I love dogs. It's true. I mostly blame my parents, because we always had a dog growing up. When I was born they had Spike, the male Labrador. When Spike passed away my folks adopted Sampson the male Lab/Shepard mix. When he passed away we adopted Mercedes from the pound, she was a Belgian Shepard. Before she passed my parents adopted Maggie, the female Boxer. Now that Maggie has passed my parents adopted two more female boxers, Mandy and Mora.
I've also lived with several roommates and helped care for their dogs; there was Achilles, the Doberman; Louie and Niko, the English Bulldogs; Roxie, the Rottweiler and Nasta and Sierra, the boxers. Throughout my whole life the dogs I've cared for were never my financial responsibility. I loved them, fed them, played with them, walked them, help train them, discipline them, but never had to worry about how to pay for them. However, today I'm all grown up with two girls of my own: Zero, a Border Collie/ Dalmatian mix and Izabelle, a Cattle Dog/Keshound mix. So, today we're going to discuss the financial responsibility that comes with pet ownership. Even though I'll be discussing dogs, most of the advice could be applied to any pet.
I previously mentioned that prior to the passing of my parent's Belgian Shepard, Mercedes, they adopted Maggie, the Boxer. Maggie was supposed to be my dog. I was supposed to adopt her from friends who's Boxer's just had a litter. However, I was already living with a friend who had a dog, I already had to find a new home for my ferret, I was not financially stable or personally stable enough to care for her. Enter my parents and their aging, ill dog. I was fortunate that my parents were ready and willing to adopt Maggie because I knew that I was neither ready nor prepared. I was 28 then, and 10 years later my fiance and I decided to adopt a puppy. Why did I wait so long? Why did we wait so long? Because, pets are a HUGE responsibility. They take time, effort, dedication, and money to take care of properly. Don't get me wrong, I've wanted a dog of my own for as long as I can remember, but I knew I had to be honest and realistic with myself. Not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of my future dog.
The ASPCA website offers these great questions to ask yourself before you even consider adopting a new pet:
I did tons of research into the proper diet for puppies and dogs and knew we'd be spending more on dog food than some people may anticipate. We both decided we'd rather spend more on dog food than on vet bills, so we were okay with this decision. Time wasn't going to be an issue for care or training, because when we adopted Zero, I was between jobs. Therefore, I had plenty of time to dedicate to her necessary training and care. Time was a huge factor in our decision making process, mainly because puppies take a ton of time. You can't leave them alone and unattended, ever. If you are crate training them, they can only be in their crates an hour longer than their age.
For example, if your puppy is only two months old, they should only be left in their crate for three hours at a stretch. I'm not certain we would have adopted a puppy if we had both been working full time. We also went through puppy training classes, because not only do puppies need to learn how to not potty in the house, they need to be properly socialized with other puppies and dogs, and with other humans, too.
We currently don't have a very big fenced in yard for our girls to run around in and they are both high energy working breed dogs. So, I make it a point to take them on long walks every day. Because high energy dogs (especially working breed dogs) when left to their own devices with little to no exercise or stimulation, will start to become naughty dogs - mostly out of boredom. When we moved to Gillette last March we needed to find an apartment that would allow pets. All of this was part of our decision making process.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? That's okay, you should be.
Being a responsible pet owner can be overwhelming, but it's also rewarding. I have found no greater joy than watching my girls run and play with one another. They comfort me when I'm sad and lonely. They continue to be an endless source of love and entertainment. Our lives may be easier with out them, but they would certainly be emptier and less fulfilling.
At the end of the day, if you've answered the above questions honestly and sincerely, you'll know what to do. In case you need some more information, this info-graphic lays out the money side of pet ownership.
What about you? How did you make the choice to be a responsible pet owner?
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Did you know that May is National Foster Care Month?
Are you now asking yourself, "Why is the Foundation bringing this up?"
Well, it's not only children who need foster care; in many cases, homeless pets are in need of foster care as well. When you become an animal foster parent, you volunteer to keep a homeless pet in your home temporarily until they go to a forever home. Fostering is often done through rescue groups or even shelters. In fact, many of these groups rely on foster homes to keep pets until they have room, or are entirely run through foster care. Within the Foundation, there are three board members who provide foster care for different rescue groups – Tara Beard, Amber Heim and Mary Melaragno.
I decided that it would be fun to hear how they got involved with fostering animals, and why it’s important to them. Check out what they had to say below.
Q: So, ladies, how long have you been fostering animals and what rescue groups do you foster for?
Tara: On and off for four years. I started out fostering for the Black Hills Boxer Rescue, which is now closed, and currently I'm fostering for Big Dogs Huge Paws.
Mary: I've only been fostering a few months for Big Dogs Huge Paws.
