Is Fostering a Dog for You?

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We’ve mentioned that October is Adopt-a-Shelter Dog month. We recognize that not everyone is in the position to adopt, but maybe you can help the effort by being a foster.
We talk about our dogs Sally, Tino, Becca, Jack and Maggie all the time. But there have been other dogs in our life as well…we had three foster dogs back when Sally and Tino were still with us and before Tino was fully blind.
We wanted to be able to offer a loving home to more dogs, but we knew that another adoption wouldn’t work. This was in 2006-2008 and both Sally and Tino were seniors and we were concerned about what a new addition to the family would do to their peaceful “golden years”.
We decided fostering would be a good way to offer haven to some needy dogs without causing too much stress on our family.
Our first foster was a chocolate lab named Latte. She was nine years old and had been a family dog until the family grew up and were no longer able or willing to care for her. She was younger than Sally & Tino, but seemed older and less fit – she was a good 10-15 lbs overweight. She fit in well with our family, adapted to our routine pretty quickly and Sally and Tino accepted her, mostly because she kept to herself. Since she was older, we knew it would be hard to find her forever home, but after about two months and a few adoptive family visits, she was adopted.



It wasn’t as hard as I thought to let her go. I think that’s what many people fear that they will be “foster failures” and end up just keeping the dog. We found, for us, it’s all in your frame of mind going into it. I kept reminding myself that she wasn’t ours and that she would be going “home” soon so I just didn’t let myself get too attached.
Our next foster was a young black lab mix named Slim. He was much younger, maybe 3-4 and required much more of our attention. My fondest memory of Slim was one day while looking out our front window I saw him sail over the fence we had put around the avocado grove to keep Sally and Tino out. It wasn’t a tall fence, maybe 3 feet, but neither Sally or Tino had the youthfulness to jump it, but Slim did and there he was sailing over it with an avocado in his mouth and Sally looking on in disbelief. Lucky for Slim, he choose to share the avocados with his big sister, so they became great pals. Slim was with us very short time, maybe only a week before he found his forever home with a young couple.
Our last foster was Mako. He was a big yellow Lab, like Jack, who came to us from a poor situation. He and his brother had been outdoor dogs, kept by a family who lost interest in them once they were no longer puppies. They had been housed in a backyard kennel with no attention, socialization or human contact for several years. The rescue organization told us that the only family interaction they had was when the teenagers in the family tied them to a post and threw rocks at them. This prompted their removal from the home.
Mako was a challenge. At first he seemed to fit in and was happy to be here, get some exercise and just be indoors and part of a family. He was a Lab after all, and in our naivety, we figured his innate good nature would overcome his background. But then he started expressing his displeasure first with Tino and then with Sally. By this time, Tino was partially blind and to have an interloper in his house that would growl at him when he entered my office for his afternoon snuggle was upsetting to him and to me.


We were very inexperienced at the time with dealing with a dog with behavior issues and as Mako’s behavior progressed from growling at Tino to growling at Sally to growling at me, we sought advice from the rescue. They already had complaints from the family fostering his brother and they decided to take them both back into the shelter as they didn’t feel that either of them were socialized enough to be adoptable yet and needed special training.
I found out later that both of them were euthanized after continued aggression and biting incidents. Even though he had been in our home only about ten days, I cried when he left wishing that I could have done more for him. Tino’s glaucoma was advancing and I knew it was only a matter of time before he lost his sight completely and I needed to focus on his needs and knew I wouldn’t be able to properly work with Mako. I was also totally inexperienced with a potentially aggressive and unpredictable 80lb Lab. The day he growled and snapped at me was the day I called the rescue and agreed to give him back.
I know much more now after having Jack and working with reactive dogs thanks to the great trainers we have hired and lots of reading. I’m sure we would have handled Mako much differently then we did if I knew then what I know now…hindsight is great isn’t it?
We haven’t fostered since then due to all the changes in our family, it just hasn’t been the right environment. But now that things are fairly calm, with Jack and Maggie pretty settled in and Maggie making such great progress overcoming her fears, I’ve begun to think about it again and considering bringing another foster into our home.  And although we haven’t fostered a dog since Mako, SlimDoggy Steve has helped other foster families with high energy and unruly foster dogs who seem to have trouble finding forever homes. Steve visits the foster family and takes the dog on some pretty intense runs.  In all cases, the dogs reacted well to the exercise and ended up being adopted within a few weeks from when Steve showed them the joys of exercise and the resulting zen that takes over a hyped out Lab.
It really is a very rewarding experience particularly if you a have a stable pack that has a good routine from which a foster can learn about trust and security. I think having some fresh blood in the house might do us all some good too. We’ll see – it’s between this and the Guide Dog puppy raising I wrote about a few weeks ago.
Have you considered fostering? What’s holding you back? Come back next week for some tips on fostering a pet.
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  1. Mom says fostering is a wonderful thing. We have a friend that does it all the time and those dogs she has get adopted so fast. It is just not right for us as we have our routines and a new dog, even our guest dogs always throw a wrench in that for a while, but the biggest thing is Mom couldn’t give the dog back. It may be a mindset, but she can’t even go to a shelter without bringing home at least one new pet. We applaud those that can do it, but it wouldn’t work well for us. We are excited for you guys if you decide to give it a whirl again.
    Emma recently posted…Our Quest For A Pumpkin PatchMy Profile

  2. I think fostering is wonderful for those who can do it! If we had a bigger house, or fewer dogs, I’d probably consider it myself. BUT it’s just not feasible in our current situation.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\\\’s Mom recently posted…WTF?! DuckyMy Profile

