Q: How did you get into this?
A: I liked going to the pet stores and playing with new dogs every week. Naturally, I wanted to take them home, but my ex (then-wife) and I already had two, so it would have been a crowded house if we kept going like we were. Fostering was a nice way to help out the humane societies and rescue groups. I got a new dog every so often, but we never had a net increase.
Q: Don't you get attached? How can you just give them up?
A: You have to find a balance between caring about dogs and being detached enough to let them go to a loving home. You may think you're doing a dog a favor by adopting it, but then you're only helping that one dog. Foster homes make it possible for others to be saved once a dog has been placed with a permanent family. If you don't let go, then you're depriving the world of a foster home.
Q: Do you just foster pugs?
A: Not exclusively. We foster pugs through the local pug rescue, and there is a lot of traffic through them, so it probably looks that way. Even though we only foster one pug (sometimes two) at a time, they are placed pretty quickly, so a lot pass through our home. We also foster for the Boston terrier rescue, but the fosters we've had through them tend to be older and are therefore harder to place. They're also a less "trendy" breed than pugs, so they are less often sought out even though they have some advantages over pugs for dogs of approximately the same size.
Q: Do you have to go to adoptions at PetSmart or whatever?
A: That depends on the specific group you work with. Humane societies tend to do that more than breed-specific rescue groups. The latter usually have better luck connecting with potential families through their respective web sites. After all, they're looking for a specific breed of dog, so they hone right in on the site. If you are able to take time to help out every other Saturday afternoon or whatever, then it's no big deal. I happened to gravitate toward the rescue groups for breeds I liked, so my weekends are free in that respect.
Q: What shape are they in when you get them?
A: It varies, but they're always well enough to take home, else they'd stay at the vet's office. Usually they come to me with whatever medication they need (e.g., antibiotics if they have kennel cough, pain meds if they've just been fixed, de-wormer, etc.). The most serious case I had was one (Radar, see the pug page) who had already had surgery for a torn cornea, but he was otherwise very happy and healthy. We have taken care of a couple with mange, but this hasn't been a problem either (Demodectic mange doesn't spread to other animals; it's an opportunistic organism that's always present but causes hair loss when animals are stressed).
Q: Do you have to pay for the vet bills?
A: Although there may be some exceptions, the rescue groups I've worked with have covered all the vet bills (including spaying/neutering and medications). These groups typically have an "in" with a particular vet's office where they are covered pro bono or at cost, depending on the services provided. This is what the adoption fees and charitable donations go toward covering. Your responsibilities are usually limited to travel expenses and dog food. However, if you save your receipts, these things are tax write-offs. As a foster, I have had virtually no involvement in money changing hands. In fact, I try to do whatever procedures I can myself (e.g., mange dips) rather than making return trips to the vet's office just so that my fosters aren't a drain on rescue groups finance's or the vet's hospitality.
Q: How long do you have to foster them for?
A: The record for the pugs was Little Man who had the aforementioned case of mange. It took several months to restore his coat, so he wasn't immediately adoptable. Typically pugs are fostered for only a couple months, sometimes as little as a week, sometimes somewhat longer. The Boston terriers have stuck around longer, mainly because we have usually taken in older dogs who are harder to place.
Q: What about house training?
A: The fosters tend to follow precident. Since we have a permanent dog (Gus), they follow his lead for the most part. Some are faster learners than others, naturally. And then there are puppies who are just going to take longer.
Q: Do you foster cats?
A: Hell no. Cats are not pets. If you think they are, you are delusional.
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