Amber: I have been a foster (failed each time) mom for three years. I've helped out family members with their dogs, and I did some fostering for the new no-kill shelter in Gillette, There's No Place Like Home.
Q: Why did you decide to foster dogs?
Mary: I've always wanted to foster but I was always scared that I would get too attached and become a "foster failure," or my dogs wouldn't get along with the foster dog. (For those who don't know, "foster failures" are folks who fell so hard in love with a foster that they adopted them.) I know that fostering dogs saves lives. All of our dogs have been rescue dogs and had wonderful foster homes. Daisy was pulled from a high kill shelter in Kansas, would have been euthanized had her foster family not been around. I've volunteered with Big Dogs Huge Paws since adopting Morgan with applications and transports. I was asked to pick up Hank (Tank at the time) from the Rapid City Shelter and help transport him. When I met Hank I saw a terrified, un-adoptable dog and was thankful that Big Dogs Huge Paws pulled him because he would have been euthanized otherwise. We decided to foster Hank because there was a lack of foster homes available, and Hank would have to go to a boarding facility until a foster home opened up. I knew Hank would not thrive in a boarding facility and needed one-on-one work.
Tara: After adopting Lou from Black Hills Boxer Rescue, I could see that Shelley had a need for homes. I wanted to give another dog the same chance Lou received. See, if Shelley hadn’t have pulled him, he would have been euthanized for being “aggressive,” To me, a 1-year-old unaltered boxer pup and absolutely no training/manners equals block head, not aggressive. I wanted to give other dogs a chance, as Lou had received.
Amber: These are all great answers, and much of the reason why I decided to foster. We (my husband Tracy and I) have the time and the financial means to help animals in need. There is no greater joy than knowing an animal is placed into a loving home whether it's mine or some other lucky person that will be blessed to have them as a part of their family! I'd continue to foster, even though I've "failed" three times!
Q: Sounds like giving second chances is what fostering is all about. How very awesome you two do this. So, in your opinion, what's the best part of fostering dogs?
Tara: Helping them find a forever home, of course. But watching them come out of their shell, showing their true side and helping them get to that point isn’t too bad either!
Amber: The best part about fostering is knowing the animal is in a safe, clean, healthy and loving environment.
Mary: Agreed. Seeing them come out of their shell and thrive. Seeing Hank not know what a dog bed was, how to play with toys, or even ride in a car, and see him now lounging on the dog beds and snuggle me on the couch, seeing him play with my dogs (Sam), and loving car rides, is amazing and makes my heart smile.
Q: Awe. How much fun is that! So, what's the hardest part of fostering dogs?
Amber: The hardest part of fostering is getting close with the animal and them becoming part of your family and having to let them go to another home (which is why I have failed 3 times!)
Tara: Knowing that fostering is the difference between life and death in many cases. I may feel terrible on the day that a dog goes to its forever home, but it’s temporary. I would feel even worse if the rescue didn’t have enough foster homes, and as a result the dog couldn’t be pulled from a shelter and was euthanized. That unfortunately is not temporary.
Mary: For me, it's knowing that Hank is going to find a new home and leave my family. But also sometimes working through issues that you've never experienced before; however, there is also a benefit to that.
Q: I'd have to say, knowing that a dog would leave me is probably what keeps me from fostering. So, what would you tell someone who was on the fence about fostering dogs for that very reason?
Mary: Fostering saves the life of the dog you're fostering and it saves you. It makes you humble and appreciate life more by seeing how many simple things make them happy. And, while it's hard, it's so incredibly rewarding. Most rescues will help with vet costs, food costs, etc., so you're only required to give your love and your home.
Tara: I'd add that you really can make a difference. It is hard, but very rewarding. In all but one case, I have been in touch with the new homes. It makes it so much easier to see that the dogs are thriving and that it happened because you made room for them in your life.
Amber: I would tell them that there is a chance the animal would never find a loving home and could be euthanized. So with it being sad for us to have them go, that is a selfish reason to not foster. Think about the animals needs!
Well folks, there you have it. Like our headline, and our board members say, fostering saves lives. Major props to Amber, Mary and Tara for opening their homes and hearts to fostering animals. And, a huge kudos to all the other foster pet parents out there this month. You are truly making a difference.
Fostering is even a great way to enjoy the many benefits of having a pet in your life without the long-term commitment. If you're interested in fostering animals, we have a list of animal rescues in the region here. And, if you Google, "foster pets" you can find loads of resources available online. Consider allowing a pet to bunk with you for a time.
Do you have another reason why you foster pets? Let us know about it in the comments below.
Created in November 2011, the Fur Kids Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides education and aid to promote the well-being of animals in Campbell County.
Your donation saves lives. It goes to work helping animals in Campbell County receive adequate veterinary care during a time when their family may not be able to afford it. Please contact the Foundation to learn more or donate now using PayPal.