Becoming a dog or cat foster parent

Animal Foster parents are changing the world one homeless animal at a time.

For the last four years, Lobo, a five-year-old Australian Shepherd, and Chrissy, his 12-year-old terrier mix “sister”, had spent the holidays with their family. This past Christmas, however, they found themselves on death row in a New Jersey kill shelter. Their human companions had made a lifestyle change, and their new life did not include the dogs.

The day after these unwanteds were surrendered, Chrissy was deemed chronically arthritic and was euthanized. Lobo was rescued and transported to the foster home of Pat England who says he was “one of the most memorable fosters I’ve ever had.” Days later, Lobo moved to his permanent home.

Foster mom Gwyn Sondike has been rescuing and fostering cats since childhood. She has offered shelter, love and medical attention to hundreds of animals, and says that she will continue to do so “until I run out of cats that need a good home, [or run out of] money, or [until] the state builds the appropriate shelters to house all of the homeless animals.”

Gwyn, a mother of two and an animal activist, and Pat, who works three jobs, are just two of a growing number of individuals who open their hearts and homes to homeless animals. These caring people do much more than provide animals with food and medical attention. They love their foster “children” unconditionally, help them to restore their health and self-esteem, and then adopt them to families who give them a second chance at a good life.

One of retired Army Warrant Officer Cliff Haney’s favorite foster children was a little Beagle named Sammie, rescued just 20 minutes before she was to be euthanized.

“When Sam arrived at my house, she had ear infections and lyme disease. When I looked into her eyes, I could see how much she appreciated what was being done to nurse her back to health,” says Cliff.

Fostering offers rescue workers and groups the opportunity to learn firsthand about an animal’s personality, which proves to be invaluable information when matching the right animal with the right family.

“When an animal comes into a foster situation, it’s amazing how they transform right before your very eyes once they get the love they crave,” says Lisa Lopez, foster mom to more than a dozen animals in the last year alone. “I think a foster home, even for the shortest period of time, teaches an animal how to live in a home environment.”
Among Lisa’s most memorable fosters was Cammie, a Pit Bull Terrier mix who was picked up as a stray in Camden, New Jersey, where she was being fed by prison guards.

“The first day Cammie came into the house, she was housebroken, lovable and very thankful,” says Lisa. “Now she’s living her happily ever after in a forever home.”

Harriet H. Digney likens fostering an animal to adopting one. Both undertakings require an incredible amount of commitment. She and her husband Chuck helped foster dog, Sherry, a Jack Russell Terrier mix, work through several issues, including severely low self-esteem.

“Sherry was initially scared of Chuck, her own shadow and any sudden noises. All of this changed after a couple of weeks of being in our home,” says Harriet.

Harriet admits that, even though giving Sherry up was a difficult thing to do, she knew that if she and Chuck wanted to continue to foster animals, they had to let go, “but your heart still wants to know what is going on every second of the day in the pet’s life after he or she is in a new home.”

For Shirley Edwards, letting go is made easier when she can adopt her foster cats to individuals or families she can keep in touch with: “You become so attached to them. You know what they have now and want them to have no less.”

Foster parents play an important role in an animal’s future. In many cases, they help restore an animal’s confidence and self-esteem. Lobo’s foster parent, Pat England, believes as many other foster parents do, that it is possible to make a difference for these animals, “even if you do it one pup at a time.”

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, contact your local animal shelter or rescue organization to see if they have a foster program. It might end up changing an animal’s life — and your own!