Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why Foster? - A Rambling Article

Why Foster?

I've only been rescuing since February '10 but if there's two things I like to do most in the world, it's talking to random people and talking about fostering dogs. Inevitably, this leads to the question "Why do you foster dogs?" Or, to be more precise, it leads to the question "Who are you and why are you talking to me?"

WELL. Let me tell you.

Fostering a dog can be one of the most time consuming, stress inducing, bark-out-loud experiences. But it can also be one of the most fulfilling things you'll ever do. Now, I've had dogs my whole life. To me, a house isn't a home until there's a furry ratbag running around your feet, pleading with those puppy dog eyes for more treats, or curling up on your lap for a quick nap.

I already owned two small pug x's when I decided to foster dogs. Before we stumbled across fostering, we were actually thinking about getting a third dog to join the pack... but we weren't 100% sure if we could commit to another full-time dog at that stage. Without that commitment, there was no way we would go through with adding another.

SO, fostering came about, and I found Sydney Pet Rescue & Adoption. I got my first foster - Cookie, a mastiff x - and she was absolutely gorgeous. My two little ones were a bit freaked out at first, having a small HORSE in the house, but they soon grew to love her. And seriously, the youngest one was besotted with her. But that's another story, filled with highs and lows and Biscuit's subsequent fluctuating weight when she left. Ah, to be a dog.

Since Cookie, we've gone on to foster 14 more dogs. I would be lying if I said I wanted to keep them all - some were a little difficult than others - but I loved them all regardless. There were good times and there were not so good times. A couple of the pooches decided we hadn't finished decorating and needed to have our furniture re-modelled... or, you know, just chewed.

But along the way, you realise that each dog needs something different from you. Some will just need the reassurance, a little attention to boost their confidence. Some require strict training, to get them out of the habits they were no doubt given by their previous owners. Others need vet assistance for various health issues... some which can't be predicted when they're first rescued.

And then there are those that are just "passing through." We joke that our house has a revolving door when it comes to dogs and it's actually pretty true. One out, another in. Or, sometimes, one out, three in. Depends how big that gap needs to be filled from the recent rehoming!

One of the most bitter/sweet moments is when they find their forever family. On one hand, it's the best thing for them, and you know they're going to live the happiest life they could. On the other, it's like "Thanks for the grub! See ya!" And *poof* they're gone. And then the house is that little bit quieter... and quiet does not suit our home.

If you're thinking of fostering, don't go in blindly.

There's a lot to consider before taking that step. Take yourself and any family members (including dogs) into consideration. Ask if your home is really suited to provide everything for a foster. Mostly, you need to have a safe, happy, and healthy home.

But you also need to have the extra time. Fostering a rescued dog is an all day/all night task. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the dogs you foster would probably fit into your daily routines, but there will be those who can't... not without some encouragement. When rehabilitating a dog, trust is key. You need time to form that bond with the dog, in order to have it suitable for rehoming.

There's also cost.

Sydney Pet Rescue & Adoption, for example, pay for all vet costs and provide any assistance whenever they can. As foster carers, it's our job to provide the food, bedding, toys, and anything they'll need to live in comfort. If you already have dogs of your own, the cost won't be much, but there will be times when dogs require special diets, shampoos, etc.

Basically, make sure you're ready.

The reason I foster dogs is because, for the most part, I get on better with dogs than I do people. They don't annoy me with their immature jokes, they don't ignore my phone calls, and they love me unconditionally. It's also a good feeling, knowing you're saving these dogs from certain death. Not only that, but you're making it possible for them to find a real loving home.

And, if you were like me and unsure whether to get a dog or get another dog, then it's good for testing the waters - all the while saving a life.


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