One of the best decisions I ever made had four legs, scruffy fur and a really obnoxious bark. Her name was Lucy. She was a Chihuahua-dachshund mutt with the prettiest brown eyes and the sweetest disposition of any dog I’d ever met.
I’d gone out for frozen yogurt with my college roommates, and we stopped at the shelter for fun — what was the harm in just looking at puppies? Hint: plenty.
She was the cheapest pet at the shelter, and when they gave her to me to hold, she put her little puppy head on my shoulder and snuggled up to me and closed her eyes. I was hooked. From then on, she was my “fur baby”, and she could do no wrong. Of course, my roommates didn’t exactly agree with that last statement, but still.
Having Lucy required me to think about another creature’s wellbeing other than my own. Taking care of a pet instilled a level of responsibility and maturity that few other experiences ever have. I learned that taking an animal into my home was about so much more than simply getting a pet for my own enjoyment.
Particularly when a pet is a rescue animal, they need love, care and consistency. They don’t need to be pinned up in a cage sleeping on a cold concrete floor. Animals that come from abuse especially need the compassion of a loving human to restore their trust in people.
Enter pet fostering. Many animal shelters are overcrowded and underfunded. Many animals need safe, nurturing environments to help get them ready for their forever home. While it may not be feasible to adopt every animal in need in this city, there are so many who could benefit from a stay in a foster family’s home until they connect with a family who needs them just as much.
If you have been thinking about bringing a pet into your home, but you’re unsure if it’s the right thing for you and your lifestyle, consider pet fostering. Not only will it help you understand the responsibilities and benefits of having a pet, but it will also give this animal a loving home to reside in until they are adopted.
What exactly is pet fostering?
Pet fostering is providing a temporary home for shelter animals to relieve overcrowding in shelters and to help familiarize them with being around people and living in a home. It’s the process of taking an animal into your home for an extended period of time until that animal is adopted.
There are numerous reasons for an animal to be a candidate for fostering. Often, there are puppies and kittens born in shelters or found with their mommas that are too young to be adopted. Likewise, nursing cats and dogs need homes until their babies are weaned. If you have children begging you for a puppy (and you’re a brave soul), this might be a good option.
Sadly, many fostering situations involve animals that are ill, injured, disabled, or may need regular medication/ medical attention. If you have time to devote to an animal with needs such as these, this may be up your alley.
Many times, animals that do well in fostering are dogs or cats in need of socialization, who need to familiarize themselves with a home or family environment. Along those same lines are previously abused, neglected or abandoned animals that need to form a healthy bond with people. So, if you have a home overflowing with love and patience, consider bringing one of these guys in.
Other reasons animals may need to be fostered include high stress levels induced by shelters, which is often the case with older dogs and cats. Animals that have been displaced due to natural disasters or other circumstances also need homes where they can wait out the period of time it takes for them to hopefully be reunited with their families.
How to prepare your home (and heart) for pet fostering
You know the old saying, “Curiosity killed the cat”? Well, in many cases, it’s more of a warning than a euphemism. Animals are curious by nature, and because of that nature, will often venture where we would much prefer them not to go. Therefore, when bringing an animal into your home to foster, it is very important to animal-proof your entire house.
Obviously the first place you need to animal-proof is the area you have designated for your new foster pet to reside. Pay attention to any small objects they may be able to swallow. Animals also like to play with and chew on electrical cords, television cords, telephone cables and curtain hems. Just think of it as having toddler roaming around your house, except with paws, fur, teeth, and a habit of chewing on things they shouldn’t.
Figure out which areas of your home are pet-friendly and which are not. For example, if you don’t want Junior taking Fluffy into his room each night, have a conversation that makes it known that bedrooms are off limits. If you make these decisions ahead of time and stick to them when you bring your foster pet home, it will make the learning process easier for them and save you a lot of headaches.
Keep in mind that many of these animals come from less-than-ideal situations. It probably will not be sunshine and roses for the first few weeks these animals come to your home. There will be an adjustment period for both you and your four-legged friend. Do not get discouraged if this isn’t the dream experience you were hoping for. Good things take time, and pet fostering is no exception. Have patience, with both your new pet and yourself.
Finally, something to consider: throughout the fostering process, there is a possibility (a very, very high possibility) that you and your family will develop an attachment to this animal. They become a part of your family, and that can be a hard connection to lose. Make sure you all understand that, eventually, this animal will leave your home. Love on them, play with them, help them and teach them, but be okay with the fact that the point of fostering is to get them ready for another family’s home. This doesn’t have to be sad! By fostering an animal until they’re ready for adoption, you have potentially saved their life. Pet fostering is a noble endeavor, so if a few tears are shed when Fido leaves your home for good, let them be tears of happiness. You did a good thing.
Pet Fostering in San Antonio
There are countless shelters in and around San Antonio that offer fostering programs. Here are few of the notables, although a quick google search can turn up plenty more options:
San Antonio Pets Alive! // https://www.sanantoniopetsalive.org
Responsible Pet Owners Alliance // https://www.responsiblepetowners.org
San Antonio Humane Society // https://sahumane.org
City of San Antonio Animal Care Service // https://www.sanantonio.gov
Animal Defense League of Texas // https://adltexas.org
Pause for Paws // https://www.pauseforpawsinc.org
SA R.O.C.K.S. // http://www.sarocks.org
Paws Ranch Rescue & Animal Sanctuary // https://pawsranchrescue.org
Check out their websites to see what programs they offer and how to get involved!
By Haylee Uptergrove