Fosters Are a Valuable Resource

Every rescue and shelter needs fosters to save more animals. Experienced fosters are worth their weight in gold but to become experienced, a new foster needs guidance and direction.

Fostering an animal from a shelter or rescue is an important part of the adoption process. It also ensures scared, abused and neglected animals get a second chance at life. The shelters in this country and the greater world are packed to capacity. Without spay/neuter laws in place, people breed and abandon animals in the hundreds of thousands each day. You can make a small difference in the lives of those animals.

Fostering can be hard, I won’t lie. Some animals have been through hell. But with love, patience and help from you, some of them will get to live and find their forever homes.

Fostering can be rewarding, I am serious. When they go off with their forever mom or dad, it is the most amazing thing to witness. Sure, you’ll cry, but you’ll also be uplifted and proud and know that you saved one and can get ready to save another.

So, give an animal a chance at life…FOSTER AND SAVE A LIFE.

What fostering SHOULD BE

Fostering should be a very rewarding experience. You should feel like you are doing a great thing, saving a life and are valued by the rescue group or shelter you are fostering for. If you do not, you should find another group to work with. I worked with one rescue group where I never heard from the Director, never got a single application on the dog or a call to see how she was doing, then the dog disappeared off the Petfinder page and now has been here for a year without so much as a, “how’s she doing?” I worked with another Director, who would have dogs dropped off at my house, dog after dog, even after I asked to hold off while my husband had open heart surgery and she took none. There are horror stories, just like in any other endeavor one might do. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

YOU, the foster, are the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER, in any rescue or shelter. YOU are allowing them to save more dogs and if it is a good rescue, you should feel this way and be treated this way. You should feel supported and part of a what could be a wonderful process. If you are yelled at, mistreated or ignored, find another rescue. You don’t need them…they need you.

What might be expected of a foster varies dog to dog or cat to cat. You may be needed to go pick up the pet from a shelter or a transport. You may need to bathe the awful shelter smell out of him and go slowly and gently because he is scared to death and has no idea what is going on. You may have to house train, not only to teach him where to do his business, but he may have never been in a house before, or out of a cage. He might come with wonderful manners or none. Every case is different and every need is found in rescue.

I have fostered a well-mannered, gorgeous rehome who fit right into my pack and I have fostered puppy mill pups who had no idea what grass was or what she was expected to do on it. If you love and understand dogs, it will be fairly simple to see which foster you have within the first few minutes of meeting her. I leave my fosters alone for the first few hours and watch. They will follow me and my pack out to the yard, they will find the water bowl, they will find the food bowl but they don’t know you, your home or your expectations. Let them watch you and you watch them. They will come around to you quickly when they see you interacting with your own dogs.

Some people recommend separating them from your pack for the first few days. I don’t do this unless there is an illness, as it only prolongs the inevitable sniff-a-thon that will ensue and the sooner the foster feels safe, the sooner he will trust you. Plus, the pack will teach him much faster than you will, things like where to do his business, who is the pack leader, who smells the best and many other doggie do’s and don’ts.

Chances are your foster may have come from a “not so nice” situation. One of the best ways to bring her around is with food. She was probably eating crap in a bag or crap in a can and a homecooked meal of boiled chicken, brown rice, smashed peas and fish oil, will go a long way to trusting and healing. I had one foster come here and his first poop was nothing but wood chips. Within a day of eating my “Chicken Soup for the Foster’s Soul” she will start to heal inside and out. Her coat will soften and get shinier, her eyes will clear and her “odor” will dissipate.

After a few days, you should be asked to get some pictures and help write a bio on your foster dog. You are the expert in his needs at this point. Is he house trained? Does he get along with other dogs and cats and kids? All this should be put into his bio for the Petfinder or other listing page. Is he a high energy dog? He needs a high energy adopter. Is he a couch potato? That’s what you should put in his bio. The rescue should think of you as a partner in finding the perfect home for your foster. They should send you applications to look over. They should value your opinion. They may want to have the final say, perhaps, but your input should be considered. One rescue I worked with sent me applications and gave me total control over calling references, doing home checks, finding the home, delivering the dog and then asked for the check. Basically, they did nothing and I did everything. This gave me the incentive to start my own rescue. Another rescue wanted total control, made all the decisions and never took my opinion into consideration. All the more reason to start my own rescue.

