I’ll never understand why we do it. Well, it’s me really, but my husband is just as crazy for going along with it. Either way, we do it and then I wonder why. Fine I know why but still, it is nerve wracking to say the least. I mean you’re letting them in your home, around your family, they go through your stuff without permission, and you’re opening your life to them. You have to trust them to trust you. Yet, you don’t know them so you have to try to figure them out without asking them one single question. It’s like working a puzzle that has no true solution to it. You’ve no idea what they do and don’t like. You can’t possibly know how long they’ll stay or if they’ll even like being with you. You have to figure out on your own if they have bad habits and if they do, how to fix them. They won’t tell you what they like to eat, instead you have to do trial and error. You can’t know if they are scared, if they get stressed easily, or if they’re a little cocky and stubborn. They don’t talk about their past because for them, they’ve let it go as best they can. Patience is imperative because it’s impossible to rush them through the comfort process. If they aren’t ready, they may rebel and lose progress. You have to do things that are uncomfortable like force them to take their medicines when they don’t want to, discipline them but not yell or be abrasive, make them feel safe but without taking away all their independence, love them at their best and worst. It seems impossible or at least close to impossible but we do it anyway, over and over. So why; why do we foster dogs?
For years we fostered for dog rescue. I honestly can’t even venture a guess as to how many we fostered in total. I do remember one instance where we had 20, yes 20 dogs in our average-sized home. We had five of our own dogs and two fosters. We then got asked to foster a litter of eleven Golden pups, their mom, and the mom’s sister. All of them had been abandoned in a home in Tucson. So I certainly wasn’t going to say no. I mean puppies were abandoned and their mom and Aunt-I had to take them! (I know, I know but that’s what I told myself). My first thought is to say that I wish you could have seen what it was like having nine adult dogs and eleven four-week old puppies in one house. But I don’t wish that level of chaos on anyone. Feeding time was pure insanity; I mean extreme craziness. And the poop! Endless amounts of poop in the yard. Then, we started the puppies on mush and they started with poop; and don’t let the idea that because a puppy is small they have small poo because that is not correct. Oh no! Not true. They can poop and they can poop big! I’ve never seen so many piles and of varying size. You just can’t imagine; it’s something you truly have to witness to understand.
We all made it through that crazy time and everyone got adopted by wonderful families. We continued to foster for a few more years. We were often what rescues call “failed fosters.” That sounds unkind but what it means is, we fostered a dog and never let it leave! They were some of the greatest dogs ever and each had gone through some of the most horrible trials prior to coming to us. For instance, Beavis was dumped out in the desert of Arizona and thankfully people saw this happen, caught him and turned him in to the rescue. He came as a foster and stayed as a family member.
As our kids got older and busier and I was working more, we had to step away from fostering. We focused on our own dogs and our family. I still got a call here and there asking if we’d change our minds and come back to foster again. The timing just wasn’t right. My husband and I were working full-time. Our daughter was playing sports and going in to high school and our son was playing on a competitive travel sports team, which meant between the two kids and work, we didn’t have the spare time that a foster dog truly needs. After a year or so, the calls stopped and to be honest with you, I haven’t thought about fostering for years. Well, up until four weeks ago that is.
When we were going through the whole looking for Zoey ordeal I came across an amazing lost dog site, Lost Dogs Arizona (LDAZ). They are purely lost and found oriented. As notifications come in, volunteers post the lost or found dog on the statewide site and networking occurs instantly through social media. When I say networking I’m saying that a post for a dog will reach thousands of other people in a short amount of time. The posts end up shared on other fantastic sites. Since I’ve been volunteering with them, I’ve come to know a lot of really dedicated pet loving people and I’ve learned of so many truly dog focused rescues. Not the type that just want the spotlight and the chance to increase their “rescued” number. But the ones that are run by love, sweat, tears, a whole lot of dedication and hard work. I asked one of the people I met, and who helped us with finding Zoey, who she fosters for. She told me she only fosters for one rescue and that is One Dog (Arizona). I had also learned about a medical need only rescue. It’s Medical Animals In Need (M.A.I.N.). I immediately sent an email to One Dog’s founder and she sent me paperwork to fill out, came and did a home check at our house and approved us to foster. At about the same time, I contacted M.A.I.N., had a home inspection and was approved to foster for them as well. I was so excited.
