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What Everyone Should Know About Fostering

For years I told myself that I wanted to volunteer at an animal shelter. I filled out volunteer applications. I spoke with volunteer coordinators. I offered up my time. But every time the opportunity arose, I chickened out.

Why? Because I am the consummate dog lover. Big, small, pretty, not-so-pretty. I don’t care. I believe dogs were put on earth as the ultimate perfect being. With their unconditional love and gentleness, their sole purpose on this planet is to be a best friend to man – or woman in my case. I chickened out of volunteering simply because I convinced myself that I would try to save all of the dogs in the shelter by bringing them home.

I found my niche in rescue by volunteering to build and maintain the website for the startup rescue organization from which we rescued our Labrador. It was safe because I could still help the dogs without having to look them in the eyes. No worry about trying to save them all.

Under the mistaken assumption that I now had grown a thicker skin about assisting the rescue dogs, I offered to volunteer at local adoption events by walking the dogs, answering questions and interviewing potential adopting families. At one such three-day event is where I met Mango.

Mango was a unique shepherd mix, with orange and brown fur and piercing yellow eyes. He became a favorite of mine as the event wore on in the parking lot of a PetSmart over a steamy summer weekend. His personality was infectious; his downfall was his penchant for jumping fences.

Due to his escape-artist tendencies, he was one of few left that weekend that needed a foster home until the next event, and although I had a senior Golden, our rescue Lab, a six year old rescue cat, and a five year old son at home, I convinced my husband that it was just for one week.

Mango easily adapted to our household. My son hugged all over him, my Lab was having the time of her life with a wrestle buddy, my cat followed him around and he and the Golden judiciously chose to ignore each other. For one week, Mango had a home and he was clearly thrilled to be a part of it. For the most part he was indoctrinated into our family.

He showed his true nature to us when my husband watched him launch himself over our four-foot backyard fence and also when he trotted out of the garage door to greet us upon our return home from a soccer game after he and our Lab had been placed in the six-foot kennel in the garage. At this, we knew we couldn’t keep Mango safe at our house.

The night prior to his departure was very emotional for the entire family. We knew we couldn’t keep him safe and we knew we wanted to help other dogs but we had all built a strong emotional bond with Mango during that week. He was such a fabulous dog but I couldn’t get past wondering if he would think he was leaving because we didn’t care about him or because he had been bad. Perhaps he wouldn’t care either way but I was having a difficult time with it and justified to myself several times of why we should just keep him. So much for thick skin.

As we said our tearful goodbye the next morning as Mango was shuttled off to his next adoption event, my husband and I both reeled at our decision to let him go. Logically, it was the right thing to, but since when did logic have anything to do with loving a dog?

Mango is still in foster care at this time while looking for his perfect forever home. Our family will foster again and fully expect to come across more fabulous, hard to release dogs like Mango. Maybe when the time is right we will keep one, but for now, our home will remain a soft place to land for a very short time for some very special canines that deserve some love.

Letting our first foster move on may be one of the hardest things we have ever done, but the experience has been nothing short of gratifying. Please consider fostering a rescue dog and always adopt, never buy.

7 comments to What Everyone Should Know About Fostering

  • Jeanne

    I hear you! I foster for the local shelter because they are a county facility that gets LOTS of animals. If anyone gets sick, they are put in isolation. But there are only so many isolation kennels, so when the kennels are full and someone gets sick, it could be a death sentence. So I foster the sick ones. I take injured dogs, dogs with colds, dogs with allergies and skin conditions, anyone that need a safe place to get better so they can find the perfect home. It is sometimes gut wrenching to let go, but I would rather they go to a house where they are the center of attention than to be just one of our pack and fill up our house to the point we can’t foster more. We’ve not been doing this long, but we are on our 12th foster and feel tremendously blessed to have been allowed to know, help, and love this many of these awesome beasts! Thanks for what you did for Mango, and here’s to the next Mango that needs your soft place to land.

  • I believe I can help you contain Mango. We have a fox hound rescue named Henry who can leap our 5 ft fence in a single bounce. Not wanting to use an electric fence, I bought some plastic construction safety fence used around construction jobs(which is really cheap at LOwes’s) I folded it double lengthwise and stapled it near the top of my so it runs the entire perimeter of the fence. not only does it stop Henry from jumping the fence, he does not even try. Its a psychological barrier.

  • Beth Lazar

    @Jeanne – thanks for the kind words! Thank you for what you do for dogs too. You are wonderful!

    @Robert – I think that probably would work at least psychologically! I just got notice that Mango has been placed at a home without a fence on a large amount of acreage. Since he wasn’t a runner I think it might be perfect for him. Thanks for the fence tip! It may come in handy for future fosters.

  • Stacey Hanrahan

    I am Mango’s new mama! We LOVE him. He is fitting in with our family perfectly (OK, the cats need some adjustment!). We have 80 acres, 4 loving kids, and a buddy to play with. We keep an eye on him so he doesn’t go too far but so far he is doing just great here. Thank you for tkaing such great care of him and loving on him. Your article gave us a peace that he is as great as he seems. Just know, he is in a forever home with a fence and that he is adored!

  • Stacey Hanrahan

    OK, I just noticed I said we have a fence but I meant to say without a fence!

  • Beth Lazar

    @Stacey – I LOVE that you posted here and my family and I are SO grateful that Mango ended up in a loving home. We still miss him so much and think about him regularly. My five year old said “If we can’t get Mango back, can we at least get another dog to foster?” Thanks to our fabulous experience with Mango, we are going to get a euth dog tomorrow and foster her until CAWL can place her. Please give Mango a big kiss and hug from the Lazars! XO

  • […] works. If you don't think you are ready to commit, you could try fostering. I wrote this article What Everyone Should Know About Fostering the day after we let our first foster go to find a new home. Granted, we have him back now due to […]

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