It was nearly a week ago when I got the news, “I have a borzoi actually in Massachusetts that you might be interested in.” Carol Backers, director of the National Borzoi Rescue Foundation (NBRF), went on to describe a dog named Skylar, who needed a home—and quickly.
I had put in an adoption application with the NBRF last year after losing my nine-year-old borzoi, Toffee, to bone cancer. But now, after a difficult holiday season followed by a really tough start to winter, the opportunity caught me a little off guard. This wasn’t ideal timing to bring home a new dog. Still, Skylar needed a home. Backers wondered if I might consider at least fostering him until a permanent home could be found.
That was the first time I’d ever considered fostering a dog. I know many animal rescues make use of a foster home system. There are rescues for nearly every possible breed you can imagine from Laborador retrievers to the hairless Chinese crested. Even the MSPCA (Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has a foster program.
Several of my dog training students have fostered rescues. Sometimes they’ve even brought their foster dogs to classes. Arlington resident and Picture Perfect Pets dog training instructor, Ellen Duranceau, shared with me the story of Bailey, a seven-year-old Blenheim (red and white) Cavalier she recently fostered for Cavalier Rescue USA.
“I found myself referring to him as ‘Best Boy Bailey’ because he was such a good, dear, solid boy who loved his people, his ball, his food, and his walks, and liked to make friends with everyone.” Duranceau brought up one critical point that makes true “fostering” and impossibility for me. “One of the difficult things to get used to in fostering is giving up a sweet dog you've come to love, and who has come to trust you.” Already, I can see Skylar becoming a permanent part of my pack. I think Backers had my number right from the start!
Duranceau is much stronger of character in that respect than I am, though. “Seeing Bailey with his terrific new family--a perfect match for him--was so heartwarming, it washed away all the sadness,” she continued. “We are left not with a sense of loss, but of joy and gratitude that we could help dear sweet Bailey find his ideal ‘forever family’.”
The official fostering guidelines for each organization may vary, but there are some general tips to note.
- You should have experience caring for and training dogs. It is particularly helpful if you’ve had experience with the specific type of dog you’ll be fostering.
- You should be prepared to carefully expose your foster dog to a variety of social situations and various potential “triggers” that may make some dogs anxious, in order to help determine the best type of home for this dog to be adopted into. In particular, you’ll want to see how your foster reacts to children of both sexes and a variety of ages, cats, other dogs of both sexes and a variety of breeds and sizes, crowds of people, bicycles, skateboards, traffic and the removal of food, chew toys or other “possessions.”
- You’ll need to take your foster dog to the veterinarian and dog groomer as needed. Most rescues seem to be prepared to reimburse costs for necessary care, but they may set cost limits and require pre-approval of the expenditure in most non-emergency cases.
- Sometimes, a foster dog will need to be given medication while being nursed back to health.
- You’ll need to be able to foster the dog until an appropriate home is found, keeping in mind that may be weeks or months.
- And you need to be prepared to let your foster dog go when the time comes. Alas, on this point, I fail.
I may have failed as a foster-dog mom, but I’ll very soon be the happy adopted-dog mom of Skylar, a 122-pound (slightly overweight), white borzoi. You won’t be able to miss us walking the streets of Arlington with Tatsu, my strawberry blond and white borzoi. Both boys will probably be wearing their winter coats for the foreseeable future.
Where I failed, perhaps you will succeed as the perfect foster family for a dog in need—and there are so very many dogs in need these days. Look around, consider what type of dog you’d be an ideal foster pet parent for, and then hop onto your favorite search engine. There’s no shortage of organizations to work with.
If you have your own foster dog story to share, please leave a comment