Fostering 101- What IS a dog foster?

A family adopting one of my foster dogs, a brindle dachshund named Papi, met me at their front door and said, “The dog social worker is here!” I smiled, I had never thought of it that way. I guess that is what I do. A child and family social worker protects vulnerable children and supports families in need of assistance. I protect vulnerable dogs and support adoptive families. Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. I help dogs cope with their emotional and health problems. Social workers address mental, behavioral, and emotional issues for vulnerable people.  I socialize, train, and bond with dogs, giving them the time they need and the skills that they need to be ready for adoption. So, yeah, I guess I’m a social worker for dogs. I’m on foster number 59.

We call our home The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs.

 

What IS a dog foster?

foster | verb | fos·ter: to give temporary parental care to; nurture  

A foster is the bridge between an animal shelter and a forever home. It is someone who offers up their home to a homeless dog and gives them the gift of time until they find the right forever home. A foster gives love, care and attention, until the visiting dog is adopted.  A foster family learns about their foster dog, trains them a bit, and helps the rescue place the dog in the best possible forever home.

Foster homes are the backbone of animal rescue groups—without an active network of dedicated fosters, rescue groups cannot fulfill their missions to save animals’ lives. Across the US, and particularly in the South, animal shelters are overcrowded and have to euthanize animals when they run out of available space. Fostering saves lives. Although fostering can sometimes be a lot of work, along with being a mother, fostering is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. By taking a shelter animal into your home, you are saving two lives, that of the animal that leaves the shelter, and that of the animal that can then take the newly vacant shelter crate. When you foster a dog and adopt it out into a good home, you aren’t just helping that one dog, you are making an entire family happy. People think it would be really hard to say goodbye, but actually, it’s a great feeling. It’s one of the best parts of fostering.

What does fostering a dog involve?

First of all, love. By opening up your home to foster dogs, you’re not only helping to save lives, you’re providing the individual attention and love these dogs desperately need.  Most have been let down by humans. They need your love. A foster helps a dog decompress from shelter stresses. Shelters are cold, noisy, scary places. Many dogs become depressed or anxious at the shelter. Fosters help dogs feel safe and recover from abusive or negligent homes, or from the stresses of living as a stray. A foster takes in dogs whose owners have passed away, or whose owners have abandoned them.  A foster home helps dogs get healthy, both mentally and physically, seeing them through vet appointments for immunizations, recovery and recuperation from more intensive medical procedures such as heartworm eradication, spay and neuter surgeries, or other illness or injuries. As a foster/dog social worker, you have to figure out what your foster dog needs. Some simply need a safe and quiet space. Some need extra love and attention. Some need basic socialization and training.

Have you thought about fostering?

Reasons You CAN Foster a Dog — Even Though You May Think That You Can’t

People are always telling me that they think its great that I am fostering dogs. I also hear sooooo many excuses and reasons why people can’t foster, don’t want to foster, have never even considered fostering a dog. Okay, it’s not for everyone, but it just might be for you. Let’s break it down.

I can’t afford to take care of another dog. This was me. Caring for a dog can be expensive, and its isn’t always financially feasible to add another. I started fostering after I rescued Ollie, my second dog, because I wanted to have more dogs and I couldn’t really afford to. That’s right, I started fostering because I felt that I couldn’t afford more dogs. The rescue pays the vet bills. The rescue will supply anything you need for your foster dog. All they need is your time.

I can’t foster because I have a full-time job. Actually, you can! A foster coordinator will do their very best to match you with an appropriate foster dog for your needs and your current schedule. If you have a full-time job, the foster coordinator will match you with a dog that may be OK alone during the workday. You will just need to provide ample exercise before or after you go to work. Many dogs need a mid-day potty break as well. It is doable, and many fosters work full-time jobs.

 

I can’t foster because I don’t have the space.  All that is needed is a corner where you can set up a crate, and it doesn’t take much space to do that.  Whatever space you have at home is definitely more than the dog has at the shelter. When the shelters get full, they are putting dogs together in crates just to save their lives. Some dogs have been living on the streets, with no shelter at all. If you don’t have much space, you can still foster smaller dogs or puppies.

