In case our first post didn’t clue you in, we are both SO excited to become foster parents to a lucky little (or big!) pup. Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to give Jonathan small doses of what we should expect. I want him to be just as much a part of this process, and for him to feel just as prepared, even if he isn’t the one filling out the applications and talking with the rescues. I have done a LOT of research when it comes to the subject of fostering. Jonathan also wants to feel ready, but he leaves the investigative research to me. It may be pretty clear what we will need to do once the dog (finally!) arrives to our home. However, how should a foster family prepare for the dog to make his or her grand entrance?
Relaxing with the Tonkinator
1) Prepare for changes & challenges
For example, I know that the first two weeks will be a really transitory time, which will require a lot of patience and hard work. We will need to keep the foster dog separate from our two perma-dogs, in order to ensure a smooth transition into our family, while still maintaining all of the animals’ quality of life. That means twice the walks, twice the training and cuddle time, twice the baths and meals… twice everything! It won’t be easy, but by taking the introductions as slowly as possible, we are showing our commitment to the dog. Remember, for many of the dogs in shelters, especially pit bulls, their experiences with the world may not have been good. Ever. Some have been abused or fought, some have mild illnesses like kennel cough, while some have been neglected. For many dogs, their only other experience will have come from inside the walls of a loud, cold kennel. While we don’t plan on taking a super challenging case our first time out, it is still important that they go through this next transition of life as seamlessly as possible, and learn that living in a house with loving people is an okay place to be.
2) Plan for Success
“They’ll never find me here…”
Not only will we be working on giving the dog a slow introduction to life outside of the shelter, but it is important to discuss our goals for this pup. While the level of training we will reach with him or her will ultimately be determined by the amount of time they are with us, it is not our goal to teach the dog ‘party tricks’. More importantly, we need to focus on teaching the dog how to be a happy member of a family. I’ve never heard of someone giving up a dog because it couldn’t figure out how to give paw, dance, or roll over. For whatever amount of time this canine is in our care, we will focus on house-breaking and manners, like walking politely on a leash, staying
“How ever did you find me?”
out of the kitchen while we cook, not getting on to furniture unless invited, and how to greet strangers, of both the 2 and 4-legged varieties. For me, I knew I would not be able to devote the time to all 3 of our animals, if I was still working a demanding job. I was able to make some budgeting decisions that would allow me to quit working full-time, while also taking on a few part-time opportunities to bring in additional income. We are lucky to be in this scenario, but it is not without sacrifice! Find out how other families do the work and foster thing simultaneously, by visiting my inspiration, http://loveandaleash.com/.
I would not be able to do this without the selfless support of my amazing husband, Jonathan. He is making many sacrifices to afford me this lifestyle. (Which include, but are not limited to, enduring my home-made cooking on the daily, and saying goodbye to eating out. Also more dog hair, and less clean laundry… maybe he should start a list!) It was vital that we were on the same page before we took this big step. I have been interested in fostering a dog for years, but it has been a serious conversation in our home for at least the past 3 months. This has given us a chance to voice our concerns, and work out all of the details.
For example, it is important to note that we will never be a 3-perma-dog family. Especially with children on the foggy horizon, we would not have the time to devote to a 3rd four-legged family member on a permanent basis, at least not in the same capacity we will with our foster. It was important to establish early on, that we will not be making this dog a permanent member of our family. For each dog we are able to foster, we are not only saving that dog, but also making room for one more to come in to the shelter. Giving two dogs better odds for a happy life is such a gift to us. If we took on a 3rd dog permanently, our opportunity to foster would certainly come to an end.
If you know Jonathan at all, you probably know him as a pretty tough, no-nonsense type of guy. He “gets things done”, especially at work, and has high expectations of those around him. If you only know him on the surface, then you probably aren’t privy to some of the (many!) things I love about him, which include his compassion (I’m guessing I owe that to the 4 sisters he grew up with, but that’s a story for another day!)
“Dad, please put down the computer and play wif me…”
Last night, while we were outside with our dogs and making some physical preparations for the foster (more on that later), he got kind of quiet and looked up at me. “What if we can’t give her up?” he said softly. Both by his tone of voice, and his choice of pronoun, I knew he was picturing his instant attachment to Gaige, and what it would have meant to say goodbye to her. This was one of those moments when I was reminded so clearly how lucky I was to have him as my partner in this journey. We talked about what it would mean to take on a 3rd dog permanently, both by the strain it would put on our lifestyle, and how it would defeat our purpose of helping unwanted dogs. By the end of the conversation, we were on the same page, but it was important that we both voice those concerns. It will not be easy to let this pup go, but hopefully he or she will one day capture the heart of a family that will make the transition that much easier.
4) Prepare Physically
No, I am not referring to bulking up at the gym, in preparation for
“Look at the stick I brought you, Mom! Please throw it.”
leash pulling and ball throwing. Although Jonathan would love the opportunity to spend more time lifting weights, I am talking about preparing our home for the arrival of our foster dog.
First, the inside of our house needs to be prepared. We have purchased a kennel for crate-training, and are acquiring the necessary blankets, toys, bowls, leashes, and collars. We will also be buying some sturdy baby gates, as these are the best way to do some of the final dog introductions, before the dogs are finally allowed to interact together. It will also serve to confine the
“We can share!”
dog to smaller areas during house-training. Finally, we have a spare bedroom that we will set-up for the dog, to serve as his or her ‘den’ for quiet time.
Perhaps more exciting, are our plans for the outside of our home. We are lucky enough to live on a large property, and this has served us well with our own dogs. Tonka, the ever loyal guy that he is, will never leave an approximately 50 foot radius of our house, for worry that he will miss me coming or going. Gaige, on the other hand, is certainly an adventurous little wanderer. Luckily, she loves her big brother, and usually won’t travel too far from him. We have discussed the idea of fencing in our back yard (usually on the mornings that Gaige made me late for work by taking a morning stroll through the horse pastures) but this time, we have real purpose. Especially during the early introductory stages, a large fenced-in play area will be invaluable for us, and for the happiness of all 3 dogs. Unfortunately, as ‘invaluable’ as it may be to all of us, building a fence is actually something that requires a lot of cashola, so I have scraped together my pennies, and have since been researching our options. Then, I realized that I needed to add even more pennies to my stash. 😉 We are still debating the merits of wood vs vinyl vs aluminum… please feel free to weigh in on the comment section below! We would love to hear advice from other puppy parents, foster or otherwise.
We do have the area mapped out, with lots of shade trees included. I told Jonathan that these trees just had to be within the fence… otherwise, where would the pups lay to munch on sticks and wrestle? So, it was decided that shade trees were a necessity. Also, the fence will be between 5 and 6 feet, to deter jumping / climbing.
Before we can have the fence installed, Jonathan laid the ground rule that we have a healthy layer of grass on the ground. Obviously bringing brains to the table as my better/smarter half, he reasoned that a muddy back yard would defeat the purpose of having it as a play and exercise area. So, we have been busy spreading seed, watering the lawn, and layering with straw. And by we, I mean mostly he. I spend most of the time playing with the pups and taking pictures, keeping him company while he sweats in the sun. See photographic evidence below…
Helping Dad water the lawn…
And pick up sticks…
And monitoring pests!
(No praying mantises were harmed in the taking of this photo.)
We will continue to keep you updated as we come closer to bringing our pup home. Future posts will include;
- A new camera, to bring you better pictures of our antics!
- The Foster Application Process
- The Unwanted Animal Problem
- Other Foster Family Blogs
Please continue to follow us on our journey, share this blog with friends & family members, and comment with advice and/or suggestions. We really appreciate your support and interest, more than you know!