Jenn and Paige with their dogs Kenai and Koda and their foster pup Belle
This is a guest blog post written by one of our awesome fosters. Jenn has been fostering for us since November 2016. If you would be interested in writing a guest post for our blog, please contact us! If you are interested in becoming a foster, please fill out our foster form.
Fostering dogs has been an adventure, for sure, but I’ll admit, I didn’t at first understand what kind of adventure it would be. We own two dogs of our own, both rescues, and two cats of our own, also rescues. My wife, Paige, and I live in a tiny 2-bedroom apartment. When we have a foster dog living with us, that number adds up to five animals and two humans in our little apartment. Our neighbors think we’re crazy!
At the beginning, I wasn’t so sure about the process. I didn’t let myself get attached to the dogs for two reasons. One, I knew they would be leaving and we’d likely never see them again, and I didn’t want to get attached and be heartbroken. Two, the dogs we brought home tended to be destructive: pottying on the carpet because they weren’t yet housetrained, chewing up shoes, cords, clothes, and expensive items, tearing into the trash, and so on. I grew so tired of throwing things out and cleaning up accidents! I frankly didn’t have the energy for it. But time taught me what I needed to do as a foster mom, and what to expect. I learned how to dish out pieces of my heart for these temporary furbabies. I learned that I could live happily without the belongings I threw away, a lesson I had thought I’d already known, and it spurred me onto getting rid of a lot of unnecessary items on my own time. And I learned what kind of dog suited our lifestyle best.
Honestly, at first, we didn’t yet know what kind of dogs suited our lifestyle. We tried bottle-fed babies and wild, adventure-seeking, young dogs. Were we to have the space and backyard, any dog would have been perfect. Maybe someday we will have the space and time for young, excitable furbabies, and I look forward to the day. But because we are so busy during the days and tired at night, we needed to be sure that the dog can either be kenneled or left out in the living room with no problems. We needed to know that our peaceful evenings would be full of cuddles and playing with toys, rather than chasing a tornado. We learned quickly to be picky. We finally figured out that older dogs fit in with our little apartment and busy life-style best. We love our older dogs. They light up our world. They have enough energy to play with our dogs without being overwhelming, and they are equally happy taking a nap with us on the couch while we watch a movie.
Our dogs actually really enjoy having foster dogs join their world. At first, it was a little rough. For every new foster dog we brought home, we would have to take our dogs out on a leash into the parking lot for the initial meeting. There would be a couple of days of bickering and dominance growling and lashing out, but after a while, everyone would settle down. Most of the time, the foster dog was not only accepted, but welcomed eagerly into our dogs’ little pack. More than once, our dogs have filed into their shared night-time kennel, and we were shocked to see the foster dog file right in after them with no problem! Our dogs and our foster dogs love playing in the dog park together, chasing each other around and meeting other dogs in the area. There was one time that, after a long line of foster dogs, we didn’t have a new one for many days. Our littlest dog, Koda, didn’t know what to do with himself. For those three days, he was incredibly bored and demanded our attention more than ever. He had no one new to play with!
Fostering dogs has also shown us how to be better dog owners. We have learned how to be pack leaders, how to effectively discipline, and what manners are absolutely required in all dogs. Not only do we teach these dogs manners for their new homes, but they teach us what we want from a dog. We have become better dog moms to our own furbabies. We have learned a dog’s language. Growling isn’t a scary evil, but words with genuine meaning. Grumpiness in a dog isn’t the end of the world. Dominance and submission is essential to a dog’s health and well-being, and letting dogs establish that between themselves with barking and growling is okay and not always something to fear. We know what behavior toward humans is okay, and what behavior absolutely is not acceptable. All dogs will benefit from our education in this way.
Now, after many months of fostering, we no longer have to be careful introducing our dogs to new foster dogs. We walk one foster out to meet their new family, and march another one in. The introductions no longer take days; they last about ten minutes, and our dogs are ready to play. Because of this, our dogs are less new-dog aggressive. These are all benefits that must be noted and factored in.
For those who are considering fostering, or for those who think, “I would, but….” consider these things:
You will find the room if you want to.
Your current dogs, unless they have special needs, may actually benefit.
You will probably become a better dog owner, having been exposed to many different kinds of dogs with different personalities and needs.
Homeless dogs with endless amounts of love and need will be warm and fed and loved.
All fosters are temporary. If one is frustrating or doesn’t work, the next one will.
Dogs have a lot to teach us about what really matters. It sounds cheesy, but they really do.
Love is everlasting, and you will find the love and care that you need.
I never thought fostering dogs would be something I’d get involved in, but I’m glad I did. Every day is an adventure.