 I can’t foster a dog because I don’t have a fenced yard. Again, a foster coordinator will do their very best to match you with the best foster for your needs and your current living situation. Some dogs really need a fenced yard to thrive, and others do not. And even if you do have a fenced yard, you should supervise all outdoor activities with your foster dog, and always keep your foster on a leash when you’re on walks. It’s nice to have a fenced yard if you have dogs, but you can live rather happily with a small breed dog and no fenced yard. Think of all the great exercise you will get walking your foster dog!

My personal dogs won’t tolerate a foster dog. It is possible that your dog hates all other dogs, but not probable. It’s more likely that you will find that your personal dog has foster dog preferences. I have a Lab who has helped me foster many dogs. She’s been an awesome den mother to 59 foster guests in our home. I have learned along the way that she is best with dogs older or younger than her, and usually smaller. If you have a separate room and crate, having foster dogs shouldn’t be much of a problem. If the dogs don’t get along well, they can be separated. Sometimes after a few days of relaxing alone, a foster dog is ready and excited to make friends with your pack. If the problem persists, and the dogs just aren’t getting along, the rescue can step in and the foster dog can be moved to a better suited home. Along the way, you will be finding out what dog types, temperaments, ages, etc. work best for your home.

A foster dog might make my dogs sick. It is always a health risk to expose your animal to other animals, whether at the dog park or in the vet waiting room.  If your pets are current on their vaccinations, maintain healthy diets and lifestyles, and are not immuno-compromised, then the health risk should be minimal.

It is possible that your foster dog will have some illness.  A sick dog should be isolated to a separate room, and bedding and toys and kennels should be washed with bleach after use. Shelter dogs experience intestinal distress from stress and from new foods and so are likely to have bowel problems for a day or so. I like to add plain yogurt to their kibble, the probiotics are helpful. Dogs are usually treated for fleas before they leave the shelter, but it happens that you will find a flea on a foster dog now and again. I bathe my fosters when they arrive. Dawn liquid dish soap removes adult fleas. The rescue will provide monthly flea/tick and heartworm prevention. Some foster dogs arrive with runny noses or a cough. Often, it is just residual from the kennel cough vaccine, which is given nasally. Kennel cough, or Bordatella, is highly contagious in a shelter environment.  Sometimes just a little cough syrup helps them feel better. Sometimes it is a more serious upper respiratory infection and requires antibiotics. Your personal dogs should be vaccinated against Bordatella and should be up to date on all their shots and monthly medicines.

Generally my feeling is this, its like sending your precious children off to school when they are little. You know they are going into germ world, but you do it anyway, because it is the right thing to do. Vaccinate your kids, vaccinate your dogs, and care for both when someone else makes them sick.

Someone else will foster that dog, there are plenty of caring people out there. Nope They won’t and there aren’t. There are never as many foster homes as there are dogs in need. There are healthy, adoptable dogs being put to sleep every day. There are puppies being put to sleep for lack of space. But you can save a life, one foster dog at a time.

 

 

There are thousands and thousands of dogs in need of homes.  So, if you can’t adopt … foster!

 

What if my foster dog is not working out? Some foster dogs will have behavioral issues: separation anxiety, destruction of property, fear issues or aggression toward other animals. If you feel unable to manage any behavior that your foster dog is exhibiting, please contact the rescue foster coordinator to discuss the issue. They will guide you and help in every way that they can! While rescue foster coordinators try to screen the rescue dogs to make a good match for your foster home before they send one your way, this is not an exact science, and there is often limited information about the dogs coming into the rescue. There is a possibility that a foster dog’s personality or behavior is not a good fit with your home. Once the animal is placed in a foster home from a shelter, the dog cannot be returned to the shelter if the person fostering the dog decides it’s not working out. If you feel you can no longer foster a dog, a new foster home can be found.

The dog on the left (below) was terrified coming out of the shelter. She had to be kept separated from the other dogs in my home because she was growling at them. It took about a week before she was best friends with every dog in the house. Sometimes, patience, time and space are all that’s needed.

