Fostering Hope

By on 23 May, 2014 in Lynne Burford, Pets with 0 Comments

What a blessing it is that spring is finally here! Days of watching gray skies and drizzle have given way to sunshine and warm breezes. It’s sort of a rebirth, a clean slate, a new chance. Each spring, I feel motivated to do something new. Why not? Life is about learning and experiencing joy, and I can’t think of anything that has brought me quite the same joy as being a foster for animal rescue.

“Foster” as defined by Webster’s: to encourage or promote the development of something, typically something regarded as good. We have all been made aware of shelters and the opportunity to adopt a pet from them. However, many people aren’t aware that there is another option if you want to help but cannot commit to owning another pet long term. And that opportunity is available to anyone who loves animals and is willing to be the stepping stone between a shelter and a “forever home.”

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Foster dogs Alvin and Goldie

Shelters are bursting at the seams. Lax spay and neuter laws are part of the problem, as is over-breeding and the mindset of our throwaway society. One dog can have as many as 20 puppies a year, and for the ones born in back yards, under sheds and in the wild, the cycle will continue. There are thousands of rescuers, working solely off of donations, who take in dogs and cats, have them dropped off, or pull them from kill shelters as leaps of faith that somehow funding and fostering will be there. Sadly, the foster homes are few and far between. Rescuers work non-stop networking together to place these dogs, but that takes time. This is where being a foster can make the difference between life and death for an animal. You can help!

Stella and Bubba, a Puppy Love foster dog

Stella and Bubba, a Puppy Love foster dog

I have fostered for rescue for many years and have never had a sick, aggressive or problematic dog. Foster dogs have all been temperament tested and fully vaccinated. They come with full disclosure and as much history as can be given. Most just need one thing – love. Imagine a dog who has never felt safe enough to lie down in a clean bed or house and simply sleep. Imagine a dog whose elderly owner has gone to a nursing home and had to give up their best friend, or a dog who was dumped because its owners were moving and couldn’t take him. Foster dogs come in all shapes, sizes and from a myriad of situations. But they all need a safe place to stay while those of us working on their behalf find them permanent homes.

My experience with fostering has been so joyful, so meaningful, so enriching. Each dog that has lived with us has brought with it a story, and each has found a “forever home.” Yes, you get attached. These animals become part of your daily life and if you have other dogs, part of your pack. .My fosters are treated like my own – we go to the dog park (ask Camilla!), to the pet store, to the lake. I choose to foster adult dogs only, but if you are a puppy person and enjoy helping train and teach, a puppy will bring a lot of excitement and fun to you. There really aren’t a lot of requirements to be a foster, but when you apply – yes, there is an application process to ensure the welfare of the animal – you can ask as many questions and be as specific as you want to be about the type animal you would like to foster. From Chihuahuas to Great Danes and everything mixed in between, there is such a great and immediate need.

So, think about it. Can you open your yard and home short term? Do you need a dry run before committing to ownership? Want to practice? Stick your toe in the water? Have you lost a pet, and still feel a void but can’t make the decision to replace her or him? Foster!

Stella with Halo, another Puppy Love foster

Stella with Halo, another Puppy Love foster

I keep a running list of great rescues needing help. Our own Montgomery Humane Society regularly looks for foster homes for dogs and cats (MML interviewed MHS volunteer coordinator Cindy Chapman last summer). But that’s not the only option. Several rescue organizations are based in Alabama, others are out of state with Alabama coordinators. If you want to check a few out, Casey’s Safe Haven, Puppy Love Rescue, and Wannabe Rescued (on Facebook, but this is good info and Little Star Chihuahua Rescue are good ones to look into. My experiences with them have been incredibly gratifying and the people who coordinate for them are simply wonderful.

Consider giving a little time and a lot of love to a pet who desperately needs a break. You will find it a very humbling and very inspiring investment. You might end up being, like me, a Foster Failure … and your home be the happily-ever-after ending for that dog you really only meant to have for a little while — which in and of itself is a small and sweet miracle!

Lynne Burford is a lifelong animal advocate who has been rescuing since she was a little girl. From birds and snakes to raccoons and foxes, she has rehabilitated and released back into the wild many orphaned and injured creatures. For the last ten years her focus has been on fostering and volunteering with rescues to place dogs into permanent and loving homes. Aside from various sizes of foster dogs, she owns a small pack of chihuahuas and a very tolerant greyhound named Anya.

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