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Meg+Whiley

What does it take to foster dogs?

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Hopefully people who have more experience will weigh in soon (I have five months with my first foster), but I may as well start. A lot will depend on the rescue you work with. There are a number in my area (all breed rescues) that cover the majority of the expenses: approved vet care, loaner supplies (crate, leash, bowls, flea/tick preventitive...), food. Those that have adoption events will likely ask you to bring the dog to them once or twice a month (though there may be volunteers to pick them up). In general you should be willing to talk to prospective adopters, describe the pros and cons or your dog, arrange meet and greets. Other than that, it shouldn't be too different from taking in a new dog of your own.

 

Emotionally, I'm not yet in a position to say. Allie and I have bonded, and I'm not particularly eager for her to leave me. Which probably negatively affects my ability to be a good foster caretaker. On the other hand, it doesn't seem that foster failures are regarded too harshly.

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Ditto what sluj said - it really does depend on the organization. I've fostered for 3: a smaller shelter, a service dog group, and my current employer (a HUGE shelter).

 

Small shelter;

- Got to pick the dog I wanted to foster from any available animals in the kennel

- All dogs had basic vet care, but I picked up costs for food and supplies

- Very little in the way of training, but since I was a senior volunteer I had a lot of support for questions, etc.

- Dog stayed with me until adopted (and I would usually take them to an adoption event once a week)

- Adopters were approved by the shelter rather than me, though most ended up going to friends and family due to my publicity efforts :rolleyes:

 

Service dog group:

- Assigned dog

- Dog was fully vetted and came with food, leash/collar, and flea/tick/heartworm stuff

- Very extensive fostering guide and strict rules

- Dog stayed with me for an assigned length of time and then was returned to the organization for training

 

Large shelter:

- Can pick dog from a preapproved list (generally only those with health or training issues or small animals too young for adoption)

- Dog is fully vetted and comes with food, I provide other supplies and preventatives

- Developing foster program, lots of support from coworkers, dog allowed to come to work with me

- Dog returns to shelter and/or adoption events periodically (I believe, haven't gotten all the details yet)

- Adopters approved by shelter, but foster has some say in the process (I believe, haven't gotten all the details yet)

 

All:

- Developed a solid bond with all fosters except one (service dog candidate wasn't a herding breed mix, all the others were)

- Like having some say in placement

- Felt the need to do some legwork on my own when it came to placement

- Took a lot of time to work on basic manners

- Did have a few minor health scares in relation to my pets (worms, upset tummies, etc.)

- Overall an amazing experience - sad to see a foster go, but happy to see their new family and happy to know I helped them get there, not to mention that it frees up space to help another critter. :D

 

ETA: Many foster parents do end up with a foster or two that stays for a long time (i.e. more than 6 months), none of mine have stayed that long though because of the organizations I worked with and the work I did within my dog network. The longest foster was a foster for almost 3 months before adoption.

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very good questions! We have been thinking that before we get another dog we want to help by fostering (which probably means i will wind up with another dog)

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I've had my first foster since early March.

 

Financially, it has meant the cost of another dog except for vet fees, which the rescue is paying.

 

Physically, I think it depends on the dog and your situation. Mickey makes five here. That can be taxing at times. But he's an easy dog in general, so most of the time it's fine.

 

Emotionally, I find it's a roller coaster. Sometimes I really do wish he would get adopted so I could spend more time focusing on my own dogs. At other times, I feel like it's going to tear me up like losing one of my own when he goes. In some ways I haven't gotten attached to him like my own because he's not mine, but in other ways that can't be helped. I'm glad I did it, but I honestly don't know if I will do it again - not until I have a spot open to allow for the possibility of keeping the dog if I wanted to.

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Excellent questions!

 

It is definitely a "labor of love" but so well worth it when you see what you have done for your foster dog.

 

I've been fostering for five years now. About 80 dogs have passed through our home over this time period. I haven't fostered them all but often the dogs with a questionable past will come to me first so I can get a handle on their behaviors and see which foster home within our group will work the best.

 

Our group provides vet care, heartworm, tick preventative, no-slip collars, ID tags, leashes if needed, and if "special" food is needed we'll also provide that. Usually the cost of regular dog food is not exorbitant so we don't offer to reimburse for that but if a dog has allergies and needs something out of the ordinary we'll help there.

 

We have a foster home booklet and a yahoo support group that help to guide the new foster home through the steps towards successful placement. Actually, I find the "fostering" part easy, it's the "picking out the new home" part that is hard! Especially if you have the one blue merle or red dog that everyone wants!

