How to know if you’re ready to foster

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Have thoughts of Jack and the heartworm positive chocolate girl, both given a new leash on life, filled your mind this week? Does your mind keep creating images of sweet doggy faces with sad, pleading eyes looking at you from behind wire kennels? Is your heart begging you to make a difference? Do you want to become a foster parent to a dog in need?

If so, it’s time to do some serious evaluation and decide if you’re truly ready to foster.

Consider the dogs already in your life. Are they friendly to strange dogs? How do they behave if a friend comes over with her dog? If your dogs are territorial, aggressive or fearful, you need to attempt to modify their behavior before bringing in another dog.

Also consider your dog’s behavior. If your dogs are not well-mannered and obedient, you need to address that before adding to your numbers. Another dog will not solve behavior issues, and will probably make them worse.

It is very important that your personal dogs be up-to-date on all their vaccinations as well as on heartworm preventative and flea control. You don’t want to risk the health of your precious pooches when you bring in an unknown dog.

Evaluate your home, also. Remember that rescue dogs often come with no known history.  They may or may not be housebroken. They may be chewers with a particular penchant for living room furniture.

They may be diggers with no respect for ornamental plantings. When you commit to fostering a dog, you need to be prepared to work through any eventuality with him.

Is your yard securely fenced? If not, are you willing to take the foster dog out on a leash every single time he steps out your door, no matter how calm he seems?

This is critical, as no one wants a rescued dog to end up back out on the streets.

If you live in a rental, be sure you know that another dog will be welcomed. Remember, too, that some neighborhoods and townships have a limit to the number of dogs that can live in a home. Be sure you won’t be going over what’s allowed if you bring in a foster.

If you think through all the above and feel you are indeed ready to make a difference in a dog’s life, decide on the parameters of the dogs you’re willing to help.

If you have an older dog, they might not appreciate the presence of a pushy puppy. If you have large, prey-driven dogs, fostering something white and fluffy might not be the best idea.  Is there a specific breed you’re intrigued with? Fostering a few of the breed may give you a better idea if it’s the dog for you.

Also consider the needs the dog may have. Are you willing to take in a heartworm-positive dog? There are many heartworm-positive rescues who will die without medical attention, but the treatment that will save their lives can be fatal, and is very stressful for them in any case.

A dog undergoing treatment has to be crate-rested and leash walked for at least a month, which is hard on dog and foster parent.

Would you take in a mom with her litter of puppies? A senior dog who might end up living out his life with you, as many people don’t want to adopt the sweet, old, white-faced dogs? Are you willing to take on a dog with problems that need to be worked through to help him be adoptable?

Once you have established the parameters in your mind, contact rescue groups and let them know of your availability.

There are many local groups you could assist. The Lee County Humane Society has a foster program, as does the Chattahoochee Valley Humane Society in Valley. Rescue K911 and For Paws Rescue are also both local, as is my own Starfish Labrador Rescue Network.

If your heart aches to do something, but you simply can’t foster, there are always other ways to help. Donations of cash, useful items, time and/or expertise are always welcome; contact the group or groups you want to assist and find out what their needs are.

Fostering a dog typically involves some stress, financial commitment and emotional involvement.

However, the paw prints the dogs leave on your heart make all the sacrifice worthwhile.

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