This article was written by foster carer and fiction writer Tracie McBride and it gives a fantastic insight into some of the challenges faced by animal foster carers. Be sure to check out Tracie's blog.
In October 2013, we made a decision as a family to give dog fostering a go. I’ll admit that I was somewhat selfish in my reasons for wanting to foster dogs; we had been thinking about getting a companion for our Staffordshire bull terrier, Hermes, but the cost of keeping another dog plus the potential negative consequences if he failed to bond well with a friend of our choosing were holding us back. The rescue group we work with covers most of the costs (food, equipment and vet bills), and if our dog and the foster clash badly (it hasn’t happened yet, touch wood), we can always move the foster dog to another, more suitable carer. So as well as making a positive community contribution, fostering seemed like a good way to dip our toe in the waters of being a two dog household.
Sixteen months and seventeen puppies and dogs later, and we’re hooked. Every time one of our fosters gets adopted and we wave goodbye to them, it is both a wrench to our hearts and an intensely rewarding experience knowing that we’ve helped save doggy lives.
Of course, there are downsides. It can be frustrating being kept awake all night by a fretting puppy, cleaning up inside ‘accidents’ or disposing of a pair of shoes that were perfectly good 15 minutes ago until a teething canine got hold of one. But the biggest downsides come from the humans. If you’re considering adopting a rescue dog and you don’t want to get the carer’s hackles up (dog metaphor deliberate), here are a few tips on what not to say.
#1: I sent an email half an hour ago and nobody’s got back to me. Why are you so slack? Don’t you care about finding a home for these dogs?
We’re not paid 24/7 to stand by for your email. In fact, we’re not paid at all. Rescue volunteers have jobs and families and other commitments, and in between all of that we’re feeding the dogs, walking the dogs, transporting dogs to and from vets, driving on 12 hour round trips to collect death row dogs from country pounds, attending to the screeds of paperwork required by local, state and federal governments… Besides, you might just be the twelfth applicant for this dog, and we have to respond to the other eleven before it’s your turn.
#2: Why do they cost so much? Surely if you want to save these animals, you should be charging less, or giving them away.
Two reasons – one is that animal rescue is expensive. The money rescue groups collect in adoption fees doesn’t begin to cover the costs. Even although nobody is getting paid, and even although we get donations, and reduced rates from sympathetic vets, there are still food bills, vet bills, and transport costs. Collars, leads, food bowls and bedding need to be provided to foster carers. One dog alone coming down with parvovirus can cost thousands of dollars to save. When you adopt a dog from a registered rescue organization, then by law it will be desexed, vaccinated and microchipped, which is more than you will get for the same price (or higher) from a pet shop or breeder.
The other reason is psychology. We want each adoption to be successful, and don’t want to see dogs bouncing back to us because owners can’t afford to keep them, or only adopted them on a whim. This is much less likely to happen if adopters are willing and able to hand over $400 – $500.
#3 We’ve changed our minds – we’re not coming to meet the dog after all (usually said an hour after the agreed meeting time).
See “we’re not paid to do this” and “we have lives too, you know.”
#4: We love the look of Fifi and think she would be perfect for us, but we won’t be ready to have a dog for another couple of months. Can you hold her for us?
Short answer – no. Long answer – the longer we keep dogs in our care, the more expensive it gets, and the more dogs are put down by pounds because they don’t have the space and we don’t have the available carers. Snarky answer – don’t start looking for a dog until you’re ready to own a dog. It will only end in heartbreak for you if you fall in love with a dog you can’t have, and wasted time for us (also see “we’re not paid to do this”.)
#5: I love dogs, but I had to give my last one away because it got too big/I had to move/my girlfriend didn’t like it.
We understand that sometimes life throws curve balls that you didn’t see coming; we fostered a beautiful dog formerly owned by a family who had fallen upon hard times and could no longer afford to keep her. They did the responsible thing and gave her over into foster care, and I was honoured to be able to have a hand in finding a loving new home for her. But some of the reasons people give for getting rid of their pets are clearly foreseeable or downright frivolous; puppies are going to get bigger, landlords are quite likely to say “no pets”, and who did you commit to first, the girlfriend or the dog? At this point you have to ask yourself – do I really love dogs, or do I just love the idea of dogs?
#6: What breed is she crossed with?
A legitimate question on the surface of it. However, whatever breed the dog is listed as is usually the pound’s or the vet’s best guess. The only way to guarantee a dog’s parentage is through pedigree papers from a registered breeder, or a DNA test. As most of our dogs are unclaimed strays rescued from pounds, we’re extremely unlikely to have either of these pieces of paper.
