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.