For those of you that know me personally, you know that I absolutely love supporting animal rescues/shelters and I'm always trying to raise awareness in any way possible. We live in an era where we have a lot of stray animals and not enough homes. This tends to happen because (but is not limited to) lack of knowledge/education, stigmas but also ignorance. From all those stray animals, we have overcrowded shelters which will sometimes lead to dogs being euthanized daily, in certain states, even if they're perfectly healthy.
With more social media platforms rising and many online resources, we're able to learn, educate and search for more information than we ever were. Through social media, I had the pleasure of "meeting" Randi, a woman who puts her business and life online (Instagram and her website) for anyone to see. I came across her page when I started following Big Dogs Huge Paws, a rescue that is dedicated to large and extra large breed dogs.
At the time, she was fostering for them and of course I followed since I LOVE all giant breed dogs. Over some time I saw the ins and outs of fostering and was moved. I think it's phenomenal that Randi puts this information out to the public and is so transparent through all of her journeys with each dog. Of course I had to reach out to Randi to get more information on the topic of fostering and here is what she had to say about it...
So you want to foster?
First of all, THANK YOU!! I can’t thank you enough for opening your home to a dog in need. Not only do you save the life of the dog you’re fostering, but you also open a valuable spot to the next dog in need in the form of an empty kennel at the shelter. And for that reason, know that fostering truly saves lives!!
I technically fostered my first dog in high school when I conned my parents into it. I’m from a small town and fostering wasn’t even a thing. When I approached the local humane society they basically were like- um, sure? So I took Onyx, the biggest black lab I’ve ever seen, home and fell madly in love the summer before I went to college.
My parents agreed to let me foster, if and only if, Onyx did not stay. So as the months went on, it became apparently clear, I was going to have to be the one to find him a home. The shelter just wasn’t knowledgeable enough to know how to help. If I didn’t find him a home by the time I left, he had to go back to the shelter- insert broken heart. But I just couldn’t find anyone to take a 2 year old 100lb black dog! As the time approached, I threw my hands up and said to my mom,’ I can’t take him back to the shelter. If that’s the deal- you have to take him for me.’
Fast forward to my stepdad loading him into the pickup with him, looking over at Onyx’s happy face and calling my mom saying- ‘I can’t do it, he thinks we’re just going for a ride and I can’t take this dog back to the shelter. We have to find him a home.’
At the time my mom worked for a large company in town with a man who had recently lost one a lab and still had a young female chocolate lab at home. My mom practically begged him to take Onyx for at least a sleepover, and the rest was history. He was home.
Six years later I got the itch to foster again. Having 3 dogs at home just wasn’t enough, I wanted another one. At the time, I knew I couldn’t keep 4 dogs, so I went on the foster hunt again, but this time I was armed with more knowledge and experience than before.
For first time fosters, here is my best advice:
Find a well established foster based rescue in your area!
When you work with an established rescue they have everything down to a science. Many times they practically have waitlists of families who want a dog, and you won’t get stuck trying to con anyone in your family, extended family, and friends to adopt your dog. Eventually you will run out of people. So set yourself up for success and work with an organization that knows what they’re doing. A quick google search or asking around in the rescue community can help you with this.
These organizations also usually provide all of the supplies needed to foster. From the food, to bowls, to kennels, it helps to find groups that have it all together.
Take an easy dog the first time!
Going back to setting yourself up for success; your first foster dog should be highly adoptable. So adoptable in fact, that it would be silly for you to keep them because there are so many families lined up to adopt a dog like that. It’s much easier to say goodbye when you know that they’ll thrive in any home they go to. They also tend to get adopted fast, which means less time to get too attached!
Things to look for in a highly adoptable dog:
Friendly- and I mean friendly with EVERYTHING! First and foremost, other dogs. Many people have a dog already, or want their dog to not be reactive at the store, dog park, in public, etc. so take a laid back, friendly dog. Kid friendly? Yep! Cat friendly? Even better. The friendlier they are, the easier it is for their family to find them.
House trained- While you have to be forgiving, especially in the beginning, choose a dog that has already proven to be house trained. Look for keywords like, doesn’t make a mess in their kennel, holds their bladder, etc. Again, just one less thing the new family has to stress about.
A norm for that rescue- What do I mean by this? Many rescues are size or breed specific. For example, Big Dogs Huge Paws (the first organization I formally fostered for) specializes in, you guessed it, giant breed dogs. Part of their application process explicitly asks- do you know that big dogs drool? People go there looking for a giant and that’s what they get! If BDHP decided to rescue brothers that included a chihuahua, it’s likely going to take longer to find the chihuahua a home. Conversely, if you foster for a small breed rescue and they end up taking in a 50lb lab, it’s going to take more time for him to find a home due to the exposure. People are coming to that rescue for a small dog, so just know it could take more time to find a family and we’re looking for the quickest turnaround possible in the beginning!
Find a dog that fits your current lifestyle. You do not, I repeat, do not need the perfect lifestyle to foster a dog. You can work full-time, have kids and other animals, if you find the right dog. Right now may not be the best time to take a 6-week old puppy who can’t hold his bladder for more than an hour or two. But I can guarantee a senior would love a quiet house to nap during the day and a person to greet at the end of it. Or maybe you and your family are avid hikers and would make the perfect foster home for a high energy dog that needs to get outside. Whatever your lifestyle may be, I promise there is a dog that needs you and your home to crash at!
Don’t be afraid of the crate!
I know, I know. Many of us feel guilty that we’re taking the dog from a kennel, just to put him back in one. But this is human logic and emotion, and it does no one any good. For the first few days while your foster dog gets to know you and you him, the crate is an invaluable tool. It also keeps everyone safe and happy while also getting to experience the ins and outs of your home. If you have other pets at home, this is a great way to do introductions slowly and safely. If you work during the day, this keeps your foster dog out of trouble and safe from things around your house they don’t know. Lastly, it sets them up for more success when they get to their new home and are already crate trained.
Remember why you’re doing this.
So many people say to me, “I don’t know how you do it, I would get too attached, I just couldn’t.” I always tell them the same thing, “I know it’s hard, but what’s the alternative? Are you saying that it would be easier to leave them in a loud crowded shelter because I might cry when they leave?” I disagree. The heartbreak will always, always, be worth the reward of helping a dog in need. Side note; in my years of fostering, I’ve cried twice when my foster dog got adopted. Once because I didn’t get to actually meet the family she was going with, and another time because I didn’t realize she was going home that day and hadn’t mentally/emotionally prepared myself. Every other time, it’s been such a joyous experience and the dog never looked back that I couldn’t help but smile in knowing I was a part of that.
So whatever it is that might be holding you back from fostering, I would challenge you to start asking around. Find people who currently foster and become their best friend. Ask them everything you ever wanted to know. Start talking with and interviewing rescues- use this as a chance to get a dog you may have never thought before. I once fostered a Dogue de Bourdeaux, how awesome is that?!
Should you have any questions, you can always reach out to me directly, or check out more resources on my blog. I also have a lot of tips (and cute pictures) over on Instagram- so check that out too!
One last thank you, because really, we couldn’t do this without people like you, so thank you!
Randi-Lea is a dog-mom/foster-home first and doggy life coach second. In addition to fostering, she helps busy people achieve the bond they’ve always dreamed of with their dog by developing personalized goal plans and providing the accountability everyone needs. She currently lives in Arizona with her other half Tyler, their 2 dogs, 2 horses and 2 cats.