The shelter is actively seeking to expand it’s fostering program and to do that we need a special type of volunteer.  Fostering is a program where the shelter places an animal in a temporary home rather than keeping it here at the shelter.  A foster situation can last from a few weeks to months and each situation has different needs.

If you think that fostering an animal might be right for you we want to talk with you.  There’s an application, sure, but even more importantly there’s a conversation.  We want to work with you to find the right fostering fit, help connect you with the type of animal that matches up with the foster parent you want to be and the commitment that you can make.  We believe that the better informed a potential foster parent is the better the chances are that both the human and the animals will have a positive experience. That’s why were going to talk a bit about some of the foster situations you may encounter here.  The first reason that an animal might need a foster home is developmental.

A great example of a foster situation for developmental needs is a nursing mother with kittens too young to be separated.  In a case like that the family will probably take in multiple babies and, if they are lucky enough that she was brought in with them, the nursing momma cat.  A family planning on taking in kittens should plan on creating a safe and quiet space for the momma and kittens to acclimatize to the house, like a spare room or a laundry room where they can have their own space without being overwhelmed by children or other pets in the house (tile flooring is a big plus as kittens are messy).  The kittens will need lots of time for socialization (read: playing) and the momma will need a lot of patience and understanding that she may be protective of her babies.  They’ll also need special food for developing kittens and, if they are little babies with no momma, possibly even bottle feeding. This foster family is nurturing, playful, and enjoys a bit of organized kitten chaos.

Another reason an animal needs to be fostered is for behavioral reasons. To be clear, behavioral does NOT mean dangerous.  We would never place a dangerous animal in a foster home!  When we say behavioral what we mean is stressed out or untrained. Too often a dog is surrendered by an owner who either “didn’t have time for him” or “can’t handle all his energy.” As shelter staff conduct the behavioral evaluation on the dog they soon learn that the owner also didn’t have time to train the dog for anything other than using the bathroom outside.  Even a great dog will make a poor impression if they don’t know how to do things like walk on a leash or drop something he shouldn’t have in his mouth. A foster family experienced with dogs and willing to take the time to train one is a godsend for this type of animal, they will help get the dog in tip top shape to meet his forever family.

A dog who comes to us may also be too stressed to be in the shelter at first.  Imagine a dog who has lived his whole life with one owner in a quiet, loving home.  Then that owner passes away and suddenly the dog is thrust into a shelter full of other dogs barking and unfamiliar, overwhelming smells.  He doesn’t know what’s going on, who all the strange people are, or where his owner went.  He’s stressed and scared and may show that by barking excessively, running frantically back and forth in his kennel, even having accidents.  This dog is a wonderful pet but he’s so stressed that adoption is out of the question until he calms down.  Enter an understanding, dog experienced foster family.  They will provide a safe and stable environment for the dog, will give him space and time to get used to his new situation, will be available to bring him to the shelter by appointment to meet interested adoptive families, and will be able to share information about his personality, likes, and needs. They will essentially be a shepherd, guiding him to his forever home.

Yet another reason an animal might need a foster home for medical purposes. Animals in foster for medical needs might  just need a safe and quiet space to recover from a medical procedure.  In more involved cases they may need medication every few hours for period of days or weeks or they may need to visit the vet for follow up visits several times. They may also need a special diet or food that’s not available in a grocery store. All expenses are paid by the shelter, often from our Life Is Precious Fund.  A good example of an animal in foster care for medical needs is Little One.

Many of our followers are aware of Little One, the 6 week old kitten found under a porch with a badly broken leg.  Little One has a cast on her front leg and needs to visit the vet every week until he can determine whether or not the limb can be saved.  Little One’s foster mom makes time for these weekly vet visits and also gives her any medication she needs to help with pain from the broken limb.  She’s makes sure that Little One isn’t able to access stairs or any areas of the house where her limited mobility could get her hurt.  All of these accommodations are good things for a person or family fostering an animal with medical needs to plan for. This foster family has the time to manage the animal’s medical needs and the understanding that the animal may not behave with typical playfulness or energy. They are patient, organized, and enjoy seeing the animal get stronger, recover, and move on to the next stage of it’s life, a forever family.

Finally we have our most special type of foster, the hospice foster. These families will take in a terminally ill animal and agree to care for it until the end.  When we received Bella, an 8 year old pit bull mix, shelter staff hoped that the masses they felt on her torso were benign.  Unfortunately they weren’t and the vet told us that Bella’s cancer was terminal.  “Did we want.” he asked, “to euthanize her now or wait?  She might have 6 more good months left before she got too sick if we could find someone willing to take care of her.” That’s where Lynn*, a fantastic foster mom with our program stepped in.  She offered to take Bella for the rest of her life, manage her medical needs and pain medication, and give her a loving and safe place to live out her final months.  She knew it would be a painful process but ultimately it was the greatest gift she could give this dog.  Bella remains with Lynn today, enjoying her last summer.

If you’ve read this far you know that fostering isn’t easy but hopefully you also understand that it can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.  If you want to start he conversation please contact us, we are excited to start the conversation.

*Names are changed to protect privacy

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