So, why aren’t more people fostering dogs? Ok, Here is the big excuse:

I will get attached. I could never say goodbye. I’m frequently asked as a dog foster parent  – How do you let go? And a lot of people tell me they don’t foster dogs because – I could never give them back. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this excuse irks me the most. Fostering isn’t for everyone, but the I could never give them up really stings. I smile and say, sure you could. On the inside I’m saying  – so you can’t deal with a few tears over saying goodbye to a dog, but you can handle the idea that the dog may be put to sleep in the overcrowded shelter because no one stepped up? I think that is selfish. If you are talking to a rescuer, think before you speak. Think about how much suffering a rescuer has seen before you say – I can’t foster because I would keep them all.  OK, yes, you can get very attached to your foster dogs. I love all of my fosters like family, but knowing that I am saving their lives and helping them find a forever family is completely worth breaking the attachment and letting go. It’s like extended dog sitting, you go in knowing that you are going to say goodbye. Have I cried? Yes, but they were happy, bittersweet tears. As the foster, you are called on to decide if a potential adopter is good enough. I know that the adopters I have chosen will give my foster dogs a life that is as good as or even or better than what I can provide. I tell myself, every single time, that letting go of this one means I can save another life. I can save many more lives.

I have a photo of each of my previous fosters, and I have a wall where I put them all.

I love looking at that wall.

 

I am so incredibly, very, very happy for my foster dogs when I see them with their forever families. I ask to stay in touch. I reach out to get updates. I love it. It makes my day.

And hey, it is not the end of the world to foster fail. Foster parents CAN adopt their foster pets. A lot of times people will foster to adopt. If the foster dog is a great fit with their family, they adopt, if not, the dog will be adopted by another family. If you want to make your foster dog a permanent part of your family, please contact the rescue foster coordinator right away. It is very stressful for a potential adopter to expect a dog to join their family and then be told that the dog is no longer available. Just consider that an adoption saves ONE life, and a fostering saves MANY lives.

Fostering is not for everyone. It takes time, love and patience. If you work really long hours, travel really often, have very small children at home, have medical issues, have a pet that can be aggressive around other animals, have a landlord that won’t allow it…well there are lots of things, and some people just shouldn’t foster. But, if you are a dog lover, and you have the time and the heart for it, fostering saves lives, dogs love unconditionally, and adopters are forever grateful. 

You can do this, if you want to.

If you have EVER thought about fostering a dog, please, try it once. Find a rescue group or shelter near you and contact them. If you live in New Orleans, Take Paws Rescue is an amazing all breed rescue to work with. Reach out.  Give a homeless dog a chance at life.

Check out my next blog to learn specifically about what fostering entails.

Fostering 101 – The Basics of How to Foster  a Dog

 

Fostering 101 – The Basics of How to Foster a Dog

Once you have decided to try fostering, you may have a lot of questions about how it works. 

What do foster families need to provide?

  • A healthy, safe, and loving environment
  • Transportation to all veterinary appointments
  • Socialization to help teach your foster dogs positive inter-pet relationships
  • Lots of exercise and positive stimulation to help them develop into great family pets
  • Cuddle time to help teach your foster dogs positive family  relationships

The Rescue will pay for any veterinary or medical costs your foster requires and will do their best to make sure you have all of the resources you need to be a successful foster.

Snuggling is the best part.

Here is what you will need to help your foster dog make a smooth transition to living in your home:

  • At least one bowl for food and one for water.
  • A collar with an ID tag and a leash: Even though foster dogs will likely be microchipped, they immediately need an ID tag with your current contact information on it. Please have one ready for when you receive your foster dog.
  • A soft place to sleep: a dog bed, old towels or blankets work just as well.
  • A baby gate is useful, but not required, to keep certain areas of your home off-limits.
  • A crate: The crate should be large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in, but not much bigger than that. A crate can usually be provided by the rescue if you do not have one.
  • Dog treats: Giving treats is a good way to help train and build a positive relationship with your foster dog.
  • Dog toys: Make sure the toys are durable and appropriate for the size of your foster dog. Avoid choking hazards.
  • Grooming supplies: A brush, dog shampoo

Some fosters enjoy buying a new collar, leash, toys, treats, and comfy bedding for their foster dog. I love dog shopping! Any of those items you purchase yourself, you are able to write off on your taxes as a donation to the Rescue. Double bonus, if you shop on Amazon Smile you can give a kick back to the non-profit organization of your choice. Mine goes to TAKE PAWS RESCUE.

