All of my previous dogs before Barry were purchases from breeders and strays found on the street. I had never adopted before, and wasn’t aware of any other services animal shelters could offer. Overall, shelters were, in my mind, places to avoid if you’re looking to include a dog in your family. Not too long after I moved in with my boyfriend, a woman offered Barry to us for free. It was definitely within our price range, and breeders were definitely not. At $1500 a pup (He had an eye for a GoldenDoodle), we simply couldn’t budget for something like that. By then, I had heard about adoptions, but hadn’t seriously considered it until after Barry was gone.
And then I found out about fostering.
Most animal shelters and adoption centers are overwhelmed with dogs, and not just strays off the street. There are family dogs that are surrendered there because of living situations that change, or are simply not a good fit for the family. There are rooms full of puppies, given by families who didn’t spay their dogs. Each time I went to an animal adoption center, I wanted to take at least one home, just to see how they are like in home setting, away from the cold metal kennels or shared single rooms. Fostering allowed me to take a dog home, give it a home to live in and a family to love, and help them get adopted, or become what they fondly call a “foster failure” and adopt them myself.
My journey in fostering started sometime in November, with this little guy named Nibbles.
I remember the first night we had him, I came home from work to find him in my boyfriends arms, fresh and damp from his first bath, shaking from cold and fear of the unknown. He didn’t bark or whine at all for the first night; he would run from us every time we walked up to him. But, after a couple nights with us, he got used to his new surroundings, the dog-loving people that lived there, the new smells and sounds from within the home and around it. By the third day, he was finding himself engaged in vocal-combat with the dog on the other side of the gate in our backyard. He would jump for joy and make whiny pleas from his crate when we would come home. He was definitely a cutie, and a very sweet dog, and a joy to have in my home.
In fact, we might have become foster-failures if he hadn’t gotten adopted two weeks after we got him. But, we had already decided something: we’re not just looking for any dog. We’re looking for our “soul-dogs”, as I lovingly put it for my boyfriend’s crying nine year old girl after she found out Nibbles was adopted. I promised her there is a special dog out there for her, but it wasn’t Nibbles, and we would find that dog one day soon.
She’s excited to invite more dogs into our home, so not too long after Nibbles left, we brought two more home: Mickey and Coop.
Mickey was very social from the get go, curious and dubbed by the kids “the escape artist”. He found his way around doors and gates, only stopped by our 8ft wooden gate around our house (thank god). He was fully potty trained, ate a full meal not too long after he was neutered, and had gained enough weight to look awesome and get himself adopted by a great family with another dog to use up all of his energy.
Coop was a different story. He would hardly leave the crate, only to drink and eat and use the restroom. It took him a few times to get outside to do it, but with some positive reinforcement (which I will cover later) he got the hang of it. I noticed over time that Mickey was very dominant, and would sometimes push Coop around, especially with food. I fed Coop first, but it didn’t seem to help. Coop didn’t make a single sound since we brought him home, and I was starting to get worried about him until Mickey got adopted.
The first day he seemed confused, and would venture out of the crate when everyone was sitting down or distracted. Now though, four weeks since he was at the shelter, he’s hanging out with me on the couch, nuzzling my hand for cuddles and petting (thank god for autocorrect), getting himself underneath beds and exploring while on his daily walk. He whines and wags his tail furiously when we come home, and I’ve heard from the kids that he growled at the stray cat that hangs out near our house, but he has yet to make a full bark.
Then, we got Toby today.
We brought Coop today to the animal shelter to get to know a couple of dogs that have been there for a while. Toby warmed up to Coop right away, and they’ve been hanging out together every since. We brought him home with a spare crate the shelter had, and now he’s staying with us for a while. Coop is already happy and excited, which will help Toby get used to the idea of finding a forever home. He’s been sniffing constantly for the last couple of hours, but he finally stopped long enough to eat a bit before running around again with Coop. He’s now going back and forth between sniffing in the backyard and stalking my boyfriend while he cooks in the kitchen, but hasn’t really let any of us pet and play with him. He’ll settle in here within the next few days.
Dogs at the animal shelters are scared and lonely. The weird smells, the loud noises, the strange place, the other dogs – they get overwhelmed easily, and a scared, shy dog is not as endearing to a prospective adoptive pet-parent as a spirited, cuddly one is. Either way, their personality doesn’t shine until they’re in a home with people to love them. A warm, loving home helps bring out their sweet, loving nature, and that’s what gets a dog adopted. When I realized I could help other dogs get adopted while having dogs in my home (and for free?!), i jumped at the idea, and plan on having more.
Ask your local animal shelter if they have someone who is in charge of a fostering program (and if they don’t have anyone, tell them that they should!). Ask them if you can bring your family to meet some dogs, and take one home! I was genuinely impressed with the staffing and facility of my animal shelter, but I did my research and found one that had a fostering program. They will usually have adoption days, which is a great way to meet other foster parents and meet with potential adoptive parents face-to-face.
Having dogs back in my home is wonderful, but I still miss Barry every day. Hopefully, with some time, I’ll find a dog like him, or even better, my soul-dog.