What is Fostering?

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Written by Becky Monroe

I was scrolling Tik Tok the other day and found the most adorable foster story out of California. Hippo, a pit bull looking dog, was up for euthanasia when the organization I Stand with my Pack , pulled him from the shelter and a volunteer started fostering him. 

Click photo to view the Tiktok in full

Hippo is the sweetest, cutest dog. The kind of dog you start to consider traveling across the country to adopt, but he now has thousands of followers and I would be a little surprised if his foster family didn’t adopt him themselves.

But, what I noticed when I started following Hippo’s journey was all the comments asking about fostering.

After over a decade in this world of animal welfare, there are many things I take for granted. Knowing what fostering a homeless animal is, is one of them.

Hippo’s story and the numerous inquiries about fostering made me realize that it might be a great topic for this blog. While many of our followers might know what fostering is (and have done it themselves) maybe it would be a good blog to share with friends and family who do not.

Right now shelters and rescues find themselves over capacity. Sadly, many of the animals who found their way into homes during the pandemic are now being relinquished — a fear many animal advocates had two years ago.

The reasons are wide spread, but the reality is in order to save the lives of so many unwanted pets, shelters and rescues desperately need people to step up and foster. 


Foster? What does that mean?

Fostering a dog (or any animal) for a specific rescue or shelter means that you are agreeing to temporarily care for that dog like you would a dog of your own. However, all the expenses of the dog are usually paid for by the rescue or shelter until the dog is adopted.

This means all the dog’s food, vet bills, medicines, necessary training etc… are paid for while you are caring for the dog.

Fostering can be super temporary like a matter of days depending on if the dog is healthy and immediately ready for adoption and/or if the dog only needs a place to land in-between transports.

Fostering can last longer — meaning weeks, months or years depending on the situation. Some families choose to get involved with what we call Hospice Fosters. These dogs tend to be seniors who come into rescue late in life with potentially numerous health problems and are deemed unadoptable or likely hard to place because of their age and medical needs. However, these dogs are often super lovable and sweet and just need a quiet, loving home and family to live out their lives.

Fostering is a critical component to saving lives. Many rescues rely on foster homes because they do not have a shelter to house dogs in. These rescues can only pull dogs from shelters if they have a place to put them. When they don’t, dogs sit in shelters, shelters fill up and eventually, dogs are euthanized to make space. It is the harsh reality of unwanted pets. 

Jack before rescue
Jack after being fostered

Many shelters offer their own foster programs in their communities as a way to save more lives than they have capacity for. If they can place some of their dogs in homes, they have more shelter space to take in relinquished animals.

You are literally saving lives when you foster. You are saving the life of the dog you take in and you are saving the life of another dog who needed space in a shelter.

You truly become a dog hero when you foster.

The great thing about fostering is you can find a rescue or shelter who meets your needs. Whether you want to foster a pit bull like Hippo or a Shih Tzu or would like to get involved with Hospice fostering, there is a group out there who needs you – NOW.

You will fill out an application, likely have a meet and greet, a home check and they will help coordinate a foster situation that works for your lifestyle, your current pets, family, home situation, etc.

If you are an avid trainer, they will likely match you to a dog in need of better manners. If you have experience with medical issues, perhaps a dog who needs medicine or therapy would be a great fit.

Right now there are dogs of all shapes and sizes in need of a foster home.

Maybe your family has been considering adopting a dog. Fostering is a great way to see how your family responds to living with a pet.

That said, fostering isn’t something you go into with the idea that if it doesn’t work out in a few days, you walk away. Rescues who pull dogs knowing that they have foster placement, need those fosters to be serious and committed to that dog.

What many of us have experienced during our foster opportunities is what we call, “Foster Fails.”

This does not mean we failed at fostering the dog or did anything wrong. It means that instead of finding the dog a new home, we decided that we wanted to adopt the dog ourselves.

I have foster failed twice. Jack, a mixed breed (pictured above), who was hit by a car and left for dead. Alice, a Shih Tzu, (pictured below) was rescued at an auction. After caring for them, I just couldn’t imagine my life without them in it. 

Many talk about the emotional attachment and the difficulty of handing over the dog you cared for to a new family. It is tough. Heck, I have burst into tears after just two days of being a temporary foster for a transport. Our hearts grow attached fast and sometimes it is just impossible to say goodbye.

But, even through the tears, handing over the dog to his new family is so rewarding. Knowing that you were able to be a part of what saved that dog’s life and gave him the second chance he deserved, well, there just aren’t many other opportunities in life that give you such a rewarding feeling.

When you decide to look into fostering, I would keep a few things in mind. Each rescue and shelter operates differently, so you want to ask a lot of questions so you find one that feels right to you.

Some organizations allow the foster home to choose the adoptive family while others might only allow their feedback. Some organizations are very stringent on who they will adopt to — that might or might not sit well with you.

Some organizations give the foster home first right of refusal to adopt the dog while others might just go by their adoption waiting list and allow someone else to adopt the dog first.

Shelters and rescues want to make the foster experience a good one for all involved, so it is just important to ask questions and get a really solid feel for what you are getting into.

As someone who has fostered many animals and foster failed along the way, I will attest that it is such a wonderful experience. I would say that our whole family benefited from our fostering. Our daughter learned how to care for sick animals. Our friends and families learned so much about animal rescue and the need for foster and adoption. I would even say that our various packs benefited from having new dogs join in here and there.

If you are considering fostering, I would ask you act on it today. Across the country shelters and rescues are begging for help. There are simply just too many dogs in need right now and without the help of more individuals getting involved, good dogs will needlessly be euthanized due to no fault of their own.

Honestly, if you need a bit more motivation, I would suggest you go on Tik Tok and watch Hippo from the beginning. Or, watch Dr. Bewley’s fostering of Travolta at the Kentucky Humane Society.

When you see the transformations of these two dogs or watch any transformations of dogs in need and realize what a profound impact you can have on a dog and how that dog can impact your own heart and soul — it is near impossible not to want to be a part of something so beautiful.

Fostering really is an opportunity of a lifetime that provides so many benefits to those involved.

Fostering saves lives and who doesn’t want to save an animal?

**Just a reminder – if you would like to share your Puppy Mill Survivor’s story with our supporters, I would love to publish it on Tails and Truths! Just email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com.**