If you CAN provide the things your foster dog needs, those resources can be redirected to saving another dog. But if you cannot provide them, the rescue is generally able to assist by donating or loaning out any items that you may need. Just ask.

What else does a foster do?

Provide exercise, discipline & affection. Establish rules, boundaries & limitations. Snuggle them.

Dog-proofing Your Home

Please note that sometimes foster dogs can do damage. We don’t always know how they will behave in a new home. So, before bringing home a new foster dog, you will want to prepare the area where you are going to keep your foster dog. Remove anything that would be unsafe or undesirable for the dog to chew on. Some foods and chemicals can be very harmful if consumed by dogs, so please store them in a place that the foster dog cannot access. Think about them like they are toddlers – they just don’t know better until you train them. They depend on you to keep them safe!

Dog & Cat Introductions

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If you have other pets, you’ll want to introduce them to your foster dog one at a time and supervise their interactions at first. It’s a good idea to introduce them outside in a large yard or on a walk, keeping all of the dogs on leash and allowing them enough space to get adjusted to one another. Some very stressed dogs will need time in a safe space on their own before they are ready to meet your other pets. After a few quiet days, they are generally ready to meet and play with others.

You often will not know if a foster dog has been around cats and gets along with them, so if you have cats in your home or around your yard, you’ll need to make the introduction to the foster dog with care. Start by keeping them separated. Over a week or two, let the dog and cats smell each other through the door, but don’t allow them direct contact with one another. Exchanging blankets or bedding between the dog’s area and the cat’s area will allow them to get used to each other’s smells. When you are ready to do the face-to-face introduction, with your foster dog on a leash, allow your cat out into the dog’s area. Distract the dog with a new toy or a treat so that the cat has the chance to approach without being charged. Some dogs will ignore cats, some will play with them, and some will lunge and chase. Watch the body language of both animals and separate them immediately if either becomes aggressive or overly excited. The goal is to keep the interaction positive. You may need to do this several times. Introduce one cat at a time if you have multiple cats.

Children and Dogs

The rescue foster coordinator will do their best to place you with an appropriate animal for your home situation, but you should always supervise all interactions between children and your foster dog. Do not ever leave your foster dog unattended with young children. You don’t know a foster dog’s history. Please teach your children how to act responsibly around your foster dog.

Do not allow young children to leash walk the foster dog.  They are not be strong or experienced enough to handle encounters with other dogs or cats.

Stop the 77 is a good recource for information on preventing dog bites and general safety for your dog and your family and to learn to see stress signals in dogs.

 

 

Teach your children to be safe around dogs.

  • Always leave the dog alone when they are eating, chewing or sleeping. Some dogs may nip or bite.
  • Do not chase the foster dog or run quickly around the foster dog. It may scare them or get them over stimulated and lead to the child getting hurt.
  • Dogs cannot tell the difference between what is their toy and what belongs to children until they are old enough and trained to do so. Kids need to keep their belongings where the foster dog cannot get to them.
  • Do not try to take a toy away from the foster dog.

Every foster dog will come with widely varying social skills, manners and energy levels. Your goal as a foster parent is to prepare your foster for living successfully in his or her forever home.

Daily Routine

It’s important to establish a daily routine of regularly scheduled feedings, potty breaks and walk times. Just like young children, dogs take comfort in having a routine and knowing what comes next. When you first take your foster dog home, keep things relatively calm. Too much stimulation and too many new things can cause a dog to become even more stressed. This is not the time to have a party. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep all introductions to a minimum during the first couple of days .

Feeding

Your foster dog should be fed a good quality, grain free food. It is helpful to the rescue group, from a monetary standpoint, if the foster family can provide the food. If this presents a hardship for you, many rescues will provide dog food. If you have other dogs at home, always feed them separately to avoid any food aggression altercations. I feed all of our dogs in their own crates, which has the added benefit of helping them associate their crate with food, keeping it a happy place.

