If you love dogs, there are many ways to get involved to help them in their time of need. Adoption, of course, tops the list—followed closely by making financial donations to shelters and volunteering your time.
But there's another option that is becoming increasingly popular with shelters and dog lovers: Becoming a foster parent to homeless dogs.
Foster care: What it is and isn't
As you know, shelters have just so much room in their facilities. When the population in these organizations becomes too large, they must seek other places to house the animals in their care until forever homes can be found. That's why more and more shelters, breed rescues, and humane societies are creating fostering programs.
Dog foster care is much like foster care for children, a way to provide a temporary home when it's needed. Of course, you'll be supplying more than just shelter. You'll also be opening your heart to a dog that requires kindness and guidance.
Dogs that are eligible for foster care may need assistance in socialization and training as they make the transition between a shelter and a forever home. This is where your love and patience come into play, and they're just as important as the temporary sanctuary of your house.
What if you already have a dog, or several dogs, in your home—can you still foster a dog from a shelter? Chances are, yes. But your own dogs may have to demonstrate that they can get along with foster dogs.
Before deciding to become a dog foster parent, you should understand that this is not a way to "try out" a dog to see if you want to adopt it. Dogs in foster care programs are intended to be adopted, but their forever homes will most likely be elsewhere. Foster care is a temporary situation—and it's important to remember that. Yes, it can be heartbreaking to say goodbye to a dog you've come to love, but think of it this way: You've done that dog a great service and now he's heading for a new family that will also love him. It's a win-win for everyone—dogs and humans—involved in foster care.
If you have the room in your heart and your home to foster a dog in need, contact the various shelters, breed rescues, and humane associations in your area. If they have foster programs, find out what the qualifications are and fill out an application. Don't expect to just fill out some forms and walk away with a dog. Fostering requires some training, so prepare to attend orientation classes and to have your home and background checked by the organization running the foster care program. After all, they love the dogs in their care and want the very best for them. And so do you.