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Become a Foster Parent for Dogs

Updated on September 24, 2014

Facts About Homeless Dogs

There's a lot of misinformation about fostering dogs, and I want you to have all the facts from someone who has a first-hand account of what fostering is all about - me.

On January 5th, 2010, I lost a dear little dog named Nikki, It was my first real dog I had to care for, so of course her death was more than just a loss, it was a total heartbreak. The first month without her was horrible. I was watching TV one day and saw a program about a local pet foster agency that needed help. I decided to give it a try and put in my application to become a foster for dogs.

When you foster a homeless pet in the U.S., you help reduce the number of animals in shelters and reduce the number of pets euthanized. You are giving them a chance to survive, while the search goes on to find them a good, long term home. If you are concerned about expenses for food and illness, don't be. Most organizations running foster programs provide food, cages, and pay for any veterinarian services. As a foster, you are required to provide a safe and comfortable place for the dog to live. Since I fostered only dogs, my references throughout this article are focused on dogs, but cats are also in need of foster homes - keep this in mind.

Millions of Animals Need Homes

It is estimated that between 6 to 8 million dogs and cats end up in shelters each year. Out of this, 3 to 4 million of these animals are euthanized. This averages out to over 10,000 cats and dogs put down every day in the U.S. alone.

The animals that do survive end up in shelters, experiencing stress and anxiety from being kenneled. Some animals are relocated from one kennel to another, due to overcrowding and this adds more stress to their situation. So when you open your home as a foster parent you give that dog or cat the opportunity to recover from the experience of being kenneled. I've also found that most dogs I've fostered adapt quickly to our home setting, and once settled in sleep for days. When they regain some normality it's satisfying to see how lovable and playful they are. You can almost sense their appreciation; it's very satisfying as a foster to do this.

On the other hand it can be heartbreaking to see the pain in their eyes. Some dogs have been abused, some have been mistreated, some have been neglected. I have put my shoes on and in the process saw dogs cower away; this tells me they have been hit or abused using a shoe.

Regaining Trust

As a foster, you're not only proving temporary shelter for a animal, but you will be providing the kindness needed for re-establishing trust. This helps greatly when the time comes for your foster pet to find a permanent home. The fact is, most families looking to adopt a pet don't want one with issues.

The organization I am with is called FUPI ( Their mission is to rescue pets, whose owners have been foreclosed on and can no longer keep their pet. They do rescue pets from other situations too, but there main focus are pets caught in foreclosure situations.

I wanted to chronicle some of the dogs we have fostered. Each one is unique in their own way. You already know my reason for fostering, after seeing some of the dogs below you may find your own reason to become a foster - take a look.

Brownie is on the right
Brownie is on the right

Brownie - #1

Brownie. He was a little 8 year old chihuahua. I believe he is a pure breed.

Brownie slept down stairs the first night. When I awoke the next morning I went downstairs and saw a light plaid blanket propped up in the air where Brownie went to sleep. As I looked closer I saw Brownie's legs sticking straight up in the air with the blanket over it. My first though was "he was dead."

I thought to myself "my first time fostering and the dog dies on me, what luck." It turned out that this is common for these types of dogs when sleeping, what a relief.

We had Brownie for about a month before he was adopted. So far he is the smartest dog we have fostered. He was like a statue in the car, observing everything going on around him. Picking the right times to bark, he knew the difference between balls, bones and ropes. I thought he was smart.

It seemed these older dogs are a little harder to find homes for; if there was ever a perfect pet Brownie sure fit the bill.

Munchie is on the left
Munchie is on the left

Munchie - #2

Munchie was another chihuahua mix, he was a younger dog, maybe 1-2 years old.

Munchie was a hyper sort, a slender little dog that loved to play. He had a slight separation disorder, but he didn't chew things up like some dogs would. Munchie had a little aggressive streak in him, but there is nothing wrong with some spunk here and there.

You have to remember, these dogs come from crazy backgrounds. They could have had to fight for survival in kennels or other bad situations they were put in.

Munchie was adopted quicker than Brownie. It only took a few weeks to find him a good home.