Our first foster that we were to pick up the following Sunday after an adoption event was Stewie. He was a cute Maltese mix fluff ball of a boy who was with One Dog (Arizona). We were getting ready to go get him and got a text that he got adopted! I was bummed for me but so happy for Stewie. Next came Marlee, an English Mastiff / Boxer mix girl who was about 9 weeks old and also with One Dog (Arizona). She was so cute and she was such a puppy! It had been years since I had a puppy that did puppy things like eat shoes, clothes, furniture, anything that she found. And energy; boy did she have energy. Endless puppy energy. Marlee ran my big boys around. She had no fear; not even of Jax who is 170 pounds. She went one-on-one with all of the dogs. As you can imagine, we didn’t have her long; she was adopted within two weeks. We did have time to potty train and crate train her and of course to spoil her a bit. Then she went to a wonderful family! Now we have Shelby. Shelby, Shelby, Shelby; a 16 pound Chihuahua with a 61 pound attitude. And yes, I said a 16 pound Chi; she’s a bit um, well let’s just say fluffy. We haven’t told her that she’s on a slim down program. Shelby is going to be a bit of a challenge and I’ve never had a small dog before so I’m certain she’ll be teaching me a few things along the way. For starters, Shelby does not like our crew of dogs; and that’s putting it mildly. She bares her teeth, growls, and lunges at them. She’s not being mean, she’s just intimidated and understandably so. Therefore, right now, she is in an x-pen where she can see them and they can see her but no one can make contact. I thought this was a good solution but so far, not so good. We take her out while the others are in another room, so that she can venture around and not be stuck in a smaller area. We do this when we take her outside as well. We have a dog run that is separate from the yard and I’ve never been more thankful for that than I am now. Keep in mind, we’ve only had her for three days. I just never imagined we’d have introduction issues. I’ve never experienced this, with all the dogs I’ve fostered, I’ve never had to keep them apart. Anyway, she lets the dogs know when they are too close to her area. She may only be a mini girl but she has no problem letting her feelings be known. Our dogs all have a “whatever” attitude (thankfully). When she jumps at them I know that if they could talk they’d say something like, “Really?” or “Uh, ok.” They want to play with her and they want her to be out by them but I’m thinking they understand that she doesn’t have the same feelings. We’ll be patient of course. I’ll give her time to continue to adjust and I know that she’ll calm down once she realizes she’s stuck with them and us.
Fostering can be frustrating as it is now with Shelby and not knowing how to make the situation better or how to comfort her and dissipate her fear. I feel horrible that she’s in the x-pen but I also know that it is keeping her safe. Fostering is heartbreaking. Letting a foster go to their adoptive home is always extremely difficult. You care for the dog just as you do your own. You love them, teach them, and bathe them; I mean they are yours for a time. Then suddenly you get the call that a new forever home and family is waiting for them. It’s a battle of emotions. It’s exciting that a family has chosen to bring them to their home and love them for the rest of their life. It’s sad that you have to part with them and be happy for all involved. Fostering is not easy. It’s not for those who can’t let go. Not for someone who gets too attached because they forgot the dog isn’t truly theirs. It’s not for a person who expects a return on their time, sweat, tears, and money. It’s for those who have a big heart and love to give freely, are committed to bettering an animal’s life, will protect an animal no matter what, will treat them with the unconditional love they give back, and who want to share the happiness a dog gives. Being a foster is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but it brings a reward that is immeasurable. Over and over, I’ve heard the saying, “I didn’t rescue my dog; my dog rescued me.” That statement is 100% fact and that, is why we foster.
A little P.S.
I want to give you the information on the amazing groups and organizations I’ve been fortunate to find over the recent months. My hope is that you’ll never need their services; however, if an unfortunate circumstance occurs you’ll have some fantastic information. I also hope that you might have time to help by volunteering or donating to these amazing groups or the many others that I’ve not become aware of just yet. All of them are non-profit and exist solely on donations and volunteer hours; anything helps. I’m also going to post the information in the resources section of my page.