It is common for a stressed new foster to not eat well in the first days in a new home. I find that adding canned salmon and/or plain yogurt to kibble helps to ease the food transition. Be aware of your foster dog’s appetite and energy level after the first few days. If they are not eating well or seem lethargic, something may be wrong. Please let the rescue foster coordinator know if you feel that something is not right with your foster dog.

How Long Does Fostering Take?

It varies from dog to dog, from a few days to a couple of weeks or even months. Foster dogs stay in their foster homes until they get adopted. The rescue’s goal is to place the dog in a well-matched adoptive home as soon as the dog is ready, so that the dog can bond with its forever family, and the foster can save another dog in need.

If you are fostering puppies, they need a safe place until they are old enough to be safely removed from their mother and placed. Puppies tend to be adopted quickly.

If you are fostering for an out of town Rescue, it may be just until transport can be arranged. There is often a quarantine period of three weeks before an animal can get a health certificate to cross state lines. Communicable illnesses, such as kennel cough, can spread rapidly through a shelter, and may take time to show up in a dog. Some states will not accept heartworm positive dogs, and so the dogs must complete heartworm treatment before they can travel.

If you are fostering a senior or special needs dog,it may require a bit more time to find their prefect forever home.

If you are fostering a dog that needs medical care, the goal is to get them healthy before they leave your care.

*If you anticipate personal or work travel, please take that into consideration when offering to foster a new dog.

Help Your Foster Dogs Get Adopted

The rescue will market your foster dog on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Petfinder and their own website, but they can’t do it without your help. No one will know as much about your foster dog as you will, so you will be asked to help write a detailed description of your foster dog with helpful information about their personality and skills. Is the dog good with children, other dogs, cats, other pets? Is the dog active or a couch potato? You can help find and screen potential adopters and make sure the adoptive family is a good fit by helping them to understand your foster dog’s energy level, any issues that are being worked on, and any special needs the dog may have. This is a great thing that fostering does to help ensure a successful forever adoption. If adopters take a dog straight from a shelter, they won’t know much of anything about the dog’s personality, skills, or needs.

A good photo does a lot to get a dog adopted. If your dog is good with children and other dogs, a photo can convey that. We get the most applications for dogs with good photographs posted. Get down on the dog’s level and take photos. You can share them on your social media. Ask your friends to share. A good photo will get a dog noticed and adopted much faster. I really enjoy taking photos of my foster dogs. Some of them pose for me, and others are always in motion. It’s a fun challenge! You don’t need any special camera or software. I have a nice DSLR camera, but I mostly use my iPhone. Here’s a link for getting the most out of your iPhone camera.

 


 

This is a pretty typical dog photo, taken standing and looking down at the dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a better photo of May. Get lower and closer to the dog to get a great photo. I take my best dog photos sitting on the ground, or even laying on the ground at their level.

 

 

 

 

 

Grooming

A clean and well-groomed dog has a much better chance of getting adopted, so take good care of your foster dog. Brush and bathe them. Contact the rescue foster coordinator if you feel that your foster dog needs to see a professional groomer. If you are comfortable with it, you can trim their nails. But please be careful because you can cause pain and bleeding if you trim the nails too short. I always ask the vet to do it while I have them there.

House Training 

You may need to housebreak your foster dog. Be patient. There is an adjustment period when a foster dog comes to your home, and you will likely have to clean up a few stress or excitement accidents. Dogs that have been stray are used to going everywhere and those that have lived in a shelter for a while have probably had minimal walks and chances to relieve themselves outside. Be prepared for an adjustment period. If your foster dog has an accident inside the house, don’t punish. Punishment is ineffective at eliminating the behavior. Only use positive training.  I take my dogs outside every few hours, depending on age. (Initially, you may need to take them out more frequently.) Most dogs will give cues — standing near the door or sniffing the ground and walking in circles – to let you know that they need to go out. I have a bell that hangs low near my backdoor. Every time I take the dogs out, I ring the bell. At some point, they will ring the bell to let me know they want to go out. (My Lab will the ring the bell if she notices that a younger foster needs to go.) Take them out after meals, or after you see them drinking a lot, watch for them to go, and then offer a really good treat and act like they just preformed a miracle. It works! They want to please you.

