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Posted on 11-29-2016

As I write this I’m sitting outside in our backyard with three five-week old puppies, their mom, and our family dog.  Recently, my family became involved in fostering a then pregnant dog through the local rescue organization Austin Pets Alive!. She gave birth to three healthy puppies on October 14th. The process was a very special experience for all of us and I wanted to share a little more about fostering and the benefits thereof.

Our special foster mama-dog “Harley” came from a shelter in east Texas where a pregnant dog likely would have been euthanized. Her original foster parent didn’t have the capacity to handle the pregnancy, birth, and puppies—that was my families’ opportunity to try to help.

The experience has been incredible. Our family was able to witness the live birth. We’ve spent hours in the backyard playing with the puppies, mom, and all of our other pets. This has been a valuable and rewarding source of fun and wonder for my six year-old daughter, and her parents!  We’ve seen the puppies change and grow radically in a short time. My daughter has reaped the benefits of having the fun and wonder of puppies without glamorized  tales or bypassing awareness of the amount of work she sees is involved with taking care of the little ones.

When we first took Harley, as a pregnant dog who was then just a few weeks away from giving birth, she required special care. This included a rich diet and a quiet places where she could rest. Once she gave birth she needed the peace of mind in having a safe place where her puppies could grow. This included having a secure, enclosed area. We are so lucky that the integration of our temporary family members with our existing pets has been seamless (our family dog loves playing with the puppies herself) but during the time just after the puppies were born Harley was extremely protective and clearly needed her space with them.

We often marvel about how other dog foster families take care of much larger litters of puppies! The “pee and poop” (starting with pregnant mom’s diarrhea) cleaning duty is not to be underestimated!  At six weeks this part of our experience is only growing!

Often we hear about pet overpopulation and overcrowded shelters.  If we are unable to adopt, how can we help?  We felt that though we didn’t have room in our home for a permanent member, fostering was a good option for contribution. For us it allowed flexibility—there are short term and long term fosters and a variety of animals from puppies and kittens to medical fosters. When you foster, you agree to take a homeless dog or cat into your home and give him or her love, care and attention, either for a predetermined period of time or until the dog is adopted. Some pets just need a break from the shelter.

For our family, sometimes we don’t feel we have a lot of power to change our world with all of the challenges we face in our communities and society at large. Pet overpopulation and overcrowded shelters seem like problems too big to face.  Fostering has allowed us to try to make a positive change for our community and our animal population in a small way which has given back to our family the wonder of watching small beings grow into little personalities capable of giving and receiving love.

How do you sign up to foster a dog?  Find a rescue group or shelter and contact them. They will have you fill out an application and then they will help find the right foster dog or cat for your household. Other ways to help homeless pets include monetary donations and volunteering your time at a shelter.

(And if you're looking for a puppy, contact the clinic—I have three cuties waiting for their forever homes!)

In summary, this is how fostering helps:

  • A rescue group may not have a physical shelter and depends on foster homes to care for dogs until suitable homes are found.
  • A puppy or kitten is too young to be adopted and needs a safe place to stay until he or she is old enough to go to a forever home.
  • An animal is recovering from surgery, illness or injury and needs a safe place to recuperate.
  • An animal is showing signs of stress such as pacing or hiding in the shelter. Fostering can help!
  • A dog or cat has not lived in a home before or has not had much contact with people and needs to be socialized.
  • The shelter is running out of room for adoptable dogs.

Two shelters we have worked closely with who desperately need foster parents are PAWS Shelter of Central Texas, and Austin Pets Alive!

If you are interested in making a difference, I hope you’ll consider fostering.

Dr. Taia Lubitz
Associate Veterinarian
Manchaca Village Veterinary Care

Delene St John said:

Very informative article. I was not aware that foster care was available for animals in shelters. It seems like a great service for one's community. Thank you Dr. Lubitz.

2016-12-04 20:44:26

Ann Lindholm said:

Thank you Dr. Lubitz for fostering this family and so beautifully expressing the joys (and other aspects!) of fostering! We appreciate you! Ann, APA! Dog Foster Manager

2016-12-15 05:57:05

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