I’ve always loved dogs, I’ve always been around them, and as a child I always just assumed that when I grew up I’d have a dog or two of my own. But the realities of adulthood, primarily the fact that I’m out at work for most of the day, have meant that the time has never been right for me to adopt a dog. I’ve considered options such as dog walkers and doggy day cares, which are abundant these days, but for one reason or another, this has never really felt the way to go for me personally – and besides, my partner had never been a dog person anyway, so he probably wouldn’t agree to it.
Then I started following Dogs 4 Rescue on Facebook after a colleague told me about them, and within a couple of weeks, I’d seen a plea for fosterer carers, and then a second more desperate plea, that I just couldn’t stop thinking about. Surprisingly, my partner agreed that we could offer our help as a one off, and I got in touch. We both work full time Monday to Friday, so to be honest, I fully expected to be told that we weren’t suitable, since we could only foster for the weekend. But I was delighted to be told that our help would be appreciated, and to be invited down to meet some of the doggies and find a suitable match.
I met Emma at Dogs 4 Rescue the following day and after explaining that whilst I was confident, my partner didn’t have any experience of dogs, she recommended I meet one of their easiest but most overlooked dogs, the beautiful Samira. She was absolutely gorgeous and I agreed without hesitation to have her that weekend. Lou came round after I’d finished work on the Friday to do a quick home check, and at the same time she dropped off lovely Samira, plus a big bag of food, treats and toys. We had the most amazing weekend together and that was that – I was hooked.
So what is it about fostering that I can’t get enough of?
It has been amazing for my health and happiness
As a self-confessed couch potato, I used to spend the majority of my weekends sitting around getting very little exercise. I might wake up with good intentions, but if the weather was bad or I was just feeling lethargic, there was absolutely no way I’d be going out of that door. However, having a foster dog is just the motivation I need to regularly get out of the house for some fresh air and exercise, and with them by my side, I’m able to enjoy going for walks so much more than I used to, even if it’s raining or cold. It has done wonders for my health.
In addition, I’m even finding myself getting up earlier, with the knowledge that there is a waggy tail waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. I start my day in a good mood, and it continues that way, with cuddles and kisses available on request, making me more productive and an all-round happier person.
It can be totally flexible to suit my lifestyle
As I’ve already said, I don’t feel able to commit to adopting a dog on a permanent basis, but through fostering I get to just enjoy spending time with dogs without having to make that long term commitment. Personally I foster on the weekends, others foster for a week at a time or longer, and some may even just take a dog for the day. All of this is valuable help and is great for the dogs, but I have never felt any pressure to do any more than I can. Though I love every minute of it and try foster every weekend, some weekends it just isn’t possible for me and that is absolutely fine.
I’m even able to choose a dog to suit my specific plans on any given weekend. If I’m planning to visit family, I might ask for one that is good with other dogs and doesn’t mind the car. If I’m having friends over I can take a dog that’s good with visitors. If I know we’ll both be out of the house for a few hours, I can specify that I need a dog with no separation anxiety. There are so many dogs waiting for homes that there is always at least one that can fit in with my plans.
It’s great practice
In the relatively short amount of time I’ve been fostering, I’ve experienced all sorts of different types of dogs; some are timid, some are reactive, others have health issues. Emma and Lou are always on hand to give advice on how to deal with a particular issue if I need it, so I feel confident in dealing with these issues, and all the time I am building my knowledge so that one day, when I’m in a position to adopt a rescue dog of my own, I should be fully equipped to deal with any problems he or she may need to work through.
Furthermore, my partner has gone from someone who had admired dogs from a distance but didn’t really understand why anyone would want to share their home with one, to someone who takes them for walks, picks up their poo, cuddles them on the sofa, and sometimes even has full blown conversations with them! I have well and truly converted him, and I no longer have to worry about trying to convince him to adopt when the time comes.
It just feels incredible
The thing that keeps me coming back again and again, above anything else, is simply that feeling I get when I see one of the dogs I’ve fostered finally find their happy ending. People often ask me how I can keep falling in love with these dogs and then just take them back, and yes, I’ll admit that I cried that first week after I dropped Samira off. I cried the next time, and the time after that. But the more I’ve learned about these dogs, about what they’ve gone through and how far they’ve come, the easier it has become.
I don’t cry anymore. I drop my foster baby off each week with a huge smile on my face. Knowing that simply by spending some time with them, getting to know their quirks, providing feedback and taking photos, helping them work through any issues and anxieties that they have, I have played a small part in finding them their forever home. Whether it takes days, weeks, or months for them to get there, the feeling when it happens is always the same. It’s a feeling that I can’t quite put into words. I guess you’ll only really know when you try it for yourself.