Most dogs can be house trained within a few days, they are much, much faster than human children at potty training! For other dogs, those that have abusive backgrounds, it can sometimes take more time. Be patient. I had a sweet little chihuahua who came from a hoarding situation and had never been house trained, and he came around. He would pretend to pee outside just to get a treat after he figured me out!  I really wish my kids had been so easy to train! 

Crate Training 

Using a crate can be advantageous both for you and for potential adopters. A crate can be a safe place for your foster dog to have down time. My dogs love to nap in their crates. A crate should never be used as a form of punishment. Your foster should only associate good things with their crate. I start by putting toys in the crate and encouraging them to go in. Crate training a fearful dog can take time. Some dogs warm up to the crate slowly. If they are afraid to go in, place a dog treat in the crate. After they take the treat, place another treat a little farther back in the crate. I use special “cage treats” that only are given when the dogs have to go into their crates. I say “cage” and they all run to their crates and wait for their treat. It works like a charm at bedtime or when I need to leave the house. The fosters figure it out pretty quickly. I also feed all meals inside of the crates.  If you have small children, teach them to stay out of the crate, and ignore the dog when it is inside the crate. The crate is a comfortable, happy safe place of retreat for your foster dog.

Obedience Training

Teach your foster dog manners. You would be surprised how many dogs are given up because they lack manners that are easily acquired with a bag of treats and a little time spent training. Mastering basic commands like sit, down, and off make for a well-mannered, adoptable dog. It’s not difficult. Reward desirable behaviors and ignore and redirect unwanted behaviors.  Just like in parenting – be consistent. Dogs are fast learners, and they will learn what they can get away with and what they can’t. They generally just want to please you. Show them how.  

Socialization

Socialization is learning to be part of society, it means helping them learn to be comfortable with many different types of people, in many different environments, around lots of different sights, noises, smells, and other animals. The most adoptable dogs are good with other dogs, cats, and children. If you can, take your foster dog out in public wearing a bright yellow adopt me harness or bandana as well as bringing them to occasional adoption events.

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Walking well on a leash and socializing your foster dog are important.  Walking with your foster dog is a good bonding experience. If they are pulling too much, take treats and reward them when they are using good leash manners. Stop and stand still when they are not. Be cautious when other dogs or cats are nearby. Your foster may get very excited or even scared. Exercise is a great stress relief, for people and for dogs, so get out and walk. You might meet potential adopters along the way!

Just Do It

I’ve heard it said that it takes an exceptional person to open your home and your heart to a strange dog, to love and heal it, and then to send it off to be loved by someone else. I don’t think it takes an exceptional person. It takes a kind person; it takes being aware. That is all.

There are so many in need, some in cold and scary animal shelters, dogs in homes that can’t care for them properly, and dogs that are sick, or stray and starving. If you have EVER thought about fostering a dog, please, try it once. Find a rescue group or shelter near you and contact them. If you live in New Orleans, Take Paws Rescue is an amazing all breed rescue to work with. Reach out.  Give a homeless dog a chance at life.

And if you can’t foster or adopt, there ARE plenty of other things that you can do to help. Reach out to your local rescue or animal shelter. Walk a dog. Take photographs to help them get adopted. Donate. Help out at adoption events and fundraisers. Transport dogs from the shelter to fosters, to the vet, to adopters. Get your friends and family involved.

A little love can solve a lot of things. Be a part of the solution.

Are you actually ready for a dog?

Well, life has been a whirlwind of sorts since Harvey arrived and left. New Orleans was prepared for the worst and we ended up with a non-event. That is great; it allows us to help out our neighbors in western Louisiana and TX. I am not a member of the Cajun Navy, and we don’t have a boat, but we do what we can and we support those doing more than we can!

