FOSTERING: THE PERFECT WAY TO FIND THE PERFECT PET
Since we are not a shelter but a
collection of people that want to help find good homes for dogs and cats, we
don't have facilities to house the animals while they are waiting to be adopted.
Some are kept in Kennels and many are housed at a foster home with people who
have a love for animals.
If you are interested in providing a foster home for one of our transient pets, please drop us a line , leave a message at 973 584-0095 or drop by at the next adoption or bake sale and talk to one of our volunteers.
by Tamara Follett-Orbegozo
No matter what kind of pet you are looking for, fostering a rescued dog or cat is an easy, reliable, way of finding the perfect pet for your situation.
With twenty dogs and untold numbers of cats being destroyed daily in the Newark pound alone, fostering an unwanted animal until it finds a permanent home is more than just a great way to try out a pet with no obligations -- it is a humane act. Fostering is a way for each one of us to contribute to preventing the mass destruction of lives that occurs everyday. Most people are overwhelmed by this tragedy. They say to themselves, "...there are just too many -- whatever I can do won't be enough..." And so they do nothing. But any shelter or rescue or pound will tell you the same thing: "You can't save them all. You do what you can." And when you look into the soft brown eyes of the little spaniel mix you had for three weeks being carried off by the happy child, or the cat that you fostered for two months and came to love being cradled reverently in the arms of the elderly lady, you will know without a doubt that you have made a difference. The knowledge that, without your help, this warm loving creature would have felt the pinch of the euthanasia needle and swiftly descending darkness will uplift your heart and dwell in your memory for many days to come. It is said that if you have made even one life breathe easier because of your passing, then you have found true success. There is the opportunity for so much more than one life to breathe easier with fostering.
If the pet you foster is not a perfect match for you it will eventually be placed in a good home. Be prepared to miss it when it leaves, no matter that it was not the perfect fit for you. This is because you have come to learn the pet's idiosyncrasies -- the calico that despises the vacuum but loves your son's rabbit, or the huge hound that thinks he's a lapdog. And perhaps, during the pet's stay, you have come to learn something of the creature's tragedy -- the collie mix who was terrified of having his neck touched was probably strung up on the leash and strangled by his previous owner. And by knowing the pet, you have come to care for it, perhaps even to love it. It is difficult to say good-bye to your temporary pets, but the knowledge that they are going to a good home where they will be a valued member of the family is a warm consolation. Do not believe the voice that proclaims so convincingly that one person cannot make a difference. Look into the faces of the dogs and cats that have already been saved and the truth will come to you: one person can make a difference. One dog at a time. One cat at a time. One day at a time.
Besides the warm feelings that fostering leaves you with, there are other practical advantages. Fostering is like a temporary job: you can do it if you want to, when you want to, and simply turn down any situations that don't appeal to you or that happen to coincide with your vacation. Foster homes are so badly needed that they are treated with special care by rescue groups. Foster homes for the Blairstown Animal Rescue Korps (BARK) can be very specific about the kinds of pets they will foster. One family will only take small, housebroken, terrier mixes that get along with cats; another will only consider large outdoor-only dogs. Some will accept only cats; once in a while some soft-hearted soul agrees to take that most unplaceable of all animals, an elderly pet. Owners of purebreds will frequently foster only a member of their own breed and these homes are usually put in contact with an organized rescue group for that breed. Some larger rescue groups even pay the foster home a nominal fee per week to support the animals: People for Animals in Hillside, NJ, pays foster homes $16 per week for dogs, and $11 per week for cats. All medical needs, advertisement, and transportation of the animal to and from the shelter are handled by the group. If the pet you are fostering doesn't work out for any reason -- the poodle mix fights with your dog, or the orange tabby is systematically devouring every plant in the house -- the rescue group will take the animal back and (hopefully) place a better match with you. If the foster animal works out well -- and many do -- you have found the perfect pet. If the pet you have is "okay" but not the "perfect match" for you, then you simply wait for the pet to be placed in its new home and try out another pet until you do find the perfect match. There are no obligations -- besides proper care, attention, and feeding -- with fostering. Prospective owners for your foster pet are screened carefully by the rescue group and are given your phone number only when they have proved to be responsible, good, homes. Sometimes prospective homes will call you and set up an appointment to come see the dog or cat. If you wish, a rescue group representative will accompany the prospective owners to your house, or you may wish to meet with the prospective owners in a public place, such as a parking lot. In most cases, however, a rescue group representative will come pick up the pet and bring it to the prospective owner's home -- the better for them to check out the situation and ensure that a puppy farm or testing laboratory is not masquerading as a responsible pet owner.
