Paws to Heart – Being a Dog Foster Mom

There have been many dogs through this small apartment’s doors but only two have ever called it home. Through all the licking, the barking, the behavior issues, the sad stories and the heartbreak when they leave I have never asked myself “why do I do this?”.  I do it because I love dogs.  It’s as simple as that.

There are so many dogs who need help, so many lives and sad stories that I often find myself overwhelmed.  It’s hard to wade through the horrors of dog rescue and feel like you aren’t doing enough or that you’re horrible for not saving all the doggies.  I often have to defend my choice of charity to other people who don’t understand why I put my efforts into saving animals when there are children starving.  I’ve also had to defend my choice of rescue to other animal advocates who think I’m not doing it right.  That I’m not saving the right kind of dogs or fighting for what they believe to be the correct way to rescue.

This post isn’t for them though.  This post is for everyone out there who ever wanted to do something to help but weren’t sure about what to do.  Consider fostering – it’s one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences you will ever have.  It will teach you patience when the dog who has never lived in a house pees on your walls and chews your furniture.  It will teach you creative thinking when you have to adjust your schedule for a special needs pet or a high energy pup who needs more exercise.  It will teach you how to child proof your home because if you have a chewer you will learn quickly what dangerous and expensive things should NOT be left around where waist-high creatures can get at them.  Most of all though, it will teach you about unconditional love.  It will teach you about putting the needs of another being before your own.  You will learn to do what is best for that being even if it goes against what you want.

I’ve always lived my life around dogs.  Even if there wasn’t one in my household someone somewhere had a canine companion I could cuddle with.  The first thing my husband and I did when we bought an apartment together was adopt a dog.  A 7 year old Rottweiler named Princess.  She has since passed away and now we are ruled over by Spitha, a special needs italian greyhound mix we adopted from Tails From Greece rescue.  My home is filled with pictures of Princess and Spitha (and no, these pictures will not be REPLACED by baby ones – the baby ones will JOIN them in prominence).

Right now I am fostering Agis (the dog in the picture) for Tails From Greece.  Unfortunately due to our new arrival Agis will need to go back to the rescue in May.  I did not know I was pregnant when I offered to foster an energetic puppy like Agis.  If things were different he could stay but our apartment isn’t big enough for two dogs, two grown people and a newborn baby.  Not to mention the fact it’s not fair to Agis.  He’s been making such progress that might all be undone by the chaos of a newborn in his life.  He’s just under two years old and needs at least 2 (if not 3) one hour walks a day.  My husband and I have been at this long enough that we know our limits.  I’m hoping his forever home comes along before he goes to a new foster but it looks like it will be a bit.  He’s big, energetic and needs an experienced owner.  He’s also adorable, smart and very, very affectionate.  Plus he has the most beautiful coat on any dog I’ve ever cuddled.  It’s soft and silky and all sorts of colors.  Photos will never do it justice.  See how attached I am?  This will be one of the hardest goodbyes ever.

Here is a list of some of the things I have learned as a foster mom.

1)  Do your research into the rescue!  Though I fostered many dogs for one particular rescue, I had a bad experience near the end.  I hadn’t done my research and this is the most important part.  You and the rescue will be partners in changing a dog’s life forever – make sure that partnership is beneficial for both you and them.  This blog has a great post on choosing a rescue to foster for.

2) Foster know thyself!  Know what kind of dog you can handle.  High energy?  Older?  Younger?  Can you handle any special needs?  When I first started on the fostering journey I took almost any dog who needed it and that made for some bad pair ups.  It’s not good for you or the dog (or the rescue) if you take on more than you can handle.  Know your limits!  Mine was barking.  I could handle anything but barking when we weren’t home.  We still needed to work to live and one dog would not. stop. barking.  Fatherbean had to take the week off of work (so the neighbours didn’t kill us) until the rescue could re-home the dog.  It was bad and stressful for all of us.  Fostering should be rewarding – not stress inducing.

3) It’s ok to say no.  Really.  It is.  You can’t save them all.  You can only help when you can help.  Your life circumstance might change and you are no longer able to foster.  This happens.  A good rescue will be understanding and help you with the transition with little to no impact on the dog.  Or you might be contacted by a rescue you worked for before but your life is different and fostering isn’t an option.  SAY NO.  It’s hard – I know – but it’s better for the dog not to end up in a place who can’t devote the time and attention they need.