One of the rescues that we are proud to work with, Take Paws, has joined forces with The Inner Pup to help as many dogs as possible in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  Determined to leave no dog behind, they reacted to shelters being evacuated because of flooding by building a new one. Among others, they have taken in five pregnant dogs that were being shuffled around because of the storm. Volunteers are working diligently to give these stressed dogs a safe place where they will be cared for until they can find their forever homes. Thank God for the people that step up. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With so many dogs needing homes, 
how do you decide if bringing a 
dog home is right for your family? 

After a crazy summer with 8 to 9 dogs in the house at a time, we had finally scaled down to a more reasonable 5. It was nice. It was easy. But rescuing is what I love doing, so I chose to help out by taking in more foster dogs. We took in Murray, our yellow lab from Ascension Parish, and 8-week-old lab-mix puppies, Marshall and Rocky, from Nola Lab Rescue. We also took in Lewis, our adorable dachshund-mix pup from Zeus Rescues. Lewis was evacuated from flooding in St. Landry Parish. He was one of several transports of dogs and cats that Zeus’s took in. I went to their facility to pick a dog to foster. I was just about to grab a little black lab puppy when Lewis caught my eye. He gave me a pleeeaase take me home with you look, and it worked. So, woohoo, 9 dogs again, and rain, and mud! What fun! 🙂

 

If you are considering fostering or adopting a dog, how do you know if you are ready? What should you do to get ready?

You may picture yourself snuggling up with a puppy on the couch, taking long walks, playing fetch. You will have all of that, but there are other things that you need to be prepared for as well– pee, poo, and muddy paws, even worms. There are unexpected veterinary costs. There is begging for food and teething, and sometimes chewed shoes or furniture. Dogs have personalities and needs that you may not expect.  Today we had one adopted dog returned and one about to be adopted dog left behind because it wasn’t going too work out. If you or someone that you know are thinking about getting a dog, see below.

The little puppies that we took in, Rocky and Marshall, were scared of the big dogs when they first arrived, so we set them up in a pen in a separate room and over two days we slowly brought in one dog at a time to meet them while they adjusted to life in a new place away from their momma. By day 3, they were fully integrated into the pack. It just took a little time and patience. Puppies require a lot of work – and potty training – but they are also so much fun! They snuggle up on you and make everything in the world ok. I highly recommend fostering and adopting  puppies; just have lots of paper towels and Lysol wipes on hand, be prepared to take them outside often, and praise them like it’s a miracle if they pee or poo on the grass. Don’t feed them from the table if you don’t want to face years of a dog begging at the table. Set limits and be consistent.

Young puppies are little and cute. Its easy to forgive their little transgressions.  Murray is a big puppy. He looks like a full grown Lab at 45 lbs. but still behaves like a puppy. He is less than a year old. Labrador Retrievers are basically puppies for their first three years. They are active, teething, and testing limits. They are also very intelligent, trainable, loyal companions. They are worth the effort. You just have to know what you are getting into. Know the breed and be prepared. It takes patience. It’s like having children (that don’t talk back, but do pee on the floor). Just like you have to be prepared to welcome a new baby home, you have to be prepared to welcome a new dog. I am constantly amazed by people who abandon their dogs at the shelter because they have too many potty accidents (you have to train them), chew on furniture (give them appropriate chew toys, and train them), chase chickens (OMG, they are dogs, check your breed if you have chickens!). My personal favorite is, “we are having a baby next week, this dog has to go now” (hello, most dogs are great with babies, very loving and protective, but they are NEVER disposable family members). Most dog issues can be fixed with training, and it is not difficult to do. It requires consistency and a little patience, just like good parenting.

Today is Saturday, Rocky and Marshall were both adopted at the end of the week, but Marshall has just returned to the Cecchine Hotel for Dogs. Even though we do interviews and check references and do home visits, people are not always prepared for the realities of having a dog. Marshall was returned to us because he had two potty accidents. Two! He is a 9-week-old puppy who was in a brand new place. Accidents happen. He has been working very hard on potty training, but he is still learning. So, back he comes. We have another potential adopter excited to meet him on Sunday. Paws crossed.

