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Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Rich Rewards of Fostering Dogs: Patti Foy Part 1 of 2

 Part 1 of 2: Come back tomorrow and visit with Patti!
Patti Foy, Author
 Patti Foy is a blogger at Light Spirited Being where she writes about discovering our true selves and shining our light, along with offering her services that can help us do that. She lives a simple, natural life in the high desert of New Mexico with her husband and two dogs, where she enjoys writing and being connected to nature and animals.

I asked Patti to talk about fostering dogs. I am a keeper type, if a dog comes in my house it stays. But fostering dogs is a wonderful way to share your love and help a dog find its forever home. Read below and see if fostering might be just the ticket for you! Barbara

The Rich Rewards Of Fostering Dogs (Part 1 of 2)

Are you aware that just around the corner from you are a zillion little opportunities to enrich your life? Okay, maybe not a zillion. But however many dogs are in your neighborhood shelter? That many.

My life, for one, has been deeply enriched by the wonderful experience of fostering rescue dogs.

Seven years ago, we unexpectedly lost our 6-year old lab to cancer. We were all so sad, our remaining dog included. My husband and I knew we would want another dog at some point, yet we weren't ready to even consider adopting so soon. Our pain was still raw and we needed more time.

I was almost sick with grief, and as it turned out, fostering proved to be a most potent medicine. It gave me a deep sense of purposefulness along with spontaneous bursts of joy and laughter, which I needed then, almost as much as I needed air. And although it did have its challenges, I'm positive it played a significant role in my ultimate healing.

I'd been involved with a local rescue group, which I had helped found, and as luck would have it, they called one day to see if we might be able to foster a pup for them. We'd never fostered before and weren't so sure how it would work out, but after some thought, we decided to give it a try.
Kelsey, our first foster

And from that point on, we were hooked.

We spent that whole next year fostering dogs, about 10 in all. One of them was one we found ourselves, abandoned and terrified. (We live in a remote rural area where people from the city bring dogs to dump them.) She was a young black and white pointer with pink markings around her nose, whom we called Rosie. She was the sweetest thing, and so exhausted that first day that she kept falling asleep even while standing up.


The only reason we stopped fostering is because we finally adopted another dog (a 4-year old lab mix, from the shelter) and no longer had the extra space to do a foster dog justice.

But I often think that when the powers that be are smiling upon me just right, I will be blessed enough to get to foster again.

The Rewards of Fostering

It was my experience that the entire fostering process was rewarding and the dogs themselves were such a joy. Here are just a few of the rewards you can expect:

You're likely saving the dog's life. This is extremely satisfying.
If dogs aren't socialized and able to fit seamlessly into a family, they just don't get adopted (or they get returned to the shelter) and are too commonly euthenized. You provide that priceless TLC that helps them adapt to a new home.       
You get to help that dog be happy for awhile.
Most of the dogs in shelters are traumatized. Any bits of love you have to spare are not only appreciated but returned ten-fold.
You get to experience that dog's unique personality.
This is just plain fun. They're such characters and enormously uplifting.
Your heart will be opened.
It just happens -- guaranteed. And when you have an open heart, you can love more deeply and more fully. And not just the dog, but everyone and anyone in your life, even yourself. It helps your natural kindness and compassion blossom, and it feels wonderful!
It's healing, for you and the dog.         
I think the benefits to the dog go without saying. But like with me, if you or a family member have been through something that's left you broken, the fostering experience can go a long way toward helping you feel whole again.
You are helping train the dog and that helps in its placement.
Even though a lot of training is straightforward, the dog has a much better chance of being adopted and to a wider range of adopters if it's already trained at least in the basics such as being house-broken, staying put through the night, not pulling on the leash, etc.
You get to know the dog and your input helps in finding a matching home. 
Knowing what the dog's capable of as well as its personality is a surprisingly big help in matching it to the right owner(s) and helping guarantee they will keep it.
You get to see the dog go to a permanent home.
It may take a little while but invariably that dog will get adopted. It's a red letter day and you will barely be able to keep your feet on the ground. A happy day, all around.
It's temporary. 
Unlike adopting, it doesn't require a 10-25 year long commitment. It's usually anywhere from a week to a few months, sometimes longer. And then if you want another, there's no shortage.
The Challenges of Fostering

I personally think the rewards far outweigh the challenges, but it helps to know ahead of time that it's not a complete cake-walk. Here are a few things to be aware of.

You need to make a commitment and work through issues.
These dogs need as little disruption as possible, so you want to foster one you know you can keep until it's placed. Work with the shelter to find a good match for you.

It can be disruptive and time-consuming.
Even at its best, fostering's going to make a few waves in your typical daily schedule. It's very satisfying but it does require some adjustment.

Sometimes foster dogs need to be taken to the vet, and they almost always need training of some sort. Even when the dog is healthy, well-behaved, and non-demanding, you'll still want to spend quite a bit of time with them.

There's a chance that some of your things may get damaged.
Usually dogs learn amazingly quickly and you'll both benefit by whatever training you can provide. In the meantime, though, it's common for something or another to get damaged. Chewed hoses, dug up flower beds, pee'd upon carpets.

In most of my cases, there was none of this, but it's always best to expect it might happen.

There may be issues between/among "family members".
You do what you can up-front to make sure everyone will get along (people and other pets included) but every now and then there's a surprise. This is why everyone needs to be on board ahead of time. Be prepared to get creative.

It's temporary.
This is listed under the positives too, but it's a double-edged sword. Letting go can sometimes be hard. Still, it's a bittersweet sorrow, and so worth it.

Come back tomorrow eve for Part 2 of Patti's article!


Patti Foy said...

Hi Barbara,
It's me, Patti. I thought I ought to at least show up here and say hi, since you are being so gracious to host me this week. :D
It's been a great pleasure and you've been wonderful.
Thank you!

Barbara Barth said...

Hi Patti - your article on fostering dogs was awesome! Come back any time. Thank you for some wonderful tips and advice. Barbara