Like I said, YOU are the most important part of fostering and if you aren’t, find another rescue.

You should treat that dog as part of your family. He will learn socialization with other animals and other people with you. You should teach him your routines and your rules so that when he is ready to go home, he can live with routines and rules. I keep a “Foster Journal” on each of my fosters. Then I discuss these things with the potential adopter. They should be made aware of levels of training, likes and dislikes of your foster. There should be total disclosure about medical or behavioral concerns. The less of a surprise it is to an adopter, the better the chance he will find his “Forever Home” and be there FOREVER.

The “Magic Two Week Date” will come quicker than you think. By two weeks, you will have a good handle on what he needs, he will have an idea of what is expected of him and any issues will reveal themselves. There are day to day and dog to dog differences. But if you are a level headed animal person, you will know what to do. Treat her as one of your own and she will be fine and so will you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the rescue and remember…YOU are the most important part of the “Circle of Rescue.”

What fostering SHOULD NOT BE

I know a certain rescue group who treats fosters like garbage and threatens them with legal action because they want to foster to adopt, after it was agreed to. Or agrees to a short-term foster situation then calls the foster all sorts of names because the dog has to be moved. Or takes it’s time reimbursing vet bills. Or demands adoption fees from another rescue person who agreed to help and the rescue raises $3000 and only sends $1200 for the vetting, deny they raised that much and threatens the rescue person who spent her own money to vet. Or that the Director can’t or won’t take any fosters for various reasons but will demand that adoption donation be sent immediately.

Sorry, I know I am ranting here but  I am tired of getting these stories from good people who are so hurt that they will probably never foster again. Fosters should be treated like partners because without them, we could never save any animals and when good people are treated like garbage, lied about and slandered by a bully, plain and simple, it makes it tough for the rest of us to find good fosters.

Fosters should be the most important part of any rescue and if they are not, they should look for another rescue to work with. If the ultimate goal is to save as many animals as possible, then one-time fosters should not be sought or used and abused so they never foster again. Experienced fosters is what every rescue should be aiming for. Second and third time fosters are better fosters. They understand that being flexible and understanding is important in fostering as it should be for the main rescue.

What should make you not want to foster with a rescue group? In my opinion, if the Director doesn’t foster, it should throw up a red flag. If you are made all sorts of promises to go get the dog and “yeah, yeah, yeah” you can foster to adopt or any other agreement…get it in writing before you go. Even an email saying this, is good enough. If you are then asked to turn over the dog or puppies because the rescue wants to change it’s mind, or go back on that promise, remember that, sadly, dogs in this country are seen as property and there should be a clause in the foster contract about the rescues “Foster to adopt policy” and if there isn’t, don’t sign it. If you never signed anything, and are fostering on a verbal agreement, you are adopting on a verbal agreement, also.

But ideally, things should never be allowed to escalate to a point that you feel this way. Open communication will ensure the best foster experience. It is important for you to also say what you want or need. The rescue needs to know where you stand as quickly as possible, too. If you are on the fence, not sure what you want to do, go back and forth in your decisions, you are then putting that dog in jeopardy and wasting valuable rescue time. One foster I know of told the rescue one day she was adopting the dog and the next, she wasn’t. Applications were taken, references were called, home checks were done and a new family was chosen. The foster mom was asked all through the process for input, then at the last minute changed her mind, again. Now that adopter, who was looking forward to adopting is let down. That’s not right, either.


It is so important that we have caring, dog and cat savvy people who are willing to foster with us and not for us. We all should consider ourselves part of a “Collective” in the Circle of Rescue. Just saying we are a collective, does not make us so. We should behave this way, with the goal of helping more pets find loving homes.


Lynne Fowler

Oodles of Doodles, Inc. Rescue Collective

Fosters Needed Here, too. Fill out my application and come be a Foster Partner with me.


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