Becoming A Foster Parent: A Journey Into My Heart

Fostering is an important part of saving lives at Baltimore Humane Society. Read what it's like for one of our foster families.

Fostering is a big part of saving the animals at Baltimore Humane Society, and today I'd like to share with you one of our foster family's take on what it means to them.  My guest blogger is Amanda Harris.

At 12:30 p.m. on a Thursday, her face popped up on my Facebook newsfeed -- a stunning strawberry-blonde pit-bull puppy with the biggest golden-green eyes I had ever seen.  She was skinny and hunkered down on a stainless steel veterinarian’s table.  Everything about her posture said she was terrified, and well she should have been.  Shelters can be noisy and scary places for a puppy! Under her picture, was a cry for help: “Foster or forever needed ASAP!” This is how we became aware of our first foster, Chloe. (A few months later we would take in our second foster, Judas, through Baltimore Humane Society as well).  She needed us, and unknown to me at the time, we needed her just as much.  Fostering Chloe changed our lives and opened up a whole new world to our family.

The simple truth is that fostering a pet can mean the difference between life and death for that pet.  Many animals are euthanized at local shelters that are unable to become no-kill shelters like Baltimore Humane Society. Both of my fosters came from such a shelter and there are days I snuggle them just a bit longer, hug them a little tighter, knowing that they would not be here if Baltimore Humane had not given them a second chance at life and my family had not agreed to house them until they could be adopted.  Overcrowding is a harsh reality in Baltimore’s shelters and fostering can help save lives when a shelter is full.  It’s not just the animal you take into your home whose life you’re saving, it frees up space for another animal who otherwise would have been turned away because of lack of room.

Trying to decide if fostering a pet is for you?  Not sure what it entails or what being "fostering" even means?  You are not alone.  Many people who are not directly involved in rescuing animals on a daily basis are unclear about the fostering process.  Fostering an animal begins with an application. You may or may not already have your mind set on which animal you want to foster, either is perfectly fine!  The rescue can help match you with a pet if you have not decided on any one in particular yet. 

Most organizations have a foster application on their webpages or can send one to you via email.  It’s similar to an adoption application and gathers basic information about you, your family, pets, and pet ownership practices.  The application will also explain a bit about what is expected of you as a foster.  Baltimore Humane Society’s application can be found on their website (www.bmorehumane.org). 

Upon the approval of your application, you will enter into a contract with the rescue to foster a pet.  It will cover what is expected of you as a foster and how much of the animal’s care will be covered by the rescue.  When fostering with Baltimore Humane Society, you are responsible for basic animal care: exercise, keeping them safe at all times, buying them food and feeding them and training. The Humane Society will pay for vetting and spay/neuter through the Spay and Neuter Center affiliated with their organization. 

Your foster will stay with you until he or she is adopted or until a predetermined time noted in your contract.  The length of time your foster stays with you depends on the needs of your foster pet and how long it takes for them to be adopted.  For example, an injured animal or special needs animal may stay with you longer since they first need to be brought to full health before they can be listed as “adoptable.”  Don’t let this deter you!  The trust and love you build with an animal that needs you is something that will live in your heart forever.  Above all, do not ever hesitate to ask questions and voice your concerns to the rescue staff!  Fostering is a partnership between you, the rescue, and the furry fella you are fostering. 

Throughout our fostering experience, the staff members at Baltimore Humane Society and the Spay and Neuter Center have always been there to answer questions and concerns and were a wonderful support system for us first-time fosters.  They gave us advice on introducing our resident dog and cats to the new foster pup, helped us with health concerns and questions we had, and were very patient while walking us through the process.  One of the most amazing things about fostering a pet was that we were never ever alone in our endeavor.  If we needed someone to hold our hands through any part of our experience, someone was always there.  Our foster experiences with Chloe and Judas were exceptional, and I attribute much of that to Baltimore Humane Society’s loving staff.  When you decide to foster, two new families are created.  You become a part of Baltimore Humane Society’s family and the foster pet become a part of yours. 

As I type this, Chloe is snoring on the couch next to my two year old daughter.  She’s come a long way since that day in the shelter.  She’s now one year old and 60 pounds, social with dogs, cats, kids and loves playing in the yard.  A few months into Chloe’s foster, we realized we couldn’t part with her and ended up adopting her into our family forever.  The experience of fostering her, however, has inspired my family to become more active in the animal rescue community and we took in a new foster pup.  His name is Judas and he is an 11-week-old puppy rescued from the same shelter in Baltimore and fostered through Baltimore Humane Society.  He is currently up for adoption… and this time I mean it!

Watching an animal you have trained and grown to love go to a forever home is a bittersweet event.  You’re feeling both ecstatic they are getting a chance at a loving family all their own and sad to see them go.  For a foster parent, it’s a part of life.  You shed two types of tears when your foster pet walks out the door with his or her new family, but eventually move forward to the next animal that needs you (or not, it’s all up to you). 

For my family, it is never a question of “if” but more of “when” and “who.”  We are a foster family.  We step up when we are needed, take in the scared and unwanted pets that may need a little TLC to get into their forever home.  It’s become a lifestyle for us and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you think fostering a pet could be for you, please fill out a foster application at www.bmorehumane.org!  It will change your life and a pet’s life forever.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Needaname April 19, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I could never be a foster. I believe I would end up on 'Animal Hoarders' or some show like that. Thanks to all the Families that take in these Fur Kids !
Diana Winters April 19, 2012 at 07:23 PM
I thought that also when I first fostered for a rescue but realized that another family could provide for that animal more than myself. It is truly rewarding to foster.
jenna tamlin April 22, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Thank you so much for this article as well as your continued support to homeless animals in our area. I do not have the house space or yard to accomidate a dog right now, but what you are doing for these dogs is very special.
Susanna April 24, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Thanks for this great article. I foster for a small Baltimore rescue group myself and have been able to give a new chance to 13 cats and kittens over the past 18 months. I fostered them between 10 days and 6 months and all are now in loving homes. It's not always easy; my own pets don't always accept the newcomer right away, and sometimes it's so hard to let them go, but knowing that those animals would have had a miserable life on the street or been euthanized has been completely worth it. I feel it's one of the most important things I've done in my life.


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