Why is fostering so important to saving senior dogs?
You can offer to provide foster care for a senior dog from a shelter or from a rescue group. Shelters always have limited space, and often must make the difficult choice of which animals have run out of time as new animals come in. A senior dog is at the top of the list for euthanasia when that happens. Some senior dogs become homeless when a guardian dies or must move into assisted living where dogs are not allowed. It's best, in that case, for the dog to go from the old home to a foster home, and to skip the experience of a noisy, crowded, unfamiliar shelter. That's when rescue groups that take in dogs directly from a guardian play a critical role.
When you offer to provide foster care, the dog you foster will no longer be under threat of euthanasia and has already taken one step closer to being saved and finding a new, loving, forever home. You are the critical bridge to making that happen by offering a safe, nurturing home environment and learning about the dog's qualities and personality, which you'll share with the shelter or rescue agency and prospective adopters.
Things to Know about Fostering
Whether you decide to foster for a shelter or for a rescue group, here are some things you should know:
Everyone wants you to succeed as a foster parent. You are likely to be offered 24-hour support, any training you feel you require, and appropriate supplies (medication is always provided and vet visits covered; beds, toys, leashes, collar or harness, etc., are also likely to be available). The dog assigned to you will have been carefully matched to your home and personal circumstances, taking into account the dog's needs and your ability to meet them.
The length of time you commit to fostering a dog will usually mean the time it takes to place the dog into a new home. When you decide to foster, you should be in a position to make the commitment wholeheartedly and with no foreseeable interruptions until the dog finds a new home. However, if you can commit only to a specific period of time, that may also be possible, as space may have opened up in another foster home. This isn't ideal for the dog, however, as bouncing between homes will be stressful.
Providing transportation to a veterinarian's office or adoption venue may also be a critical element of your foster arrangement. If you're not able to provide it, there may be another volunteer who can do that part of the job.
You will also have the opportunity to act as an Adoption Ambassador. You will be the person who knows the dog best, once you've had the chance to spend time together. You are in the best position to note how the dog begins to blossom, as you provide the nurturing, safe, environment that encourages it. You will be empowered to help your foster dog find a new, loving, forever home through word of mouth, social media posts, and by attending adoption events conducted by the shelter or rescue group whenever they're offered.
Your foster dog may be a bit unsettled when first coming into your home. The dog has likely faced a lot of challenges since becoming homeless. The dog will not know the house rules regarding where to potty, for example, so you will need to patiently teach them. The dog may need lots of sleep or may not be able to sleep through the night. There may be gastrointestinal issues. Your patience is an absolute necessity during this unsettled period. With your patient guidance, the dog will acclimate, settle into a routine, and begin to enjoy life again.
The most important part of being a foster parent to a senior dog in need of a new home is to provide as much love as you possibly can. Your foster dog has most likely been through a lot; your consistent loving attention will enable the building of trust and joy necessary for a future happy, healthy life in a new home.
Learn more about fostering…..
There is some very helpful, in-depth material on fostering from Best Friends. Another good resource is on the Petfinder website.
What is "fospice" care?
Some senior dogs arrive at a state of homelessness when they are very, very old or when they have serious health challenges. They are not good candidates for placement into an ordinary home, where their health issues can be demanding and they may not be expected to live very long. It takes a very special person to offer "fospice" care (a blend of foster/hospice) for such a senior, especially knowing that it will be necessary to see the dog through to euthanasia at the appropriate time. More info......
Ready to get started on your fostering adventure? Here are lists and apps to find agencies at which your offer of help will be more than welcome:
- Senior Rescue Groups and Sanctuaries -- These organizations will have dogs as young as seven years and sometimes into their teens. In addition to adoption, there will be opportunities for foster care and "hospice" care.
- Shelters, Other Rescue Groups -- These organizations will have dogs of all ages, but have also made a commitment to do all they can to adopt out the seniors who come their way. They will usually start their "senior" category at seven years.
- Breed Rescue Groups --These organizations are focused on rescue of a specific breed and will have dogs of all ages, including seniors.
- Interactive Map of Senior Rescues — Dots on this map pinpoint the locations of senior dog rescues in the United States, and include a brief description and the opportunity to get driving directions via Google. Senior dog rescue groups are forming all the time, so the map may not be up to date.
Old Dogs, New Digs -- "We are a network of volunteers who have made connections with animal shelters and dog rescues – mostly in Maine, Colorado, New Mexico, and Costa Rica. When we learn of a senior dog in need, whether it’s help with placement in a foster or forever home, financial assistance with vet care, or to help offset the cost of special food or medications, we spring into action! We also can assist a family who has fallen on hard times, unable to afford quality food and medical care for their aging dog, so the dog doesn’t have to leave the home."