Fostering is a wonderful thing that saves dogs’ lives. It gets them out of shelters and into human packs, where they can receive the rehabilitation necessary to make them adoptable.
However, fostering comes not only with the responsibility of caring for the dog, but the necessity of eventually giving up the dog when it finds its forever home. Attachment can make this process difficult. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make the process easier.
- Start before you even foster
When selecting a foster dog, don’t pick the one that you think is the cutest and ideal for your family. Pick the dog that you wouldn’t necessarily want to keep long-term. For example, if you don’t like tiny dogs, consider a Chihuahua or Yorkie. If you don’t think you’d have the resources to care for a handicapped dog for life, then find that dog who’s blind or deaf, or is missing a limb.
This will make it easier for you to adjust to the temporary status of the foster dog, but it will also be an educational process. As Cesar says, “You don’t always get the dog you want. You get the dog you need.” If nothing else, it will allow you to experience types of dogs you would never normally adopt, and to learn even more about dog behavior.
- Assist in the adoption process
Find out whether your foster program will let you help out in finding that forever home. This can range from documenting your dog’s behavior and personality for future owners to locating and interviewing potential owners themselves.
This will help you be more confident in letting go because you’ll have a stake in the process, and you can assure yourself that you’ve found the right home for your foster.
- Ask for progress reports from the new family
You can continue to take part in your foster dog’s life with photos and stories from her new family, and the Internet makes distance irrelevant. Many shelters ask this of people who adopt dogs from them, largely as a way to keep their staff positive about seeing dogs they’ve gotten to know be adopted.
If distance permits, you could even consider having regular playdates with your current foster (and permanent pack) and adopted past fosters, as long as the new owners are agreeable.
- Celebrate the adoption
Don’t think of giving up your foster to adoption as losing a dog. Think of it as a dog gaining a permanent home. It should be a cause for celebration because you have helped to save a life. Treat yourself and the dog to a fancy meal, go out to your favorite dog park, or invite friends and their dogs over for a party…
However you choose to celebrate, focus on the positive and make the adoption a source of good memories. Document your time with each foster with photos and stories and keep a scrapbook of your successes.
- Foster again
The best part about fostering dogs is that there will always be dogs to foster, and the best way to celebrate one dog leaving your life is to save the life of another. And another. With each foster that you help place in a loving home, it becomes easier to say good-bye. With each new foster, you have another chance to get to know a new dog and help him on the way to his forever home.
During the process, always keep in mind what fostering is. As Amy Romanofsky at FosterDogs.com puts it, “I never think of a foster dog as ‘mine.’ Each dog already belongs to someone else — it just so happens that I haven’t met that person yet.”
But, when you and your foster dog do meet that person, take comfort in knowing that you had a large part in making it happen, and preventing the unthinkable alternative.
Never fostered a dog before? You’re really missing out! See here the top seven reasons to foster a dog.