 

It is especially rewarding when all of the dogs get together again for a reunion and you can see how happy they each are with their new families.

 

I am blessed with a group of wonderful dogs who are so used to the foster dogs that it is a non-issue for us. It is also the best dog training experience you could ever ask for. And, for me, much more rewarding than trying to train people to train their own dogs. On my website, www.sugarbushfarm.net if you go to the New England Border Collie Rescue link and click on the link for Roxie, you can see a mini-journal of what a typical foster integration looks like. Roxie found her new home shortly after I stopped writing on her page. Hannah is another one where I found computer time to log some info.

 

Thank you to all who foster or who consider fostering. It is surely needed out there!

 

Kathy

www.sugarbushfarm.net

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Emotionally, Physically and Financially? Any imput would help a lot. Thanks

 

You have gotten some good responses, so I won't repeat them, but I will give you some input on areas that people have not touched on, from the perspective of someone who is in charge of foster homes rather than someone fostering.

 

The first and most important thing you need in order to be a foster home, is SANE. Insane foster homes are the bane of my existence. There are more of them then you realize, and it takes some careful screening to weed them out from the get go.

 

Here's how people foster for us - first they express an interest and fill out a foster home application form. My foster home coordinator then makes arrangements to chat with the applicant (round one of screening out insane people). Once that's been taken care of, she then arranges to do a home visit with the applicant (round two of screening out insane people). If they pass both these screenings, they become foster homes. They get a lot of support through their first few dogs, including have a mentor for meet-and-greets with applicants and adoptions, and then as they become more experienced they are able to step into the role completely and do most of the leg work themselves. It's a pretty methodical process that we have figured out from trial and error.

 

Your job as a foster home is to evaluate the dog in your home and work on areas where the dog needs improvement in order to be considered adoptable. (Not all dogs are, and while they are fortunately rare, sometimes the dog is not safe to be placed in the community. In these rare instances, you have to be willing to accept that. Remember - it's not your dog). This might mean basic training and manners, socialization with people and other dogs, house breaking, crate training et. You need to be able to be somewhat objective about the dog and its needs - foster homes who don't think anyone is "good enough" for their foster dog are more harm than help. You have to always keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to place that dog in someone else's home, and sometimes that goal is awfully hard to remember.

 

In the last year we had to institute a new policy whereby foster homes must foster at least twice before they have the option of keeping their foster dog. Sounds kind of authoritarian doesn't it? The thing is, I LOVE foster homes - love 'em, and grant them all sorts of little privileges ... they got first dibs on their dogs, they didn't have to pay an adoption fee ... stuff like that. At least, it used to be stuff like that. Then I had a rash of first time foster homes keeping their dogs and vanishing into the ether and I realized that we had inadvertently gotten ourselves a reputation for being overly generous to foster homes and some folks, whether consciously or not, were fostering, getting first pick of a free dog, and leaving happy with their new dog. This does not help me in the short or long run because all of these dogs were issue-free and highly adoptable; they generated no income for the rescue and we lost the foster home, which means fewer dogs we can help down the road. The dogs got good homes (or those folks wouldn't have been fostering for us) but they would've gotten good homes anyway. So now, barring someone wanting to keep an old, sick or problem foster dog, we had to implement this rule. Which goes back to remembering what the ultimate goal of fostering is. Be there to help, not to hinder.

 

You need to be somewhat proactive as well. When I have 17 foster homes on the go, it's really difficult for me to find the time to solicit information from all of them; worse if getting the info is like pulling teeth. I also don't have the time (or means! Some of my foster homes are 10 hours away) to visit all my foster homes and evaluate their dogs' progress - that's the foster home's job. You need to be able to keep the person who is in charge of adoptions updated and you also need to be able, again, to be objective about the dog, its behaviours, and its progress. Nothing is more frustrating then screening an applicant for a dog who goes to meet the dog and the dog turns out to be nothing like the bio I have up, because the foster home has failed to tell me that Skippy actually hates meeting strangers in baseball caps, or pisses himself when a child appears. Etc.

 

Being proactive is especially true for rescues who give their foster homes more freedom than I do. My BoD complains that I do too much and should delegate more, as they are afraid I'm going to have a coronary and collapse or something, but over the years I've learned that keeping fairly tight inventory control, so to speak, works best for us. Some rescue groups actually give their foster homes license to adopt the dogs out themselves, a concept that makes me shudder! In our group, almost all adoptions go through me and the ones that go through my Island Coordinator still get vetted by me. My foster homes like this because it removes the burden of responsibility from them and lands on me, and I'm okay with that - they give lots of input and I respect the input, but ultimately they don't have to make the decisions. But you, as the foster home, have to be okay with that too, so make sure you foster for a group that has policies and procedures you like.

