For many people, foster care for dogs or cats is not something they may usually consider. In this article, I’ll go into my experience fostering a dog and everything else that comes with it.
What is the foster care program?
Sometimes when dogs come into a shelter, they may not be yet ready to be adopted. This could be for different reasons. Some dogs, for example, may have medical conditions for which they could recover faster in a private home than in a shelter. Other dogs may have behavioral issues (such as being afraid of people) that may require more individual attention than the shelter crew has time to provide.
Some of these conditions do not actually make dogs unfit for adoption. However, they can make them harder to adopt by some people. For someone who is willing to make the life-long commitment of adopting a pet, picking a dog that is always hiding and trembling in a corner is not something most people would do. Let’s face it, everyone wants a cute and healthy pet.
Foster parents take these dogs into their homes and they give them the attention and care they need so they become easier to adopt by someone else. Usually the foster period lasts only a few weeks. Most shelters will cover all costs including food and supplies; foster parents only provide their time and home.
After I decided to foster a dog, my first step was visiting the Humane Society of Greater Miami. There I met with Bernard, Foster Care Program Coordinator, who told me all about the process of fostering. A few days after that, I visited the shelter again where I met Carmen, a mixed Jack Russell Terrier that had been transferred from Miami-Dade Animal Services just a few days before. She was 1.5 years old and had some socialization issues. The first time I saw her, she was trembling, keeping her head down, and overall scared of meeting someone new. For some reason she wasn’t comfortable being with people. After we got her out of the crate, Bernard provided me with everything I needed for Carmen including food, bowls, toys, a dog bed, and threats.
For the first couple of days, Carmen was mostly shy and wouldn’t move too far from her bed. After that, she became more comfortable and would explore the apartment or look for me whenever she was bored. For the first week it was mostly about getting her used to my routine. For example, she used to wake up around 5AM and jump around asking to be walked (which off course wasn’t that cute so early in the morning). After a while she adopted my sleeping routine and started waking up later in the morning.
As far as house training, my only rule was no sitting on the furniture. This rule was surprisingly easy to enforce. The few times she tried to jump in the couch I would just firmly tell her to get down. Other than that she was very well behaved; no chewing, no knocking stuff down, and (mostly) no barking. Given that she hadn’t been trained, I had to spend some time teaching her some basic commands like sit, come, and go. The “sit” command, for example, would come especially handy whenever it was time for her walk and she would run and jump in excitement making it very difficult for me to put her leash on.
After the second week, you could already notice she was much more comfortable around people. She didn’t try hiding when someone else was around and would even let strange people pet her. By this point you could see that Carmen was a new dog; happy, energetic, and friendly.
Fostering is a very enriching experience. Carmen wasn’t just a dog I had to take care of. On the contrary, she was a companion and a great roommate. It was always nice to have her greet me with so much energy every time I came back home. It was also moving to see the attachment she created with me in such short time; the first time I took her to the vet (which the shelter handles at no cost to foster parents), you could see her reluctant to go anywhere without me. She was also a great distraction from the day to day routine and stress. Taking her for a walk and just watch her run around outside was always a good break from being working and staring at a computer.
Besides all of this, the most important benefit of fostering is knowing that you are actually helping another living being. I am sure that when Carmen returns to the shelter healthy and with so much energy, she will be adopted in no time.
When I first thought about writing this post, I imagined that this part was going to be much longer. To my surprise, there a very few downsides to fostering a dog. Obviously, you have the added responsibility of taking care of another living being. That means that you need to have time to walk, feed, and overall take care of the dog. That also includes being able to take the dog to the vet for vaccines or checkups if necessary. Lastly, there are obviously going to be some times when everything isn’t perfect. Carmen, for example, felt the need to randomly start barking (and waking me up) in the middle of the night a few times. She also shed lots of hair which made it necessary to clean my apartment more often than before.
None of these “downsides,” however, are nearly important enough to prevent anyone from fostering a pet. For me, the vast majority of time it was an enjoyable experience, and I am sure that other foster parents would say the same.
The main purpose of this post was give anyone that is considering fostering an idea of what the experience is like. With a shifting schedule, a small apartment, and not much patience for pets, I really wasn’t the ideal candidate for foster care. So if it was such a great experience to me, you can be sure it will be a great experience for anyone else. If you are interested in fostering, you can visit the Humane Society of Miami’s website or call them at (305) 696-0800.
As for Carmen, she will stay with me for a week more before going back to the shelter. If anyone is interested in adopting her, feel free to contact me through Twitter or by calling the Humane Society of Miami.