For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to foster dogs. I’m a big time dog lover and am very aware of the homeless pet problem in Memphis. I badgered my husband for years, but there were always reasons not to do it, namely, we already had two dogs of our own and we wanted to have a baby. After eighteen months of trying we still weren’t pregnant and were diagnosed with “sub-fertility.” A simple surgery could up our odds, but it would be three to six months before we could expect to see any improvement. We decided to go with the surgery and then take a little break. Since I had spent the past year obsessing over trying to get pregnant, I desperately needed a distraction. I was ready to foster and this time my husband said yes.
Soon we were approved by The Streetdog Foundation and bringing home a petite pit bull mix named Autumn.
Her life had clearly not been easy. She was getting over heart worms and her prior owners had cropped her ears short and unevenly. It was a home job, I’m told, which involves a pair of scissors and no anesthetic. Maybe that’s why she looked so nervous and flattened to the ground like a pancake whenever you pet her. But she quickly settled in and got comfortable being part of our family.
A month later I found out I was pregnant. We were shocked and elated and not at all worried about having this extra dog in our house. After all, we had almost nine months before the baby would arrive and how long could it possibly take for Autumn to get adopted?
Seven months later she was still with us and I knew I would not be able to handle three dogs and a newborn. Streetdog Foundation was very accommodating. I cried when I told them she couldn’t stay. I cried when they told me they would find her another foster. I cried because I was pregnant and crying was my thing. And Autumn was there to comfort me, just like she had been throughout my entire pregnancy.
I went into labor on a Saturday morning, but had planned to take Autumn to an adoption event that afternoon. Normally I would hang out at the event, talking her up to potential adopters, but this day I dropped her off for the last time. I headed to the hospital and she headed to a new foster home. The story has a happy ending, though. Shortly after we said goodbye to Autumn her new foster family announced they were adopting her.
Naturally, I cried.
If you’ve ever considered fostering but aren’t sure if it’s for you, here are some things to consider:
- It’s free. Most rescue groups foot the bill for everything, from the big stuff like medical costs to the everyday stuff like food, toys and beds. Your job is to keep them comfortable and feeling loved and to report on their personality traits so the rescue can better match them with an adopter.
- It’s low-commitment. Not every dog takes a year to get adopted like Autumn did. Some rescues only need fosters for as little as two weeks before the dogs go to their forever homes. Many welcome short term and weekend fosters, so even if you work too much during the week to care for a dog, you can spring one from boarding on Friday and have a Netflix and snuggle partner for the weekend!
- It’s saving a life. Most rescue groups in Memphis don’t have their own facility. They rely on foster homes and when necessary, boarding at a vet’s office. But that can get expensive and isn’t ideal for getting the dog adopted. Fostering frees up resources that can be used to help other dogs in immediate need.
- It can be difficult, but very rewarding. I loved Autumn as if she was my own dog. A part of me will always miss her but I don’t regret the experience one bit. I am thankful for getting to be part of her story.
My husband and I recently closed the book on having any more children and with that decision came the itch to start fostering again. My husband isn’t on board (yet, but I’m sharpening my badgering skills). In the meantime, there are tons of ways to help homeless animals in Memphis. I still volunteer my time with Streetdog Foundation--they are just one of many rescues in Memphis that needs people to walk dogs, wash dogs, attend adoption and fundraising events and more. Whatever your availability or skill set, a rescue group can probably use it. I’ve also volunteered with Memphis Pets Alive!, an advocacy group that visits the shelter once a week to photograph available animals and share their pictures on social media. You don’t even need a camera to help out, you can be a treat tosser or a cat cuddler! And the shelter itself has its own volunteer program with orientation on the third Saturday of the month. It only lasts about an hour and a half, and you’ll get a shelter tour, get dog walking tips, learn how you can help pets get adopted, socialize kittens and puppies, and much more.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to opportunities to help. No matter what you do, whether it’s fostering long term or walking dogs once a month, it will be needed and appreciated. And you never know whose story you’ll end up getting to be part of.