How To Become A Pet Foster Family

Foster Dog

MorgueFile by Jackal

It’s terrible to lose a beloved member of your family, and doubly so when it’s a senseless tragedy. Our natural desire is to want justice, or to close our hearts and try to protect ourselves.

But there is a better way. After the sudden and uncalled-for death of our beloved furbaby, Boots, my husband and I have decided to create something good from this tragedy.

Not only are we going to educate the public about dog cruelty via this website and our Facebook Page, we are also planning to foster dogs in need — dogs that have gotten lost from their families, dogs that have been mistreated and need new families, dogs that have been abandoned.

Naturally, I’m not going to get into something like this without doing some investigating. I started with internet research and progressed to asking friends and family for sources of information.

Researching (canine) foster parenting

That’s when I found out my mom is friends with a lady at her church who has fostered dogs for years. She is Lisa Boggus, and she fosters for The Bella Foundation and OneLife Rescue and Rehabilitation, both based in Oklahoma City.

“Bella is a great organization,” Lisa said. “They are a very big rescue in Oklahoma City and the Chickasha areas.” Bella takes in rescues from the kill shelters in small rural areas when they start to get full. The organization holds¬†adoption events every other weekend at the PetSmart at 63rd and May and other locations.

You can find an upcoming adoption even on the Bella event calendar.

Lisa recommended fostering through Bella if you want to help several dogs over smaller periods of time. She said there is usually about a 10-day turnaround from the time a foster takes in a dog until it is adopted out. This sounded ideal to me, because it means there is less time to fall in love and get my heart broken when it’s time to send the furbaby to his new home. (Of course, at least I’ll know he’s happy and healthy!)

Most of the dogs Lisa has fostered through Bella ended up being pre-adopted prior to the adoption events via the pictures the foundation posts online on their website and their Facebook page.

Lisa also fosters dogs through the OneLife Rescue, which caters to special needs dogs. Their rescues tend to be high risk with health issues that no one else will take. Because of the health issues — Lisa has fostered a dog with mange, and another fighting parvo — the dogs involve a long-term foster commitment. Some dogs may have issues stemming from abuse, while others may be very young or have puppies that are not old enough to leave their mother.

Lisa has a heart for fostering mothers with puppies, which can require more time than just a single dog.

What to watch out for

She advised me, whatever route I go, to watch out for distemper and other serious health issues such as parvovirus. While dogs can survive these illnesses, sometimes they do not. In any case, dogs will need to be treated immediately. Lisa said she has nursed dogs through parvo successfully. However, she has lost two dogs to distemper, with one still recovering.

Preparing to foster

Before you take the canine foster parent leap, you’ll need to make sure you’re ready for the commitment.

If you’re new to having dogs in your home, make sure you understand what is involved:

  1. Be aware that dogs often chew on anything they can get ahold of and can be destruction. Just think of it like having a two-year-old with teeth and a propensity to chew on everything.
  2. Do you have a fenced area of your yard? Your dog will need to be able to go outside to a safe place to do its, um, business.
  3. Are you OK with having a dog in the house? While the dog does need outside to exercise as well, you’re dog will need to sleep in the house and will need to be inside interacting with you and learning how to be a good canine citizen.
  4. Do you know how to train a dog? Training a dog needs to be positive experience for both foster and parent. Some dogs have been through abusive or neglectful situations and will need extra patience and love.
  5. Do you have time? If you are gone all day long and no one is home to take care of the foster dog, this may not be an option for you. Someone is always home at my house, and I am home all summer long, so I’ll have plenty of time, particularly during the summer, to work with any fosters we may help.

 Do you qualify?

Frequently caring for a dog responsibly takes a special kind of person — just like being a teacher takes a special kind of person. You need to be patient, compassionate, and willing to be flexible and learn new things. You will also need to be observant, and able to detect when something is wrong with the dog and report it to the rescue staff.

Once you’ve decided to foster, you will need to fill out an application on the rescue’s website. Rescue staff may want to contact your current veterinarian for a reference, conduct a home visit, and possibly ask you to attend training sessions.

Additionally, while the rescue typically pays for the expenses associated with caring for the dog (vaccinations, medical treatment, spay/neuter, crate, sometimes food), there may be other out-of-pocket expenses, as well. For example, we will have to install a fence in order to qualify to foster, since our property is not currently fenced. Other expenses could include toys, clean-up related to any messes the dog may make, etc.

Where to apply

Once you have decided to take the leap, check out the rescue organizations in the sidebar on the right side of the SSAAD website. Those sites have foster applications that you can fill out.

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