  3. It’s great that you think about it again. What say Jack and Maggie about the idea? Would they like a furry friend who stays for a while with you?
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog MONDAY MESSAGEMy Profile

    • I think Maggie would like it…Jack, probably not so much unless it was a very independent dog that didn’t infringe on his ‘mom’ time.
      mkob recently posted…Is Fostering a Dog for You?My Profile

  4. We foster dogs every once in a while through the Golden Retriever rescue in our area. It’s really, really, REALLY hard to let them go, but knowing that there is someone out there who has been waiting for quite some time to have a dog in their lives makes letting him/her go so worthwhile! It’s a train ride of emotions, but is so rewarding. 🙂
    Sadie recently posted…Monday Mischief: The Birth DayMy Profile

  5. Pierre is just living with us for a few more weeks before he moves to Washington with his mom & dad, a.k.a. our daughter & her hubby. I adore him, but knew we only had him for a year while they lived in Alaska. My husband will miss him terribly. I would be a foster failure. If you read today’s BFTB NETWoof News, you’ll see I was in tears yesterday after spending the day with an adoptable pup.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB NETWoof Channel 7 News ~ 10/13/2014My Profile

  6. Fostering is such a great way to expand how many dog’s lives you can make a difference is. It comes with it’s own challenges but it’s an invaluable resource for many shelters/pups.

  7. I so much admire those who foster. Never have done it formally, but living in the country, we’ve taken in dumped dogs, vetted them and then found homes for them. Luckily none were with us for a long period of time because I know it would be very difficult for me to let them go. Well, correction, we’ve kept some of those strays, too.
    Sue recently posted…Birthday Party for Rudy | Monday MischiefMy Profile

    • See, you’ve done both – fostered and kept and fostered and adopted out…good for you!
      mkob recently posted…Is Fostering a Dog for You?My Profile

  8. I have always admired foster pet parents – well foster parents period! I’ve always suffered greatly whenever I’ve lost anything. In my twisted brain, I would associate a foster going to a forever home as something I’d lost, therefore I’ve never looked at myself as foster pet parent material.

    • Think of it as you priming them/teaching them to be good citizens in their forever home…that’s kind of what I did.
      mkob recently posted…Is Fostering a Dog for You?My Profile

  9. What great stories, though so sad about Mako, you did the best you could at the time though. I’ve always thought just like you said…that I would be a failure every time. But I think going into it with the right attitude as you said could help. I might consider it in the future when our house is not quite as full and busy as it is now!
    Jan K recently posted…Monday Mischief – Destructor of ToysMy Profile

    • You have a lot going on in your house already, it would be a real challenge to bring a foster in.
      mkob recently posted…Is Fostering a Dog for You?My Profile

  10. Wonderful post! Fostering is so impawtant for some animals as it gets them out of bad situations most times.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
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  11. Thank you for sharing your experiences both good and bad. Mako was a beautiful dog, but his original family ruined him for other placements. I’m sorry he wasn’t able to overcome his past and that you had to go through this experience. I fostered a black German shepherd who lived on his own, in a rundown mobile home park. He also was never able to become a family pet and eventually turned aggressive toward my dogs. He was euthanized after he bit one of the volunteers at my rescue group. Very sad case, but for the most part fostering is a rewarding experience.
    Sharon S. recently posted…Giveaway From Flush Doggy Disposable BagsMy Profile

    • It was sad, and I always wish I could have done more as he was a sweet guy…just so unsocialized.
      mkob recently posted…Is Fostering a Dog for You?My Profile

  12. Great article! This is something I’ve been thinking about getting involved with and it’s really helpful to get some advice and read the comments. I do have to agree with others, the hardest part is probably getting them go.
    Elaine recently posted…10 Halloween Dog TipsMy Profile

  13. Fostering is on our list of things well do once we settle down properly. We want more dogs but frankly cannot afford any more medical or insurance expense. We will have the place, time and will to foster, though.
    Jana Rade recently posted…Adoption Monday: King, Shepherd & Labrador Retriever Mix, Deerfield, NHMy Profile

    • That’s wise of you to know your limits. Many rescues will foot the medical bills, so fostering might be a good option.
      mkob recently posted…Is Fostering a Dog for You?My Profile

  14. I’ve never fostered – it’s something I might do in the future but for now Laika’s quite a bit to handle on her own and I honestly don’t know how well she’d do with another dog. Part of me says it would be great to get her used to having a playmate all the time but the other part fears what could happen if they got into it.. I’d never want to have to resort to the “crate & rotate” routine. It sounds like you have a wide variety in those 3 for sure. The first two got adopted quickly – for an older dog a few months doesn’t seem that bad from what I’ve seen. It’s a shame about the upbringing Mako & his brother had – that would have been a really tough call, though you made the right decision – the safety and well being of your own dogs should come first.
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    • It can be a challenge and it’s important to have the support from your foster organization. As with us, Laika should be your priority.
      mkob recently posted…Is Fostering a Dog for You?My Profile

  15. Thanks for sharing your fostering experiences. I fostered one chessie for a couple of months til she found her forever home. It is rewarding. So sorry to hear about Mako, some of them just can\’t be helped as sad as it is. What a cool idea that Steve would go exercise with some familys dog to tire them out.

    • The exercise is so helpful for both the dog and the foster folks – many people would foster, but sometimes younger energetic dogs are a struggle for them to exercise properly, so it was a real benefit all around.
      mkob recently posted…Lecithin as a Dog Food IngredientMy Profile

  16. Good for you for fostering dogs and helping other foster dogs.
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  17. I’m hoping we are able to foster when we move. Our current home has a two pet limit, so we are unable to help right now. I know I’m going to have issues with getting too attached, but I can’t keep them all!

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