Fostering 101: What is Fostering, Anyway?

We’re taking about a week’s down time over the holidays before we bring home the next tenant of Foster House.  I’ve been working on a series of posts off and on for a while now about fostering in general, and what we’ve learned from it so far.  Seems like a good time to start sharing them – enjoy!  ~Laura

Anyone who’s ever fostered dogs has heard this statement, “I could never do that, it’d be way too hard for me to give them up.”  Heck, I used to say the same thing.  However since we’ve now successfully placed two foster dogs in loving homes, I say with confidence that I would not change a thing about our fostering experience so far, and cannot wait to bring home the next pup-in-need.

Fostering isn’t for everyone.  I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you of what an amazing rewarding experience it is (although, it is), but I do think that before anyone completely writes off opening their home to a dog in need, they should have all the facts.   We’re by no means experts, as we’re still pretty dang new to this, but we have learned a good bit so far.  So we’re putting a few posts together to talk about dog fostering and what we’ve learned by working with Agape Animal Rescue (pronounced a-GAH-pay, some people have asked).  What fostering is, how it works, why it’s hard and why it’s great.  I welcome some of our more experienced foster/blog friends to add their two cents down in the comments, as well – as some of you know, we never would have started on this journey without your inspiration and guidance! 

What is Fostering, Anyway?

I’m actually surprised at the number of people who haven’t even heard of the idea of fostering a dog.  When I’ve talked to people about it, more than a few have said, “What does that mean?” Fostering is, quite simply, bringing a dog into your home and loving it like a member of your family until they are ready to find their furever People.  That’s it. 

Most dog rescue organizations do not operate out of a facility.  Instead they rely on a network of foster families.  When a dog enters a rescue program, either pulled from a shelter, an owner surrender, picked up as a stray off the side of a road, or liberated from a puppy mill, the rescue will pay to have the dog spayed/neutered and fully vetted.  This includes treatment for heartworms, fleas/ticks, and any other malady the poor pup might be afflicted with.  (Agape also takes care of all medical expenses that might come up while the foster pup is in our care, as long as we use their vet – this may vary depending on the rescue – be sure to ask!)

Once the pup has a clean bill of health (or is on the road to it), they dog is placed with a foster family.  The foster family might already have dogs and cats of their own, or no pets at all. They might have young children, teenagers, or they could be empty nesters.  They could be a couple or single person.  It doesn’t matter – the rescue will match up a foster dog with the foster family who they think is the best fit.  Whatever your preference is as a potential foster family – small dogs, big dogs, already house trained, good with kids, low energy, high energy – a good rescue organization is not going to give you anything you’re not comfortable with. 

Once the dog is in your home, you have one majorly important job – love him!  A lot of rescue organizations will provide everything you need, including food, toys, crate, bedding, baby gates and medication.  Some will even help you with training.  So really, your one and only responsibility is to show love to an animal.  Agape has a slogan for their foster families that says it best: “You supply the love, we supply everything else.”  

Every once in a while you may be called upon to attend adoption events.  These are usually on a weekend, and are held in a public space such as a park or pet store.  These events are designed to let potential adopters meet many dogs at once, and also lets them ask questions about the dogs they’re interested in directly to you as the foster family – because after all, the dog’s living with you, you know him best!  However, this is not a requirement with all rescues, for example, if we are unable to attend, Agape will arrange to pick up our foster dog and ferry them back and forth to the event. 

As far as advertising the dog or getting it exposure, the rescue takes care of that too.  Depending on the rescue’s format, the dog will probably be posted their website as well as national sites like Petfinder.com.  You can also take the foster dog out to community events, street fairs, the dog park, even just a walk in your neighborhood.  Some foster families blog (but obviously you know that, as you are reading one right now), but that’s by no means a requirement. 

If you decide you’re interested in fostering, I suggest contacting a few different rescues in your area, and asking them lots of questions.  As an example, these are the questions we sent out to the different rescue groups when we started our process (thank you Aleks from Love & a Six-Foot Leash for helping me put these together):

  • Does your rescue group try to place dogs into decent homes as fast as possible, or do you carefully scrutinize each prospective adopter and wait for the “perfect” home? 
  • What role does the foster family play in selecting applicants and making final decisions of whether the potential adopter is approved or not?
  • Does your rescue pay for vet care?  What are the boundaries?  For example, if a dog in our care ends up needing surgery or emergency care, will it be covered by the rescue?  Do you only use a specific vet, or can we use our own?  How does this work?
  • What kind of assistance/support does your rescue offer?  Do you help with boarding the foster if we go out of town?  Do you provide equipment (crate?), or other supplies (flea/tick/heartworm medication?)  Do you offer free training consultations or discounted rates for training if we are having issues with our foster?
  • What do you require of your foster families (required to attend a certain number of adoption events per month, etc)?
  • Where do you find most of your adopters?  Online/newspaper/ads/etc?  Are you open to us “advertising” the foster dog ourselves, via a blog or facebook, and communicating with prospective adopters directly, or would all interactions need to go through the rescue group? 
  • What is your process for assigning foster dogs?  Will you work with us to make sure we’re matched with one that is compatible with our lifestyle?  Do we get any choice in what dogs come to our house? 

In the end, you’ll just want to make sure you choose a rescue that you’re comfortable with.  While it is all about the dogs, you’re going to be working with the people at the rescue organization as well, so you want to make sure you can form a good partnership with them to help get the dogs the wonderful home they deserve.

Next in Fostering 101….The Adoption Process

~

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Fostering 101: What is Fostering, Anyway?

  1. This is a great post – very helpful! I wish I had known to ask some of the questions you posted before I started fostering! 🙂

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    • We have Aleks from Love & a Leash to thank for helping us put the questions together…I am extremely anal and refused to even consider fostering until I had done a ton of reasearch – including talking to folks who were already doing it. The best advice I got was to talk to multiple rescues. I sent this list of questions to a handful of rescues in our area and Agape was the one who really took the time to answer my questions fully, and in lots of detail, and made sure I was comfortable with everything before they threw us in head first.

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  2. Pingback: Fostering 101: The Importance of Support | A Heartbeat at My Feet

  3. Wow! I run a local rescue and will be using your blog as a resource frequently in the future. It is surprisingly difficult to find people willing to consider foster care for precisely the reason you mentioned–they think they will never be able to give the dog up. Actually, that came true with every foster parent we’ve ever had so far–they kept their first foster and, so focused on the new family member, no longer had time/room to foster with us! Haha!

    Agape is a wonderful organization and so lucky to have help like you.

    http://freetownsanctuary.com/

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  4. Pingback: Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes | A Heartbeat at My Feet

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