October 22, 2012

Ten reasons why fostering animals will change your life.

We parted ways with our most recent foster last week. His name is Ringo. A 13-year-old Lhasa Apso—completely deaf, completely lovely. Like we have done in the past, we moved a little hastily on this one. He was an urgent pup, owner surrender, stuck in the Draper shelter. He had stopped eating five days prior, so I just knew (a feeling deep in my bones) that we needed to pull him out of there asap. Turns out, our house (with its millions of stairs) isn't ideal for a senior dog with arthritis. It's sort of a death trap, actually. We kept him for four days after realizing he wouldn't work as a long-term foster in our home. 

Thanks to social media and CAWS, I was able to find a new foster mom for Ringo. Linda is home a lot during the day, so she's able to give Ringo the attention he deserves. He has a little bit of separation anxiety, probably due to being abandoned by his family of 13 years, but his new mom is patient. He also has a few special needs (eye medicine, prescription food, meds for pain) which Linda attends to with extra care. He's now eating more, limping less, and wagging his tail. I'm thrilled he will have a second chance at a happy life. He's nearing the end (this breed usually lives about 14 years) so he deserves a warm place to live and lots of snuggles. 

Okay, reasons why fostering will change your life. Here goes:

1.     The satisfaction of saving a life is unmatched. I believe all lives are valuable, and pets particularly, need us. By agreeing to foster, you are quite literally saving a life. The animal goes directly from a shelter (where they will be euthanized because of overcrowding) into your home.

2.     Service work is therapeutic. My counselor says the two biggest things you can do to improve your own mental health are volunteer work and exercise. Whether you think you need it or not, everyone could use a good boost in happiness and karma.   

3.     The formation of deep companionship. When you rescue an animal, they know it. And they thank you in various ways. It's different than the bond you form with your own permanent pet, because there's an end in sight.  This makes it a little more painful (saying goodbye sucks!) but also fulfilling knowing that YOU were the middleman who helped find this creature a permanent home.

4.     You will make lasting friendships. The people who are involved in animal rescue come from all walks of life. It's fun to get to know other rescuers and fosters. The common goal of saving lives brings everyone close to form a solid network. They will dogsit for you, offer advice, take your foster to appointments when you're not available, and share supplies. It's a kind, selfless group, and that's refreshing. 

5.     The experience will strengthen your family. Bringing another animal into your home under frenzied circumstances will cause a moment (sometimes weeks!) of upheaval. It's not easy, but once you realize that your actions were a success, you will look back and think that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Chris and I have had disagreements along the way, but we share the common goal, so we find ways to make it work. It helps us improve our communication. 

6.     Socialization for your own pets. Our dog was already socialized, but having fosters in and out of our house has made him an even better pup. Most of the time, he ends up having a new buddy to play with. Do they test his patience? Yep. But, just like people, that makes him stronger and well rounded, improving his quality of life and ours. 

7.     Developing knowledge about the community in which you live.  It's fun to learn about the counties of the state I live in, their rules concerning animals, the politics, the statistics. There are all kinds of opportunities to be involved once you get out there and actually see what's going on. I've written letters to the chief of police and council members and I've talked to shelter owners and county-ran shelter workers. Many of these conversations are ongoing and some have led to positive actions (town meetings, votes, etc) that contribute to the overall goal: less healthy animals being killed in shelters.  

8.     Each animal fostered is one less animal in a shelter that's powered by our tax dollars. Raise awareness. Improve our local economy. 

9.     It's a healthy addiction. Animal rescue is addicting. Something transcendent happens. I won't begin to try to explain it in words, but it's pretty great. It's difficult to not develop a passion for it once you start. Better than being addicted to shopping, or drugs.   

10.  Take a stand, be an advocate, do something that matters. Animal rescue is a way to give back. We get so caught up in ourselves sometimes, we forget there is a whole world of things we could put our energy toward. Stepping back from yourself is the most life-changing thing you can do. It opens your eyes.
All it takes is a home. If you have a home that allows animals, you can foster. You make your own guidelines about what size or type of breed works for you. Often times you can handpick the animal you want to save (depending on the rescue group you choose to work with). The only think you will be asked to do as a foster is help get the animal adopted out. This sometimes requires driving them to adoption events on weekends. If you can afford toys, bones and food for the pet, then great. It's very helpful. But if not, many rescue groups help provide what you need.

If you're interested in becoming a foster parents, and you're in the Utah area, contact CAWS or Cause for Paws Rescue Army. They are each very active on Facebook, so you can find them on there too. Most county shelters have Facebook pages where they post their available pets just after the stray hold is up. I always keep an eye on those pages as well. If you're not a Utah resident, contact your local Humane Society--they will likely have connections to organization in your area.  

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