Ellison is a lifelong dog lover and a supporter of dog rescues. She has fostered 60-some dogs and loved every single one of them.
What Is Fostering?
Maybe you have heard of rescues looking for foster homes for dogs. Maybe you don't know what this means or don't know why it is important? I want to answer those questions for you.
Fostering a dog involves providing a loving home for a rescue pet until the right family or person comes along to give the dog a permanent home.
There are many dog rescue groups all across the country. Some are breed-specific while others are all-breed rescues. The reason they need foster homes is all the same no matter what breed.
Most Rescues Don't Have a Physical Location
Most dog rescues do not have a facility to keep their dogs in. They rely on people opening up their homes and fostering animals to be able to get them out of the shelters.
Dogs in shelters are always at risk. If they are owner surrendered, the shelters are not obligated to try to find them a home. They could be euthanized very quickly if space is tight and they don't consider the dog highly likely to be adopted.
The same thing goes with dogs that are found as strays. They are given a certain number of days to be claimed by their owners, then they are put up for adoption to the public. If space runs out before they can find a home and a newer resident seems more likely to find a home, the dog that was there first may end up getting euthanized.
Why Foster an Animal?
Plain and simple: Fostering a dog is saving a life (two lives really). By taking a dog in need into your home, you are opening up space in the shelter for another dog who may need it.
Fostering is rewarding. I learned more about dogs, dog behavior, dog health and training while fostering than I could have ever learned in a book. Integrating a new dog into the household and establishing his place in the pack is always a learning experience.
We don't always know the history of a dog and what they have been through—even the most normal things might be hard for them. For example, a dog that lived outside or was a stray may be terrified of walking on hardwood floors. The dog may need to be crate-trained and housebroken. Maybe he is scared of men or scared of other dogs. You never know what they have been through, so you have to welcome them into your arms with an open heart and be dedicated to helping them become a well-adjusted, happy dog.
Most dog rescues do not have a facility to keep their dogs in. They rely on people opening up their homes and fostering them to be able to get them out of the shelters.
How Does It Work?
When you agree to foster a dog, you are agreeing to take it in and treat it as your own until it finds a home. Depending on the rescue, you may or may not be financially responsible for the dog's veterinary care. Get them acclimated to the home environment, housebroken and or crate-trained, and socialized with other people and animals.
You get to know the ins and outs of the dog's personality so that you can relay this information to the rescue coordinator. The rescue adoption coordinator will then use the information you provide about the dog to help screen potential adopters.
As the foster, you get to know the dog and advocate for him to help him find the forever home he deserves. Whether it be by taking him out to meet potential adopters at adoption events, answering email inquiries, or talking to potential adopters on the phone about your foster dog.
Fostering Shouldn't Be Used to "Test Out" a Dog
I hate to hear that people fostered a dog in order to "test them out" and see how they fit in with their home.
For one, this can cause a problem for the rescue if they have your dog advertised for adoption. Maybe they go ahead and screen adopters, and then you tell the rescue at the last minute that you want to keep the dog. Adopters get their hopes up and this puts the rescue in a bad position to have to say the dog isn't available after all.
Don't get me wrong, a failed foster is still a dog getting a loving home. For the rescue's sake though, it is hard to have dogs listed for adoption just to have the foster not want to give it up when the time comes.
A Lesson in Selflessness
Fostering is a lesson in selflessness—taking in an animal and loving it as your own (knowing that in the end, you won't get to keep it is a selfless thing to do). You go into knowing that your heart is going to hurt in the end. First, it will hurt, but then when the adopters send you pictures and updates, you will be proud of what you did for the dog. You will also be proud that you let him move on to a home that loves him as much as you.
The Cure for a Foster's Broken Heart
Lastly, the cure for a broken fosters heart is an easy fix . . . get another foster dog! There are dogs everywhere that in order to get out of a shelter, need someone to open their home as a foster home.
Taking another foster dog is saving another life, maybe even two if it buys another dog a little more time.
Why Fostering Is so Rewarding
I will not say fostering a dog is easy. It most definitely isn't. Some are easier than others. It is fun getting to know them all as individuals. In my opinion, the experience of fostering and being able to help give an animal a second chance at life is worth the heartache that comes when it is time for them to move on.
Dogs are incredible animals. A lot of the time, I do better with dogs than I do with people. You don't know the depth of a dog's soul though until you foster one and can feel that they are grateful. As if somehow they knew you gave them the chance they needed.
So, next time you hear about a dog that needs a foster home, I hope that by reading this article you might give it a second thought. You really can make a difference by fostering. It is one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had in my life!
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 10, 2020:
Interesting article. Fostering well explained.
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on March 11, 2019:
Thank you for reading my article! It is super hard to let them go. Trust me, I have shed my fair share of tears throughout the foster process. Luckily, the happy ending stories make it well worth it!
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 10, 2019:
This is such a wonderful thing...a foster home for an animal!! B u t I am not good at letting go....as a matter of fact I cry every time I see a "dumped" dog or cat along the road and want to gather them up and bring them home. Angels on the way this evening ps
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on March 10, 2019:
Hi Louise! I hope that when you are ready you will find a dog to let into your life whether it be through fostering or just adoption. Thanks for reading my article!
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on March 10, 2019:
I would never foster a dog to 'test one out.' That's not good. But, I would definitely consider fostering one. I lost my dog last November after having him for 15 years, and really miss having a dog around. I have considered fostering a dog, but not actually got round to doing it yet. But this article has proved most helpful, thankyou.
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on March 07, 2019:
Thank you so much! I hope that I can inspire others to foster so more animals can have a second chance at life. Thanks again for reading my article!
Juliette Jones from Vancouver Island, BC, Canada on March 07, 2019:
Wow, awesome description with your pictures! So sorry about poor Zegna! I hope there are a lots of people like you who can give these dogs a second chance at life. So heartwarming.
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on March 07, 2019:
I definitely should add captions! Thanks for reading my article and thanks for the suggestion.
Juliette Jones from Vancouver Island, BC, Canada on March 06, 2019:
Hi Ellison, I love what you do by fostering dogs. Maybe one day when I no longer live in an apartment, I will too. Your pictures are awesome. Would it be possible to add a brief description to your pictures as there is obviously a story there too? All the best!