This morning it was Murray’s turn to meet potential adopters. He was so excited! Murray’s potential adopter was very excited to meet him too. She has an 11-year-old Lab and two 8-year-old Shitzus and she is ready for a younger dog to join her pack. She spent about an hour at The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs, but left without Murray. He is an eager, excited, active, big puppy. He even peed on the floor in the house and jumped on her just in case she didn’t know what to expect from him. She realized that Murray was going to be too much for her calmer, older dogs. Labs are a handful when they are young. The thing is, she met everybody here, and she and her daughter just fell in love with Lewis, the dachshund-mix. I think he gave her that same pleeeaase take me home with you look. Lewis is around 1 year old, we think, but MUCH calmer than his foster brother Murray. He is great with all of the dogs. He crawled right up onto her lap and kissed her, a lot. It looks like she will apply to adopt Lewis instead. He is here with me at least until he gets neutered next Friday. Paws crossed, he will have a forever home after that! I am going to miss him. He is an awesome dog. We are happy that the family found a dog that will fit with their lifestyle.

We aren’t sad for Murray, we will find him a great home. We will continue to work with him on peeing outside (and we will keep cleaning the carpet). We will love him and care for him as long as he needs us, and we will make sure that his adopters are ready for his level of puppy-ness. He is a great dog. Murray needs an active family that will smile at his little faux pas and help him to become the properly behaved Lab that he can be. He just needs time, patience, and more training.

We may be getting a 4-month-old lab this week who will be adopted by the parents of one of my foster lab adopters! She will be going to North Carolina for her happily ever after in a few weeks. For now she is with another foster.

This is how we help. One dog at a time. It feels great to do it, and I’m happy to share that I have inspired two others to start fostering as well. Be a helper, in whatever way you can. You never know when you will be the one in need of help and it will come back to you.

If you are thinking of getting a dog, be prepared. Be honest with yourself. Are you ready for a very active puppy or does a couch potato better fit your lifestyle? There are plenty of older, calmer dogs who need a home. If you have your heart set on a young dog, ask yourself a few questions.

  • Am I willing to clean up potty accidents? (over-and-over-and-over until they get it…)
  • Am I okay with minor furniture damage? Just like with young kids. Teething dogs and really nice furniture are not a good match.
  • Am I going to freak out if the dog digs up my garden? This can be mitigated in several ways: vigilance, keeping watch and redirecting if digging occurs, and also by burying some poo where they have been digging. They will generally not mess with that area again.
  • Are my kids ready for a teething, jumping puppy? Those little teeth and nails are sharp. Puppies need lots of teething toys. Redirect.
  • Do I have legos and stuffed animals and toys with small pieces in my house? A swallowed piece of Lego can lead to a costly visit to the vet. Dogs don’t know the difference between a favorite child’s toy and a dog toy. You can use baby gates to keep dogs out of children’s play areas.
  • Do I like to vacuum/am I ready for the reality of shedding? Think about the breed. We once had a Siberian Husky that shed as much as 4 or 5 labs.
  • Am I ready to deal with a dog jumping on me? Teaching basic good manners requires persistence and patience. I have a two year old that still jumps on people that she’s happy to see.
  • Do I want to wake up early to take the dog out? Is there an morning person in the house who is willing to do this? Puppies don’t generally sleep in. They will whine and bark because they need to go outside.
  • Am I willing to play with the dog and walk it so that it gets the necessary exercise, even if its raining – freezing – or hotter than hell out? A bored dog or a dog that is crated for too long can turn destructive.
  • Who is going to watch the dog if I travel? Boarding a dog is not cheap and can be stressful for your dog.
  • How much do I think this dog is going to cost? Food, leashes, collars, toys. They have routine vet bills and need monthly preventative medecine and they can be expensive. It’s a good idea to get pet insurance to cover the non-routine, bigger expenses that can pop up.

These are all things to think about. Dogs are a big commitment. They are a part of the family. Think about your lifestyle and how much you are or are not willing to change it for a dog. A pet is a commitment. Are you ready to commit?

If you are, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too. I lived without dogs for a very long time because I was working long hours/ then moving countries too often/ then I had young children. Pets did not fit my lifestyle. They do now. I’m so happy to be settled down in one place with a whole, big, happy pack of dogs!