- LOST DOGS ARIZONA (Lost/Found): This is a non-profit 503c group that gets notifications of lost and found dogs in Arizona, from the Helping Lost Pets website and is always in need of donations. Volunteers receive the notifications from the database and enter the dog’s photo and pertinent information on the LDAZ Facebook page. From there, the post is shared with thousands, literally. It is by far the greatest networking for lost and found dogs that I’ve found. Additionally, the volunteers are so committed that they spend countless hours searching the Arizona shelters online and in person in order to reunited owners with lost and found dogs that have been listed with the group. It’s amazing and a show of extreme animal love and deep dedication to all Arizona communities.
- Medical Animals In Need (M.A.I.N.) (Rescue/Adoption): This is a medical need non-profit 503c organization that is always in need of donations. The founder and members of this group experience sadness and heartbreak on a daily basis due to the circumstances of the animals they rescue. The goal of the group is to save the animals that need extreme medical treatment that is not available from local shelters. Without M.A.I.N. each animal would be put to sleep because of medical issues. With the heart wrenching situations there are, of course, many happy times as dogs make it through life-threatening surgeries, overcome hurdles, and turn corners towards gaining their life back. Then there is the ultimate happy-high when one of the dogs has progressed to the point of being available for adoption. It’s usually a long road for each animal but thanks to the amazing, dedicated, and loving fosters the dogs have a family that walks the journey with them. https://www.facebook.com/medicalanimalsinneed?fref=ts
- One Dog (Arizona) (Rescue/Adoption): This is a non-profit 503c organization that saves dogs from being put to sleep in Arizona shelters and is always in need of donations. It operates with 100% foster homes; no boarding facilities or anything similar. They won’t over-foster which is a true asset because having someone have numerous fosters (like I did back when) takes away from the care that they can possibly give. With One Dog, the dogs are vetted, spay/neutered, microchipped, and vaccinated prior to being listed for adoption. Foster and adopter homes are inspected. Adopters must commit to training that ensures they are prepared for their new family member. They also have a lifetime resource through One Dog. It’s truly heartwarming to see the dedication of everyone within this group. https://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Dog-Arizona/264395940284595?sk=timeline & http://onedogarizona.rescueme.org/.
- Lost Dogs OF Arizona (this one has the word “of” in the name) (Lost/Found): This site is a HUGE part of all the networking that takes place on social media sites. People join the group and can post their lost dog or a dog they found. Members share and share and share those posts and like other sites, those posts reach thousands of people, organization, and dog affiliated businesses. The group has administrators which are fantastic at keeping the focus on lost and found dogs. There are times when people post to “get rid” of their dog and there are those who are “looking for” a dog. Those types of posts are not allowed which is a great thing because those really take the focus away from the need of the lost and found dogs. There’s so much caring between members also. It’s rare to see someone reunite with their dog and then leave the group. Rather, people become so involved in the search of owners and animals that they stay within the group and continue to help get each dogs information out. It’s a wonderful community.
- Straydar (Lost/Found): This group is the same as Lost Dogs OF Arizona. However, so many people have missing dogs and have found dogs that there absolutely is the need for even more of these groups. Just because there’s one group doesn’t mean people looking for such a group will find both. By posting on one group, information gets shared about the other groups. That gives even more awareness and eyes looking out for owners or dogs. You really can’t have too many places for lost and found animals. It’s a more the merrier situation. Also, there’s so very many that are missing, it’s difficult to know that you’ve seen every post so having several sites helps to ensure that each dog’s picture and information is seen by the greatest number of people possible.
- Friends of Arizona’s Shelter Animals (FASA): This group logs and continuously updates the animals on the euthanasia list from each Arizona Shelter. They work tirelessly each day and into the late, late hours updating, adding, searching for outlets for each dog, donations, anything they can do to save the life of an animal on the list. https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfArizonaShelterAnimals
- Phoenix Animal Care Coalition (PACC): This is a list of all Arizona rescues and shelters. http://pacc911.org/coalition-partner-list
- If you’re not in Arizona, this list will give you a guide to finding the same types of resources in your area.