Can you imagine how many times I have heard, "Oh I can't foster because _______"? Thousands- perhaps 10 times as many as the number of animals I have helped rescue.
And of those many thousands of times, do you know how few of those statements were accurate? Very few...because the reality is, very few people CAN'T foster- although most people believe this as fact.
I admit, I was one of those people once. When I adopted my first dog, Jasmine, I said to the foster mom, "What? You watch this dog for weeks on end and then just give her away to someone? I could never do that".
She didn't roll her eyes- and neither do I, but sometimes I do want to shake people. Imagine too, had she not given me the opportunity to adopt that dog- as her rescue boss advised her not to (because that person was making typical judgments about me)- because that little dog inspired me to found Motley Zoo and save the lives of more than 3,200 animals!
What I have found is while people want to believe they can't foster, it's more often that they don't want to try. I encourage you to explore the following myths and decide for yourself...
Especially when you realize 10 minutes of your time is worth the life of a pet in need.
Any animal would rather spend a mere 10 minutes with you, than any in a shelter- and certainly over dying! This is how dire it is for many animals out there.
Is it easy? No...but it's usually fun, rewarding and enjoyable- and it is certainly always worth it.
I always say, "Thinking about fostering is much harder than actually trying it"...and who knows- maybe the one who just might be missing out most, is you!
Myth 1: I can't foster because I work.
It probably doesn't surprise you that most people have to work for a living- but it might surprise you that doesn't mean you can't foster.
This myth probably doesn't even apply any longer to a significant number of people right now either, during the pandemic!
Being able to work and foster is even more true if you already have pets, because you're already doing what you'd need to do for a foster. In short, with some small adjustments (not necessarily related to extra time), fostering requires you to essentially do what you do for your own pets, just with one more.
If you don't have pets, you can still foster- as many animals actually need homes without other animals for a variety of reasons.
If your schedule is busy, perhaps consider fostering a cat that doesn't need a ton of time or attention per se, as opposed to kittens or puppies. Cats are like teenagers and you can mostly trust them to do their own thing- whereas puppies and kittens are much more work.
Older dogs also make good fosters for those who work because they are typically pretty happy to just sleep most of the day, are usually somewhat reliable with housetraining and overall, as long as you have a basic plan for them to have a potty break every 6-8 hours, there's not a whole lot to worry about.
Puppies require a flexible schedule, but can still work for someone busy- especially if you've had experience with them in the past and know what to expect.
Puppies are more like having a toddler that is reliant upon you for an awful lot, but you can also utilize crate training to help provide structure and training as well. Puppies would not be recommended to those who have never had a dog before and who work more than 8-10 hours a day.
In short, chances are there is a "type" of foster animal that will work for you- you just have to give that some thought...rather than rule it out entirely! A thoughtful rescue will talk with you about what kind of animals will work and perhaps you may even wait a bit until that kind of animal comes in. This isn't to say that the dog waiting and ready now won't work- because there is a need for that kind of urgent care too- but it can be harder to be a first time foster without a little bit of preparation and matching.
Motley Zoo works hard to match families with foster animals, even when we know the situation is temporary. This is because we want it to be as fun and rewarding as possible, more so than challenging or frustrating. A good lifestyle fit will help make the experience a little easier- and more likely for a foster to continue on and try again.
Myth 2: I have pet and or kids and I can't foster.
You can probably imagine that people who foster animals tend to love animals- and therefore, most often have pets of their own.
It is actually pretty hard to find people to foster animals that should be only animals- whether this be for a medical or behavioral concern or because they have a personality or habits that make them easier to manage without other animals around.
Each rescue will have a different process for placing animals with you when you have some of your own, but there should be some kind of understanding of your current pets, as well as some potential information about the new pet in question.
For example, shelters have walking and behavior interaction logs which can indicate their affinity for people or other animals and sometimes even which kinds of playmates may suit them best.
Motley Zoo typically tries to give fosters animals where something is already known about them from another foster stay. So we may move a foster dog from an experienced foster to a new, first time foster so we have some reliable feedback on their habits and personality which can help prepare the new foster family. Then the experienced foster can take a dog we know less about, because they know more about what to expect, how to manage it and perhaps experience to work with any quirks or things that may come up.
With cats, chances are your pets will never even meet a foster cat- and this is actually easier for everyone, especially the foster cat. Cats stress easily and do not like changes, so moving to a foster home is stressful enough without adding in other cats or pets that will upset them. This also keeps your own cats from getting upset if they don't deal well with other cats- which can sometimes be the case. Your cats can stay blissfully happy with their life- and your foster cat(s) can remain happy during their stay by living in their own room such as a spare bathroom or bedroom.
Cats also like small environments, so the entire house is usually also overwhelming- and will be more upsetting then "being shoved into a bathroom". They like the bathrooms!
