My very first experience with fostering was way back when I was 17 years old and in high school. For my senior project I elected to work with Stray Cat Blues, and took on fostering some kittens for them. They were terrified barn kittens that lived with me for a few weeks while I worked with them until they were socialized enough to be adopted. From that moment on, I knew this was something I wanted to do. I convinced my parents to let me foster a cute bloodhound next, and then after that came Harley…and you all know that story.
I can’t even tell you how many times people have said to me when I’m dropping off my foster pup at their new home, ‘I could never do what you do’ or ‘Isn’t it so hard to leave them?’ or ‘Isn’t it hard to deal with all of that house training?’ Honestly, I could go on…but that’s not why we are here. We are here to talk about why you SHOULD foster. We are at a point in Harley’s Haven where we are limited because we have limited foster homes, and I would love to reach a few new people to save a few more lives…so I thought this was a good time to talk about the joys of fostering, and all the things that make it worth all of the parts that can be hard.
A foster home journey starts with choosing the pup, and then coordinating their arrival. But when they arrive, that is when the magic happens. That first moment – the first time you look at a dog in need and they at you, and you know in your heart that you are helping that poor lost soul find its way – THAT moment is reason #1 that I foster. The first contented sigh of a dog out of the shelter or off transport when they can truly rest and know that they are safe, makes me feel like I’m really doing something that is making a difference. Watching them learn to play, and learn to trust, and learn to find joy – that is such an amazing experience. Teaching them how to live in a house and all about house training and leash walking can be challenging, for sure, but in a satisfying way! And for our rescue I can also say that we try to build in lots of support here – through comradery with other fosters and with support medically from Pennridge, and with access to trainers and behaviorists to work through any issues!
As they learn and grow then comes the finding them a home part. Weeding through potential homes can be hard, as can be waiting for an application to come that feels like it is taking forever to come….but once the right home comes and we all feel it is the right home, setting up that first meet for them is another joy for me. Watching people’s faces light up when they meet him/her for the first time is something special to be a part of. Then watching them start to get to know one another and bond, or dogs meeting for the first time and checking each other out – that is also so heart-warming. But the second magical moment for me, is when I bring my foster to their new home to start day one of the rest of their life. The drop off is reason #2 that I foster. Bringing that furry bundle of joy into a waiting and excited home brings all the feels. I’ve been greeted with homemade ‘Welcome home signs’ and with cards and flowers (and even homemade jam once!), and with kids waiting at the door, or even in the driveway! And honestly adults waiting at the door too! That palpable energy of excitement and joy is contagious. Helping them settle in and answering questions, and then taking that adoption picture with the family is such a wonderful experience for me! I always leave every single foster with the same piece of advice before I say goodbye ‘Please be a good boy (or girl), so that they want to keep you and love you forever. I believe in you.’ Every single foster I have ever dropped off, I gave this same tiny speech too, and I like to think it helps…maybe a little.
Is it hard to leave them? Yes, 100%. And some are harder than others…but you aren’t asking the right question. Is it WORTH it to leave them? Emphatically yes. Every moment – from the one where our eyes lock for the first time, to the one where they lock for the last time - all of the pee on the floor, all of the treats used for training, all of the time coaxing a scared one out of a cage, and all of the tears shed driving away from a particularly hard one. EVERY MOMENT is worth it to know that I made a difference in that dog’s life. Without me and without Harley’s Haven that dog may have never had a chance – fostering saves two lives – the life of the dog that leaves the shelter, but also the life of the dog that now has a spot where that dog was in the shelter.
It can be hard, and it can be sad – but it is also joyful and truly makes a difference. If you are at the point where you think you could give a little time and energy to a pup or dog in need, please reach out! There are thousands and thousands of dogs out there in shelters in need right at this very moment – and we can’t save them without you.
**NOTE – if you are seriously interested in fostering, you can find our foster application on our website at www.harleyshavendogrescue.com. And I would be happy to talk to you more if you have questions! We provide all of the supplies (food, crate, toys, treats, bowls), the medical care, the training support, and the team to help with adoption…you just need to provide the love and the place to live. Please reach out if you want to help us save some lives!