Fostering Dogs: The Hardest Job You’ll Ever Love
It takes a special kind of person to allow themselves to love something deeply while knowing that they will have to let it go. That’s exactly what a dog foster parent does each time they release one of their foster dogs to its new forever home. Their sadness, however, is tempered by the knowledge that the dog has a wonderful life ahead of it, with all the joys and treats and affection a dog should have, and the knowledge that without them, it wouldn’t be possible.
Dog foster parents are the unsung heroes of the rescue dog rehabilitation process. They take on the dogs that the shelters don’t have room for or that need more attention than the shelters are able to provide. For example, dogs that need special care after an illness or an injury, or extremely young puppies that need constant around-the-clock tending.
Another common reason for dogs to be fostered is for their emotional recovery and well-being. Dogs that were neglected and/or abused can become shy, withdrawn, fearful, and distrustful of humans. Being in a foster home where they are able to get the affection they need, coupled with patience, socialization, and basic obedience training, can make all the difference in the world for these pets, and turn them into prime candidates for adoption. It also helps reduce the stress that life in a shelter can cause.
A great example of the difference a foster parent can make is the case of Oogy, a Dogo Argentino that, as a three month-old puppy, was used as a bait dog for dog fighting. As Larry Levin details in his book, “Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love,” Oogy was discarded and left to die, suffering alone for days before being rescued during a drug sting on the property that housed the dog fighting operation. Most of the left side of his face, as well as his left ear, was completely gone, torn off by the dogs he was thrown to for “practice.” His skull was punctured in multiple places, a piece of his lower jaw had been broken off and was digging into the roof of his mouth, and his wounds were infected and oozing, the skin and tissue black and dead in many places. The doctors were convinced that Oogy could not be saved, but Diane Klein, the hospital administrator, saw something in Oogy and fought for him until the doctors acquiesced. Oogy came through his surgery, and all those that followed, with flying colors.
Already in love with the pup, Diane decided to foster Oogy, and it was in her loving care that Oogy’s true healing began. His wounds were dutifully tended twice a day, his healing scars covered with antibiotic ointment to keep them from drying out. But most importantly, Oogy was given the love, affection, and attention that he had never known in his short life. Within the month that Oogy resided with Diane, he became a happy, energetic, friendly, outgoing pup who loved everyone end expected everyone to love him. And that’s just what happened when Larry Levin and his twin boys met Oogy at the animal hospital where Diane worked. All three (and Oogy!) were instantly smitten, and within two weeks, Oogy had a new forever home. Almost eight years later, Oogy is still happily living with the Levins and the only reminders of his ordeal are the scars he bears on his face.
Inspired by Oogy’s story? Here’s a little more about what a dog foster parent does, taken from Gateway Pet Guardians:
- - Provides a safe, loving, stable temporary home for the dog
- - Socializes the animal with daily walks, outside excursions, and interactions with other dogs, pets, and humans
- - Basic daily care, such as feeding, grooming, and exercise
- - Basic obedience training like housebreaking, leash training, etc.
- - Takes the dog to any necessary vet appointments
- - Keeps the shelter updated on the dog’s health and progress
- - Brings the dog to shelter adoption and/or fundraising events
- - Helps choose the dog’s forever home
Most shelters and rescue organizations pay for all the expenses and vet bills incurred in fostering a dog. The length of fostering can vary; in some cases it is a matter of weeks, but some dogs may take a year or more before they are adopted, so please be sure you are able to make that kind of time commitment if you decide to become a dog foster parent.
If you think you’re one of those special people who would be able to foster a dog, check out Petfinder’s Guide to Pet Fostering to learn more about what fostering entails and how to prepare for it. You can also contact your local animal shelter or animal rescue organization to get information on their specific program requirements.
Are you currently a dog foster parent? DogWatch would love to hear your story! Post your comments below, or email us at email@example.com. And from all of us at DogWatch, thank you for opening your hearts and homes to these deserving dogs.
Bottom photo: Sarah May Scott, via Flickr