PM Experiment

A Foray into Pet Fostering

One person's experience with Friends of Homeless Animals

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Losing a pet is losing a family member. When we lost Bruin, a Boston Terrier, earlier this year, I was grief-stricken. I missed so desperately hearing the jingle of his collar and the sounds of his paws pattering around the house. Although the silence was deafening, a constant reminder of our loss, we weren’t ready to get another dog.

My friend, a volunteer for Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA), reached out to me and suggested we volunteer to foster a dog until we were ready to adopt. This non-profit volunteer organization rescues Boston Terriers, mixes and other small dogs from kill shelters near and far with the goal of finding each creature their forever home. FOHA is an all-volunteer rescue without a brick and mortar shelter; all dogs are fostered in individual homes.

I filled out their application, which was followed up with an interview and home visit to make sure that we would be a good, safe home for fosters. I was paired with a foster buddy – an experienced volunteer who could answer any questions I might have about the process.

Once approved, I began to receive e-mails with a list of animals in need of a foster home here. After reading the bios and seeing photos of the animals, I selected our first foster dog – Sampson, a three year old black and white Boston Terrier mix. We were instructed to pick up Sampson from Alpha Dog Transport (ADT), a USDA certified transport service, at a Park & Ride in Connecticut.

We arrived to find many other cars parked – fellow fosters from FOHA and other organizations. There were adopters there too: those who decided to blindly adopt a dog based solely on their online profile. The tractor trailer arrived; everyone quickly lined up, eagerly waiting their turn to claim their dog. Soon it was our turn. I could barely contain my excitement. After telling the ADT employee Sampson’s name, he went into the trailer and came back out with a very skittish and timid dog, along with his veterinary paperwork. We walked Sampson around the parking lot so he could relieve himself, and gave him some water and treats. He climbed into the backseat and remained laying there until curiosity got the best of him. He carefully made his way onto my lap and stayed there until we arrived home, enjoying the sun and attention.

Once the dog is in your hands, you’re responsible for loving, feeding and taking care of your new foster. FOHA provides heartworm and flea tick prevention. You’re responsible for taking photos and updating the dog’s bio so that he/she is marketable on petfinder.com.

You’ll need some patience while the dog adjusts. Sampson had a few accidents in our home, which is to be expected during the transition. We quickly fell into a routine – walking, playing fetch, learning tricks. He went from a very timid, sweet dog to a happy dog eager to give kisses and roll over for belly rubs. As a foster, you’re required to bring your dog to some pet adoption events. Sampson stole the show with his mild man- nered ways, but there were no takers that day. I soon found myself a “foster failure” – a foster home that ends up adopting the dog they are fostering. Although Sampson was meant to be our first foster, he pawed his way into our hearts and we couldn’t imagine our home without him.

After adopting Sampson, we decided to foster another dog. We went through the same process and took in Sprout – a 1-2 year old stray terrier mix found in the South. Sprout is adorable, very high energy and loves to wake you up with sloppy French kisses. When he’s excited, he’ll jump as high as five feet in the air. Sprout had a few accidents in our home as well, but after working on his training, he was housebroken in no time.

As a foster, you’re expected to follow through on any inquiries and applications that come through for your dog. I was very involved in finding Sprout his home – from answering questions about his demeanor and calling references for potential adopters to updating his bio on petfinder.com. Being fully involved in the process made it easier to say good-bye when he did find his forever home. Three weeks later, Christine, a young working woman from Hudson, NY showed serious interest in Sprout. After vetting her application, she was approved. We met Christine halfway so she could meet Sprout in person and decide if he was the right dog for her. Instantly, Sprout took to her and she to him.

I teared up as we drove back home, a little because I would miss him, but mostly because I was so happy that we were able to help Sprout find his forever home. We saved not one, but two dogs, from high kill shelters and found them loving homes with owners who truly love and appreciate them. Fostering is such a rewarding experience and one you will not regret.

FOHA is actively looking for new foster homes; the more foster homes available, the more dogs we can save. If right now isn’t a good time to foster, consider volunteering. The organization is always looking for help with home visits, running their pet adoption events and more.