Cinnabon - #3

Cinnabon was a little bigger chihuahua mix, I would say he was about 15 lbs and mostly black in color. (unfortunately we have no photo).

It seemed that black coated dogs were not to popular in the area I live. Cinnabon was a stronger, alpha male type, yet loved to play fetch and chase. He would shy away from me when I took off my shoes. This told me that he was abused using a shoe. Again, this tells you the story of what has happened in the past to some of these innocent animals.

Cinnabon was adopted about a month later. I'm sure the family who adopted him are happy and I'm sure Cinnabon is happy to have a good home now.

Gidget (aka, GiGi) - #4

Gidget, a little 10 lb jack russel/chihuahua mix, with a snub nosed tail and as aggressive as they come.

From my understanding jack russel's are wired this way. Gidget was the second smartest dog we fostered, next to brownie. She loves the car, but she barks and goes wild when she sees motorcycles. Then in the park she pulls like a 30 lb dog, it's just the way she is wired.

The second time I took Gidget to the park she jumped out the car window and headed for the enclosed dog area. I thought she was ok, but as I approached her she ran off, and this was no small park, this was a gigantic park with exits into residential areas. I followed her for at least half an hour, and remember it was 100 degrees outside. Eventually she calmed down and I was able to capture her without any incidents.

I changed her name to Gigi, then even shorter to G girl. At home G girl has keen ears and senses, but she is also very lovable. Amazing speed and quick turning abilities for a small dog.

We still have G girl, she has been with us for about 5 months now. She needs a special home, we may be that home for her.

Mac - #5

Mac, one of the smallest dogs we have fostered. He was so small I named him Big Mac.

The story with him is, the first time I took him to the park (where they have a dog play area), I had G girl pulling in front of me and big mac lagging behind. All of a sudden I had a leash with no dog in it. Big Mac went in reverse and slipped out of his harness. As I chased him he headed closer to the busy street. I realized he thought we were playing so I headed back to the middle of the park where he followed and was recaptured.

As you see he has a snub nose and a head the size of an apple.

We didn't have him long at all, one look from our neighbor and she fell in love with Big Mac - she adopted Mac.

Finny - #6

Finny, renamed Fin just to shorten his name.

As you can see Fin is another chihuahua mix with distinctive muscles, especially in his rear legs. I really don't know what breed he is, but he has bulging muscles in his rear quarters, and I mean like body builder muscles. Much different from all the other dogs we have fostered.

A real nice and good house dog, but we did have a nickname for him, we called him Einstein. Not because he was the smartest, but in some ways just the opposite. You would say something like "Fin, come over here" and he would just look at you as to say "huh". It was the funniest thing and he made us laugh time and time again.

Fin was adopted into a great home with 3 other dogs. The owners have built a small house for the dogs in their backyard, it includes color TV, a/c, and carpeting. One lucky guy.

Teacup - #7

Tea Cup, probably the smallest of the bunch, yet the most affectionate dog we ever fostered.

Tea cup was very timid, she certainly acted like she had a rough past. She loved humans and would lick you to death, you know to the point where it became a tad irritating.

Tea cup was an excellent house dog, very alert, house broken, and had a bark that mimicked a much larger dog. If someone were to break into the house they surely would be surprised to see such a small dog.

Each Saturday FUPI holds adoption events at local petmarts stores. This one Saturday, as we returned to pick her up, I saw tea cup running aimlessly in the parking lot. I knew she had gotten loose. She was scared and darted across a busy street. Amazingly, being so small and with all that traffic, she made it across. Several people noticed the situation and stopped to help. Tea cup was scared and fast, she zigged and zagged through another parking lot, now there were at least 20 people trying to capture her.

She ran down another busy street, still scared, she crossed this street and we now had people halting traffic for tea cup.

By the end of this ordeal there were at least 30 or more people trying to save this little 5 lb dog. After 1 hour, in the 105 degree heat, tea cup was captured in a small gated community. The pads on her feet were blistered, but overall she was OK. If she were a cat with 9 lives, she certainly used a few that day.

