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Why We Fostered a Pet

This has been a pretty depressing year for everyone–especially for a preteen who has a hard time maintaining friendships as it is and now has few chances of making new friends. I saw my kids declining. Their moods were definitely being affected by the current atmosphere. How can we help our kids if the adults are depressed, too? With COVID-19, mask mandates, limited activities, politics, riots, flu season… It’s hard to be a grown-up during these times, too!

I knew that I had to do something to lift my family’s spirits. I tried to make sure we were taking a lot of hikes and getting outdoors often. We live in the South, so we have a lot of gorgeous days to enjoy; plus, we live across the street from a state park.

But the bickering and tantrums were rearing their ugly head. I felt defeated.

Until my mom had an idea–foster a pet. It was a win-win. The humane society pays for everything. All you have to do is provide a loving home for a week at a time. My daughter was so excited when I told her we could try fostering that she fell on the floor sobbing tears of joy. She would finally have the puppy she had been longing for.

Now, give me a chance to explain why we can’t adopt a pet right now. First of all, our yard is definitely not set up to protect an animal long-term. We were able to keep an eye on the pup for a week because we were attentive to his care. But on a day-to-day basis, that just wouldn’t be possible. We also just simply can’t afford a pet right now. Even if we somehow were able to pay the adoption fees, there’s a lot of expense revolving around the care of a pet–vet bills, grooming, food, etc. We are struggling during this COVID season as it is without adding all of that extra expense. And third, I am still not over the loss of my dog, whom I had for 16 years. She just passed away in February, and I’m not ready to just jump back into taking care of another animal full-time.

Fostering was the perfect solution for us. I was really hands-off, for the most part. My daughter has been researching dogs for the last couple of years, and a puppy is always at the top of any gift list. So, the puppy slept in her room; she was responsible for making sure he had food and water; and she had to clean up his messes. But everyone could love and play with him. Then at the end of one week, you take the dog (or cat) back to the humane society to be checked by the vet, and you can decide whether to keep them for another week, pick up another one, or take a break. We are taking a break for now.

The changes I saw in my children this week were amazing! Especially in my preteen. She was actually up in the morning, dressed and ready to start school. She had a great attitude about caring for the dog–even its messes. She was quick to obey and try to make sure she was being responsible. She was happier and seemed to have a real sense of purpose. The other two were outside more without complaining. They all wanted to be the one playing with the puppy or snuggling with him. There was actually joy in my home again.

We returned the puppy today, and everyone handled it very well. They were ready to say goodbye, but they’re also anticipating fostering again. We’ve decided to not take in another pet over Thanksgiving, but we will probably volunteer again in December.

If you think that fostering sounds like a good fit for your family, here are some tips from what I learned this week:

  1. Don’t believe what they put on the website. We were told we were getting one breed of dog and wound up with another that I never would have picked. While I was okay with that for a puppy, I don’t think I would have been okay if it had been an older dog.
  2. Ask questions before you sign. They are in desperate need of foster families, so they won’t tell you things like you can’t take the dog out of your yard–not even for a walk around the neighborhood. This didn’t work out with my mom, who was hoping to walk her dogs with us. Be sure to find out how sick the dog is before agreeing to foster.
  3. Secure your belongings. Fortunately, I remembered what it was like to have a puppy because we help my mom with her crazy pup, but remember that these dogs are teething and will chew up anything they can set their teeth on.
  4. Be willing to love openly. It’s easy to not want to fall in love because you’re afraid that you’ll end up adopting. But remember why you chose to foster–even a short time in a loving family is better for these animals than a cold shelter. Welcome them into your family as a guest and treat them as such. Enjoy them!

If you want to get started fostering, then just simply go to your local animal shelter or visit their website. We filled out the application on Tuesday evening and received our confirmation email on Wednesday morning. The puppy came home with us that night.

In my opinion, we need to help our children during these uncertain times. Let’s get creative and think of ways we can involve them in the community. Foster a pet. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Take care of your neighbors. Let the kids join you on a Meals on Wheels route. Get them off their screens and help them to focus outside of themselves. Their mental health is in jeopardy, but we can do something to help them!

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