*pictured: My current foster, Tyson. Cute as a button, this little guy is sometimes very shy and scared. It’s taken a little extra time and effort to get him to warm up to me, but watching him learn to trust humans again makes it all worth it! As you can see from the food on his nose, he really gets excepted for dinner time, too.
Theodore Roosevelt once said “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” I could not agree more, and it is particularly true when talking about fostering animals.
I have fostered dogs and cats now for more than a decade. Online I share stories, cute adoption pictures, and of course my fair share of posts asking for help with an animal.
To some, it seems like I’m a “natural” at helping these animals. Perhaps they think their fostering journey will or should look exactly like mine. Although I will admit I have some innate instincts that help, overall, it’s because I’ve made a lot of mistakes, had a lot of help, and a significant amount of trial and error.
At this point, I know so much because I have TRIED so much. I have seen so many different types of animals from different backgrounds come through my door. I have slept on my bathroom floor with scared dogs who couldn’t fall asleep on a bed or without me. I have also purchased and tested almost any dog and cat product on the market. I’m a master cleaner of #1 and #2s.
I’m constantly seeking knowledge from others who have more experience and expertise. Wherever I can, I try to share my knowledge with others when they need help. But I know a first-time foster will not have the same experience I now have after 30+ foster animals, and first time foster SHOULD NOT expect their first experience to be a breeze. After all, we would not expect to be able to play the piano like a concert pianist in our first year of learning. It’s not a realistic expectation. Same goes fostering – or really to anything we at new to.
I’m telling you all this because I want to end the perception from so many that fostering will be easy and perfect. Many think a dog will come in perfectly potty trained and well adjusted. It will have no fears and walk on the leash perfectly. There will be no acclimation period with no squabbles with others.
I will tell you right now, this will never happen. There is ALWAYS something. After all, there is ALWAYS something that is not perfect about each one of us, too.
When signing up to foster a dog, we should anticipate problems. With your help, these foster animals have the chance to overcome some of the challenges and training issues they face. It won’t always be easy. But I promise you, it will always be worth it.
That is not to say you should be entering the journey alone and without support. The rescue you are working with should have point people to help you with specific questions, online groups to ask questions, trainer recommendations, and online resources. You should have family, friends and/or significant others that you can call on for help – sometimes two sets of hands are better than one! A terrific support network will be an essential part of any foster journey.
The first day and even weeks of having a foster dog in your home can have a tremendous impact on the entire outcome of the fostering process. I wanted to share a tool that was shared with me from a rescue group IHADRO. Many new fosters are either not provided this detailed information by their respective foster groups or choose not to follow the instructions.
PLEASE use this document as a starting point on your fostering adventure and resist skipping any steps. Think of the process like baking bread – miss one step, ingredient, kneed, or rise time, and you’ll be left without anything to enjoy.