FOSTER CARING FOR DOGS

words + photography KRISTA COLE

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Clockwise, from top left:
Aspen.
Jackson.
Aspen.
Jackson.

Irescued Jackson in October 2018. His mother was a stray dog with several litters of puppies living out in the woods. I had lost my dog Blu in the fall of 2016, and my dog Aspen was heartbroken. She was licking her paws raw, had severe anxiety and had lost interest in the things she had loved prior. It was extremely hard to watch and after a vet visit… they recommended I get another companion for her.

Jackson and Aspen are both rescue dogs, Jackson from Mississippi and Aspen from Colorado. Yes, the names are in honor of where they are from. I love being a rescue dog mom. They are amazing companions and there is no better feeling than giving an animal another chance at a good life.

Then I started fostering. See, Jackson’s foster mother, Meagan, and I met when I rescued Jackson. She went on to establish a dog rescue of her own named Mainely Mutts Animal Rescue with her partners Lia Bensley and Carol McDonough Cain. Mainely Mutts primarily works with Southern rescue partners, pulling high-risk puppies and dogs from Mississippi and Alabama. They work to place healthy pups in homes in which they will thrive. As a shelter-less rescue, Mainely Mutts relies heavily on an incredibly hardworking and compassionate foster network. Without fosters, Mainely Mutts would not exist.

That’s how I became a foster mom. I have to say, I was hesitant at first. Fostering a dog is nothing to be taken lightly. These dogs have been abandoned or abused. They have been picked up off the street and thrown into a shelter, then driven for two days to a place they do not know. It is an extremely stressful situation and as someone who has decided to foster, you don’t really know what to expect. One of their favorite quotes at Mainely Mutts is, “There’s a deep sleep that only comes on the first night out of the shelter. As he settles in, he gives a great big sigh. Like a weight has been lifted off of his shoulders. Then he sleeps deeper than he ever has, knowing he’s safe. You get a lump in your throat as you realize how close he came. But he’s OK, because you fostered.”

The dogs who need foster care come to Mainely Mutts from their Southern rescues. In the rural South, unaltered dogs are often allowed to roam outdoors. Many counties have weak or unenforced leash laws. Shelters in such areas are overrun, and even where adoptions are encouraged, low population density makes them rare. Many of the dogs that are routinely euthanized in Southern states—healthy Labs, hounds, shepherds and others, including puppies of various breeds—are in high demand in the Northeast, where low-cost spay and neuter services are the norm, kill rates are down and there are exponentially more potential adopters.

Fostering is unequivocally essential to saving lives—every time a dog or cat leaves the shelter for a foster home, space is created for another animal in need. However, there are many additional benefits for both the foster home and the pet:

  • Fostering is a great trial run to see if you and your household are ready for a new pet. You’ll gain experience and knowledge, so that when you’re ready to adopt, you’ll know what to expect.
  • You provide the rescue with valuable information about your foster, such as what activities they enjoy and if they’re good with other pets/children. This helps us find them the perfect forever home.
  • Foster help adopters view pets in a home setting. Shelters do amazing work, but many animals can exhibit fear, excitement, anxiety and other characteristics that may not show up the same outside of a kennel.
  • Fostering is flexible. Mainely Mutts rescues all types of dogs—puppies, mommas, adults, seniors—and Mainely Mutts will only place you with a foster pup that fits into your home and lifestyle. Want to only foster in the summer? Great! Can only foster over a school holiday? That’s wonderful! The rescue even helps with mid-day walks.

As stay-at-home orders began to take prominence, the dogs in foster homes were adopted quickly, as many families found themselves with plenty of time to care for a new family member. Mainely Mutts was inundated with foster offers from people all over the state, but unfortunately had no dogs needing a foster home because all transports from Mississippi had stopped. This was devastating news for the thousands of pets currently in the system, or those waiting for a space to become available in shelters, especially because they’ve been inundated by adoption inquiries. Mainely Mutts is channeling this unexpected shortage of animals in their care by strengthening their organization so they can hit the ground running when the time comes. They will continue to assist local families with issues or questions for as long as the executive order allows. Mainely Mutts is very grateful for its team in the South, which has rallied so many fosters to keep the dogs they’ve already committed to save.

They do not currently need fosters, but as soon as transports resume, they are going to work nonstop to get these dogs their forever homes!

mainelymuttsrescue.com

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