Fostering: Love. Learn. Let Go. Repeat.

Zoom, a 9-month-old Doberman puppy, is our latest foster.

I tiptoed out of his room, closed the door, and made it all the way upstairs before whispering to my husband, “I think he is just going to sleep. No crying!” Sure enough, it was only our third night together, but the baby went to sleep without a sound and slept through the night.

But this was no human baby, peacefully tucked into a crib. This was Zoom, our 9-month-old Doberman foster puppy, snoozing away in his crate. And just like with a human baby, that first night of pure, uninterrupted sleep was bliss. But unlike a human baby, Zoom was sleeping through the night in just a few days, and housetrained in a week.

Over the past eight years, I have fostered 66 cats and dogs, and those first few days can be a bit rough. Sometimes they are terrified, sometimes they won’t eat anything, or they might want to eat everything in sight — I am still missing a remote control from 2006 — and sometimes, they are wonderfully easy and well-mannered. But, no matter how the experience goes, I can say every single time it has been worth it, because, plain and simple, fostering saves a life.

Whether you foster for a public animal shelter or a private rescue, you are providing a home for an animal, who otherwise might be living in a cage, or worse, might be euthanized. Depending on the organization, fostering can be as short as a few days, or as long as several months, and generally means that you are providing food, shelter, and TLC to an animal in your home. The rescue or shelter typically covers medical expenses, provides food and supplies, and can give you basic training on how to care for the animal in need. Sometimes animals need to be in a foster home while recovering from an illness or injury, or because they are frightened, but most often, foster homes are needed because there are simply not enough places for cats and dogs to wait while they are looking for homes.

Contrary to popular belief, most foster pets are not “damaged goods” or savage biters in need of rehab. They are just cats and dogs who have fallen on hard times and need someone with a big heart to help them get back on their feet, er paws, again.

Many people fear the commitment because they worry that they will be too attached to the pet to adopt them out. Well, let me be the first to tell you, it is not as hard as you might think. I love fostering animals. I love seeing them grow and learn and get one step closer to finding a home that is their perfect forever. But, while it took me a little bit of time, I came to two realizations:

  1. I am not the perfect home for every animal I foster. The rowdy tuxedo kitten who took great pleasure in trying to claw off my eyebrows while I slept? Nope. The Pekingese whose daily grooming regimen was more intense than my own? No, thank you. But there are people out there who might literally cry tears of joy at the opportunity to adopt a kitten like Meg or a dog like Ducky. I took wonderful care of them, and then cried tears of joy when they left.
  2. Every time I find a home for one of my foster animals, I know that not only have I made someone’s family complete through adoption of a furry friend, but that I can once more open my home to an animal in need of love and shelter until their forever family comes along.

Foster animals bring me a unique joy even though I know that I cannot adopt them all. It might be an emotional roller coaster but it is also an amazing opportunity to realize that loving and letting go can be the best thing that has ever happened to a homeless cat or dog. Giving a pet a second chance can be so easy, and as the old saying goes, saving the life of one animal might not change the world, but the world will surely change for that one animal.

Zoom is available for adoption through DAR&E. To learn more about fostering a pet in your area, contact your local shelter or rescue.