Fostering a dog saves more than one life

By Kim Owens

SPCA Foster Program Coordinator

Kim Owens with Brodie.
Kim Owens with Brodie. Steve Copley

Our very first foster dog was an adorable red Australian Cattle dog. She came to us by way of a Southern California rescue that specializes in herding breeds.

At the time my husband and I had one dog, an Australian Shepherd. Brodie was a sweet, gentle soul who loved all he met. He had been an only dog for all of his four years. If truth be told, finding Brodie a companion was a major motivation in becoming a foster parent to a homeless animal. Brodie had never met a dog he didn’t get along with.

The exception, apparently, was going to be this little girl, aptly named Barbie. Brodie hated her.

After six weeks, Brodie was still showing his disdain for Barbie by ignoring all her attempts to engage him in play. So, when the call came from a potential adopter we were excited and hopeful they would become her new forever family. That was until Brodie unexpectedly play-bowed to Barbie and off they went, frolicking like long lost buddies. She was our perfect fit after all.

But as fate - or luck - would have it (depending on how you look at it), the family fell in love with Barbie and adopted her. And although it was a little bit heartbreaking as Barbie drove away with her new family to her new life, there was no question as to whether we would foster again. The answer was absolutely yes. We had saved a life.

There is always a great need for foster homes for homeless dogs and cats. Many organizations and rescues do not have a physical shelter. These rescue groups and organizations, like our own Eastern Madera County SPCA, rely solely on volunteer fosters to temporarily house the animals they take in.

With the euthanasia rate of cats and dogs in the U.S. at 2.7 million a year, we need to do all we can to reduce this astronomical number and save more animals. That’s where fostering comes in.

Foster homes are an integral part of this solution. By providing a temporary home for these cats and dogs, you are giving them a second chance at a life full of caring and love. You are provided the opportunity to help them become a well-mannered and socialized pet. You will get to know their habits and personalities, which in turn helps the rescue match them to the perfect home.

By welcoming a foster animal into your home, you are also creating the space and opportunity for yet another animal to be pulled from a high-kill shelter or a stray to be taken in and rescued.

Many rescues provide food, dishes, leashes, cat litter, crates and all the supplies you may need. They also provide all veterinary care. Because most of these rescues run on a shoe-string budget and are completely funded by donations, they are grateful if you can provide any or all of these yourself, but this is not required.

You provide a safe, loving home with guidance, affection and positive reinforcement. Rescues and shelters complete temperament testing before placing a foster in a home to ensure, as much as possible, a good match. Children and your own pets can be an asset for the right foster pets, too.

The utmost care will be taken when placing a foster pet, especially a timid or fearful animal. As is in all cases, a soft touch will go a very long way. There is nothing more gratifying then to see a dog or cat flourish and blossom into a loving, confident, friendly animal companion under your care.

There is no guarantee or time frame for how quickly foster animals will be adopted. Puppies typically are adopted faster while seniors can take some time. Rescues and shelters network through social media, their websites, have adoption events and often partner with other rescues and shelters to find their fosters good homes that will be forever. Who knows? Maybe you will find a forever friend in your own foster pet.

We did go on to foster many more dogs. We ended up keeping another little cattle dog we fostered, lovingly referred to as “a failed foster,” with Brodie’s blessing of course. You will find that you bond with some more than others and yes, saying goodbye can be hard some of the time.

But the gratification you receive knowing you had such a huge part in saving them is much greater than any short-lived pain you may feel by letting them go. You will have enriched lifes, your own and that of the adopting family.

Letting Barbie go enabled us to bring tremendous joy to another family. Letting Barbie go enabled us to save another dog. Each adoption saves a life but a great foster parent can save many. Don’t let the fear of getting too attached prevent you from giving fostering a try. You can make a difference.

It will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. As the saying goes, saving the life of an animal might not change the world, but the world will surely change for that one animal.

The EMC SPCA is currently working on coordinating our foster program. We will be looking for fosters before and after the shelter is built. Please watch for informational meeting dates coming in the next few months.