While our shelter has come a long way in providing a safe and nurturing environment to temporarily house the over 200 animals that come into our care each year, there is nothing that beats the comforts of a home.
A shelter is an unnatural environment for any animal. Our cats seem to fair much better than dogs in terms of length of stay. We’ve had cats for 1.5 years that were very happy to stay with us for that duration of time, and probably could have stayed longer had they not been adopted! Dogs are different. In animal rescue there is a term “Kennel Crazy” which refers to the behavioral change a dog goes through as a result of being in a shelter environment for too long.
Our shelter is equipped with dog doors to allow dogs to go in and out whenever they want, large dog runs for them to run off their energy, and most importantly, dedicated volunteers that take them for walks, off leash runs, and hiking at St. Cyr trails. But despite our best efforts some dogs just don’t do well in a shelter setting. The most annoying, misbehaved dog in the shelter can be the quietest, most obedient angel in a home. We really try to stress to potential adopters that they cannot judge a book by it’s cover: when looking at dogs in the shelter, how they behave in the shelter does not reflect how they will be in a home.
This is why foster homes are extremely important.
Fostering can be a very rewarding experience and it doesn’t always have to be whole litters of orphaned puppies and kittens. We have several adult dogs at the shelter that are in need of foster homes. It can be for as long or as short a time as necessary. Some foster families keep dogs until they find their forever homes, others will take a dog for a weekend to give it a mental break from the shelter. Foster homes are able to spend time with a dog one on one and learn their personalities and behaviors that would otherwise go unnoticed at the shelter. This gives us very valuable information that we can use to update their adoption profiles, giving them a better chance at getting adopted.
One “occupational hazard” to fostering is falling head over heels in love with your foster pet. We have had many foster animals that have ended up in their permanent homes because of the unbreakable bond that formed over the course of the fostering period.
The best description of fostering that I have found is the following quote:
“Foster families are so very special, hearts strong enough to love and even stronger to let go……”
A foster family puts a lot into these animals: they are essentially teaching them the skills they need to become a great family pet. It can take a lot to let go after investing so much, love, time and energy, but the biggest reward is seeing your former foster in a loving home and knowing that you helped them get there.
If you have room in your home and your heart and you are looking for a rewarding experience that will make a difference in the lives of a shelter animal, please consider becoming a foster home!