By Sarah Liu
As a “cat lady” and cat rescue organization volunteer, it’s easy to gravitate to cat-centric articles for our monthly Points on Pets column. Last month, though, I found myself in a heart-to-heart with fellow rescue volunteer and dedicated dog lover, Megan Kremer Barlow. Sharing our foster experiences made me curious how canine fostering compares with the feline equivalent.
First, a little bit about Megan, who’s been a dog lover since before she could walk: Megan’s first dog, was a golden retriever who wouldn’t let anyone near her puppies except Megan. Wee Megan grew up, got married, and two weeks after buying a house, she and her husband adopted their first puppy. They named him Fenrir.
About nine months after acquiring Fen, Megan’s neighbor brought over a puppy. Freyja was supposed to stay for the day, but she never left. Little Freyja was from a kill shelter in North Carolina, sadly malnourished with a distended belly. With every reason to be bitter and mistrusting, Freyja was as sweet as could be.
With help from the neighbor, an experienced foster parent, Megan got Freyja on the right track. At the same time, she put herself on track for future fostering. As soon as her dogs were old enough, and well trained, Megan and her husband volunteered. To date, they have had two long term fosters, work with dogs at various events, and volunteer at the adoption center for a local rescue.
I asked Megan:
- How does fostering adult dogs compare with fostering puppies?
“Fostering adult dogs can be tricky because they may have acquired unwanted behaviors through past experiences. They also require more structured activities, like walks, or may have medical conditions that require medication or regular check-ups. Adults are also generally bigger than puppies, so it’s important to have experience with proper training techniques to ensure safety. Older fosters also tend to stick around for a good chunk of time, as not everyone wants to adopt an older dog. On the positive side though, an adult dog can be home alone longer than a puppy, without having accidents.
Puppies can be easier because you know what you are getting. They eat, use the bathroom, play and sleep. However, they typically require a stricter schedule in order to get them potty trained. This means waking up in the middle of the night to let them outside, kind of like having a toddler that doesn’t wear diapers. They can only hold it for about four hours, so long outings aren’t ideal. On the upside, most medical care for a puppy is routine vaccinations, which rescues have on hand and do not require a vet visit. Also, puppies tend to get adopted quickly, so your commitment is likely to be much shorter.
- Which is better for the first-timer?
“This is really more about the person than it is about the age of the animal. If you have raised a puppy, or know what you are getting into with a puppy (the chewing, potty accidents, teething) then I would say start with a puppy. They get adopted quickly, so if having an extra four legged friend in your home is not for you, you are not stuck in a situation where the dog has nowhere else to go.
However, if you are comfortable working with possible behavioral issues and are willing to make a longer commitment, adult dogs can be much easier on your sleep schedule. They can also have wonderful personalities that have already been developed.
- What are the benefits of fostering a dog vs. volunteering at a rescue organization?
“Fostering can be more rewarding than just volunteering in that you get to build a relationship with the animal. However, fostering is more time consuming, requires work in terms of cleaning up any accidents, and possible damage to your property if you have a chewer. Working adoption events or in a rescue facility is a great way to limit your time commitment and still make a huge impact. My families schedule changed, such that we were unable to properly supervise a foster, so I now volunteer at adoption events where I work with people to find a pup that is a good fit for their family. While it is not the same as caring for an animal 24/7, it is rewarding when you are able to match a pup with a family.”
- Can you recommend any organizations that need help with fostering?
Homeward Trails Animal Rescue is always looking for fosters. They are one of the few that has an adoption center where dogs can stay until they find a good home. However, by state law the dogs there have to have their rabies vaccination and puppies cannot have those until a certain age. Additionally, they bring in dogs from all over the world, Thailand, where dogs are saved from the meat trade, Kuwait, Puerto Rico, and from kill shelters around the US. Since they bring in so many animals, space is at a premium in the adoption center, and foster homes are always needed. Other organizations include A Forever Home, which is an entirely foster-based area rescue; HART is a great local rescue that always needs fosters; and Bully Paws Pit Bull Patriots is fully supported by fosters.
- What advice would you share with potential foster parents?
Fostering is not an easy job, but the rewards far outweigh the downsides. My most rewarding experience was finding a home for our older foster, who had behavioral issues and a medical condition that was going to require lifetime treatment. I feel like the stars aligned when we found her adopter and the dog has done very well in her new home. Do your research so you know what you are getting into and make sure the rescue offers good support. Ask lots of questions to make sure the particular dog will be a good fit in your household.
Homeward Trails Animal Rescue
A Forever Home Rescue Foundation
HART For Animals
Bully Paws Pit Bull Patriots