Friday, March 8, 2013

My foster experience...so far...

I have talked to so many people about fostering a homeless basset hound. Some people can’t do it because of their living arrangements. Some people can’t do it because of their family situation. What I hear most of all is “I could never foster a dog and then give them to someone else.” or “I would have to adopt them all”. That is exactly what I thought when my husband, John, and I started talking about fostering. What I’ve learned over the past year is that you really don’t want to keep them all. What you want is for all of them to find good, stable forever homes.

Our foster experience started with a phone call from Shelly Gordon asking us to “babysit” a dog for two weeks. There were a few dogs that ABC brought up to NY for the adoption event at last year’s Spring Basset Blast and they didn’t have any place to go for two weeks. We took home our first foster, Claude, whom we renamed Claudius to better represent his size. He was a beast of a basset weighing in around 85 lbs. John fell in love with Claudius after about two days, but I was weary of his aggression toward our two cats (Bleu and Chaz). In the end, we had to pick our cats, which’ve been part of our family longer than Claudius.

When we arrived at the Spring Basset Blast with Claudius there was an adopter waiting on him. He met him. Talked to us a little about him and decided that he was the dog for him. John gave Claudius what we lovingly call “the talk” where John explains to our foster that they shouldn’t  “embarrass the family”. We gave him hugs and kisses and walked away…crying and a little lost.  We were sad to see him go, but we knew that he would have a better life in a house without cats. It is a little bit sad that we don’t have contact with Claudius’s new family, but we’ve heard that he is doing well and attending a lot of mudding truck events.

After this experience, John and I realized that although we were sad about Claudius not being able to stay with us …we were happy that he found a good home. It made us realize that we could help other hounds by just giving them a home to stay in for a while, a couch to sleep on, some food, some love and attention. Most of those things we already had and the other things we just share from what we have for our other dogs and they don’t seem to mind all that much.

Since Claudius we have had 5 additional foster dogs. Each one of them has their own story and is special in their own way.

Penn is our “Famous Foster” as his adoption story made it to the Buffalo News.

Remus is “my little Peanut” who was adopted before we even had him in our house.

Gump was John’s first intake, well before he was our Intake Coordinator, and our first puppy (which convinced John a puppy is NOT for us).

Billie, or Pumpkin, as we call her is our “foster failure”…sometimes a dog comes to you as a foster and doesn’t ever leave.

Flash was our challenging foster as him and our Cooper did NOT get along at all.

Polly is our current foster. She is a senior basset who flew in with Pilots for Paws and took awhile to adjust to our home (you may have read about her in my last blog).

Every foster is different and comes from a different situation. Some dogs aren’t healthy. Some dogs aren’t house broken. Some dogs need to learn basic manners. Some dogs need training.  Some dogs need to lose weight. Some dogs need to gain some weight. Some dogs need extra vet care. Some dogs just need some…any attention that they can get. John and I have learned something from every hound we’ve taken into our home. We’ve learned a lot about teaching and training, health issues, vet procedures and dealing with dogs who don’t get along.

We don’t foster alone. There is a network of foster homes with ABC that have a wealth of knowledge from doing this for longer then we have. There is never a lack of story telling about past fosters they've had in their homes. We have an amazing group of Coordinators that are willing to help with whatever problems or issues that we might have. Our Foster Coordinator, Michele Lamare, does a fantastic job finding the perfect foster home for the bassets that come into ABC. There is also a network of people who love basset hounds in ABC’s volunteers and the ABC Facebook family.  

We meet up during events, such as the Basset Breakfast, Spring Basset Blast, Droolfest and at our new golf outing. We have a chance at these events to see our foster dogs and meet their new families (if we hadn’t already). You get a real sense of accomplishment when you see you’re foster again….”I was a part of that dog finding his/her forever home”. You get a sense of joy when you see a family so happy with the hound that they’ve adopted (I feel that way for dogs that haven’t even stayed with us). You also get the opportunity to see how happy your former foster dog is with a stable forever home.

We have adopted three basset hounds from ABC (Cooper, Charlie and our foster failure, Pumpkin). 
There were people who helped get our dogs to us and I could never thank them enough. If you’ve adopted from ABC, then someone fostered that dog for you. The basset lying at your feet or on your lap benefited from the foster system that we have in place. Let’s face it, ABC couldn’t rescue all of the dogs that they do without foster homes.

John and I have found that if we give our time and energy to something good that it comes back to us three-fold. It is very rewarding to have a hound come to you almost broken and be able to give them what they need to start becoming whole again. Sometimes your time and energy is more important to these bassets then just a donation (although I never discourage any donation). I don’t know where we would be without these amazing bassets in our lives. If you feel the same way, maybe fostering IS for you?!?

You can find out more details about fostering at www.nybasset.org. You can also fill out a foster application and/or contact our foster coordinator if you have any questions. 

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