Besides the public's help, the manager and employee's at petsmart helped in the chase. The FUPI volunteers, head up by Louie never gave up on Tea Cup that day.

People care, this was exhibited that day in rescuing tea cup. The next week tea cup was adopted by a nice couple who had recently lost their pet.

Buster - #8

Buster is a foster we had for only a week, I didn't have a chance to take his picture and had to use this one. (no photo available).

Buster is one of the biggest dogs we have fostered, he is about 20 lbs. Another rescued dog that just wants a loving home. He is playful and gentle, but he loves to find cracks in the fence and make a run for it. The good thing is he always finds his way home.

The first adoption event we took him to Buster made a connection with a gentleman that took him home for a tryout. All looks well and it seems Buster will have a nice home with a slightly larger female dog to play with. Good luck to Buster.

Coco - #9

Coco is a little mixed chihuahua who was very thin, but has a longer body than most. She started off timid, but once she got comfortable she became a live wire.

She was self sufficient in that she played by tossing her toys in the air. She'd run back and forth chasing something invisible, only she could see. Extremely lovable, Coco wants to follow where ever you go. This is the nature of rescue dogs, they want to connect quickly. It's understandable since they have been abandoned, abused and passed around so often.

Coco makes you laugh. One night, while working on the computer at the kitchen table, out of the side of my eye I see this head popping up. It was Coco jumping just high enough where her head was above the table top. Doing this several times made it look like a jack-in-the-box. You just had to smile and she knew it too.

Coco was adopted by two very nice retired ladies. I know that Coca and the ladies will enjoy each other and have many happy years going forward.

Minerva - #10

Minerva is a 5 year old female, little long haired mixed Chihuahua. She has been is the adoption system for 5 months and has been going around and around in different places more than any dog we have known.

She starts out timid, but nippy the first 24 hours in a new home. We only had her 24 hours before she was adopted, but true to form she was returned within 48 hours because she nipped at two young children in the newly adoptive family.

We took her back and this time we had her for 5 days. This time we had a chance to get to know her better. She turned out to be one of the sweetest little dogs we ever had. She was playful and wanted to be close to someone, this was once she trusted you. With small dogs you get the impression that they get pushed around a lot by bigger dogs. Minerva really doesn't know how to play, she wants to play but snips and snarls doing it. This gives the impression that she is mean, but she needs to learn how to play in a different tone.

On the sixth day we took her to the adoption event. She was adopted again (for the umpteen time) but it seems this time she found the right home. The adoptive parents understand her need for patients and time to gain trust.

Good luck to Minerva and the her new owners.

Tinkerbell - #11

Tinkerbell has to be the most heart warming story out of all the dogs we fostered. You will better understand as you read her story.

Tinkerbell is a three year old Alaskan mixed female beauty. Now, we didn't get the best pictures of her, but she is unique. By this we mean she has three legs (amputated her left hind leg) and she has cataracts. She can only see shadows.

Because of these issues her other senses are more astute, she is full of energy, but at the same time is a very loveable dog. Since her eyesight is impaired she quickly adapts to the layout of the place she is in. She has been in several foster homes, you have to imagine how an animal with these impairments must feel. This is one reason animals who are forced into these situations make great pets, but because of Tinkerbell's physical problems finding someone to adopt her seemed more difficult. But fate works in strange ways, and as the story unfolds things happen at just the right time.

A family saw Tinkerbell on the local TV show and made an immediate connection with her. The family knew of Tinkerbell's shortcomings and still wanted to adopt her. This family is special, they have their own challenges and still opened their hearts and home to Tinkerbell - without reservations. Tinkerbell was adopted six days before Christmas - she will be spending Christmas with her new family, in her new home.

You know, the world seems to be flooded with bad news, but every once in a while stories like Tinkerbell's comes around. A dog with special needs, taken in by a special family, at a special time of the year.

Well, at least we are able to tell Tinkerbell's story here. For this Christmas, 2011, Tinkerbell has received the best gift of all - her new adoptive family. Merry Christmas Tinkerbell.


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