 

And on that note, make sure that the group you are fostering for is also proactive. I read a number of online forums and see people complaining all the time that once they got their foster, the rescue group seems to have dropped off the planet - they can't get responses, they can't get executive decisions on vet bills or needed medical attention etc. This is horrible! If you are fostering for someone else, they need to be involved. A rescue with a poor support process is one you might want to avoid.

 

You have to be committed. There are definitely some rare instances where a foster dog really cannot exist or thrive in a certain foster home, but when you are fostering you are often taking on an unknown quantity - sometimes these dogs change drastically when they are out of the shelter and into a home environment. You have to be willing to see it through, because a lot of the time the rescue has nowhere else to put that dog. "My" foster dogs are all balancing on a very precarious teetering house of cards and one home who pulls out without warning can send it all crashing down. That commitment might mean having a dog for months and months and months. That commitment might also mean saying "no" when you know you can't take on a certain dog, or can't take on another dog. Some rescue groups will load their foster homes up like moving trucks. I rotate mine, and enforce mandatory foster breaks, and allow a maximum of two foster dogs at a time. This sort of thing is largely responsible for the fact that I have had some of my foster homes for 6 and 7 years! They know I will take care of them. Never take on more than you can realistically handle, as it doesn't do the foster dogs any good!

 

Financially - make sure you have an agreement with your rescue group on how that works. We provide medical care and crates, and leashes and collars if need be, but require the foster home to provide food (although we frequently get food donated and will give it to foster homes when we do). We ask that medical care be okay'd by us prior to having it done. In the case of large bills we will pay it ourselves; in the case of smaller bills we reimburse (and in the case of Red Dog Fan, I am tormenting him by not reimbursing him, purely for fun) often via the adoption fee.

 

Fostering seems like a nice and fun thing to do. But remember for the rescue group, it's serious business - we are responsible for all these little furry lives and we take that responsibility seriously. So take fostering seriously when you offer to do it. Think about it first. Know what your ultimate goal is. And remember that rescue groups are not trying to save the world, just placing one dog at a time; it adds up pretty darn fast, as the 450 or so dogs we have placed would suggest.

 

It is incredibly rewarding - I miss fostering! I don't get to do it much now because I am maxed out on dogs and maxed out on available time as well. I have too much administrative stuff to do to foster and if I can't give a foster everything it needs, I'm not doing it any favours, or the adopters of said dog either. I am not much of a bleeding heart and would say that of the hundreds of dogs I have fostered, I have disliked a handful, liked most of them, loved another handful and been devastated when a few got adopted - I can still remember which ones they were too: Shane, Glynn, Birch, Potato, Catie (RIP - she died during her spay). And of course, the two I could not part with - Piper and Mr. Woo. I would say that for the most part, it is really rewarding to see them go to their new homes because it feels like a job well done. And when I was fostering regularly, I looked forward to doing it again. Hopefully, you will too!

 

RDM

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I am not much of a bleeding heart and would say that of the hundreds of dogs I have fostered, I have disliked a handful, liked most of them, loved another handful and been devastated when a few got adopted - I can still remember which ones they were too: Shane, Glynn, Birch, Potato, Catie (RIP - she died during her spay).

OK, Wick wants to know which category she fell into. :rolleyes:

 

Great post, btw. To all those who rescue, who foster, who coordinate getting all those unwanted dogs into the 'system' so that they can be placed - thank you. You guys rock.

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I missed Wick a lot, after I got over the mad about her playing hamster with her puppies, but I had not had her very long when we had already pretty much decided that you were going to adopt her, so I didn't have the fantasy-opportunity to get attached. It's the ones where I pretend to myself I could possibly keep them, like Birch, that make me so upset when reality dictates that I CAN'T. Boohoo. Why can't I have unlimited dogs??

 

Wick was great and so easy, and it was so amazing when she figured out how to play fetch - first with the stick, then with the ball. Also, all my dogs were scared of her. She fit right in!

 

RDM

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Also, all my dogs were scared of her. She fit right in!

Well, nothing is scarier than "bat-a$$ insane"! I like how she still "smiles" at Tweed. :rolleyes:

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