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How Dog Fostering Helps You and Can Set Your Dog Up For Success

Do I have a guardian angel? Sometimes I feel that way since adopting our dog Cleo. She has been so amazing and is such an integrated part of our family now, that I can hardly remember life before her.

If I had fostered a dog before adopting would I have been better prepared?

Lucky or Prepared. We've done this before. My husband and I will start talking about something that will be a big decision, like getting a new car. It can take us months or more before we actually get the new car - because we talk about models, what our needs are, insurance, gas mileage, how will it handle San Francisco hills and parking. You name it. We check out the maintenance records and we test drive a few cars then look for the best deal. We applied this same process when deciding to get a dog, minus the test drive. We didn't foster a dog.


Beyond the willingness to adopt. I remember our life BC (before Cleo), and I hate to say it but I have one regret. Before we adopted Cleo, I wish that we had fostered a dog. Do you know why? I think that fostering a dog would have been our "what to expect when you're expecting" experience. We would have been that much more prepared, in addition to being willing. Like buying a new car. Fostering a dog could be the ideal boot camp or refresher course for being a responsible dog lover, especially when you have never had a dog before, or if the last time you had one you were just a kid.

From people I have met who regularly foster a dog, I have learned that this important care you give to a dog can bring both joy and tears. Did you read Elisa's guest post, The Return of Hadley ? Elisa dealt with real feelings of failure from having her foster dog returned.

You could fall in love with the dog you foster, and adopt them yourself. You could also see the dog go off to a new home, only to be returned a week or month later because the adopting family changed their mind or some other reason.

How dog fostering helps you and the dog. The act of fostering a dog could be a great way to learn about different breeds first hand, and which one is a good match for you. You might learn about important aspects related to different breeds such as: energy level, size, temperament, possible breed-specific health issues and longevity.  

For example, Cleo was about 72 lbs and an adult dog when we adopted her. More than five years later, she topped out at 91 lbs before she settled into her current healthy 85 lbs. Many people would be unable to handle her size, but we have all seen the person walking down the street with their dog lunging ahead pulling their leash tight. I've held my breath a few times imaging I would see a person get pulled out into traffic or onto the ground, because their dog was too much for them to handle. 

If we had fostered a dog before Cleo, the experience could have helped us at the start with managing our expectations better. I grew up with Doberman Pinchers, but only knew casually German Shepherds and no Siberian Huskies. I read up Shepherd and Huskies only after we adopted Cleo. The more you know, the better you are able to set your dog up for success.

By fostering a dog in the city, you learn about adjusting your lifestyle:

  • You find out the costs of food, and where the best prices are
  • You learn where your vet is and how to get there, especially if you don't have a car 
  • You learn the rules about on and off leash areas in the city, and where they are located 
  • You decide quickly what you plan to pick the poop up with - newspaper bag or biodegradable
  • Your time is precious, and you find out soon the effects of leaving your dog home alone or with a dog walker

You won't know until you adopt what your new life with your dog will ultimately be like, but your expectations might be at a more realistic level. Even with my entire childhood spent with dogs, having my own as an adult was different. I did every dog related chore as a kid whose mother was deeply involved in the dog world. The experiences helped, but it didn't stop me from panicking the first time Cleo tested my end of the leash or got sick.

Boot camp. I believe pet fostering can help prepare you before adopting for the first time - like boot camp. And if maybe you are at a stage where you can't or don't want to adopt another pet, I think animal fostering is a perfect way to achieve happiness and zen. Pet fostering can add years to your life and make you happy. Yes, part of me wonders if we should have fostered a dog before Cleo. But the other part of me is focused on appreciating what an amazing creature we have as part of our family - in spite of our human flaws. Living in the now is one of the first things Cleo taught me.

Please consider reaching out to your local shelters and rescues for animal fostering opportunities. This post was inspired in part by our appreciation for and foster blogger status with - the Helen Woodward Animal Center.


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