#7:…because I don’t want a dog with any staffy/rotty/heeler/chihuahua/[insert your breed prejudice here].
And I understand your concerns. Not all breeds are going to be suitable for your needs – otherwise we wouldn’t have so many different dog breeds. And we can’t guarantee that the dog you’re thinking of adopting won’t show any of the undesirable traits you’re seeking to avoid (they’re living creatures, not second hand cars). Can’t guarantee…but can give a pretty good indication. During their time in foster care, we’ve exposed them to a lot of situations they’re likely to encounter as companion dogs, so we can tell you most, if not all, of the things you need to know about their tendencies and temperament. But if that doesn’t convince you, and purity of breed is still a deal breaker, then I recommend you purchase a dog from a reputable registered breeder, or adopt a dog from a breed-specific rescue group.
#8:…because staffies/rotties/heelers/chihuahuas are aggressive dogs.
OK, now I am no longer humouring you. That’s just illogical. Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to be companions to humans. Yes, some breeds might have been selectively bred to encourage a prey drive, or to be wary of strangers, thus making them good guard dogs. However, having an entire breed that is indiscriminately aggressive towards humans would be wildly counter-productive.
#9:I want a dog, but not one that barks or digs or chews. And not one that sheds, or that isn’t house trained, or that is likely to knock stuff over – I’m very house proud, and don’t want to be cleaning up messes all the time. I work 50 hours a week, so I won’t be able to come meet any dogs until the weekend. What have you got for me?
If you liked this article please check out more by Tracie McBride at https://traciemcbridewriter.wordpress.com.
The saying goes that “A tired dog is a good dog” and it is true that a tired dog is less likely to get up to mischief. Also obesity is becoming just as common in our pets as it is in people. Excess weight can lead to health problems such as diabetes and liver disease and has been shown to shorten a dog’s lifespan. Extra pounds can also cause stress on the joints, aggravating conditions like arthritis and back pain.
Besides the usual walk around the block, hike or game of fetch, there are myriad ways your dog can get extra exercise without even leaving the house.
1. Have a doggy play date
With the number of pet owners increasing every day, chances are you know someone that has a dog. Why not invite them over for puppy playtime? You can catch up with your friend over coffee while your pups play the day away. You can get caught up on all the latest gossip, and your dogs can burn off all their extra energy.
We all know that climbing stairs can be great for your legs, but what about your dog? Entice your dog to do a few laps up and down the stairs. Throw his favorite toy or a ball up to the top and watch your pooch burn calories as he dashes up and down.
3. Teach your dog a new trick
Not only is this exercise for the body, learning a new skill is like a workout for your dog’s brain. Training sessions of just 15 minutes once or twice a day are enough to teach your dog something new. If he hasn’t gotten down the basics, this would be a great opportunity to make sure he has mastered commands like “sit”, “stay”, come when called, “leave it”, and “lie down”. If your dog is a seasoned pro, go ahead and teach him to roll over, touch a target, or do take a bow. If you need more of a hand to get started and you are in Melbourne, be sure to check out the classes run by PlanetK9 - they are fantastic.
Your favorite song just came on the radio. You start swinging your hips and moving your arms; singing in your loudest voice. Why not get your pooch involved? This can be done easily if your pet already likes to stand up on his rear legs. If he prefers to stay on all fours, this may be hard to do on your own, but there are classes that you can take to get him up to speed before you start. If you are in Melbourne, Sue Cordwell, from Melbourne Canine Freestyle runs classes and workshops in both. For information on classes in other locations head to Dances With Dogs Australia www.danceswithdogsaustralia.com.
These are just some simple ideas for getting your dog to move more around the house. Why not try one or two to find out which ones your dog likes best. The bond between you will grow stronger, and you may even help keep your pup around for a few more years. Do you have any great ideas that you use with your dog to get them out and moving? Share them with us.
Free, fun printable Father's Day Cards for Dad's with fur children.
Father's Day in our house has always included a card or gift from our two fur-kids. This year I made up two cards (one from each of my dogs) on the computer and printed them out on plain white card stock. Then I simply put a little message inside to make my dog's dad smile.
Let the Dog Dad in your family know that he's loved and appreciated with these fun free printable cards. Find them here ->
Best Doggie Dad. Happy Father's Day
Happy Father's Day to the Best Dad! Paws Down
Stuck for a gift? Check out our Best Dad Decal.