4) No, you can’t have all the doggies.  This one is very important.  You will get attached.  Your thoughts will bounce back and forth to what ifs.  What if I do this and this and this and then the doggie will be mine!  I love Agis.  So does fatherbean.  We are constantly thinking what ifs.  In my heart I know this isn’t the house for him.  With the baby coming we cannot afford another dog financially, emotionally and we will not have time for him.  We know this.  But…one look in his eyes and I melt.  As I said, hardest goodbye.  People fail fostering all the time.  They adopt the dogs they foster.  That’s how we ended up with Spitha.  That’s ok!  But again…know your limits!  It will not benefit you or the dog if you adopt them only to realize that no, actually, you couldn’t keep them.  Say goodbye and take comfort in the fact that you helped the dog get on their way to their real forever home.

There are so many other things I would like to say on this subject, but I think that I blogged the most important ones for now.  I think I’ll do another post about the different dogs I have met.  I’m still new to this blogging thing and am learning to find my voice.  Or bark as it were.  This turned out to be too long for one post!  It is a topic I am passionate about.  If anyone wants to chime in with their experiences or their hints on being a good foster, please do so!  I love to hear other’s stories!

When life settles back down and fatherbean and I move into the townhouse we are dreaming of (and I perhaps add another small bean to the family) then I will consider fostering again.  For now this wonderful and rewarding chapter of my life comes to a close as I prepare to tearfully say goodbye to Agis.  My heart is covered in pawprints and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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2 thoughts on “Paws to Heart – Being a Dog Foster Mom

  1. Hello MamaBean. My name is Janet and my partner and I are the people who “adopted” Agis when you and your family were no longer able to care for him. FIRST of all..CONGRATULATIONS on the new little boy…he’s beautiful. I’m just connecting because today I was a bit bored so I googled “Agis” and “Tails from Greece” and BAM..here you were. When I was scrolling through your Blog my heart stopped a wee bit when I saw the photos of Agis (or as we knew him ..”Eddie”…”Cousin Eddie” and my favourite “Big Head Ed”) …we adopted him fully intending to be his “forever home” however, as life so often does, that was not to be. (NO WORRIES though..Happy Ending for ALL).

    Our other dog Stella (a girl we ‘rescued” from a group up north) was NOT going to have it…we tried for three months but Stella (who had been a total ZENN goddess…calm and sleepy and happy and welcoming) started to become aggressive…Eddie was an amazing boy..as you know..he was very respectful of her…smart and loving and a quick learner and happy…but as time went on she got crabbier and crabbier. There were a few fights…SHE started them…HE finished them. We also had some issues with his becoming too territorial for our back yard….our neighbours were starting to become a bit alarmed because Eddie would rush the fence if they came close. So…we worked with Dianne for weeks and weeks searching for his perfect “dog whisperer” family…(if we didn’t have Stella we would have kept him because we were in LOVE…as were you….and we felt confident that we could have helped him ….and he could have continued to help us)…but it was not to be. SO after two particulary negative attempts at introducing him to “forever families” we made the difficult decision to send him back home to Greece to live with his original rescuer – Katherina in her home.
    They were so happy to have him back and the love and concern they expressed for him made us THRILLED with our choice (he’d lost weight with us….in spite of his food and treats and dog chews…as you said..we walked him a TON…and he burned it off as fast as we could get it into him)…they were VERY concerned about the weight loss…which made us HAPPY that they loved him so much.
    So…we still miss that little guy every single day..but happily Stella is now finally back to her old, ZENN self…and we’ve learned that we are not FOSTER family material.
    So thank you for your postings about Agis..just wanted you to know he spent his “summer holidays” with people who loved him as much as you did…taking long walks in the parks and ravines….getting belly rubs and treats….watching the squirrels from the big bay window in our room….and that he’s now living with Katherina and her pack in back in Athens…last we heard he’s getting car rides with her friend to the beach on weekdays so he can play..and spending the weekends at her cottage running and jumping and having a blast.
    Yippeee…Happy Endings for everybody!

    • Janet thank you so much for your kind comment. I’m happy to know what became of Agis – we loved him very much. I found his scarf the other day and got all sad. It’s too bad Stella didn’t like having him around but some dogs are like that. Spitha didn’t like him either but she didn’t react like that. Thanks again, I shared the story with my hubby and his family. 🙂

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