby, Bree, was a shy girl, and fearful of her own shadow. It was advised that I keep her away from other dogs and by herself to allow her to decompress. I was also told she was an escape artist, and to keep her on a leash when taking her outside.
I followed the advise and put her in a room by herself with a bed, food, and a bowl of water. The first night she, tore up her bed and ripped up three sets of blinds trying to escape. She was really my only destructive foster until I brought home Leticia, a current foster, who liked to chew around door frames and cabinets. Both suffer from severe separation anxiety.
Did they get over it? For the most part, yes. How did I solve the problem?
Kenneling isn’t a bad thing. First, most dogs like to have their own personal space and a safe place to go. Crating also teaches bladder and bowel control, and the pup feels more comfortable in their own “room” when I’m not home or at bedtime. (i.e. Also, there are less disagreements with the other dogs, which can flare up from time to time)
I always give them something to do, and everyone has ample time outside, plus “mommy time” when I’m home. Crating has worked out well, plus my home, wallet, and sanity have remained much better intact.
You can never be sure if who you bring home is dog or cat friendly, so be prepared. I’ve only had a couple that didn’t like other dogs and those viewed cats as lunch. Fortunately, I do have space for “only dogs” and keep them away from the others. I play “musical dogs” so everyone gets their turn going outside and hanging out with mom. While some find it a problem, it hasn’t been an issue for me.
Chico, is a prime example. He was an owner surrender, and pretty much left on his own in the backyard before he came to the shelter. He hasn’t been socialized, therefore, he’s not a fan of other dogs or cats. He can be around one or two dogs in very small doses, a situation I rarely put him in for obvious reasons. Cat’s are put away before Chico makes his daily appearance.
Occasionally, you get a dog who’s quirky or they’re difficult to connect with. I’ve had two. Dodge, on the left, had no clue he was a dog or how he was supposed to behave. He was also fearful. Fortunately, my dogs loved him, and over time, he learned how to behave, which is a benefit for having dog friendly fosters. My dogs teach routines and behavior. Still, I wondered if I’d ever find Dodge a forever home. As they say, there is an owner for every adoptable dog out there and Dodge found his. Not only did he find the perfect home, he is now a service dog.
Jigs (on the right) is a sweetheart and a wonderful dog, but it’s going to take someone special to get his quirks, which I prefer to see as part of his charm. I suspect he was abused, and it takes him a while before he trusts or bonds. The strangest thing about Jiggie, is that it took forever for him to go through the backdoor. I’m assuming he was punished for trying to come inside that entrance and that causes his fear. He’s been with me four months, and he only now feels comfortable coming inside through the rear egress, but he’s doing it! Just takes patience.
Dogs shelter behavior won’t necessarily be the same once you get them home. Many jump or are hyper in the kennels, others will cower in the back and act shy.
Is this their true personality? No, not at all. With time and patience, they gain confidence, they’re socialized, trained and become much better dogs. Adoptable. Lady Tremaine was one of my fosters. Every time I approached her kennel, she barked, growled, and was an all around grouch. Outside, and once I had her home, she turned out to be one of the sweetest, best behaved dogs I’ve fostered. She’s now basking in the perfect forever home.
Sometimes the dog gets adopted, but they comes back. My foster, Harris was returned because he wasn’t a good fit. Was I upset? No, actually, I was glad he came back to me. If the owner didn’t feel it was working and kept him anyway, Harris would’ve been miserable. It was obvious when I brought him home, he was happy to be back. And the good news? He found his forever family a week later, and he’s doing great!
Knowing limitations. I’ve been guilty of overloading, having too many foster dogs. My intentions were good, but it was overwhelming. I’ve had to scale back because it’s been just too much. I also have a full time job, I write romance novels, plus I do have a family and a social life, so I’ve had to learn to pace myself and find other ways to help those I cannot bring into my home.
Letting go. The most bittersweet moments is preparing to go to a meet and greet to a potential adopter. It doesn’t matter if I’ve had the dog a couple of days, a few months, or in Bree’s case, over a year, it’s still an emotional time.
I’ve had many people say to me, I don’t know how you give them up. It’s not easy, but I have to keep in mind, I’m only the “middle mom”, and that I’m only getting them ready to successfully move into their forever homes.
Fostering may not be for the faint of heart, but it certainly does expand it. Try it! You won’t regret it.
Interested in fostering? Contact The Humane Society of Central Texas for more information!
Author, Debra Jupe
Content Editor, Daniela Ranzinger
Photographer, Cynthia Favreau
Debra Jupe writes romance/suspense. Her favorite authors are Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, and Lisa Jackson.