Foster homes can even place a time limit on the duration that they will keep a pet. One home fostered a grumpy, misfit, old, dog for five months before finding it a perfect home -- with a grumpy, misfit, old, man -- and now the foster home places time restrictions on the pets they take: it must be gone in three months or less, or the rescue group must take it back.
Foster homes can make substantial demands from the rescue groups because there are never enough foster homes for all the abandoned animals that show up on the roads and in the pounds. A sweet collie mix had to be put down recently because a foster home could not be found and our rescue group could not afford to continue to board him. Many foster homes start out as foster homes, but then fall in love with the pet they've taken in and decide to keep it, thereby filling the only available slot in their home with a permanent pet. (Hence the title of this article -- fostering is the perfect way to find the perfect pet!) But a very few other foster homes realize that to keep their charge is to shut their door to all future needy foster pets. And so these homes watch pet after pet come and go, willing to suffer the pain of loss when their "temporary" pet leaves, willing to endure getting to know the next foster pet until it, too, becomes a member of the family, knowing that only through their pain is the greater good served: a previously unwanted pet has a new family, a new chance. Another life has been saved. The end -- the family, the life -- justifies the means. And the pain. Now on to the next pet.
So if you are considering another pet, try fostering. Give your local pound a call and ask for the phone number of the local animal rescue group. You should deal only with a rescue group: pounds, shelters, and humane societies only place dogs in permanent homes; few will foster animals out to temporary homes. Your local animal group is the go-between for you as a foster home and the over-crowded shelters and pounds. The rescue group will interview you, find out your wants and needs, your availability, and your lifestyle, and match an unwanted animal with your situation. Rescue groups try very hard to make the match a good one: it provides no benefit to either the animal or the home, to have everyone upset with the situation. Follow-up by the rescue group, in the form of visits or phone calls, is frequent. The best rescue groups provide free counseling to foster homes as well as permanent homes to help them adjust to the new "family member".
So give your local animal rescue group a call. If you aren't looking for a pet, send the group a donation (it always goes to the animals for medical care, altering, etc.), or offer to make something for their bake/craft sale, or contribute to their tag sale. But if you are looking for a pet, fostering is the perfect way to find the perfect pet. And who knows -- maybe you will find it in your heart to let that perfect pet go on to another family, and leave the slot in your home open to a stream of other loving animals who -- through your help -- will be given a second chance at life.
Only a Little
I stood outside the pen at the shelter and watched her. Though her tail was tucked tightly between her legs and she trembled with every bark, she stood bravely against me and the threatening world she had been thrown into, protecting her two sisters who cowered in the corner behind her. Abandoned early to the streets by a family whose pet-store purebred had produced an "accidental" litter, she and her sisters were the sad product of ignorance and uncaring, greed and unenforceable laws.
Her mother should never have been born, herself. No doubt whelped courtesy of a mid-western "businessman" in a cramped puppy mill cage with no warmth or protection for her dam, (who was by now, in all likelihood, dead at an early age from over-breeding), she was sold in a pet store before she was old enough to be away from her mother, her littermates sold to equally ignorant impulse-buyers or dead from the rigors of cross-country travel.
The laws do not protect these innocents.
Her father was unknown: perhaps a stray, abandoned himself because he was too big, or too noisy, or too active. Or perhaps (worse) he was someone's un-neutered pet who visited her unspayed purebred mother. Compounded error. Ignorance of the millions of unwanted pets already crowding shelters. Worse, knowledge of the animal surplus and Just Not Caring.
Too much needs to be changed to be addressed in a volume of this size, or even in ten volumes of this size. But until the answers come, there is something each of us can do:
Foster an unwanted animal.
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She and her two sisters were lucky: they came home with me, to be housebroken and leash-trained, to learn what love and gentleness can be found at the hands of humans. They are gaining confidence now and are learning for the first time the pleasure of human touch, the joy of a walk through the park, the ecstasy of a bouncing ball. They still have a long way to go: they're afraid of a hairdryer, a dropping pan, the squeal of brakes. Car rides are still to be tolerated. The sight of a broom sends them scurrying. But these things will come. With love, with time, with understanding. They are ready now for their new homes. And they are ready, because of their foster home.
"If we all do a little, there will only be a little to do..."