Having kids is also not an obstacle for fostering- although again there may be parameters and guidelines which can help make the experience more successful.
Your children's ages will have a lot to do with it. If you have a few children under 5 and only one or none over, having a foster dog might be hard because the dog is going to be more like adding another child, than anything. Five is also the age where children can really understand empathy and the consequences of their behavior, so many rescues may have an age limit. For example, Motley Zoo allows fostering of cats/ kittens with kids under 5, but not dogs. We just find this the most prudent.
Many foster dogs may have child experience- for example, the family that gave up their beloved dog because they can't afford it. Or the senior who had to go into assisted living and leave their cat behind.
This is because most animals don't end up at the shelter for anything they have done- it more often for reasons they cannot control...human reasons.
Whether you have history or no, it is important to have a meeting and short assessment with a foster dog for example, to see how he or she feels about your kids. They may thrive on the energy and attention or they may be shy. If your children cannot calm down for a shy dog, that may not be a good fit- or if a dog snarls at your child, again, probably not right.
Many people assume a puppy will be great with kids, but that's not necessarily true, especially if the kids allow and exacerbate bad behaviors like play mouthing or jumping. It's important that if you do foster a puppy, you have a game plan as a family and all work on being strict with training, so the puppy gets the maximum benefit out of staying with you.
Many dogs will be great with kids and can help your kids learn a lot about animals, philanthropy, and self-esteem. There is nothing like seeing a kid's face when they realized THEY SAVE A LIFE! It's like a whole new world of empowerment is available to them- the possibilities endless.
Very few kids cry as well...it is usually the adults who have a hard time letting go!
To kids, new is novel- so as soon as one foster animal goes, they are more often asking "Who can we help next", than anything else! Kids really enjoy fostering and it is certainly more beneficial than a detriment. We can't have everything we want- and sometimes we make sacrifices for good reasons.
Letting a foster animal go is giving the best gift to someone who really needs it. When you see the child holding his first puppy, or an elderly person with a cat on their lap, you can't be sad, because they are so happy. Your kids will feel that way too.
Myth 3: I would want to keep them all the animals, I love them too much.
I again refer to the fact that if we didn't love animals, we'd not be interested in fostering...so sure, you will likely fall in love! That is part of the job...but not every foster animal will be a good fit for you- and you can help more animals if you don't keep them.
It does usually help if you have a pet or two already because it puts an automatic stop sign on adoption, more so than someone who doesn't have pets and that "excuse" to keep them from considering.
Many times people will love a foster animals but know if they keep the foster animal, they can't continue to foster- and most will choosing continuing to foster over adoption. Most fosters believe very deeply in the reward of letting them go, more so than keeping.
it's especially true if you let the first foster animal get adopted. Letting one go, opens the door to understanding the reward and importance of not keeping them- and you know you can do it again. Keeping the first foster does make it harder- but not impossible to let others go.
Sometimes people worry the foster animal can't move on without them- which is absolutely untrue. This is someone worried about how they feel, not what the animals needs- and it's understandable. But it's not a good reason to keep a foster animal- especially when it really isn't a magical fit.
Sometimes foster can't decide if they should adopt, which usually means no. If it was a yes, you'd KNOW- so anything but an enthusiastic yes, is a no. And if you keep a "maybe" foster, you won't have room for a big YES one...so don't keep them to stop them being adopted for reasons of fear or sadness.
Sometimes, a foster animals will be a magical fit- even the pet that is "everything you never knew you always wanted". Sometimes people are shocked that they fall in love with the little dog they took on when they were only big dog people before- or fall for a breed they never knew anything about. This is part of the joy and fun of "dog dating" which is what we joke sometimes. But you date a lot and hopefully marry much less- so is it with fostering.
Many foster families do end up with a pet through the foster process, but it's not as often as you think- and the foster agency should help guide you with this too. You should try to be open with the agency about their advice because they have seen a lot. If they are telling you it's probably not a good fit, listen...because to them it's not about YOU at all- it's about the animal. Sometimes fosters need someone else to remind them of that because their own feelings may get in the way of objectivity.
Remain objective and with the foster animal's best interest in mind and you will be on the right track.
This is already longer than intended, but it has good food for thought.
At Motley Zoo we encourage people to give it a try- and like Mikey with Life cereal, you just never know unless you do!
It takes more effort to think about and worry about fostering than to just do it.
Even if you only do it once, that's better than never. And chances are extremely high you would never regret it.
Find a reputable rescue or shelter near you and get signed up as a foster. Attend/ view their orientation and THEN see what you think. Ask questions...but you might just like it if you go for it. I
Fostering, just might be the thing that changes your entire life for the better...it was for me- and hundreds of people that work with Motley Zoo!
-jme Thomas, Executive Director, Motley Zoo Animal Rescue